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Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso loaner program - impressions thread

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Hi @CryptiK, sorry to take so long replying mate but I was thinking about the "hardness in the midrange" and not really coming up with anything.  I'll keep an ear out when I finally mate the two Bursons together and get back to you on that.

 

The Conductor V2+ has arrived, and it was well dressed too.

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Sorry for the massive delay guys (there's an embarrassing story in there and I'll get to it eventually, but for now on with the show) but I've got there in the fullness of time.

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I've spent some of the morning listening to the Burson V2+ and Timekeeper Virtuoso combo and I'm loving it.  It is a touch hard but that works with my S2R speakers (not so well with the ML3s though) which are a bit more forgiving than their more expensive brethren.  It has plenty of slam, nice deep and fast bass and rather impressive vocals for a solid state pair at its price point.  I ran through the entirety of Nightwish's Imaginaerum album and loved every minute of it.

 

I'll get serious with it this afternoon and evening as I've held onto it long enough as it is.

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I'm not part of the Virtuoso Tour, but being an owner of the pair (Conductor V2+ and Timekeeper Virtuoso) along with the Kef LS50's  I thought I would add my 2 cents worth.

 

My background - I hate hard edges/over revealing (read harsh) components - previous set up was a Metrum Hex, Usher R1.5 (later on homebuilt Class A amps which whipped the r1.5), ME25/Symphonia Opus Preamp/Usher Mini Dancer 2. Combination glorious bass, resolving smooth treble and a soundstage to die for....I've been obsessing about Hifi for over 20 years and have been through a fair amount of components - I very quickly know what is and isn't working for me. I crave detail and depth, but rarely find components that can do this while at the same time allowing some degree of relaxation at the same time. I have sensory issues in spades so anything 'jagged' or 'wrong' sends me running to the hills - I can hear up to around 20 kHz.

 

I bought the set up some months ago - very early on in the release cycle - a move/normal life meant that they stayed in the box for the first 3 months. I bought them on the back of such positive impressions of the V5 opamps and what they did to my Minimax Dac.

 

The setup I have now (Burson equip) is designed as a compromise, far less money than what went before - simple elegant nearly all in one (as close as I am willing to get). 8w Headphone is a bonus I did have he HE6 which would have benefitted no end (comparison between this and the Class A amps running the HE6 would have been interesting).

 

The combination of the 2 components cost less than the Metrum Hex.....so some context here. The class A amps I built were no compromise/dual mono using the best components I could buy.

 

The ME25 and the Symphonia give some of the best low down resolution and soundstage that I have heard - the Symphonia Pre Amp was around $6000 when it was released and built with an out of this world component spec.....we all know about the me25 (controversial to say the least but I think it's a goodun)

 

The LS-50's - I bought as a cheap (haha) pair that I believe would scale well with the Burson Equipment (this has been alluded to and I note that Burson show one of their setups with the Kef LS50's (two original timekeepers bridged). These do have some reputation as being revealing....they are certainly not in the 'NOS' 'Analogue' mushy category at all. They are of course in Bright red......much better sounding.

 

My source is a mac Mini - not pimped just stock running Audirvana - there is a cable in between (Supra) but I doubt USB cables make a blind bit of difference.

 

Downsides

 

1. The enormous transformer is susceptible to mains corruption (read hum) - I get some which varies over the day - I think my fridge is the main culprit. This is physical only not in the audio path - located on the ground the sound is all but non existent but placed on hard surfaces could present a problem in quiet, late night listening. My mains is pretty crappy due to a lot of neighbours so this will vary a lot. In context the Rega DAC had almost as much transformer noise as this (which was very disappointing). Does it ever get in the way of the music - nope

2. I had an initial ground loop issue - talking to Burson solved this relatively quickly - it happens but is quite rare apparently.

3. One pair of headphones (PM-3) left plugged in when listening over speakers causes interference. Essentially the headphone/RCA out are not isolated so will play through both - not the perfect solution for me as I would rather leave the amp on sometimes when listening to headphones.

 

Upsides

 

1. Sound stage - Has width and depth in spades. Every time I put it on I can't help but be drawn into the music, it has the perfect balance, never sounding too distant but also never too 'front' row seats either. Dance music sounds euphoric, vocals sound like the singer is there. Classical music is detailed and allows the listener to easily place instruments in the orchestra.

2. Bass - Most of the time the bass is defined, surprisingly deep for the size of speaker. Not the end game obviously. There are occasions when I listen to some music and feel that it is lacking in resolution, wondering what happened only to find that it's down to the particular track rather than overall characteristic of the system. 

