Brinkmann

World class Turntables, Phono stages & Preamplfier from Germany
Considered some of the world’s finest turntables out of Germany

Brinkmann turntables are considered by many as the ultimate turntable to own and this can partly be explained because of Helmut Brinkmann’s never ending search for the perfect illusion. Some say that perfect music playback is an illusion. Helmut Brinkmann however, leaves nothing to chance as he works on perfecting this illusion, thus making music playback as real as possible.

Each device, no matter whether a turntable or an amplifier, has a well defined function. Good design is the reduction of the ingredients to their most essential; ideally there is nothing to be found inside or elsewhere on a device that is not directly related to the device's function. Hence we conclude that each single part of the device, no matter how trivial, has an influence on sound. Yes, even the smallest screw.

Mechanical engineering by Brinkmann, or the art of extracting colourful soundscapes from black vinyl.

Despite continued advances in digital playback, the vinyl record (in spite of its limitations) remains the foremost important music format in the world. This is also especially true for Brinkmann. As records are cut at precisely 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, they therefore must also be played back at exactly the same speed; otherwise pitch will be off. This explains the most important requirements for proper playback:

Accurate and consistent speed.
Gentle groove tracing.
High level of immunity from external and internal vibrations.
Ultimate quietness and low friction of platter and tonearm bearing.
Consider, however, that at Brinkmann, each and every component is optimized to work in synergy, hence your mileage with other components may vary. Put differently, at Brinkmann, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Brinkmann »Sinus« Motor  

or over two decades we relied on the well-regarded German manufacturer Papst to supply capstan motors for our belt drive turntables. Technically and musically we had good results with this motor in combination with our proprietary analogue speed controller.  

Helmut Brinkmann's extensive research and development on our direct drive motor for the »Oasis« and »Bardo« turntables gave him valuable insight into the control of magnetic fields and how to apply this knowledge to reduce cogging in a motor. It became apparent that the next logical step was to apply this knowledge in the design of a new motor for the belt drive turntables.   

The new »Sinus« motor is better suited to driving a high mass platter (almost 46 lb) like the ones found in our »LaGrange« and »Balance« turntables, while the use of a 4-phase (4 times 90°) drive circuitry enables a very smooth rotation without cogging. The arrangement of the driving coils and the neodymium magnets in combination with the drive circuit achieves 16 “pulses” per revolution. Additionally a large rotating mass of 500 grams, achieved by using a nickel-plated steel motor body, works likes a flywheel. This drives the platter of the turntable with a very even force and reduces vibration.  

The smooth and quiet rotation of the motor allows longer instrument sustains which results in more detail, resolution and musicality. The frictionless flow of the motor movement is readily apparent in the effortless flow of the music.  

The new motor generates more torque and is therefore able to reduce the start-up time to a few seconds, no problem for the new vacuum tube power supply »RöNt II«, which is also able to handle the direct drive motors as well.  

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Awards

Featured

BR 01 DAC NYQUIS
NZ$ 23,500.00 (incl. GST)
Digital So Good, Only An Analog Expert Could Make It  Elegance. Precision. Heirloom Build Quality and State-of-the-Art Performance. These are the hallmarks of Brinkmann Audio. Now, thirty years...
The Nyquist includes MQA technology, which enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams,...
MQA is becoming a reality; the company has a new partner under Brinkmann Audio who...
Brinkmannn Nyquist MQA-Compatible DAC
BR 03 EDISON
NZ$ 15,995.01 (incl. GST)
The »Edison« offers three separate phono inputs, each of which’s loading & gain can be adjusted by the remote control (the settings can be stored in memory), followed by switchable 1:1 input...
EXTENDED FEVIEW: It’s rare enough to hear news from Helmut Brinkmann. He rejects the notion that...
BR 06 EMT TI
NZ$ 4,995.00 (incl. GST)
The cartridge is essentially an EMT, which then undergoes heavy modifications. The list of modifications includes a vdH stylus, an aluminum mount with a resonance optimized contact patch (made of...
BR 14 BARDO GM
NZ$ 10,500.01 (incl. GST)
Interesting details and upgrades   The picture shows the standard model »Bardo« with the magnetic motor drive. The »Bardo performance« features the metal cased power supply that is used for the...
BR 17 BAL 2
NZ$ 33,995.00 (incl. GST)
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance because of a mixture of lead and copper. Supported by the 90mm strength of the plate and the firmly...
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance...
EXTENDED REVIEW:

All Products

DACs

BR 01 DAC NYQUIS
NZ$ 23,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
Digital So Good, Only An Analog Expert Could Make It  Elegance. Precision. Heirloom Build Quality and State-of-the-Art Performance. These are the hallmarks of Brinkmann Audio. Now, thirty years...
The Nyquist includes MQA technology, which enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams,...
MQA is becoming a reality; the company has a new partner under Brinkmann Audio who...
Brinkmannn Nyquist MQA-Compatible DAC
DACs

Preamplifiers & Line-stages

BR 02 MARCONI
NZ$ 15,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
Brinkmann's introduction to Marconi linestage: A line stage has three duties. First, it switches the various sources. Second, it controls the playback volume. And third, it conditions the signal...
Brinkmann Marconi

Phono Stages

BR 03 EDISON
NZ$ 15,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
The »Edison« offers three separate phono inputs, each of which’s loading & gain can be adjusted by the remote control (the settings can be stored in memory), followed by switchable 1:1 input...
Phono Stages

Cartridges

BR 05 PI
NZ$ 2,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
  On the »Pi« cartridge we decided to use a Micro Ridge stylus, which has the best resolution in the fi nest recorded details and which guarantees for the most reliability. Naturally sounding in...
The Brinkmann Pi cartridge's Benz-Micro heritage was obvious from the get-go. The motor is built to...
Cartridges
BR 06 EMT TI
NZ$ 4,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The cartridge is essentially an EMT, which then undergoes heavy modifications. The list of modifications includes a vdH stylus, an aluminum mount with a resonance optimized contact patch (made of...
Cartridges

Tonearms

BR 09 TONEARM
NZ$ 4,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
We have developed the tonearm »9.6« and the cartridge »Pi« as a completion for our two direct drive turntables »Oasis« and »Bardo«.      The 9.6 has a close resemblance with the 10.5...
Tonearms
BR 10 TONEARM
NZ$ 7,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The »10.5« is considered one of the best tonearms in the world and is used as a reference (and highly recommended) by magazines and reviewers alike throughout the world. The »10.5« is a true...
The Bardo is Brinkmann’s second direct or magnetic drive turntable. It was preceded by the Oasis (...
Tonearms
BR 12 TONEARM
NZ$ 8,000.00 ea (incl. GST)
The »10.5« is considered one of the best tonearms in the world and is used as a reference (and highly recommended) by magazines and reviewers alike throughout the world. The »10.5« is a true...
Tonearms

Turntables

BR 14 BARDO AM
NZ$ 9,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
Turntables
BR 14 BARDO DC
NZ$ 701.89 ea (incl. GST)
Turntables
BR 14 BARDO GM
NZ$ 10,500.01 ea (incl. GST)
Interesting details and upgrades   The picture shows the standard model »Bardo« with the magnetic motor drive. The »Bardo performance« features the metal cased power supply that is used for the...
Turntables
BR 14 BARDO TA10
NZ$ 18,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Delux  model BARDO with the magnetic motor drive and platter of the Oasis turntable, with glass platter mat, this results in a finely extended dynamic resolution. and a metal...
The Delux  model BARDO with the magnetic motor drive and platter of the Oasis...
Turntables
BR 15 OASIS
NZ$ 14,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The most prominent feature of the »Oasis« turntable is most probably its direct drive mechanism. In our never-ending search to improve sound quality, we did not stop short of evaluating different...
The OASIS turntable platter is directly motor driven and so offers enormously quiet and stable...
Turntables
BR 15 OASIS TA10
NZ$ 22,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The most prominent feature of the »Oasis« turntable is most probably its direct drive mechanism. In our never-ending search to improve sound quality, we did not stop short of evaluating different...
The OASIS turntable platter is directly motor driven and so offers enormously quiet and stable...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
Turntables
BR 16 TT SPY
NZ$ 15,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
The Spyder sounds amazing and is a powerhouse demo tool since it can be configured with up to FOUR  9" - 12" tonearms. For analog-focused retailers the Spyder offers invaluable flexibility for...
SPYDER Attributes and Technical Specifications :Drive Mechanism: Belt drive using Sinus 4 -Phase,...
Turntables
BR 16 TT SPYAB09
NZ$ 3,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
INTRODUCTION THE THE NEW BRINKMANN SPYDER TURNTABLE:Brinkmann Audio’s Spyder turntable is now available for preorder and will be shipping in 4-6 weeks. The Spyder sounds amazing and is a powerhouse...
Turntables
BR 16 TT SPYAB12
NZ$ 3,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
INTRODUCTION TO BRINKMANN SPYDER TURNTABLE: The Spyder sounds amazing and is a powerhouse demo tool since it can be configured with up to four(!) 9" -12" tonearms. For analog-focused retailers the...
Turntables
BR 17 BAL
NZ$ 27,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance because of a mixture of lead and copper. Supported by the 90mm strength of the plate and the firmly...
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance...
 Gold Medal” for turntables from the “Image Hifi Millenium Awards 
Turntables
BR 17 BAL 2
NZ$ 33,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance because of a mixture of lead and copper. Supported by the 90mm strength of the plate and the firmly...
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
Turntables
BR 18 BAL 105
Price on application
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance because of a mixture of lead and copper. Supported by the 90mm strength of the plate and the firmly...
The turntable platter is made from a massive block of a special aluminum that has low resonance...
Turntables
BR 18 BAL 2TA
Price on application
BRINKMANN BALANCE II is the newest addition to the product range, a 2-arm tuntable designed to accept 1x 9" - 10.5" and 1x 10.5" - 12.1" tonearms.  The NEW 4 phase (4 times 90°) SINUS motor of...
Drive precision ground round belt Platter: weight 18 kg, Ø 316 mm, height 90 mm. Platter surface:...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
Turntables

Accessories

BR 20 GRANITE
NZ$ 595.00 ea (incl. GST)
Accessories
BR 20 HRS M3X
NZ$ 5,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The M3X Isolation Base is the latest generation of reference level isolation bases from Harmonic Resolution Systems. It is manufactured from six different materials including two proprietary...
No vibrations   When it comes to a music playback system, the prevailing view is that there is...
Accessories
BR TPS RONT
NZ$ 5,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
At first blush, it seems a crazy idea to use vacuum tubes for a low-voltage turntable power supply. So why do we do it? We found that the vacuum in the rectifier tubes not only isolates their plates...
Accessories

Reviews

The Brinkmann Pi cartridge strikes me as very competitive at and above its price .

The Brinkmann Pi cartridge's Benz-Micro heritage was obvious from the get-go. The motor is built to Brinkmann's specifications by Benz-Micro and includes a Micro-Ridge stylus. The cantilever material is not specified. The Pi's output is approximately 0.25mV, and its compliance is moderate at 15µm/mN. Recommended are a tracking force of 1.8–2gm, a VTA of 23°, and a resistive load of 600 ohms. 

Helmut Brinkmann says he tweaked the Pi's design for a year and a half before he achieved the results he desired, including making the tiny set screws out of various materials. The Pi, with a body of machined aluminum designed to control the dissipation of resonant energy, weighs a hefty 14gm. Brinkmann supplies aluminum screws and titanium washers, which, he claims, in combination with special damping between the cartridge body and headshell, have been "sonically tuned to create a unique musical instrument." 

Sound

The Brinkmann Pi, mounted in the 9.6 tonearm and the Bardo turntable, produced superbly well-organized sound with clean, sharp attacks, reasonably strong sustain, and pronounced decay, all against a jet-black backdrop. The harmonic structures of instruments, while somewhat lean, were intact. Most Benz-Micro cartridges I've heard tend to sound somewhat polite and self-effacing on top; this combination's high-frequency production was anything but. Instead, it was well extended and slightly sharp in a pleasingly Teutonic way, if more pronounced than I like—at least in my system. The mids were smooth and clean, the bottom taut, well defined, and well extended: all in all, this was a good start for a "tight" front-end not yet broken in. 

Raising the arm pillar about 5mm upped the SRA to a bit above 91°, which smoothed out the top end considerably and produced a more balanced sound that only improved as the Pi continued to break in. After that, as the suspension material settled over time, it was necessary to raise the pillar more to maintain 91°, or raise it to approximately 92°. 

Digging into the essential reissue of The Nat King Cole Story (45rpm LPs, Capitol/Analogue Productions APP-SWCL 1613) brought nothing but pleasure: the warmish-sounding opening tracks had the proper mellow richness. (Though everything was rerecorded in stereo for this 1961 release, the earlier tunes were kept in the warm style of the mono originals, with minimal stereo separation.) Cole's creamy voice rides atop the sound of the somewhat softly recorded piano with the kind of clarity and definition that 1940s recordings couldn't produce. The Brinkmann combo did a very good job of capturing this, though it seemed a slight bit of edge remained on top that became more obvious as, in "Nature Boy," the producers maximized the stereo separation. 

Switching to the equally remarkable Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers and Hart Song Book, Volume 1 (45rpm LPs, Verve/ORG 055), there was a bit more edge than I'd been used to from Fitzgerald's voice, and the huge kick-drum whomps in "You Took Advantage of Me," though deep, seemed robbed of the last bit of low-frequency extension and dynamic energy. Instrumental separation could have been more pronounced. 

With the Pi cartridge riding in the massive Kuzma 4Point tonearm, the top end smoothed out considerably and was less pronounced without losing any air, transient speed, or high-frequency extension. Ella Fitzgerald's voice became more three-dimensional and nuanced and less bright, in part because the reverb better separated out into its own space instead of being submerged in the sound of her voice. The kick drum's energy produced a greater wallop and more satisfying whomp. More than that, the wind instruments in the right channel took on a richer, rounder harmonic sheen, while the piano in the left sported more wood and less cardboard. Images became more stable and solid—and through the 9.6 they'd already been plenty good in that regard. 

Summing Up

The Brinkmann Pi cartridge strikes me as very competitive at and above its price . Its tonal balance was slightly on the lean side of neutral but only slightly so, and its overall extension at both frequency extremes was impressive, as was its tracking ability.

none have had such a stately bearing as the Balance II, you can hear the engineering in turntables and this one sounds like a Rolls Royce.
Jason Kennedy - The Ear

.....the Brinkmann shows off its imaging skills with results that are positively holographic. 

.....the bass is inevitably a strong point on a turntable like this, both in its extension, speed .

......and It’s quite a visceral experience with a turntable like this.

...... It has the  ability to keep you pinned to the chair.

......the turntable is so calm, distortion levels are way below those usually encountered with turntables, so it’s able to resolve fine details to a higher degree, a far higher degree to be frank.
 

......this is an incredibly revealing record player that can easily turn an audio signal into a source of top flight entertainment. It’s not only able to deliver detail, separation and precision but it combines all of these elements to deliver an addictive sound that lets you get the most out of your vinyl. 

Brinkmann turntables embody the remarkable standard of German engineering better than many of their competitors, the pictures give you some idea of the build quality on offer but in the flesh this brute of a record player is a truly remarkable state of affairs. Everything is superbly finished, even the bits you can't see – the drive pulley is not on show for instance but hides under an acrylic cover with the belt entering via a slot in the side of the housing, that's a very nice touch and not one I've seen before. It was also supplied with a raft of hex drivers including a 6mm one with a ball on the end that initially puzzled me, then I realised that it was designed to do up the substantial bolts at the bottom of each arm base. Attention to detail is very high.
 
