In this review, we’ll be taking a look at the new Burson Funk – a compact integrated speaker/headphone amplifier from Australian hifi manufacturer Burson Audio.
Disclaimer: this Funk review unit was sent to us directly by Burson Audio for this review. Our thoughts and conclusions are our own.
The Funk is available from $544 USD in the ‘Basic Package’ directly from Burson Audio, or $744 USD for the ‘Deluxe Package’ which includes Burson’s V6 Vivid opamps as well as their ‘Cool Stand’.
The battle for desktop consolidation
If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself waging a constant running battle to keep your home office workspace as free from clutter as possible…and let’s just say that I’m definitely not always managing to win that battle. Granted, I do like to sprinkle my desktop with a little more audio gear than your average punter, but a cornucopia of black/silver boxes, cables, headphones, and speakers (in addition to your standard computing setup) ain’t always conducive to either productivity or aesthetics (Marie Kondo would probably have a coronary if she saw the viper’s nest of cables running around my office).
Throw a little bugger by the name of COVID-19 into the mix, and I, like many of you, have found myself spending upwards of 8 hours a day working from my home these days, meaning that a functional workspace is even more important than ever. But, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and for the housebound audiophile, this means a chance to spend day after day enjoying their gear and ploughing through albums and playlists aplenty (I’m not exactly in a rush to hurry back to the office anytime soon…). Working from home has sparked in me a newfound love of nearfield listening – popping a couple of speakers smack-bang on my desktop, setting the tweeters are at ear-height, and toeing them both in to point directly at my noggin. Yes, Headfonia is a headphone review website, but other things being equal, I’ll nearly always choose speakers over headphones. They’re simply more visceral, dynamic, and sound far more like you’re at a live performance…if you’ve set things up correctly, anyhow.
However, a good two-channel set-up is nearly almost more expensive and difficult to get great results compared to a good headphone set-up, because a) you need a lot more power; and b) you also have the room to contend with – I won’t delve too far into this subject here, but physics can be a right b*itch when it comes to managing standing waves and reflections, which simply aren’t a problem with headphones. Nearfield listening does eliminate many of these two problems, as you need only a fraction of the power required to get up to ‘party’ listening levels when the speakers are a foot or two away from your ears, and there are also fewer problems with regards to off-axis listening, reflections and the like (this is a gross oversimplification, naturally).
But, as we all know, things aren’t always ‘equal’. I can’t go cranking speakers while my other half is doing Zoom calls in the other room, and there are also times when I just crave the intimacy and insight that headphones can deliver in spades. And sometimes, I just need to block the world out – the Aeon 2 Noire has been pretty much exclusive strapped to my head from 8 am – 5 pm most weekdays while there’s been renovation work going on in my building for the last couple of months.
I’m not really a powered speaker kinda bloke – I love the more ‘pure’ experience of a dedicated pair of hifi passive speakers, and having the freedom to be able to mix/match/tinker with upstream source gear and amplification. This brings us back to the clutter conundrum – speaker amps, for the most part, aren’t exactly tiny. I have to stack my monitor on either a vintage NAD 3020e receiver or a custom NCore500 stereo power amp (yes, 400 watts per channel is a little overkill) to play my KEF LS50 speakers in my nearfield setup. This is in addition to having a DAC, a proper headphone amp, and occasionally a CD player (sorry, CD’s are awesome) or a turntable (yes, I’m that guy) also fighting for desktop real estate.
A new Downunder desktop contender has entered the ring
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia (about 1000km’s South of Headfonia’s Australian HQ), Burson Audio ought to be a familiar name for both Headfonia readers and fans of personal audio more broadly. Burson has been responsible for producing some of the best-performing (and best looking, IMHO) personal audio going round in recent years, no doubt adorning many a desk of you readers also parked firmly at home these days. You can check out some of our previous Burson Audio reviews here. While they do aim most of their gear squarely at the headphone crowd, they have dabbled with two-channel gear over the years, including the ‘Timekeeper Virtuoso’ stereo power amplifier. Burson is also well known for their finely-honed opamp technology (their opamps are sought-after as discrete units among the hifi community), and also their proprietary ‘Max Current Power Supply’ technology, which is better explained by them than by me.
Right on cue for the WFM phenomenon, Burson has now released a very interesting little device in their new ‘Funk’ – a compact integrated stereo amplifier with inbuilt headphone amplifier which is an apparent amalgamation of their recently retired ‘Bang’ compact power amplifier and ‘Fun’ headphone amplifier lines. The Funk sports Burson’s unmistakable new exterior design language, sporting the same finned ‘Cool Case’ as their Playmate 2 which I reviewed earlier this year. In fact, the Funk shares its chassis with the Playmate 2 which is designed not only to look, ahem, cool, but to also act as a heatsink to dissipate heat. Burson has launched the Funk at $544 USD for the ‘Basic Package’, or $744 USD if you tick the ‘Premium Package’, which gives you an upgrade to their Vivid V6 opamps as well as their ‘Cool Stand’ which allows you to orient the Funk on its side, making it an even more of a space-saving proposition.
While many compact amplifiers employ a Class-D topology to keep weight, size and heat down, Burson decided that they didn’t want to settle for what they believe is an ‘inferior’ amplification technology, and instead decided to make the Funk a Class AB design capable of pumping-out 35 Watts into 8-ohm speakers, and 45 Watts into 4-ohm speakers. Considering that the Funk is about the size of a paperback novel, this is a pretty compelling proposition on paper and one that certainly piqued my interest. Unlike the Burson ‘Bang’, the Funk isn’t merely a power amplifier, but rather an integrated amplifier courtesy of its inbuilt volume control. Adding to the Funk’s desktop audiophile appeal is the fact that it’s also packing a headphone amplifier – not just a simple resistor off the power amplifier stage (like many stereo receivers have), but a proper discrete headphone amplifier – a Class A one capable of 3.5 Watts per channel (into 16 ohms), no less. In fact, it’s the exact same headphone stage as the very good one that sits inside the Playmate 2.
I mentioned before that Burson Audio is well known for their high-quality opamps that they’ve developed themselves in-house. While the ‘Basic Package’ option is equipped with two NE5532 opamps, these can be ‘rolled’ by the user – that is, they can be swapped out and changed with other Burson (or non-Burson) opamps to subtly change the Funk’s sound to the user’s preference, offering a nice future upgrade-path for the owner.
If you’re the type of person that’s keen to understand more about what’s going on under the hood of the Funk, its key specifications are as follows:
|Input impedance:||38 KOhms||Burson FUNK (P-300)||Regional Power Cable|
|Frequency response:||± 1 dB 0 – 35Khz||RCA Cables||Hex Key|
|THD:||<0.03%||Power Supply||100-240V AC|
|Output impedance (Head Amp):||<2 Ohm|
|Inputs:||RCA Left / Right||Weight:||app. 3Kg|
|Outputs:||Headphone / Speakers||Dimensions:||190mm x 150dimm x 60mm|
|Impedance (Headphone)||Power||Signal to Noise Ratio||Separation|
|Impedance (Speaker)||Power||Signal to Noise Ratio||Separation|
|4 Ohm / 8 Ohm||45W / 35W||92.5db||98.50%|
Click over to page 2 to continue the review.