Burson Soloist 3X Performance Head/Pre Amp - 8Wpc XLR with MUSE72320 volume control
Mar 9, 2021 at 9:35 PM Post #767 of 1,579

JWahl

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Fellows, please help me out here... Do I go for the Soloist 3X or stretch for the GS-X Mini? Money not an issue and my cans are not particularly hard to drive. Will pair with RME ADI-2 FS DAC. I like the looks of both but so far didn't get a chance to listen to either of these amps. All I want is to improve the the fun factor in my listening sessions on headphones and active studio monitors. Using Sony MDR-Z1R, EIR-Z1R, Meze 99 Classics, Oppo PM-3 and Fostex TH-X00.

My active monitors are Focal Shape 6. According to one reviewer, the Soloist is worth it as it makes monitors sounding better. I would guess that might be the case with the GS-X as well, if at all true that more power into active speakers makes that much of a difference.

I heard my MDRs sounding better with a SPL Phonitor e Headphone Amplifier and that tells me more power than my ADI-2 can manage would be welcome. Not talking about volume here of course, the RME can drive any or my cans to stupid levels, but somehow I feel something's missing.

I haven't heard the GS-X Mini but I own the Soloist 3X, and have owned the Gilmore Lite Mk 2 and Burson Fun. If space (width) and cost are no issue, and you're not using something like the HE-6, I'd go for the GS-X Mini, with one caveat. If you're going for "fun factor" as you say, the RME probably won't pair well with the GS-X Mini in that regard. I misjudged the Gilmore Lite Mk. 2 for awhile based on the kind-of-boring nature of the RME. I think the Bifrost 2 or Neo iDSD (out of ones I've recently heard) are better choices for "fun" or listening engagement. The most engagement I could pull out of the RME was with the Cavalli/Monoprice Liquid Platinum. A more transparent or accurate amp (like the Headamp) isn't going to create the subjective fun or musical engagement you're looking for if it doesn't already exist in the source. The Bifrost 2 is great at its price in this regard, but the compromise is objectively and perhaps subjectively higher noise and distortion. I've described it as having a slightly "grayish" sound before. One day, I'll need to pick up a used Qutest again to compare it to the Bifrost 2 and see if it retains the engagement but with better noise and distortion performance. My auditory memory is admittedly rusty on this.

Depending on your budget, the iFi Pro iDSD as an all-in-one might be worth consideration. Might be more engaging than the RME on its own. I haven't heard it yet (I'm avoiding requesting a loaner because I don't want to want it at it's price) but it's been well received, on paper is very flexible, and the Neo impressed me (situationally) at its price point.

The Soloist 3X fits my personal needs better, though, in terms of size, power, and cost. The general fit and finish on the HeadAmp products, even the Gilmore Lite Mk. 2, is a step above the Burson stuff right now IMO. I do like the styling of the newer Burson cool-cases, but the volume control implementation is still a little sloppy and unpolished by comparison. That being said, unless you're wedded to the idea of balanced, don't discount the Gilmore Lite Mk.2 with it's dedicated power supply. I actually kind of miss it sometimes (I knew I would) but mine was cap-modded and with the stock supply.
 
Mar 9, 2021 at 10:17 PM Post #768 of 1,579

sabloke

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Got a Soloist available for me Saturday. Will listen to it via the ADI-2, possibly to the GS-X mini and iFi Pro iDSD. Not too keen to part with the RME as it is a solid system base, clean, analytical in a good way IMO and uncolored. We'll see how I go this weekend but have to say, I'm stoked to have all these options available.
 
Mar 9, 2021 at 10:39 PM Post #769 of 1,579

JWahl

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Got a Soloist available for me Saturday. Will listen to it via the ADI-2, possibly to the GS-X mini and iFi Pro iDSD. Not too keen to part with the RME as it is a solid system base, clean, analytical in a good way IMO and uncolored. We'll see how I go this weekend but have to say, I'm stoked to have all these options available.
Absolutely. There's no substitute for direct comparisons if you have the opportunity. Enjoy!
 
