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Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso review (paired with CV2+)


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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

 

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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.

 

ImageUploadedByComputer Audiophile1469858172.675595.jpg

 

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.

Synology NAS DS216SE + TF cards -> GentooPlayer in RAM on mini fanless/supercap NUC -> Audio GD R-27 -> S.A.T. Infinity monoblocks -> Gallo Stradas + TR-3 sub Hifiman HE560

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