Burson Play Headphone Amp / PreAmp / USB DAC for PC

Germanese

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Apr 5, 2017
80
82
There aren't too many nice amplifiers out there, that compete with the Creative Sound Blaster X7 in the mainstream gaming market. The styling of the X7 isn't for everyone, nore is the space required. So I have been looking for something similar for a while now, with a Mic input and clean simple styling. On top of things this is SFF, most of us DAN case and Hammer Case users don't even have a Front Audio Jack. This solves the problem for driving some exotic Headsets.



So a friend introduced me to the Burson Play AMP/DAC. So the idea here is to borrow old tech and introduce it back into Gamers and Computer Users ecosystem. It seems very basic but well executed if you think about it. Power and Clean Audio and options to be an Audiophile.



I must say it was a bit skeptical when unpacking the device... it felt chunky and well build.
Though that Molex connector in the back made me seriously gringe. Manuals on install and setup was lacking.
Drivers instructions was also lacking, nor were there any included CDs, though just like GPUs I guess download them.
Though presentation is nice and clean with a lot of accessories.








So what i have found interesting about this unit on first sight ?
I can use it internally externally on a computer and standalone to a sound system. It uses the standard 5.25" size with all the holes in place. With Rubber feet on the bottom to just set it on your desk or where ever you feel like it.





Now to the sound. Lets say it's is very clean. I am using some cheap Steel headphones, and testing sensitivity with the MDR sonys MDR-V8 and MDR 7506 I also used some IEMs such as TIN T2 and other Sensitive headphones. Even the most sensitive headphones won't hiss on no audio. The Mic input is clean nothing much spectacular but it works. Also super nice smooth Volume knob.





This amp can push almost any headphones and some small speakers to some extreme nice clean sounds. Though be aware that this unit does have some heat, so make sure it is not causing heat in some cases. It is a larger case but since it is designer to be inside a case and outside, it is fairly versatile in placements.



Now my issues with this amp:
Compatibility with some AMD Ryzen Boards was a Pain. Drivers are bit glitchy on some hardware setups. The bitrate menu keeps on flickering and not recognizing the unit.
What you have to do is kick it into gear by changing settings and have it recognize it if nothing. Out of 10 Motherboards, half intel and half amd, I had most success for this to work smoothly with Intel boards. It seems to have auto recognition issues with extreme new boards or exotic chipset layout.



Changes i would like to see on these if anyone wants to compete:
-3.5" Size
-Volume Knob is able to be depressed (Make it pressing Functional)
-RGB LCD display =)
-Improved drivers ?
 
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Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
635
458
Sounds like a nice unit :) External DAC/amps really ought to gain some traction in PC enthusiast circles given the impressive gain in audio quality from a relatively small purchase.

Personally, I use an Optoma NuForce uDAC 3, which is far more SFF friendly. It lacks the mic input, but I never use a mic, so that doesn't matter to me - but I guess this is the main reason people avoid solutions like this. It only has a 3.5mm output, so some headphones need an adapter, but the sound quality is excellent. I don't use its rear speaker outputs either (don't like that they're amplified; I wish they just ran straight off the DAC) but at least it has them. Also, running off USB alone means one less cable and no power brick :) I have mine stuck to the underside of my desk, out of sight, but with the volume knob easily accessible and the plug perfectly placed for short headphone cables.
 

GuilleAcoustic

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XMOS and Burson audio, what's not to like. Anything that drives you away from Creative stuff is worsth (troll mode inside lol).

I'm glad to finally see someone driving his/her USB DAC from an USB header. Will do the same with my next build, except I'll be using a Matrix M-Stage (great match for the AKG K7xx series of headphones).

That molex header is a f*****g nice feature. I'd gladly connect it to an HDPlex 400 Hi-fi, especially if you use the USB header too. Add a nice linear, or at least a first tier switching PSU and play music like a boss !