It is of course massive in all respects, it arrived in five boxes only one of which being for the extra tonearm. This meant that there was another wing on the plinth itself that increases the overall width to 50cm and meant that I could only just squeeze it onto the top of my rack. Set up was a slow process, partly because of the extra arm and two power supplies, one for the motor and another for the bearing, but mainly because there are only limited instructions. For all its scale however, this is not a complicated turntable; there's no suspension to set up and both arms arrived with their cartridges in situ, which took a lot of the pressure off. The 12.1  and 10.0 arms (the name indicating the length in decidedly unGerman imperial units) came ready installed in large stainless steel and aluminium bases. These slot into round holes in the plinth and if you have a Brinkmann (or Clearaudio) alignment gauge set-up is just a matter of rotating the base until the stylus sits correctly on the gauge.
 
Brinkmann 10.0 tonearm hybrid bearing housing
 
To arms
The 12.1, which is the longer of the two arms, has an extended base so that the turntable itself remains a (relatively) sensible size, on some designs this might look a little unbalanced but the substantial build of the Balance and the fact that the arm-base sits behind the platter gives it more than sufficient integrity. Brinkmann arms don't come with external leads but in this instance were connected to RCA sockets in the base which also has a small hole for the supplied earth lead. This approach means that there's an additional junction between cartridge and amplifier which is not a good thing, but on the plus side you can switch cables with ease which is quite appealing. I put the most transparent cable at my disposal, Townshend Fractal Wire, between arm-base and a Trilogy 907 phono stage. The aforementioned multiple power supplies consist of a solid state block which keeps the bearing oil at a stable temperature and a valve powered supply for the motor itself. Neither are exactly conventional devices, even in the world high end record players.
 
The Sinus motor itself is a variation on the one that Brinkmann developed for the Bardo and Oasis direct drive turntables and thus a highly refined piece of electronic and mechanical engineering. The image gives you some idea of the extent to which it deviates from the norm, even the fact that Brinkmann designed the motor is a deviation for that matter. This is not an off the shelf device but a four phase motor with a 500 gram (1lb) flywheel. The RöNT II is a single ended, class A tube power supply for the Sinus motor which employs a pair of PL36 pentodes and a 5AR4 full wave rectifier, it comes with its own granite plinth. The turntable is usually to be found on a slab of rock too but I rashly said that I’d put it on a Townshend Seismic stand of the pneumatically isolating variety; rash because it turned out to be a shade too small and tricky to balance with so much mass onboard. The twin arm Balance weighs 35kg, that’s including the 18kg platter but not the arms and power supplies.
 
Brinkmann EMT-ti cartridge
 
Once set up you are encouraged to let the platter spin for three hours prior to checking speed, after that time I used the supplied strobe disc, a screwdriver and a suitable light to tweak the RPM and found it slightly adrift after it's journey from Achberg, Germany. I am happy to report that, once set correctly, it remained that way for the several weeks that I had to enjoy its remarkable capabilities.
 
The Balance came with both of Brinkmann’s cartridges, the EMT-ti on the 12.1 arm and a Pi on the 10.0, both these moving coils have a similar output and load requirement which made swapping from one to the other easy. What got in the way of a comparison were the differing arms. The 10.0 differs from Brinkmann’s Breuer inspired arms by virtue of having a hybrid of roller and unipivot bearings, vertical movement is covered by the former and lateral swing by a spike sitting in a ring of tiny ball bearings. There is a second larger ring bearing lower down on the spike’s shaft which stops the assembly tilting, these having enough play to have minimal influence on movement. 
 
Brinkmann RöNT II power supply
 
High roller
I have had high mass turntables in the past and I've also enjoyed some with 12inch arms but none have had such a stately bearing as the Balance II, you can hear the engineering in turntables and this one sounds like a Rolls Royce. It is totally confident yet understated, it makes music that's as powerful or dynamic as it needs to be and does nothing to emphasise or elaborate on what's in the signal. This is the hardest thing for a turntable to do, their mechanical nature means that it's far easier to impart a character on the sound than not and this is why you get such big differences compared to other sources.
 
Using the Balance is easier than many high mass designs because you can remove and replace vinyl, and clamp for that matter, without stopping the platter. With this much inertia the thing takes a while to slow down and with practice I was able to switch discs quite quickly, a state of affairs which accelerated when I came to the conclusion that the clamp does not necessarily improve the sound, but more on that later.
 
Starting with the Pi in the 10.0 arm I was struck by how low the noise floor is, it’s almost unnatural and means that the music has the element of surprise when the run-in groove gets to the signal. I learned to be careful with the volume control! Leo Kottke’s guitar playing is strong and definite under the Balance’s auspices. It has all of the energy and zing that new strings deliver but this is accompanied by a very distinct sense of presence. Dynamic range is massive which gives you the quiet run-in followed by the high level music, it also adds to the realism and life force of the music. All this being topped by an effortless high resolution of the sort that digital systems are rarely capable of delivering.
 
Brinkmann Sinus motor
 
A more audiophile recording, Patricia Barber’s Café Blue, lets the Brinkmann show off its imaging skills with results that are positively holographic. The noise floor is non existent and the voice and instruments are manifestly real. The acoustic instruments are the most convincing because they haven’t undergone so much treatment in the studio, Barber’s voice is less natural but no less in the room. When Mourning Grace comes on the drum sound is immense, the piano and guitar keep the groove locked down and the voice really soars. It’s quite a visceral experience with a turntable like this.
 
The bass is inevitably a strong point on a turntable like this, both in its extension, speed and control. Totally unflappable about covers it and this means that the OTT synth bass on Wonder’s Superstition doesn’t take over the room as is generally the case but remains fulsome and tuneful. It’s not the most propulsive turntable I’ve encountered but it’s certainly one of the most stable and revealing. This goes for the worn out grooves of older records as well as the incredible sounds therein, however by keeping noise to a minimum wear is a lot less obtrusive than it can be. It would help if the record industry go its act together and re-released some of the real classics on vinyl.
 
Moving waves
 
I mentioned that not using the clamp delivered a rather appealing result with this turntable but that’s not the whole story. It started with a quick comparison between with and without clamp that resulted in clear increase in treble detail, cymbals and flutes started appearing in the soundstage that hadn’t been there. The I realised that the grommet that sits under the vinyl so that the clamp isn’t just compressing the record centre was still in place, meaning that the vinyl was far from flat on the glass surface of the platter. So I removed the widget and listened but preferred the former ‘flapping’ vinyl option. That couldn’t be right but several comparisons gave the same result, so in the end I looked around for another means of supporting the vinyl and landed on that old favourite a felt mat. This had pros and cons, the treble remained clear and open but the resolution suffered, the sound getting muddled and messy. I tried to emulate the very thin nature of the grommet with three bits of card but that didn’t do it either. Eventually it occurred to me that I had reviewed quite a good cork and rubber mat a while back and that it was somewhere in the vaults, after much sifting I found a Blue Horizon Promat which has two parts. By using the piece that has a label size hole in the middle I got a result that gave most of the detail of the grommet but with a more solid bottom end and very high coherence and separation. The Balance is a superb turntable in standard form but in my system at least this tweak raised its game still further.
 
Brinkmann Pi cartridge
 
One small point; among the parts supplied with this turntable was a black leather disc, about three inches across, I wondered if it might be a patch for the elbow of my tweed jacket! But no, I was told that it’s a coaster for the record clamp. Helmut and Andrea Brinkmann do appear to have thought of everything.
 
The 12.1 arm with the EMT-ti cartridge delivers a more relaxed and refined result than the more affordable 10.0/Pi combination. It’s not quite as tight in the bass but has beautiful tone across the range and a totally effortless ability to extract masses of information from the groove. It makes for easier to follow musical lines and greater lyrical intelligibility. It has the same ability to keep you pinned to the chair as its shorter brother but you can play a little louder and hear more. Trumpet sounds superb whether it’s played by Olu Dara or Lester Bowie, and wherever you get a variety of instruments being played simultaneously it’s easier to tell them apart. This ability to separate similar sounds is a particular skill of the Balance, whichever arm and cartridge is in use. It comes about because the turntable is so calm, distortion levels are way below those usually encountered with turntables, so it’s able to resolve fine details to a higher degree, a far higher degree to be frank. With a Tralfamadore 300B push-pull amp in the system the tone jumped into another league, Billy Gibbons’ guitar could not sound any more low down and dirty – he has to have been using a tube amp on the inimitable groove of Cheap Sunglasses (ZZ Top - Degüello), pure filth seems the only apt description. Then you get Dusty Hill’s bass outro, no more chunky, chewy and downright badass bass guitar sound has been cut into vinyl.
 
Tools supplied with the Balance 2-arm
 
I eventually got round to trying the EMT-ti in the 10.0 arm, a slightly disconcerting transfer because of the extremely fine nature of the wires to the cartridge tags, but it seems that they are more robust than they look because they survived. The result revealed the EMT-ti to be the superior cartridge as the price would suggest, it has greater bandwidth and a more solid bottom end, it also extracts more life and vitality from the groove. Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones sounded significantly more vibrant with mucho energy coming from the drums on Troubles Braids – that being Victor Feldman – a man who not only played with Steely Dan but Miles Davis, Cannoball Adderley and The Doobie Brothers to name a few. Waits was canny to employ his talents. This was just one of a stack of vinyl I enjoyed with the Brinkmann’s shorter arm, it lacks the refinement of the 12.1 but has a greater sense of immediacy that is very engaging indeed.
 
Top notch
I hope you get the picture, this is an incredibly revealing record player that can easily turn an audio signal into a source of top flight entertainment. It’s not only able to deliver detail, separation and precision but it combines all of these elements to deliver an addictive sound that lets you get the most out of your vinyl. By building a Balance with two arm bases Brinkmann has produced a real luxury for those who want to use different cartridges and arms on a regular basis but don’t want to compromise results. The engineering on offer is exemplary, as is the finish and design. Anyone in the market for a top notch twin-arm turntable should put it at the top of their list.
 
I asked Helmut Brinkmann a couple of questions about the Balance 2-arm
 
Why heat the oil in the main bearing?
 
This is done because of the temperature dependent aluminium housing, when the temperature is too low the bearing gap of 1½ hundredths of a millimetre becomes too small. The heater is not necessary when you have a steady room temperature around 25°C (77°F), but that’s not always the situation. The heater raises the internal temperature to about 30°C and a small electronic board keeps it there independently of the ambient temperature. I don’t imagein that anyone will listen to records above this temperature, so that should be enough. When the heater is off and the room temperature is low, there will be no damage to the bearing, it’s just that the oil gap is not the optimal and friction increases. This may cause deviations in the speed and can lead to reduced performance.
 
What advantage do tubes have in a motor power supply?
 
The idea of a tubed power supply came by chance. I worked on tube power supplies for amplifiers when one day I had the thought that they should work with a motor too. When designing the regular supply I realised that all parts of a (transistor) power supply are clearly audible. Additionally I worked on the tube supply, impressed by the tube sound the whole system produced with this. It took me a long time to optimise this tube supply for the motor as a turntable needs different characteristics compared to one for an amplifier. Of course it should not just give a “tube” coloration, it should increase the performance, especially as it is an expensive option.
 
For me the basic idea of a turntable is something like an “energy chain” of different forces that lead to the rotation of the platter. The mechanical force that moves the stylus comes from the rotating platter, the record just “modulates” this force. The platter is driven by the motor, which transforms electrical energy to mechanical power. And the motor is driven by the power supply, which transforms the electrical AC power of the mains to DC energy for the motor. Looked at like this it is not so difficult to understand that we can hear the kind of the power supply. In a world where some customers listen to the sound of a tiny fuse, all parts of this “energy chain” will give their imprint to the performance of the whole.
you should definitely hear the Brinkmann Bardo before plunking down your money for anything else.
Michael Fremer

Summary:
The Bardo is beautifully made, smartly designed (I think the high-mass platter and low-torque motor are key to its performance), looks elegant, and has no outboard motor and belt to potchky with. Out of the box, it's plenty good—and once you're hooked, you can make it even better. With glass and stainless-steel mat and record clamp, the Brinkmann Bardo is a contender for the best turntable under US$10,000, and probably should be auditioned by anyone looking for a turntable costing US$15,000, or even more. It sounds that good, and its build quality and fit'n'finish are worthy of 'tables costing far more.

I won't debate here how to make a turntable's platter go around. Choose your favorite: belt vs direct drive, idler wheel vs belt, spring-windup vs wind power, whatever. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing to debate. Each of these technologies has its pluses and minuses, but none can produce CD's accuracy of speed and inherent freedom from wow and flutter.
Despite that, you'll never convince me that CDs produce music that sounds better or more lifelike than LPs, or that CDs even come close to communicating music's ability to evoke emotions from listeners, or the sensation that you've been transported to the concert hall, or that the musicians are in your room performing for you. They just don't.
 
Play the best CDs for an hour and convince yourself that the technology has gotten really good—and it has—then play an LP on even a modestly priced turntable, and the sensations of quiet, relaxation, and relief are profound. As one friend who hadn't heard vinyl in years said when he heard The Clash on my turntable, "That's the sound I've been missing!" His decision was made in an instant: He got rid of most of his CDs and replaced them with the LPs he'd ditched when he went digital.
 
The Bardo
Brinkmann Audio built its reputation for turntables on belt drive. Then, wanting to produce a less expensive model, they devised an elegant direct-drive system for the Oasis, their first turntable to incorporate a plinth. More recently, founder Helmut Brinkmann has designed the Bardo, essentially a plinthless Oasis that more closely resembles the company's sleek, plinthless, belt-driven La Grange but costs less than either.
 
The basic Bardo costs $7990 and shares the superbly designed and machined spindle and bearing used in the Oasis, the La Grange, and Brinkmann's top turntable model, the Balance. For another $1500, Brinkmann will substitute for the standard acrylic platter mat an integral one made of precision-ground crystal glass, and add a screw-on record clamp. The glass mat includes for the record label a recessed area of stainless steel around the spindle to accept a raised washer insert. Screwing down the clamp produces a force around the record's perimeter that flattens it against the platter. A second option ($1490) adds a heftier outboard power supply for the motor, with a larger transformer that's said to increase the bass response. A slab of polished granite measuring 18" W by 1.25" thick by 12" D for the turntable to sit on is standard in the US. An isolation base, made by Harmonic Resolution Systems, which has had a long relationship with Brinkmann, is available.
 
The Bardo supplied for review included the glass platter and clamp but not the power-supply upgrade, in a complete plug'n'play package that included Brinkmann's 9.6 tonearm ($3990) and Pi moving-coil cartridge ($2700). Brinkmann will supply custom-drilled armboards for your choice of tonearms; Helmut Brinkmann was kind enough to include boards for my Graham Phantom II and Kuzma 4Point arms.
 
What any mass-loaded turntable sits on will have a great effect on its sound. The Bardo sat on my HRS rack atop an HRS isolation base tuned for the 'table's weight. In my opinion, the HRS rack is one of the greatest audio products ever manufactured.
 
A Non–Disco-Friendly Direct Drive
The Bardo and Oasis share the same neat, efficient direct-drive motor, designed and manufactured by Brinkmann. It consists of a large, eight-pole ring magnet mounted in the subplatter bearing housing, and a series of coils arrayed on a circuit board mounted below the magnet. An aluminum subplatter holds the steel bearing shaft, the ring magnet, and the tachometer. A circular fixture of machined aluminum, bolted to the plinth, contains the electronic drive circuit and the four field coils, which, interestingly, are not symmetrically arrayed at 90° angles to one another. Instead, in order to allow space for the control circuitry on the printed circuit board that supports the coils, they're arrayed at 22.5° angles, which puts the first at about 8:45 o'clock and the fourth at about 3:45. Why the space between the coils doesn't cause asymmetrical rotational performance, I don't know. Maybe it does. The bearing shaft, which rides on a Teflon thrust pad that sits in a machined aluminum carrier at the bottom of a circular opening in the center of the coil array completes the compact design.
 
