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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.4 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03, TruLife Audio Athena, Burson Conductor
Power amplifier: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; ModWright KWA100 SE, Bakoon AMP-11R, Clones 25i [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, AudioSolutions 200, soundkaos Wave 40 [on loan], Sonus faber Venere 3.0 [on review], Zu Audio Submission
Desktop: Wyred4Sound mINT, Gallo Strada 2 + TR-3D
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt split USB cable optionally with Bakoon BPS-02 uninterruptible battery supply
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 on amps, GigaWatt PC3 SE Evo on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Esoteric double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail: $2.600/ea.

Four years in development,
Burson's convertible Timekeeper amp had undergone significant refinements well past its first 2012 web sightings which had prematurely aroused fans of the brand. When as a mere notion the Timekeeper project first hit the books Down Under those very many moons ago, powerful small amps all tended to be class D. Because ICs are anathema to Burson—those folks are discretniks—their topology obviously would be traditional. To fit into their half-width Conductor casing but deliver a colossal 240/270 watts into 8/4Ω of bridged mono predetermined class AB bias. To up dissipation powers of their 265x250x80mm casing not only meant finned heatsinks but very serious reduction of the usual fasteners to minimize thermal conductivity losses. The entire case had to act as monolithic very effective heat exchanger. And to build in overheating protection for punishing loads just in case—some low-impedance speaker with stygian bass extension played very loud just might raise the temps— finally meant a cooling fan.
Those already had been the specs during the Timekeeper's premature first sightings. They include a FET input stage, symmetrical bipolar voltage gain, 75/140wpc 8/4Ω stereo power, 40.000uF capacitance, 300-watt peak power and mono bridging on both RCA and XLR inputs. Response is 0Hz - 50kHz ±3dB, S/N ratio is better than 98dB, input sensitivity a high 240mV and input impedance 20KΩ. Peak power consumption is 300 watts. Inputs are 2 x RCA and 1 x XLR. Weight is ca. 8kg, finish silver-anodized aluminum.

Earlier 2012 version left, final 2013 version right

One imagines that the Timekeeper's ongoing R&D didn't fail to observe the sudden rise of Bakoon's AMP-11R. It's a very compact über amp which according to reviews here and elsewhere set new performance standards, albeit at far lower power and much higher cost. What certainly delayed the Timekeeper's launch was Burson's ongoing quest for further parts reductions—fewer bits in the signal path mean lower losses aka higher fidelity—hotter class A bias and delayed fan reaction. The latter is said to now hardly ever kick in whilst being perfectly inaudible when it does. Its high-precision programmed temperature sensors run at 0.2°C rather than the standard 10°C variance. "As you can see from the A/B between the leaked 2012 photo and the final version, we made quite a few changes. Some of them include a new type of FET transistor to lower the number of components required to achieve the same gain level; and reworking the power supply sections to facilitate our new output stage. As a result of these two changes, the new Timekeeper became even more stable and generates less heat. Because of this stability, the distortion rate is less than 1% even at full power. Then we further rationalized the layout of each PCB and its connections to achieve symmetry."

Drive-anything power not in class D obviously created its own entirely self-inflicted logistical nightmare. How to package the required stout power transformer, associated 7 x power supply circuitry, voltage gain and current buffer stages all into one compact box without creating radiation interference, undue parts stress and thermal death?

As Centrance's Michael Goodman so candidly chronicled for his blog on their Hifi-M8 project, one imagines that team Burson too must have wondered more than once. Had they perhaps bitten off too much pursuing their particular combo of very high power and top performance in a small enclosure all with a Burson-typical value proposition and fully discrete architecture? But as Doctor House would remind us, only pressure, chaos and discomfiture create the necessary working conditions which produce the most satisfying creative results. Vicodin time!

Hardboiled a'philes tend to care little about size and looks of course. Bigger + heavier = better is the most common belief. For their lot the Aussie team's embrace of pain and suffering implied by the Timekeeper's design brief should have been mostly in vain. Still their must-be-small amp is perfect for the desktop. Here it appeals foremost to modern music lovers, not computer-phobic oldtimers. Even so mondo mono mode ought to drive even the gnarliest of loads. That's bona fide hi-end cred. Doing so without Krell-ish heatsinks, hulking dimensions or look-I'm-rich sticker... well, in hi-end terms that's simply one giant letdown. Girlie amp?
Far from it. Let's not blame Burson for appealing to our intelligence, prevailing economics and the real needs which most happy homes have about hifi. They don't mean to see any of it - or as little as possible. Why go on feeding our silly Cro Magnon impulse which whaffles around WAF in the first place? The Timekeeper proposes that small, pretty and potent is the new cool. To our crowd such niceties matter naught if performance misses. The real question is, just how hot is cool? Thermometer time.