Burson Conductor 3 Reference

General Information

* Dual ESS9038 DAC chip.
* Class A headphone and preamp outputs. Headphone outputting 7500mW@16ohm.
* Dual mono and fully symmetrical.
* Fully discrete signal path.
* Burson proprietary Max Current Power Supply (MCPS) which raises voltage frequency from 50Hz to 170kHz, pushing noise beyond human hearing.
* 5 sets of MCPS: Which means, Display/Functionality, DAC, analouge left and analouge right are all separately powered.
* 4 layers, high-density PCB, ensuring perfect separation and shielding of noise interference
* Bluetooth 5.0 input.
* Xmos USB receiver. 32bit / 786khz, DSD512 native streaming (custom developed driver by Thesycon, Germany)
* 7 selectable sound filters and two gain levels.
* Audiophile components throughout including TDK resistors, Elna caps.
* All-new "Cool Case" is a 300% more efficient heat-sink when compared to the Conductor 2 enclosure.
*1800USD inc shipping worldwide.

Latest reviews

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Burson Conductor 3XP: Burson just keeps producing winners
Pros: Burson quality
Burson sound
Burson durability
Burson affordability
Cons: Not mine
Meant for desktop, and it would be a shame to hide it
Burson Conductor 3XP ($1344): Burson just keeps producing winners

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Conductor 3XP

Having reviewed the Play, Bang and Fun along with various OpAmps from Burson when the opportunity came through as tour to review a ware of the Conductor variety, I jumped. And if it was anything like the other fine wares of Burson, it would not only be a treat but worth a good long listen. From what I had read of the others in the line, the reviews were good, very good. And upon my initial listen, I can concur with those findings. Read on for the in-depth report.

I thank @Barra for the tour, and @Burson for the use and review of their product. The sample will be sent to the next reviewer after my time. I have not monetary gain from this, and I spent a total of approximately 100 hours of listening through the devices listed below.



Specs:

MeasurementPackage Content
Input impedance: 39 KOhmsConductor 3X Ref.
Model # M180X
USB Cable
Frequency response:± 1 dB 0 – 58KhzRemote ControlOTG Adaptor
THD: <0.0015%Power Cable24V Power Unit
Output impedance (Headphone Amp):0.5 Ohm
Output impedance (Pre Out / DAC Out): 1 Ohm / 25 Ohm
General
Inputs: USB, Optical Toslink, BlueTooth 5.0, microphoneWeight:app. 3 kg
Outputs:1 x XLR Preamp/DAC
1 x RCA Preamp/DAC
1 x 6.3mm Headphone
1 x XLR Headphone
Dimensions: 200 X 250 X 60mm
Impedance (Headphone Jack)Power XLR / SESignal to Noise Ratio Separation
16 Ohm6 / 3W96db99%
32 Ohm3 / 1.5W98db99%
100 Ohm1 / 0.5W95db99%
150 Ohm660/330mW96db99%
300 Ohm330/115mW96db99.5%
DAC SpecAsynchronous Isochronous USB Spec
Channel Separation: 142 dB @ 1KHz, 135 dB @ 20KHzDesktop OS: Windows XP, 7, 8, 10 Mac OSX
THD+N: 0.0005% @ 1KHz, 0dBFSDesktop OS: iOS* , Android (OTG support)
COAX & Toslink / SPDIF : up to 24bit 192KPCM Support:PCM ? 768kHz @ 16, 24 or 32bits
Native DSD:Native DSD 64 / 128 / 256 / 512
Bluetooth InputBluetooth 5.0 aptX HD (Qualcomm CSR8675)DSD over PCM: DoP64 / DoP128 / DoP256/Dop512


ModelRetail PriceDimensions (mm)DigitalAnaloguePower SupplyOthers
Conductor 3XR2,199USD255 x 270 x 70ESS9038Q2M DAC X 27.5Wpc XLR / 3.5Wpc SEMCPS X 5Analogue Inputs X 2
Conductor 3R1,799USD255 x 270 x 70ESS9038Q2M DAC X 27.5Wpc SEMCPS X 5Analogue Inputs X 2
Conductor 3XP1,399USD200 X 250 X 60ESS9038Q2M DAC X 16Wpc XLR / 3Wpc SEMCPS X 3
Conductor 3P1,099USD200 X 250 X 60ESS9038Q2M DAC X 14Wpc SEMCPS X 3

In the box: see above

Gear used/compared:

XDuoo TA-30
iFi Pro iDSD

MacBook Pro
Shanling M6 Pro
XDuoo X10T ii

ZMF Eikon
Audeze LCD3
Verum Audio Verum 1
Empire Ears Legend X
Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed


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Songs:

Dave Matthews-Come Tomorrow, Away From The World
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World, Midnight Radio
twenty one pilots-Blurryface, Trench, Regional at Best
Van Morrison-Three Chords & The Truth
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Ziggy Marley
Damien Marley
Bob Marley
Santana
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Whatever my fancy of the moment


Unboxing:

It’s a Burson, its packed and protected well, and it has what you need: The Conductor, a remote, the power cord. What more do you want? Or need? Use your own cables.

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Construction/Build/Connections:

The Burson as per other models has a small footprint, which belies what goodies lie inside. What is different is that this is not your typical black box. No, this one is styled to showcase your desk at work, your workstation, or your listening area. With a multitude of connecting options, the Conductor would and does fit well pretty much everywhere.

In place of the typical aluminum black box, the case is replaced with what Burson calls the “Cool Case.” The whole case of electroplated space gray colored aluminum acts as a unified heat sink for the pure Class-A amplifier. Not really a novel idea, as this has been used for pretty much decades on high-end stereo amplifiers. But here, it not only looks good, but serves a purpose. Substance and style formed together to make a worthy desktop addition.

