Burson Audio Cable+: a narrow use active buffer

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Armaegis

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Burson Audio Cable+: a narrow use active buffer
« on: 22 May 2017, 08:08 am »
disclaimer: I was contacted by Burson to review their Cable+; I have not read any other reviews regarding this product so my impressions are entirely my own.

I have decided to keep this mostly point form, because who wants to read an essay when you really just want to meat of the matter? I am always happy to expand upon any points made if anyone has questions.


Build

- It's a nice enough case I suppose
- I actually like those rubber boots for the connectors and use them for my other cables
- cable and connector quality feel good; nothing fancy schmancy, seems about par with the monoprice premium cables, perhaps a touch thicker
- build quality of the casing seems solid... really not much to write home about here
- the provided AC/usb adapter is just a standard little wallwart-transformer unit; the supplied power cable really need to be much longer

Setup

In order to perform an evaluation of the Burson+ cable, I needed two dacs of similar quality and a way to level match. To that means, I have a Prism Lyra and Prism Callia which are virtually the same except the Callia has the capability to handle DSD and more powerful headphone amp, which is moot as I used these strictly for their dac outputs. My chain was as follows:
- laptop via usb (through a Schiit Wyrd) into Prism Lyra
- use the Lyra optical output to feed into the Callia
- hook up Lyra and Callia into a Bryston integrated amp so I could switch seamlessly between them
- level match the dacs (post cables) with a multimeter and also on the amp output to verify
- activate optical volume control in the Lyra and control overall volume of both dacs from Lyra
- power for the Cable+ was provided by the stock adapter at first, then later with a Schiit Wyrd and a battery pack
- listening was done mostly with a Hifiman HE-6 headphone connected to the Bryston amp
- other listening tests were also done pumping through a Stereoknight passive TVC preamp feeding into active Genelec 1030A studio monitors


Later on I also substituted the Callia for an RME ADI-2 Pro, another pro level dac with optical input.

Later² on, I also did some comparisons (not simultaneously) of the Cable+ vs regular cables from my laptop and smartphone. Level matching was done both by multimeter and roughly by ear.


Listening


Coming from the Prism and RME, it seems to degrade quality
- definition loosens
- simultaneously softer yet sibilant at the same time
- loses the leading edge clarity on snaps but also becomes more fatiguing
- softness also noticeable with bass; it feels tubbier and loses crispness, although does feel "stronger" in a sense and rumbles more (though again moves some of that energy upwards)
- overall seems to add more uppermid spectral energy in pink noise tests

treble test: I Got The Blues - Aloe Blacc & Joel Van Dijk
- this song has really harsh guitar twangs, like the mic placement is too close
- Cable+ softens the twang a tiny bit
 - deep notes feel ok, more warmth isn't the right word, more like a belly rub


With external battery for power (or Schiit Wyrd; impressions are the same for both)
- better overall
- doesn't have that upper spectral energy as before
- though still softer
- I guess this is only slightly more inconvenient than plugging in with the stock adapter
- an annoying point is if your battery pack has an auto-shutoff feature, the Cable+ might not draw enough current to actually keep it on


Coming from my laptop motherboard
- improvement in sound
- less literal distortion from the headphone jack
- motherboard distorts and can't even handle a frequency sweep without garbling at both ends; the Cable+ somewhat fixes this


Coming from smartphone
- slight improvement
- similar to laptop mobo, my phone can't push the full range very well and rolls off the





My general impressions are that the Cable+ offers no improvement over feeding my Prism dac outputs directly to my amps. The sound in fact feels degraded (albeit these changes are minor, but if we're playing with cables we're into the last few percentage gains of our system anyways). Any sonic issues I noted were with the stock power adapter, and these qualms were mostly mitigated with the use of an external power source; but even then it only brought the performance back up to near par.

So I really don't know what to make of this cable. I find it has limited application, only offering sonic improvement for devices which have compromised outputs to begin with. As a patchwork solution, I guess it's not bad, but the fact that it needs to be tethered for power does detract from the useability somewhat. Of course, even with that we're using a cheap power supply adapter with all the sonic compromises that come with it. So alright, we can switch up to a better power supply or battery, but now we've got another box in there and the costs are adding up; how far away are we from just putting a proper active preamp into the mix?

