As high-end amps go, the Burson Timekeeper is downright tiny

Small enough for a desktop, the Burson Timekeeper can also be used in your main stereo system.

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Burson

I've been a fan of Burson Audio's headphone amplifiers for years, so when the Wes Bender Studio NYC store offered a loan of a Burson Timekeeper speaker amp I couldn't say no.

Most high-end amps are big brutes, but the Timekeeper is petite, just 10.4 by 10 by 3.1 inches (265 by 255 by 80mm). The machined aluminum metalwork is simply gorgeous -- the amp looks and feels a lot more expensive than it really is.

The Timekeeper is a Class AB design, so it runs warm to the touch, but the entire chassis dissipates heat. Play it really loud for a long time and a built-in fan cools it down, but I had it cranked way up for an hour without the fan never coming on.

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The Audiophiliac with the Burson Timekeeper. Wes Bender/CNET

The Timekeeper delivers 80 watts per channel in stereo and 240 watts when switched over to mono operation (so you'd need two amps for a stereo system). The rear panel hosts stereo RCA inputs and stereo speaker outputs; when it's run as a mono amp you can use the RCA or XLR input. The Timekeeper is designed and assembled in Melbourne, Australia.

When I listened at home with my Zu Druid V speakers, the Timekeeper's power and low-end muscle were immediately obvious. There's an almost tubelike sweetness to the sound. Cymbals have a realistic metallic sheen and three-dimensional body. The Timekeeper also nails the subtle stuff, resolution and detailing of reverberation on live recordings like Wilco's "Kicking Television" seem remarkably natural. The stereo image is broad and deep -- you feel like you're present at the recording session.

That's especially interesting, because the Timekeeper never exaggerates detail or brightness, in fact I'd say the treble is a tad soft. You can listen for hours with zero fatigue. My Bel Canto Reference 500S amp is no slouch, and it had a bit more dynamic snap, but it lacked the Timekeeper's holographic stereo imaging.

I also heard the Timekeeper mated with the extraordinary Hansen Audio Prince E speakers. They're not at all an easy load, but the little amp sailed through the toughest tests. The Timekeeper is tiny, but there's no mistaking it for anything but serious high-end gear.

The US price is $2,600. It's $2,860 in Australia, and £1,950 in the UK. That's expensive, sure, but hardly outrageous by high-end audio standards.

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