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Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso loaner program - impressions thread


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Burson were kind enough to lend me their brand-spanking new 100W Timekeeper Virtuoso.

Alex said it had already had 100hrs on the clock for quality control. It's benefited from some more burn in time over the past week. The longer I've had it, the more I appreciate what it can do.

I will post some impressions soon. But keen to hear from others who have heard it too.

If you are interested in hearing one in your home, post it here and get in touch with Burson:

https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/timekeeper-virtuoso/

info@@BursonAudio.com

Luke 🎼

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I loved what their op-amps did in my Sony ES cd player.

Would swap my Audiolab front end for Burson in a heartbeat.

And I'd love a set of these power amps if I was not running my current active ESLs.

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Apologies for my tardiness. As it kept getting better over time, I had to reassess a little.

Good to hear there's some interest. I suggest you guys get in touch with Alex to get a loaner.

Anyone in Perth who is interested in hearing one?

______

Burson's new Timekeeper Virtuoso is a damn sexy amp. It has the precision of a Swiss watch, the dynamic kick of a mule and seduction of new love. It looks magnificent under the Conductor. Superb industrial design, me thinks. It looks heavy. But feels heavier than I imagined. One quibble I have is about the LEDs. Personally, I would prefer an LED to be more understated. I really dig the Burson aesthetic, though.

Rig

FireWire drive + Mac mini (2010) + Audirvana Plus, with upsampling to DSD -> Burson Conductor V2+ -> Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso -> Gallo Strada + TR-3 sub

Reference amp: Scientific Audio Technology (SAT), Infinity monoblocks (450W, circa 1990s, hand built in Perth, Australia. Originally sold for Aus$18,000).

Sundries:

UpTone Regen

Blue Circle x6 Sillycone filter

Curious Cable Regen Links (x2)

DIY silver/gold ICs

Screen shot of A+ upsampling preferences.

(Limited by power of old Mac mini)

It was a thrill to get to review Burson's new Timekeeper Virtuoso. I've been a Burson fan for the past six years. I had their first pre and power amp duo from the 100 series. Their Conductor V2+ is the third DAC/pre/headphone amp I've owned.

Alex informed me that this TV had been burned in for 100 hours before being shipped for quality control. So I'd assume that would be true each and every TV. I certainly wonder if it might improve in the bass with more burn-in. It did improve over the few days I had it (as Alex suggested it would). Notes across the frequency range are rendered with military precision. Incisive violins stood up well at high volume. While as tight as the proverbial drum, I did wish for some added heft down low. This limited the visceral engagement that is so vital. It some fine finesse, but doesn't match the gravitas of the old fogeys (AKA, SAT Infinity monoblocks).

The Timekeeper Virtuoso (TV) is immaculate. Both in the aforementioned style, as well as in its presentation. It's impossibly clean. I feel like the noise floor fell to a basement I never knew existed. Details shine through with razor-sharp precision. Great for following all but unintelligible lyrics. I could imagine it being a great amp for music producers and mixers. Paraphrasing a good friend, detail in audio should not be about hearing a mouse fart in the studio. It should however, help to render more texture from every note. That would be pretty true of my experience with the TV. Save with the proviso that this texture wasn't always as rich and full as I might have liked it to be.

Referring back to its military precision, transients remind me of some high grade machine gun. (Why this pacifist resorts to military analogies is just embarrassing...) Early on, this was painful. The TV emphasised staccato, whilst the old foggy monos were all about legato. However, the sense of flow did improve over time.

Having now clocked some 100+ hours (some 200+ in total), it's now coming to life. Ella & Louis sound sumptuous swinging 'Stars Fell on Alabama'. Indeed, small group jazz and jazz vocals were generally most enjoyable. Peggy Lee's vocal whispers seduced on 'Why Don't You Do Right' (Chesky's Moments Like This). Sidestepping, Tom Waits' rusty musings and foley work was on full display on 'What's He Building In There?' I was particularly impressed with its startle factor. I think it was some kind of mechanical door that jumped out at me - making me wonder where it was coming from.

I return to my previous complaint: the bottom end is just too light. So I don't hear enough of Tom's raspy baritone. I'm greedy. I like to feel the impact of his voice in my chest. It's still Tom, don't get me wrong. He just sounds a little too clean-cut and sober for my liking.

