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Burson PlayMate 2 DAC / AMP – Incredible Efficiency And Precision

Burson PlayMate 2 DAC / AMP – Incredible Efficiency And Precision

Burson Playmate 2 is a $544 USD DAC / Headphone Amplifier, with a huge driving power for headphones, and a full metallic chassis, but also with modular OP-AMPs for you to tune and sound and enjoy it in your own favorite flavor. Today we will review the PlayMate 2 and compare it to other similarly priced DAC/AMPs we recently reviewed, including SMSL DO400 (499 USD), EverSolo DAC-Z6 (549 USD), and Pro-Ject DAC BOX DS (430 USD). 



Burson is a popular company with a large catalog of products, most of which are high-end Desktop DAC/AMPs. The PlayMate we are reviewing today is a magically special unit, as it has modular OP-AMPs, allowing you to fine tune the sound and get a highly improved sound, Burson also being a big producer of aftermarket OP-AMPs, most of which are known for their excellent sound and low distortion. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases, and using the purchase links in my reviews helps me maintain this website and Youtube Channel. A huge thanks to Burson for providing us with the sample for this review. 

PROs – Excellent driving power, Dynamic, punchy and detailed sound, extreme revealing ability for micro details, a bright and open treble, this time combined with a powerful and punchy bass, excellent control for all headphones, and a distortion-free, noise-free output for both the headphone output and the DAC output. Has PRE function, which is a huge plus, and a Type-C input which works with no drivers needed, and has no USB DAC delay. Good cooling on the case, thanks to the l;arge number of fins, and ends up being a beautiful looking DAC/AMP. Price / Performance ratio is on the very high side of things. The microphone input is a nice plus. 

Cons – It gets warm during usage, has only 6.3mm Single Ended headphone output, and only RCA DAC output. The remote is a separate purchase. 


Product Link

You can grab one here – https://amzn.to/3zmO0mF

Official Link – https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/playmate-2/


Build Quality/Aesthetics

Burson Audio has always been a top player for desktop DAC/AMPs, and the new PlayMate 2 is no exception, with the company having created a sturdy, solid metallic unit here, with fins for cooling and for a special visual design. The front of the unit has a tiny display, and is more modern than the PlayMate we reviewed a couple of years ago, plus this is a full Class-A Headphone AMP and DAC, so it will eventually get a bit warm during usage. As you may be into streaming, you will be happy to hear that PlayMate 2 is Roon Tested and it easily connects with any 3rd Party Roon Ready audio Streamers. 

At the heart of the machine we have an ESS9038Q2M DAC, with an XMOS USB input. Those allow support for up to DSD512 and Hi-Res PCM up to 32 Bit / 768 kHz. The maximum power delivered by the PlayMate 2 is insanely high, at 3Wpc, for its price point being the most powerful DAC / headphone AMP available at this moment. To fine tune the sound, Burson allows you to use hot swappable OP-AMPs, with support for 4 sockets, and Burson themselves make some of the best sounding aftermarket OP-AMPs out there. 

To further enhance the user experience, PlayMate 2 is a great choice for gamers, as it has HD Mic input and a remote control (optional), so you don’t have to get up to change the volume. The volume is a stepped digital controller with 100 steps, and the headphone output is just one, with a 6.3mm size. Happily, there are adapters such as those made by ddHIFI, with DJ65B allowing me to connect any balanced cable to PlayMate 2 for testing. The display brightness is fixed, but it is a smaller display, and should not bother. While this is not immediately clear what two levels of power mean, if you enter the settings of the PlayMate2, you can set the Pre Lv, which is the Pre gain, and that can be set between Low and High.  

We have USB Type-C support at the back, along with an optical input, and this should allow PlayMate 2 to support literally every smartphone, PC computer, MAC PC, console and TV out there, all plug and play with no additional drivers needed. The Proprietary BVurson power delivery through MCPS is also a highlight, as this one charges at 170 thousand times per second, compared to most power deliveries of the competitors delivering a 50 times per second charge rate. 