3. Treble - For me absolutely perfect. Resolving, yet steps back from being harsh/edgy. You can hear the vocals, the grain, a slight sibilance but only enough to give the full picture....never yet have I had to turn the music down due to over cooked treble. 

4. Mid Range - It is more forward sounding that my last system without doubt. Some degree of adjustment was necessary but the reward has been in the absolutely Devine vocals - singers sound true to life, there is a presence, focus to them that has been lacking in previous set ups. I had the same issue with my PM-3's - Initially turning them up led to unpleasantly forward music, but once you have spent some time with them (and adjusted them down to normal listening levels) you are rewarded with some stunning vocals.

 

Overall - My music tastes run wide - about as wide as you can get if you eliminate some of the more 'improv' Jazz. I have thrown music of every genre at this combination and by george it pretty well nails it every time. The Burson is the King of Neutrality (not in your face detail). Rather than alluring with promises of extreme detail or 'NOS'/Analogue' sound it just honestly presents the music.....no bells or whistles, no false promises, honest presentation that initially does not wow but for the long run I can easily live with....in the past I have gone both ways.....highly revealing systems led me to buy less revealing speakers, change out cables blah blah etc.....too much money wasted trying to tune something that just didn't work, NOS sounding have led to some serious Audio Nirvana but have ultimately been one or two trick ponies.....Emotional high one moment, flat dull and lifeless the next - sooo genre specific...

 

The V5 Opamps gave me a hint of this Burson sound, giving a second life to an otherwise normal sounding EE minimax - night and day - there is a transparency and detail to the sound - highly resolving, but nothing is boosted or cooked to get there. 

 

As a headphone amp the Conductor shows great promise - It's a great companion to my HD600 and PM-3. For classical the T90's are a knockout especially at the price - they do tend to get peaky with badly mastered tracks (read pop music) what would you expect - the T90's without doubt have a boosted treble response, they are perfect companions to the HM802 and AK JR. The HE6/HE500 that I owned last year I am sure would have been sensational (can't afford to buy them back at today's prices.....The Preamp section is very good indeed. Low down resolution (which for me is one of the marks of a good set up) is excellent. 

 

Componentry (had to crack it open) in the system is first class as is build quality. There is a heavy concentration of top tier components - from the Dale resistors to the Silmic II and beyond, you'd be hard pressed to find any single component which is a compromise..... A quick look will also confirm why this beast needs time to warm up and burn in - it takes a good hour to get up to temperature and I would guess from experience a good few hundred hours to bed in (there are Mundorf (i believe, but will stand corrected) in the audio path which have a long burn in time - Now it's a smoooooth, resolving dynamic music maker and it helps the Kef's to sound better than their size/price ought to. 

 

Is it as good as my previous set up? - yes and no. The Ushers with Metrum etc were at times absolutely gob smackingly good - classical choral music/organs/strings were exceptional, Hi Res well recorded music was it's forte. I've had more goosebumps/raised hairs from that set up than any other and cried with the sheer emotion that it could portray. It was the setup that finally convinced me to turn away from vinyl. But it had it's flaws - some music lacked dynamics, sounding flat, metal/rock tended to overwhelm and loose definition, I avoided significant sections of my catalogue as they simply didn't work well, my audio room was twice the size it is now. In comparison the Burson does everything well. I'm sure also the Kef's are a bottleneck to higher levels of performance so it's not a given that the Burson can't reach similar levels of performance given the right match - Unfortunately I have a budget and neighbours so the perfect pair of speakers is a distant thought.

 

Hope this adds to the mix regarding impressions :-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Beyer guy
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On 24/09/2016 at 4:15 AM, CryptiK said:

 

 

 

Deflated and disappointed was how I felt about the old monos. Their noise floor was utterly dreadful, to be honest. I put a few hundred hours on them but still they sounded hard, cold, sterile, glassy; all the things I dislike in audio. Next to my Pass gear they sounded very low-end. I love the small footprint and the minimalist styling (but for god's sake man, what do they have against front mounted power switches?) but in terms of audio amplification, which is their sole purpose, I wasn't happy. Wished I could have been, but to me they were just unlovable. Doesn't sound like too much has really changed. 

 

What's weird is their head-fi stuff is really very good indeed. Excellent DAC's, excellent power, clarity, slam, and very low noise floors. Wish they could translate that to their power amps. 

