RMAF12: Rutherford Audio presents Burmester and ELAC

Burmester seems almost violently opposed to photography. So much so, that I suspect that if there was a finish that would render them invisible to cameras, they’d use it. In the meantime, their bright mirror-fronts continue their campaign of mockery. I feel a little like Charlie Brown trying to kick that stupid ball.

So, a plea to all you bespoke manufacturers — do your photographers a favor and opt for that also-elegant matte finish. Please? I’m really tired of unwanted and unplanned pics of that ugly hotel carpet accidentally reflected in your gear. Now back to your regularly scheduled rant.

Rutherford Audio is owned and run by Rob Niemann of Burmester NA. It’s the import-side of the business, if you will, and he brings in some other interesting gear — aside from Burmester — including a new loudspeaker line from Germany called ELAC. Shown here was the ELAC 249 Black Edition, an $8,000 floor standing speaker that I found both elegant and curious.

The “Black Edition” line features black drivers with an upgraded coil as well as an upgraded crossover. The 249 BE, like most of the ELAC loudspeakers, sports an Air-Motion Transformer for a tweeter, here covering from 3k-50kHz. As I mentioned in my coverage of another AMT-tweeter loudspeaker from eFicion, this type of tweeter has great off-axis dispersion, unlike most ribbons (just remember to be careful of the vertical axis, and you’re golden) and a familiar silky elegance and stunning speed that was on full display here at RMAF. Easily one of my favorite pieces of speaker-tech, and one that seems to be enjoying a rise in popularity of late. Paired with a down-firing speaker port (easy placement?), the 249 uses series of drivers that were completely new-to-me, and reminded me of all those pre-teen years playing D&D. Look at all those facets! From ELAC:

All woofers and midrange drivers of this series contain the “Crystal Membrane” (patent pending) and their design is based on the well-known “Aluminum-Sandwich AS Technology” which was developed by ELAC a couple of years ago. The crystal-shaped inverse aluminum dome is joined to the paper cone in a special glueing process resulting the desired sandwich construction.

The stamping of the aluminum foil looks like the surface of a large crystal, this is where the term “Crystal Membrane” come from. This stamping stiffens the aluminum dome considerably which diminishes the membrane-internal resonances resulting in less sound coloration and additionally improves the large signal behaviour noticeably.

The voice coil is not only – like usually – joined to the neck of the paper cone (see position “1” in the picture) but also to the bottom of the aluminum dome (position “2”). This design results in the expansion of the transmission range of the respective woofers or midrange drivers by nearly an octave. Therefore the abbreviation “XR” (eXtended Range) has been introduced.

Due to the specially wide double asymmetrical (‘DAS’) rubber surround, ELAC’s TT 180 woofer can handle up to ±15 mm long stroke. This provides maximum level supply and mellow low bass. For a driver this size, such a large displacement represent a unique engineering achievement.

  • Burmester 089 CD Player: $28,995
  • Burmester 111 Music Center: starting at $47k
  • Burmester 088 preamplifier: $28,995
  • Burmester 911 Mk III amplifier: $29,995
  • Burmester 948 Line Conditioner: $7,995
  • Elac 249 “Black Edition” loudspeakers: $8,000/pair

The top-loading Burmester 089 sat idle while I was in the room; it was the big 111 Music Center that played the tunes. A large, centered graphical display showed what was playing and some cover art for the album. Nice touch. Prices on these units vary with options (hard drive size, &c), but they’re about as bling-y as a music servers get these days. They’re also very expensive — however, the unit does include a DAC and includes all the necessary pre-amplifier functions. Server, DAC and preamp — done. Burmester’s monster 911 stereo amp, the 088 preamp and the 948 line conditioner round out the system.

Arnold Martinez of Tweak Studios in Chicago, a dealer for both Burmester and ELAC, was on hand to do all the tweaking and tuning of the system — before running off to set up and run “Where Else”, a DJ-led house-music extravaganza in the open area next to the restaurant. Diana Krall who? Anyway, audio writer & DJ Mike Mercer apparently burned the house down — wish I’d have been able to catch that show, but I was already on a plane.

ELAC’s Export Sales Manager Monika Lowe with Tweak Studio Chicago’s Arnold Martinez

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