Burson Swing Review

Rickpeddler

Novice Member
Introduction - About Me.

I have been a keen music enthusiast for many years now. In the past I have owned a rather nice analogue based system comprising of the following:-

Logik DM-101 Turntable - Linn Basik LVX Tonearm - Nagaoka MP11 Boron Cartridge - Musical Fidelity Integrated Amp - B&W Loudspeakers - Pioneer PD8700 Turntable-based CD Player and all the required spikey-stands, Sound Organisation Turntable Shelf and all the other goodies that were really required to make an analogue system sing and dance. I loved it and spent many happy hours listening to music (along with countless hours tweaking the system in order to get the last possible amount of performance out of it). Whilst I must admit that most of the time I found this very enjoyable - I much prefer the virtually unlimited music available via Google Play Music and love the way I can listen to multiple albums without having to get off my lazy butt.

Although pretty much all of the components in that system were purchased used, it was still a considerable amount of money - especially when compared with what you can get these days for the same kind of expenditure.

However, marriage, kids, thinner walls and a less than ideal set up for loudspeaker listening has resulted in me using headphones for the bulk of my listening over the last couple of decades. I have a fairly embarrassing amount of headphones in my collection - and I really like them all. Recently however I started to resurrect my interest in loudspeaker-based listening and, thanks to Burson Audio, I think I have a far better system in place than my old analogue system (even though it costs a fraction of the price) - sounds much better and is certainly easier to operate.

It's only fair to point out a number of points before I continue with the review:-

  • I'm 56 years old - I'm well aware that my hearing isn't what it was when I was in my teens. In all fairness to myself I recently informally tested my frequency range using a pair of high quality headphones and a lossless test file and was pleasantly surprised by how much of the higher frequencies I can still hear - so all is not lost.
  • Although I did love the smooth analogue sound my old system produced, I think digital has more than matured to the point where analogue is pretty much for the hard-case enthusiasts now (I know, I know, heretic!). Whilst early digital systems sounded like a bucket of bolts being shaken hard some of the time, even my phone can produce an arguably more accurate sound quality than my old analogue system.
  • I am of the opinion that even some of the more humble-priced pieces of digital electronics such as APTX/AAC based bluetooth headphones and inexpensive MP3 players are capable of producing remarkable sound quality compared with older systems. I also firmly believe that many of these cheaper Chinese-made items such as MP3 players and bluetooth headphones/earphones can sound just as good as those from the more well-known manufacturers such as Sony, JVC and the like. You really are paying for the name a lot of the time.
  • Much of my listening these days consists of streamed content (with some MP3 files permanently stored on my phone for when I'm out and about. I'm a very enthusiastic portable user and wouldn't dream of walking any significant distance without wearing some portable headphones and rocking out to some tunes. When at home, I use music streamed from the brilliant little Chromecast Audio when listening through loudspeakers - whilst I know that there are better alternatives out there, I tend to listen to the compressed MP3 content for much of the time but feel that the next step up in sound quality for me will have more to do with the content (lossless rather than lossy) than making any minor alterations to my sound system.

Burson Swing - Externals

The Swing is the same size as their Bang power amp and Fun headphone amp. They're all designed so that you could fit them inside a regular PC case like an internal CD ROM drive, be fed with power from your PC motherboard and, where appropriate, have back-plates for connecting external cables to the back of your PC. I’m not sure whether using this configuration would have an effect on the overall sound quality (differences in power supply for example), but I used the Burson Swing and Bang in a simple stack configuration. I must admit, I’m not a fan of the power switches being on the rear - but that’s kinda nitpicking.

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The Swing features a tiny LCD screen which is used to display various modes and settings. Used in conjunction with the volume control you can change input, output and various digital settings. Unfortunately the text display is too small for me to see without resorting to glasses - ah well, the joys of growing old! The volume control can be pressed in to select functions and mute the sound when playing music. Whilst on the subject of the volume control I have to say that this is one of the nicest digital controls I have ever used - offering incredibly fine control over the volume - nice touch Burson!