Mar 11, 2021 at 6:04 AM Post #770 of 1,579

sabloke

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Couldn't wait another 48 hours and grabbed the Soloist today and hooked it up to ADI-s via a couple of short XRLs. First impressions vs ADI-2 alone: everything bolder, deeper, smoother and there is wider spaces between instruments. Voices are forward, it's like you move a few dozen rows closer to the stage. Very faint white noise in high gain on my MDR-Z1s, pitch black in low and medium gain modes. This thing makes my IER-Z1Rs sing! Settled to medium gain. Overall, very impressed so far. Oh, forgot to add that all listening is in single ended for now as my XLR to 4.4mm has not arrived yet.

Testing active monitors tomorrow. The only thing is, I have to bypass Soloists' volume control since the sub is fed from the ADI-2 RCA. I prefer using it this way with the headphones as well.
 

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Mar 11, 2021 at 7:47 AM Post #772 of 1,579

sabloke

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PEq off for now. Tried default loudness but highs are too sharp in my Z1R cans. Prefer to play with bass and highs potentiometers for now 😊

PS: damn it, no bypass in Preamp mode! So no subwoofer while monitors are hooked up to the Soloist. Need to get an XLR to RCA transformer...

PSS: Sorted. Soloist volume now fixed at 80 / 99 and using ADI-2 as preamp with the sub connected to RCA out to control the volume. Need to fiddle a bit with the volumes and try match the sub with the speakers but pretty happy with the result. Not ideal but seems to do the job. Long term solution - buy a Focal Sub6 woofer and run everything via Soloist XLR out.
 
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Mar 13, 2021 at 10:34 AM Post #774 of 1,579

MakubexGB

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How do you think the VC pair with the 3XP?
I think they pair very well. Right now I'm running the Soloist 3XP stock, that's all Vivid opamps, so the sound is mostly transparent. It allows the VC to show off its wide soundstage. I say "mostly" transparent because if the Topping A90 is supposed to be "completely" transparent then there are minor differences. Most noticeably to me is that the A90 would be more "in your face", as in it sounded like it brought more of the sounds in a track forward to the same layer. With the 3XP it sounds to me like there's more layering, which can make some sounds/instruments that I was used to hearing louder, sound a little more distant. The mids, especially upper mids, sound more forward in comparison. Depending on the song it can be a pro or a con. This can give the perception of an even bigger soundstage, and I love me a huge soundstage, but also sometimes I find myself raising the volume even more because I want to hear those distant sounds with more impact which can then make the highs a bit fatiguing.

I also have a pair of V6 Classics and a pair of Sparko opamps that I need to play around with and see what's my favorite combination.
 
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Mar 14, 2021 at 8:57 PM Post #775 of 1,579

JWahl

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It seems like my tastes can be so finicky sometimes. I've been swapping op-amps some more and now both pairs of SparkoS in the Soloist are sounding better than I remember. There's more speed and micro-detail now without losing the overall tonally pleasing signature. I'm wondering if it's related to the Bifrost 2 being more than fully warmed up now. I think that using both pairs of the SparkoS can be a little ruthlessly transparent to the source, which in this case may be working in my favor. The SparkoS are subjectively very "fast" sounding, where the V6 Vivid seems to add a little more bloom and overhang on the trailing edge, which can be pleasant in certain situations. It seems like the SparkoS are now bringing out just a little more of the subtle nuances that the Bifrost 2 is capable of.

I'm really splitting hairs here, though. All the configurations sound pretty good in different ways. The only configuration that sounds "off" to me is using the SparkoS in the volume control and V6 Vivid in the buffer stage. FWIW, I can't even listen to my HD-650 anymore now that I've adjusted to the HE-6SE V2. I feel really lucky to be getting the sound-quality that I am out of the total system for the price. There is a part of me that wonders how the new Funk might play with it (off the speaker taps) at an even lower price-point.
 