Somewhat surprisingly, I didn't miss this lighter bass in many brighter recordings. Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert was really quite enjoyable. I always felt the bass was critical to enjoy this.

I'm very impressed by Marc Johnson's fabulous fret work on his upright bass on 'Autumn Leaves' from Patricia Barber's (Nightclub, DSD). While the bass balance may be a little lighter than I'm used to, what is there is quality. This lighter bottom end is most evident in recordings that really demand it. The fundamental bass lines that drive Massive Attack's epic 'Mezzanine' are notably lacking that visceral heartbeat. I have a few horrid room nodes below 80hZ. The Old Fogies excite them terribly. On the Timekeeper V, the nodes are pretty well behaved. While this is great on the one hand, I can't help but feel a little robbed of some bass weight.

Zinman's take on Mahler's 8th symphony (DSD) was the first recording I played on the Timekeeper V. Ambitious? Perhaps. That's how I roll. It says something about my expectations too. I hold Burson in high regard. But I was sorely deflated. I kept returning to it over time. Each time, it was a little better... From intolerable, to listenable... And now, I am really enjoying it. Finally playing it at full volume. It's not entirely resolving in the most intense cresendos, but pretty darn fine. Quieter passages are handled with great delicacy. Some of the first violin's work really stood out.

Analytics

Palpability?

Lacking that oomph in the bass detracted a little on this score.

Soundstage?

Soundstage width was fine from the get-go. However, the depth seems to have improved with time. Now, I get a much better sense of the concert hall and pit.

Boogie factor?

Check. Just listen to McBride/Brown/Clayton doing 'Taco with a Pork Chop'. I'm vegan and still gets me wiggling.

Sing-along factor?

Not so much. May well improve with more burn-in.

Noise floor?

TV has lower noise floor than the Ancient monoblocks.

Conclusion

Listening to Burson's TV, I was reminded of a tight fitting tuxedo. It looks mighty sharp with it's black and white contrast. With improved posture, you are more alert. You are as sharp as you look. Whilst the old monoblocks feel like slipping back into an old velvet suit. It may well be a little crumpled, shabby and faded, but it's oh-so comfy.

That analogy was written before the TV had really hit its straps. So it feels overblown now. Be patient. You will be rewarded. By the end of the night, the suit had more style and flair. And so much more relaxed. No fear of wedgies now.

What I imagine most of us look for is an experience. One that pins us to the seat. Demands attention. And won't let us walk away without a fight.

I had a few of those experiences with the Timekeeper. Not as many as I would have liked, but they made my time memorable.

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Well that was a great read.Very insightful into the nature of the beast. It's amazing how many hundreds of hours a new piece of kit takes to sweeten up. Big ups to Burson. Another quality hifi manufacturer.

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Thanks mikey

Well worth an audition. I'm most curious how they fair with different/better speakers. My Stradas may not be the best fit. I'll be sending the Timekeeper Virtuoso back to Melbourne unless I can find someone in Perth who wants to listen to them?

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snip...

 

I'll be sending the Timekeeper Virtuoso back to Melbourne unless I can find someone in Perth who wants to listen to them?

 

How about they pause in Adelaide for a while, it's on the way? Not looking to jump any queues just logistically thinking is all.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, I've just checked my emails and it looks like the Timekeeper Virtuoso is on its way to me next.  However the Conductor that was to accompany it was purchased (I wonder who by?) so a new one will have to be sent out in its place.  

 

Sorry there warweary it seems I've jumped in ahead of you.  I'll do my best not to detain them for too long.

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post-130663-0-60509200-1471598418_thumb.

 

The Timekeeper Virtuoso has shown up and I'm giving it a run with my non-virtuoso conductor (the CV2+ has yet to arrive).

I have to say it's a heavy piece of gear, I had to open the box, turn it upside down and then lift the box off the amp and packing as there was no way I could lift the thing out of the box.  I just couldn't get any grip on it.

 

The box arrived in 3 pieces, very much the worse for wear.  Some courier man somewhere has done something he shouldn't have, I'm sure of it.  I'll have to patch it up with a very generous application of packing tape when it's time to move on.  Fortunately, since Burson components are built so damn tough, the amp appears not to have even noticed.

