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Conductor V2 USB Soundcard, 8Watt Head Amp, Preamp - Indiegogo Campaign

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Okay so I can do a quick and dirty comparison and overview of my impressions so far of the V2+ - it's still burning in but at this stage has been running for around 25 hours.

 

However......early impressions - very very positive. Highlights - Classical music is just STUNNING through my T90's - same goes for well recorded Jazz, Acoustic guitar, Piano. The T90 are are ruthless pair of headphones - think almost HD800 fussiness regarding source hence they get passed over too often and are a bargain if you can get a second hand pair (or even new)- in fact I would go as far to say that the T90 with the V2+ is amongst the best I have heard classical music through headphones - that's compared to the WA6SE with good NOS tubes with Metrum Hex and HD800/HE500, Metrum Hex with Metrum Aurix/HD800/HD600 and Hex with Class A speaker amp and HE-6.........They all have their high points/strengths but for me the totally black background/wide airy soundstage and instrument separation and placement is exceptional with the T90/V2+ combination - there is a fantastic sense of being there with the orchestra. Considering the v2+ is the cheapest of all of the headphone amp/dac combinations I have owned so far I would say that it is giving nothing away in terms of build quality/refinement or anything else - just a different flavour of high end.

 

It also matches extremely well with my HD600 headphones - I think these are sounding the best out of any other amp combination I have tried them with - warm, engaging and detailed are words that come to mind- Great match for well mastered folk/rock music - where the T90 start to sound too strident the HD600 take over very nicely.

 

One thing to note is the detail and control extends to very low listening levels indeed - the hallmark of a very good preamp section - It's similar in this aspect to my ME25 preamp/Symphonia Opus 8 - absolutely perfect for late night very low listening levels.

 

I have the ESS9018 version and this can be a bit challenging when listening to badly mastered music (no surprises there) - I would say that the V2+ with a pair of oppo pm3 or similar Planar Magnetic phones for this genre (okay so badly mastered music is not a genre, but you know what I mean!) would be ideal - I have a portable ESS9018 based HA-2 which is pretty much a perfect match to the PM-3 (was designed for them) for this genre and I have no reason to think the V2+ with PM3 wouldn't display a lot more of the same goodness.....

 

The amp section is to all intents and purposes transparent - my HM802 line out into the V2+ sounds the same as with the IEM card - more impact in the bass but the same sonic signature, which in itself if very pleasing because the HM802 DAP is probably my favourite of all portable Daps so far....Amp section (as is the whole unit) is totally silent, no hiss/hum or otherwise.

 

Volume control is exceptional - virtually no transition between volume steps. Build quality is first class, Zero hum from the transformers.

 

There is no 1 amplifier/dac/headphone combination that is ideal for all genres of music from my experience, but the value proposition with the Conductor Virtuoso V2+ is astonishing for the asking price - the bonus here is that it will power any headphone on the market. If the V2+ could be adapted to have a cartridge load DAC section then I think I would be in Head-fi heaven :-) (any takers Burson :-))

Edited by Beyer guy

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Addition to this - all music through Audirvana, combination of music from 320kbs mp3 to 192/24 Flac. As with my previous experience with the XMOS chipset/OSX it is a seamless transparent solution. 

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Brilliant read Greg!

Very exciting stuff.

Did you do a direct comparison with the Hex - DAC V DAC?

Anticipation builds! :-)

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....

Edited by Beyer guy

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I can't use the V2+ Dac out on its own as I currently have no preamp/amp combination that will work in this way - in the process of a move......bad timing in that way...

 

I would say however that from plugging in my HM802S and also AK JR that the headphone amp section is essentially transparent as previously mentioned. If I added a preamp/second headphone amp I'm only going to introduce another factor into the equation....

 

I have listened to this a great many hours over the past 2 days and one adjustment that I have needed to make is in general listening levels. The Metrum Hex with either the WA6SE or Aurix allowed for fairly high listening levels - its a very laid back combination - probably not all that good for your hearing long term however. The V2+ ESS9018 with the T90 do not allow for this at all unless the material is very well mastered - it's a more forward combination but the payback is far more listening detail/pleasure at low/sane levels.

 

A summary would be

 

V2+ ESS9018 => Plusses- Exceptional Detail, great sound stage, great instrument separation, great at low listening levels, brings out the best in well mastered music, totally black background (many times I thought the track was not playing/had stopped). DAC itself is highly resolving - no fat here just the raw detail - no need to worry about the source/amp just choose the right headphone and it will reward you. It's also warmish - its not a clinical sounding combination at all.

 

 

                       => Minuses- Not that forgiving of some pop tracks especially where vocals are artificially boosted.

 

 

Metrum HEX with WA6SE => Plusses- Very good detail, Analogue warmish sound, More forgiving of badly mastered music, feel like you are listening a few seats further back in the performance, NOS nature means that it's strengths are more apparent with HD music (conversely it doesn't sound as good with standard redbook or lower)

 

                      => Minuses- Not as strong at low listening levels - loses definition, Higher noise floor of WA6SE means micro details are lost, Slight hum of WA6SE means that this can intrude into the music late at night (both the HUM of the rectifier/slight hum through the headphones)--> No one valve combination works well with all headphones. Metrum HEX is great with many genres, not as forward sounding but this means that ultimate enjoyment is lesser for genres like Classical where detail and frequency are all important (a lot of classical music energy is above normal hearing levels - I don't think the Metrum did this as well as the ESS9018 in the V2+

 

My only other additions are that 

 

1. It's not fully burnt in (probably 35 hours now) - Experience has demonstrated that there are marginal changes over time.

