Sparkos SS3602 Dual Discrete Op-Amp Review

Sparkos SS3602 review featured

Discrete op-amps are an easy and affordable way to upgrade or customize your stereo or desktop system. Furthermore, In this article, I’m checking out the Sparkos SS3602 Dual Discrete Op-Amp. It’s priced at $79 apiece.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Sparkos Labs for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

Sparkos SS3602 Dual Discrete Op-Amp Review
Verdict
An easy and inexpensive way to upgrade or customize your amplifiers.
Add your rating here!0 Votes
Pros
Tighter, controlled bass
Increased detail retrieval
Soundstage stability and instrument separation
Cons
Might be too large for compact or portable devices
4.5
Our Score

Sparkos SS3602 Dual Discrete Op-Amp

Sparkos SS3602 design

Design

Physically, the SS3602 is just 2 square PCBs with circuitry on the top and DIP-8 pins on the bottom. The discrete op-amps feel much more robust and sturdy than their IC counterparts.

Being as technically illiterate as I am, I will not be going into the specifics and internals of these components (You can see the in-depth documentation here). However, I will briefly explain the benefits of switching to discrete op-amps.

IC (Integrated circuit) op amps have several shortcomings compared to discrete units, like limited power dissipation and inferior compensation capacitors. Discrete op-amps can run at higher power and have a deeper class-A bias. In addition, they allow for two-pole compensation schemes which is something that cannot be implemented in IC designs.

All of this theoretically results in a more detailed sound with a blacker background and better sound staging. We’ll get to that later after I describe the installation process.

Sparkos SS3602 installation

Installation

Installing the Sparkos SS3602 op-amps is easy. The first step is to find and remove the existing components. There are plenty of photos and videos online that will help you with this, including the video from Sparkos’ YouTube channel.

Removing IC op-amps can be a little tricky, especially if they’re located in a tight space or if you don’t have the right tools. I ended up using some needle-nosed pliers to remove the ones from my Fosi Audio BT20A Pro.

Sparkos DIP socket/risers
You might need some DIP sockets/risers depending on your hardware.

To install the SS3602, you first need to determine the correct way to face them. There’s usually a marking on the PCB board you’re installing on to indicate Pin 01. You need to align that with the gold pad in the corner of the op-amp. Once you’ve done that, then simply insert the 8 pins into the accommodating socket and that’s all there is to it.

Sparkos SS3602 discrete op-amps

Sound

The recipient of my 2 SS3602 Dual Discrete Op-Amps was the Fosi Audio BT20A Pro which was fed FLAC files from my PC and output to my pair of NHT C3 Carbon bookshelf speakers. For context, the NHT C3 has a neutral sound signature with tight bass, excellent dynamics and superb detail retrieval.

One of the first changes I noticed once the SS3602s were in place was the extra tightness in the bass. Things instantly became more detailed with improved definition. However, this didn’t affect the depth or the reach of the bass, it merely cleans things up so to speak. The slam on kick drums and the texture of bass guitars are improved substantially.

The tightened-up bass naturally affects the midrange as well, making it more spacious with a cleaner background. Transients are crisper and while vocals and midrange instruments maintain their level of forwardness, they’re now more separated and distinguishable during complex passages.

As for the treble, it sounds more even but has greater extension compared to the stock IC op-amps. Notes seem to float up into an infinite ether on a smoother trajectory. There’s no loss of detail either. In fact, the overall cleanliness of the SS3602 brings even more micro-details to light.

This brings us now to staging and imaging and it’s another area where the Sparkos discrete op-amps were able to flex their muscles. While the dimensions are unchanged, the stage is more organized and stable. This leads to better placement of instruments and vocals and aids in creating a more tangible image. The added stability and overall definition make it easier to discern each distinct part of the music.

Comparison with Burson V6 Classic and V6 Vivid

One obvious advantage of the Sparkos SS3602 compared to the Burson models is its height. It will fit in more cases that have a height restriction. However, the Sparkos has a slightly larger footprint, so you might want to check that there’s enough surrounding free space in your device before you purchase.
Tonally, the SS3602 sits somewhere between the Burson models. It’s not as lush sounding as the Classic but it’s more detailed. The V6 Classic has some extra warmth and bass impact, making it suitable for those who want a calmer sound. The SS3602, on the other hand, has crisper transients and more stability in its soundstage.

The V6 Vivid is closer to the Sparkos in tone but has a more etched treble. It’s a tad brighter which widens its stage slightly. Vivid is more detailed, however, both the V6 Vivid and Sparkos SS3602 are comparable in resolution. To my ears, the Sparkos has more precise imaging due to its layering whereas the V6 Vivid’s stage is wider but doesn’t have as much depth.

Discrete op-amps in the Fosi Audio BT20A Pro

Verdict

In conclusion, the Sparkos SS3602 dual discrete op-amps proved to be a transformative upgrade to the audio experience. The enhanced tightness in the bass brought forth a newfound level of detail and definition, without compromising depth or reach. This refinement extended into the midrange, creating a more spacious and cleaner backdrop, while maintaining the forwardness of vocals and midrange instruments. The treble exhibited an evenness and extension that elevated notes into a seamless, ethereal trajectory, revealing an abundance of micro-details.

Notably, the SS3602’s relatively compact size lends itself to versatile compatibility with a wide array of devices, adding to its appeal. Additionally, their robust build quality ensures a hassle-free installation process, further affirming their worthiness as a valuable addition to any audio setup. With these upgrades, the Sparkos SS3602 op-amps undoubtedly exemplify a terrific enhancement in audio performance, making them a commendable choice for upgrades or sound customization.

Stay in the Loop with the Latest News and Updates!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Founder of Prime Audio
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

2 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Magnus
Magnus
4 months ago

Just one question. Were you able to close the lid with the Busrson opamps?

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the Loop with the Latest News and Updates!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.