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June 23, 2017

Burson Audio Opamp Review - Supreme Sound V5 / V5i

Op-amps, or operational amplifiers, are ubiquitous in solid state amplifiers. These little integrated chips are simple little building blocks designed to work in a wide range of electronics such as PCs and other devices. For those of you not familiar, op-amps are like vacuum tubes for the solid state world. Most manufacturers use sockets so the op-amps can be swapped, and each have a difference sound signature (e.g. warm, revealing, etc.). Some have voltage requirements that make them only compatible in certain designs, etc. Some are affordable (the LM4562 which runs less than $1), and some are expensive like the popular $25 Burr Brown OPA627.

Burson Audio is a company on a very short list of providers of discrete op-amps. Rather than having a bunch of teeny tiny components shoe-horned in a chip the size of a fingernail, Burson creates devices that plug into op-amp sockets that use a fully discrete set of diodes, resistors, etc. I remember my first purchase of several of their discrete op-amps  roughly six years ago, trying to breath some additional life into a Music Hall DAC. While their first iterations weren't super easy to install, they made a world of difference in the sound department. Everything was much more natural and effortless sounding than the stock op-amps which I believe were mid-grade models from Texas Instruments.

Fast forward to today and we have the Supreme Sound V5 and V5i Opamps. The V5 features fully discrete components including 0.5% tolerance metal film TKD resistors, hand-matched FET transistors, and a sleek looking red cover.

The Burson V5 (left) and V5i (right) in their packaging

Note the size difference between the two units

A fixed 8 pin DIP socket makes installation much easier

It's also a smaller form factor than the originals, which is crucial for installing in tight circuits / spaces. The V5i is a hybrid of sorts which includes both IC and discrete components, but is much smaller and should fit in virtually any build. Do note that these units can only replace op-amps as noted on the Burson site:

Dual Op-amps:
AD823, AD823AN, AD8066, AD8620, AD712, AD827, C4570, JRC4556AD, JRC4580, JRC5532, JRC5532D, JRC5534, LF353, LM4562, LME49860, LM833N, MUSES8920, NE5532, NEC4520, NEC4570, NJM2068D, NJM2114, NJM2214D, NJM4558, NJM4558D, NJM4560, NJM5532, NJM4558P, OP275, OPA1612, OPA2277PA, OPA2132, OPA2134, OPA2604, JRC4558, RC4558D, RC4558P, TL052, TL072, MUSES01, MUSES02, MUSES8820, MUSES8920, MUSES8832, BA15532

Single Op-amps:
NE5534, LT1122, TL071, OPA134, OPA627, AD811,AD829, AD844, OPA604, AD8610, AD711, AD797, LME49990, LME49710

Installing them in a unit that is not compatible could cause undue stress on the components / oscillation, etc.

More to come...

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