As per the Burson line-up, changing OpAmps is not only acceptable, but easy and is done in under five minutes just like the others. Burson now carries not only their OpAmps on the company website, but worthy options from other manufacturers can be purchased right next to the fine Burson ones. It’s kind of like having a tube amp from a manufacturer and getting various options of tubes as well. Or going to the Kit Kat factory and having a Reese’s Peanut butter Cup for sale right next to it. A cool idea, and it works.

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Other inside notables are that this would be considered the “competition” version of the range, as opposed to the luxury version (the 3XR). Think of a stripped SCCA Miata versus the one “with the works” and you get the point. But as with the Miata examples, the main components, the ones that matter, are still there: power, control and a good amount of connectivity. Just not every version in the book, unlike the 3XR and the iFi Pro iDSD. In thinking and analyzing that, I’m OK with that because it worked with what I wanted, and it worked as well or better than some here. More connectivity is a good thing, but not if “it adds weight.”

This is probably the best sounding version of a SABRE chip I have heard as well. The 3XP uses the SABRE32/ESS9038Q2M DAC and XMOS USB receiver chips with a customized USB driver by Thesycon in Germany to ensure low latency bit-perfect audio playback. It just works, and it sounds fabulous from the off. Variations from the 3XR include a different power source (which the more I get into this makes a big difference in how the power is delivered to the amplifier end, just ask anyone on the tube side of things...), no analog inputs and a bit less power. But just like the stripped SCCA Miata, it does not seem to matter. Anything I listened to through the 3XP sounded good, without sounding underpowered in the least. I expected this, and it came to fruition time and time again. Starting along with the Vivid OpAmps, the 3XP lacked only those extra inputs, which come on the 3XR. As listed below though, it still had plenty and runs BT aptx HD, which is as good as it currently gets. Alas, no MQA is had within the confines of the 3XP. But, in my opinion that should not necessarily discount the purchase of said unit, for the sound will indeed make up for it in other ways.

Inputs:USB, Optical Toslink, BlueTooth 5.0, microphone
Outputs:1 x XLR Preamp/DAC
1 x RCA Preamp/DAC
1 x 6.3mm Headphone
1 x XLR Headphone

The 3XP is built exceptionally well, as one would hope for the price and level and I saw no flaws. It is also a good-looking unit, with the aesthetics working well together. On the front, you have the small on/off button furthest left. A bit small for my tastes, it worked, nonetheless. Next to that is an XLR connection, which I personally was looking forward to using. Starboard of that you have the 6.3se and 3.5se jacks. Then a reasonably large LED display, which gives a decent look at the sub-menus changeable from the volume knob with a push.

The owner uses the small button on the far right to access the menus, and by pushing the volume button, the “active” sub menu can be changed by then using the volume button like you would raise or lower the volume. Not entirely intuitive, but once through my fumbling, I was able to change filters, input and other options easily. The back contains the connections and is easy to decipher. This is a good-looking, workable unit.

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Sound:

I will mesh sources and headphones throughout this section, as I feel the freedom of listening outweighs the efficiency of organizing what I used and on what source.

Starting with the MacBook Pro & ZMF Eikon, I was immediately impressed with the clarity and rich nature of the sound. I will note that the unit arrived with the volume set at “1,” and Bill recommended I start it there, especially with sensitive IEM’s. Since I started with harder to drive headphones, I settled on about 15, raising it to 20-25 for some hard-working songs as I jammed. Not having MQA on Tidal was a bit of a letdown, but no matter; the sound was superb.

Sometimes things such as “balanced” or “MQA” might seem to sway people with “better” sound, but the 3XP seems not to care about fancy words (except balanced). For you see it just plays. Throw on a different filter for an effective change in tonality and it works. Automatically reading the recording frequency (as most do...), it just plays. Richness exudes from pretty much any song played through the combination. Nicely detailed as well, the mids do sing a nice song. And to top that off, the treble has a pleasant sound without being overwhelming or grating. Not really sparkly either, it satisfies these ears just right. I do not feel cut off or of any hiding up top either. Again, the overall signature emits a wonderful synergy that if one were to be truly picky and pick apart might be different.

But the 3XP must (and should) be taken as a whole entity. Too often of late a source may sound fabulous at some level, or individual tones, but fail to sway at the overall picture part. Here thankfully, the 3XP promotes, provides and permeates a full-on richness of signature that is detailed, crisp and has a certain cleanliness that not many can match.

Bumping the volume to 40, I relish the sound from Feynman in 1-800MYLOVE. The artificial trap set, and vocals are healthy and vibrant up top without being strident. The piano-chords hold the mids as the clapping comes in, and the bass drum and bass hold the bottom together without being boomy or loose. There is a tightness to this song anyway due to the instruments of choice, but the detailed piano chords lend a naturalness (even if artificial) to an otherwise artificially produced song.

Soundstage is about as even a box as I have heard of late. Not huge, but certainly not minuscule either, the width is about ideal for the songs played. As is height and depth. A bit taller than deep, I do wish for a bit more depth with this setup. Then Air comes on and all is pretty much well. Recorded to be more forward and higher of reach it does make me reach for the volume, lowering it 6 slots to 34. Still magnificent of presentation, the 3XP is growing well on me.