Note: I is an audio nuts and my post is 100% biased XD.

Note²: Creative .... (Ok I stop trolling)

Note³: XMOS are driverless on Linux (Windows troll mode ON)
 

BaK

Airflow Optimizer
May 17, 2016
365
378
Thanx for the review!

T
I can use it internally externally on a computer and standalone to a sound system. It uses the standard 3.5" size with all the holes in place.
It's more like 5.25" according to its dimensions of 210mm x 145mm x 45mm



Could be a nice addition for an unpopulated 5.25" bay, if you still have a case with such a bay that is. ;)
$299 though... (and no linux OS compatibilty)


Personally, I use an Optoma NuForce uDAC 3, which is far more SFF friendly. [...] sound quality is excellent [...] running off USB alone means one less cable and no power brick
Thank you for the feedback on this much more affordable USB DAC at $90.
Mine is even more SFF and cheap, probably not as a good sound as the couple ones above, but my non audiophile ears are really satisfied with this ELE EL-D01:

Looks like there is now a D02 with volume control.

I'm glad to finally see someone driving his/her USB DAC from an USB header.
Is that supposed to give a better sound than using an external USB port? Only because this means less connectors to go through from source to speaker?
Thanx for mentionning XMOS btw, looks interesting!
 
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GuilleAcoustic

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Is that supposed to give a better sound than using an external USB port? Only because this means less connectors to go through from source to speaker?
Thanx for mentionning XMOS btw, looks interesting!
Not really, it just allow you to embed it inside the computer chassis. You'll still need proper shielding (mu-metal sheet if you can find some) and a noiseless power source (that's where the molex connector comes into play).

$299 though... (and no linux OS compatibilty)
As long as the device is USB audio class 2 compliant, it will be fully surported by Linux kernel without additional driver.

https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/tree/sound/usb/format.c

Unless Burson Audio did some black magic voodoo, it should work out of the box since XMOS interfaces are USB audio class 2 compliant.
 
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Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
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Thank you for the feedback on this much more affordable USB DAC at $90.
Mine is even more SFF and cheap, probably not as a good sound as the couple ones above, but my non audiophile ears are really satisfied with this ELE EL-D01:

Looks like there is now a D02 with volume control.
A proper volume knob was one of my requirements when I got it :) I had long since grown tired of the multitude of volume controls strewn around our PCs and the noise and distortion these often add to the sound. Now, I leave everything at 100%, using only the control knob on the DAC. Works perfectly.

I'm by no means an audiophile (heck, I'm more of a critic of audiophiles, as I see it as >99% placebo, and >$100/meter audio cables are a major scam), but I still want good audio quality, and I got a great deal on the uDAC (I believe I payed around $50, and I've seen them on sale for similar prices since). IIRC it's been replaced by the uDAC5 - I don't know the difference between the two, though, outside of new colors and a sturdier type-B USB connector.

Still, from what I've seen there are plenty of good cheap DAC/amps out there, at least as long as one doesn't require a mic input. Even if you want way better stereo audio than integrated motherboard sound chip, there's little reason to pay $300 :)



As for running a DAC/amp internally in a PC case, that sounds less than ideal to me. There's a lot of RF noise inside of a PC case, and unless you're using some seriously well-shielded cables, it's going to be picked up by both your power and signal wires (not that the latter matter much for digital audio, but ...). Given that it's not really possible to properly shield an internal USB 2.0 header (at least not without significant effort), that would add to the issue. Finding properly shielded external cables is far easier, not to mention that the environment has far less noise to begin with.
 
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BaK

Airflow Optimizer
May 17, 2016
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378
As long as the device is USB audio class 2 compliant, it will be fully surported by Linux kernel without additional driver.

https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/tree/sound/usb/format.c

Unless Burson Audio did some black magic voodoo, it should work out of the box since XMOS interfaces are USB audio class 2 compliant.
You are probably right, I was just checking the spec page of the Burson Play where they only put "Win XP, 7, 8, 10 Mac OSX".

