Excellent Dac & Amplifier

A Review On: Burson Audio - The Conductor - Reference Class DAC / Headphone Amp / Pre-Amp

Burson Audio - The Conductor - Reference Class DAC / Headphone Amp / Pre-Amp

Rated # 53 in Amp/DACs
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Price paid: $1,800.00
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Pros: Excellent Amplifier, one of the best DACS I have heard; it has a neutral, transparent, detailed, clean, smooth sound, with a good PRAT

Cons: Buggy USB module


Well, a few months ago, I was very happy with my combo ( Burson HA-160DS and LCD2). I thought this will be it for a loong time… Who was I kidding??

One day Sandu (Darku) contacts me very happy saying that he has received the newBurson Conductor to write a review for soundnews.ro . He already had the Burson Soloist for a review and considered it to be an excellent product, and he expected a lot from the new all in one product from Burson .

It took a while to hear from him again…he disappeared for a while…and i thought it to become suspicious. One day he contacts me again and invites me to his place to hear the new product. I asked him to tell me his impressions first. He said that I will hear it myself and it wouldn’t be productive to tell me anything before.

Something was fishy in Denmark…actually in Bucharest…

I then suspected an ambush with my wallet as the target. This could not happen. I just bought a 1000 Eur (1337 USD) headphones. Yeah….1337 USD. That’s right!! In Europe, all products from USA are more expensive. Usually the price goes from x $ to x EUR . My wallet was recuperating from the last hit he took.

So I went there armed with a lot of skepticism and no wish to buy anything whatsoever!!!

In my head…: “In fact…how good could it be? From a step forward all in audio is overpriced and does not justify the costs! I bet it’s just a small small small difference!”

Well, these thoughts were rushing through my head while driving to Sandu.

I got there and after we talked a little he showed me the Conductor . It was looking great. Even greater than my Ha-160DS and the HA-160D. The built quality and looks were better! I then observed a thing that I love. It had gain settings (low,medium, high). At last!!! I really missed that on HA-160DS. I think it was one of the reasons it did not go well with my former Grado RS2i.

He invited me to stay in the chair (TRAP: My future wallet was screaming … “Don’t do it…don’t do it!! It is an ambush!“)  .

I sat down, put the LCD2 on and started listening:


I got through all the five stages of grief
1. Denial –  > This can’t be…It is just psycho-acoustics…must listen more…
2. Anger . -> NOO…NOT AGAIN. The Money from my wallet SHALL NOT PASS

3. Bargaining (with myself) … If i sell the Burson Ha-160ds with 761$ and get a small loan…and my wife does not catch me…I can get one….
4. Depression.  -> This will never work…I cannot buy one… But…but..the sound..the quality

Depression meme
5. Acceptance.

Okay Guy - Ok Wallet...I am sorry I must give you awayChallenge accepted

My wallet did not stand a chance… The ambush was too good… I just sat…listened…in a still position…not moving for a few minutes…

The difference between my HA-160DS and the Conductor were that amazing.  It was like the first time I heard the lcd2 (at full potential).

I then talked to Sandu and he had the same impressions as I did, being happy that I confirmed his findings.

He wanted to buy one too….we were both..like:

When I got off from Sandu, I needed to talk with someone about the amazing experience, so i called my other  audiophile friend, Traian (citraian), who also bought a new LCD2 a few weeks after he has listened to mine.

I told him about my experience and the fact that it was like it was the first time i have truly heard the lcd2. I forgot that he also recently bought a new Asus Xonar Essence One and he was happy with it. He was  like:


“****** you man! I just bought my new stuff…leave me alone!” I heard his wallet scream through the phone.

In the meantime I got lucky and found a good friend that wanted the HA-160DS and a friend that was coming back from USA. It was the perfect match. So in 2 weeks I got my new Conductor.

I learned that this piece of gear needs a lot of break in! At first it was bright …even with the lcd2. After 100h it finally broke in to the sound I was waiting for.

Now for the sound impressions compared to the HA-160DS.

The sound-stage was a lot wider, the details were amazing (I found a lot of sounds I did not hear before in my favorite songs), the instrument separation …incredible …. I could concentrate on each instrument so easy…

The bass and lower mid-range were incredible! The extension of the bass is amazing. It goes so deep…so fast…so controlled. I am sure you can get more impact with other amplifiers, but the quality…oh the quality…

The sound is so transparent…It is like a window through the music. You no longer listen to music….you get into the music…you play a part into it.

