Hello to all music lovers.
Burson Audio team was nice and sent me a new module (DAC card) for Conductor, identical with that which was implemented in newest Conductor SL1793.
I have at my disposition now two modules, the stock one based on ESS 9018 DAC chip and the new module based on the classic but still outstanding Ti BB 1793 (that can be found in HA-160D, DA-160).
Considering that both were used in the same Conductor, it was a bit difficult to compare them. So I took a sheet of paper and started to take notes how I feel stock module sounds compared to newest one.
I listened especially using Sennheiser HD800 headphones due to its revealing nature , and on tests of speed and dynamics I used Audeze LCD-3. For reliability of results someone helped me with blind tests, I didn’t change the modules, this way I was only focused on writing and musical delight.
Let’s get to it:
From now on I will mark with (1) newest SL 1793 module and with (2) stock ESS 9018 module.
In the first instance jumped to me the volume of the stock module, that is louder, it has more dBs. I assume that the stock module has around 2.2V output and the new one around 2.0 V output. Stock one sounds clearly louder, that automatically can make you think that is more dynamic, but it can be other way, let’s see…
Stock module in fact sounded more dynamic and has a stronger kick. On Vivaldi – Presto of Chesky Records, module 2 reached such a speed and excellent dynamics that I got carried away, I was directing happy in my subconscious. By comparison, module 1 sounded a little bit diffuse and slower, in the same time I felt like fewer information is carried to the listener.
Module 1 also sounded more liquid and more pleasing to the ear, I can say even a little bit more musical, it didn’t sound offensive at all, being very easy to listen to. It the module that you just put inside and you forgot about it listening to music. This one also has a more natural tone and a slightly deeper bass, but not as outlined or fast as in the case of module 2.
Module 2 instead had a better stereo image and a better delimitation of instruments, a more contoured detail retrieval – I had the impression that just more information is extracted from favorite tunes, also bass was more precise, having a better kick and a slower decay of notes.
The soundstage was approximative the same in both variants, slightly louder volume of stock module made me think it has a narrower stage, but once the volume was equaled, the size of the stage was about the same with newer module. On crowded tunes I slightly preferred the stock one, sorting the instruments a little better on dynamic passages.
Module 2 also had a better contour of instruments, while newest module sounded softer and maybe a little bit more mainstream. Stock module has a more modern sound, like a sports car, while new module has a more relaxed sound, I would compare it with a luxurious car.
Mid frequencies sounded more real and better on SL1793. Voices and string instruments sounded more natural and had a somewhat longer vibration. Tone was real and I finally realised that I like voices more on SL1793.
High frequencies sounded thrown to the second level, hights sounded also more liquid and easier on the ear than the stock module. Stock had more detailed hights but also sharper and a bit aggressive. As a whole stock module sounds more neutral – slightly on the warm side, while the new module has a warmer sound and not as neutral or liniar. SL1793 reminds me a lot of the sound of HA-160D and DA-160 that were based on the same DAC chip.
Background is slightly blacker on module 2, the newest module has a slightly foggier background. On module 1 is easier to just relax and listen to music without focusing yourself or analysing the music – I would assign a vintage sound to this module.
Although I do not own HA-160D anymore, from memories I can say that SL 1793 sounds better that how HA-160D was, smaller number of components of this module being a possible explanation for an overall better and more complete sound. I think that module SL 1793 from Conductor SL1793 would be a clear upgrade even from HA-160D.
Both modules has pluses and minuses, personally I have opted for ESS 9018.
Smoother and softer sound, more natural tone and very easy on the ear character are some very strong pluses, that are obvious from stock module. Who thinks Conductor in stock form has a slightly digital sounds to it, I recommend the SL 1793 module. Who doesn’t own a Conductor, but wants a richer tonality then I think Conductor SL1793 would be a good choice.
Pros for stock module (ESS 9018):
– Better dynamics, faster kick
– Stronger output, louder
– More detailed, more information reaches to listener
– Good stereo image, more contoured sound
– Better byte of the instruments
– As a whole a more liniar sound
Pro for newest module (SL 1793):
– Smoother sound, softer and easier to the ear
– More musical, less digital
– Weightier and natural tone
– Warmer mids, non-aggressive hights
– Deeper bass
– As a whole a warmer/darker sound