The Burson Audio Soloist Headphone Amplifier

In what seems like a relatively short time, Burson Audio has developed a reputation for making good products, and they seem to have a pretty devoted and happy customer base. These are enviable things. I had read lots of good things about Burson's products, but never had the chance to hear one, until being sent this review loaner from Burson.

Burson makes a big deal in its marketing materials about how they do not use IC's, but rather discrete components. I have heard great products designed both ways, but a discrete build does allow the designer more flexibility, even if it comes at a cost both in terms of R&D time and in cost of goods. The build quality of the Soloist is certainly very, very impressive. The in-house designed and built stepped attenuator is very nice, and I did not find the steps too course, mercifully---even my much beloved Leben is a little guilty of this.

The Soloist, at least in part, is Burson's answer to the market demand for a powerful headphone amplifier to drive the currently popular but power hungry planar-magnetic headphones. The Soloist adds the very handy feature of three gain settings, however, so all that power doesn't mean that it won't work with high efficiency headphones as well. With 4 watts available (into 16 ohms), the Soloist purports to be able to work with pretty much any headphone you would want to drive.

I had the opportunity to test that theory, by connecting the high efficiency, low impedance Audio Technica ATH-W3000ANV and Ultrasone Edition 8 headphones, as well as the lower efficiency Audeze LCD-3 and HiFiMan HE-6. So I gave the Soloist a real workout! And it was up to the task, to be sure.


If you are a balanced connection fanatic, however, you will need to look elsewhere. I do not subscribe to the theory that balanced connections are inherently superior, so this is a non-issue for me. I have standard 1/4" plugs on all my headphones, and in fact the AT and Ultrasone are only 1/4". There is also a preamp output, which adds to the value of the product, though I did not use this.

For the review, my primary source was the Red Wine Audio Isabellina Pro DAC (as included in the RWA "Audeze Edition" amp/DAC). I compared the Soloist to the amp section of the RWA AE, as well as the HiFiMan EF-6, and the Leben CS-300. Comparisons were performed level-matched using my trusty RatShack SPL meter, calibrated using pink noise to a standard listening level 80dB SPL A weighted. The above technical information now foregone, this is a subjective review, and I like to use colorful language to describe the sound of music. Let's get on with it.

Burson Audio

MacedonianHero's picture

Great write up Rob! Glad to see Burson getting things on track with the Solosit. I wasn't a fan of the HA-160 (and only 250mW max was rather pathetic), but this new amp looks like a peach!


Thanks for this!

Skylab's picture

This was my first real experience with a Burson product - guess it was a good time to start laugh

Merck's picture

Such a beautiful design, both inside and out.  I will have to keep this one in mind.

poleepkwa's picture

Skylab, how does this compare to the Phoenix/ROC?

Skylab's picture

Unfortunately it has been far too long since I have heard the Phoenix to be able to answer this question. Sorry!

Jazz Casual's picture

Nice review. Subjective and balanced aren't mutually exclusive terms. ;) Having heard the LCD-3 and the HE-6, I'd expect the latter to sound brighter regardless of which amp they're plugged into. 

Frank I's picture

 Nice review Rob. My impressions are very much in line with yours. The Soloist is a first class amp all the way and a Giant Killer IMO. I have been very satisified with the Burson and use it frequently with the AT3000ANV and it is also quite good with the HD800 and M50 and pretty much all that I tried with it. I use it more so with the AT3000ANV and M50 on the lowest gain setting but the third setting makes the hd800 really sing. Nice work and I enjoyed the read.

Skylab's picture


Chgm's picture

hey.great review nice read,but how the burson soloist compare with schiit lyr?the plus of output power in lyr does any diference?sorry for the english

Skylab's picture

... I don't have the Lyr on hand to compare them.  But for the LCD-3 I am pretty sure I would prefer the Soloist overall, even though I think the Lyr is a very fine sounding amp.

greenleo's picture

Hi Rob,

May I assume that you prefer Soloist for the LCD2 rather than the EF6?

Skylab's picture

I don't have LCD-2's anymore, only the LCD-3.  But since I personally found the two to sound quite similar overall, I likely would go with the Soloist for the LCD-2 over the EF-6, given the difference in price, unless one was considering buying HE-6's at some point, as the EF-6 was better with the LCD-3 than the Soloist was with the HE-6, IMO.

uzi's picture

I just wanted to chime in that I picked up a Soloist a month ago or so for use with my Sennheiser HD650, and I'm quite happy with the pairing.  I'm getting a very rich and detailed sound out of it, and it doesn't feel like the unit gets in the way or colors anything.

My only qualm (and this is a minor nit) is that sometimes it feels like the step from one volume position to another is too big a jump, such that one position is too low and the next is too high, so I just go with the one that's a tad too low. Better to preserve the hearing, you know...

Azteca X's picture

Hi Skylab, I appreciate the thorough review.  It doesn't seem that Tyll has measured the Soloist, but luckily someone else has.  Looks like it is very technically sound.  I'd love to get your or Tyll's thoughts on them.