At a technical level, the output impedance of below 2 OHMs, and we will test down below whether this results in an audible hiss with IEMs, and the output impedance for the PRE Output is 15 OHMs. The driving power for a 16 OHM load is 3.5W, for a SNR of 96 dB, and a separation of 99%. As you climb in the impedance of the headphones, the power delivered lowers, with a 2.5W power for a 32 OHM impedance, and a SNR of 97 dB, and a separation of 99%. For a 300 OHM impedance load, the power delivered is 150 mW, and the SNR is 95 dB, with a separation of 99.5%. At a subjective level, it works very well, and PlayMate 2 allows you to use either the headphone output or the Preamplifier output, with no option to connect both at the same time. 

The DAC specs are tack sharp, with a channel separation of 128dB at 1 kHz, and 121 dB at 20 kHz. The THD of the DAC is 0.0018% for a 1 kHz signal, at 0dBFS. Burson is one of the few companies that has 2 years of warranty with an optional 1 extra year of warranty, along with a 30 Days Refund policy. To make sure all your headphones are driven well, PlayMate 2 has 2 Power Levels, the optional remote is a solid piece of aluminum rather than your traditional plastic remote. You can also fully control the unit without ever touching the buttons, as you can press on the volume wheel and the button on the right of it to control the volume. The only little bug I have noticed is that when you touch the volume wheel, sometimes it goes with 1 unit in the wrong way, so turning it right can, first go one unit minus, then all units plus, and this can happen when you go both directions. 



With the most important function of the PlayMate 2 being a USB DAC / Headphone AMP for a computer, I want to confirm that it has no USB DAC delay, nor does it have any other errors. This means that there is no cutting off the 1st second of each song, or any issues that I have noticed while using it, basically it functions perfectly, and it is fit for watching videos and playing real time content, including for competitive gaming. 

The only odd thing I have noticed while using it is that on its own display, the PCM symbol for showing the current data rate is flickering a bit at times, but sonically, it is perfect. 


Sound Quality

Pairings – To test the Burson PlayMate2 I have dug out all of the best IEMs and Headphones, as it is supposed to bind them all together sonically, and be able to drive everything under the sun. ddHIFI DJ65B has been helpful, as I wanted to always use the better balanced cables that I have, for ergonomics purposes. The full list of pairings includes HIFIMAN HE1000SE, Sennheiser Ie900, Crosszone CZ-8a Enhanced, ZiiGaat Cincotres, Letshuoer S15, Campfire Cascara, Campfire Bonneville, FIR Audio e12 Electron, Aune AR5000, Erzetich Thalia, Spirit Torino Twin Pulse Beryllium, Soundz Avant, Audeze LCD-5, Sivga SV023, and Sennheiser HD 660S2. For all IEMS, if you set the Pre LV to Low, you’re not likely to hear any background noise and hissing, and that is the correct gain level as it gives you quite a bit of volume control. For IEMs, the volume is a bit loud at level 1, but the growth to 100 is very slow, so as long as you don’t need the volume to be ridiculously quiet, the control PlayMate2 has is very good. 

For larger headphones, I am surprised by the level of dynamics and control, driving power and punch P2 can put into headphones, including Audeze LCD-5, and HE1000SE, giving them a bright, impactful treble, accompanied by a bold and controlled bass. The sound with headphones tends to be on the pumped up style, with a lot of gain and power, depth and strength. Happily, P2 is not sensitive to impedance, and keeps a very similar character and tuning regardless of the SPL and impedance of the headphones or IEMs, basically showing what we consider a perfect volume control and headphone driving ability. Usually, the extremes are the hardest to handle, so a really low impedance headphone or a really high impedance headphone will be hardest to control for an AMP. 

Overall Signature – The tuning of Burson Play Mate 2 is generally airy, wide and holographic, with a kick for resolution and detail, presenting all music in a forward, aggressive and direct fashion, giving you the driver seat to enjoy music. There’s a good sense of space and separation in music, with the stereo imaging being really clean and crisp, and precise. The foreground always has a bit of warmth and the bass is very forward, not necessarily a lot above neutral in quantity, but strong and punchy. There is very little distortion in the sound of P2, and you can bring it really loud without fearing that the sound will stop making sense. 