Two Hall-effect sensors—ie, transducers whose electrical output varies in response to variations in a magnetic field—track the ring magnet's North and South pole positions, and direct an amplification system that precisely times the sequential increases and decreases of current flowing to the coils, as needed, to ensure smooth rotational performance. The concept is not new—see my review of the Grand Prix Audio Monaco direct-drive turntable in the November 2007 Stereophile, Vol.30 No.11—but the execution appears to be.
 
Though Thorens is credited with developing the earliest direct-drive turntables decades ago, modern direct-drive technology took into account the quick-start, quick-stop needs of radio stations and DJs. Thus, motors were high-torque, platters light.
 
Virtually all electric motors "cog," ie, their rotational speed regularly fluctuates above and below the average speed as each magnet pole goes past each coil. A high-torque motor needs a greater number of poles—in some designs, dozens—and the more poles, the more cogging. With nothing to counteract the motor cogging that inevitably occurs directly within the platter of a high-torque, low-mass, direct-drive turntable, large amounts of wow and flutter are also inevitable.
 
Regulating a direct-drive motor's speed with a phase-locked loop produces tight speed control and measurably low levels of wow and flutter, but the motor's constant, ultra-high-speed hunting and pecking as it over- and under compensates in the attempt to produce a consistent speed can create a jitter effect in the mid-treble to which the human ear is particularly sensitive, adding a hard, brittle texture to music. That describes the sound of Technics' now-discontinued SL1200 series of direct-drive turntables, and explains why, despite their high build quality and relatively low price, few are used in serious audio systems, though some listeners claim that these 'tables can be modified to improve their sonic performance.
 
In designing his direct-drive system, Helmut Brinkmann chose to flip the direct-drive paradigm and go with a 22-lb, "resonance-optimized," aluminum-alloy platter and a relatively low-torque motor that takes about 12 seconds to get the platter up to 33.33rpm. Brinkmann claims that, once set in motion, the massive platter requires but a small electronic "nudge" to maintain accurate speed; thereafter, the ultra-low-friction bearing requires very little energy to maintain correct speed. Brinkmann also claims that the heavy platter and the close-proximity coil array's overlapping magnetic fields help minimize cogging effects. The geometry of the coil array, he says, was arrived at through listening.
Brinkmann uses the same platter bearing in his belt-driven 'tables. While in those designs the bearing is electrically heated, that's not necessary in the Bardo, he says—the motor's quiescent current produces enough warmth.
 
The Bardo's speed control is analog—Brinkmann felt that the radio-frequency interference from a digital system would degrade the sound. An optical reader measures the tachometer's strobe frequency, converts it to a voltage, and compares that to a temperature-stable variable reference voltage. Trim pots for the two speeds can vary the reference voltage, and thus the platter's speed of rotation, within a range of ±10%.
 
I appreciated that Brinkmann's technical descriptions of what he's done don't minimize the difficulties of designing belt- or direct-drive turntables, and that he claims perfection for neither of his designs.
 
The Bardo's Other Parts
The self-contained motor and bearing system attaches to a substantial, resonance-optimized, tear-shaped, 16.4"- wide chassis of duralumin, to which are fitted three adjustable feet of machined metal. A circular platform accepts machined-aluminum armboard inserts that can be easily rotated to achieve the proper pivot-to-spindle distance with a wide variety of tonearms, before being secured with three locking bolts.
 
The chassis's far side holds a pair of RCA jacks (XLRs are an optional extra) that terminate in a DIN plug under the housing of the tonearm mount. An umbilical from the outboard power supply, which is housed in a nicely machined chassis, connects to a three-pin jack adjacent to the analog outputs.
 
The right side of the chassis, which lies underneath the platter, contains the two trim pots to vary the speed and the speed selector switch: Up selects 33.33rpm (the end of the switch glows green), down selects 45rpm (glows red).
 
In every way, the Bardo's machining and overall fit'n'finish are Class A. As with the Balance, which I reviewed in May 2005, I literally couldn't see the platter spinning—and it continued spinning a long time after I switched off the power.
 
Setup and Use
If you order the Bardo with the 9.6 and Pi, it will be delivered with the arm and cartridge already installed, even though there is no stylus guard. Not a problem, as you'll see when you unbox it.
 
After carefully removing a black nylon tie that holds the arm tightly to a rod threaded into the spindle, you place the arm on its rest, then remove the threaded rod and the orange protective tape around the subplatter-and-bearing assembly. Carefully place the heavy platter on the subplatter assembly, level the turntable, add the counterweight to the back of the arm, set the tracking force, and in less than 30 minutes you're just about ready to play records. All that's left to do is connect your choice of output cables to your phono preamp, attach the umbilical to the power supply, and plug that into the mains. It doesn't get much easier—particularly for a sophisticated turntable with such high performance aspirations.
 
Place a record on the platter. (If you order the optional platter mat and clamp, you'll have to insert a washer into the recess around the spindle before placing an LP on the platter and apply the clamp.) Flip the switch to the correct speed, and you're playing records.
 
A word of caution: If you reach directly for the Bardo's on/off switch, your arm can easily collide with the stylus. It doesn't take long to get accustomed to reaching around the tonearm to get to the switch rather than directly toward it.
 
Brinkmann's specified pivot-to-spindle distance measured correctly per the latest Feickert gauge, but when I lowered the stylus onto the Feickert's overhang grid, it didn't line up with the scribe marks for the Lofgren, Baerwald, or Stevenson alignments. It was off by a few millimetres, which in this tiny world is a lot. I redid the overhang and zenith angle to conform to the Lofgren alignment, and contacted Brinkmann about this.
 
It turns out the original setting was deliberate. Brinkmann uses the Dennesen alignment protractor (in fact, he offers a nicely machined version of it) and a slightly different geometric methodology, describing the details of which space doesn't permit. As I say in my seminars on turntable setup, there are many ways of setting overhang to minimise tracking distortion. After our conversation, I returned the Pi's stylus to Brinkmann's preferred overhang position.
 
Using the Wally Tools Wallyskater, I found that the anti-skating was set a bit too high—but again, skating is dependent on groove modulation, vinyl formulation, where on the record you measure it, and, for all I know, the day of the week. I suspect a modulated groove test was used to set antiskating; if that modulation was higher than what's found in typical musical signals, the setting will be too high.
 
When I checked the SRA with a digital microscope, I measured 90°, or 2° lower than what my experience has shown me is optimal. Raising the arm pillar 4° would produce an approximate 1° change in SRA, so I decided to raise it about 5mm, but not before listening to it as delivered. A digital oscilloscope and a Fozgometer (which in this case correlated well with each other) demonstrated that the Pi's azimuth had been set at the factory to perfection, which was fortunate—the 9.6 arm doesn't let you adjust azimuth.
 
Sound
With three new variables—a turntable, a tonearm, and a cartridge—it was at first difficult to determine which was contributing what to the sound. But it wasn't at all difficult to love that sound.
 
The Bardo-9.6-Pi produced superbly well-organized sound with clean, sharp attacks, reasonably strong sustain, and pronounced decay, all against a jet-black backdrop. The harmonic structures of instruments, while somewhat lean, were intact. Most Benz-Micro cartridges I've heard tend to sound somewhat polite and self-effacing on top; this combination's high-frequency production was anything but. Instead, it was well extended and slightly sharp in a pleasingly Teutonic way, if more pronounced than I like—at least in my system. The mids were smooth and clean, the bottom taut, well defined, and well extended: all in all, this was a good start for a "tight" front-end not yet broken in.
Raising the arm pillar about 5mm upped the SRA to a bit above 91°, which smoothed out the top end considerably and produced a more balanced sound that only improved as the Pi continued to break in. After that, as the suspension material settled over time, it was necessary to raise the pillar more to maintain 91°, or raise it to approximately 92°.
 
Digging into the essential reissue of The Nat King Cole Story (45rpm LPs, Capitol/Analogue Productions APP-SWCL 1613) brought nothing but pleasure: the warmish-sounding opening tracks had the proper mellow richness. (Though everything was rerecorded in stereo for this 1961 release, the earlier tunes were kept in the warm style of the mono originals, with minimal stereo separation.) Cole's creamy voice rides atop the sound of the somewhat softly recorded piano with the kind of clarity and definition that 1940s recordings couldn't produce. The Brinkmann combo did a very good job of capturing this, though it seemed a slight bit of edge remained on top that became more obvious as, in "Nature Boy," the producers maximized the stereo separation.
 
Switching to the equally remarkable Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers and Hart Song Book, Volume 1 (45rpm LPs, Verve/ORG 055), there was a bit more edge than I'd been used to from Fitzgerald's voice, and the huge kick-drum whomps in "You Took Advantage of Me," though deep, seemed robbed of the last bit of low-frequency extension and dynamic energy. Instrumental separation could have been more pronounced.
 
To get to the bottom of this, I made some 24-bit/96kHz recordings of the Fitzgerald, using my Alesis Masterlink hard-disk recorder as well as "Green Shirt," from Elvis Costello's Armed Forces (LP, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab), then took a deep breath and began mastering the setup of the considerably more expensive, more complex, more massive Kuzma 4Point tonearm ($6500, review to come) on the Bardo, with the Pi cartridge. I listened again to the same tracks, then recorded them, again at 24/96, so that I could do direct comparisons.
 
Verdict: The Bardo is orders of magnitude better than I would have believed had I used it only with Brinkmann's own 9.6 tonearm. That's not to say the 9.6 isn't a good arm at its price, or that the Bardo didn't sing and swing when connected to it, or that, in a less revealing system whose speakers and amp don't add up to $100,000, the Brinkmann combo wouldn't be among the best analog front-ends you can own for under $20,000. It's just that the costlier Kuzma 4Point is considerably better, and let the Bardo express itself more fully in every way.
 
With the Pi cartridge riding in the massive 4Point, the top end smoothed out considerably and was less pronounced without losing any air, transient speed, or high-frequency extension. Ella Fitzgerald's voice became more three-dimensional and nuanced and less bright, in part because the reverb better separated out into its own space instead of being submerged in the sound of her voice. The kick drum's energy produced a greater wallop and more satisfying whomp. More than that, the wind instruments in the right channel took on a richer, rounder harmonic sheen, while the piano in the left sported more wood and less cardboard. Images became more stable and solid—and through the 9.6 they'd already been plenty good in that regard.
 
The Bardo's dynamic presentation was very, very good, but not complete—and that's where some of the more massive and expensive turntables can beat it. But unless the rest of your system can express the full dynamic palette, you won't miss what the Bardo omits.
 
Comparisons
All that was left to do to really get the Bardo's number was to record the same Fitzgerald and Costello tunes with my reference Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn, Cobra, and Castellon turntable, tonearm, and stand—which together cost more than ten times the price of the Bardo-4Point combo—then mount the Ortofon A90 cartridge in the 4Point on the Bardo and record them again. (Thanks to the digital USB microscope and an oscilloscope, I could be sure what I was hearing was not due to variations in setup, though with the 4Point's separate silicone damping systems for horizontal and vertical movement, you could vary the sound after the optimizing geometric setup.)
 
Here's what I found. The Bardo's speed control was, as expected, superb. If the direct-drive motor suffered from any rotational speed "jitter," it did so minimally. The Bardo's low-frequency extension and control were very, very good, and probably better than those of some more expensive belt drives in terms of low bass not creeping into the midbass, where it doesn't belong. Thin and/or malnourished in the bass the Bardo was not.
 
However, I suspect that the Bardo's bass wasn't as rich, deep, and weighty as that of Brinkmann's La Grange or, especially, Balance turntables. Some might argue that the Bardo gets all of what vinyl offers in the low frequencies—but I wouldn't be one of them, particularly when I compared the Bardo-4Point–A90 to the Caliburn-Cobra-A90. Where the far more expensive Continuum rig goes deeply and transparently into the recesses of recordings—a function of both micro- and macrodynamic range that I heard with the first LP I played on it almost six years ago—the Bardo stopped just as it entered the darkness.
 
However, you pay a lot to go that extra distance—as you do going from the Bardo to the Balance, which, as I remember (I was about to buy a Balance when the Continuum came along), gets you way into the depths of what's in the grooves of your favorite recordings. The Bardo, at a much lower price, does not. On the other hand, I know a few analog devotees who find the Balance's sound "polite," even boring. They're misguided, in my opinion, but they might be thrilled by the Bardo, regardless of prices.
 
With the Ortofon A90 in the Kuzma 4Point playing MoFi's stupendous reissue of Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth (LP, 4AD/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2-001), or España from Ernst Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra (LP, ORG 014), or The Nat King Cole Story, the Bardo addressed with great precision every aspect of analog playback and left little to be desired. Its minor errors were those of omission, as previously described.
 
Conclusions
As a plug'n'play record-playing system costing just over $16,000, Brinkmann Audio's Bardo turntable, 9.6 tonearm, and Pi cartridge have a value greater than the sum of their parts. If you're new to analog and can afford to spend this much, but don't want to get too heavily involved in setup and/or have to buy a boxful of setup tools, you can't go wrong with this combination. Even a novice with a digital stylus gauge can probably unbox it, set it up, and be playing LPs within an hour.
 
The Bardo is beautifully made, smartly designed (I think the high-mass platter and low-torque motor are key to its performance), looks elegant, and has no outboard motor and belt to potchky with. Out of the box, it's plenty good—and once you're hooked, you can make it even better. With glass and stainless-steel mat and record clamp, the Brinkmann Bardo is a contender for the best turntable under US$10,000, and probably should be auditioned by anyone looking for a turntable costing US$15,000, or even more. It sounds that good, and its build quality and fit'n'finish are worthy of 'tables costing far more.
 
And if you're an experienced analog hand with US$10,000 to invest and a prejudice against direct-drive turntables, you should definitely hear the Brinkmann Bardo before plunking down your money for anything else.
This combination’s strengths of well-defined pitch, exceptional retrieval of detail, elegant controls and gorgeous aesthetics may well be just the right mix for you.
Dennis Davis
SUMMARY:
The Brinkmann package is an exceptional melding of beauty and smooth function. It delivered a balanced sound that I could easily live with, although some may prefer a more romantic mix of virtues. Its gorgeous styling, smart execution and muscular sonic delivery wrapped up beauty and the beast in a neat package. The Bardo may be dressed up with Brinkmann’s more expensive tonearm and cartridge stable-mates, not to mention additional power-supply and support-platform options, but I suspect the unit as packaged offers most of what can be obtained without losing sight of cost.

EXTENDED REVIEW:
There are days when listening to music at home can be a Zen-like experience. Everything just falls into place and the music flows like a direct transmission from the gods. Most days, however, nirvana requires a little more help and a lot of attention to detail. Of all the components in an audio system, the turntable is unique in the amount of attention it requires. Routine use of even the simplest turntable requires constant effort -- from placing a record on the platter, to switching on power and cueing the tonearm. And then there is the smorgasbord of setup adjustments.
 
All this attention to handling translates to a significant amount of time spent closely inspecting the turntable, so that every nick and scratch becomes embedded in memory. Electronic-component settings, on the other hand, can usually be accomplished by remote control. With a turntable, putting your mind in remote control can be a recipe for disaster. Everything from leveling to tracking-force adjustment involves some degree of trial, error and risk of damage. If I were marooned on a desert island, I might have difficulty recalling the details of electronics I’ve owned for years, but I’m confident that I would have little problem recalling every detail of my turntable.
 
