Review: Burson Audio Play (Class A headphone Amp/DAC, op-amp rollers dream)

Firstly I would like to thank Burson Audio for selecting me as the first member of the UK tour, I made sure to give the unit plenty of hours of play before the final review.

*disclaimer: This sample was provided on loan for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings.

Gear Used: HP Laptop > Curious USB cable > Play (V6 Vivid and Classic op-amps) > German Maestro GMP400 / Ultrasone Edition 8 EX and others...



Tech specs:
Extensive info can be found on the product page: https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/play/

Pricing:
Play Basic - NE5532 X 3, NE5543 X 2 - $299

Play with V5i - V5i-Dual X 3, V5i-Single X 2 - $399*

Play with V5 - V5-Dual X 3, V5-Single X 2 - $475*

Play with V6 Vivid - V6-Vivid-Dual X 3, V6-Vivid-Single X 2 - $549*

Play with V6 Classic - V6-Classic-Dual X 3, V6-Classic-Single X 2 - $549*

*All models above the Basic come with the remote. Prices include shipping and are in USD.

Build quality and Accessories:
As this is part of a tour, it did not come in retail packaging I don’t think, as it came in a clear plastic box. The unit itself is quite industrial looking, with an all black chassis that feels hefty and solid. On the front you have the volume knob, LED volume numbers, 6.3mm headphone output and also a 3.5mm microphone input. On the back you have the regular power input, a power input for jumpers from a PC PSU if you want to mount it in your PC, RCA outputs and a USB input. Everything is extremely well finished and put together with tight sockets and minimal play.

Accessory wise you get a USB cable, remote control and RCA cables. This is a tour unit so additional V6 Classic op-amps are included, the V6 Vivid are pre-installed in this unit. With the retail version you get a panel for the back of your PC with RCA jumpers so you can still use the pre-amp output whilst mounted in a PC.


Features:
This Amp/DAC is aimed at those who want the best sound out of their PC, hence why Burson made it the size it is, so you can mount it in a PC case. It also has a dedicated microphone input, which is again aimed at gamers, and provides a high quality microphone input.

I will be using the Play as a regular Amp/DAC with headphones for music playback. Now the Play is a full class A amp (runs warm) with built in DAC, it has no analogue inputs to allow you to only use the amp section. It also only has USB input, which is a shame as an optical port would have made it even better.

Now this Amp/DAC can output a lot of power, so should be able to drive most headphones out there with ease. It also has RCA outputs so you can use it as a DAC/Pre-amp, the RCA volume is changed with the knob and is not a fixed line-out.


You get a remote control which allows you to control volume along with muting the device; you can also mute it by pressing the volume knob in. The volume control is digital and has 99 steps, the gain is fairly high, as is the output impedance (8 Ohms) so it is really made for full-size headphones and not sensitive IEM’s.

One major feature of the Play is the ability to roll op-amps with ease; the unit comes with a hex key to open it up and allows you easy access to change the op-amps. Also the circuit is designed to get the most out of Bursons own series of op-amps.


Sound:

V6 Vivid:
The Burson play leans more to the fun side of sound with the Vivid op-amps, not being a purely reference amp. It has plenty of power and punch yet also finesse; the finer details are not smeared or hidden. It is a dynamic and punchy sounding amp, allowing you to hear excellent detail without sounding overly harsh. Separation is excellent and the soundstage is very enveloping allowing you to easily pinpoint instruments within the soundstage.

There is never any sense that you are missing out on anything in the recording, there is plenty of air around instruments without sounding detached. With the V6 Vivid the sound is transparent but not strictly flat and neutral, it doesn’t want to be either. It wants you to enjoy the music without trying to analyse it.

As I said with the V6 Vivid it is a more dynamic and punchy sound, more direct and fun adding a little bottom end presence which works wonders with my GMP400’s.


V6 Classic:
With the V6 Classic vocals are upfront and intimate, you get a bit more of an intimate sound with a bit less air but you get a little extra smoothness. Again the details are there, but not as up front and exciting as the Vivid, the sound is a little more laid back but intimate. The bass is smoother and has less visceral punch, instead stays more in line with the recording. Vocals are the focus here.

I find the V6 Classic to sound more linear and balanced but with a little added smoothness, the soundstage is still wide but instruments have a softer edge to them, the highs are not as exciting but still extend effortlessly.

I find the V6 Classic to be less exciting but more towards my preferred sound, it has a very detailed and well balanced sound with a hint of smoothness, they work well with all genres and sound excellent.

Microphone input: The input works really well and is excellent quality, no issues here and an excellent feature for gamers: https://vocaroo.com/i/s0pisjvHvJpL


Conclusion:
Well what can I say; it does what it says on the tin but with added functionality that other DAC/Amps do not offer for this price. The amp section is extremely powerful and can be tuned with different op-amps and offers an excellent platform for people looking to test various op-amp configurations. It has a microphone input on the front for gamers, and can be neatly mounted in a PC tower.

With the V6 Vivid op-amps you get a very dynamic and crisp sound that is extremely fun to listen to, with the V6 Classic op-amps you get a more neutral sound but still with a hint of smoothness and intimacy that is more in line with my personal preferences.

The Burson play really is an excellent DAC/Amp, that is versatile and works really well with most full-size headphones. For the price it is a highly recommended product for those looking for a desktop DAC/Amp. I personally would have liked to have seen optical and analogue inputs, but I suppose you can’t have everything.


Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (no analogue or optical inputs)

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