Before launching into a review of equipment, I feel it’s important to know what the company that makes it is about and what they bring to the table that other manufacturers do not. I think this is especially important in a case in which the equipment is made by companies that do not get the same degree of recognition that more popular companies do. The Beresford Bushmaster MKII is a step in a long chain of innovation by Stanley Beresford. What sets Beresford designs apart is not that they are innovative, but the way in which they are unique — that being that he does not sacrifice quality while being nicer on your wallet than equipment that performs similarly. Innovation on a budget becomes a possibility through lacking reluctance to experiment, which, for Stanley Beresford, means doing things such as using technologies from non-audio related industries in order to provide functionalities seen only in more expensive equipment such as the inclusion of multiple optical and coax outputs and use of an automatic input selector — practices that were pioneered in earlier Beresford DACs and refined in subsequent products. During the review, I will highlight the innovations that allow the Bushmaster MKII to have the sonic capabilities that it does at its low price of $210+shipping.
As far as design, the Bushmaster is extremely sturdy — the case is metal and instead of having a button to turn it on, it uses a very firm switch. The amp section of the MKII uses a singular 1/4 output. There have been many mods available for the MKII since its creation and it shows as the case can come apart with the removal of 4 screws and removal of the case reveals a very simple, smoothly created board with a decent amount of space. While the MKII does not feature a USB input, it does provide a large amount of input options including 2 TOSLINK inputs (for use with a S/PDIF to TOSLINK cable) and 2 COAX inputs. If you only wish to use the DAC component of the MKII, output is handled via RCA. The DAC is very easy to use as it’s simply plug and play — plug it in, turn it on, and it will automatically select an input based on where you’ve plugged in the cable. The amp section is class AB and the entire unit runs at very cool temperatures. As far as powering the DAC, you can either use the power supply provided or run it from a 12 volt DC power supply such as an external battery.
Before I get into the sound, there are a few disclaimers that I must include about my review setup that cause sonic difference from the base unit. First is that I am taking advantage of the option to use a battery to provide the DAC with the cleanest power possible. Second, my unit has an upgraded firmware (which comes in the form of a new chip that you install in the dac) that is designed to optimize the amp/dac for performance with battery power. Combined, these changes (which I highly suggest that you do) create a more refined sound with smoother tone, better imaging, and punchier, deeper bass. A battery can be purchased for $100 (I use the Anker Astro Pro2) and the cost of the upgrade firmware is included in the $210 that I listed (you simply need to email Stan and ask for the upgrade chip as part of your order). To test the amp section as well as the dac section of the unit I will be using a set of Sennheiser HD650s which have been re-cabled with Double Helix Cable Nucleotide wire. In order to test the DAC section in isolation, I will be using a set of HiFiMAN HE-6 headphones that have been re-cabled with the same type of wire.