Headphone tests and musical review
Being an Australian device, it’s only fair that we’re going all-Aussie with our test music for the Conductor 3 review. Enjoy.
ÆON Flow (Open)
Up first, let’s try out the ÆON Flow (Open) with a bit of Pond – ‘Colder than Ice’. And ho-ly, this is some of the most uncannily good imaging I’ve heard on these cans. I’m able to place each of the vocal tracks and synth/samples into not only a left/right soundscape but a vertical one as well. The Burson also unleashes some killer bass extension and slam on the ÆONs – they’re a terrific match with the Conductor 3 (I’d love to hear what the new ÆON 2 Open is capable of on this!).
Next, we’ll move on to the 600-ohm Beyerdynamic T1’s which requires a jump in volume from ‘30’ to ‘45’ over the ÆONs. The Beyers can be a trifle bright, bordering on tough-going with harsh sources. ‘Borderline’ from Tame Impala sounds smooth as treacle in the treble department with the T1/Conductor 3 pairing. There’s a sense of sparkle and terrific extension, but it’s balanced out by a completely linear transition from the mid-range. The T1 also proves the Conductor 3 to have the most incredibly natural attack and decay – the way it dispatches the leading edge of notes – especially cymbals – sounds analogue, to put it in a word. I could put up with the T1’s all-day on the Conductor 3.
Plugging in the Grado PS500e immediately reveals the subtle noise-floor of the Conductor 3, but after dropping the volume to ‘26’ and playing some King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, it’s soon forgotten. ‘Polygondwanaland’ has a terrifically wide soundstage on the PS500e/Conductor 3 combo, which reveals micro-detail in the plucked acoustic guitars which sound hyper-transparent.
‘Ghosteen’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is an amazing vocal performance by Nick Cave, and it’s also just a bloody great song. Turning it right up to ‘46’, it sounds majestic when the Conductor 3 and Sennheiser HD600’s join forces, and give a sense of absolute immediacy and lifelike, forward vocal texture. It’s intimate, and ethereal.
If you want to hear an amazing Aussie female vocalist, you won’t hear much better than Nai Palm, lead singer of Hiatus Kaiyote. Switching over to the slightly cosier-sounding HD650’s, the Conductor 3 helps to extract a silky-smooth rendition of ‘Fingerprints’, managing a linear transition from mid-bass to mid-range while Nai sounds like she’s standing in front of you in a small lounge room.
And lastly, for something completely different, let’s test out bass texture and slam with Sampa The Great’s ‘OMG’. The ZMF Eikon likes to keep the volume pot at ‘46’, and the Eikon also loves sub-bass – this track is an absolute treat on the Conductor 3 with genuinely felt rumble in the lowest octave, but also maintaining tautness and speed. The Eikon and Conductor 3 are the perfect pairing of neutral-meets-slightly-warm, and delivers buckets of detail without ever, ever getting fatiguing.
Ok, one last track: ‘Shot Down in Flames’ from AC/DC’s best album, ‘Highway to Hell’ (and if you didn’t know AC/DC was Australian, then you ought to be ashamed of yourself). I’ve decided to go back to the T1’s for this tasty rock treat, as overall they’re my favourite pairing with the Conductor 3. The Conductor 3 unleashes the raw energy and dynamic punch that the T1’s are capable of delivering but does so with absolute finesse and control. Nice.
Check out our conclusions and final verdict on XYZ over at page 5