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Moving to the LCD3 next, I found the song a bit brighter. More of a mid-centric than the Eikon, it did take a bit of time to adjust. Until the bass hit. The Audeze bass is near-legendary in the planar world, and the 3XP was glad to oblige and aid in repping it well. Almost a bit too forward before adjusting to the sound, the LCD3 quickly became one of my favorites on the Burson. I could see someone listening to this combo and realizing, “yep, I made a great purchase,” with regard to either the Burson or Audeze they fit together so well. The mids do seem a bit too elevated here, but it could just as well be the song. Due to circumstances, I did not accumulate nearly the same amount of time listening to this pairing as the Eikon (family and not wanting to intrude...). But I did have two full evenings of listening to verify what I heard. This is a magnificent duo. Repeatedly listening to Billie Eilish’s wish you were gay, I found her voice intoxicating and coming from a spot inside my head, which was all but sensual. The bass kicking in made the song go over the top in the best possible way, and her verbiage of words made for a satirically sad song all at once. She is such a hugely talented artist, that even after listening to many of her songs over and over, I still feel that I do not understand her enough to warrant decent conversation. She is phenomenal.

Switching to the more familiar to me Implicit Demand For Truth, I stopped writing, kicked the volume up, grabbed my Logboat Brewing Bobber Missouri Lager and listened. A cacophony of sound emits at the 1:35 point, which could be troublesome for many sources (it is complicated by nature), but the 3XP just plays. Discerning small differences does not matter, for the complicated song is meant to be enjoyed as a cacophony of calcitrant concentration. I stopped again.

Switching to the Shanling M6 Pro via BT, the sound noticeably dropped. One would expect that to happen due to BT limitations, but I can happily report that gap continues to shrink. I did note some drop out in the sound as well. If this were to be used as a desktop setup with a dedicated DAP, I would add the correct connectivity to accommodate what should be a wonderful addition to the sound stream.

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Comparisons:

Burson Conductor 3XP ($1344) vs XDuoo TA-30 ($799):

After hearing @Wiljen ‘s TA30, I arranged for my own from Linsoul at a reduced price in exchange for a forthcoming review. Needless to say, the TA30 is a fabulous unit with the ability to change tubes at a moment’s notice. That is the fun of having a tube amp, besides the sound of course.

There is a level of detail, which accompanies that tube-richness that is hard to beat in the TA30. It is such a fine amp at an “affordable” price that one would be silly not to look at it when trying to find a fantastic amp. I will admit that the mids are more forward than the 3XP, which can make the TA30 sound either too far in your face, or sound unnaturally “better” when comparing back-to-back. But when you listen, that overzealousness combines with the Mullard tubes up front to present a brilliant synergy.

Turning 1-800MYLOVE up, I relish the sound. Without the bass push of the 3XP, but the added rich layers make for an impressive sound. I do appreciate the mids more in the Burson, as they seem better held in control than the XDuoo. That could very well be down to the tubes used. While the Mullard’s are wonderful with a rich bass few tubes can provide, they do seem to push the mids a bit up and forward. Not that I mind, just different than the 3XP. Seriously, I’m quibbling over small bits of “error” between two fantastic amps. Listening to the XDuoo again makes me appreciate why I purchased it.

Where the Burson bests the XDuoo (and should, really) is in the cleanliness of sound. Playing Air over and over, I am amazed at the almost surgical quality of the sound. Think of the most precise drummer out there, technique-wise and that could very well be the Burson. Think of the XDuoo as the more fun-loving street drummer, who still has tons of precision in their repertoire. Just not on the level of the Burson.

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Burson Conductor 3XP ($1344) vs iFi Pro iDSD ($2200ish):

The iFi is most likely the highest priced amp I will ever purchase. And for good reason. It has multi-connections like no one’s business, can be run as either a hybrid, full solid state or genuine tube, and can drive everything I have sent its way with aplomb. Not always the best match for some I have used with it, but that can be overlooked based upon what it DOES sound good with: the vast majority of my headphones and higher-tiered IEM’s, as well as the sources of which I prefer.

It is for that reason, after listening to it, I purchased the model sent for review. And I do not regret it. Deep reaching rich bass exudes from the sound chambers, but without being overly drippy or dank. There is no overriding tonality of cover here, just a warmth, which can be heard from a manufacturers TOTL, which happens to have that tubey sound of which I love as well.

Almost a more “delicate” sound is wrought from the iFi when comparing to the others, until you listen. That delicacy is detail. And detail of the near-highest order. This is an incredible amp with which to listen. Yes, it may seem to be full of gimmicks, but those are all necessary to wring the last amount of detail from a song. Don’t confuse politeness with shyness of quality. One need only turn the volume up to realize that the Pro can compete with the big boys and do so on their level.

That said, is it worth nearly twice the price? Well, that 2x price comes with more options than the 3XP has, along with a reference-level of sound, but on the warmer side. I still value and relish my listening through the iFi and it is just about the perfect complement to the XDuoo. Maybe, just maybe there is room for the Burson as well, due to the differing qualities of all three...

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Conclusion:

It seems more and more often in today’s audio world, that more is better. More options, more power, more technology, more cost. Well to a certain degree that is correct. When one spends for premium gear, your expectations reach a certain zenith. A certain level above the “common gear.” That is not unfounded either. But here is the beauty of the Burson Conductor 3XP. It does cost a good penny or two, and in this day may seem unattainable. Or even frivolous. But one should still consider the 3XP, because when placed against similar items costing up too many times more, the 3XP simply goes about its business like the pure SCCA Miata mentioned above. It excels. It has the power. It has enough connectivity to make your system worth it. And, here to me is the best part; it has the sound to back all of that up. As stated above, this is the finest iteration of this SABRE chip of which mine ears have listened. This is one fine critter, even to these tired ears. And I would respectfully add that this is becoming a trademark (become?) of Burson products. Starting “years ago” with the Play and moving upscale, Burson has added that offense to the scheme, which should have the other manufacturers scrambling. This is not like the 1-year-spectacle known as the “Greatest Show On Turf,” no. This is more like the long-term excellence of the New England Patriots (love them or hate them you cannot deny their greatness, which pains me to say, and the simplicity of their dominance is something at which to marvel) or the newer breed of the Kansas City Chiefs (hopefully). Modifying one’s schema takes great courage, and perseverance to rear successfully. And here, is where Burson shares that characteristic with the Patriots and the Miata. Sometimes simple is better, and it works long term. The Burson Conductor 3XP is a patented picture of that perseverance and dedication to providing the end user (you and me) with the best they know how. And doing it in a fairly simple manner (which is most certainly not a knock on them, for it works), which is about as high a compliment as one can offer.



