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THE BURSON
SOLOIST --- HEADPHONE AMP / PRE-AMP

A new level in our understanding

Most headphone amplifiers use standard IC Opamps in their designs. Such opamps are very cheap and easy to apply, however they are inferior (learn more). This is because they are not tailored for a particular audio circuitry, and they contain many low quality and unnecessary components (learn more) which degrade audio signals.

Three years ago we developed the HA-160 headphone amplifier. Instead of using standard IC opamps on the signal path, we designed tailor made circuitry using high quality discrete components. Because of this, we were able to reduce components on the signal path to optimise its operation. It offered higher resolution and superior dynamics to any IC based design, and yet presented a mid range intonation that many thought only possible from top-tier tube amps. It was good, like a properly designed solid state should, and many in the industry saw it as a benchmark.

Instead of celebrating and introducing "newer" versions each year with small refinements, we have been studying and developing circuitries that can realise more of our ideals. Now, our dream of an even more idealistic circuitry, with even less components on the signal path is realised. And it sounds more beautiful than any of us could have conceptualised at the beginning of this project. We named this new headphone amp Soloist!

The New FET input stage

The input stage of the Soloist is a symmetrical current feedback circuit with only 21 components on its signal path (compare that to a typical IC Opamp of over 50). It's signal path is so short and with so little blockage on it, that it can achieve amazing sound. Also because we only had to select and match 21 components, the Soloist sounds absolutely amazing.

 

 

The Soloist features a new Variable Output Stage (VOS). It enables the Soloist to match well with any type of headphone. Be it easy to drive high sensitivity in ear monitors or open back moving-coil designs. It can drive anything including the latest planar magnetic headphones with ease.

Combining the VOS with our new generation of step attenuator, volume control is always smooth and synergy is always perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the time when an audio signal is passing through the volume control, it is still at its weakest. At this stage, the audio signal is very vulnerable to noise pollution and interference. A major source of such distortion is the commonly used remote volume control adopted by most manufactures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An athlete needs clean air to perform at an optimum standard - audio equipment needs clean power to reproduce transparent and natural music.


The new Soloist has taken the already fanatical IC free power supply of our first generation HA-160 to the next level. The result is even cleaner even more energetic music reproduction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Soloist is housed in a 6mm case, constructed from high precision machined aluminium. This enclosure allows the Soloist, to achieve a very high mechanical damping factor, which reduces any microphonic effects, that may degrade the clarity of sonic performance.

The enclosure was also constructed to act as a giant heat-sink, which allows the Class-A headamp to run cooler, and remain optimised at all times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measurement
Input impedance: 36.5 KOhms
Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 - 50Khz
Signal to noise ratio: >96dB
THD: <0.03% at 30ohm with 1W ouput
Channel separation: >73dB
Output power: 4W at 16 Ohms
Input impedance: >8K Ohm @ 30 Ohm, 1W
Output impedance: <1 Ohm @ 30 Ohm, 1W
Power dissipation: >25W, internal, regulated power supply

Inputs
3 x gold plated RCA (line level input)

Outputs
1 x headphone jacks 6.35mm
1 x RCA Pre Amp output

Package content
1 x Soloist Headphone amp / Pre-Amp
1 x Power cable
1 x RCA pair input cable
1 x User Manual (including 24 months warranty registration information)

General
Weight: app. 4.5 kg
Colour: silver anodized aluminium
Dimensions: 180 mm x 255 mm x 80 mm

Listening impression

With the wrong equipment, a violin performance often sounds thin, constrained and boring. But not with the Soloist. Reproducing a 1992 recording of Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 by the legendary Erick Friedman, and his staggering virtuosity can be fully appreciated. With eyes closed and minds eased, we arrive at a different time and space. Bold and determined, his six foot figure beside the conductor's podium. The composition was performed perfectly down to the most subtle detail. The way he lifted his solder to balance the bow, the bounce, the sounding points, they were all sustaining, all accurate and emotionally intense. His passages executed with fine-tuned precision. A great Soloist of our time whose spirit lives on through his music and his students.

Throughout the performance, the only thing that reminded us of where we were was the inherent tape hiss from this pre digital, pre Dolby era of recording. But precisely due to this lack of digital mastery and lack of noise reduction editing, that a fuller frequency content was preserved and it sounded more organic and mesmerising. It was a performance to soothe the soul, and diverted minds from everyday worries to the beauty and magic of masterfully performed music.

 

 

Soloist Review & Feedbacks

Burson Soloist with Fostex TH900 feedback by Song Kyung-han
First of all, its very low output impedance makes it possible to drive low- as well as high-impedance headphones without distortions at any volume. Thanks to the Soloist's extremely low noise floor, my TH900 is dead silent when no music is on (the TH900 is a highly sensitive headphone that tends to pick up lots of hum and noise), providing a black background for the cleanest playback of sound. While it retains Burson amps' signature bass and PRaT qualities, it improves on clarity, musicality, ...

Burson Soloist with Grado PS-1000 & Audio-Technica ATH-W3000ANV by Alex L.

The system is comprised of Macintosh Pro, Sony 9000 Transport/SACD, Audio Reasearch Ref 5 Preamp, Berkeley Dac1 & Berkeley USB--Cabling by Nordost & audioquest. Headphones are the Grado PS-1000 & Audio Technica 3000 Aniversary edition. Alex L.

Burson Soloist with Hifiman HE-5 & Beyer T1 feedback by Erik H.
Overall, I'm totally floored by such a small compact unit. There's a lot of control over the whole audio spectrum, especially bass. Not to mention the amount of power this thing puts out. But, I won't blab on about things you already know :) I now know why members at head-fi meets would always respond "Yes it is" with a big smile when I would ask "is that a Burson?" I was planning on keeping my soloist as a desktop unit, away from my main headphone rig (which is balanced). I simply canno...

Burson Soloist with DA-160 & Grado headphones, feedback by Todd S.

The sound between these two pieces (Soloist and DA-160) are outstanding!! I could not be happier with my purchase! Thanks Burson, Todd S

Burson Soloist with Audez'e LCD-2 & Grado RS1 feedback by Luca A.
After a couple of years of using the Burson HA-160, use that gave me a lot of satisfaction, I decided to switch to the new Burson Soloist attracted by the fact that the new amplifier should be a boon to my Audez ? LCD-2 and also because the new amplifier has been completely redesigned compared to the previous model. About 3 months ago, the Soloist came to my house in Italy, directly from Australia! The package was as always perfect and the inside Soloist was made the entire trip without any pr...

Burson Soloist with Audez'e LCD-2 feedback by Nathan W.

When listening using my Audeze headphones and my Burson Soloist the timbre of stringed instruments become much deeper and the level of soundstage placement is greatly enhanced.  Overall very enjoyable! Nathan W