2. I'm VERY sensitive to anything that it not completely perfect - I can still hear frequencies up to around 19khz.

3. While typing this I've been listening to some 'pop' music at fairly low levels (Halo Effect) on my T90 headphones and it's a totally relaxing experience but not in a warm/fuzzy lacking resolution way - the detail is there but not to the extent that it's impossible to stop actively listening to the music - it's very hard to get out of 'analysis' mode sometimes and just listen for pleasure....

Edited by Beyer guy

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I'm not a head-fi guy, so have long felt I'm missing out on what most consider to be the Conductor's forte.

I've very much enjoyed it as a DAC+pre, though. Music is sounding awfully good right now... I wonder improvements your V1+ and the new V2+ bring.... Nice to see great gear like this being sold at such reasonable prices.

 

Just saw reference back to your previous post - I would say the improvements would be substantial regarding the PRE - the new volume control is sensational - I found the old conductor stepped volume control frustrating when I tried it, the new implementation and the lack of a gain switch works very well. The Pre out is very good - my brief test with the Timekeeper Virtuoso Amp show it to be a very capable preamp. Same observations apply really - it's got great detail and control at low volume levels which is where normally lesser preamps seem to fail. I would also say that the V5 opamps in my Minimax made a massive difference and since the V2+ uses the same circuit then it should be reflected in the preamp out quality. 

 

Hope this helps!

Edited by Beyer guy

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Thanks Greg for some great insights into your experience :-)

Interesting to read your comments on the Hex. Sounds like the Hex may still hold sway in the musicality/analogue department? I've read that Metrum's aren't necessarily the best for classical. My brief listening to a system featuring a Pavane sounded weakest on some classical material (but wouldn't read too much into that - as it may not have been a stellar recording - and did sound good with some electro-orchestral stuff).

Thanks for your thoughts on the low-listening levels. That is key. As my bachelor-pad days are numbered, I'll be doing more listening at lower levels. (Thankfully, she likes much of my music... although still needs more time with jazz... and Mahler...)

Good tip on the T90s. I may well need some headphones for an extended trip overseas...

Seems like you're more enamoured with the head-fi experience compared to what you're getting through your speakers. With the Timekeeper Virtuoso?

I'd be keen to get your thoughts on the Timekeeper too... If you care to humour me :-)

Enjoy the burn in process!

Hopefully, those lesser recordings become a little more enjoyable over time :-)

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Hmmm - musicality is a hard one and not exactly clear cut - for certain genres no doubt the HEX is more musical but in other ways not so - the DAC is only one part of the chain after all.

 

The V2+ is stunning and musical with well mastered tracks - no question because it is revealing the true recording/nature of the track more so. When I listen to tracks I am very familiar with (have been listening to for 25+ years) over the V2+ as either digital recordings of the original Vinyl (if you are familiar with PBTHAL and DR Robert - underground recorders of pristine vinyl with high end rigs) or as genuine transfers/remasters onto HD Flac or SACD then the the V2+ faithfully portrays to me the original sound and feeling of the album extremely well. The reason I like the Metrum is that it can take a fairly bad CD version of the original Vinyl and give a very good reproduction of the Vinyl traits without the glaring flaws of the CD played though many of the DACs of the last few years - hence it does sound more analogue. But take a very good recording of the original Vinyl or a great modern digital recording then for the same reason I think the Metrum then loses out on the absolute resolution of the V2+ - hence I think why the HEX does not sound so good with Classical.

 

I have not really been able to do justice to trying the Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso - unfortunately I ran out of time waiting for both to arrive and had to sell my main speakers (the Usher Mini Dancer 2) which is frustrating to say the least. I have tried it on some Q acoustic 2020i speakers.......kind of a strange match - all I can say it the imaging on these very cheap speakers is extremely good with the timekeeper - but since they have zero going on below 65HZ it would be unfair to start assessing the merits of the amp based on this.

 

The T90 are a good pair of headphones. I owned the HD800 for some time (nearly 2 years) and in many ways I prefer the T90 - they have a lot of energy in the treble but not as in your face as the HD800 were, they are slightly darker, more involving than the HD800, slightly more recessed in the mids - crudely put they have more personality, depth to them - It was hard to relax with the HD800 they demanded that you listen - the T90 although highly detailed do let you relax a bit more and do actually sound pretty decent out of a portable source. I guess if you crossed the HD650 with the HD800 these would probably be the bastard child?? - Actually they are quite similar to the HD600 in broad terms, just with a deeper sound stage, slightly more recessed mids and slightly more treble energy - just a lot more absolute resolving power especially at low volume.

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So thought I would update a few things with the V2+/T90 combination.

 

It's been playing for another 12 hours + at reasonably loud levels. Today there are noticeable improvements - very very very good improvements indeed. The whole sound has opened up - considerably. Everything is sounding looser (in a good way), more dynamic and also the treble has stepped back a notch. I can't attribute it to either the V2+ or the T90 or a bit of both as both items are relatively new (T90 was bought S/H but with only 5 hours on the clock). I know from some reading that the T90 takes a long time to bed in - both due to the clamping force being pretty gentle, and also the driver itself. Either way it seems like the extra hours have done the trick.

 

None of the issues with tracks I have listened to previously - I can also quite happily crank up the volume on any of the earlier offenders - nothing there to detract/discordant at all.

 

Stunning would be an apt description at this stage - a truly magical piece of equipment - can I say it any stronger than that? :-) - Just give it plenty of time (I would say 50 hours plus would be a good start to bed in 

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