Currently embedded in my memory are the sleek curves and beautiful lines of the Brinkmann Bardo, which recently spent time in my system alongside my longtime reference, the VPI TNT-6. Brinkmann has packaged the Bardo with its 9.6 tonearm and Pi cartridge ($3990 and $2690 on their own, respectively), creating a factory-assembled turntable system that makes the Bardo available at a lower price point than was possible with Brinkmann's 10.5 tonearm and EMT cartridge.
 
The Bardo is the least expensive turntable in Brinkmann’s lineup. It has been available in the US for the last year. The 9.6 tonearm and Pi cartridge are new and first appeared in the US at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. After the show ended, the Bardo package used there made its way to my door. For those of you who haven’t studied your Tibetan Book of the Dead lately, "bardo" is a transitional state between death and rebirth. I’m not sure where Helmut Brinkmann was going with this choice of name, but I found nothing transitional about the Bardo. It's a finished product that I could see being many an audiophile’s last turntable.
 
The Bardo borrows its direct-drive motor and platter from Brinkmann’s Oasis turntable and its spindle and bearing from the Balance. An outboard power supply is contained in a separate chassis and connected by umbilical to the 'table. The 'table sits on three precisely machined leveling feet. The plinth is manufactured of steel and aluminum. As far as I can tell, there is not a plastic part on the entire turntable. Here in the US, the Bardo package comes standard with a granite-slab base, but it can be ordered with a range of substitutes from Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS). The review sample arrived with an HRS M3X platform, a $2100 option that improves upon the standard granite base by adding several resonance-control stages to further isolate the 'table from its environment.
 
The platter comes standard with an integral acrylic mat. A glass platter mat and screw-down record clamp are offered as options for $1500. The platter mat covers the record-groove area, leaving an indentation for the label, which allows a perfectly flat record to lie flat without clamping. The platter has a recess around the spindle that accepts a removable spindle insert, included with the record-clamp option. This raises the label area and allows the clamp to leverage down the rim of the record more effectively.
 
At the front of the plinth is a single switch with three positions: off, 33 and 45. There are two holes to reach speed-adjustment trim pots. The back of the plinth has RCA output jacks (XLR jacks can be ordered as an option), a receptacle for the power cord and a female jack for inserting a supplied ground line. In my system, I found the ground connection necessary. The Bardo caused an audible hum that completely disappeared with the 'table grounded to the phono stage.
 
he Bardo’s magnetic direct-drive system uses a motor designed and built in-house. The motor’s stator consists of four field coils mounted concentrically around the platter bearing and opposed to an eight-ring magnet. Unlike with direct-drive 'tables of yore, Brinkmann foregoes a quick start time, which requires a high-torque motor, with the Bardo. It takes about 12 seconds for the Bardo to get up to speed, but after that much less energy is required to maintain constant speed. Brinkmann claims this contributes to a silent drive and low cogging effect. The 22-pound platter fits directly onto the motor assembly, which is built into the chassis. Once the 'table is up to speed, the weight of the platter supplies most of the rotational force, and the platter continues to spin long after the drive motor is powered down.
 
The 9.6 'arm shares many component parts with the highly regarded (and more expensive) 10.5 tonearm, including the armtube with its hard ceramic surface, the headshell, the tonearm cueing mechanism and the mounting socket. It also appears to use the same magnetic anti-skating mechanism as the more expensive 'arm. The 9.6’s lower cost is achieved by substituting a unipivot design for the 10.5’s more expensive fixed-bearing assembly. VTA is set using a vertical screw adjustment and locked in with an SME-type locking screw.
 
The Pi moving-coil cartridge was designed together with the 9.6 'arm, which should guarantee compatibility between the two, important with any 'arm/cartridge combination. It uses a microridge stylus mounted on a boron cantilever that drives a copper voice coil. It weighs 14 grams and has a specified output of 1.15mV.
 
I found the Bardo to be the most attractive turntable in Brinkmann’s line -- and among today’s most attractive turntables, period. Your mileage will almost certainly vary, but for my money Brinkmann, Spiral Groove and TW-Acustic make some of the most beautiful pieces of audio jewelry you can buy right now. The Bardo costs $7990 standard -- $9490 with the mat/clamp upgrade -- so while it's not inexpensive, it bears one of the lowest price tags in this Museum of Modern Art competition.
 
In addition to being drop-dead gorgeous, the Bardo is one of the best-behaved turntables I’ve used. I mean this as a compliment, not to suggest it is dull or predictable. The Bardo/9.6 combination does what it is supposed to do without complaint. I set up the 'table without need of the instructions, using them only to confirm what came intuitively. Confirmed with a KAB strobe disc, the two speeds locked in easily and stayed that way. The 9.6's cueing, height and anti-skate adjustments are simple to use, elegant and effective. While the headshell has no finger lift, the cueing mechanism is extremely accurate, so I didn't miss the finger lift. The 'arm descends at exactly the correct speed and it goes straight down, always placing the stylus exactly where I wanted it.
 
While the Pi cartridge looks like it was born on the end of the headshell, it was the most finicky part of the package, requiring significant break-in. It also seemed a little more demanding than some cartridges -- requiring that the VTA be adjusted just so. Brinkmann recommends a load of 600 ohms; I set my Audio Research Reference Phono 2 for 500 ohms, the closest match available.
 
 
evaluated the Bardo, 9.6 and Pi as a package instead of separately -- for several reasons. First, it was supplied this way, and Brinkmann offers it as a preassembled package for a reason. It allows buyers to acquire the 'table as part of an all-Brinkmann setup at a price that's significantly lower than with Brinkmann’s other tonearm and cartridge. Second, I’m a firm believer in maintaining consistency in approach, and where possible I like to match components as closely as possible. I use electronics and cabling from single manufacturers. Furthermore, attempting to compare each of the component parts of the Brinkmann package directly to other mix-and-match components would have been a nightmare with little reward. With four different parts (base, 'table, 'arm and cartridge) the combinations are endless.
 
I first heard this system play at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, where it arrived in the middle of the last day of the show. I was surprised that distributor Philip O'Hanlon could get it up and running in so little time, let alone succeed in producing music. But upon setting it up for myself, I found out how much better it could sound with attention to small details. The cartridge had arrived from Germany without any break-in. Aligning it with a Feichert protractor, I found that it had to be positioned almost all the way forward on the headshell. Brinkmann recommends a tracking force between 1.8 and 2 grams, and I settled on the midpoint.
 
One of the benefits of a direct-drive 'table is that wear and climate changes are not always affecting the alignment of the parts. Belts wear and stretch, and they react to temperature and humidity. Furthermore, if you touch them, oil transfers to the belt and modifies its grip on the platter. All of this means that with the Bardo, there was none of routine required with my rim-drive VPI, such as checking speed, which I did at least weekly. The Bardo avoids much of the need for tinkering made necessary when rubber meets the road. Speed never varied from day to day or week to week. Once leveled, the 'table never needed readjustment.
 
Direct drive has it all over any belt- or rim-drive system for ease of use. But what about the sound? During their heydays in the 1970s and 1980s, direct-drive turntables had a well-deserved reputation for brittle sonics. I dipped my toes into the direct-drive pool during that time, only to retreat to the safety and more natural sound of a Linn Sondek. But that was decades ago. The best of modern direct-drive 'tables have overcome these shortcomings. Witness the recent success of the Grand Prix Audio Monaco, albeit at a significantly higher price point than the Brinkmann Bardo.
 
Not surprisingly, the Bardo does have a character much different from belt-drive 'tables. Once the cartridge broke in, it was obvious just how much the Brinkmann approach differed from my experience with belt- and rim-drive 'tables. The Bardo came across as a fast and muscular record-playing engine. There was a sense of propulsion and accuracy. Perhaps some of this comes from the Brinkmann’s Teutonic character, but I suspect that direct drive grips the road and holds to the curves more precisely. The Bardo evoked the intensity and drive of an Arturo Toscanini, where a belt-drive 'table brings to mind the more relaxed feel of Janos Starker playing cello sonatas.
 
This more certain grip showed up differently, depending on the style of music. The Bardo's character was least apparent with vocal records. I’ve listened to Frank Sinatra’s voice on Nice 'N' Easy [Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-317] on countless systems, marveling at how different a simple selection can sound from one system to the next. While the differences between two turntables were not as stark as entire system changes, the Bardo did reflect a different flavor from belt drive. Sinatra’s voice sounded a bit more relaxed and more resonant with the VPI, while the Bardo made Frank sound a bit more driven and the backing orchestra a bit tighter. On a similarly simple assembly of instruments and voice, Louis Armstrong’s "St. James Infirmary" on Satchmo Plays King Oliver [Audio Fidelity AFSD 5930], the VPI setup seemed to slow down the pace of the music and string out the magic of this tune a bit more than the direct-drive 'table, which took a more headlong approach. The Bardo dispensed with some harmonic richness and substituted well-toned muscle in its place.
 
On string music, the Bardo brought greater definition to the strings, capturing each centimeter of the bow’s vertical movement across the strings, as opposed to the sense with the VPI of more directly experiencing the strings’ horizontal vibrations as the bow moved over them. With large-scale orchestral works, the Bardo provided cleaner crescendos and a bit tighter bass, with various sections of the orchestra standing out -- and sorted out more distinctly -- compared to the VPI’s somewhat larger soundstage and more relaxed order of detail. The Bardo pulled more detail out of a complex mix of sounds -- things lost with the more tube-like sound of rubber-driven 'table. The Bardo’s mix of muscle and bass extension played well with rock and pop music too.
 
The Bardo’s dead-on sense of pitch required a bit of adjustment to preconceived notions of what well-worn music was supposed to sound like. Can some of the size of the soundstage be a function of uncertain pitch? What of the greater sense of harmonics and the three-dimensional quality associated with the best belt-driven 'tables? Whether or not one course is more right than the other, there is no escaping the fact that the Bardo direct-drive route served up a very quiet background against which a tight and detailed yet non-fatiguing picture emerged.
 
he Brinkmann package is an exceptional melding of beauty and smooth function. It delivered a balanced sound that I could easily live with, although some may prefer a more romantic mix of virtues. Its gorgeous styling, smart execution and muscular sonic delivery wrapped up beauty and the beast in a neat package. The Bardo may be dressed up with Brinkmann’s more expensive tonearm and cartridge stable-mates, not to mention additional power-supply and support-platform options, but I suspect the unit as packaged offers most of what can be obtained without losing sight of cost.
 
The Bardo/9.6/Pi package offers a real taste of direct-drive’s promise. You don’t get the advantages of a large 'table that can accommodate multiple 'arms, nor can you adjust VTA on the fly. But if your goal is to stick with one cartridge at a time and not incessantly adjust it, this combination’s strengths of well-defined pitch, exceptional retrieval of detail, elegant controls and gorgeous aesthetics may well be just the right mix for you.
Everything about the Brinkmann Balance—the jewel-like build quality....marks it as a world-class turntable design. Only a few 'tables I've encountered belong in the Brinkmann's league,
Michael Fremer
Summing up
The combo of Brinkmann Balance turntable, 10.5 tonearm, modified low-output Brinkmann-EMT moving-coil cartridge, RoNt tubed power supply, and HRS M3 stand is—with the exception of the Rockport System III Sirius (US$73,750)—the best turntable system I've ever heard. Someday soon I'd like to hear the 'table with some other, more familiar arms, but for now, wow!

EXTENDED REVIEW:
Everyone's got their prejudices, and mine are against turntables with box-like plinths and big slabs of undamped acrylic. I have no problem with either in models that cost a few grand or less, but once you get into high-priced terrain, less plinth and less acrylic usually yields better performance. Generally, though, all a plinth gets you is a vibrating surface to transmit or store and release energy. Who needs that? If your high-performance 'table has a plinth, you need to heroically damp it the way SME does in its Model 30, and the way Rockport did in its System III Sirius.
Like my Simon Yorke S7, Brinkmann's Balance is about as plinthless a turntable as you'll find, which is what attracted me when I first laid eyes on it at the Kempinski Hotel show in Frankfurt some years ago. Importer Lawrence Blair delivered a mass-loaded Balance 'table fitted with a Brinkmann 10.5 tonearm and Brinkmann'a EMT-based moving-coil cartridge.
It's a ready-to-play system, which is how I mostly listened to it, but I did substitute first the Lyra Titan, then van den Hul Condor cartridges well into the review because I was familiar with their sound, and because the cartridge used is bound to have an enormous effect on any system's overall performance. Because the Balance doesn't have a suspension, Blair suggests using a Harmonic Resolution Systems HRS M3 isolation base, which is custom-designed for the Balance and features a split granite platform to isolate the motor from the platter/bearing assembly.
 
Atop the HRS M3 sits the massive Balance turntable, whose vestigial ovoid plinth is CNC-machined from a single piece of 40mm-thick Dural, the hardest aluminum available, according to the designer, Helmut Brinkmann. The oversized platter, 3¼" tall and weighing 44 lbs, is made of an aluminum-lead-copper alloy said to achieve extremely effective damping. The platter surface is a plate of elastomer-bonded crystal glass. An integral record clamp screws into the spindle. Mechanical energy created at the stylus/groove interface drains down from the record to the platter surface, then into the platter itself, where the derived mechanical impedances of the various materials prevent it from flowing back up to the vinyl. A massive, raised, round armboard platform of Dural, also attached to the plinth, features a stainless-steel ring whose only function is to look good.
 
The platter is driven by a thin O-ring that rides in a groove machined into the platter's circumference. The outboard AC motor, which sits on an isolated platform on the HRS M3 base, is a brushless, dual-phase design powered via a power supply that processes the push-pull motor phases to load the platter with a precisely defined amount of rotating energy said to optimize dynamic performance. Mr. Brinkmann says that failure to optimize the drive energy is what causes some heavy turntables to suffer from dynamic compression. The platter's speed is adjustable and can run at precisely 33.3rpm and 45rpm. An optional vacuum-tube–based motor drive is available for $2700. The platter's speed is selected via a handsome circular module connected via a metal conduit protruding from the motor housing.
 
The Balance's unique heated bearing allows it to deliver optimum performance immediately on startup instead of needing a warmup period. Optimizing and maintaining a fixed operating temperature also means that the machining tolerances can be kept extremely low. The bearing itself has dual bushings, a hardened steel axle, a 30mm, a thrust plate of hardened Teflon, and an integral oil reservoir.
 
While Brinkmann can supply a blank armboard, and almost any tonearm can be used with the Balance, I've reviewed it with Brinkmann's own 10.5 model, a Breuer-like gimbaled-bearing design. (An updated version of the original Swiss-made Breuer arm is apparently still being made.) The 10.5 features an armtube the designer described as a "high-speed, double-concentric, ceramic-plated, self-damping transmission device" and as "a heavily anodized (about 100µm), thin-walled aluminum tube that is "fast, stiff, and light." Only beryllium or diamond would more quickly evacuate energy through the arm base, Mr. Brinkmann assured me. Antiskating is applied via a system of threaded magnetic screw and ring. The vertical tracking angle (VTA) is adjustable, though not on the fly. The Balance's armboard clamping mechanism permits quick and easy switching of arms, and a single screw adjustment allows an arm's effective length to be easily varied during setup.
 
In short, the Brinkmann Balance has been designed for the music lover who just wants to play records and enjoy music without fuss (once, of course, the cartridge has been properly aligned). The system, including the EMT cartridge substantially modified by Brinkmann, has been carefully tuned, but I found that other cartridges worked equally well, as long as I choose those whose sonic characteristics complemented the 'table's.
 
