Brinkmann Balance-II turntable w 2 tonearm bases clamp & solidstate power supply

BR 27 TT BAL 2
NZ$ 41,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Brinkmann

Considered some of the world’s finest turntables out of Germany

New

Brinkmann introduction:
Our heaviest turntable keeps on running and running and running... with legendary quietness. Since its introduction in 1984, the »Balance« combines timeless beauty, highest sound quality and perfect build quality. The basic design has remained the same (honestly, there isn?t much to improve), but in the best Brinkmann tradition, the turntable has seen continuous evolution und sonic optimizations. Hence today, the turntable is state of the art in terms of aesthetics and technology – as it has always been – while sounding better than ever. Little wonder then that the »Balance« is used as the absolute reference turntable not only by Brinkmann, but quite a few renowned publications aswell. Not surprisingly, the »Balance« has received quite a few awards over the years: the “Gold Medal” for turntables from the “Image Hifi Millenium Awards” or the “Blue Moon” award from www.6moons.com

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 inserted crystal glass plate follows a total absence of resonance.

The chassis is milled from a 40mm strong dural-plate and is equipped with attachments for the bearing and the tonearm base.

We reduced the temperature dependence of the material with the help of an electronic temperature control to nearly nothing to guarantee a smooth turning of the table. A power mosfet, installed beneath the bearing, produces with the help of a control circuit power dissipation that is needed to create a stable temperature.

The motor with its switch unit is placed separately beside the turntable. A motor control constructed specially for this turntable drives the Pabst motor electronically to the speeds 33 and 45, both speeds can be fine adjusted separately with two rotary switches. A precisely cut round belt transfers the drive from the motor to the plate.

Brinkmann »Sinus« Motor  

For 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.  

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

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 inserted crystal glass plate follows a total absence of resonance.

The chassis is milled from a 40mm strong dural-plate and is equipped with attachments for the bearing & 2x Tonearm bases.

We reduced the temperature dependence of the material with the help of an electronic temperature control to nearly nothing to guarantee a smooth turning of the table. A power mosfet, installed beneath the bearing, produces with the help of a control circuit power dissipation that is needed to create a stable temperature.

The motor with its switch unit is placed separately beside the turntable. A motor control constructed specially for this turntable drives the Pabst motor electronically to the speeds 33 and 45, both speeds can be fine adjusted separately with two rotary switches. A precisely cut round belt transfers the drive from the motor to the plate.

Specifications

Height 140 mm
Width 550 mm
Depth 400 mm
Weight (net) 33 kg
Finish Black
Drive precision ground round belt 
Platter weight 18 kg, Ø 316 mm, height 90 mm. 
Platter surface planar polished crystal glass (recessed mounting) 
2x Tonearm bases - choice of 9 to 12.1'' tonearms (arm mountings available for virtually any tonearm), easy and quick exchange and adjustments are provided via a collar system. 
Included in delivery turntable, screw-down record clamp, solid state power supply, tools 
Options tube power supply »RöNt«, additional arm bases (also for 12.1'' tonearms)

Reviews

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.