Burson Timekeeper review
By Matej Isak, Editor-in-Chief of Mono & Stereo
Whenever I’m contacted by one of the Burson staff for a review I my mind rejoice. Burson might take some time with the development of their devices, but when they bring the new product it means that some serious R & D was undertook. Burson already made their name with headphone amplifiers, preamplifiers and DAC’s. With Timekeeper they’re entering the world of power high end stereo amplifiers and mono blocks. Knowing their work for years now and tested almost all of the company products I’ve as a fact expected something freshly NEW and stand out. And as you’ll read on they did bring something special…
DONT JUDGE BOOK BY THE COVER
Burson Timekeeper is operating in Class-AB and generate quite some heat. I’m guessing that its heavily working into the Pure A class mode before getting into AB Class.
With Timekeeper you’re entering into a world of fully IC free class-AB power amplifier with a 300W custom-built transformer and a linear power supply. Timekeeper spots 80 watts per channel in stereo and 230 watts per channel when being bridged. So in normal stereo mode you drive safely most of “normally” designed speakers. Using two Timekeepers in a bridge mode opens up few more possibilities. I’ll say it like this. Single Timekeeper can get you involved into a serious listening and seduction. With a pair of them everything becomes more focused and controlled. One can easily live with sole Timekeeper, but don’t you get two for a preview. You’ll keep them both :). On other hand you can always start with single amplifier and when funds allows you, the upgrade.
“In Stereo Mode it delivers 80W RMS per channel. With its 40,000uF of power reserve, the Timekeeper performs with absolute control at all times. In Bridged Mode the Timekeeper delivers up to 230W RMS of power. Furthermore, the Timekeeper accepts both RCA and XLR input signals when operating in Bridge Mode. This ensures that any source component and not just those with XLR output can take advantage of this configuration.”
“The most beautiful and practical enclosure yet. CNC machined and polished from thick aluminium, our beautiful enclosure is also a giant unified heat-sink, which allows our designs to run cooler, and remain optimised at all times.”
Burson continues the design approach and story from now already establish products like Conductor and Soloist. The basic shape is of third generation development and offers a contemporary, timeless design that works well at both tabletop duties and on the audio rack.
The looks are as understated as the Timekeeper size. With each new product Burson also seems to step further with the finish of the aluminium. Even from the distant glance you’ll spot the elegant brushing and lines. There is something unique Timekeeper that gives the additional value.
Cleaner Power, Clearer Music
As with other Burson devices their team put a strong focus on the quality and execution of the power:
“When power leaves the generating station it is pretty clean. Unfortunately, every device attached to it draws a current which corrupts the purity of the voltage wave form. Open air high voltage cables can pick up radio signals from all kinds of sources. Transformers throughout the national grid are running close to saturation point, which creates more distortion. From large electric motors such as those used in factories, to baby alarms and hairdryers, all can pollute to intolerable levels.
It does not end there! The power supply from most hi-fi equipment are amongst the worst polluters. A large amount of interference is generated by the standard IC voltage regulators; they inject noise of their own due to the nature of their operation, blocking out musical detail that we work tirelessly to preserve.
The new Musician Series has taken the already fanatical IC free power supply of our first generation Classic Series to the next level. The new generation of power supply is built around a new noise-filtering network that employed twice as many filtering stages compared to the previous design resulting in superior noise rejection. The new power supply is fed by new custom-built low noise transformers which deliver clean and stable power. The result is pure music against a pitch-black background.”
CONSISTENCY IN SOUND
Burson products always managed to work within the audio domain, that focuses clearly on the musical aspects of the musical reproduction. There are many amplifiers on the market operating on high-specs and with so called high-tech approaches. Sadly many of them fail at simple and most important task of recreating the music into a believable illusion. They might offering some of the attributes addressed to the max. Yet fail on the balanced – harmonica presentation. Burson “voicing” of the Timekeeper follows the route they step on from the company start. Their goal is clear and direct as it was years back. Pure musical passionate reproduction without stepping into the territory of harshness or fake dynamics. Burson managed to achieve something, that not many high-end audio companies did. The established strong grounds with their consistency of the sound and voicing. With each new product every audio designer is challenged to keep the recognised performance. Why? The known hard established quality of some brand want to be kept for old customers trust and in showing the new ones, that company can handle and tame the technology to their needs.
It might seems not so complex and difficult to keep the same sound quality and performance over the wide range products, but it is. Burson for example strives highly to refined and simplify their internal circuits for the best sound performance possible. Especially the gain stages, where it is highly important to choose the right electronic parts in the functional, harmonic and potent way. With Burson constant urge in keeping as less parts as possible in the signal chain this is a tricky and demanding task.
Burson Timekeeper sticks to the company vision of the sound and adds on the already highly established brand product line pedigree. They succeeded in keeping the “family name” intact while creating something new and challenging.
I always liked Burson team understanding and vision of the sound. There is ongoing battle for the latest and greatest specification driven devices, that more and more operate within the universe of technical mentality. As a consequence to this the sound built on the metallic, anaemic and lifeless energy transfer. It kills the music. Burson approach relate to the inherited organic nature of the music. Thanks God!
