MacBook Pro > Conductor 3XR > HE6, PS1000, PS2000e, Mayflower v1
Test Songs (all FLAC either 16/44 or 24/28):
"Dad Gone Thing" by Gregory Porter - All Rise
"Strasbourg/St. Denis" by The Roy Hargrove Quintet - Earfood
"Grown Folks" by Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha
"Tom Sawyer" by Rush - Moving Pictures (2011 remaster)
"I Will Sing Jesus" by Highlands Worship - Jesus You Alone
"Jupiter, from The Planets" per Sir Adrian Boult and the LSO
Sound: In a word: natural. Yes, admittedly that word is as overused in head-fi as others like musical, fun, or organic, but in my mind, when I say something sounds natural, it means that there's a reproduction that is true-to life. The value of any headphone (or any other audio gear) to me is directly tied to it's ability to reproduce what I'd hear sitting in the audience or in the studio booth. The C3 just that really really well. Most live rooms I've been in have a thick bass presence, slightly forward vocal/midrange, and as much upper end as it bearable without being fatiguing. That's what Burson has in the C3. (Methinks this is why so many enjoy the sound of vinyl...)
Bass: Clean. Traditionally I've preferred the plumpness that comes with tube amplifiers with my headphones of choice: Grados. I've usually been ok giving up a little definition to gain some impact - call me a slam over details guy. I'll say that with the C3 though, I've found the most pleasant happy medium, and maybe my favorite bass presentation I've heard in a combo unit. Kick drums have just the right blend of punch and texture (Snarky Puppy & Rush tunes), synth lines are thick, and even the timbre of upright bass (check out the Roy Hargrove!) or low brass is just really well done. I feel it and I hear it! Bravo to the Burson team for striking the balance that is so difficult to nail.
Mids: Smooth and oh so-slightly prominent. The mids/vocal range reminds me so much of a well-made tube amplifier (looking at you Kenzie!) Voices sit beautifully in front of the band in the worship track as well as Greg Porter's tune. There's a nice open quality that really comes through in breathy vocals a la Norah Jones that I've only experienced in a few other units like the H2 or the RME. Still though, there's a weight to instruments in this range like guitar, sax, and cello that just sounds, well, right.
Treble: I'm sure you're seeing a theme here, but the upper end is so clean! Grados are finicky and it's easy for them to sound bad if upstream source gear is to bright/hard, OR if it's too rolled off. The C3 dodges both bullets and yields detail, smoothness, and air. Really able to see what the PS2000e and HE6 are capable of in this range, especially in the busier parts of 'Jupiter' and Tom Sawyer. Cymbals and strings alike are shimmery, but never too hard or abrasive. Hats off to the Australians for managing to pull this off!
Soundstage/Imaging/Separation: If not the best I've heard, it's up there!
Aesthetics/Build Quality/Accessories: Excellent, bar none.
Qualms: The only semi-qualm I have has been said before. I don't listen to IEMs at my desk a lot, but the C3 does hiss a bit with sensitive in-ears. If that hiss was completely gone, I don't know what you could fault this unit for!
JD's SS Combo Unit Ranking : Conductor 3XR > RME ADI-2 FS > Hugo 2 > Audio-gd R-28 > Singxer SDA-2c > Conductor SL > Questyle CMA600i > Concero HP > Mojo > Questyle CMA400i > Emotiva DC-1 > Audio-gd R2R-11 > O2/ODAC
Final Thoughts: I certainly am a satisfied customer and wholeheartedly recommend the Burson Conductor 3XR. I feel right in saying that the hype is real! If you're looking for a powerful, capable, aesthetically-pleasing combo unit that does just about everything well, this one gets my highest marks. Thanks for reading!