As it is for any quality piece of audio equipment a little time for trial and testing to find the Goldilocks combination for the Conductor Headphone amp USB/DAC was necessary and I believe we’re nearly there now. Break-in time was not bad, about a month and the Conductor was stable and clear to where outside improvements could be heard and assessed.
Clean power is the bedrock to start building from. It is fundamental to making any audio equipment perform. You cannot have a spectacular garden if it is cluttered with weeds. After trying out several brands, the competition winnowed down to the Shunyata Digital series and Oyaide’s Black mamba Sigma. If you have lots of money, go Shunyata, otherwise stick with the Black mamba Sigma. Both provide increased black level and soundstage.
From my music server to the Conductor’s USB port the candidate’s quickly emerged to be WireWorld’s Starlight series (I’m using the Platinum 7) but the Silver Starlight 7 is close. These are quiet transparent cables. Behind them was AudioQuests Coffee and Carbon. Between these candidates, it boils down to pure human preference. All of them provided a jitter-free nearly invisible connection from source.
Using a CD player I went with my old standby Meridian 508, these things are tanks. It is placed in my setup to feed digital information to the Conductor’s digital coax input. My pick, hands down was the Kimber D-60 no other digital cable came close. I like to compare a CD to its digital cousins, here the Conductor really shines, and there were instances where the CD won out and other cases where the Hi-Resolution counterpart takes the prize. It was not clear-cut one way or the other.
I tossed my Exemplar Audio modded Oppo T105 in for comparison. This player usually sits within my main room setup but I wanted to find out if it made a difference. As an analogue input yes, digitally no, why waste the Conductor’s Headphone amp USB/DAC design if you are going use it only as a headphone amp. Cables used: Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference.
Between the two sets of DAC’s I felt the T105 was in the lead for imaging and soundstage. Here is one of those places where price difference did not provide a commensurate return in sound
I needed to produce a custom multi-alloy cable to achieve the correct sonic balance for the Audeze LCD-3. Their stock cable was much too dark and unrevealing. Silver only cables came out too bright, having a lack of fullness. My philosophy with cables solid conductors, isolation and fast energy drainage. Long story – short, a lot of Kapton within an outer cotton sleeve. If you want to know particulars simply ask, otherwise I will not bother you further with this process.
My preference is the Conductor in combination with the LCD-3 to the Sennheiser HD800. Presently I’m waiting on an opportunity to audition the Hifiman HE-1000 headphones for more comparison. I’m very pleased with the open deep soundstage, revealing performance details the Conductor / LCD-3 provides. The sound is not fatiguing as I have encountered with Amp’s from your competition. The Conductor runs very cool and quiet; it acts as it should a wire with gain (amplification).