I was told (allow for German/English translation interference) that the RoNt tubed power supply "uses mainly the vacuum in the tubes and magnetic forces for its special way of cleaning out the mains noises." According to Helmut Brinkmann, there are two sources of power-line noise: external noise from amplifiers, computers, and other power supplies, and internal noise from the solid-state power supply's own rectifier stage switching. Fast rectifiers raise the frequency of the noise but don't entirely eliminate it. Tube rectifiers work like "super-fast, super-soft-recovery rectifiers," according to Mr. Brinkmann, who added that the transformers in the tube-driven supply, unlike those associated with solid-state rectification, can't be peak overloaded and thus effectively remove outside line noise. The vacuum inside the tubes, he claims, isolates the AC and DC circuits, so the power comes through the vacuum and not through the power signal cables. Hmm . . .
 
Brinkmann understands why one might be skeptical about this explanation of how a tubed power supply driving a motor, turning a pulley, and spinning a platter via a rubber belt might result in a sound different from that from a solid-state supply—especially because he claims the former has a "tubier" sound. But he stands by it, claiming that the energy chain that drives the stylus can have such an effect. Hmm . . .
 
Setting up the Balance and aligning the cartridge took very little time, thanks to the elegance of the 'table and tonearm designs and the precision quality of build. Brinkmann's modified EMT cartridge is a medium-compliance, low-output design (0.21mV/cm/s) featuring a van den Hul stylus profile. It differs notably from other EMT cartridges I've used in having a solid-aluminum mounting structure in place of the standard plastic one. Its greater intrinsic mechanical rigidity and ability to rigidly mate with the headshell seemed major improvements over the stock model.
 
The solid-state power supply, including both the motor drive and the bearing-heater circuitry, remains plugged in at all times. To use the tubed supply, one disconnects the multipin, colleted motor cable from the main unit and connects it to the tube unit. Flip a switch on the power supply's rear, wait a minute or two for the tubes to heat up, and when the red LEDs on the speed selector light up, you're ready to play vinyl.
 
Everything about the Brinkmann Balance—the industrial design, the jewel-like build quality, the fit'n'finish, the feel—marks it as a world-class turntable design. Only a few 'tables I've encountered belong in the Brinkmann's league, and even then, there's something about the Balance's physical appearance, feel, and cosmetic elegance that sets it apart.
 
A Balanced sound

Leaving aside the Rockport System III Sirius, which is in a class by itself, the only competition in my experience for the Brinkmann's sonic performance, aside from my reference Simon Yorke S7, are the SME 30/SME V, the Avid Acutus, and the Kuzma Stabi Reference. However, the Brinkmann's mass-loaded system was unchallenged in bass performance. I had never experienced such fundamentally correct, deep, tight, articulate, yet delicate bottom-end performance from any turntable, including, perhaps, the Rockport. As the Yorke shattered my then reference VPI TNT back in 1998, so the Brinkmann demolished the Yorke's bass performance, carving out and sculpting deeper, more muscular, more dynamic, yet tighter and lither renderings of stand-up and electric bass, timpani, and kick drums. With both 'tables connected to the Manley Steelhead tubed phono preamp, it was easy to perform A/B comparisons. When I replaced the Brinkmann-EMT cartridge with the Lyra Titan, the results were the same.
The Brinkmann Balance supplied convincing weight and authority while maintaining the lightest, most delicate touch on complex kick-drum maneuvers from familiar jazz recordings whose nuances I thought I'd long ago fully explored—including the by now moldy but still enticing "Take Five" from Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Other 'tables could plumb the depths of some of Joe Morello's hardest kicks, but none had the ability to recover quite as quickly to prepare for the next. By comparison, the Yorke S7, while still impressive, sounded somewhat cloudy, compressed, and semiconfused—and believe me, compared to most, the Yorke is a model of clarity.
 
All of this was accomplished without any nagging sense that the Balance was ever overdamped or "thick through the middle," which the heavily damped SME 30 occasionally is. The Brinkmann reproduced the lightest, airiest, purest soundstages along with bottom-end weight, and did so without imparting the sensation of brightness or etch that spotlit the top end of the Avid Acutus, as I remember it. The SME 30 and Avid Acutus are world-class 'tables—I could happily live with either—but during their respective review periods I remember each design pulling the sound in a particular direction, however slightly. Two months with the Brinkmann Balance left me feeling that it was utterly neutral and totally revealing, with no deviation from its exceptional evenhandedness and unforced clarity and detail.
 
I don't see the point in reciting particular sonic experiences with familiar reference material; if you've been reading this column, you know the usual suspects. I will say that, thanks to the Brinkmann's subterranean reach, uncanny quiet and solidity, and overall effortlessness, all of these LPs sounded new and subtly improved, with greater holography of imaging but without etch, blacker backgrounds, and deeper, vaster soundfields.
 
Playing old standbys as well as less familiar LPs I hadn't heard in years was always an act of discovery through the Brinkmann—not because of the small, new musical or sonic gestures it might reveal (though it did), but because of the exceptionally musical presentation it provided overall: an effortless, coherent, solid, musical whole; a rhythmically tight, emotionally uplifting propulsive drive that gave the music an indelible sense of purpose that couldn't be denied.
 
I hadn't played Neil Young's Tonight's the Night (Reprise) in a long time, but after reading Shakey, Jimmy McDonough's apparently meticulous-to-a-fault biography of Young, I was curious to revisit the album. (Harvest producer Elliot Mazer tells me the book is full of inaccuracies, and that it pleased neither him nor Young. Still, it's worth reading.) It was an absolutely astonishing listening experience. The demonic Young and his backing band, Crazy Horse, were arrayed in startling relief across my listening room with an eerie palpability against a background black as the night sky—I'd never heard it sound like this. Through the Simon Yorke S7, Tonight's the Night was still a compelling experience, but with nothing like the Balance's degree of utter coherence.
 
When I switched cartridges, putting the Brinkmann EMT in the Immedia RPM tonearm mounted on the Yorke S7 and the Lyra Titan or van den Hul Condor on the Brinkmann 10.5 arm, the Balance's superiority shone through—but its revealing performance pointed out just how closely Brinkmann had tuned the EMT to his arm and 'table's bracing neutrality.
 
While the Tubaphone-modified EMT cartridge I reviewed in the February 2000 Stereophile erred slightly on the side of midbass warmth and bloom, the Brinkmann-EMT's extra rigidity successfully tamed the excess bass while allowing the cartridge's midrange richness to shine.
 
The Lyra Titan is a more neutral and revealing cartridge. The combination of it and the Brinkmann was nothing short of astonishing in every way, though some listeners may prefer the Brinkmann-EMT's richer midband. The Brinkmann-EMT sounded equally enticing on the Yorke S7, but that combo was noticeably warmer and less musically bracing. On the Brinkmann, the EMT hit all the right notes. It is a testament to the utter neutrality of the Brinkmann's performance that, for the first time, I could clearly hear the Yorke's very minor dynamic limitations and subtle enrichment of the midrange—tuned as Simon Yorke prefers.
 
RoNt tubed vs solid-state power supplies

I spent more than a month listening to the full Brinkmann combo with its tubed power supply and a pair of unfamiliar Audience phono interconnects. Then I switched cartridges and generated a full set of listening notes. I used a few very familiar records, including (though hardly limited to) Classic's 45rpm editions of Belafonte at Carnegie Hall and The Weavers: Reunion at Carnegie Hall.
 
With the Brinkmann-EMT back in the 10.5 arm, I spent an evening going back and forth between the power supplies, and there was a definite, easily heard difference between them. Call me gullible—I don't care. The two supplies produced distinctly different results, the clichés about the differences between tubed and solid-state gear proving remarkably if subtly true. The tubed supply produced a more vibrant, transparent sound, with greater image dimensionality and a fuller, somewhat more "golden" harmonic palette. The solid-state supply delivered a somewhat drabber, drier picture, but one that was better organised overall, with slightly finer, better-defined images. Still, I greatly preferred the vibrancy and immediacy of the tubed supply. If you're fortunate enough to own a Brinkmann Balance, don't hesitate to at least give the tubed supply a try.
 
Summing up
The combo of Brinkmann Balance turntable, 10.5 tonearm, modified low-output Brinkmann-EMT moving-coil cartridge, RoNt tubed power supply, and HRS M3 stand is—with the exception of the Rockport System III Sirius (US$73,750)—the best turntable system I've ever heard. Someday soon I'd like to hear the 'table with some other, more familiar arms, but for now, wow!
I am extremely pleased with this acquisition.
Europen audio forum menber
SUMMARY:
I was not expecting such changes. The improvements are dramatic. Compared to my previous rig, the Brinkmann has lifted a veil:
Deeper and larger soundstage
Impressive dynamics
More precision
Bass control – deep and tight - enabling the Krells’ iron fist to demonstrate their full capabilities
Less noise
Neutrality but still on the ‘warm side’

EXTENDED REVIEW:
Prior starting the review, a word of introduction about myself. I am a quite conservative ‘no non sense’ audiophile. I am a ‘plug and forget it’ kind of guy and constant tweaking is not for me. I also tend to keep each component for at least 10 years in my system. Therefore each new acquisition is the result of a lengthy process based on auditions in my audio room.
 
About 2 years ago, I started the renewal of my almost 15-year-old setup (at the time: Infinity IRS Epsilon in active bi-amping mode driven by 2 Krell KSA 200S, Krell KRC HR preamp + Krell KPE Reference phono, dCS Delius/Purcell DAC/upsampler + CEC TL1X drive and a Michell Orbe turntable). 
 
I have now completed the journey and my new set up. Though I wanted to achieve significant improvements compared to my previous setup, I also wanted to have a relatively less complex and more compact system (single box vs. 3 boxes digital rig, no more bi-amping, less cables, etc.). As the audio room is also the living room, the motto was: every component should fit within the confined space of the 2 Infinite Elemente racks without further invasion in the room.
 
In October 2012, I acquired a new CD/SACD player which was in the lower range of the budget I had allocated for. A buddy also expressed some interest in acquiring my Michell turntable. I therefore went hunting for a new turntable. 
 
This would be my ‘ultimate turntable’ but I did not want to go exotic (air bearings etc.). I was looking for a simple but highly musical turntable from a reputable manufacturer. I decided to look for a non-suspended design. My listening room is relatively immune from vibration. The floor is a big thick slab of concrete and the walls are made of bricks. You could be jumping right by the audio rack without any impact. The Michell Orbe is a suspended turntable and I found that it was sometimes too mellow and lacking precision. 
 
Living in a country where vinyl audio still remains in the dark ages, auditioning and comparing high end tables is just mission impossible as most dealers don’t have high end turntables in their show rooms. You therefore need to rely on audiophile friends, shows, reviews and forums to form an opinion.
 
I drew the following shortlist from Europe based manufacturers (mark ups on US products are just becoming insane):
 
TW Raven AC
Brinkmann Balance
Clearaudio Master Innovation
Simon Yorke S7 or S10
 
I excluded the Clearaudio from a purely aesthetic point of view. I know that it has nothing to do with audiophile rationale but I found it too flashy for sitting in my living room.
 
I unfortunately discovered that the sole dealer who carries TW in my country is unreliable. I did not want to deal with a guy who let me down big time when I was on the search for a new digital front end. 
 
I was therefore left with the Simon Yorke and the Brinkmann. The Brinkmann has been in production for more than 25 years with regular upgrades. It has been highly praised by some reviewers (http://www.stereophile.com/content/b...nce-turntable2, http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/b...n/balance.html). The Simon Yorke is also highly praised and can be sourced directly from Simon who resides in Spain. 
 
A very close friend has the Simon Yorke S7. He also hesitated with the Balance. He took the Simon Yorke as he was able to strike a very good deal with Simon Yorke. The Simon Yorke is an exquisite table. I was able to compare the build quality of the Simon Yorke vs. the Brinkmann and clearly there is no match. The Brinkmann is far superior.
 
I had the opportunity to listen to the Brinkmann Bardo and Oasis turntables but never the top of the range Balance. 
 
My audio dealer carries Brinkmann and arranged a personal meeting with Helmut Brinkmann. I met a very humble and somewhat shy gentleman. When discussing the merits of his design as well as the choice of tonearm and cartridge, he kindly suggested keeping my current tonearm and cartridge and gradually upgrading ‘should I feel the need to’. Knowing that Helmut Brinkmann also builds tonearms and cartridges, I was quite impressed by his integrity. He recommended acquiring the optional tubed power supply. He also informed me that he did not have a Balance rightly available and that he would need starting building one for me. I confirmed my order. I was informed some weeks later that it would be the first Balance fitted with the new motor based on the design of the direct drive motor used in the Bardo and the Oasis turntables. This would however require some additional weeks of patience.
 
Finally in late February, the turntable landed. Together with the dealer, we spent the whole afternoon assembling the unit. The table is mounted on a Symposium Super Plus platform sitting on the top of the Finite Elemente audio rack. The Turntable is equipped with two power supplies. The first SS power supply maintains the oil of the bearing at a constant temperature of 65° Celsius. It can also drive the motor. The second optional unit is a tubed power supply for the motor. I decided to first try the turntable with the sole SS power supply and plug the tubed power supply at a later stage so I could have a good comparison basis for assessing the improvements. 
 
Currently, the turntable is fitted with the venerable SME V tonearm and a Koetsu Black cartridge from my previous setup. The phono stage is a Brinkmann Fein, which I acquired about one year ago. I was therefore in a position to assess the improvements brought by the sole turntable design.
 
I was not expecting such changes. The improvements are dramatic. Compared to my previous rig, the Brinkmann has lifted a veil:
Deeper and larger soundstage
Impressive dynamics
More precision
Bass control – deep and tight - enabling the Krells’ iron fist to demonstrate their full capabilities
Less noise
Neutrality but still on the ‘warm side’
 
A week later, I plugged in the tubed power supply. A sense of additional control and precision was brought in the analog set up. This has however a down side: playing poorly recorded vinyls is just unbearable. 
 
Listening both to classical and rock/indie rock music is an equal joy. I however discovered that sometimes with rock music, I am better off using the Nordost Krell Cast interconnect cables between the pre-amp and power amps instead of the Argento Flow (the switch is easily performed by just flicking a switch on the power amps).
 
I am extremely pleased with this acquisition. I also know that considerable improvements can be brought in by some future upgrades. Possible upgrades that I am contemplating for the coming years are:
New phono cables - I am tempted by the Furutech Silver Arrows to replace the current VDH MCD 501
New cartridge - I am biased and I would certainly stay within the Koetsu family, more probably a Jade Platinum
New phono stage - I will certainly test the Brinkmann top of the range Edison
 
The SME V tonearm (short version) works pretty well with the Balance and is highly dynamic. I am therefore not considering any change at this stage though the Brinkmann can be fitted with a 12-inch tonearm.
It is a special product that far exceeded my expectations.
Jules Coleman

The Harmonic Resolution Systems M3 Isolation Base made a substantial, repeatable difference to my Well Tempered Classic turntable’s playback of LPs. The difference it made was constant in some respects, varied in others. With both the Grado-Counterpoint and Shiraz-Shindo Monbrison combinations, the M3 Isolation Base increased resolution, focus, pace, and reduced the noise floor dramatically. On the other hand, the differences it made depended on those combinations.

No vibrations
 
When it comes to a music playback system, the prevailing view is that there is no such thing as a good vibration. Any vibration your audio system picks up and transmits is potentially a bad one. Instead of sorting out good from bad vibrations, a well-designed playback system should minimize the adverse impacts of all of them. Unsurprisingly, there are different approaches to vibration control. Some designers try to reduce the impact of vibrations by spreading them broadly over the entire frequency range, thereby minimizing their impact at any single frequency. Others try to channel the vibrations to a particular frequency range where they might be used sympathetically, in conjunction with the musical signal. A similar approach has been used in certain speaker designs, in which cabinet resonances are channeled to function as musically enhancing distortions. Think Shun Mook speakers -- or, if you were lucky enough ever to own or hear a pair, the European Holophone Systems speaker line. Others adopt a "Take no prisoners!" attitude toward vibrations. Count the designers at Harmonic Resolution Systems among those who appear to have taken this approach.
 