I beg to differ on the new set up - things have changed based on your experience of the old timekeepers. I can't hear cold sterile or glassy in the combination  - I was expecting some degree of sterility to the set up because I had read some reviews on the relative merits of the timekeepers as well as the DAC section being a Sabre implementation. I had some trepidation buying the set up as my previous experience of Burson (bar the V5) was the original conductor with the Sabre DAC - that IMHO did sound sterile and cold, but my choice of headphone (HD800) at the time did not help this along with listening to a cold, fresh non burnt in sample. 

 

Once I had the ground loop totally sorted and the set up warmed up/burnt in the noise floor is very low indeed. Extremely transparent. There is none of that 'niggling' lack of involvement that you get when the noise floor gets in the way of the music.

 

I had initially planned to use the DAC section of my HM802 as a result of my expectation that there would be some tracks/generes which would not be conducive to the Burson - I though the more retro/frequency limited HM802 would be just the ticket. To be totally honest I have compared the two and NOT ONCE have I felt the need to use the HM802 to soften/warm the combination up and it's not due to the HM802 being an inferior source (it's as good as many high end components IMHO). I imagine if I were still looking for the world's most resolving speakers then it might be a different story but it's been my experience that the kind of speakers that can do this don't make good long term room mates. 

 

My impression overall is of slight warmth over coldness or sterility, playing the new Leonard Cohen Album the other night just sounded completely right, relaxing, smooth, non fatiguing but with sufficient detail. Possibly this is more down to system matching and the Kef's are known to be a good stablemate - however they don't do this by sacrificing much high end resolution or detail - in some circles the Kefs are regarded as a bright sounding speaker.

Edited by Beyer guy

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Yeah, Burson and KEF are a good match, or so I've found anyway. 

 

That "cold sterile or glassy" sound I tend to think of as "steely" and while I can hear a little of that tendency on the S2Rs (less than the previous models, they have smoothed that tendency out with time) and a fair amount of it on the ML3s (sometimes it bothers me on the ML3s, sometimes it doesn't) it just doesn't make an appearance on the little KEFs at all.  And they do love that Burson current.

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From my memory the ML3's are known for being detailed, quick, lean, neutral. I'm guessing that paired with the Burson they sound extremely quick detailed and neutral :-)  I wonder what would be an ideal match for the Bursons - I have a feeling that the Usher range (from my experience of the Mini Dancer 2's and the BE718DMD) would be a good match but sadly I never got to try as my Mini Dancer 2's got sold....sob....

 

No complaints on the Kef's for the money - the bass is a little wooly on occasions (only certain tracks) but this may be more down to the rear vented design coupled with the fact that I'm about 10cm short of the ideal distance from the rear wall - they need over 40cm I believe and I'm shy of that. I also suffer a bit of neighbour angst so the deep bass tends to cause a little anxiety whenever I turn it up which doesn't help for a relaxing listen - they are pretty critical but if I come out any further they would protrude too far into the room. The bungs do help (the outer ring only) but tend to stifle them a little too much. I still surprised at the level of bass these produce for the size.

 

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The Timekeeper has left the building guys, however as others have before me  I decided to keep the Conductor V2+.  I see it as a worthwhile upgrade to the first model Conductor that I have been using for the past few years.  I do intend to post up a more thorough review but I haven't had the time just yet.  I'll get there eventually.

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The new V2+ version of the Conductor has all the good points of the first model but less of the 'bad'.  It is just that bit more polished in all areas.  It is just that little bit more musical, vocals are slightly warmer and more tone-fully pleasing, dymanics are very similar but the V2+ is slightly smoother and better rounded.  In short is it pretty much what you would expect to see/hear on the third generation of a product, similar to the first but improved upon.

The two big bonus offerings to my mind are the doubling of the headphone output (which I didn't really need as I only use headphones very infrequently but it is good to see never the less) and the additional volume functionality of the DAC out volume control.  Now you can choose to have your volume attenuated via the sabre chip or via the analogue preamp, so, in effect, the V2+ is actually 2 preamps for the price of one.  Let us not forget the remote control as well, always nice to have.  

And it comes in at a RRP of around $600 Aussie less than the first model.  It seems like a win/win situation with a couple of extra wins added for good measure.

