Burson Conductor 3XP Review

Burson Conductor 3XP

Sound

 

 

After the HA-160D, I’ve had the pleasure to listen to many amplifiers over the years but none of them had the same signature as that (incredibly good) old Burson. I’m pretty sure many are still using that amp, and rightfully so. When I hooked up the 3XP in the main office and started listening to it, I immediately was reminded of that HA-160D.

Where some amplifiers highlight specific frequencies or excel in sound stage or detail retrieval, Burson’s goal with the 3XP is to give you “everything” the recording has to offer, not influencing anything.

Some DAC/Amps claim to give you the front row experience in exchange for less sound stage. Others promise a 3D sound stage in trade for fewer details. The Conductor simply gives you everything in the recording, without sugar-coating, the good and sometimes the ugly. You can locate a tapping foot on the stage while enjoying that lingering vibration of air after a keystroke.

General

The Conductor 3XP sounds natural and clear and it has a perfectly black, noiseless background. From bass to treble the 3XP sounds full (bodied), realistic and energetic. From top to bottom there is excellent detail retrieval and the resolution is impressive over all frequencies. I have a feeling it’s even better on the Reference 3X, but it’s already very good here.

The 3XP offers a wide and deep sound stage with an airy and spacious, realistic presentation. The 3XP never sounds unnatural but if you feed it with bad quality files/recording, you will hear it. The 3XP’s delivery is musical and smoothly warm. I wouldn’t call the 3XP a warm amplifier though, it simply isn’t. It just has excellent timbre and you can just feel the emotions in the music (try Billie Eilish’s “When the party is over” track and be amazed).

The Conductor 3XP’s sound stage both in width and depth is really good and you get an airy and spacious presentation but never overly done.

The 3XP also offer several different advanced audio settings/filters and I actually switch between these a lot depending on the headphone in use.

Burson Conductor 3XP

Burson Conductor 3XP

Classics

Bass has the perfect mix of quality and quantity. Bass can go really low when needed and it has excellent sub bass rumble (of course this is also depending on the headphone used). Bass is powerful and always has good impact and comes delivered with a nice punch. At the same time I never felt like the 3XP’s bass was too much. It’s musical, engaging and foot tapping. Maybe the layering and resolution could be a notch better but I at the same time don’t really feel I’m missing out on things, so I have any complaints here.

The mids section connects perfectly to the bass section, with the same fullness and musicality. The timbre is excellent and the extension impressive though I again think the Reference model does it even better. The separation, spaciousness, layering/depth and airiness are good but it’s especially the mid timbre and the emotion they exhale which are impressive here.

The treble section is energetic and lively but it’s never too much, too sharp or harsh. It contrasts the fullness of the bass and mids perfectly, and it mixes it up with good extension and excellent resolution. It’s not the most prolific kind of treble, but that wouldn’t sit right with the rest of the tuning. Treble here is natural yet lively and exciting.

All-in-all the 3XP offers a nice balance and linear presentation, with a gorgeous combination of technicalities and musicality. It’s something I always appreciate with the Burson gear, it’s like your music is the most important but with a sharp eye on technicalities at all time.

Headphones 10 + 1

As you might have seen in the specs the 3XP delivers 6W per channel in balanced mode and 3W per channel in single ended mode. You can also use multiple headphones at the same time, the Conductor 3XP won’t blink and powers them all at the same time without any issues.

Burson Conductor 3XP

Burson Conductor 3XP

We’ve already established the 3XP’s performance is at a high level, so the goal in this section is to throw 10 flagship/reference headphones at it to see how they combine. It’s a mix of dynamic, planar magnetic and AMT technology, with high and low impedances.

1. The Hifiman HE6SE

The volume level will go up to get to your usual listening volume (especially in SE mode) but the 3XP has no issues driving the HE6, even in low gain, in balanced or in Single ended mode. I actually prefer the low gain as it sounds more natural and less aggressive. The HE6SE to me sounds best in balanced mode where it with the 3XP sounds fuller with a higher resolution and more spaciousness and extension. The mid timbre and the bass depth/layering in balanced mode are extremely impressive.

The HE6SE is a great headphone when you love a more neutral tuning with high level technicalities, but it isn’t the easiest headphone for amplifiers to have great synergy with. This Burson kills it though.

2. The Audeze LCD-MX4

The MX4 is one of Audeze’s reference studio headphones. While it’s easy to drive I do find the choice of amplification crucial with this headphone in order for it to sound at its very best.

What strikes you first with this combo in balanced mode is how impressive the resolution, extension and spaciousness are. The sound stage width and depth is huge and the layering exemplary. For me this still is one of the best Audeze’s in this regard and the 3XP shows its full potential. Bass when needed goes extremely low and shows a lot of rumble in the very lowest regions. The mids are spacious with gorgeous timbre and excellent vocals. The treble section is extended and detailed but never harsh.

In single ended mode you lose a bit of the fulness of the balanced output and the vocals because of that will show up more to the front. The depth, spaciousness and extension are not as impressive as compared to the balanced output, so for me the way to listen to the MX4 with the 3XP is in balanced mode. Do that and you’ll have a top performing setup, even one that will excel in a studio.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

7 Comments

  • Reply June 10, 2020

    Mike I

    Very nice review, Lieven, especially the comparison between all those excellent headphones.
    I’m glad to read that you will do the same comparison with the Topping DX7 Pro. It would be very nice to do this again in the future in the Headfonia reviews of desktop amps and DAC-amps !

    • Reply June 10, 2020

      Lieven

      Thank you!
      I can’t promise I can or will cover them all, but some fir sure will be mentionned in the test report.

  • Reply July 8, 2020

    Alfred

    Love the review. Will this be a huge jump from my ifi micro iDSD ( non- Black Label)? I’m deciding between the 3XP and McIntosh D100. No DSD.

    • Reply July 8, 2020

      Lieven

      The Mc and Burson will be quite the upgrade, but also a different sound signature. Where iFi is more digital sounding, these sound more analogue to me.

  • Reply July 14, 2020

    Radosław

    Thank you for the reviews. Is Zmf a good connection to Burson? Thank you

    • Reply July 14, 2020

      Lieven

      I don’t have any ZMF here to test with, but Burson in general is really great for Planar magnetic headphones (as well as with Dynamic drivers). SO I would not worry

  • Reply July 17, 2020

    sgcoolguy

    Great review as always. If I have HD800S, you suggest this or the Xduoo TA30 that was just reviewed?

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