OpAmp. Well, what’s inside your mind when reading word “OpAmp”? A tiny chip with several pins? Could be.
Actually, there are several ways to get the job done. First, we go with easy ‘fast food’ or chip based OpAmp. You can shrink millions of transistor into size of single small coin.
Second, we go with a little bit classic, old school with a discrete circuit. That means, we will have all the big components on the PCB (transistor, resistor, capacitor, and any other passive components).
The only constraint for discrete approach is mostly the space/size and probably the cost of production (manpower).
Chip approach usually cheaper and more efficient. I can’t imagine if we are making several GHz of processor now with discrete component – that would be not making any sense at all – if not impossible.
But for some usage which space and cost/resource might not be a big constraint, and quality is at the top priority, then probably the discrete approach somehow considered better. You can use chip-amp like Gainclone or Tripath which very easy to build, but some people swear doing discrete are much much better. Not going into that debate now and enough the préambule, now let’s start with the topic of the day: Burson Supreme Sound OpAmp 4th Generation.
I have known Burson for quite some time – years – if I could recall. I have no interest to try their product before. Mostly because I didn’t play much with OpAmp and its circuit. So I just stick with common one, like OPA or AD (my favorite is AD825 so far and for general purpose, OPA2134 or OPA2604 will be just fine). Also read around that there were some similar products (discrete OpAmp) from other manufacturers which doesn’t really bother me. Simply because I’m not into OpAmp world.
Until few months ago when I started with my Asus Xonar Essence One DAC modification. It came to me that OpAmp does really matter as the I/V, LPF, and output stage in this DAC are all OpAmps. Modding all the power supply circuit and wiring might not matter much if eventually it needs to pass those OpAmp.
I have tried several OpAmp. My final conclusion was to use LME49860NA in I/V stage, LME49720 in LPF, and AD825 in output stage. It was quite good combination, although at the end of the day, I found that LME49720 didn’t seem happy to sit as LPF 😉
What could be next? I was thinking of Muse01 from NJR (New Japan Radio Co., Ltd.). Asus also releases Xonar Essence One Muse Edition which is almost the same cost with buying standard Xonar Essence One plus all those 9 pcs Muse01.
Heard a lot of praises for this J-FET input OpAmp, but it’s not easy to get with so many suspected counterfeit outside. Best to buy at Japan directly or some reseller like Digikey. Or buy the Muse Edition directly from Asus.
The other reasonable option is to go with discrete.
Got advertisement email from Partsconnexion (PCX) with the new launch of Burson Supreme Sound OpAmp 4th Generation. Should I give it a try? At USD 70 each, definitely this would be the most expensive OpAmp on earth. The Muse01 will cost me around 45% less – but both definitely would be considered as most expensive OpAmp. The different is the design: one is chip-based, the other one is discrete.
Finally, 5 pcs of Burson arrived at my home. It was well packed in a metal cylinder and plastic wrapped. It’s lifetime warranty service from Burson.
The Burson OpAmp itself seems quite simple: Resistors, Transistors, Capacitors, and Trimmer (what could be else?). I think that’s all inside. The PCB design is quite sturdy and solid. I can see K170 there, but no J74 – if you understand what I’m talking about.
Have no issue plugging them into my Asus Xonar Essence One DAC. But….. I wrongly calculated the total OpAmp needed. I thought the I/V was done with two OpAmps like most DAC. But this one is differential! Oh no… I need total 7 pcs and I only purchased 5!
Okay, mistake is a mistake, you can’t repeat nor replay the life. Life goes one, music must be played. So eventually I use 3 pcs to replace LME49720 and AD825 in LPF and output stage position. The rest 2 pcs will need another 2 pcs to arrive in order to fill the I/V stage.
And I also realize that the “fat” Cerafine will block two OpAmp in I/V position. Small OpAmp will have no problem, but tall OpAmp like Burson? Definitely I need to rework some of the Cerafines into a better position to give room for Burson OpAmp.
My first impression is very-very satisfactory. Relax, smooth, natural, flowing, with all the micro detail inside even with low volume. That’s just sound nice for me – simply my cup of tea. Vocal and mid are impressive, for both man and woman. Be it Ingram Washington or Cai Qin, or drum like Yim Hok Man, are delivered in a very good musicality – especially in detail, separation, and layering. Low frequency is just enough, not too much. High is very detail – a bit too much at first few hours but rapidly improved after 20+ hours, getting smoother but keeping all the details. Sound stage is quite wide (I need a better setup to justify that). I have limitation on experimenting with OpAmps, but I can say this is like AD825 with steroid or combination between AD825 + LME49720 (musicality + detail/resolution).
Will wait for the rest 2 pcs to come and wait until they pass at least 50+ hours break-in time.
And it’s gonna be interesting if I can get Muse01 to join the battle! 🙂
Below is the picture of the OpAmps installed on my Asus Xonar Essence One DAC. Unfortunately I was too lazy to bring my DSLR to take picture, but I thought my Nokia Lumia was good enough to give impression what’s inside my DAC.