I could see the Cable+ having some niche use if you have a poor interface between your source and amp/preamp due to impedance interactions, but you really like your individual components and thus want a better way to connect them... yeah ok, in that case having an active buffer is useful. There are maybe some tube and transformers based input/output stages that would benefit here. Outside of this however, I think your funds would be better spent on equipment that was more universally compatible and wasn't reliant on upgrading the power supply to reach parity performance with more standard fare.


my main headphone rig


the cable in action


my two Prism dacs (Callia on top, Lyra on bottom)


barrel pulled off the Cable+


comparison vs Monoprice premium rca cable
« Last Edit: 22 May 2017, 05:59 pm by Armaegis »

charmerci

Burson Audio Cable+: Another review
« Reply #1 on: 13 Jun 2017, 10:29 pm »
I hope Armaegis doesn't mind me tacking on my review here. Since IGF is also going to do one, I figured that we shouldn't just keep making new threads for the same cable. If not, we/I can always split this into another thread.


-----


Received the unit. It comes in a nice little plastic case.


I immediately compared the connectors to my pair of KabelDirekt IC's. They look awfully close but they are not the same. They plug in very loosely - some more than others. Not crazy about that. Tried to squeeze them between fingers with my shirt. There is a tiny gap but not enough to squeeze them to make the connections tighter. Didn't want to press the issue. (ha, ha) I've only compared them to the IC's that I have that I think are my best pairs. The ones I like the best are my 2 pairs of Grover Huffman EX+ (1 meter) and my broken-in Morrow MA-1's (1/2 meter).


I've listened to them over several days and maybe they sound slightly different than when I first compared them over the weekend. (I've kept them plugged in all the time.) Compared to my EX's, they are louder, that's for sure! There seems to a bit better soundstaging - i.e. the sounds seem to come out less like from two box speakers. (See my system) The high frequencies seem to be more clear and forward. But as I've not been too crazy about my highs at loud levels, it's kind of off-putting for my system. (*See note below*) The other thing that I noticed was that the bass sounds a little wooly - instead of bass notes going boom, it's slightly more wooom. I like my solid clear low bass notes. Surprisingly, kind of like I also heard in the iTube tour.


Though outside of those slight shortcomings - it may be hard to notice long-term if I wasn't immediately direct comparing them - they seem like a pretty good pair. I haven't directly compared them with the MA-1's or cheaper IC's. They do sound really good when hooked up to my CD player's analog RCA outs though.


I've never listened to any really expensive RCA IC's in my system so I can't compare them that way but they seem like a good pair for the price if you want a more forward, brighter IC to help your system.


But for a little more money - well, more than twice, I'd recommend the iTube2.


I'll compare them more with my MA-1 and my cheap Velocity IC's in the next two days.


(*The below note* When I listen really loud on my system (louder than loud talking), I have some high end harshness inherent in my system as completely documented here. http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=139706.0  Now, it's not quiet as bad as it was before but still noticeable. I just don't have the funds for more pricey equipment.)


Not really sure why they wanted me to post photos of my system (Rather embarrassed at how dirty my equipment looks. :oops:  Though it's not so noticeable in real life. Also, I just pulled out my cabinet to frequently change IC's.


 


 


 


 


 


 

Armaegis

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Re: Burson Audio Cable+: a narrow use active buffer
« Reply #2 on: 14 Jun 2017, 02:32 am »
I hope Armaegis doesn't mind me tacking on my review here. Since IGF is also going to do one, I figured that we shouldn't just keep making new threads for the same cable. If not, we/I can always split this into another thread.

No problem at all. Post away!

brj

Re: Burson Audio Cable+: a narrow use active buffer
« Reply #3 on: 14 Jun 2017, 04:44 pm »
Thank you both - I'd prefer to keep these reviews consolidated.

Odal3

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Re: Burson Audio Cable+: a narrow use active buffer
« Reply #4 on: 17 Jun 2017, 03:22 am »
Quote
With external battery for power (or Schiit Wyrd; impressions are the same for both)
- better overall
- doesn't have that upper spectral energy as before

I also find that DACs, buffers and other devices that touches the signal are very sensitive to the power supply. I have had really good experience with the reasonably priced IFI ipower power supplies for things like this. I used my ifi Ipower originally to fix harshness in a Raspberry pi / Dac set-up. It completely took away the harshness/noise that I heard. So I already had one handy to test with the Burson cable and it was definitely a step-up vs the provided power supply.  As you point out, it's an additional expense and hassle, but it takes away the harshness even better than the external power packs that I tried (which can be rather noisy). Recommended to try out if you haven't already.