Not all of us are aware of Burson audio. They don’t push their products through fancy sellers and barely do much promotion on their own. But this is supposed to change as I have got a review unit from them. Hailing from Australia since 1996 their inception and they started their sales from 2005. Critically acclaimed by all the reviewers I personally haven’t heard a lot of buzz about their products. They make
In their words:-
“Burson Audio is an Australian audio manufacturer making products with no op-amps and all discrete circuitry for a lavish musical experience.”
Head over here to know about their circuit design:-
The playmate I am reviewing here is a very versatile thing on its own. It is a 2w Class A desktop headphone amp and can be used as pre amp if you pair it with some other DAC. You can connect your mobile phone through an OTG data cable.
The Playmate uses the flagship ES9038 DAC chip and you can opt for two types of op-amps. The Basic NE5532 op-amps set costs $399 and comes in only one color, Black. The V6 Vivid set costs $540 and has two color options, Black and silver. (You can always choose yours from their sets available separately).
I would like to thank Bhav from Burson audio for the unit.
Check the Playmate out:-
I do not have a lot of DAC in the arsenal but I do have a two to compare the playmate with.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:-
The package of the Burson Playmate is one of the best you can find. It is nicely packed with proper padding to protect the playmate from any damages. All the cables are places inside a card board box.
The playmate is nicely placed in the middle and you will find a Type-B to Type A USB cable. There is RCA cable to connect it with other DAC amps or speakers. The last cable inside the box is thee optical toslink cable.
DACs used to be huge, the one I have seen in my childhood they were used with a lot of speakers but the home setups too were not small either. Most of them used to be nearly 8 times in volume of the playmate. With a dimension of 210mm x 145mm x 45mm the playmate is not huge, it doesn’t hook on to a lot of speakers either, but what it does is it delivers a lot of power to very demanding headphone.
Build quality of the Playmate is very solid, it doesn’t feel very dense to the hand. It is kind of heavy at around 1.5 kg and the weight is nicely distributed across the board. There are no loose parts on the body, all the bolts are tight and the Playmate feels very sturdy. The rubber shoes on the base of the playmate have very good traction and don’t let it slide easily.
The digital display on the playmate is okay but could have been slightly bigger. It is hard to see the letters clearly from a distance of around 4ft.
Another complain I have with the playmate is that the volume knob doesn’t respond to every step, it doesn’t feel accurate as it needs extra steps to specially when moving the dial very fast, it doesn’t register every time. It nit picking but yes, it’s a small flaw.
I have already mentioned that I am not a desktop kind of guy, I like to take my music where ever I go so these heavy stuff seldom manage to seduce me. But the thing about these things is that, they have the power!!These desktop things have plenty of power to handle heavy stuff like Planar and full size power hungry headphones. I have had a hard time finding a very demanding earphone as they are mostly designed to be power efficient and carried around.
I know most of us don’t use their AMPs for speakers but if you have a nice set of multi driver speakers, you should invest on a DAC amp to get the best out of them. The Playmate has an impedance of 15ohm and it is on the easier side for a preamp, it preps the signal to be processed well by next stage while cutting out the noise and distortion. Smaller speakers have a lower impedance of just 4ohm and 8ohm but good quality speakers with multiple drivers will definitely respond better with refined source and more power.
Let’s move on to the output most of us are going to use, the 6.5mm headphone one. And the output impedance is just 2ohm which means it can drive nearly everything to without much problem except a few very efficient IEMs. (Just to be clear, please don’t but a desktop stuff for IEMs) I have tried a handful of headphones with the Playmate and they respond with more agility and precision.
Moving to the power output the Playmate does 1800mw at 16ohm, 2000mw at 32 ohm, 500mw at 100ohm, 300mw at 150ohm and 100mw at 300ohm.
The Borson Playmate can virtually drive anything with a headphone jack that can be inserted in to its port, let be your LCD XC or HD800 the playmate can drive them with ease.
The decoding power of the SABRE ESS9038 is top class. It can do 768kHz up to 32bits and can play Native DSD 64 / 128 / 256 / 512 without any problem.
Another thing which Burson Audio takes pride is in their MCPS technoloty.
In their wors:-
“If the SABRE32/ESS9038 chip is the soul of Playmate, then the Burson Max Current Power Supply, MCPS, is the heart that brings Playmate to life. Debuted in the Burson Play, our proprietary MCPS overcomes the deficiencies of both traditional transformer-based linear power supplies and conventional switching power supplies. It redefines the size and performance ratio and it is the reason why Head-Fiers fell in love with the Play instantly.
With the Playmate, we have a further enhanced MCPS. It delivers even cleaner power. Tuned to Class-A, the Playmate shines from a pitch-black background.”
Head over to the product page to see all the specs.
The playmate was available with more variations but as of now you can chose between basic NE5532 op-amp which I am reviewing the Playmate with and the V6 vivid. The V6 Vivid is fairly more expensive ($540) and I assume it delivers better clarity that the basic one. I dont have the V6 Vivid with me but one can expect a different sound signature too. Where the stock one sounds slightly cold maybe the V6 sounds more energetic and lively.
If you opt for the V6 vivid you will get a remote.
OPERATIONS AND I/O OPTIONS:-
As I said earlier the playmate is very versatile. To use it with a win 7 PC it needs the driver which can be downloaded from here. You don’t need anything if you have win 10 or Apple system (I haven’t tried it with MAC OS).
Let me get the portable part out here, not really portable at all but somehow portable in the sense that you can use this with your mobile phone or audio source.
Connecting with front USB:-
So.. How to do that? You set your device’s USB output to audio out from developer options. (IOS doesn’t need anything but a simple lightening to type-c adapter) Get yourself a USB type-c to USB A cable (PD cables don’t work) connect it with a OTG adapter and you are good. Now press the little button on the right side of the huge volume knob. The option is input, press the volume knob and dial it anticlockwise which is come down to USB-F (USB front) amd you are ready to go!! Yippee!! It’s not transportable but you can use your portable device with it.
There is a socket in the back to connect a 4pin power cable found in the lot of wires coming out of out PC SMPS. You can mount the playmate inside your PC. As my unit doesn’t come with any brackets or screws I assume the primary use of the Playmate is not supposed to be this.
You have two input and two output options with the playmate. You either use the rear RCA socket to connect it to another DAC where the playmate works as a preamp (you can use it with speakers too) or you use the front 6.5mm headphone out. Input options are either toslink or USB. It would have been out of the world to have BT connectivity with it but it is what it is.
First of all there is power button on the back, very very important cuz this thing gets hot!! I am in India, I dont have AC in my room and the temp can get over 45 C so.. It is not this hot but it’s hot. You need to give it some rest every now and then. You can stretch it, but not here with 14 hrs days and hair melting heat.
The operation is pretty basic. Press the small button aside the volume knob and you have the whole menu at your disposal. Rotate the knob clock wise to browse through the menu and press it to enter the menu, rotate it again to see the options and press in the option you feel you would like to choose. I have made a video to show you guys the menu.