I thank Burson and @Barra for the opportunity to use as my own an extremely fine product. One in which had I the need, I would not hesitate.

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AudioKeyK

New Head-Fier
A TRANSPARENT, MUSICAL, POWERFUL BEAST (IN A DIMINUTIVE PACKAGE)!
Pros: Delivers a transparent, natural, and highly engaging, musical experience.
Cons: Lacks MQA and in need of an 'instructive' instruction manual.
BURSON AUDIO CONDUCTOR-3XP HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER
AUG 18 WRITTEN BY K. HEARTSONG for AUDIOKEY REVIEWS

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A TRANSPARENT, MUSICAL, POWERFUL BEAST (IN A DIMINUTIVE PACKAGE)!

Burson Audio, based in Melbourne, Australia, has been in operation for nearly a quarter of a century. Burson prides itself on “quality build, thoughtful circuit design, value for money and elegant, engaging sound.” Additionally, Burson Audio espouses a low-key marketing paradigm which does not include advertising and relatively little actual marketing and PR. It is easy to understand the desire not to advertise, however, in a world with so very, very many audio/headgear choices, is this then not a zero-sum game for Burson Audio (relative to its many competitors)?

Case in point, the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP, which we now consider a very musical “killer of high-priced giants,” was almost virtually unknown, even among audiophiles and headfiers (via a non-scientific survey). Perhaps a rethink of the marketing campaign might well help to address this unfortunate dilemma.

Our time with the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP allowed us great insight into its voice, its power, and its ease of use. Its voice—musical, transparent, powerful, and yet delicate—as we have discovered fits very nicely into our “wheelhouse.” Its power finds it delivering six (6) watts into a 16 ohm, balanced load and three (3) watts into a single-ended load of the same impedance. There are few, if any, headphones that will not dance/sing to its dictates. And despite the fact that its instruction manual is, well, truly bereft of detailed instruction, we found that employing the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP was fairly intuitive and straightforward.

The Conductor 3XP is, by all means, a desktop solution, whether at home or at work. Of course, when allied to “open” headphone designs it becomes a decidedly at home, desktop solution.

REFRAIN: Unlike most reviews, this review will be non-sequential, as it will start with how the headphones actually sound and not the process of physically “undressing” them and/or laying out their various parts, specifications, etc. Think of this review then, as a non-linear movie—Memento, Kill Bill, Arrival, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc—that, likewise, starts at the end and winds its way to the beginning.


THE SOUND

The Burson Audio Conductor 3XP embraces iOS, Android, Mac, and PC alike and to them it will deliver a powerful, yet delicate, musical, and transparent experience. For this review, I utilized the services of the Meze Empyrean, the oBravo EAMT-2C, and the FiiO FH5 to gauge the Conductor 3XP’s ability to both scale and to lift, respectively, products a great deal more expensive and products a great deal less expensive.

I listen now to Olafur Arnald’s Written in Stone (The Chopin Project, Mercury (Universal France)). A cello, violins enter and they are brooding and melancholy, the stage holographic. An electronic keyboard soon joins the mix and brings tone, timbre, and weight, that act as anchor. It is a slow-motion waltz, that is haunting, somber, beautiful. The Conductor 3XP, via this track, weaves an emotional pastiche of notes, weight, air, timbre, and tone, that appear to free the music from both headphones (Meze Empyrean) and the Conductor 3XP’s pleated, aluminum container. Perhaps it is the power of the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP and/or its transparency and/or its delicacy via the Meze Empyreans, that renders unfamiliar, that which is very familiar to me. Perhaps you too will begin the rediscovery of your media, as you engage the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP for your home, office, bedroom. I listen through Olafur Arnald’s “The Chopin Project” in its entirety, hooked on the music rendered via the Conductor 3XP. Natural and transparent are the words that remain center stage, as I listen to album after album with the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP.

The Conductor 3XP’s volumetric cube—its soundstage—is quite large. It is wide, though naturally so, deep, and with excellent height. Impressive. There is a profound unity/cohesion across its frequency range, that one remembers when forced to contemplate it. Otherwise it is simply there as the music plays and draws you in, naturally, transparently.

BASS

I listen now to Eiji Oue's Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 III Lento assai (Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Reference Recordings) a long, beautiful movement interwoven with transitions, complexities, dynamic swings, and the rumblings of thunderous bass notes. And they are all handled with aplomb via the Conductor 3XP. The Conductor 3XP places us, the listener, in the concert hall amid the music’s raw power and thunderous bass. Yet, it lays bare the sweet and delicate extension of strings and woodwinds, achieving a musicality and sophistication far beyond its price point. The Meze Empyrean is, of course, grateful for the power and is responding accordingly—sublimely. In sum, the bass of the Conductor 3XP is powerful and has great transparency, speed, musicality, and separation.

