|The Burson Conductor & Timekeeper Review|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Stereo Amplifiers|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Tuesday, 10 September 2013|
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Burson Audio has been creating a buzz for seventeen years. Their extremely loyal customer base raves about their DACs and headphone amplifiers. The company is based in Melbourne, Australia, half a world away, but they have commendably developed an excellent and far reaching international distribution chain and dealer network. Audiophile buddies have told me on a pretty consistent basis that Burson should be high on my list as a source for review components. When trusted aficionados speak, I tend to listen.
In conversations with the folks at Burson, I pieced together their basic design philosophies and general outlook. There is what can be called the Burson Approach. In essence, this means they take a pass on off-the-shelf parts and standard circuit designs, and they strongly believe in the simple audio paths. All of this to make sure the electronics stay out of the way of the music.
Burson said, "the less the equipment tampers with the music, the greater the music becomes. This has been the core design philosophy of Burson Audio since 1996. If the equipment is honest and transparent then the proper tempo, dynamics and tone will materialize as a natural expression of the music and it becomes unnecessary to flavor the original sound. We believe that this ideal can never be achieved through standard circuitry building blocks such as op-amps, IC regulators or even standard transformers. Instead we work towards this ideal through the research and development of customized solid state circuitries that are developed specifically to suit our applications."
In various email exchanges with Burson, we can summarize the Burson Approach as: Less = More, Discrete over IC, and Tailored design over standardized building blocks. As a reviewer, I personally don’t see these design goals on any regular basis in high end audio. More often we see manufacturers chase fads, use copycat designs, and spend too much appealing to the eye rather than the ear -- all while charging high prices for the privilege.
Burson shipped me their Conductor DAC/Preamp/Headphone amp, and their new Timekeeper power amplifier for review. These are both extremely versatile, feature rich, and interestingly designed products. Given their versatility, I knew this would be a very time consuming and fun set of electronics to evaluate. The Conductor retails for $1850, and the Timekeeper is priced at $2600.
Let’s first take a look at the Conductor inside and out. It is housed in attractive and solid silver case work, with a large volume knob dead center on the front end. There are also input and level output selectors, a power indicator light, and a 1/4-inch headphone jack. Around back are TosLink, Coax, and USB 2.0 inputs all handling sample rates up to 192 Khz. There is a set of analog inputs for analog sources as well. There are two sets of analog outputs -- one for fixed line level out for use with an integrated amp or preamp, and one variable output when the Conductor is going to be used as a preamp/DAC.