Burson Discreet Circuit Supreme Opamp review!

May 21, 2012
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Let me preface this with this comment: This is totally a subjective review!!! Totally IMHO :) ! As you read the review - take it face value - but what I describe - is what i heard wIhiwyg ;) Now for the review:



There's a song by the late great Luther Vandross (that was later covered by Kirk Whalum and Lalah Hathaway) called "Make Me A Believer". The opening line states "Superman, can fly way up high in the sky, because we believe he can. So what we choose to believe, can always work out fine....It's all in our mind". Well, with the Burson op-amps, I really wanted them to make me a believer - but I didn't want it to be just all in my mind...I wanted a recognizable difference - but I was also willing to tell on them if they didn't deliver. Let's see what they did do and ...what they didn't!

The Burson Supreme Op-amps came in a metal cylinder - very meticulously rapped. The Op-amps also come with a LIFE-TIME WARRANTY! In audio - that alone is enough to make someone a believer. The product was very simple to install. However in my application - these op-amps are rather large and can take up 2-3 slots in a PC. For those of you that have double slot video cards space is at a premium, and now a lot of HTPC cases come with the power supply installed to the right side (if you're looking at the rear of the PC) instead of the traditional left. For this review I had to remove my 2 slot video card and use a lesser video card. Eventually I transferred my HTPC to a new case in order to have the space I needed to host the Burson's and my dual slot video card. burson asus.jpg

Installation on the Asus Essence ST/STX also has a few other draw backs (as the op-amps may tilt a little unless you use what I call straw extensions - giving the opamps some room away from the card. I installed the opamps in the buffer and IV stages of the Essence ST sound card. I used my system for this review - equipment of note would be an Adcom 5503 power amp, HTPC with an Essence ST sound card, JRiver software, and Klipsch Cornwall speakers with Fostex T90A supertweeters. Speakers were EQ'd using Math Audio software, all music was .ape lossless format.

The Essence ST came with stock op-amps but I had rolled mine a few times. At the time of the review - I was using Muses 02 (buffer) and Muses 8920's (I/V). I was very impressed with the Muses combination and felt that the Burson's would have a hard time beating these out. The Muses added a sense of detail that I hadn't heard from the ST before, there was also an analog like warmth to the setup that kind of made you forget about everything and just listen to music. The day the Burson Supremes arrived - I was like - you've got a hard row to hoe!

My immediate impression wasn't per-say overwhelming - I did notice that the Burson's highs and upper mid-range sounded more articulate than the Muses, noticing things in the upper registers that I hadn't noticed before but I still liked the Muses...I wasn't a believer yet. So I decided to let the system run with noise and with music for about at total of 50 hours or so before I returned to serious listening. After that period...Superman showed up!

The articulation of the highs and upper mids was still there, but it seemed to mellow and smooth out (to a greater degree than the Muses). The sound stage also opened up. The Muses provided depth to my system, but the Burson Opamps provided much more than depth - instruments especially female voice and piano became "touchable".

The Burson's not only handled the highs well but could dig down deep while retaining their smoothness. I listened to a lot of music without my subs on (one time not realizing that they were not on). Most of the music I used would not be familiar with many people here but I will name the tracks just the same.

Kirk Franklin - So Incredible to me
Kirk Whalum - So far, So good!
Allen and Allen - What the world needs now
Ben Tankard - Church Picnic
Nora Jones - Painter's Song and Nightingale

I chose each piece because I was familiar with them and knew what to expect.

The first track I used for placement of percussion and the presence of a small vocal group and the Burson's didn't disappoint. Each conga, triangle and djembe was in its proper place! Quiet passages were just that...quiet! and the group was spread across the soundstage properly (as I know how this group stands in concert or in studio).

The Kirk Whalum track was a live recording - this was used to see if it could make me believe I'm at the concert....Supreme Burson's are still doing their thing, throwing a live image like Supes throws trucks! Very open and spacious - very believable (the late George Duke appears on this track as well). They handled the bite of Kirk's sax just as well as they handled George's keyboard. Tone was spot on and life like. They have passed the imaging test now for the bass test.