The connections at the rear appear to be very high quality - certainly using the high quality interconnect cables supplied with the Bang produced a very tight fit - no worries about loss of signal there. Everything about the Swing gives the impression of being of the highest quality - like the Bang and Fun. Also, like the Bang and Fun, you can upgrade the internal Op-Amps to potentially shape and improve the sound quality. Burson even supply an allen key to make it easier to open them up - another nice touch. I personally haven’t opened any of them up - and it’s fair to say that at this point in time, I’m more than happy with their base configuration.

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This Burson stack really feels like the ultimate in micro-audio systems. Minimalist yet functional. Subtle in their looks but power where and when you need it - no flashing lights - no wireless bluetooth thingies - no unnecessary features and, unfortunately with the base configuration, no remote control. In all fairness this isn’t a problem with my setup because I can control the volume remotely from my phone or tablet.

I'm using the Swing in conjunction with the Chromecast Audio - connected via optical TOSLINK cable and the high quality interconnects supplied by Burson to connect the Swing to the Bang. This makes for a very elegant and tiny solution for my bedroom listening.

Sound Quality

Well this is what it’s all about. The first thing I feel that I should mention is that the basic sound character is completely flat and transparent with regard to frequency range. There’s no excessive bass output, no pronounced treble - everything appears pretty much ruler-flat on my system.

I must admit I was somewhat sceptical that using additional outboard processing of a digital signal could make that much difference to the rather impressive output from my LG V20 phone. I was also sceptical that I would be able to actually hear any difference - especially when you take into account the points raised earlier. Well I was utterly wrong on both counts.

With the Burson Swing the timbre of each instrument simply comes alive. It doesn't seem to make a difference if the instrument is electronic or purely acoustic, it’s size, presence and acoustic character is resolved in a way that I’ve truly never experienced before in my home system. This effect isn’t subtle either - every single track I ran through the system clearly portrayed the music effortlessly. The last time I experienced anything even close to this was when I tried out the Etymotic ER4P headphones for the first time and experienced their stability when representing the stereo soundstage and placement of the performers. The Swing offers this degree of stability to the soundstage and, in my opinion, even more detail than the Ety’s offered. It's almost like every recording I have has been re-processed and re-mastered - that's kinda cool.

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Whilst I'm well aware that many recordings contain pretty much artificial image placement - generated through a mixing desk by the recording engineer rather than carefully placed microphones, it doesn't really make a difference as long as the playback system is capable of resolving it in a pleasing manner. One track I often use as a test for information retrieval is Young Lust’’ by Pink Floyd from the album The Wall. The amount of dialogue coming from the TV set in the background, the ‘dummy head’ effect of the performers moving around the stage and the subtle echo effects of the vocals. The dynamic effect of the track change to ‘One Of My Turns’ really put a sound system through its paces - the Swing passed this with flying colours.

One thing I think I should point out is that the Burson Swing and Bang combination isn't 'impressive sounding' when you first hear it. What I mean by this is that the overall presentation of the music is very relaxing and non-fatiguing. It's the sort of sound quality that you can listen to for hours - the remarkable detail being extracted from the music doesn't wear you down - quite the opposite. This detail is presented in such a way that you could focus on just one specific instrument if you wished - everything is sufficiently separated from everything else in such a way as to make analytical listening a truly effortless experience. This is what appealed to me about the Etymotics - the ability to relax whilst also focussing on the music. I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone - but it does to me.

Pros:
Superb sound quality.
Compact footprint.
Very well made - good quality sockets.
Totally silent noise-floor.
Excellent digital volume control.
Fixed and variable outputs - can be used as a digital pre-amp.

Downsides - nitpicking perhaps but I suppose it has to be said.
Power switches on the rear.
No remote control as standard.
Tiny display.

That’s it - in all fairness the lack of a remote is pretty much a non-issue with the setup I have because I have complete control over the volume with my phone or tablet. The tiny display is also a bit of a non-issue for me because I’m only operating one source so once this is set you can forget about it. The power switches do annoy me (slightly) but it’s definitely a first-world problem.

In conclusion I have to say that I’m very impressed with the Burson Swing. I definitely think that this represents a significant step up for me sound wise - especially when paired with the Burson Bang. I’m seriously considering upgrading my loudspeakers next in order to get the most out of this combination. A definite 5-stars - very highly recommended.
 

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