Before I explain what’s so bad about vibrations in the audio chain, I need to distinguish among a variety of different but related questions: What are the sources of vibrations in the audio chain? What are their deleterious sonic consequences? Are some vibrations more likely to inflict sonic wounds than others? Are some of those wounds more damaging than others? What are the various ways of eliminating or reducing vibrations? What are the sonic benefits of doing so? Where does one get the greatest benefit for the lowest relative cost?
 
We can distinguish between at least two kinds of vibrations: structure-borne and air-borne. The sources of structure-borne vibrations include household devices and the audio and video components themselves. Often, the design and construction of an audio component fails to eliminate vibrations and resonances internal to it. If that energy interacts with vibrations at similar frequencies elsewhere in the chain, the energy can, in effect, be amplified as it makes its way to your loudspeakers. The most damaging sources of structural vibrations are loudspeakers. Here the adage "Whatever goes around comes around" is doubly meaningful. Loudspeakers literally shake the room, and that room is the environment in which the rest of your system is situated. The vibrations created by the loudspeaker, including those internal to it, are fed back into the system through the room only to resurface as part of the output from the loudspeaker, and so on in a vicious cycle. Worse, given that most structure-borne vibrations have broad frequency ranges, the prospect of finding matching natural frequencies is high; the consequence is that nonmusical energy can be significantly amplified.
 
The difference between structure- and air-borne vibrations has less to do with the source than the manner of transmission. Air-borne vibrations originate in anything that is within the audible range of the music playback system. Again, think about what your loudspeakers alone are contributing. These vibrations reach the outer skins of components and the equipment racks, floors, and furnishings that support those components. Some of this energy is dissipated; the rest is transformed into mechanical resonances that, like structure-borne vibrations, wind their ways through your system, often being amplified along the way.
 
The basic idea is simple to grasp. An audio or video signal from a source component exists in a noisy, vibrating environment; worse, the components in the chain are themselves, to varying degrees, noisy as well. The noise is transmitted throughout the system and is likely to be amplified along the way.
 
Nonmusical information is detrimental to sound reproduction in a variety of ways. First, it is likely to blur or obscure low-level detail. More often than not, bass, which is hard enough to reproduce accurately under most conditions, will be less resolved and tuneful, and overall accuracy and musicality will be reduced. Timing suffers, and music is inaccurately portrayed.
 
It would seem to follow that the greater a system’s potential to resolve inner detail, to produce pitch-accurate bass notes, and to present the musical message clearly and accurately, the greater the risk posed by unwanted vibrations. The greater that risk, the more crucial fine-tuning the system is. This is true enough, but, like many truths, misleading.
 
Every system has some potential to resolve inner detail -- to soundstage. This potential varies and is limited by the quality of the components and their relationship with one another. Unwanted vibrations make it impossible for a system of any sort to realize its inherent potential. In many ways, the less high-end a system is, the more likely it is that the manufacturer has paid inadequate attention to component-based, structure-borne vibrations. So one might say, again correctly but somewhat misleadingly, that if any system could benefit from vibration isolation, it would be a mid-fi one.
 
The truth is, all kinds of systems can benefit from vibration control. The marginal differences in impact may be greater in one system than in another, depending on both the inherent potential of the system and the extent of vibration problems in it. The marginal value of the difference depends on the importance of musical involvement, soundstaging, proper pace, and accuracy to the listener, relative to the cost of the improvement.
 
In either case, the easiest way to think about vibration isolation and damping is this: To reproduce a music signal accurately, we need to isolate the components from noise in the environment and we must prevent the components from contributing noise of their own. To do this, we must isolate and damp.
 
The M3 Isolation Base
 
Harmonic Resolution Systems is in the isolation and damping business. Chief engineer and designer Mike Latvis is a degreed mechanical engineer with a love of music who has dabbled in audio since his early teens. He has spent most of his adult life as a mechanical engineer specializing in isolation systems and noise reduction, working on, among other things, a variety of military and aerospace projects. After designing audio isolation devices for himself and friends, he eventually founded Harmonic Resolution Systems several years ago.
 
At this point, the HRS product line includes isolation bases that go under electronic components, damping plates that go on top, a record clamp, Nimbus feet, and a newly designed equipment rack that was displayed for the first time at the January 2004 Consumer Electronics Show.
 
The Isolation Bases are specifically configured to work with the customer's equipment, in sizes that correspond to component size; within the size parameter, they can be constructed to handle components of different weight. They can be placed in equipment racks, on furniture, even on the floor.
 
I began my review of HRS products with an M3 Isolation Base ($1345 USD to $1965, depending on size) placed under my Well Tempered Classic turntable. The M3 Isolation Base is an engineering and aesthetic triumph. Latvis’s aesthetic is one of elegant simplicity. Unobtrusive, handsome, and subtle, each Isolation Base has two main structural elements: a machined-aluminum frame and a granite slab. Simple, but only in appearance.
 
The 0.75"-thick granite slab, which is placed inside the frame, is in fact decoupled from it, and sits on proprietary polymer feet that have two purposes: 1) to support the weight of the granite and the component, and and 2) to decouple the granite from the frame and dissipate residual vibrational energy and control structural resonances. The entire base rests on four custom aluminum isolation feet precisely shaped to ensure minimum connection with the surface below (rack, furniture, floor, etc.). Each HRS Isolation Base foot is a six-degrees-of-freedom isolator.
 
Vibrations that get beyond this first barrier face a series of mechanical chokes and other antiresonance devices machined into the aluminum frame. In all, seven different materials are used to produce the second line of defense. The materials chosen, and their densities and locations within the frame, are determined by their various antivibrational properties. Final adjustments to materials, combinations, and spacing are determined by extensive listening tests.
 
The engineering at this stage is no small feat, as HRS Isolation Bases are designed to dissipate nonmusical energy throughout the frequency range. Some isolation platforms reduce unwanted energy at some lower frequencies, only to, in effect, accentuate distortions at higher frequencies. If you’ve ever heard a rack that had the odd feature of making your system sound both sluggish and bright at once, this is likely what was going on. There is no overstating the engineering know-how that goes into each HRS Isolation Base.
 
I have had some experience with various antiresonance and antivibration devices, and my experience was mixed. In some environments and with some products, I heard obvious improvements. In other contexts and with other products, if there were improvements, they were subtle at best -- and largely escaped my ears. Often I heard differences, but it was not clear that the differences constituted unambiguous improvements. Some equipment racks, for example, sounded bright to me; other damping and isolation devices robbed music of its life and energy. The one thing I was confident about was that, as with speaker drivers, each material had its own sonic signature. Paper drivers sound like paper, metals ring, ceramic is hard, and so on. After that, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
 
An M3 Isolation Base was custom-made to work optimally with the Well Tempered Classic ’table, based on the latter’s dimensions and weight. I began the review with the WT tracking a Grado Reference cartridge through the moving-magnet section of the classic Counterpoint 5.0 preamp. Later in the review process, the Counterpoint was replaced by the spectacular Shindo Monbrison preamp, which has a wonderful low-output moving-coil phono section. I also replaced the Grado with a Roksan Shiraz. My listening time was split evenly between the two. Toward the end of the review process, Mike Latvis sent me a second M3 Isolation Base, which I placed under the Shindo preamp (see sidebar).
 
The Well Tempered Classic has no suspension, and the design goes to considerable lengths to minimize resonance and nonmusical vibrations. The Well Tempered has a full, rich, warm tone with very good pace and a weighty bottom end. Some find the sound a bit slow down low; others think it is simply correct and that other ’tables are hyped up a bit down low. I waver between the two views, and that probably explains why this is my third Well Tempered. I love it, I leave it, I look for another. If the ’table has any weakness (other than the peculiarities of its initial setup), it is that the upper frequencies are not as extended as they are on some other ’tables (e.g., Clearaudio) with somewhat lighter and brighter tonal balances.
 
In this regard, the Grado Reference provides a bit more of the same. I had previously used a series of Dynavector and Benz moving-coils with the Well Tempered, but the folks at Transparent, who at the time owned the rights to manufacture and distribute the ’table, use the Grado Reference, as does mastering engineer Bob Ludwig. Encouraged, I replaced the Dynavector with the Grado and off I went.
 
Before the HRS base arrived on the scene, the sound from the Well Tempered was as expected: big, rich, warm, reasonably well-detailed, coherent, and easy on the ears. I very much enjoyed listening to LPs. I had a good setup. If I could describe it in one word, it would be musical. That’s vague, I know; but musical, unfussy, and satisfying are just about right.
 
The HRS changed all that in ways I was unprepared for. First and foremost, there was a drastic reduction in the noise floor. As a result, the background became much "darker" -- more silent. The darker the background, the much better-focused the sound and images seemed. The better-focused the sound, the more apparently dynamic it was, with a noticeable increase in the contrast between foreground and background. The greater the contrast, the more lifelike the sound.
 
The second change took place at the bottom end. No one would accuse Grado cartridges of being highly refined in the bottom octaves. They present a rich, warm, and weighty bottom end, but not a particularly transparent one. With the M3 Isolation Base in place, the WT-Grado combo picked up the pace considerably. The bottom end remained weighty and warm, but took on more definition and transparency. LP playback, which had always been satisfying and engaging, became far more alive and present -- even with the Grado cartridge. The sound became, in comparison, light-footed and agile.
 
After nearly two months with the WT-Grado-Counterpoint combo, I replaced the Counterpoint with the Shindo Monbrison. Shindo is legendary for their preamps, especially their low-output moving-coil phono sections. Also, out went the Grado cartridge, in came the Roksan Shiraz. Of course, out too went the M3 Isolation Base, at least until I had a sense of what the new combination sounded like without it.
 
The Shiraz is rich, robust, and extremely dynamic. It has the body of the better moving-magnet cartridges, the speed and detail of the better moving-coils. It’s a Roksan-modified EMT -- just a first-rate cartridge.
 
If the M3 brought an increase in pace, energy, definition, and focus to the WT-Grado-Counterpoint combo while reducing noise, the sound with the WT-Shiraz-Shindo (once broken-in) was a revelation. It’s common to refer to a great CD playback system as sounding "analog-like"; when we hear that, we know exactly what the person means. In a completely different way, a great LP playback system can be CD-like. By that we mean that it is dead quiet, the sound seeming to come from a dead-"black" background. There is only sound and that dark silence. With the M3 in place, the new combination was CD-like in just this respect. The music coming from LPs was crystalline in its clarity and transparency. Yet it was also warm and weighty, rich and robust.
 
The differences the M3 made were nowhere more apparent than on two of my favorite albums: The Modern Jazz Quartet’s live double LP, The Last Concert [Atlantic SD2-909], and Ron Carter’s Piccolo [Milestone Stereo M-55004]. Both albums are well-produced and -recorded. Carter’s brilliant bass work simply exploded from the speakers against utter darkness. Bass notes were rendered well-defined, full-bodied, and alive in a way that was unmatched in my long experience with vinyl. On the MJQ album, Milt Jackson’s vibes were clear as could be, the bass deep and musical, the overall coherence of the performance startling real.
 
Conclusion
 
The Harmonic Resolution Systems M3 Isolation Base made a substantial, repeatable difference to my Well Tempered Classic turntable’s playback of LPs. The difference it made was constant in some respects, varied in others. With both the Grado-Counterpoint and Shiraz-Shindo Monbrison combinations, the M3 Isolation Base increased resolution, focus, pace, and reduced the noise floor dramatically. On the other hand, the differences it made depended on those combinations.
 
I reject the view that anything that is essential to the success of a music playback system can be called a "tweak." No tweak I have ever introduced into my reference system has ever made a comparable improvement to the music or to the level of enjoyment I have gotten from it as the HRS M3 Isolation Base. It is a special product that far exceeded my expectations. With it, Harmonic Resolution Systems takes its place among the elite manufacturers of isolation devices. This will not be the last you hear from this company.
 
…Jules Coleman
It is a special product that far exceeded my expectations.
Jules Coleman

The Harmonic Resolution Systems M3 Isolation Base made a substantial, repeatable difference to my Well Tempered Classic turntable’s playback of LPs. The difference it made was constant in some respects, varied in others. With both the Grado-Counterpoint and Shiraz-Shindo Monbrison combinations, the M3 Isolation Base increased resolution, focus, pace, and reduced the noise floor dramatically. On the other hand, the differences it made depended on those combinations.

No vibrations
 
When it comes to a music playback system, the prevailing view is that there is no such thing as a good vibration. Any vibration your audio system picks up and transmits is potentially a bad one. Instead of sorting out good from bad vibrations, a well-designed playback system should minimize the adverse impacts of all of them. Unsurprisingly, there are different approaches to vibration control. Some designers try to reduce the impact of vibrations by spreading them broadly over the entire frequency range, thereby minimizing their impact at any single frequency. Others try to channel the vibrations to a particular frequency range where they might be used sympathetically, in conjunction with the musical signal. A similar approach has been used in certain speaker designs, in which cabinet resonances are channeled to function as musically enhancing distortions. Think Shun Mook speakers -- or, if you were lucky enough ever to own or hear a pair, the European Holophone Systems speaker line. Others adopt a "Take no prisoners!" attitude toward vibrations. Count the designers at Harmonic Resolution Systems among those who appear to have taken this approach.
 
Before I explain what’s so bad about vibrations in the audio chain, I need to distinguish among a variety of different but related questions: What are the sources of vibrations in the audio chain? What are their deleterious sonic consequences? Are some vibrations more likely to inflict sonic wounds than others? Are some of those wounds more damaging than others? What are the various ways of eliminating or reducing vibrations? What are the sonic benefits of doing so? Where does one get the greatest benefit for the lowest relative cost?
 
We can distinguish between at least two kinds of vibrations: structure-borne and air-borne. The sources of structure-borne vibrations include household devices and the audio and video components themselves. Often, the design and construction of an audio component fails to eliminate vibrations and resonances internal to it. If that energy interacts with vibrations at similar frequencies elsewhere in the chain, the energy can, in effect, be amplified as it makes its way to your loudspeakers. The most damaging sources of structural vibrations are loudspeakers. Here the adage "Whatever goes around comes around" is doubly meaningful. Loudspeakers literally shake the room, and that room is the environment in which the rest of your system is situated. The vibrations created by the loudspeaker, including those internal to it, are fed back into the system through the room only to resurface as part of the output from the loudspeaker, and so on in a vicious cycle. Worse, given that most structure-borne vibrations have broad frequency ranges, the prospect of finding matching natural frequencies is high; the consequence is that nonmusical energy can be significantly amplified.
 
The difference between structure- and air-borne vibrations has less to do with the source than the manner of transmission. Air-borne vibrations originate in anything that is within the audible range of the music playback system. Again, think about what your loudspeakers alone are contributing. These vibrations reach the outer skins of components and the equipment racks, floors, and furnishings that support those components. Some of this energy is dissipated; the rest is transformed into mechanical resonances that, like structure-borne vibrations, wind their ways through your system, often being amplified along the way.
 
The basic idea is simple to grasp. An audio or video signal from a source component exists in a noisy, vibrating environment; worse, the components in the chain are themselves, to varying degrees, noisy as well. The noise is transmitted throughout the system and is likely to be amplified along the way.
 
Nonmusical information is detrimental to sound reproduction in a variety of ways. First, it is likely to blur or obscure low-level detail. More often than not, bass, which is hard enough to reproduce accurately under most conditions, will be less resolved and tuneful, and overall accuracy and musicality will be reduced. Timing suffers, and music is inaccurately portrayed.
 
