Burson Playmate 2 Review: A Brilliant All-In-One Headphone DAC/AMP!!
Burson Audio is a premium audio gear brand based out of Australia. They revolutionized the portable and desktop audio scene with their premium OPAMP chips that are available as aftermarket upgrades for our portable and desktop audio gear. They created some of the best OPAMPs that one can buy in the market today including their latest V5 and V6 series. I actually got a chance to audition their V5i-D OPAMP with my xDuoo XD05 Bal recently too. Burson Audio also has a wide range of Desktop audio gears including all-in-one Headphone DAC/AMPs, award-winning power supply systems(known as MCPS), and more. What I have today with me is their latest all-in-one headphone DAC/AMP, the Burson Playmate 2.
Playmate 2 is an entry-level All-in-One headphone DAC+AMP+Pre-AMP that is powered by an ES9038 DAC chip. It supports high-resolution 32-Bit/768kHz PCM decoding as well as native DSD512 decoding. It provides multiple connection options including USB & Optical. For output, we have an RCA pre-out, a 6.35mm headphone jack, and also a 3.5mm aux out. The 3.5mm Aux out also supports mic input that makes it suitable for use while gaming or streaming. Burson Playmate 2 is available in multiple variants starting at 544$ for the stock and 744$ for the upgraded Burson V6 OPAMP variant. I received the stock OPAMP variant for review.
Burson Audio organized an Asia tour for Playmate 2 via Headfi. I got the unit as a part of this review tour for about a week. I would like to thank the Burson Audio team for sending the unit in for this review, would like to assure you this doesn’t affect my review. All impressions in this review are completely my own based on my own usage of the device. It will be shipped to the next reviewer after my turn(supposedly tomorrow). If interested, you can buy the Burson Playmate 2 from their official website from the link below(Not affiliated).
Package & Accessories:-
Burson packs the playmate 2 in a simple white cardboard box. The device holds its own space under the box in foam cutouts keeping it safe from any transit damage. There’s also a small cardboard box inside that has the power supply, USB Type-C to Type-C connector cable, an L-shaped screw opening tool, and a 3.5mm headphone and mic adapter. The package is quite simple yet elegant with all the necessary accessories included.
>Burson Playmate 2.
>USB Type-C to Type-C connector cable.
>3.5mm-headphone and mic adapter.
Build Quality, Design, Aesthetics:-
Classy & elegant are the words that instantly come into my mind at first glance on the Playmate 2. It has a fully metallic build with aluminum chassis. It has just the required stuff placed neatly, a volume wheel along with a small display and headphone output ports on the front, RCA out, and USB+Optical IN on the back along with the power socket. There’s also a power on/off switch as well as a menu switch on the front. In terms of design and build quality, the Burson Playmate 2 is simply excellent. The volume wheel here is free to move, I am guessing it has digital volume control. Though the adjustment is precise for volume.
User Interface & Features:-
The small display offers a short user interface for the users. It displays volume level(out of 100), Active input type, Active output, and active file type and bitrate. We have to access the menu using the menu switch placed near the volume wheel. It allows us to choose between different Input options, gain modes, output options, DPLL(DSD), DPLL(PCM), Emphasis, active filter, and Reset settings options. Playmate 2 has two levels of gain, low gain suitable for IEMs/Earphones/low-power demanding headphones, and high-gain mode suitable primarily for headphones. Playmate 2 has multiple digital filters such as LP Slow, LP Fast, MP Fast, MP Slow, AP Fast, Reserved, CMFR, and Brickwall. I tried A/B’ing these filters but they sound identical to me.
Burson is a very capable device with enough power to feed the IEMs and HPs I have with me. I paired Tanchjim Tanya, Kinera Norn, KBEar Aurora, and Sennheiser HD58x with the Burson all of them powered quite easily. The 150Ω HD58x is at adequate volume at around 25-30 level on high-gain mode. So I would say the Playmate 2 can power most HPs out there with ease.
Playmate 2 has a bright touch to its tone with a slightly elevated bass response. It maintains good clarity throughout the frequency range with no noticeable bloat or fatigue. Playmate 2 provides enough juice to produce a wide sound field presentation with excellent instrument separation. Though I noticed a slight bit of background noise with sensitive sets like Kinera Norn when connected on High-gain mode. I would suggest sticking with Low gain mode for IEMs at least on stock OPAMPs. I would say the High-Gain mode is not meant for sensitive IEMs such as Kinera Norn here, it is designed for powering demanding IEMs/headphones. Well, that’s all about the sound signature. But I would love to discuss how the Playmate 2 pairs with my IEMs/HPs to describe its sound better.
Burson Playmate 2 With Tanchjim Tanya:-
Don’t go on the 20$ price tag of Tanchjim Tanya, this little beauty packs a punch. But it needs some extra juice to sound its best. And The Burson Playmate provides it exactly that. The Tanchjim Tanya is loud enough for me at just 30/100 volume level on low gain mode. There is no noticeable background noise, no noticeable distortion even at loud volume levels.
Burson Playmate 2 With Kinera Norn:-
Norn is a sensitive hybrid set capable of delivering an immersive experience with powerful sound. Playmate 2 powers it well at around 20/100 volume(low gain) producing a powerful bass response with a good mid-bass slam. Sub-bass rumble could be slightly better here though. Vocals have a rich, thick tone here with the Playmate 2. Treble maintains good clarity and extension with this pairing. I enjoyed this combination too!! Even while playing Video games on my PC(Valorant and stuff), the Norn and Playmate 2 made an amazing stack.
Burson Playmate 2 With KBEar Aurora:-
I just received the KBEar Aurora yesterday, I instantly tried it with the Burson Playmate 2. Aurora isn’t a demanding set at all, it is being powered amazingly well at around 20/100 volume level on low gain mode. The punch in the lower end is delivered well, sub-bass extension again could be a bit better here. Aurora, as on my initial impressions has a recessed midrange presentation, though the Playmate 2 presents it well with great clarity and rich vocals. Aurora also benefits with a slight bit of bright touch in the treble section by Playmate 2. Again an amazing combo.
Burson Playmate 2 With Sennheiser HD58X:-
HD58x has a warm and dark tone to itself which benefits from the bright and detailed sound of Playmate 2. It is adequately loud at 30-35/100 volume level in high-gain mode. There is no noticeable background hiss here. While I personally love the HD6x0 or HD58x HPs with Tube AMPs, the solid-state Playmate 2 pairs well with the HD58X. The output is immersive with a rich midrange & extended treble response. Though I would say, the lower end here is not the best with this pairing. The sub-bass went missing here with the HD58x.
Dynamics such as Layering, Instrument Separation, and Imaging are spot on with each of the pairings.
Final Words For Burson Playmate 2:-
In simple words, Burson Playmate 2 is a fantastically built device that offers hi-res audio signal decoding with clean & powerful output. It pairs well with most of my sources providing a deeply immersive experience. The neat aluminum build is simply elegant and classy. It serves as a one-point solution as an all-in-one DAC/AMP connected to a PC for media and gaming. Another point in the favour of Playmate 2 for their replaceable OPAMP design. Users can switch the OPAMPs as per their listening preferences. Nitpicking of Cons, I would say the Playmate 2 lacks sub-bass extension on the stock OPAMPs. Also a bit of background noise with sensitive IEMs on high-gain mode. But then again I don’t think the high-gain mode is made for sensitive IEMs so that’s again nitpicking. I would like to thank Burson again for arranging this tour for this brilliant device in my region. If interested, you can buy it from their store here. (Not affiliated).