Got $400,000? Send it to me
“Alright, alright… c’mon already,” I hear you say, half-groaning as you read the title of this post, and surmise (correctly) that this is another demo review of a ne plus ultra system from a European hi-fi manufacturer. Listen, I can’t help myself, and can you blame me?
Edward Ku at Element Acoustics in Vancouver, B.C. was holding court at his über hip showroom, only this time instead of Tidal Audio from Germany, it was Burmester in the house, and his cohort Jeffrey Tseng was like a man possessed while describing to attendees what they might notice during some of the analog playback sessions he was overseeing for Ku.
Also on hand was Burmester North America CEO Robb Neimann who was guarding the door to make sure no one tried to hump the B100 loudspeakers from the room once the music started, as the big transducers were infecting everyone with tone lust which was causing Tseng to gesticulate like Mick Jagger on speed.
Welcome to another edition of Part-Time Audiophile’s Weekend Musicmakers… well, technically this is the first edition because I just made up that name, but I think it’s cool, so let’s just roll with it, OK? This time we’re featuring the sounds, and sights of Burmester, and they did not disappoint. This what I would refer to as a “Full-Load system” insomuch that there was not an upper-limit to the sound, and it’s at this level of investment that performance takes a dramatic leap over other systems I’ve heard in my time reviewing.
When you get into the Burmester, the Tidal, The MBL… there’s a reason all the manufacturers I’ve mentioned have kits that run for $400,000-plus. That’s because the more the volume attenuator gets spun around, the more the sound grows, swells, and envelopes the entire room. This is when your mind downshifts listening gears with an audible “thunk” as it struggles to maintain traction sliding out of the corners on to the sonic straightaways.
This system needs some room to breathe in my opinion, and the listening area for the set-up was roughly 800 sq ft, which for me was perfect. The B-100s handily pressurized the space, and the farther back I got, the better the intensity, bass depth, and tonal color of the sound became. The area really gave the big loudspeakers the distance needed between their drivers, and my ears. Bottom end on a track like Leonard Cohen’s Never Mind, felt like an 80-ton diesel locomotive coming down the rails while I stood there just letting its heft slam into my chest (like Bob Marley sang on Trenchtown Rock: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain“).
The analog source was what I consider an outstanding ‘table: the VPI Avenger kitted with a VPI 3D-printed tonearm, and a Phasemation PP-1000 low output moving coil cartridge mounted for transcription service. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard either the PP-1000, or the Avenger, but it was the first time I’ve heard them paired together, and I can tell you it was a chocolate-meets-peanut butter moment. Phasemation carts have an uncanny knack for clinical extraction of everything from the groove – especially clean, tight, weighty bass – so the Avenger’s preternatural ability to translate rock-solid, bottom-end heft was like having an AC mains cable plugged into the base of your spine. It was moving.
The Burmester Phono 100, 111 Music Centre (used as a pre-amplifier here), and the 909 stereo amplifier were passing along the goods from the analog rig, and a 069 CD player, the whole kit was having power managed by the 948 power conditioner. This was a big, dynamic sound, and with the number of drivers in place on the 280 lbs B-100, I was impressed by the speed, and cohesion of the sound regardless of what was being played. I’m a tubes, and high-efficiency speaker kind of guy, so full-range single , or two-way speakers deliver dopamine for my lizard brain, and make my vestigial tail wag with their point source accuracy. What was happening with spatial imaging , and soundstage depth from the big Burmester rig was awfully damn close to what I’ve come to love through, for example, Jeff Day’s peerless Tannoy-based system: no small feat without a tube in sight, and a 91 dB rating.
I stuck around for as long as I could after I had shot my video interview and soaked in the SPLs, but since it was a Saturday, and I have a most lovely partner to spend my days off with when my children are otherwise occupied, I split to join her and take advantage of a frothy beverage or two at a local brew pub. If I had the money (and in some ways more importantly the time, and space), this is a system that I would be happy to let tear out my heart and soul on a regular basis. Beautiful (in a watercolor-painting way) upper frequencies, a deep emotionally-colored midrange (think John Irving novels), and a taut, subterranean bass (how low did season 2 of True Detective make you feel?) make this Burmester system one to keep for the coming decades without ever entertaining any thoughts of upgrading… what else do you want?
Now go home, and think of a way to afford this setup. That’s what I’m doing.
Here’s a list of the gear on hand, all prices are approximate, and based on current exchange rates:
- Burmester B-100 speakers $100,000 USD
- Burmester 909 stereo amplifier $80,000 USD
- Burmester 111 Music Center $55,000 USD
- Burmester 069 CD player $75,000 USD
- Burmester Phono 100 $27,500 USD (full load)
- Burmester 948 power supply $10,000 USD
- VPI Avenger turntable $9,600 USD (with 3D-printed tonearm)
- Phasemation PP-1000 LOMC cartridge $3,800 USD
- All cables by supplied by Zensati Seraphim, prices available upon request.