Desk hopping and topping. The Burson slipped into the hole below the shelf which my usual COS Engineering H1 left. Like the departed, it connected to my work computer not directly. Go-between was an Audiobyte Hydra X+, a battery-powered USB bridge from Romania.

Its BNC forwards USB to a pair of Fram Midi 150 active speakers. Coax  supplies the headfi amp on duty. Now any toggling from headfi to speakerfi and back requires no changing of sound devices in Windows. USB keeps outputting to the Hydra either way.

Reclocking/filtering USB signal has obvious sonic benefits even with ambitious converters like our Denafrips Terminator in the big system. Likewise for the H1's Burr Brown DAC.

On my work desk, headphones of choice are Final's D8000 flagship planars with custom ALO Audio leash from Ken Ball. Their bassy soft personality of non-extreme detail and mellower treble (here Raal's SR1a and HifiMan's Susvara far exceed them) suits my compressed YouTube and Spotify searches for new music. It also suits the low volumes I use with full-resolution locally hosted files or my Qobuz and Tidal subscriptions.

If I cannot hear myself think, I cannot work effectively. In this place, SPL must stay sufficiently low to create the desired mood or ambient fill without causing attention deficit for the writing tasks at hand.

On subjective speed, resolution and tonal weight, the fully balanced COS with its dual XLR3 outputs belongs to the silver or platinum frequent flyers club. It's lit up, quick, very informative, tonally and texturally on the lighter airier side.

Conductor 3X instantly added pounds and heft to become a member of the copper or rose-gold club. Its gobs of gain soon spelled 'the nuclear option' on all resident headphones, Susvara included. Yet the low-gain option cleverly knocked this down to significantly raise the volume figure for standard loads, so meant far less digital attenuation.

High gain had the Final pound at 20 on the throttle. In low, equivalent SPL meant 60. This big shift in voltage gain proved eminently useful. It didn't sacrifice the vast majority of dainty loads on a blood-stained altar praying to a macho amplifier of brute force. Conductor 3X is that Humvee too; but only when set accordingly.

Being well familiar with Burson's house sound, my first and overriding impression was that their signature chunkiness and bottom-up perspective remained in place but other familiar elements had changed. When audiophiles talk of warmth, they often describe a side effect of bloat, fuzz and blur. As one injects heavier reverb into music, tone gets richer and warmer yet separation and focus suffer in lockstep. In that sense, warmth is a shadow of insufficient speed and clarity. Comfort sound is a good term for it. To my ears, Burson had always lived on that side of warmth. With Conductor 3X the attributes of density and bottom-up power stayed put but subjective speed was higher. If one insists on still calling the remainder warm, it would no longer be the shadow of insufficient speed and clarity.

Now warmth means tonal weightiness, image density and profound dynamic shove like the omnipresent power whereby, even whilst driving slow, a V8 engine communicates its size. At the same time, the aural qualities of high power were allied to superior speed to produce more resolution, clarity and separation. This was another type of warmth. It no longer ate into the qualities of detail magnification. From Burson's own descriptions, we'll point at their new switching power supplies as enablers of this racier aka quickened attitude; and likely their latest-gen discrete op-amps. It's quite the feat in a game where in general, adding tonal-fullness pounds steals from transparency and vice versa. Ghosts are ghosts because we see right through them. Being able to very clearly see row upon row of performers as individual layers demands a certain amount of transparency. Otherwise the front row effectively covers up anything behind it. That's how it works in the visual world.

In the sonic world, spot microphones cheat. They put separate 'eyes' on performers in the deeper layers which would otherwise be obscured or shadowed. Hence the visual ghost example doesn't quite hold. In audio, it's more the soft furry edges that interlink like velcro or transition in blurs like watercolors whereby discrete sounds homogenize into a solid wall of sound. We might say that obtaining the same solidity albeit broken up with clear spaces of emptiness between is one goal of upscale hifi components. In practice, it's often the case that when solidity, density and heaviness increase like virtual functions of blackness, the sense of individually defined sounds mapped clearly in surrounding space and separated by air (aspects of whiteness) decreases. More of one nearly invariably means less of the other. Compared to the leaner more lit-up airier H1 whose place it had taken, the Burson was clearly heavier, darker and more massive. Yet its gains outweighed the losses. 3X added fleshiness and bass heft whilst paying for it in less resolution coin than usual. That's why it was quite the feat. It's damn hard to pull off.

Having identified its core voicing, the Burson now made tracks into an upstairs system where it would contrast against Gold Note's 4-in-1 DS-10; drive HifiMan Susvara and Final Sonorous X ear speakers; and power amplifiers like Gold Note's PA-10, April Music's Stello S100MkII and our resident Bakoon AMP-13R with Acelec Model One speakers.