Pure DAC comparisons would see my SOtM DAC as domestic reference as well as the DAC in my Aurender A10 and the FPGA converter built into the Playback Design integrated for three well-regarded references with different characteristics and technologies. Connecting the Aurender's USB output to the Swing proved to be straightforward. I powered the Swing up first, the Aurender second, they kissed and went on to make beautiful music together. On the other hand, cohabitation with the much older Auraliti PK90 was less instantaneous. I had to restart both components thrice or more before a stable connection established. Once accomplished, it worked flawlessly without the usual glitches I grew used to between Auraliti server and SOtM DAC. While on minor gripes, let me point out that the tiny remote provided to control volume only works at short range and straight on. That's understandable for a component that can be built into a PC tower but pretty useless in a regular system.
As mentioned, Swing with basic JRC opamps is a fair performer for its modest $300 tag but one doesn't even need a head-to-head comparisons to notice the lack of dynamics in the upper range or the silvery tones that don't quite sound real or maybe a slightly exaggerated sense of sharpness that after a while translates to a pixilated somewhat fatiguing sound. If you want to learn more about Burson's latest crop of opamps, Srajan's detailed write-up in his Fun review is a great place to start.
Burson Fun with red Vivid and orange Classic opamps, JRC installed.
Just like he heard, as soon as one takes the flimsy JRC out and replaces them with the chunky orange V6 Classic, everything changes. In what order you notice the improvements will depend on your own sense of priorities but tonal colour and saturation both become far more real and intense, music acquires a much greater yet relaxed sense of flow and soundstaging expands in all directions. It's not subtle. It doesn't require any debate as to which is better. Burson's V6 opamps trounce the stock ones. Whilst there are differences between Vivid and Classic that will likely cause a preference in a given context, both eat the JRC for breakfast.
At a high level, Classic continues closer to Burson's tradition of building the sound from the bottom up with very rich dense tone and slightly less focus on transient sharpness and treble extension. But compared to my Conductor V1 or HD160, the Swing with Classic opamps offered much greater resolution and insight with more extended treble as well as a more dynamic sound although that's probably the one area where improvements were least noticeable. Classic was really the old recipe with most its shortcomings addressed and left behind. When switching to Vivid, dynamic contrast ramped up, tones were a bit less sweet and greater transient sharpness provided a faster sense of pace. Both solutions were equally impressive but depending on associated gear, one or the other will work better. Here I must point out one annoying quirk of the V6 Classic which was too tall to allow closing Swing's top cover. If you need to keep Swing closed because of pets, children or simple aesthetics, the shorter Vivid is your only workable option.
When pairing the dense rich Rogers LS 3/5a speaker with a warmer tube amp like the TriodeLabs EL84 integrated, Vivid was the way to go because it injected a welcome extra dose of caffeine. In that scenario Classic sounded lush but a bit slow and flat. On the other hand, replacing the amplifier with FirstWatt's F5, tables turned. In that scenario Vivid was very lively but with the upper mids no longer benefiting from any tube enrichment, those could get a little leaner than I truly enjoy. Here Classic had brought the extra tone density just like the Conductor before it but with far more detail and insight.
When switching to the Reference 3A Taksim speakers with their lean, fast and ultra-revealing midrange and treble, Classic was a match made in heaven because it took away nothing from the speakers' strengths yet added just a touch of extra weight and tonal colour. For all its dynamic glory and drive, Vivid added midrange sheen I could do without and delivered quite the ruthless presentation to make poor recordings sound piss poor. Taksim's beryllium tweeter is one of the very best I ever heard, being ultra detailed whilst absolutely sweet and never calling attention to itself. A great tweeter makes everything sound more alive and lit from within yet can never be heard as separate from anything else. By that measure the tweeter in the Taksim is about as perfectly integrated as one can dream of. That's not necessarily something I say frequently about beryllium tweeters which I usually find obnoxious.
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