I was listening to Carlos Heredia – Gypsy Flamenco (3000kbps and 96000HZ) one night at a late hour. The details are incredible. I just love the mids and the impact every guitar stroke has. The vocals are amazing…The sound-stage sounds so natural. Well…because it was late and I was insisting on listening…i fell asleep during one of the songs from that album. I dreamed I  was in a gypsy camp sleeping near a tent on a blanket while some happy gypsy group was playing guitar and singing near a camp fire…It felt so real…


The Song de la Frontera – Cal album made me love the combo even more. The mid-range and details are incredible.  Also the sound-stage is very natural and doesn’t cage you.

Infected Mushroom – Vicious Delicious-Becoming Insane -> well the title is not far from the truth. The bass is amazing. It is very punchy, fast, and controlled.

Jean Michel Jarre – Teo & Tea -> Partners in Crime 1 -> The instrument separation is amazing. The sound is  multi-layered and is very airy.

I love Leonard Cohen. He has an unique voice and his lyrics show that he was a poet before being a singer.

Leonard Cohen – The Traitor & Be for Real & Teacher  -> The instruments tickled my ears. I get goose bumps from those songs. The sound is flowing so nicely..so musically..so liquid…in a natural harmony. His voice sounds amazing on lcd2 andconductor. I could feel it in all my body.  

Loreena McKennit – The gates of Istanbul -> The sound stage on this one is incredible. The voice is very natural and very musical. The sound flows liquid with all the details in it.

Gorillaz – Double Bass->  I was mesmerized from the bass on this one. The extension is just incredible. The control and tightness are like an iron grip not letting any mistake through…

Any soundtrack LOTR and The Hobbit  sounds incredible.

I would stay here all night telling you about other songs, as I have rediscovered all my favorite tracks with Conductor and LCD2, but I would start to repeat myself if I already didn’t.

One more thing. While listening to some classical music, I heard a car passing by the building, a subtle but strong motor (a diesel I think). In one other day during the same song I hear the same car… The third time…I realized it was in the song. I heard a car passing near the concert hall the play was recorded. With Conductor, It was the first time I heard it. I gave the song to Sandu, which confirmed my findings…it was in the song.

The Conductor is a jewel in my opinion.

I also listened to a HD800  on it, but not for long. My short impressions was that it was amuch better match with the Conductor that with the HA-160DS or the 160D. Itrounded the highs, it gave it musicalityincreased the bass on it, very very nice soundstage ( a lot wider than on DS). I even liked listening to some ACDC on it….first time to like a rock song on HD800.

To sum up, it the Conductor offers extraordinary performance. The sinergy is excellent with lcd2 and many others from what I have seen

  • I have even tried some  Triple Fi IEMs  briefly on low gain settings and loved them
  • AKG K550 fits very well with it
  • HD800 as well (but still have to listen more on this combo to make more impressions)
  • A brief session with LCD3 made me think it is a great combo with it too

It has a very liquid and musical sound presentation. It is very very detailed but in the same time it keeps the musicality and keeps out from the bright zone, this being a hard to achieve balance.

The separation of instruments is great and you can easily concentrate on each of the instruments you like .

The bass and lower mid-range is magical. It concentrates on quality not impact, but it does not lack impact. It controls the bass with an iron hand (as Sandu said in his review) and the extension of the bass is very good .

This product was a perfect all in one for me. The amplifier is very good and the DAC is in the same league. I do not agree with headfonias’ review on Conductor where it says it is somehow lacking. The Conductor stands out of the crowd as a dac too.

I have listened to conductor near to M2Tech Vaughan and I must say that amplifier wise I preferred the Conductor and Dac wise, the differences were minor.

However, I did found Conductor a flaw: It has a buggy USB connection.


On rare occasions the conductor freezes and I have to restart it (power it down, get the usb cable out, put it back in after a few seconds and then power it on again). Sometimes it also gets some clicks/noise on the channel, but very rare and only happened when I used conductor as a default playback devince in windows and also listened to asio in foobar. 


