By Lam Seng Fatt
Burson Audio is an Australian company based in Melbourne that does not advertise in hi-fi magazines or websites, participate in trade shows or pay for reviews. But their products are mostly well-praised by the few reviewers who managed to obtain them for test sessions.
Over the past week or so, I have been listening to the Burson Funk, a head amp and speaker amp rolled into one. The head amp offers 3 watts in Class A while the speaker amp offers 35 watts/45 watts into 8 Ohms/4 Ohms in Class AB. It is designed for near-field listening.
Its website states: “Hi-Fi companies are spoiling headphone enthusiasts with nearly endless amplifiers. So why are they neglecting near-field audiophiles, listening to their speakers in small studios or from their desktops?
“Near-field audiophiles often settle for inferior Class-D amps, which are also typical inside active speakers. The alternative is rack size Class-AB amps that break the aesthetic of any near-field systems.”
The Burson Funk is a small amp about the size of a paperback novel and measures 190mm x 150mm x 60mm and weighs about 3 kg. Its casing is made from aluminium and acts as a heatsink. In operation, the Funk gets only a bit warm.
Powering it was Burson’s Super Charger 3A which utilises its proprietary Max Current Power Supply (MCPS) circuit. Burson claims it is superior to both transformer-based and conventional switching power supply designs.
I set up a system comprising the YS Encore CD transport, the Chord Hugo headphone amp/DAC, the Burson Funk which was linked via Kimber 12TC speaker cables to the ATC SCM50 floorstanders and alternatively, my new bookshelf reference speakers, the Falcon Maida Vale limited edition LS3/5a.
Actually before I started playing the CD, I was not sure if the Burson Funk which is rated at only 35 watts into 8 Ohms could drive the 85dB sensitivity ATC floorstanders.
Surprisingly, it could. The sound quality was actually not too bad and the bass was surprisingly quite full and deep. However, the soundstage was smaller than what I am used to hearing and the images were also smaller and had the tendency to crowd around in the space between the speakers.
I switched to the LS3/5a wondering if the small amp could handle a 15 Ohm load and, well, it could. Again the soundstage was smaller and the images were also smaller.
Now, the headphone amp is on a different circuit and I used two pairs of headphones — the Audio Technica ATH M-50x and the AKG K240 Mk II — and Moondrop IEMs.
Since I had the Chord Hugo headphone amp/DAC in the system, it was easy for me to compare the Burson Funk’s headphone output with the Chord Hugo’s. I found that the Chord Hugo sounded warmer, fuller and more ’rounded’ while the Burson Funk sounded leaner, more on the cool side of things and had harder leading edges.
The Burson Funk has a gain switch to increase the gain but I never felt the need to boost the gain and the volume knob at 12 o’clock was sufficient to get the ATC or the LS3/5a speakers to sing quite loudly.
It is possible for you to swap the opamps to a higher-grade model and the Funk also has a Mic Input Bypass function.
If you buy the Burson Funk, I would recommend using more sensitive and easier-to-drive speakers with sensitivity of 88-89dB or more.
Both the head amp and the speaker amp delivered impressive results. And its diminutive size makes it perfect for near-field listening for desktop users.
The Burson Funk retails at RM2,939 while the Burson Super Charger 3A costs RM1,469. Burson products are available at E1 Personal Audio Malaysia in Sungei Wang Plaza, Kuala Lumpur.