MIDRANGE

I return to Olafur Arnalds, but this time the song is Árbakkinn (Island Songs, Mercury (Universal France)). In this piece Icelandic poet—Einar Georg Einarsson—recites one of his poems in his native language. The Burson Audio Conductor 3XP brings a clarity of articulation, transparency, and naturalness to Einarsson’s recital that is, to date, unmatched. A piano soon enters to accompany and its timbre and tone are as well natural, engaging, beautifully melodic. As Einarsson ends his recital, a cello and violins join the mix and their truth of timbre, their tonality are sweet and delicate and ethereal. There is an analog-like warmth and, yet, crystal clarity rendered across this track. The partnerships of the Conductor 3XP as allied to the Meze Empyrean and the oBravo EAMT-2C have been sublime, beautiful. In sum, the midrange of the Conductor 3XP is transparent, natural, rich with very good layering, and separation. Impressive!

TREBLE+

The Conductor 3XP’s treble is sweet, extended, never fatiguing, and possesses very good transparency, air, and drive. Vilda Frang’s Andante (Veress: String Trio - Bartók: Piano Quintet, Alpha) brings a quiet dissonance, as interspersed notes from violin, viola, and violoncello compete amid a black-quiet background. The clarity and extension and speed of rendering are very good, as are timbre and tone. The Conductor 3XP empowers a wondrous transparency and immediacy to this track. And the sense of space and air and separation are, likewise, beautifully portrayed.

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THE WRAPPINGS AND ACCESSORIES

The Burson Audio Conductor 3XP comes in a rather plain, white, cardboard box. Only its top is printed and that is with the Burson Audio trade name/logo and its byline—“A Lavish Musical Experience,” which, in this case, proves to be quite accurate.

Inside, the box top lifted, one finds the Conductor 3XP in the front most part of the box. A second smaller box, a few inches in width, spans the rear of the larger box from left to right. In it are the various items as listed below:

1-Slim, aluminum remote
1-Power cable
1-USB-C (male) to USB-C (male) adapter cable
1-OTG Adapter
1-24V Power Unit
4-Vivid V6 Opamps


DESIGN—LOOK AND FEEL

The Burson Audio Conductor 3XP is wrapped in a pleated, space-grey, high-density aluminum case, whose top, bottom, and sides have been fashioned as heat sinks, which Burson refers to as its “Cool Case.” The “Cool Case” is said to reduce the overall temperature of its Class A dissipation by “three (3) times.” Though the Conductor 3XP’s “Cool Case” will, indeed, still get warm, it will not singe small hands, sniffing noses, or curious paws.

Its front panel, from left to right, bears a small on/off button an XLR, 6.3mm balanced, and a 3.5mm single-ended headphone-out (PO) sockets, a small digital display, a volume knob to its right, and a selector button on the far right above its remote-capture eye. The Conductor 3XP’s back panel features a BlueTooth (BT) antenna, three digital inputs—USB-C, Coaxial, Optical—and RCA Preamp/DAC and XLR Preamp/DAC outputs.

The Conductor 3XP comes with a slim, elegant, aluminum remote control, that sports a mute button, an input selector (USB-C, Coax, Toslink) and up and down volume controls.

The design is straight-forward, nicely proportioned, and industrial, as in clean and quite handsome. It is by all means a desktop solution, as it will decidedly not fit in one’s pocket and will add a nice bit of weight to one’s shoulder bag, backpack, purse, etc.


FUNCTIONALITY

The Conductor 3XP via its SABRE32/ESS9038Q2M DAC supports up to DSD512 and 38bit/786kHz audio. The Conductor 3XP also contains a Qualcomm/CSR8675 Bluetooth 5.0 receiver, which is capable of 24bit/96kHz play back and it includes the aptX audio codec.

The Conductor 3XP’s input options consist of a USB-C (PCM 32bit 786K / DSD512), Coaxial (PCM 24bit 192K), Toslink (PCM 24bit 192K), and Bluetooth (PCM 24bit 96K). The USB-C option, in our testing, was optimal and sounded by far the best and most powerful. Whereas Bluetooth was apt to sound good at much higher volume levels compared to USB-C, but was still unable to match the weight of the USB-C’s rendering. The Burson Audio Conductor 3XP, however, does not enlist MQA.

The Conductor 3XP also houses Burson Audio’s Max Current Power Supply (MCPS), which Burson explains as follows:

“A technology developed, owned and used exclusively by Burson Audio, the MCPS raises voltage frequency from 50Hz to 170kHz, pushing noise beyond human hearing. It completely overcomes the disadvantages of both linear power supplies and conventional switching power supplies, resulting in incredible dynamic and micro-details ([+] Learn More).”

The Conductor 3XP is powerful enough to drive even the demigods of inefficiency with its 330mW of XLR power and 115mW Single-Ended into 300 Ohms.

It features a PreAmp Output with volume control and a DAC Out at 2V RMS at line level (no volume control). It has two Gain levels—High, Low. High provides a maximum of six (6) watts and Low provides a maximum of three (3) watts.

The Conductor 3XP makes available a number of FIR Filters, that help to tailor the sound profile. Additionally, the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP can have its overall sound changed dramatically via Burson’s own Opamps, which are “specifically designed to optimize audio performance” and to change the tonality. And there are a range of Burson Opamps—Vivid V6, V6 Classic, V5, V5i—to chose from.


