Sound altering options:-
Not many reviewers will warn you about this but in the menu there is option called “Emphasis”. When it is off the notes are sharp and have more than average bite and attack. The transparency is super high. The finishing on notes is sharp and pin pointed. The whole sound quality is tuned to deliver accuracy and precision. Turn it on you will be treated with more subdued notes, losing some attack and bite.
In the Filter Menu there is another option to reduce a hint of sharpness and that is Filters. Brickwall will deliver the sharpest notes and CMFR will reduce some sharpness. Your choice, choose what you like.
This stuff is serious and the reader should know about me, how and why I am having these opinions. I have been serious about audio for the last 10 years. I started with smaller earphones, reading jokers reviews I started my quest where my signature meets. But then when you force your signature and preference on the reader you might be being biased at things. I bought a hell lot of stuff, trying and testing, learning about the differences. As of now I have lot of experience with headphones IEMs and sources but not with desktop DAC/AMPs.
I will be putting my limited exposure with DAC/AMPs used with PC like idsd BL, Creative E5 and my Plenue R to good use and let you guys know about what the Burson Audio playmate brings to the table (I will be taking my DAPs which includes Shnaling M5s, M6, Plenue R for reference too).
The Playmate has a 3.5mm microphone socket just aside the 6.5mm headphone jack. You can attach a mic which has good clarity and details. It works fine with headsets too. The vast mid range stage helps a lot with directional cues which give a big advantage when playing MMORPG games.
Are there better options? At least for mic? yes.
The playmate is aggressive and slightly on the drier side, it works fantastically when paired with slightly calmer a bit darker sounding headphone or pre/post amp stage.
Pairing it with the Avara Av3 will just kill the cat while pairing it with the Fibae 3 will open the earphone even more.
VS Creative E5:-
The smaller and smarter E5 is the jack of all trades, you name it and it can do it. It doesn’t have TOTL chips inside but it is not bad considering it has a exceptionally well developed software which enhances the usability and mic is built into the body of the E5 which makes any headphone game ready.
When it comes to sound the E5 has slightly bigger bass response, the sub bass is slightly rumblier with mid bass having a bit more body and slam. The mid range is clumsier and less forward. The micro details are a bit lacking while the notes lack a bit of definition too. There isn’t as much texture either. Notes are a bit thicker with lesser depth which makes it sound a bit lush. Treble of the E5 has more naturally expanded stage while notes have better transparency and energy. There are some peaks that might make it a bit uncomfortable.
Functionally there is competition, sound wise there is no competition too. The E5 is a master which has all the tricks under its belt where the Playmate simply drowns the E5 with shear amount of details and clarity.
If you are more of a purist and love to enjoy the technical bits you will love the Playmate to the core. It has the delicacies that you might not have experienced with this much of distinction. If you forgive the treble region a bit the rest of the spectrum is marvelous. The transparency and clarity is exceptional and the level of details is outstanding.
The Playmate is not for the casual user. If you like to be on the move, not much into headphones, you are an audiophile but don’t think you need a desktop setup, you can stay away. The playmate is heavy, immobile and doesn’t have an easy option to connect with portable devices either, so if you are not nose deep into music, please don’t make yourself sweat unnecessarily.
The competition has been providing more connectivity options, Bluetooth to be precise, to connect it with wireless devices. But I suspect the Playmate is strictly made to be a pre-amp supposed to be used with another DAC, play the 2nd fiddle and stay on the desk. The Playmate is slightly held back with the treble stage stage but it still is one of the best with clarity and details.
If you love your desktop setup, you love headphones over IEMs, you love precision over fun, the playmate is tailor made for you.