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 something 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.
Overall I have been thoroughly impressed by 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.
- 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 can. The FUN01 also plays a role in the cleaner signal. (Note: this opinion is after fixing 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.
- 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 basics menu options (as seen on the ES9038P’s screen).
- There can be a digital noise issue because of 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.
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)
Table of Contents:
- Review Main Page
- Competition Hardware Descriptions:
- Review Hardware Info v2.0 vs. v1.6 Burson Audio Play:
- Digital Noise/Mouse Distortion + Solution: (USB Ground Headaches)
- Opening Thoughts on Voicing of Burson “Play” vs. ES9038Pro:
- Listening Tests Streaming: ES9038 on Coax + RCA out
- A Closer Look at Oversampling & Noise Filtering: (It’s Not Magic!)
- Listening Test Music (Pt 1): (Adele with ES9038P on I2S)
- Listening Test Music (Pt 2): (Tedeschi Trucks Band with ES9038P on Coax)
- A note on Converting PCM to DSD with Foobar2000: (DSD64 Clicking)
- Balanced vs. Unbalanced: (Understanding the ES9038’s Performance)
- Adding I2S Input To ES9038 DAC: (Power Tools and Soldering Irons)
- Measurements/Technical Page
- Closing Remarks: (The Verdict)
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