Bass – We start with a strong, punchy and forward bass with a lot of gain. This effect translates to very strong transients in the bass, textures are really evident, and the bass reverberates through all songs and all headphones / IEMs. Although the bass stays distortion-free and rich in amount, it is also present at all volumes, and all that 3W of power combined with the Burson unique power supply provides a sound that reacts faster to impulse, the Class A Amplifier too making the bass ready to react at all times. While a lot of the IEMs, Headphones and even some sources I reviewed recently had a sloppier, slower bass, Burson Play Mate 2 has one of the fastest, most reactive bass presentations I ever heard, being plenty enjoyable and crisp. There is a slightly warm coloration to the sound, which is in stark contrast to the Play Mate 1, which was rather bright and had a flatter bass. 

Midrange – The midrange is kept naturally in line and balanced relative to the bass and the treble, giving music a really clean and distortion-free presentation. It stays balanced like this at both max and min volume, with Burson Play Mate 2 sounding musical and juicy, guitar presentation is strongly textured, bringing out macro and micro details really well, with a strong dynamic range. Both male and female voices have a spot-on tonality and they sound natural, with no particular coloration in the midrange. I am noticing a big bump in resolution, clarity and a lower distortion in P2 compared to the original PlayMate 1. The most spursing and defining characteristic of the P2 sound is the width and raw space presented in music, as this is a huge, airy sounding DAC/AMP. 

Treble – Brightness has always been a strong point for Burson products, and they are made for those who want the full extension of their DAC/AMPs, with Play Mate 2 being no exception, and presenting music as wide, holographic and airy as they come. The treble extends up to 20 kHz easily, likely reaching far above it, but my ears simply wouldn’t really decipher a sound above that point. If you enjoy a punchy, sparkly, bright and airy treble, you will love the Play Mate 2. All rock and metal has the full cymbal crash energy, lead guitar energy, and classical music has all the blowing instrument energy presented to you. 

Volume Control – Sometimes you need a DAC/AMP that will act the same with all headphones and IEMs, this being a strong point for Play Mate 2, as it sounds the same with IEMs, headphones, low and high impedance, holding its character, resolution and detail at all volumes, low and high. Basically, it will stay consistent and can drive IEMS with no hissing or background noise, headphones with a high headroom, and everything in between with ease. 

Dynamics / PRaT / Textures – As a combination of the high-end OP-AMPs, unique switching power supply, and the Class A Headphone amplifier inside, Burson Play Mate 2 has what I consider to be one of the strongest, most expressive textures out there. You can expect extreme dynamics, and super fast, precise and obvious textures, in all instruments and all frequency ranges. 

Soundstage – If you’re a fan of a wide soundstage, a lot of air in music, and a spacious presentation, Play Mate 2 will be right up your alley. This is the one DAC / AMP that has the width and depth as central elements in its sound. Combined with a precise stereo imaging, you can hear each instrument coming clearly from a well defined direction, but extending far beyond the bounds of the head and sometimes even the room, P2 creating a really engaging and holographic sound. 


Gaming Usage

Burson themselves market the Play Mate 2 as a versatile gaming DAC/AMP, especially as it is generally widely compatible with most platforms, as it has no USB DAC delay, and because it is rather small, yet powerful, with a Single Ended headphone output, a common connection for gamers. 

For actual gaming, the sound is very wide and holographic, with a strong impact, which makes up for a really pleasing game explosion sound, and the excellent imaging helps you aim correctly in shooters or understand perfectly where a sound is coming from in Moba games. For soundtracks, the wide soundstage and excellent stereo separation / imaging will set the atmosphere for fun pretty well. 




Burson PlayMate 2 vs SMSL DO400 (544 USD vs 499 USD)

Build – SMSL DO400 is shorter, but wider, deeper and has XLR outputs, plus I2S inputs, and coaxial inputs, while P2 has only RCA outputs and optical / Type-C digital inputs. The Power delivery is handled inside on DO400, while Burson has their own unique external switching power supplies that deliver the sound. The noise floor of DO400 is slightly higher with both IEMs and Headphones, while for the RCA outputs, it is about the same, the XLR output of DO400 being more silent. Both are made very well, both are pleasing to look at, but the XLR outputs of DO400 and the addition of a 4.4mm balanced headphone output give it a stronger theoretical value at first. The maximum driving power of the DO400 is higher in theory, at 3W at 32 OHMs, but 6W at 16 OHMs. Take into account that for driving Susvara, which is the one headphone that’s way hard to drive out there, the driving power of both will be diminished by the 60 OHM impedance of Susvara. 