It would seem to follow that the greater a system’s potential to resolve inner detail, to produce pitch-accurate bass notes, and to present the musical message clearly and accurately, the greater the risk posed by unwanted vibrations. The greater that risk, the more crucial fine-tuning the system is. This is true enough, but, like many truths, misleading.
 
Every system has some potential to resolve inner detail -- to soundstage. This potential varies and is limited by the quality of the components and their relationship with one another. Unwanted vibrations make it impossible for a system of any sort to realize its inherent potential. In many ways, the less high-end a system is, the more likely it is that the manufacturer has paid inadequate attention to component-based, structure-borne vibrations. So one might say, again correctly but somewhat misleadingly, that if any system could benefit from vibration isolation, it would be a mid-fi one.
 
The truth is, all kinds of systems can benefit from vibration control. The marginal differences in impact may be greater in one system than in another, depending on both the inherent potential of the system and the extent of vibration problems in it. The marginal value of the difference depends on the importance of musical involvement, soundstaging, proper pace, and accuracy to the listener, relative to the cost of the improvement.
 
In either case, the easiest way to think about vibration isolation and damping is this: To reproduce a music signal accurately, we need to isolate the components from noise in the environment and we must prevent the components from contributing noise of their own. To do this, we must isolate and damp.
 
The M3 Isolation Base
 
Harmonic Resolution Systems is in the isolation and damping business. Chief engineer and designer Mike Latvis is a degreed mechanical engineer with a love of music who has dabbled in audio since his early teens. He has spent most of his adult life as a mechanical engineer specializing in isolation systems and noise reduction, working on, among other things, a variety of military and aerospace projects. After designing audio isolation devices for himself and friends, he eventually founded Harmonic Resolution Systems several years ago.
 
At this point, the HRS product line includes isolation bases that go under electronic components, damping plates that go on top, a record clamp, Nimbus feet, and a newly designed equipment rack that was displayed for the first time at the January 2004 Consumer Electronics Show.
 
The Isolation Bases are specifically configured to work with the customer's equipment, in sizes that correspond to component size; within the size parameter, they can be constructed to handle components of different weight. They can be placed in equipment racks, on furniture, even on the floor.
 
I began my review of HRS products with an M3 Isolation Base ($1345 USD to $1965, depending on size) placed under my Well Tempered Classic turntable. The M3 Isolation Base is an engineering and aesthetic triumph. Latvis’s aesthetic is one of elegant simplicity. Unobtrusive, handsome, and subtle, each Isolation Base has two main structural elements: a machined-aluminum frame and a granite slab. Simple, but only in appearance.
 
The 0.75"-thick granite slab, which is placed inside the frame, is in fact decoupled from it, and sits on proprietary polymer feet that have two purposes: 1) to support the weight of the granite and the component, and and 2) to decouple the granite from the frame and dissipate residual vibrational energy and control structural resonances. The entire base rests on four custom aluminum isolation feet precisely shaped to ensure minimum connection with the surface below (rack, furniture, floor, etc.). Each HRS Isolation Base foot is a six-degrees-of-freedom isolator.
 
Vibrations that get beyond this first barrier face a series of mechanical chokes and other antiresonance devices machined into the aluminum frame. In all, seven different materials are used to produce the second line of defense. The materials chosen, and their densities and locations within the frame, are determined by their various antivibrational properties. Final adjustments to materials, combinations, and spacing are determined by extensive listening tests.
 
The engineering at this stage is no small feat, as HRS Isolation Bases are designed to dissipate nonmusical energy throughout the frequency range. Some isolation platforms reduce unwanted energy at some lower frequencies, only to, in effect, accentuate distortions at higher frequencies. If you’ve ever heard a rack that had the odd feature of making your system sound both sluggish and bright at once, this is likely what was going on. There is no overstating the engineering know-how that goes into each HRS Isolation Base.
 
I have had some experience with various antiresonance and antivibration devices, and my experience was mixed. In some environments and with some products, I heard obvious improvements. In other contexts and with other products, if there were improvements, they were subtle at best -- and largely escaped my ears. Often I heard differences, but it was not clear that the differences constituted unambiguous improvements. Some equipment racks, for example, sounded bright to me; other damping and isolation devices robbed music of its life and energy. The one thing I was confident about was that, as with speaker drivers, each material had its own sonic signature. Paper drivers sound like paper, metals ring, ceramic is hard, and so on. After that, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
 
An M3 Isolation Base was custom-made to work optimally with the Well Tempered Classic ’table, based on the latter’s dimensions and weight. I began the review with the WT tracking a Grado Reference cartridge through the moving-magnet section of the classic Counterpoint 5.0 preamp. Later in the review process, the Counterpoint was replaced by the spectacular Shindo Monbrison preamp, which has a wonderful low-output moving-coil phono section. I also replaced the Grado with a Roksan Shiraz. My listening time was split evenly between the two. Toward the end of the review process, Mike Latvis sent me a second M3 Isolation Base, which I placed under the Shindo preamp (see sidebar).
 
The Well Tempered Classic has no suspension, and the design goes to considerable lengths to minimize resonance and nonmusical vibrations. The Well Tempered has a full, rich, warm tone with very good pace and a weighty bottom end. Some find the sound a bit slow down low; others think it is simply correct and that other ’tables are hyped up a bit down low. I waver between the two views, and that probably explains why this is my third Well Tempered. I love it, I leave it, I look for another. If the ’table has any weakness (other than the peculiarities of its initial setup), it is that the upper frequencies are not as extended as they are on some other ’tables (e.g., Clearaudio) with somewhat lighter and brighter tonal balances.
 
In this regard, the Grado Reference provides a bit more of the same. I had previously used a series of Dynavector and Benz moving-coils with the Well Tempered, but the folks at Transparent, who at the time owned the rights to manufacture and distribute the ’table, use the Grado Reference, as does mastering engineer Bob Ludwig. Encouraged, I replaced the Dynavector with the Grado and off I went.
 
Before the HRS base arrived on the scene, the sound from the Well Tempered was as expected: big, rich, warm, reasonably well-detailed, coherent, and easy on the ears. I very much enjoyed listening to LPs. I had a good setup. If I could describe it in one word, it would be musical. That’s vague, I know; but musical, unfussy, and satisfying are just about right.
 
The HRS changed all that in ways I was unprepared for. First and foremost, there was a drastic reduction in the noise floor. As a result, the background became much "darker" -- more silent. The darker the background, the much better-focused the sound and images seemed. The better-focused the sound, the more apparently dynamic it was, with a noticeable increase in the contrast between foreground and background. The greater the contrast, the more lifelike the sound.
 
The second change took place at the bottom end. No one would accuse Grado cartridges of being highly refined in the bottom octaves. They present a rich, warm, and weighty bottom end, but not a particularly transparent one. With the M3 Isolation Base in place, the WT-Grado combo picked up the pace considerably. The bottom end remained weighty and warm, but took on more definition and transparency. LP playback, which had always been satisfying and engaging, became far more alive and present -- even with the Grado cartridge. The sound became, in comparison, light-footed and agile.
 
After nearly two months with the WT-Grado-Counterpoint combo, I replaced the Counterpoint with the Shindo Monbrison. Shindo is legendary for their preamps, especially their low-output moving-coil phono sections. Also, out went the Grado cartridge, in came the Roksan Shiraz. Of course, out too went the M3 Isolation Base, at least until I had a sense of what the new combination sounded like without it.
 
The Shiraz is rich, robust, and extremely dynamic. It has the body of the better moving-magnet cartridges, the speed and detail of the better moving-coils. It’s a Roksan-modified EMT -- just a first-rate cartridge.
 
If the M3 brought an increase in pace, energy, definition, and focus to the WT-Grado-Counterpoint combo while reducing noise, the sound with the WT-Shiraz-Shindo (once broken-in) was a revelation. It’s common to refer to a great CD playback system as sounding "analog-like"; when we hear that, we know exactly what the person means. In a completely different way, a great LP playback system can be CD-like. By that we mean that it is dead quiet, the sound seeming to come from a dead-"black" background. There is only sound and that dark silence. With the M3 in place, the new combination was CD-like in just this respect. The music coming from LPs was crystalline in its clarity and transparency. Yet it was also warm and weighty, rich and robust.
 
The differences the M3 made were nowhere more apparent than on two of my favorite albums: The Modern Jazz Quartet’s live double LP, The Last Concert [Atlantic SD2-909], and Ron Carter’s Piccolo [Milestone Stereo M-55004]. Both albums are well-produced and -recorded. Carter’s brilliant bass work simply exploded from the speakers against utter darkness. Bass notes were rendered well-defined, full-bodied, and alive in a way that was unmatched in my long experience with vinyl. On the MJQ album, Milt Jackson’s vibes were clear as could be, the bass deep and musical, the overall coherence of the performance startling real.
 
Conclusion
 
The Harmonic Resolution Systems M3 Isolation Base made a substantial, repeatable difference to my Well Tempered Classic turntable’s playback of LPs. The difference it made was constant in some respects, varied in others. With both the Grado-Counterpoint and Shiraz-Shindo Monbrison combinations, the M3 Isolation Base increased resolution, focus, pace, and reduced the noise floor dramatically. On the other hand, the differences it made depended on those combinations.
 
I reject the view that anything that is essential to the success of a music playback system can be called a "tweak." No tweak I have ever introduced into my reference system has ever made a comparable improvement to the music or to the level of enjoyment I have gotten from it as the HRS M3 Isolation Base. It is a special product that far exceeded my expectations. With it, Harmonic Resolution Systems takes its place among the elite manufacturers of isolation devices. This will not be the last you hear from this company.
 
…Jules Coleman
The Brinkmann package is a truly reference level analog front-end that is competitively priced. It is special and belongs on your short list.
Marshall Nack
REVIEW SUMMARY:
....this combo scores equally high on musical engagement. Evidence of a designer carefully balancing these twin goals is apparent in all aspects of these products. The results speak for themselves: the package as delivered scores excellent on resolution, timing and tracking accuracy, and it sounds lively and natural. I found it thoroughly engaging on both fronts and so did every member of my panel.
 
EXTENDED REVIEW:
Brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge

Hold and Release
 
Perhaps the thing to comment on first regarding the Brinkmann analog package is how it lets go of notes. It brought to mind a modern dance by Garth Fagan entitled Prelude: Discipline is Freedom. The piece begins with the dancers doing basic warm-up movements, then steadily gains momentum and complexity, until a lively series of jumps and turns along the diagonals of the stage has the audience on the edge of their seats—or dancing in them—at the finale. It only works when the dancers have mastered their parts sufficiently to appear relaxed. Then, the dance itself appears effortless. Now, what on earth does this have to do with how the Brinkmann Oasis Turntable lets go of notes?
 
Many tables and arms—actually, many components in general—utilize damping to control the signal and achieve higher resolution. But, where a little is good, there's always the temptation to eke out more. If overdone, you're guaranteed to tamper with stuff that should be left alone and reveal your hand to the listener in the form of tight and squashed sound. (Of course, you can also err on the other side and under-damp, in which case the sound has no form and is left flapping in the wind.)
 
The Brinkmann front-end strikes an excellent balance. It masters its parts through the application of control, as evidenced in superior detail retrieval. Yet the decay dissipates naturally; it lets go of notes with no sense of being over-damped.
 
I won't go into much depth now, except to say this balancing act is evident everywhere. The transient, for example, is as close to a square wave as I've heard, yet avoids feeling over-controlled.
 
The Engineering Counterpart
 
You don't have to look far to find an example of the engineering counterpart. Look at the construction of the platter. It is made from a special resonance-inhibiting alloy of aluminum, copper, magnesium and other materials. But the top surface that comes in contact with the record is a crystal glass inset. Not only is glass an extremely smooth and even material, it is sonically lively as well. Nice balance.
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
Proportional Regulation of the Motor
 
Perhaps the most significant example of the balancing act between freedom and control is how Brinkmann implemented direct drive in the Oasis.
 
From the website: "Many of the known direct drive turntables were constructed for studios and radio stations where it was necessary to have very quick start-up times of less than a second which was achieved with high torque motors that speed up and stop the motor very rapidly. This caused heavy cogging effects accompanied by high wow & flutter numbers." (Cogging: "very short phases of acceleration alternating with equally short phases of braking… Cogging is intrinsic to all electric motors.") Thus, direct drive acquired a bad rep.
 
Brinkmann envisioned a new paradigm for the motor/platter interface. They rejected tight regulation of the platter and developed a motor control with low torque—just enough to get the platter up to speed and keep it constant. Plus they paired the low-torque motor with a high mass platter. Consequently, it takes the platter a long time to ramp up to 33⅓ rpm (about 16 seconds), but cogging is greatly reduced. Also, once the 22lb. platter is moving, it tends to keep moving due to the laws of inertia, especially since the motor off phase is a minimal countervailing force. Both of these innovations help to smooth out the drives' miniscule speed variations.
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
Speed controller with four inductors
 
Magnetic Motor Drive
 
Wow and flutter are further reduced through magnetic coupling. The drive mechanism consists of four air-cored inductors in the plinth and a ring of permanent magnets in the platter's bearing. A Brinkmann-developed analog speed control charges the inductors with just enough juice to maintain speed accuracy. The inductors transfer their electric charge to the ring of magnets in the platter which, in turn, transfer it to the motor.
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
Ring magnets in sub-platter
 
The spindle is built into the motor housing and protrudes through the platter. When you screw the record clamp into the spindle, you are locking the record and platter to the motor housing. Voilà! The clamp design also has the effect of flattening the record to the glass mat.
 
These engineering choices result in a table with excellent pitch stability and ultra-low noise—and a sound that's quite different from my reference.
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
Listening Observations: Dr. Feickert Firebird
 
I've gotten quite used to the way my reference Dr. Feickert Firebird table, DFA-12.0 arm and Shelter Harmony cartridge does it. (Note that while the parts vary widely, the total price of these packages are quite close. The Oasis list is $13,400; the Firebird is $13,000. The 10.0 arm is $4000; the DFA, $1500. The Pi cartridge is $2700; the Harmony, $5500.) Here, there's no real end to the musical line. One note trails off and, before it's gone, another begins. The musical line just keeps moving along, resulting in continuity. The transient is softer, the sustain is full of life, and the tail takes its time to dissipate. These are characteristics of belt drive turntables in general.
 
feickert firebird
 
Dr. Feickert Firebird
 
The Shelter Harmony's bloom and comparatively rich tone are also partly responsible for this attribute. One of the deciding factors in my purchase of the cartridge was that it is both highly musical and hi-res.
 
Oasis with 10.0 Arm and Pi Cartridge
 
The direct drive Oasis with Brinkmann 10.0 arm and Pi Cartridge (a complete Brinkmann front end installed by the distributor, On A Higher Note) dispenses with a lot of the bloom and warmth. Frequency response is dead-on neutral and, boy, is it quiet!
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
But the main difference between the two analog packages has to do with the duration of notes over time. With the Brinkmann, there's more space between the notes—lots more. A note begins and then ends. The next begins, then ends. The transient is like a razor edge, and the tail dissipates equally fast. In other words, there's no smudge or blur: notes are cleanly demarcated, and the table doesn't hold onto them.
 
The view into the Brinkmann soundstage is always in sharp focus, a continual progression of differences large and small. Inner life is comprised of details. The Brinkmann is resolute in the sense that its main characteristic is resolution. The Feickert front-end's main characteristic is a flowing, wavy line comprised mainly of tonal and timbral modulations.
 