A proper volume knob was one of my requirements when I got it :) I had long since grown tired of the multitude of volume controls strewn around our PCs and the noise and distortion these often add to the sound. Now, I leave everything at 100%, using only the control knob on the DAC. Works perfectly.
Yep one knob only is indeed a good option, I opted for one on my keyboard (G810).
 
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Germanese

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Apr 5, 2017
80
82
Ooops sorry it was when i finished testing it and got it to work with the computer I wanted to use it on. Fixed the size.

Thanx for the review!


It's more like 5.25" according to its dimensions of 210mm x 145mm x 45mm



Could be a nice addition for an unpopulated 5.25" bay, if you still have a case with such a bay that is. ;)
$299 though... (and no linux OS compatibilty)



Thank you for the feedback on this much more affordable USB DAC at $90.
Mine is even more SFF and cheap, probably not as a good sound as the couple ones above, but my non audiophile ears are really satisfied with this ELE EL-D01:

Looks like there is now a D02 with volume control.


Is that supposed to give a better sound than using an external USB port? Only because this means less connectors to go through from source to speaker?
Thanx for mentionning XMOS btw, looks interesting!
 

Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
635
458
Yep one knob only is indeed a good option, I opted for one on my keyboard (G810).
I initially wanted one of those too, but there are exceedingly few tenkeyless keyboards out there with physical volume controls (and I don't have room for a full size keyboard on my desk). Which has always puzzled me - it's not like they require that much space, and most tenkeyless keyboards still have some bezels. Oh well. At least my current solution is input device agnostic, and just as easy to reach as one on the keyboard :)
 

GuilleAcoustic

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I have volume control and media keys on a layer of my 60%. I'm running the TMK keyboard firmware.

But I still prefer the fine adjustment of a volume knob. Digital volume control is not my cup of tea.

I'm wondering if the Xmos is powered from the USB bus or if it gets its supply from the molex. If it doesn't get +5V from the USB, then it is easier to run it inside the PC chassis (easier to transport PC and headphone driver this way) and yet ensure a decent shielding.
 
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Valantar

King of Cable Management
Jan 20, 2018
635
458
I have volume control and media keys on a layer of my 60%. I'm running the TMK keyboard firmware.

But I still prefer the fine adjustment of a volume knob. Digital volume control is not my cup of tea.
Yeah, both fine adjustment and immediate access. All my keyboards have some sort of digital volume control function, but remembering the key combos required is a hassle, not to mention the slow and cumbersome action of holding FN while either mashing or holding down whatever button, with no real feel for where the adjustment will end up. Tactile, physical buttons with predictable movement always have the edge.
 

annasoh323

Master of Cramming
Apr 4, 2018
405
299
I saw a favorable review over on an audiophile forum. It's interesting to see it reviewed by the "target audience" - computer folks who happen to be looking for an upgraded audio solution. The headphone forum member reviewed it as they would a typical headphone amp: describing the audio specs, the subjective audio features, etc. They also addressed something that Burson is known for: op-amp rolling. It's a commonly accepted principle in audio-land that different boxes of equipment can sound different and components in those boxes can make an audible difference. So, they went and did what any good Burson owner does and started swapping the operational amplifiers around. In @Germanese's original post with the pics of the circuit board, you can see the 8-pin socketed chips. Those are the op-amps.

I'm not well-versed in all the lingo and, like with SFF, I'm still just starting out. Bad times for my wallet to be sure...
 

annasoh323

Master of Cramming
Apr 4, 2018
405
299
* Giggles inside * ... * Looks at his latest purchase * .... A DAC/HEADPHONE AMP after reading this same thread .... * Wallet cries inside *.
Would you say your wallet is... empty on the inside?

Say, do we have an audio thread over in this forum somewhere? People just showing off their headphones, speakers, whatever they use?