Mar 14, 2021 at 9:13 PM Post #776 of 1,579

MakubexGB

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It seems like my tastes can be so finicky sometimes. I've been swapping op-amps some more and now both pairs of SparkoS in the Soloist are sounding better than I remember. There's more speed and micro-detail now without losing the overall tonally pleasing signature. I'm wondering if it's related to the Bifrost 2 being more than fully warmed up now. I think that using both pairs of the SparkoS can be a little ruthlessly transparent to the source, which in this case may be working in my favor. The SparkoS are subjectively very "fast" sounding, where the V6 Vivid seems to add a little more bloom and overhang on the trailing edge, which can be pleasant in certain situations. It seems like the SparkoS are now bringing out just a little more of the subtle nuances that the Bifrost 2 is capable of.

I'm really splitting hairs here, though. All the configurations sound pretty good in different ways. The only configuration that sounds "off" to me is using the SparkoS in the volume control and V6 Vivid in the buffer stage. FWIW, I can't even listen to my HD-650 anymore now that I've adjusted to the HE-6SE V2. I feel really lucky to be getting the sound-quality that I am out of the total system for the price. There is a part of me that wonders how the new Funk might play with it (off the speaker taps) at an even lower price-point.
Nice. So far I've only swapped the opamps on the input stage with V6 Classics and I'm really enjoying how it rounded the treble and in general made it more pleasing and less fatiguing to me (using Verite VC). I was afraid I'd lose too much soundstage or upper detail but so far I haven't noticed any significant change. I haven't done a ton of listening yet, though.

Has changing the opamps on the volume control improved the volume control at all? I'm not sure if it's something that would make any difference but I'll try anything. As much as I'm enjoying this amp I do agree with you that the volume control is sloppy. There's an especially big jump on mine going from 51 to 52.
 
Mar 14, 2021 at 9:21 PM Post #777 of 1,579

normie610

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Has changing the opamps on the volume control improved the volume control at all? I'm not sure if it's something that would make any difference but I'll try anything. As much as I'm enjoying this amp I do agree with you that the volume control is sloppy. There's an especially big jump on mine going from 51 to 52.
I think Burson design the volume that way on purpose. I remember we had this discussion earlier and that was the response from Burson. And yes there’s a big jump from 51 to 52 on mine as well. It happens both with the Vivids as well as Sparkos.
 
Mar 14, 2021 at 9:33 PM Post #779 of 1,579

Bazaar

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I also see that big jump from 51 to 52, was going to ask here and glad to see it's not just me.
 
Mar 14, 2021 at 9:56 PM Post #780 of 1,579

JWahl

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Has changing the opamps on the volume control improved the volume control at all? I'm not sure if it's something that would make any difference but I'll try anything. As much as I'm enjoying this amp I do agree with you that the volume control is sloppy. There's an especially big jump on mine going from 51 to 52.
It does seem like the gain is a little less with the SparkoS in the volume-control position, but that could be my imagination if that stage is configured for unity gain. It could be a psycho-acoustic loudness difference at work. As mentioned above, the 51 to 52 jump has nothing to do with the op-amp used. I think the role of the op-amp in the volume control is simply to ensure that the circuit parameters before and after the volume control IC aren't significantly altered by the changes in resistance from the volume control. On paper, the SparkoS should perform better in this role with their two-pole compensation scheme providing a wide and flat bandwidth. Subjective preferences may differ, though. For whatever reason, I didn't like the SparkoS in the volume control stage unless there was another pair of SparkoS in the input buffer. The V6 Vivid in the volume control with SparkoS in the input buffer was better to my ears than the reverse.

After reading this, I measured the TRS output for DC with the SparkoS as per @raoultrifan's review to make sure they aren't introducing any offset. My voltmeter isn't specially calibrated and not a particularly high quality one, but I measured an amount fluctuating between -23 mV and -30 mV on the right channel and -30 mV to -40 mV on the left channel with both SparkoS. His recommendation is below 25 mV. I haven't measured the XLR output yet. It probably isn't a big deal with the insensitive HE-6SE, but IEM users using full SparkoS without adjustment may have issues. if @raoultrifan is reading this, would you care to outline the way you measured and adjusted the offset for the XLR output? I'm curious to see if that yields any subjective differences in my impressions with the SparkoS.
 

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