 

I'll wait for the CV2+ to arrive before I get serious, until then it's just casual listening and a bit more run in.

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Yum yum.

If you liked that you'll love this.  Guess which speakers are in use.

 

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Every time I try out a Burson amp on these KEF's I can't help but be impressed.  Damn they work well together.

Edited by Cafad
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Did you try the OG timekeepers @@Cafad? I thought they were a touch hard and cold, wasn't a gigantic fan. I do however very much like my Conductor (non-virtuoso, same as yours) as a DAC/Head amp.

Be interesting to see how this amp update fairs against the originals.

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Did you try the OG timekeepers @@Cafad? I thought they were a touch hard and cold, wasn't a gigantic fan. I do however very much like my Conductor (non-virtuoso, same as yours) as a DAC/Head amp.

Be interesting to see how this amp update fairs against the originals.

I had two of the smaller Timekeepers for quite a while and I have to agree that they did sound a little hard-ish initially.  They smoothed out with time and I have to say that they were a brilliant amp in mono-block mode, not hard at all.  They can be a bit choosy when it comes to cables, keep silver well away from them, I found standard Redgum ICs and Redgum speaker cable (or my home made RG213 cables) to work very well with them. 

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I have only heard the Burson amps relatively briefly, but my impressions were that they sound quite similar to their looks i.e clean, shiny and refined and I agree with @@Cafad, I wouldn't be putting silver cables or anything light and bright-ish with them

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I have only heard the Burson amps relatively briefly, but my impressions were that they sound quite similar to their looks i.e clean, shiny and refined and I agree with @@Cafad, I wouldn't be putting silver cables or anything light and bright-ish with them

I certainly won't disagree with your assessment there rantan, as short and succinct explanations go that one is spot on.

 

I will attempt to elaborate however on the shiny side of things.  Burson gear has a sound that is strong, every note is rendered full-on with zero hesitation and on some instruments this can lead to a sound that is shiny enough to cross over into a harder rendition of some notes than is commonly heard.  This is why the Burson gear sounds so good to me on my S2Rs (slightly warmer and more forgiving than the MLs) but can be a bit hard and fatiguing on Mikes ML series speakers because they are so acoustically dead and solid that they bring more of that shiny detail out of the music.

 

There are of course ways to limit this effect, I've found a nice reduction in shine just by using a Schiit SYS as a pre and the Conductor as a pure DAC.  And without speakers as highly detailed as the ML series I imagine it would rarely be an issue. If you are using the Burson components separately it will certainly be less notable.  It doesn't bother me when using the Conductor as a headphone or pre-amp, it only becomes an issue to me when combining the two components.  I've often found I prefer the sound of mixed components however so in this case I could well be a bit biased.

 

One combo I loved back when I had the smaller Timekeepers was matching them with my ME25 pre, it threw some warmth into the mix while increasing the bass level and fullness and smoothing the vocals out a little more.  I've got the ME25 warming up, have had for 3 days now, so that should keep me busy for at least a few hours tomorrow.

Edited by Cafad
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Had tried bursons small headphone amp back in the time they still sold their products on eBay. I decided to try the amp as they made good buffer which I liked a lot. However the amp was not right to me.not mentioning occasional buzz from the sound that amp sounded dry and aggressive.

I am considering adding a power amp into my system atm. This one could fit my need if has no issues as such mentioned above.

Edited by fdhfdy
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  • 3 weeks later...

It was going pretty good.  I liked the addition of the ME25, it smoothed out and filled out both the bass and the vocals.

I've moved the Timekeeper off to the side for a bit actually, I have some other things to play with and I can't just put them on hold indefinitely until the new Conductor shows up.  Hopefully it isn't too far away.

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I have had time to repair the box.

Not an easy task as I'm pretty sure I'm missing two corner pieces and, if the box is built the way I think it is (a normal inner box set in a thicker, more durable outer box) then I'm also missing two side pieces and the entire bottom outer.  Some courier ape-man had a field day with this.

Before.IMG_0251.JPG

 

After.

IMG_0290.JPG

 

I'm not sure how well it will stand up to its next 2 or 3 trips.

 

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