Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance Headphone amp, pre amp and DAC.

On the box Burson Audio exclaim “A LAVISH MUSICAL EXPERIENCE,” will the Conductor 3X Performance live up to expectations? Read on to find out.

Disclaimer:
This is my unbiased view of the Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance.
Charles and the team at Burson have kindly send this out for review.
Retail price at the time of this review is $1,344.

You can find the Conductor 3X Performance and other Burson Audio products here:-
https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/conductor-3x-performance/

Review equipment and software:
iPad Pro. ( Bluetooth )
Macbook Air. ( USB )
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance Headphone amp, pre amp and DAC.
Airpulse A200 Active speaker system.
Sennheiser HD600. ( Balanced & Single ended. )
Sony MDR SA5000. ( Balanced & Single ended. )
Custom Cans balanced cable for the HD600s.
Bespoke balanced re-cable on the SA5Ks with matching pigtail.
Tacima 6 way mains conditioner.

Music:
A collection of high res & Redbook tracks that I use for demo purposes.
You can find the playlist here:-
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941

What’s in the box:
Burson Audio use no frills solid packaging. The DAC and accessories are all safely and securely shipped to you.
The accessories come in a separate box inside the main package.

Included accessories:
1x Premium RCA to RCA line cable.
1x Spare fuse.
4x Op-amps for Op-amp rolling.
1x Hex key to open the unit.
1x USB C to USB A cable.
1x Gaming headset adaptor.
1x Bluetooth antenna.
1x Extremely well made remote.

Build quality:
There are times when you can tell how well something is made within the first few moments.
This is one of those times.
The craftsmanship and finish is flawless with an exceptionally clean and modern design.
Almost every little detail I look for in a product at this price range is here.
Buttons have a solid sharp click with a short throw, the volume and selection knob is finely crafted with the knurling being a really nice touch. It’s an incremental volume knob, however the movement is smooth and the increments feel more akin to a tactile bump than a click.
The display is sharp and bright with info being displayed clearly.
RCA, quarter inch, 3.5mm and balanced terminals are all a good fit and the same applies to the USB C, coaxial and toslink inputs.
The body has a premium finish and the front IO is laid out well.
The rear panel is again, well laid out. However I think markers on the connections wouldn’t have been difficult to include so consumers know which terminal is which.
Burson Audio have made a high quality remote to go with the Conductor and it follows the main units style and simplicity.
All of the accessories have a premium feel and finish.
The Conductor 3X Performance is one of the more exquisite looking and feeling review samples I have had the pleasure of spending time with.

Setup:
Setting the Conductor up is relatively simple.
The bluetooth pairing is stable and the initial handshake is quick & easy, switch the Conductor over to the BT channel, select “BURSON BT” in your sources bluetooth menu and pair it.
Connecting to a Mac or Windows PC/Laptop is made through a USB type C cable which Burson supply, it’s straight forward and there is no need to install drivers or third party software on a Mac.
I have read up on the process of connecting a windows PC or laptop and apart from installing drivers it is again a straight forward activity.
Aside from this you will find toslink and coaxial inputs on the back panel for your choice of digital source.
The pairing of Macbook & Conductor over USB type C is flawlessly clean with zero noise or latency and the same can be said for toslink.
The Conductor can be used as a DAC*, Pre amplifier or headphone amp and at a touch of a button you can select which you would like to use using the volume knob then click on your choice.
Please note: *DAC selection disables the volume control providing a stable line out signal through the balanced or single ended outputs on the back panel.
On the back panel you will find the two 3 pole XLR balanced outputs and the unbalanced RCA output jacks.
Around the front you will see three outputs. One 4 pole XLR balanced headphone jack, one quarter inch stereo jack and a 3.5mm jack which is the gaming headset out/mic in.
I haven’t used this function yet as I am waiting on a few gaming headsets to review. Once they’re in I will update this review with my conclusions.
For those who like to tweak their electronics further Burson have made the Conductor 3X Performance Op amp rollable and supply 4 Op amps in the box. You can also purchase other Op amps on Burson Audios website.
There is also a selection of FIR filters in the menu which will make either a large or small difference, this is subjective as everyones hearing is different and one significant change to one person can be a mild difference to another.
Personally I found the FIR filters made a subtle change in what I could hear in the higher frequency range.
The best DAC/Pre/Headphone amp I’ve heard to date is Schiit Audios powerhouse, The Jotunheim. Paired with an Audioengine B1 Bluetooth/AptX receiver this has been my daily driver for the past few years.
The bluetooth connection from Audioengines B1 is good, however it is not comparable in any sense to the Conductor 3X Performance. The contrast between the two is stark. The B1 has a tendency to drop its signal now and again and I’ve never been overly excited by its sound quality. I’ve always felt it was letting the Jotunheim down. The Conductor will maintain its connection for 12 hours straight, probably far longer. And the sound… Well we’ll get to that soon.

Specification:

MeasurementPackage Content
Input impedance:39 KOhmsConductor 3X Ref.
Model # M180X
USB Cable
Frequency response:± 1 dB 0 – 58KhzRemote ControlOTG Adoptor
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 RatioSeparation
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

Menu options:
Input:
USB – PCM 32bit 786K / DSD512.
Toslink – PCM 24bit 192K.
Coaxial – PCM 24bit 192K.
Bluetooth – PCM 24bit 96K.