THE SPECIFICATIONS

Input Impedance
: 39kOhms
Frequency Response: ±1 dB 0 —58kH
THD: <0.0015%
Output Impedance (Headphone amp): 0.5 Ohm
Output Impedance (Pre Out / DAC out): 1 Ohm / 25 Ohm
Inputs: USB, Optical, Toslink, BlueTooth 5.0, Microphone
Outputs: 1 x XLR Preamp/DAC
1 x RCA Preamp/DAC
1 x 6.3mm Headphone
1 x XLR Headphone
Weight: 3kg (approximately)
Dimensions: 200 x 250 x 60mm
Impedance (Headphone Jack) Power XLR/SE
16 Ohm 6 / 3 W
32 Ohm 3 / 1.5W
100 Ohm 1 / 0.5W
150 Ohm 660 / 330mW
300 Ohm 330 / 115mW

DAC Specs.
Channel Separation: 142dB @ 1kHz, 135dB @20khz
THD+N: 0.0005% @ 1kHz, 0dBFS
COAX & Toslink/SPDIF: up to 24bit 192k
PCM Support: 768kHz @ 16, 24 or 32bits
Native DSD: DSD 64 / 128 / 256 / 512
Bluetooth 5.0 aptX HD
(Qualcomm CSR8675)
DSD over PCM: DoP64 / DoP128 / DoP256/Dop512

20200728_111404.jpg


CONCLUSION

The Burson Audio Conductor 3XP ($1,399) delivers a transparent, natural, and highly engaging, musical experience, well beyond its price point. Further, it is coherent from top to bottom, provides a dead-quiet background, a very generous soundstage, and it has the ability to simply disappear, which is rare regardless of price. However, that the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP does not lend itself to MQA, at its price point, is disappointing, as far less expensive DACs and DAC/Amps do so and quite well (AudioQuest DragonFlys, iFi Hip-DAC, etc.). And, perhaps, a more ‘instructive’ instruction manual should, at some point, be addressed. That said, the Burson Audio Conductor 3XP is highly recommended!

NOTE: Comparisons Coming Soon.


MUSIC—QUBOZ, TIDAL EXCLUSIVELY

Alexander Tharaud—Tharaud Plays Rachmaninoff
Omar Sosa—Ballads, Calma
Patricia Barber—Verse
Rickie Lee Jones—Pop Pop
Sade—Lovers Live
Sheku Kannah Mason—Inspiration
Tracey Chapman—Where You Live
Olafur Arnalds—Island Songs
Olafur Arnalds—The Chopin Project
Melody Gardot—My One and Only Thrill
Melody Gardot—My Worrisome Heart
Eiji Oue—Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances
Hilary Hahn—Tchaikovsky
Mechell Ndegeocello—Bitter
Jordi Savall—Tous les Matins du Monde
Maxwell—Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite
Sarah Jarosh—Undercurrent
Igor Stravinsky—Stravinsky: Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)
Annie-Sophie Mutter—Mendelssohn, Brahms: Violin Concertos
London Grammar—If You Wait
Stevie Wonder—Innervisions
Miles Davis—Kind of Blue
Jóhann Jóhannsson—Orphée
Alexis Ffrench—Evolution
Dave Holland—Emerald Tears
Gidon Kremer, Daniil Trifonov, Giedre Dirvanauskaite—Preghiera/Rachmaninov Piano Trios
Joan Shelly—Joan Shelly
Magdalena Kožená—French Arias
Andy Bey—American Song
Erykah Badu—Baduism
Kronos Quartet—Kronos Caravan


ANCILLARY EQUIPMENT

Meze Empyrean
OBravo EAMT-2C IEMs
Final Sonorous III
FiiO FH5
Cayin N6ii/A01
Cayin N6ii/E01
Burson Audio Conductor 3XP
AudioQuest Cobalt
AudioQuest Red
AudioQuest Dragon Tail
Samsung S10
Apple X iPhone


THE COMPANY

Burson Audio
Melbourne, Australia
team@bursonaudio.com
www.bursonaudio.com
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dbsylvia

Head-Fier
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance - Sounds as sexy as it looks!
Pros: Sexy looking
Lush, romantic, detailed sound
Deep and layered soundstage
Opamp changeable
Cons: Small soundstage width
Assertive detail portrayal
To start off I want to thank Burson Audio and head-fi for the gear tour of the Burson Conductor 3X Performance. I reached out to Burson Audio to see if I would be able to demo one of their amplifiers and they responded by inviting me to join the gear tour. Then I was honored with the opportunity to get an extended time with the Burson Audio Conductor 3x Performance before the tour officially kicked off. So a huge thank you goes out to @Barra, Burson Audio and head-fi for this experience. I am sad to see my time with the Conductor 3XP come to an end, wish I could keep it :)

I find that DAC and Amplifiers are very hard to review. I have an extremely hard time explaining all the ins and outs of the power and specs along with each and every function. The Conductor 3XP is fully loaded and I didn’t use all the functions but I will try in this review to tell you how I used it and what my experience was like.

So with all that out of the way, here is my attempt at a review.

The Burson Audio 3X Performance is a DAC/PreAmp/Headphone Amplifier. Please see the link for all the details and specs.
https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/conductor-3x-performance/

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Gear I compared to the Burson Conductor 3X Performance:

iFi Audio Pro iDSD
MyTek Liberty

Build and Design:

The Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance is built incredibly well. I love the design of it as well. I find that the aluminum chassis is sexy to look at. The grooved body is so enjoyable to run your fingers up and down. The smoothest turning volume knob and the feel with the diamond cut sides to help grip it easily. The screen is easy to read even though it could be a little larger for my old man eyes. The layout of the headphone outputs is spaced out well. The backside layout is also spaced out, making it easy to connect all the interconnects and cables that you need. And on top of that you get this little aluminum remote that is built just as sexy and elegant as the amplifier. The volume knob is somewhat slow to move up and down the range but it feels so good while you do it. Also, the use of a function button by pressing the volume knob is clunky and can be unresponsive. Many times I found myself getting annoyed when I clicked the volume knob and selected and then clicked again to confirm but I accidentally turned the knob and changed my selection. Implementing a remote that allowed more function changes and selections would have been welcomed. Overall, Burson Audio did a fantastic job making the Conductor 3X Performance look gorgeous on a desk but also be functional and easy to connect.