 

All these features call for a number of different comparisons.  Comparing the V2+ analogue pre to my ME25 I still prefer the ME25 but the gap between them is not great and I am more than happy to use the V2+ as my standard pre as it gives me access to all its other features.  The sabre DAC is certainly the equal of the Wolfson DAC in my YBA Heritage cd player and I chose the YBA over my previous Consonance cd120 because I found it to be a little warmer and more preferable on vocals and did not disappoint in any other areas.  The sabre DAC is slightly more dynamic while the Wolfson is slightly warmer and more mellow but the differences are not large.  I don't really mess with headphones so I consider the headphone capability as something of a bonus function that can come in late on those evenings when I can't sleep and want to watch a movie much later than usual.  So yes, all in all I am very happy with the latest iteration of the Burson Conductor.

 

The Timekeeper Virtuoso also feels like a later generation product.  It has the same strengths as the smaller Timekeeper but more current and a lower noise floor.  I did like the T.V. but I can't help but think that the V2+ stole the show, with its multitude of features and value for money it puts the poor T.V. firmly in the background and that's a pity as it is a very capable amp.  I know the smaller Timekeeper was quite a good product in stereo mode but it really shone in bridged mode on my S2Rs.  Unfortunately I couldn't test out a pair of bridged Timekeeper Virtuosos to compare their performance but in my minds eye I'm thinking they would be damn close to awesome.

I realize I could have tried out one amp/speaker in mono but it just wouldn't have felt right, better to hold on to the dream than try to test it in a half-hearted way.

Also, it really made those KEF LS-50s jump up and behave.

 

I hope that, if I'm a good little audiophile, then at the next Melbourne HiFi show someone will organize a pair of KEF Blades (or Blade 2's, I'm not fussy) to be demoed with Burson mono-block amplification.  Because I would really, really, really like to hear that!  If the Burson/LS-50 team up is anything to go by that would really be something special.

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No posts here for a while.  I hope the loaner program is still running, it would be a great pity if it stopped before as many people as possible had the chance to hear some Burson gear in their own homes.  Also I've recommended it to at least 3 other SNA'ers since the Timekeeper left my presence and I have yet to hear if any of them have signed up.

 

I just swapped DACs, moving from my YBA Heritage spinner over to the Conductor V2+ and I was reminded of something that I had noticed earlier but forgot about in all the listening.  I believe that line level out from the Burson analog preamp section sits in between 60 and 65 on the volume scale.  Also the V2+ benefits from a good long run in, I've been using it for several hours a day (on average) since I received it over 3 months ago and it sounds far better to me now.  It just slaughtered my YBA in a quick comparison of power ballads.  Listening to a preamp with a 1 Ohm output impedance is just plain nice!  Damn that music comes through strong!  

 

Maybe it's a case of synergy, the V2+ seems to just love my Sansui 907.  Fed by the Burson the 907NRA is even more impressive than it has been previously.

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I'll second the burn in time, both for the V2+ and the TKV. Mine have have been on for about 4 hrs a day for over 3 months and I would say now they are fully burnt in. 

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I have the Timekeeper Virtuoso and the bottom end is not light whatsoever.

a lot has to do with kit matching and cables.i have found some excellent new products for truly cleaning your line and waking your system up 

Core Power Technologies is the hands down winner IMO under2000 pounds.and their new power cords are excellent 120US dollars.

i bought the flagship 1800 your power is allways being robbed of detail and control. With this the Timekeeper Virtuoso is a great resolving amplifier.

i have all very good Silnote cables .PS Audio Direct stream dac, 

and my new Sonus Faber Olympica-3 Speakers with this amp low 30hz  spot on with punch and control. Burson make excellent gear,the one mistake I learned 

never even Give an opinion until well over 350 hours that is what it took with the many big capacitors and the a Huge 1500va transformer all these windings 

go through changes one day at 220 hours perspective was a bit bloated 

the Silmic caps have silk in them and they too have a settling in period.

i have modded speakers and innerds for years . I have a modded Pass labs F6 

class A  50watts 4 ohms.  That is very resolved .the Burson is very similar 

pin warn detailed sound but with more punch. Well done Burson !!

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One thing you add for all your contacts Stabilant,or the Stabilant -22,

is the Best contact enhancer without Any drawbacks and last for years.power

cords and  all Audio contacts isopropyl alcohol as pure as possible with good foam swabs 

gets rib of the grime do that 1st,then add the Stabilant  and hear the long term  benefits. a bit expensive but worth every penny.

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I'm feeling left out, having had my name down for Burson audio gear tour - but no gear for me.

 

How far down the list am I? Is the tour still going?

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You'll have to talk to Burson about that @warweary, none of us here in this thread are responsible for organizing the tour.  This is more an appreciation thread than anything else.

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