Sound – Driving power and technical data doesn’t matter quite as much as sound, and Burson Play Mate 2 has a deeper, wider and more holographic sound, with less focus on the midrange, and which brings forward dynamics and details more than DO400, which is more of a mid centric, softer, waxier sounding DAC/AMP. DO400 has a really specific tuning which will be perfect if you’re looking for it, while P2 has a more generalist sound that will work well for all ears, all headphones and all IEMs. 


Burson PlayMate 2 vs EverSolo DAC-Z6 (544 USD vs 549 USD)

Build – DAC-Z6 is a much larger device, and it also has one headphone output which is single ended, and can mainly be used as a DAC, being more or less the same type of device as PlayMate 2, with the exception that DAC-Z6 has XLR balanced speaker outputs besides the RCA DAC outputs. The driving power of PlayMate2 is much higher, and it has a bit less noise over the RCA DAC outputs, as well as for the headphone output. You can swap the OP-AMPs in PlayMate 2 for a different sound, while DAC-z6 will sound exactly the same regardless of how you configure it. 

Sound – Speaking of sound, the higher driving power of the Burson P2 results in much better control, lower THD and lower distortions, better driving power, a much more dynamic sound, and better overall impact and details, with a higher resolution, and a wider, more holographic soundstage. DAC-Z6 sounds warmer, more intimate and less open, with less revealing micro details, but still an impressive dynamic range nonetheless. The visualization effect of the DAC-Z6 is a huge highlight for it, and a big reason you’d want to purchase it, while Burson P2 has less of a flamboyant design, and more of a practical, true to performance approach to sound and design. 


Burson PlayMate 2 vs Pro-Ject DAC Box DS (544 USD vs 430 USD)

Build – Physically, PlayMate2 has a bigger chassis, it is more sturdy, but also gets much warmer during usage, thanks to its Class A Headphone Amplifier. Theoretically DAC BOX ds has one more input, having a Coaxial Input, but the type-c USB input on the PlayMate 2 seems to be more of a bonus for the actual user. For a similar price, PlayMate 2 has a high-end headphone output with a lot of driving power, while DAC BOX ds doesn’t have much to show for. 

Sound – Sonically, DAC Box DS is a smoother performer, and for this comparison we will be connecting both to HIFIMAN Prelude, and drive headphones with it. DAC Box DS has a more intimate soundstage, less dynamic range, and a smoother, less engaging sound, while PlayMate 2 sounds much wider, more detailed, more crisp and more holographic. Due to the difference in resolution and clarity alone, PlayMate 2 is easier to recommend, and when you factor that it has a headphone amplifier, and hotswap OP-AMPs, PlayMate 2 offers much more performance for the money paid, being a higher value device. 


Value and Conclusion

At the end of the day, if you need power, Burson has all the power you may require, and if you need an ergonomic, beautiful looking DAC/AMP with an aluminum chassis, Play Mate 2 will satisfy your needs. Everything is supported from RedBook all the way to Hi-Res PCM files, and high resolution DSD files, so when you add in the superb sound that the PlayMate 2 has, with its eccentric and holographic soundstage, rounded and full bass, and excellent resolution, plus the huge driving power, it has one of the highest price / performance ratios out there, out of all the DAC/AMPs I have tested. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a DAC/AMP with modular hotswap OP-AMPs, sturdy and solid frame, with a ton of driving power, long warranty, and a wide, punchy sound, with resolution and dynamics that far surpass its own price point, Burson PlayMate2 is a fully recommended purchase and a DAC/AMP I am willing to say I enjoy to the max. 


Product Link

You can grab one here – https://amzn.to/3zmO0mF

Official Link – https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/playmate-2/

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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!




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