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Burson Audio - Conductor SL 9018 - Headphone Amp and DAC

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #34 in Amp/DACs

Posted

Pros: Build quality, interchangeable DACs, smooth volume pot, variable gain

Cons: Slight volume bleed and channel imbalance

First off, before I begin this review, I would like to give a big thank you to the guys over at Audeze and Burson Audio for letting me demo their Conductor SL & LCD3. This review would not have been possible if it wasn't for their generosity. 

 

So, first off the Conductor SLs build quality is excellent. The aluminum housing looks and feels amazing. The Volume pot allows for excellent control, it doesn’t feel too stiff or firm. Under the hood everything looks clean (soldering, wiring, etc.) and it is very easy to swap out the DACs. Just take out all of the screws on the outside, unscrew the screws holding the DAC module in place, and finally align the new DAC module in place with the 5v/gnd/etc pins and screw everything back in. Burson also throws in a nice set of RCA interconnects, their thick and feel well built with good shielding. You also get a USB cable too, though it's just a regular generic cable unlike the nicer looking RCA interconnects.

 

Onto the sound, Headphones I mainly tested with the Conductor SL were a pair of Sennheiser HD600s, an Audeze LCD3, and a Grado SR225i (kindly donated by my friend for temporary testing). The conductor SL was able to drive all of them without breaking a sweat. Low gain was needed for the sensitive Grados to make volume control easier, otherwise it was great. High gain was used with the LCD3 & HD600 and I never had to turn the volume past 12 o’ clock with them, even when using recordings with a high dynamic range.

 

Only cons was very minor channel imbalance and volume bleed. Channel imbalance occurred on the Grados, but it was such a low volume it wasn’t really a problem, though I thought I’d still mention it. Volume bleed (again this is nitpicking, very minor) was present. If the volume was all the way down I still heard music coming very faintly through the left channel while using high gain. Using low gain no volume bleed was present.

 

I was able to test out two different DAC chips with the Burson Conductor SL, the ESS Sabre 9018 and Ti 1793. Here are my impressions.

 

1793: Warmer and more laid back compared to the 9018 chip. The 1793 simply sounds relaxing and musical. Treble is less aggressive and the midrange sounds fuller bodied. I have found it to pair well with the HD600 and SR225i as it slightly attenuates the treble and makes them overall sound less in your face. However, I thought the LCD3s were too laid back with this chip as they already sound fairly warm.

 

9018: Nearly the exact opposite of the 1793. The 9018 is a little more analytical and focuses more on clarity. Treble is a touch more aggressive and sounds more extended, making cymbals/ hi hats on the drums and any recording hiss sound more present and easier to hear.The 9018 paired up well with the LCD3s to help give it just the last bit of overall clarity.

 

 

Overall the Conductor SL is a rock solid DAC & Amp. The DAC portion sounds stellar and the ability to modify the sound to your tastes is a big plus. Amplification wise, the Conductor SL was easily able to drive a variety of headphones with different sensitivities and impedance thanks to the variable gain and excellent volume pot which presented only very minor channel imbalance and bleed.

 

Quickie picture I took of it paired up with the LCD3. (I know my photography skills are sort of meh. Still learning!)

 

Posted

Pros: Natural Sound Signature, Clarity and Stereo Imaging

Cons: Price, lack of headphone outputs

preview spot for the Conductor SL review - 9018 chip 

 

 

 

 

 

Burson Conductor SL - 9018 Chip


I really wasn't at all ready for the differences between this chip and the 9018.  Stupidly, I didn't believe my peers who told me there was a night and day difference between them.  Having booted up the 1793 first when I received the Conductor SL, I of course enjoyed the hell out of it with my Denons and the K-712, but found it not to work well with the already gently colored and highly musical LCD-3.  Upon installation of this 9018 chip, I was simply awestruck by the pureness in the stereo image.  It is dead neutral and highly dynamic, noticeably more clear to me than the 1793 but also less colored and less lushious on the bass.   The low end on this 9018 is polar opposite of it's brother the 1793.  Proving eye popping clarity on the low end that sounds much more tonally balanced and solid.  The bass is fast and this chip effortlessly lets the utmost clarity of the LCD-3 shine through, full texture, full clarity, full impact.  Nothing short of shocking in terms of clarity and texturing.  Amazing.  This chip is certainly the one to use if you have a more balanced and more neutra or dry sounding headphone.  Now, despite that recommendation, the LCD-3 is really the wild card for me, as it's low end is already gently warm and the set in general is highly musical to begin with.  Those stock qualities mixed with the pure 9018 chip provide a blisteringly clear and dynamic presentation via the LCD-3.  Unreal.  

Burson Audio - Conductor SL 9018 - Headphone Amp and DAC
By:
Description:

The Conductor SL(9018) is a concentrated version of our new benchmark, the Conductor. Its DNA is identical to the Conductor and it exists for one purpose only. That is to be one of the best DAC/headphone amplifiers 2 in 1 in the world. At 210mm x 220mm x80mm (@ 8.26" x 8.66" x 3.15" ) it sits elegantly on any desktop. But with 2 Watts per channel into 8ohm, the Conductor SL (9018) is one of the most powerful headphone amp in the world. It is capable of driving most if not all headphones to their full potential. Coupled with a 2 level gain switch, it offers infinite flexibility. The Conductor SL (9018) is housed in a refined and precision folded 2 mm aluminium casing that is unmistakably Burson. This case also works as a singular heat-sink for the entire machine ensuring stable and optimized performance at all times. This case really puts the conventional 1 mm folded steel case and generic heat fins to shame. Variable Output Stage (VOS) The Conductor SL features a new Variable Output Stage (VOS). It enables the Conductor to match well with any type of headphone. Be it easy to drive high sensitivity in ear monitors or open back moving-coil designs. It can drive anything including the latest planar magnetic headphones with ease. Headphone Amp: 0.18W - 2W With the VOS, volume control is always smooth and synergy is always perfect. Low Noise Power Supply An athlete needs clean air to perform at an optimum standard - audio equipment needs clean power to reproduce transparent and natural music. The new Musician Series has taken the already fanatical IC free power supply of the Classic Series to the next level. The result is even cleaner even more energetic music reproduction. The Conductor SL9018 is like a luxury dining experience. Tablecloth crisp, glasses chilled, the cuisine painstakingly prepared and every minute detail ready for examination. Every moment is the result of people (Burson) pushing the boundaries of possibility.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandBurson
EAN0726670478665
FeatureMax Output Power @ 8 Ohm : 2W ; VOS Output Stage : 2 Levels DAC Out : No : Pre-Amp Out : No RCA input set : 1 ; Volume Control : ALPS Pots ; Enclosure : 2mm Folded Aluminum Stocked DAC PCB : ESS9018 ; DAC Spec: 32bit 200K DAC DNR : 133 db
LabelBURSON
ManufacturerBURSON
MPNSL9018
PublisherBURSON
StudioBURSON
TitleBurson Audio - Conductor SL 9018 - Headphone Amp and DAC
UPC726670478665
PackageQuantity1
PartNumberSL9018
ProductGroupCE
ProductTypeNameHEADPHONES
UPCList - UPCListElement726670478665
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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