Booming bass is easy to reproduce I wanted to go after something more difficult, so I have a special track that features acapella bass voice and a stand-up string bass. This is on the Allen and Allen cover of What The World Needs Now. The slap and plucked string bass is very real in this track - you can actually hear the strings vibrate as the notes are played and the singers...its the well known group Take Six! The bass is punchy when needed - and never fake! The Burson's do a great job of resolving very deep bass but here's my rub - you will find it on the next track.

Ben Tankard made a song call Church Picnic - and this song has a lot of layers in it. I used to use this song as a demo piece when I worked in the business years ago! I've heard this track on all kinds of speakers - some that I'll never be able to afford - but the thing is - I know this song! Toward the end there is a conga slide that I first noticed when listening to this song through Snell speakers. Since then I use that experience to evaluate lower mid-range. The Burson's had handled everything well...even lower mids that are in the fore-front of the mix- but on this song the conga slide is beneath a xylophone, it takes some doing to flesh this out. The Muses handled this very well, were as the Burson's seemed veiled - buried it just a little- however - the Burson's overall, out performed the Muses in every other facet - I may be able to let this one pass. I also considered turning of my room correction - because I also realized that every other time I listened to that song - room correction was off. That's the only rub I have with the Burson's and it may not even be a rub

The Nora Jones tracks were stupendous - Guitar to the right in Painters song was an excellent set up for Nora's seductive voice to come out right at you from the middle of the soundstage. She was about 5'6" high in my system - I wonder if that's her real height?

Conclusion: The Burson op-amps IMHO are worth the price if you want an easy upgrade path without buying new gear. People have used them in high end disc players, sound cards, anywhere an op-amp can be used. Burson has a detailed report on how Discreet op-amps are better than IC's. We in the audiophile world love to discuss or flat out argue about things we can't or won't measure. Today I'm here just to share what my ears have heard. Hey I even had 2 sound cards and still preferred the Burson's - liked them so much I went and bought two more. I believe when it comes to op-amps, implementation is key, and whatever Burson did - sure sounds right to me. Is it all in my mind? Maybe....but I don't think so - songs that I'm too familiar with, sounding different (not only to me but others in my house as well - trained my boys how to listen using "Church Picnic"), new detail and that increased depth - Burson - time to come out of the telephone booth and fly....because you made me a believer.
 

Marcus

Member Sponsor
Oct 5, 2012
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#2
I've been using Burson IC opamps for several years and was pleasantly surprised when I saw a new generation was coming out. The »old« series opamps were quite large and sometimes difficult to install. A new generation is still far from small but is significantly (30%) narrower than the old one and the height was reduced by a millimeter or two (see the photo). So it's more installation friendly than the old one but a version with pins at the side would be even more »build-in friendly«. I tried Burson Supreme Sound IC opamps (BSSO) in my FM tuner, in a headphone amp and in power amps.

Burson.1.jpg

The burn-in time is between 40 and 60 hours - almost the same as with the old generation. Reference music was mostly classical not only because I listen mainly to this genre but also because on some »simpler« musical material it was difficult to hear differences and nuances that were easily revealed with complex and more demanding music. First I listened to the BSSO in individual components, later all together. Before I go into details I would like to point out that basic (»factory build-in«) chips that were replaced with Burson old generation opamps, were high quality Burr-Brown OPA 627AP and medium quality OPA 2134PA. After their replacement there was such a huge sonic improvement that is hard to believe. Everything was better: the sound in general was primarily less processed, less electronic, less hi-fi, more organic or natural if you will, airier, clearer and cleaner, bass was stronger, deeper and more defined. Soundstage has also improved and the presentation was more refined. After such a profound improvement, it was hard to imagine that a BSSO would be significantly better. Well, it was and it is better than the old gen. although the magnitude of improvement can not be compared to the first factory installed chip/Burson replacement. Nevertheless there was a noticeable improvement in clarity, the presentation was even more controlled and the bass was tighter. Also, BSSO is even more detailed than the old gen. that seemed just a bit veiled in comparison. My only concern was that it seemed that the old gen. Burson was also just a tiny bit smoother or finer sounding than the BSSO but also, as indicated, less clear.

There is no doubt that BSSO is a winner and if you have chip opamps in your gear I recommend replacing them with Burson' s discrete opamps. Replacement in CD players, preamps and similar gear is straightforward but in power amps you just need to check DC offset with the voltmeter and you're ready to go.

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