Michael Wright, The StereoTimes (01/2010) Most Wanted Component 2009: "...hot on the... View
Having owned a wide range of hi-end preamplifiers over many years, I recently purchased the very latest version (2017) of Audio-valve Conductor preamplifier to alternate with my Tidal Preos. I have not made this decision because I am unhappy with the Tidal, but I wanted to add a high quality valve preamplifier into the mix of my system, to replace my Audio Research Reference 5 SE, which was very good, but there were a few compatibility issues.
The focus of this review, however, is not to offer a head to head comparative evaluation of different preamplifiers, but rather to share my initial impressions of the Conductor (at 50 hours burn in) within the context of my system.
Design and Construction
The Conductor is different in concept, appearance and execution from other preamplifiers I have owned. It is beautifully constructed from sheet steel and polycarbonate to minimise EMI and RFI, with a large see through central front window that provides a clear view of the high quality components on its superbly engineered circuit boards. It has a very well thought out boot up software program that is easy to understand and intriging to observe in action. IMHO the more uniform lines of the 2017 version of Conductor are more aesthetically pleasing than before.
The controls of Conductor are silky smooth, yet robustly engineered, conveying reassuring confidence that they will last a very long time. It is endowed with distinctive personality, individuality and class, which I find refreshingly appealing. The head unit is linked to a substantial external linear power supply with its anode potential alone being nearly 10,000µF/400VDC and 100,000µF for the heater section.
The Conductor is spookily quiet with a very black background. It is dynamic with an organic texture that is very musically satisfying. It is punchy and explosive, yet delicate with accurate timbre in accordance with the demands of all genres of music. It conveys how good or bad a recording really is without rendering any piece of music unlistenable.
As I listen to a lot of jazz and opera with female vocals, I place musicality and emotion very high on my list of sonic priorities. However, I also love a high level of detail retrieval and resolution, but not at a cost of losing the heart and soul of music.
The Conductor is incredibly transparent, without the slightest hint of glare or edge. It delivers its magic consistently with lots of emotion and sensuous involvement. Sound stage depth, breadth and the ability to place instruments in their correct position within the stage…. with top to bottom dynamics and engaging tonality are among the best I’ve heard.
When consideration is given to the Conductor's exceptional value for money, evolutionary upgradability and longevity (the basic design concept of Conductor has undergone progressive development and refinement throughout the past 10 years), it will be very difficult to find a preamplifier that performs with such holistic brilliance at anywhere near its price. It’s really that good across the board.
The Conductor just sounds real, natural and effortless with spectacular refinement, coherence and cohesion... nothing seems exaggerated or diminished. Bravo to Mr Helmut Becker and his Team…Your latest version of Conductor is an amazing achievement. ---
StereoTimes Most Wanted Component 2009
Michael Wright, The StereoTimes (01/2010):
"...hot on the heels of last year’s biggest surprise, the Audio Valve Eklipse, comes their new flagship preamplifier, the Conductor. To state it simply, the Conductor performs on another level from most preamplifiers that I have heard in my system. It's a vacuum tube preamplifier that is detailed, fast, dynamic, and possesses bass power with extension and impact. The Conductor elevated the performance of every component I hooked up to it. Eklipse owners beware: The Conductor is not just a better version of the Eklipse, but instead, is a totally different animal that provides a higher level of the music enjoyment experience..."
Michael Wright, The StereoTimes (06/2010) concluded:
"...the Conductor was extremely well behaved during its time residing in my system. There were no pops, hums, nothing micro-phonic, no tube noise, and no transient thumps when I turned it or anything else in my listening room on or off....The Conductor made listening to music pure joy in my system. It has an uncanny ability to musically retrieve all of the information that's loaded inside of your music media and make you feel that you're at the recorded event. Because of those areas of performance I value that tube preamps provide, I felt that the Conductor outperformed my Klyne in most aspects of music that I tend to judge music by, though the Klyne wasn't far off. Those virtues that tubes bring to the table caused me to feel I would give the edge to the Conductor. I also had access to an Audio Valve Eclipse, with NOS RCA “Clear Tops”, during the time I spent reviewing the Conductor. The Conductor is in a different class from the Eklipse, and it should at $7-8K more in cost. They are two entirely different preamps that have different topologies, different power supplies, different parts, and use different tubes. In my opinion, there are no tubes on the planet that you can put into the Eklipse that will allow it to perform as well as the Conductor. There is a reason why the Conductor costs more than the Eklipse and if you have the opportunity to compare the two, you'll hear the sonic increases that I'm talking about. The Conductor compares favorably with the likes of preamps from Audio Research, Atma-Sphere and Convergent Audio based on what I have heard of these other fine preamps in other systems. I never felt the urge to try and change the tubes in the Conductor because I felt it was already sounding good with the factory tubes. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Conductor and was sad to see if go after it allowed me to enjoy and rediscover some of my musical treasures. The Audio Valve Conductor certainly gets my highest recommendation..."
"...this preamp is a tube rollers dream. Depending on what your sonic... View
So much so that Remy Thorens (of Thorens) wanted to have the world distribution rights, but costs put the tiny company out of business.
The point is that I do have a very good ear, and I have never heard a system that could beat the old HSA. Many can now, but none as well as your Eklipse.
The detail is stunning. With the clarity of my Soundlab M1 electrostatics and the explosive power of the Sanders Sounds ESL monoblock amplifiers the sound is electrifying !
Bass - I had started to doubt that the Soundlabs had any bass - WOW the bass now is amazing !!!!
Guitar strings and piano are stunning but then a voice comes in and the singer is standing in the room - fantastic !
Once again - thank you for designing and building such a wonderful instrument.
The design and build quality are stunning but it is the sound quality that is on a different level to anything that I have ever heard.
Thank you for this gift of sound."
Peter Ferguson Perth, Western Australia, 2009