Comparison:

In comparison to the iFi Audio Pro iDSD; build quality feels more premium on the Burson. Even though the iFi Audio Pro iDSD also has an aluminum chassis it just doesn’t ooze the sexy, elegant look and feel of the Burson. Design layout on the front is very well down on the Pro iDSD but the switches can be hard to move especially when cables are in place. The circle display of the iDSD is lovely and shows more information and is easier to read. The backside of the iDSD is stocked to the gills and can feel cramped when you have all your cables connected.

In comparison to the Mytek Liberty; the build quality again feels more premium on the Burson but the Mytek has this simplistic look and feel to it. I love the sexiness of the Burson but the simplistic design of the Mytek calls to me as well. The Liberty lacks any sort of display screen but makes up for it with an array of LED lights that dance around in a pleasing way. The back of the Liberty is limited and feels cramped when using all the connections. The volume knob on the Liberty is somewhat slow in ramping up or decreasing volume but the click and selection function is a lot more responsive and pleasing then the Burson.

Abilities:

The Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance is a talented DAC/Amp that can handle all the common tasks that you ask it to do. The inputs are plenty with Bluetooth, USB (type C), coaxial and toslink. The outputs include the headphone outputs 3.5mm, 6.35mm and XLR variety, XLR and RCA for the preamp and DAC. There are plenty of filters at the ready and also the ability to swap opamps. But for my time with the Conductor 3XP I just kept it simple and connected via USB and Bluetooth. I output via RCA to my Kanto Yumi speakers and used all the various headphone outputs, along with connecting via XLR to the THX AAA 789. The 3.5mm also has the ability to do a mic input but I didn’t test that. Overall there are plenty of inputs, outputs and extras to keep everyone happy. I barely used any of them as they just aren’t something that I use. There is plenty of power on tap for headphones of any kind, single-end is 3w and balanced is 6w class A. The ESS9038 DAC chip keeps it all running smoothly. The ability to decode MQA and DSD is also available.

Comparison:

In comparison to the iFi Audio Pro iDSD the Burson will seem limited. The iFi Audio has both solid state and tube stages that can flavor the sound to your desire. The MQA, DXD and DSD decoding is stepped up a notch as well with the ability to change if you want DSD turned off, DSD512 or DSD1024. Also the iFi Audio has all sorts of filters to play around with. Inputs are bountiful with USB, coaxial, optical, AES and BNC. Outputs are loaded also with headphone outputs of 6.35mm, 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced, XLR and RCA for DAC/preamp. With the iFi Audio Pro iDSD there is no shortage of inputs, outputs and extras. I found that I didn’t use much of them at all as I stuck with USB input and used the headphone outputs.

In comparison to the Mytek Liberty the Burson will seem like it is overloaded. The Mytek Liberty inputs are AES/EBU, USB, Coaxial and Toslink. Outputs are a 6.35mm headphone output and TRS ¼ balanced output and RCA output. The Mytek Liberty has a MQA and DSD decoder and the Mytek app can be used to control various settings and outputs. The Mytek is simplistic but easy to use whereas both the Burson and iFi have more of a learning curve.

The meat and potatoes of a DAC/Pre/AMP review is how does it sound? Did I enjoy my listening sessions with the Burson Audio 3X Performance? Before we get into the overall sound performance a bit of explanation as to how I used the Conductor 3XP. I will be honest, I didn’t test the Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance with each and every input/output/filter/opamp as I don’t use those options on a daily basis. But here are my impressions on my listening sessions.

How I used the Burson Conductor 3X Performance:

The Conductor 3X Performance rested on my review desk on the top shelf within arms reach. It was connected via USB to my MSI Cubi. I also connected it via Bluetooth to my MSI Cubi, my Samsung Note 10 Plus, the Pioneer XDP 30R and Sony NW-A105. I used the PreAmp output to connect via RCA into my Kanto Yumi speakers. I also connected the XLR outputs to the THX AAA 789.

Headphones I used to review the Burson Conductor 3x Performance:

MrSpeakers Ether C
Hifiman Ananda
Meze 99 Classic
Sennheiser HD600
VibroLabs Curly Maple
Massdrop Empire Ears Zeus
Meze Rai Solo

(I also tested various others randomly but those listed above were the consistently used)

Sound:

The Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance is an outstanding sound that tickles my ears everytime that I turn it on. The musicality and detail retrieval of the Conductor 3XP is pleasant on nearly everything that I used in my testing. There are moments that the revealing nature of the Conductor 3X Performance was a little too much, especially when using my Sennheiser HD600. But the imaging and spatial awareness that the Burson provides is crazy good and my Sennheiser HD600 would have the instruments and vocals dancing around my head in an immersive and engaging way. Bass is tight and detailed, never comes off as bloated or mushy. The mids have a slightly warmer tone to them with clean and clear details. Treble is well extended and detailed. Vocals have a weight to them and are full of life. The upper mids and lower treble has an energy and sparkle that keeps the music engaging. The soundstage has a smaller size then I expected but it doesn’t sound intimate. There is excellent spatial awareness and imaging, within the soundstage it is very easy to place where everything is and how close or far away it is. Sounds travel with ease, there are no gaps or empty spaces in the stage. I found that I really enjoyed the MrSpeakers Ether C, Hifiman Ananda, VibroLabs Curly Maple and Meze 99 Classic on the Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance. The Sennheiser HD600 had wonderful moments at times and then others were very unpleasant with harshness and sibilance. I found that the Conductor 3XP was decent with IEM but you had to use an iFi Audio IEMatch to remove the hiss but overall the sound was adequate for the Massdrop Empire Ears Zeus and Meze Rai Solo but the Conductor 3X Performance wouldn’t be my first choice for them. When using the balanced output the more power hungry VibroLabs Curly Maple comes alive and benefits from the extra oomph but the overall sound signature stays the same. When using the output to my Kanto Yumi the sound is lush and full but is hard to judge as the Kanto Yumi are a very colored powered speaker. Going balanced output to the THX AAA 789 is a pleasant experience that removes a little bit of the sterile edge off the 789. Overall, the sound is very pleasing in a slightly warm, lush, engaging but detail revealing way that plays with nearly everything I played on it. The Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance played well no matter the source music but it scaled with better file quality.

