Here's my take on the Burson Cable+ Pro. I previously had a chance to review the Burson Cable+, and as last time, the cable was provided free of charge for my honest opinion. No affiliation.
Link to my Burson Cable+ review: http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=149255.0
Burson now offers two cables - Cable+ and the premium Cable+Pro. The pro version comes in black housing vs the brushed metal of the cable+. It's hard to tell in the pictures but it's kind of candy licorice color. The housing for the electronics is machined and looks and feel really solid. There's nothing cheap about it - it both feels and looks nice.
The size of the housing is the same for both the the cable+ and the pro. However, the inside looks very different as you can see in the picture. The Cable+ is based on Burson's v5i opamp (silver square in the picture) and the cable+pro uses Burson's discrete V5 opamp circuit.
Another obvious difference is that the pro uses red Canare cables with better quality connectors. One minor issue I had with the cables was that the rubber bands to indicate left and right kept rolling off every time I moved the cables. It was easy to put them back but it would be nice if they could stick.
As I pointed out in my other review, the Burson cable is more like a powered buffer than a regular cable. See Burson website for details. In other words, they require separate power supplies to work. In my experience it is often difficult to hear differences between similar quality level of cables, but this is not the case with the Burson cables. At least in the systems I tried it with, it is definitely easy to tell a difference in the sound
That's a bit how I evaluate audio equipment too. If I have to spend a long time of focused listening to determine if I can even tell a subtle difference, it is not an upgrade worth the money for me. If I can easily tell a difference, the question then becomes do I like it or not. I tend to prefer slightly warmer presentation for music with lots of soul and punch but still plenty of detail. When it becomes too analytical/clinical it often becomes too bright and fatiguing for me for longer listening sessions (it actually hurts my ears and even had to turn in the door at some rooms at the recent Axpona).
Back to the evaluation:
I received the 3.5mm stereo to RCA version so I was not able to test it with better DACs which I had really, really hoped for, but the good part is that I could instead easily do an A/B comparison between the cable+ and the pro.
So with a 3.5 mm cable I was restricted to my two identical chromecast audio streamers which allows for bit perfect streaming of Tidal Hifi. The chromecast audio is by no means a high-end device, but it includes a decent (budget) AKM 4430 dac chip for analog out, as well as optical out to connect to an external DAC.
Many including myself find the sound out from analogue (using the internal chromecast DAC) kind of flat and unengaging and only good enough for background listening but that the optical out to an external DAC could produce a pretty decent SQ as documented at computeraudiophile and other places. In my system, however, the optical out created a little bit of harshness.
Since I haven't had a chance to try either cable with a more high-end DAC, my comments should be read accordingly. System 1:
Yamaha Aventage A1060 receiver using two google chromecast audio as streamers.
DIY speakers and subs. Subs driven by a crown 2000 xls amp.
This turned out to be a really nice way to compare like for like since I could set-up Tidal to stream to both chromecasts at the same time. This allowed swapping back and forth between the inputs (which had the different cables) without having to unplug anything and the music was always in sync.
Before starting any tests I made sure I knew how to set the volume to account for the 6db differences between a normal cable and the Burson cables. I tested with Umik and REW. Regular DIY Cable vs Cable+
As I said in my previous review, the Burson cable + takes the chromecast to a whole new level. The lifeless presentation is gone and the Burson electronics brings out better dynamics, soundstage, better defined bass and more details at the top without getting harsh. It is kind of like the signal gets "cleaned-up".Cable+ vs Cable Pro
So what does the pro bring to the table? The answer is a lot. It is definitely a step-up - it does everything the cable+ does - only better: Better separation between instruments, imaging, darker background, details in bass comes out even more, more "airy". All of a sudden the cheap little google chromecast has become a better than good streaming device. It really sounds pretty good. Optical vs Cable+ pro
The DAC in the Yamaha receiver is a SABRE 9006A so not the top end but by no means bad. The sound profile definitely has the typical SABRE sound when all DSP is turned off. The optical out with the Receiver DAC had better clarity and detail but, but the analogue with the Burson cable had more punch and "soul". As I like a slightly warmer presentation, I actually preferred the Burson and chromecast combo.System 2
Moving on to my other system:
Folsom amp with diy speakers plus GR Research dual 12" OB sub.
At this time, I also swapped out the power supply to the ifi ipower. Somehow I forgot to do a comparison between the stock USB power supply and the ifi. In other comparisons that I have done with devices using USB power supplies and the ifi, it has always been an improvement (cleaner sound, less sibilance and harshness)
Sound in this system is much better than from my Yamaha receiver which is really set-up more for HT.
My conclusion from comparing the cable+ and the pro is still the same. The pro is a step-up in sound. The cable+ has a slightly brighter (not in a bad harsh way) sound compared to the pro. To clarify, I wouldn't call the cable+ bright sounding, it is just that the pro has a more natural wide sound.
One notable finding in this system is that the bass sounded really weak and lacking with the chromecast connected with a regular cable. Both Burson cables really helped get the punch and depth of the bass back without being bloated. I was even able to measure that there was a difference (after adjusting for volume difference)
One thing I want to stress is that I believe the benefits of the Burson cable are likely very system dependent. If you already have a good match between a premium DAC, preamp and amp, my guess is that you will not gain much or it may even be the opposite. If you don't or do not know, it is definitely worth a try.
Would a google chromecast with a burson cable beat high end DACs? No - not at all, but I have to say that the level of improvement the burson cable did resulted in the same feeling of just wanting to sit for hours going through favorite songs to see how they sound.
I'm curious to hear if anyone else has had the chance to test this combo and what they think of it.
If I get a chance later this fall/winter I will mod the cable and add RCAs on both sides so I can explore the cables further with better DACs. Really curious how it will do with some of the Dacs I have recently been reading about in the C&C circle especially since I normally have my main system setup without a preamp.
Thanks to Burson for letting me try it out.
Fink - Perfect darkness
Mahler symphony No.2 in C minor - Paavoo Jarvi
Esbjorn Svensson Trio
misc modern, jazz and classical piano
and some modern pop, rock and alternative