Output:
Headphone
Pre Out Pre Amp output with volume control.
DAC Out 2V RMS line-level no volume control.
Gain Level High* / Low High / Low.
FIR Filter Brickwall, CMFR, Reserved, AP Fast, MP Slow, MP Fast, LP Slow, LP Fast DPLL (DSD) DPLL Off / Low / Mid / High.
DPLL (PCM) DPLL Off / Low / Mid / High*.
DE-EMPHASIS On / Off* Only turn on if your source is a cassette tape player.
Restore Settings – YES / NO.

*Default settings marked with an *.

FIR Filters are part of the digital process built in the DAC chip. These filter settings only affect
high-frequency roll-offs.
For details on the various filter settings please refer to the official data sheet of the ESS9038.

Sound:
The soundstage is big. It is generously spacious with plenty of headroom and depth.
Live recordings weave a rich deep tapestry with superb definition & separation.
Studio recordings are focused and ultra accurate with surgical detail and clarity.
I am going back to albums I have heard many times before and I’m hearing sounds that haven’t been there before, a hand moving up a guitar neck, a musician in an orchestra shifting in their seat or an instrument playing a soft note in the background. The Conductor brings it all into play. Coupled with a very low noise floor Burson Audio have the final performance perfectly balanced.
As a DAC I have the Conductor paired with my Airpulse Audio A200 active monitors over a balanced connection. I have the tonal controls on the monitors zero’d in for a flat and neutral sound that will allow the Conductor to be heard to its fullest.

One detail that stands out with the Conductor is the bluetooth.
I cannot differentiate between a wired connection or bluetooth.
Burson have taken what is sometimes a subjectively ok signal and made it a phenomenal one.

Switching to Pre out mode does nothing to change the sound but now gives you control over volume output. As my monitors are active I found using the volume control on both a touch confusing, however I did notice how smooth the volume control was from the Conductor and how the volume doesn’t jump a mile on each bump of the volume wheel. In my case however I prefer to have the DAC mode enabled. At some point if I get hold of a power amp or some mono blocks I can then use the Pre out.

When switching to headphone output mode, the soundstage remains much the same.
Sonys MDR SA5000 headphones have always been well renowned for being a very unforgiving pair of headphones with a slightly rolled off bass and a tendency to “Name and shame” any or all poor recordings, yet there is a community of owners in the world who cherish these headphones like no other. I happen to be one of the lucky few to own a pair in mint condition and I love them in every way.
When paired with the Conductor 3X Performance they sing and are still my one pair of headphones that defy challenge. The two together are enough to induce tears of joy.
Over the years I have been looking for the “Perfect” DAC/Amp for the SA5Ks and I think I may have just found it in the Conductor 3X Performance.
Out of fairness I also tried my Sennheiser HD600s out on the Conductor and the experience was one of sonic depth and a hard hitting delivery. Unlike the SA5Ks the HD600s have a fatter bass and an all together warmer sound. The Conductor recognises these qualities and emphasises them.
Bass, mids and highs all come together in a perfect balance of a fast paced, exciting delivery that carries heft and accuracy in its low end. Middle frequencies that are airy and full of presence and definition. And a high frequency range that is super crisp, with a sense of immediacy and detail that hits you like fresh water in the face in the morning.

The Conductor 3X Performance then, in my conclusion is a DAC, a Pre amp and a headphone amplifier that awakens recordings and brings vitality and resolution to whatever you decide to listen to and in whatever way you chose to use it.

Its going to be hard letting go of this one!

Summary and recommendation:
The Conductor is a thing of beauty, It is energetic in its delivery and resolving with pinpoint accuracy.
Looks are modern yet subtle with a high premium finish.
There is no app for the Conductor 3X Performance and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I haven’t felt like something is missing when I’m listening to it, however I think a properly developed app could make the experience that much better with deeper control within the settings, remotely.
Would I recommend buying at this price? Absolutely. I actually thought it was worth more until I saw the catalogue.
The Conductor 3X Performance is worth every pound, euro, dollar or whatever your currency is. And more!
Most definitely a “LAVISH MUSICAL EXPERIENCE!”

Despite the lack of an app or a power toggle on the remote ( Burson! )
I am awarding Burson Audios Conductor 3X Performance The Audiophile Cafes 5 star Award.
It ticks all the boxes that matter most and has left me wanting more. MUCH MORE.

Thank you Charles and team at Burson Audio for allowing me to review this.

And thanks as always to you, my readers for your ongoing support.
Please remember to follow, subscribe and share as not only will you be kept up to date with new content but the blog will grow and stats will improve.

The Audiophile Cafe is partnered with Qobuz and I am happy to reveal that I can offer my readers one free month of subscription to Qobuz Studio Premier along with an album in high res.

Please click on the following link for more details.

https://try.qobuz.com/tqs_fr/?qbzs=society&qbzc=THE_AUDIOPHILE_CAFE&utm_source=society&utm_medium=partner_page&utm_campaign=THE_AUDIOPHILE_CAFE

Published by The Audiophile Cafe

40 something audiophile, writer, disabled carer, bookworm, gamer, parent, uncle... I love listening to great music on great gear.

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