Burson Cable+ Active RCA Cable Review 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 24 January 2017

A lot of excellent HiFi products are designed and produced in Australia, and none more than Burson Audio belong in the upper tier of offerings from Down Under. Not only do Burson’s products sound excellent, but they also do not make cookie cutter gear, and inject original thinking into the process. I reviewed and loved Burson’s superb Conductor DAC/Preamp and Timekeeper power amp combo sometime ago, and have tried to keep up with the company’s recent products.

Burson built their reputation on headphone amps, DACs and, more recently, their op-amps which have been getting rave reviews. Having corresponded occasionally with the fellows at Burson, it was obvious that they think out of the box, and really do like looking at things from unique angles. This is a great thing, because there are already enough by-the-book audio designs on the market. But the best part is my exposure to the Burson line at home and at shows tells me they make components that are true high fidelity.

Burson decided to tackle an issue they consider to be important for maximum performance in high-end audio systems. In particular, that would be impedance mismatches between source components and amplification.  To this end, Burson developed what they call their Cable+ line. These are “active” cables that they say “remove any impedance mismatching by acting as an isolation platform between any source components (CD, DVD, Media Player) and downstream amplification (preamp, integrated amp, active speakers). It is designed to Increase signal transmission efficiency and unlock the potential of any system.”

The Cable+ products come in a few flavors, which include AUX (1/8 inch mini jack) to RCA, RCA to RCA, and AUX to AUX.  The cables are priced at $149, with a two-year warranty, and a thirty-day trial period.  Essentially, Burson wants you to be happy with your purchase, which is nice considering this is a unique product.

Concerning component impedance matching, Burson goes on to explain, “many audiophiles are not aware that the performance gap between what they hear in the shop and what they hear at home is a direct result of impedance mismatching between the new machine and the rest of their system. Impedance matching is a complex technical issue in audio as different circuitry designs produce different input and output impedance. What makes it worse, is that the same manufacturer can have different output/input (I/O) impedance standards across their range of products due to design changes/updates. While some manufacturers are willing to disclose the I/O impedance figures, most are not too keen. In the 80s and 90s, most audiophile equipment accurately published them. Nowadays, impedance numbers have disappeared from most spec sheets. The result is an audio market full of confusion, myth, and plenty of frustration. Unless the entire audio system is from the same manufacturer within the same product line, it is most likely that impedance mismatching will exist. Most audiophiles are paying 100% for their systems but are only hearing 70% of its full potential.”

The Burson Cable + uses their V5i opamp module, which raises the signal level from 5 Volt mobile devices to the standard RCA line level, ensuring a  good match with audio amplifiers and active speakers. Burson says the Cable+  will turn any portable device into high-end media players.  I received the RCA to RCA model for use in my home system, and I had a good set up to test it out. Unboxing made it clear the Cable+ is very nicely made, with high-quality RCA termination, and the packaging is classy.

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Set Up & Listening

The RCA/RCA Cable+ was used between a Simaudio 280D DAC and a Schiit Saga preamp in passive mode (review in the works). The source was a Sonore microRendu network streamer. The power amp was an Audiocontrol Rialto 600 (review in progress), and speakers were Magnepan MMG, augmented by a JL Audio d108.  Cabling was DH Labs, Wireworld, and Kimber. 

 

The only consideration for the Cable+ is that, as an “active” cable, it requires a power source, and that is supplied by a 5V USB input on the cable for use with either a standard USB charger, or the power source of your choice. I used both a supplied generic USB charger, and an iFI iUSB 3.0 USB power conditioner/power source for comparison. Burson, not surprisingly, says the cleaner the power source, the better the results, and even suggested a battery would provide ultimate performance.

Even though I am a big fan of passive preamps, there are times the sound can be anemic, bland, and uninvolving depending on the music, the source, the power amp, or the cable used. (There are a lot of variables.) But, when everything lines up, passives provide, to my ears, transparency, and lack of coloration that most active preamps can’t match. The Cable+, from the getgo, eliminated most of these issues by providing much more consistent performance. It was easily audible with even casual listening.

I used as wide a variety of music as I could to put the Cable+ through its paces. What I heard from the get go was excellent drive, detail, and momentum. Burson is onto something here and I was intrigued.  I ran through a good number of early Pink Floyd, including a mix of the 2011 remasters, and the recently released Early Years: 1965-1972 mega box twenty-seven disc box set.  There was loads of texture, and the psychedelic atmospheres were there in spades.  The 2016, 24 bit, 96 Khz remix of the classic Meddle album made this forty-eight-year-old recording sound as avant-garde as the day it was released!

I then cycled through SACD rips of the Japanese SHM Dire Straits titles that are, to my ears, the closest one can get to the original vinyl pressings.  Mark Kopfler’s guitar tone was utterly pristine, and the elegant arrangements breathed with lots of space between instruments.  I especially enjoyed their 1978 self-titled album, and my personal favorite, Making Movies. Tracks like “Solid Rock” and “Skateaway” brought me right to my bedroom 30 years ago spinning these records.

The same goes for the Super Deluxe Edition of Jethro Tull’s Minstrel In The Gallery. Both the 24/96 remix and flat transfer of the original master tape provided me with new insights into why these recordings are still exciting all these years later. The title track, along with “Cold Wind To Valhalla”, and “One White Duck” were so much fun, the “system” disappeared, and suspending disbelief was easy.

I also put on some new recordings recently purchased from Bandcamp in FLAC, including new releases from Elephant Stone, William Ryan Fritch, Wolf People, and Skyjelly. These all fall into the category of modern progressive/psychedelic/alternative, and all are well recorded. The Cable+ really made the big round bass lines come through, and the blending of current digital recording techniques, with a nod to a vintage aesthetic, was easy to hear.

For kicks I also used the Cable+ between my Graham Slee phono preamp and the Schiit Saga. The Slee is connected to a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC turntable. Different phono preamps can provide varying output, depending on design, so the Cable+ in theory would be a great solution. Indeed I heard the benefits as above, with such LPs as Traffic’s Shoot Out The Fantasy Factory, and Santana’s self-titled first album. There was a vibrancy was a very nice addition, as the Sllee can be come off as a bit mellow at times.

A few logistical notes. The Cable+ is directional, with the attached module end inserted into the host component. Secondly, the iFi iUSB 3.0 definitely provided the best performance as a power source. The “noise floor” was lower, and high frequencies seemed smoother. But even a generic power source sounded fine. I am betting Burson is right; in the end, a battery supply, readily available at reasonable prices, will provide best results.

 

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Conclusion

Burson impressed me with their Cable+. It certainly is a bit of an esoteric product, but it works as advertised.  I can only extrapolate that for mobile devices, it would work very well.  The quality of build, sound quality, and generous trial period make this a low risk purchase.  I would suggest an in-home audition of all of the above has piqued your interest. Well done, Burson.

Specifications


Burson Cable+ RCA to RCA: $149
www.bursonaudio.com

Review System 1


Server: Bryston BDP-2
DAC: Bryston BDA-3
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Turntable: Rega Planar 3
Phono Preamp: Lounge Audio LCR MKIII, Lehmann Cube SE
Preamp: Schiit Audio Freya
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A
Speaker:  Bryston Mini T
Cables:, Wireworld, iFi, Transparent, Black Rhodium
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Bryston BIT-15, Salamander rack

Review System 2


Music Server: Sonore microRendu
Turntable: Project Debut Carbon DC
Phono Preamp: Graham Slee SE
Preamp: Schiit Audio Saga
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Cables: Wireworld
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6






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