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Amp/DACs item created by joe, Oct 15, 2013
Pros - DAC and AMP inbuilt, good built quality
Cons - None at this stage
I have got the Conductor SL 9018 with CM6693 USB upgrade. As such driver I use is C-Media USB 2 from the Burson website. For some reason Windows 10 drivers does not recognise the USB in Surface Pro. So I use windows 8 drivers. I had few questions and the Burson guys responded in few hours for all. I purchased from a person in US brand new. Actually after 100 hours of burning sound started to improve a lot. Burson support indicated 200hrs for full burn-in
My set up- 24bit FLACs (including 192k)-> Synology NAS-> Surface Pro-> Conductor SL via USB-> Audeze LCD-2 with Frazer and AKG K712pro.
Even the seller said that AKG-712 would be too crisp. But this set up work very well and I get good base. & 712 sound better than ever with Fiio E17k A2 or Fiio X3 SG. Good sound stage. I have classical and pop rock and all sort of music. Before 100 hours burning 712k had a clear advantage and now LCD-2s are doing very well. I like the highs. clarify and sound stage of AKG 712. I also have X2 but I do not use it much with Burson as it is well driven by Fiio E17k and X3 SG.
I am tempted to get HD800. However I cannot find proper reviews of this combo. Some people says with 9018 DAC HD800 would be too bright. They also said same with K712 but I am loving it. K712 Is only 60+ ohms where as HD800 has wide range and 100hz is peaked 600+ ohms so not sure if Burson will do well. I will ask the question from Burson team of the capability of the unit or will take the unit for an audition with HD800. If there is not much improvement over K712 with this set up I do not want to go there for I will otherwise end up in upgrading the full thing.
Please ignore the rating I have given as I have not heard any other high end AMPS etc
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!)
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.