Cool review :)
funneh wallet jokes
Is this a review or a meme generator? :)
Why not both :P ? I have assumed a different type of writing, I know, but I want to keep it personal and funny too, that is my style, and I am aware not everyone may like it, sorry about that.
Nice writeup :-)
Now I want one :-(
that was a very unique and entertaining review! I currently have a HA-160 (no D, no S) so I assume your comparisons to 160D/S would also apply to non-DACed 160 as well. Since the price tag is quite higher than other Bursons, I almost wish they also released a standalone Conductor-class amp for those who already have a good DAC and sell it for $600-800 less.
You put "buggy USB" as a con but it's not mentioned in your review. What did you mean by it? What's buggy about it?
Thanks Quinto, sorry for your wallet man! :D
Burson has a standalone amplifier in the same class with Conductor. Actually the amplifier came first, and the came the Conductor. It is called Burson Soloist, and actually Conductor has the same amp.:

Regarding the USB (for conductor only, as it is dac related and soloist doesn't have this problem), on rare occasions the conductor freezes and I have to restart it (power it down, get the usb cable out, put it back in after a few seconds and then power it on again). Sometimes it also gets some clicks on the channel, but very rare and only happened when I used conductor as a default playback devince in windows and also listened to asio in foobar. I will add this to the review, thanks for reminding.
Actually, according to a few other reports, the Soloist doesn't seem to shine so much above the HA-160. Maybe I'm just trying to believe that because I already own the 160 but I would really be interested in hearing them side by side. It's good to know the Conductor uses Soloist as its amp in full. These DAC/Amp combos are getting so good now that even the pickiest audiophiles may soon be converting back to single unit solutions.
"Actually, according to a few other reports, the Soloist doesn't seem to shine so much above the HA-160."
Who said this? I've had both for a long time now and think the Soloist is a lot better.
The headphones mentioned were high-impedance ones. I wonder if it would be as good with low-impedance headphones such as the Sennheiser 598 and the Audio Technica ATH-AD2000X?
Vladinecko. Soloist is in a completely different class than ha-160. I found it to be MUCH better.
for rexinus:
I found that conductor is good with every headphone I paired it with, from triple fi to Creative Aurvana live, AKG K550, Sennheiser Momentum, Focal Spirit One, Audeze Lcd2, Audeze LCD3 and EVEN rocks with HD800.

So I think it would be excellent with Sennheiser hd598 and ad2000 too.

There is an article linked from Burson's website pointing to Steve Guttenberg's blog where he says, "[...] I compared the Soloist with my old Burson HA 160 headphone amp, and the differences between the two weren't immediately apparent ... The biggest difference was power. The new amp can drive very inefficient headphones [...]"
"Steve Guttenberg"

^ There's your problem.
Why, what's wrong with him? What, in particular, did he write that you think is incorrect/invalid/crap?
Maybe power is the first thing you observe, but that doesn't mean that there aren't more major benefits like transparency, details, control, smoothness, etc.
I had the HA-160DS, and heard the HA-160D on many occasions. What I can say, is that the difference between Soloist/Conductor and them is quite big.
That really makes me regret getting the HA-160 just a few months ago :\. My understanding was that the Soloist was more of an evolutionary rather than revolutionary update to the HA-160
"Why, what's wrong with him? What, in particular, did he write that you think is incorrect/invalid/crap?"
The HD 700 is equally adept playing movies and music, thanks to its unfatiguing sound. Resolution of fine detail is in the top tier of high-end headphones, and yet with good quality recordings, the sound is never harsh or unpleasant in any way.
He either can't hear treble very well or is one of those "everything's good" reviewers. I wouldn't solely go by his reviews.
I own a pair of HD 700 and must say their sibilance is definitely quite fatiguing. Maybe his testing tracks simply didn't exhibit any treble peaks/harshness, it's really not there all the time. But when it's there, your face goes sour, your eyes tear up and you want to change the track as quickly as possible. Apart from that and the bloated price tag, they really are great headphones.

Great Review !!
Oh man my wallet is running scared hahahha !

i ordered my first high end headphone T5p.
And the Fiio E12 and E10 for my mac..

i was considering a high end portable rig..
" Alo Rx Mk3-B " + " cypher labs algorhythm solo dB "
And cables like the " Copper 22 Balanced to Balanced " and LOD cable..

this would bring the total around €1200 ..
Ater talking to sum shop owners here in holland..
One sad to me..Why not go for home components ..??
Perhaps Burson..??

As a newbie , and a research nut..i had seen the name Burson.

But After reading about the Conductor..my fingers where itching..
And now after reading your review..