These two setups turned out to be much closer in fidelity than I would have ever guessed from the start of the review. We were able to gauge how much of a difference I2S has over Coax and then I compared balanced outputs to unbalanced outputs. Most reviewers would never change anything so dramatic during a review, but I found it insightful to do so. Without switching to I2S or balanced outputs, I would have probably rated the Burson Play slightly too high. The Play is definitely an excellent choice for those who want your DAC/Amp together in a mobile package, but still want the option of rolling op-amps. The Play is a unique piece of equipment that shows us that size can be deceiving and is an excellent value for the money. The sAp-10 amplifier alone, is larger than the entire Play, much less if we take into account the DAC and XMOS unit that make up the other combo.

Preview of the measurements/technical page in the works in co-operation with Burson Audio to ensure accurate numbers. This is the first DAC I am testing with this scope so I need to make sure the numbers I get look reasonable to what they have already measured thousands of times.

Overall, I have been thoroughly impressed with the performance and fidelity of the Burson Play, both from a DAC standpoint and as a separate amplifier. When you think about how the Play is laid out, the single-DIP op-amps each power one channel (L/R) of the headphones amp and the pre-amp out (that can be run at the same time as the headphone ¼” out). Throwing in a decent quality mic input powered by an ES9018K2M, gives the gamers everything they need in one enclosure. This is a solid rig all around and with just a little tweaking it can be a great rig! I can easily recommend this for anyone who admires simplicity and quality for a budget conscious price, wrapped up in a compact package. Burson Audio has really found something special here with the Play and 5x V6-OPA Classics!

  • Overall Performance in Music: 9/10
  • Overall Performance in TV/Movies: 9/10
  • Overall Performance in Streaming: 8.5/10
  • Internal Amp Performance: 9.5/10
  • DAC Performance w/o Amp: 8.5/10
  • Ability of DAC to Reject Noise: 7/10
  • Ease of Use: 9/10
  • Performance per dollar: 9/10
  • Performance of Headphone Out: 9.5/10
  • Performance of RCA/Pre-amp Out: 8.5/10
  • Customer Service of Company: 10/10

Overall Rating: 90/100 = A-

(Not an average of the above scores)

Hallman Labs Award Winner for Best DAC/Amp in 5.75″ form factor!


  • Ability to upgrade at a later time to a higher end rig.
  • High mobility/portability due to a very compact design.
  • Entire chassis acts as a heat sink and entire chassis is grounded.
  • Excellent quality audio for the cost. The Play is able to compete with ES9038PRO DAC and even win a few of the tests.
  • Plenty of power using the internal amp, powered by two single-DIP op-amps.
  • The ability to slide the Play right into a PC 5.75″ drive bay.
  • Ability to listen to RCA and headphones outputs simultaneously.
  • Uses I2S to communicate with XMOS.
  • Can be powered a variety of ways.
  • Has a remote and a few other included accessories, sounds small, but an important detail.


  • Can get fairly warm, but these are the realities of a Class A amplifier and the components can handle it.
  • Not as good at rejecting noise as the ES9038PRO DAC is able to. The FUN01 also plays a role in the cleaner signal.  (Note: I am stating this after having fixed the USB ground issue.)
  • Unable to get a Play that uses the Amanero, although you can easily get one that fits if you want one, just not stock. Be sure to buy the right form factor (if you do).
  • The Play’s display could give us more info and the inclusion of a simple menu would be nice. Just give us a few filter selections and a few other basic menu options (as seen on the ES9018/9028/9038’s screen).
  • It’s possible to have a digital noise issue, due to the fact there are two paths to ground in the Play (if you leave the USB cable’s GND connected). I disconnected mine as advised on Head-Fi and the digital noise stopped. Still have to list this as a con though, the average consumer might not want to cut into a USB cable or de-solder something.The overall score was updated

Thanks for reading the 3rd review at Hallman Labs! On deck is Part 2 of my Discrete Op-Amp Showdown and I will be adding technical aspects to this article as time goes on, such as performance measurements.

(Overall score was updated because I realized the Play can actually do DSD256 and 32-bit/384kHz FLAC)


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