My review Burson SL 9018/1793 - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 2 Old 01-08-14, 09:21 PM Thread Starter
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My review Burson SL 9018/1793

Several months ago Burson asked regular audiophiles to evaluate the Burson Conductor SL with the saber 9018 chip along with the 1793 chip. Both chips are interchangeable so one could buy the Conductor SL with the PMC 1793 chip and later upgrade to the saber 9018 chip for $300 more.

Equipment used for evaluation included an HP DV7 computer using Media Monkey with a Seagate 2TB hard drive. First a Nuforce USB cable was used followed by a Chord. I know some people care about cables and others donít. The Burson came without a power cord so I selected a regular 11 gauge cord with a Ferrite Core wrapped around it. Other equipment and cords: Bryston BNC to RCA so a Bryston BDP-1 could be used as a server. During the trial MIT reference coaxial cable was used from a Bryston BDC-1 cd player to the Burson Conductor SL coaxial input. I compared the Burson with the 1793 chip and the 9018 chip to each other along with the Bryston CD player. The Bryston BDP-1 server was used and for comparison purposes with the Burson SL and the Bryston BDA-2 DAC which uses the same Saber 9018 chip. The Bryston MAX was the BDP-1 computer web-browser interface. The Bryston BHA-1 headphone amp was used in a direct comparison between Burson and the Bryston with an old radio shack sound meter was used to try and match volume between both headphone amps. Other cables used were Morrow reference 6 balanced cables and for the connection between the Bryston BDP-1 and BDA-2 DAC was Morrow AES DIG 4. Headphones used were Burson supplied Audeze LCD-3, my Sennhieser HD800, HD650 and HiFiman HD-500. All electronics were plugged into a Bryston bit-20 power conditioner. One single male RCA plug was used to switch between headphone amps.

I first listened to the Audeze LCD-3 through the Bryston BHA. I wanted to get a feel for the sound from the headphones. I then listened to the Burson SL 9018 being fed from my computer using the Nuforce cable. The Burson lacked the bass control of the Bryston and the music sounded as if it had a veil over it. I then switched DACís 1793 and observed a similar effect. The sound was better than my Nuforce DAC headphone amp but nowhere near the sound of the Bryston BHA, BDP, and BDA-2. The Chord cable seemed to improve the sound.

Next I hooked up my Bryston CD player with the coaxial out going to the Burson SL 1793 coaxial in. The Bryston BHA was receiving a balanced signal from the Bryston CD player. I then attempted to match the volume of the Burson SL to the Bryston BHA-1. This was more like it, the sound was much clearer and more relaxed. I had a hard time telling the difference between the Burson SL 1793 receiving the coaxial signal and the Bryston BHA receiving the balanced signal. I then switched the DACís in the Burson, now I was listening to the Saber 9018 chip. Wow, to me there was a big difference. With the Burson the music was spot on. The bass became tighter and more extended while the mid-range along with the highs seemed clearer and less colored with more focus. Some people might prefer the Burson 1793 or Bryston CD sound compared to the Saber 9018 chip. I like my music to be spot on, Iím listening for every little nuance. The Burson 1793 and Bryston BCD gives you a chance to relax and listen on a grander scale which many people will appreciate. One thing that I found interesting on poorly recorded music the Sennhieser HD800/Burson had no problem with hot recordings where the SennhieserHD800 /Bryston didnít want anything to do with them as the treble was not listenable.

Ahhh, the Bryston BDP-1 to me just brings downloaded Flac recordings to another level. The Burson SL 9018 was hooked up from the BNC output of the Bryston BDP-1 to the coaxial input of the Burson. The Bryston BHA-1 headphone amp was hooked up balanced from the BDP-1/BDA-2 DAC. An AES connection was used for the Bryston BDP/BDA. Musically I feel itís a tossup between the Burson 9018 and the Bryston BHA, BDP, and BDA-2. Whatís your pleasure? The Bryston wins where you would expect it to. Bass is outstanding and is always in control. The Bryston doesnít let the bass get muddy or overwhelm the listener. The Bryston BHA also seems to have more power. No, I didnít compare the specs but you could always move up the Burson line for more power. The Burson is no slouch in the bass area, itís just not a Bryston. The highs of the Burson SL 9018 just have an air about them. The cymbals sound like cymbals there is no, fizz, tizz, (is that a word?) when cymbals, triangles and tambourine are struck the music just flows with no abrupt ending to the music/sound. I observed a slight difference in the highs of the Bryston as they seemed slightly muddied when compared to the Burson. The treble was just easier to hear with the Burson SL 9018.

Voicing seems very comparable and Iím not sure if either headphone amp has an edge. My son likes the jam band Umpheryís McGee and I have several of their live recordings Flac-HD. At some of these concerts they let fans rent Sennhieser HD650 and hear the feed going to the sound board. This is a band invested in sound quality. I had my son listen to the Burson and Bryston using the Sennhieser HD650 and he liked the Burson better for voicing and also for picking out subtleties. One thing we did notice with the Sennhieser HD800 is the Bryston sounded slightly better running all balanced. We could not compare the Burson to the Bryston as the Burson is single ended.
An analogy of the equipment, if I were at a concert the Bryston would put me in the front row head banging where as the Burson SL 9018 would have me center about 2/3 of the way back enjoying the music. The Burson SL 1793 along with the Bryston CD player would have me sitting home listening to the same concert.
The Bryston BHA-1 headphone amp is about $1300, the BDP-1 $2000 and the BDA-2 $2200. Do the math: the Burson SL 9018 is $1550, while the comparable Bryston equipment is $3500. If you need a headphone amp DAC the Burson SL 9018 is a no-brainer, however a server will only bring out the best in the Burson. The Bryston does offer more flexibility, albeit at a premium. I wish Burson would make a balanced DAC with DSD in the near future for all us audiophiles running balanced equipment.

In conclusion I donít think you could go wrong with the Burson SL 9018. For $1550 you get one great headphone amp/DAC.

One special note I unexpectedly had knee surgery and I was able to set up the Burson SL 9018 next to the bed. I listened to music played just from my computer boy did it sound great using the Burson SL 9018, Audeze LCD-3. Iím going to hate to send this on to the next person seeing how I have another 5 weeks in bed hooked up to a CPM machine.
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post #2 of 2 Old 01-15-14, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Bjski's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Milltown,NJ
Posts: 237
My System
I purchased the Audeze LCD-3. Big bucks but they are now my go to phone. My Sennhieser HD800 are for my perfect recordings. I'll probably sell my HiFiman HE-500.
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