Comparison:

In comparison to the iFi Audio Pro iDSD, has a more analogue sound and is more laid back but still has fantastic detail retrieval. All the various filters and DSD remastering options are fun to play with and offer different changes to the sound. Along with the ability to be ss or tube is also an unique option. I find that the iFi Audio Pro iDSD is easier to listen to and plays with all my gear without having those little moments of oof like I had with the HD600 and the Burson. But, I feel like the Burson is the better in this comparison when it comes to overall sound quality. Don’t get me wrong, the Pro iDSD is an excellent amplifier and sounds fantastic but I feel that the Conductor 3X Performance is the better performer when it comes to technical capabilities. The iFi Audio is a fun, engaging and smooth sound but it doesn’t portray the natural tones and timbre as well as the Burson Audio. The IEMatch capabilities of the iFi Audio Pro iDSD make it the better option in my opinion for using an IEM.

In comparison to the Mytek Liberty, there is something about the way the Liberty fits my personal sound preference that makes it hard not to be bias. Plus, being born and raised in the greatest state of the USA, New York, may also add to my bias. With all that being said, in all honesty, the Mytek Liberty is my favorite DAC/Amp setup. I find that the Mytek Liberty displays a sound that is clean and clear, natural and accurate with incredible tone and timbre and a soundstage that lays out in front of you a complete picture with depth and layering. The Burson has a little more flavor and fun factor but lacks the soundstage capabilities and matches on detail retrieval that of the Mytek Liberty. In my opinion both of these surpass the fun and engaging Pro iDSD with their technical prowess but the Liberty is the more natural sounding of them all. Like the Burson, the Mytek needs an IEMatch to play with IEM but I find that Mytek is more pleasant sounding and less prone to hiss and is my pick between the two for IEM use.

Conclusion:

To wrap all this up; there is a lot more to the Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance than it is possible to discuss here in this review. I find the Conductor 3XP to be a very capable DAC and amplifier. I love the fact that you have multiple inputs that all work and stay connected with ease. I love the fact that the build quality is top notch and it looks sexy sitting on your desk or audio shelf. I love that the ease of use is pretty much a plug-n-play experience. I love the sound that is presented; slightly warm, thick and tight, romantic, detailed and revealing. I love that the device is worthy of the asking price. In fact, the price was so tempting that I nearly opted for one. If I hadn’t purchased the Mytek Liberty,I would have purchased the Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance, no doubt about it. Yeah, I can recommend the Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance as I believe it is an amazing device worthy of the price. For me, the Conductor 3XP nearly hit the bullseye, while the Mytek Liberty was spot on.

Pictures:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/6rti4Ge5QJYzNdPr5

YouTube Review:


Discord: https://discord.gg/kxdvdUU
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/B4LG7Kqp_7f/

DBS Tech Talk research and review process: https://youtube/UkSnoZZNyYc

Audio Terms and Definitions: https://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html

Recommended Gear:

Music recommendations:
https://tidal.com/browse/track/128215119 Sinne Eeg “We’ve Just Begun” - multiple layer soundstage
https://tidal.com/browse/track/77568002 Molly Johnson “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” - female vocal tone
https://tidal.com/browse/track/120190149 Leslie Odom Jr. “Under Pressure” - male vocal tone
https://tidal.com/browse/track/230625 Eric Clapton “Change the World” - soundstage layering and placement
https://tidal.com/browse/track/18016422 Yo Yo Ma “Ecstasy of Gold” - acoustic instrument timbre
https://tidal.com/browse/track/103401770 Adam Baldych “Spem in Alium” - acoustic instrument timbre
https://tidal.com/browse/track/31759874 Tingvall Trio “Beat” - piano tonality
https://tidal.com/browse/track/52532480 Pain of Salvation “Stress” - percussion balance
https://tidal.com/browse/track/98069001 Michael Buble “When I Fall in Love” - orchestral dynamics
https://tidal.com/browse/track/41094997 Patricia Barber “Code Cool” - sibilance check
Christian Scott “New New Orleans” - shouty upper mids
https://tidal.com/browse/track/116415078 Tool “Chocolate Chip Trip” - imaging
https://tidal.com/browse/track/1855831 Hans Zimmer “Why So Serious” - sub bass extension
https://tidal.com/browse/track/89386285 Marcus Miller “No Limit” - bass control
https://tidal.com/browse/track/77646106 Dave Holland Quartet “Conference Of The Birds”- bass check
https://tidal.com/browse/track/132139860 Ilhan Eshkeri “47 Ronin”- orchestra and bass dynamics
https://tidal.com/browse/track/79530261 Hans Zimmer :2049” - sub bass extension
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