Music is always on the dark, warm side of the matters. Whatever it is; musical instrument, vocal, el. guitar etc. The primary nature of the timbre works within the given natural rules. They must be strictly followed in one’s pursue of the believable reproduction of the music. Especially in the high-end audio world. This is where it comes to the clear distinction between hi-fi and high-end. Even if some amplifiers are priced within high-end segment, they don’t automatically falls into that ranking. High-end audio relates to high-end sound and performance. As such it should bring us closer to the feelings related with the real life music and not far and away from them. Burson Timekeeper speaks the language clearly embraced by the anchor points that recreate musical events as they are. Stresses and empowered by the moving energy, that calls from more listening.
Lyn Stanley Lost In Romance is digitally recorded album, but with sound that closely reflect the analogue. Her intimate take on the music and stand out performing is really captivating and soulful. Album surprisingly well recorded and it quickly shows the strengths or weaknesses of the whole system or any component under the scope. Despite the understated size of the Timekeeper this amplifier hold the iron grip. Lyn voice was presented vividly, direct and with sense of space, that never failed to bring the full immersive experience. Actually, Timekeeper managed to recreate the album with three dimensionality, that was much closer to pure analog reproduction then to the digital master like feeling. It was an interesting fact, that I’ve spotted continuously with other records. This clearly shows, how Burson Timekeeper is designed differently and elaborately.
The other female singer I love to took out of my vinyl collection is great for both listening and testing. Anne Bisson Blue Mind LP beholds some special intriguing energy and directly address my safe side of melachony. With September in Montreal track, the bass, snare and vocal at once recreates the lucid experience and instantly reveal what amplifier is possible to convey. Kick drum strikes with grand impact and snare shouts out with the feeling of gunshot snap. If amplifier fails to recreate the impact of these attributes it also fails to interest me in serious way. Burson Timekeeper locked on the bass energy. The snare recognised velum sound was spot on. Timekeeper showed an impressive ability here, that even some of the more powerful, bigger sized, higher priced amplifiers fail to deliver. Timekeeper got the guts and the means. A true David in Goliath world.
In the world where Class D is becoming a dominant force with strongest urge and forced penetration to every pore of the high-end audio an elaborated Class AB power amplifier like Burson Timekeeper comes as an real panache and remedy.
Burson went all the way with creating the Timekeeper. From chassis to inner circuit structure everything feel refined and pin down to each detail.
As with all of the Burson gear I’ve had pleasure to review so far they alway voiced their product towards warm musical character. Not too warm, the artificial warmnees that steps into the tube category, but the actual dark natural warmness. This gives Timekeeper clear advantage upon all Class D amplifiers, that even when driven by the pure class A or tube gain buffer or preamplifier fails to deliver the level of musical embodiment and lifelike feelings as the Timekeeper can.
Timekeeper inner power goes far beyond the chassis size. Its ridiculous to judge these amplifiers for the share size of their enclosures. There is still a strong “macho” man cave thinking going on in the industry that hails with dubious slogans like “the best performance one needs giant boxed amplifiers.” Many of contemporary amplifiers proved this to be completely wrong. For the doubters look upon FM Acoustics FM 108. Goliath sized amplifiers might be needed for some enormous sized and power hungry loudspeakers. Yet normal industry standard monitors and floor-standers being used in the normal listening rooms don’t need the gigantic amps to enjoy and happily explore the music. For pumping up the ego there might be the need. To intimately enjoy the music … not at all!
With each new product Burson is bringing to the market, they rethink everything and try to push the boundaries. Less is more is always their clear guidance. They always seems to hold on the clear path of music being first and foremost. I cherish this highly.
Burson devices are designed to operate hardworking hour to hour, day to day with brining the pleasure to the musical listening. Timekeeper can be called wit with size and what it stands for. Circuit structure is Burson’s ongoing struggle for perfection. They don’t hold on the old medals and petals. They push things further electronically. Be it with the implementation of the gain stages or power supply, there is always something new, refined and a step further being made with a constructive reason.
Burson Timekeeper amplifiers perform more then well, are packed with practical connectivity, can be bridged as mono amplifiers and offer a great stylish modern compact sized chassis. I’ve enjoyed them highly and really want to point out them as being special. I’m wholeheartedly giving them Mono & Stereo highly recommending award for what they represent. They are the musical machines created by the people who always push themselves in brining more musical enjoyment and better performance.
Burson team never release their products just for the sake of brining something new. They creates their devices in refine matter and with highly elaborated approach. Hats of for their urge to move forward constantly. I truly hope for their mojo to stay intact in years to come.
Text: Matej Isak
THD: (1khz @ 8 Ohm) 0.03%
Frequency response: 0hz – 50Khz (+/-3Db)
Signal to noise ratio: >98dB (CD , Line level)
Input Sensitivity / Impedance: 240 mV / 20K
Power Consumption: 300W (peak)
Stereo Mode: Output power: 80W @ 8 Ohm
Bridge Mode (RCA & XLR): Output power: 240W @ 8 Ohm
Operation Class AB
Power Consumption: 300W Peak
Power Requirement: 240V / 110V AC
2 x RCA line level input
1 x RCA line level input (For RCA bridge mode)
1 x XLR input (for XLR bridge mode)
2 x Stereo Speaker Blinding post
Weight: app. 8 kg
Colour: silver anodized aluminium
Dimensions: 265 mm x 255 mm x 80 mm
1 x Timekeeper Power Amp
1 x Power cable
1 x User Manual (including 24 months warranty registration information)
Matej Isak +386 41 466 359 (9-17h)
Mono & Stereo Ultra High-End audio magazine