If you're wondering what's responsible for this start and stop action and incisive resolution, all of the pieces—table, arm, cartridge—contribute, but I suspect it's overwhelmingly the direct drive design, which has astoundingly low wow and flutter measurements. (Check the website for the numbers.)
 
You might think this is the description of an analytic table. Ah, but here's the kicker: The Brinkmann is, in its own way, just as musical and satisfying as the Feickert/Harmony combo. For one, because it is extremely quick and nimble, transients turn sharp corners and really nail the rhythms. And timbres, if not as developed as the Feickert/Shelter, are accurate. They are credible and I have no issues here.
 
Now we come back to that wonderful balance I described at the beginning. While it exerts rigorous control over the signal, it is never overdone. The listeners' impression is always of a natural flow of notes and, in fact, the Brinkmann has a lively quality—it can dance. It is that rare component that does both.
 
I was thinking it could use a little more punch on the bottom until I put on the Infernal Dance from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite (Sheffield Lab, LAB 24), a direct-to-disc recording from 1985. Ouch! Those whacks on the bass drum really hammer you. That they're tight and pitch-perfect is icing on the cake. The Brinkmann package is capable of delivering the thunderous crescendos on the record: just don't expect it to add it when it's not.
 
The Berceuse (track 6) is Exhibit A for how to do string tone right. Again, inner life in the Brinkmann means focus and resolution—vibrato and dynamic fluctuations come right through. Tone is spot on. It just seems closely miked.
 
Cosmetics
 
The Oasis is an elegant object, no doubt about that—a modern classic. It has similar lines and proportions to many other tables, except they are more aesthetically pleasing. Everything about it exudes high quality German engineering—the finely crafted metal work, the assured action of the controls, the luxe wood plinth—and conspires to instill consumer confidence. (Other finishes available are maple, cherry, pallisander and piano gloss.) My sample was Makassar ebony wood and it was stunningly gorgeous.
 
Setup
 
The Brinkmann Oasis Turntable, 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge were setup on my active Vibraplane ELpF platform. (The Firebird package resides on my other ELpF.) We removed the RCA terminal box on the rear to insert a right-angled Kubala-Sosna Emotion DIN phono cable (MSRP $3000) directly into the tonearm base, thus eliminating an unnecessary cable interface. A K-S Elation! power cord went into the outboard power supply.
 
Once setup, the Oasis was totally maintenance free. Speed was stable as a rock. The reference system for this review included the Allnic H-3000V and the superb Vitus SP-102 phono stages (review coming).
 
Some tables (and phono stages) have the ability to suppress unwanted tics and pops. This is not one of them. Along with the privilege of hearing more deeply into the grooves, I found I had to be more diligent than ever about record care. I adopted the habit of cleaning the stylus before every play. (Not a bad habit to get into, just that it takes more time.)
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
Brinkmann Pi Cartridge
 
It's noteworthy that from the lead in to the runoff groove, I am able to play complete LP sides without distortion or tracking errors. The Pi is an excellent tracker, with a very neutral tonal balance reminiscent of the Benz cartridges, and somewhat lighter than my Shelter Harmony (MSRP $5500) or the Air Tight PC1s ($8500). Both of those much more expensive carts are sweeter and more full-bodied from top to bottom.
 
brinkmann Oasis Turntable 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge
 
Brinkmann 10.0 Tonearm
 
The new Brinkmann 10.0 tonearm differs from the gimbal bearing construction of the 10.5 and 12.1 tonearms. It is a hybrid with the idea being to harness the advantages of a single point bearing with those of the gimbal type and, thus, control arm movement in all directions.
 
New feature: the headshell allows for azimuth adjustment.
 
Conclusion
 
The Brinkmann front-end (Oasis Turntable, 10.0 Tonearm and Pi Cartridge) is my first experience with a direct drive turntable. It is quite a bit different from the familiar belt drive ones.
 
In an ideal world, I want something that plays the music and lets me know the record needs to be cleaned. Yes—certainly, many of us relate to that. We want to be emotionally engaged and also want all the information to be had.
 
The Brinkmann front-end is voiced for maximum resolution. There's nothing soft or romantic about it. It maintains 20/20 focus all the time.
 
But lest you get a lopsided impression, I hasten to add that this combo scores equally high on musical engagement. Evidence of a designer carefully balancing these twin goals is apparent in all aspects of these products. The results speak for themselves: the package as delivered scores excellent on resolution, timing and tracking accuracy, and it sounds lively and natural. I found it thoroughly engaging on both fronts and so did every member of my panel.
 
The Brinkmann package is a truly reference level analog front-end that is competitively priced. It is special and belongs on your short list.
 
Very well done, Herr Brinkmann!
 
Postscript
 
After completing this review, I replaced the Pi cartridge with an Air Tight PC1s. Ahhhh. What can I say? The PC1s matched the Pi in resolution while bringing a special kind of insight that catapulted this front-end into the highest caliber, regardless of price. Review forthcoming. 
…….Marshall Nack
World-class phono preamp, comprehensive equipment, excellent workmanship. In view of if the flexibility, effort and quality,
Michael Lang


SOUND QUALITY - 100% - World-class phono preamp, comprehensive equipment, excellent workmanship. In view of if the flexibility, effort and quality, the price seems fair. - with tubes and transistors, balanced and single-ended connections, MM and MC inputs and adjustable transducer, the Edison is undeniably well-equipped. Is perfect sound also part of the package?

REVIEW SUMMARY: 
Even the Tingvall Trio, considered too soft and harmonic by hardcore jazz fans, suddenly shows an inner tension, perfect tonal balance, and fine spatial reproduction in all three dimensions when played via the once played by the Benz LPS and the Edison. It’s enough to make even nonjazz fans emotional!

The fusion of characteristics essential for experiencing music is here managed in an exemplary manner, and when you add in the workmanship and flexibility here, you will soon you forget your desire for “more”. 

EXTENDED FEVIEW: It’s rare enough to hear news from Helmut Brinkmann. He rejects the notion that this is because he’s spent most of his time living “la dolce vita”; rather it’s due to his approach to development, which is completely independent of standard product cycles and marketing strategies. In fact, sometimes years can pass before an idea becomes a (small) series product, which Brinkmann then presents to the public – as is the case with the Edison phono pre-amp here. 

Doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘hurry’ 

In a recent interview (STEREO 8/11), Brinkmann explained why it sometimes takes so long: simply, It’s his conviction that everything affects the sound. This means every new development finds him confronted with a puzzle of seemingly infinite pieces which he has to put together through a recurring rhythm of installing, listening and correcting. And as if that wasn’t tortuous enough, sometimes Brinkmann simply makes individual components himself in the in-house machine shed. 

In addition to the desire for the best-possible sound, Brinkmann had another target for the Edison: to offer a complete set of accessories for analog operation. In today’s world that’s as much about several inputs with variable impedance and amplification factor as it is to do with providing a remote control. 

Yet the most demanding of analog aficionados (at the princely sum of €9,000 only they can be considered serious buyers for the Edison) demand even more: just to attract their attention requires capabilities and details which make the extraordinary nature of the object of desire apparent just by reading its brochure. 

All Brinkmann products are characterised by the quality of their workmanship: flawless and full of attention to the smallest detail, they combine a subtle visual appeal with a similar tactile allure. This is achieved as much by the granite plate under the device as the view provided into the meticulous interior granted by a glass plate. 

Next to the sophisticated green wax paper capacitors, you first notice the two transducers, recognisable by their silver covers, while another technical particularity is almost concealed: two PCF 803 tubes are used per channel. These were developed in the 1970s, and used the receiver section of Telefunken televisions to boost the incoming antenna signal with as little noise as possible. Tube connoisseurs know them as multiple tubes. 

Brinkmann places them in a key location of the Edison: between its two systems the exact RIAA rectification (so important for phono amps) takes place. In addition, the tube works as so-called cathode follower in the circuit, delivers a linear signal with very small output impedance, and is also used for the symmetrical signal processing

Brinkmann leaves the amplification and impedance adjustment of different pickups to the transistors and transducers, and says he feels a minimal deviance of the signal-to-noise ratio from the optimum is acceptable as a trade-off for an especially harmonic sound. Despite its apparently generous handling of decibels, the test lab can confirm that the Edison is quite free of interference

The ingenious circuit board layout, and the power source on the side, contribute to this. Let’s not forget that the balanced design is resistant to interference of any kind, and that – thanks to the included low-loss adapter – the balanced output of the Edison can also be connected to a conventional single-ended input on the downstream pre-amp. In addition, the contact of the ground plug can be removed from the device in order to allow the connection of one or more ground wires.

Free of affectations If the knobs in the back are set to the right impedance values and the optimal amplification factor has been found on the jog dial in the front plate, the result is a sound able to draw the listener into the musical experience with irresistible gravity. It will then monopolise the attention for hours, and then leave a lasting feeling of having experienced something extraordinary. 

After a brief warm-up phase, the Edison starts up quietly and reliably. Select input and turn on the transducers for real balanced operation. You should really consider the latter option depending on the system you use.

In contrast to many other great-sounding rivals, this phono preamp shone due to its complete absence of foibles: no special demands when setting up the phono stage or power supply; no fuss when connecting to different preamps; no more or less intensive noise depending on the position of the cables carrying the signal; and no unwanted temporary reception of radio signals of unknown origin! 

None of this is accidental: instead it’s the result of a design informed by experience collected over the years.

Music you can feel 

What you get is not just music to the ears: The listener is instantly transported into a musical orbit beyond the scope of most rival components. Remember the report on the Musical Fidelity M1 Vinyl in STEREO 12/11, in which I said it could take you quite a way towards Hi-Fi Nirvana? The Edison will take you the rest of the way: Brinkmann has built an amp whose qualities never push themselves into the foreground, but whose presence can be felt in every sound. 

You don’t even need audiophile recordings: it’s more than able to demonstrate its exceptional abilities with the Sisters of Mercy or the brooding Smiths, and while Its authority in the bass range is exemplary, this doesn’t come at the expense of “swing.” Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong exude a playfulness and intensity in “Makin’ Whoopee” which is infectious, while “Flamenco Fever”, a live recording from 1978, becomes an experience with unrestrained dynamics, attack, and spatial authenticity.

Even the Tingvall Trio, considered too soft and harmonic by hardcore jazz fans, suddenly shows an inner tension, perfect tonal balance, and fine spatial reproduction in all three dimensions when played via the once played by the Benz LPS and the Edison. It’s enough to make even nonjazz fans emotional!

The fusion of characteristics essential for experiencing music is here managed in an exemplary manner, and when you add in the workmanship and flexibility here, you will soon you forget your desire for “more”. 
…….Michael Lang

High End 2016: Brinkmann and Vandersteen and MQA
Panagiotis Karavitis in Munich 2016

MQA is becoming a reality; the company has a new partner under Brinkmann Audio who despite being a world-class leader in turntable design has a history on digital audio as well with the “Zenith”, a DAC introduced back in 1986!

In Munich they presented the all new MQA ready, tube output Nyquist DAC, capable of 32bit/384KHz PCM and dual rate DSD, available as of Q4 2016. Paired to the in-house electronics (Brinkmann produces a complete line of quality electronics including mono power amps, pre, stereo, integrated and the fabulous Edison phono stage) all sitting on top of HRS racks while speakers were courtesy of Vandersteen, his second from top Model 5A carbon (US$29.900) along with the dedicated M7-HPA amplifiers (US$52.000).

Bob Stuart gave us a demo session comprising of various tracks in MQA, sourced mostly directly from the original masters, and I must admit, there is something to this new format. Not saying it is better than the same files in hi-res PCM or DSD; my experience is still very limited and in order to draw any conclusions I would like to do some proper A-B in my system, preferably with less than 30 folks sitting in the room. What I am saying is that it sounds a bit different, and given the huge advantage of a lower bit rate, chances are it will be the next logical step in quality streaming for the not so distant future. Still, I am not sure how it is going to do as a format; discussing a bit further with Bob, I came to understand that we are talking of a lossy compression, only that with MQA the vital 20-20KHz range remains untouched (protected is the word he used) and the lossy part of the compression happens at higher frequencies, inaudible for the human ear.

I must give credit to Brinkmann’s new Nyquist DAC
MHES 2016 - Key Kim

Year after a year Brinkmann always manages to produced outstanding sound and it was no different this time. Actually, the digital medium sounded better than ever. 

I must give credit to Brinkmann’s new Nyquist DAC. Brinkmann is mainly known as a manufacturer of State-of- the-Art analog products, not digital. However, did you know that the company’s first DAC “Zenith” debuted in 1986, 30 years ago? 

Helmut Brinkmann’s development of the Zenith demonstrated the importance of analog circuitry and passive filter implementation in digital components. Everything Brinkmann learned from Zenith, and three decades of experience has culminated in the “Nyquist”. 

The Nyquist has been optimized to accommodate the latest digital formats including MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) streaming and playback, PCM up to 384 kHz/32 bits (including DXD). The Vandersteen Audio 5A Carbon loudspeakers (US$29,900/pair) sounded impressive driven by their M7-HPA mono amplifiers (US$52k). 

As I listened I heard sound that was open, transparent and very natural with nice musicality. 

Awards

Positive Feedback Online's Writers' Choice Award

Brinkmann Marconi

Known stateside mostly for their exquisite and superb turntables, Brinkmann returns with a knock-out punch to the world of electronics. Not that there's anything wrong with focusing on only their 'tables. Alas, there's so much more to the Brinkmann line. Marconi is perhaps the most quintessential preamplifier to have graced my system yet—and I don't quite foresee that changing anytime soon. A marvel of electrical engineering, Marconi has it all; balanced and single-ended inputs, a tube stage handling phase inversion, individually adjustable input gain for all six inputs, remote control and Brinkmann typical design, that is, a resonance optimized chassis with see through glass top.

Immediately upon setup and connection to my trusted Threshold T400 super-amp, driving a pair of Zu Definition MK2s, I noticed gobs of detail, truly three dimensional soundstage and layering that was at least several orders of magnitude better than my existing setup. Playing cuts like Yello's latest Touch, the soundstage size and layering improvements immediately become evident. Speed, dynamics and overall image presence is the best I have ever heard my system sound and that's saying sumthu'n. There's a certain sense of clarity and calmness to the music that other preamps in my system perhapshinted at, the NAT linestage comes to mind, but never quite capitalized on in a way as Marconi does. The perfect mate for the Threshold T400, this combo knocks bass lines and dynamics out of the ballpark when the music calls for it. Total splendidness and most definitely a product to consider if you are in the market for your last preamp. It sort of reminds me of what I said about the Brinkmann LaGrange, when I reviewed it years ago... a definite must have. Review forthcoming.

............David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief
Munich High End 2016: Robert Harley on Analog and Digital Sources - Most Significant Digital Products

Brinkmannn Nyquist MQA-Compatible DAC

Turning to digital sources, the press conference announcing the MQA-compatible Nyquist DAC from Brinkmann was preceded, by a matter of minutes, by the announcement by Warner Music that the label would be supporting the MQA format. The timing added a dramatic twist to the Brinkmann event. Warner is the first major label to announce support for MQA.

Although Brinkmann is known today primarily for its turntables, the company introduced its first DAC in 1986 and has been making digital sources since. In addition to decoding MQA, the Nyquist DAC is compatible with PCM up to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD128. 

The modular design includes user-replaceable cards and provides for firmware updates to accommodate future formats. The output stage is a hybrid design that combines tubes and transistors fed from very high voltage supply rails. The two-box unit offers balanced and unbalanced outputs, a headphone amplifier, and Roon-ready network playback. The Nyquist will be available in Q4 2016.

The system in which the Nyquist was demonstrated sounded fabulous—Vandersteen Model 5A Carbons driven by Vandertsteen’s own liquid-cooled power amplifiers.