Brinkmann Balance Turntable + 10.5" Tonearm + EMT-Ti cartridge

BR 18 BAL 105
Price on application
Brinkmann

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

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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

Awards

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 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.

Specifications

Height: 140 mm
Width: 550 mm
Depth: 400 mm
Weight (net): 22 kg
Colour: Black
Miscellaneous: Specifications:
Drive precision ground round belt
Platter weight 18 kg, Ø 316 mm, height 90 mm.
Platter surface planar polished crystal glass (recessed mounting)
Tonearm base available for 9...10.5'' 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

Brinkmann website introduction
Brinkmann website introduction

Brinkmann Audio has produced the BALANCE turntable since 1985 and has continuously worked to optimize it. Our aim was to combine timeless beauty, premium sound quality and perfection in workmanship.

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.

Brinkmann Audio has produced the BALANCE turntable since 1985 and has continuously worked to optimize it. Our aim was to combine timeless beauty, premium sound quality and perfection in workmanship. The turntable is available in a design of black and stainless steel.

The ‘Analog Package’(optional) includes turntable chassis, Brinkmann tonearm base machined specially for the Brinkmann tonearm, platter, record clamp, motor, switch unit and the transistorized power supply for oil platter bearing temperature control and motor as well as tools for adjustment and all cables.

Additionally available are: separate tonearm bases for many other tonearms, the vacuum tube power supply and a platform support made from aluminum / granite. We recommend the HRS (Harmonic Resolution Systems) isolation platform.

The chassis is milled from a 40mm strong dural-plate and is equipped with attachments for the bearing and the tonearm base. The tonearm base has a special clamping technique to enable the customer to change between various tonearms; each one installed on a separate base, within a few moments and adjusts each one precisely.

The Brinkmann Balance turntable features an attachment for the tonearm base that fits with a machined culet and can be fixed or loosened via a single screw. This enables the user to adjust the effective length of the tonearm while the base is being allowed to be moved freely.

 Surely the most precise element of the turntable is the bearing, especially with the BALANCE it was most important to drive the 20kg weighing plate without any reeling. 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 tonearm base can be equipped for various different tone arm mounts (each precision machined for a specific tonearm) according to the needs of the customer for tonearms with a length of 9 to 10.5 inches. The internal tonearm wiring is soldered directly from the tonearm to a pair of mounted RCA (un-balanced/asymetrical) cable sockets or XLR (balanced/symetrical) sockets on the Brinkmann Balance arm base.

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 crystal glass platter gives a very smooth and even surface; therefore the record clamp for a safe placement of the records is included and suggested to be used. A plastic ring in the middle of the plate lifts the crystal glass minimally and is pressed back onto the plate by the record clamp at the outer rim of the label. That way, there is a good contact between record and platter, minimizing the resonance quickly from the record to the platter.

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.

The turntable is delivered with its own transistorized power supply, but is optimally driven by our vacuum tube power supply additionally giving the motor the purest source.

The TONEARM 10.5 is ideally suited for this turntable.

Jules Coleman
Jules Coleman

No point in beating around the bush. The Brinkmann Balance turntable, outfitted with the Brinkmann arm and Brinkmann/EMT cartridge, sitting majestically on the HRS isolation platform, constitutes a remarkable achievement. Indeed, no turntable in my experience approaches the Brinkmann Balance's combination of benchmark analog playback, precision engineering and stunning good looks. Its aesthetic is at once traditional and modern: strong and powerful, but soft and pliant to the touch – elegant yet inviting. One would not be surprised to find the Brinkmann Balance displayed in a museum of industrial design. Easy to admire for its natural beauty and its exceptional engineering; easier still to appreciate for its wonderful way with music.

to listen through the Brinkmann is to want to experience the whole of a work, to understand it as something organic and complete.

The Brinkmann is that rarest of rare breeds in audio, a turntable for the lover of music who believes, as I do, that not only are musicality and high resolution not incompatible with one another, but that high resolution is a precondition of musicality.

Of all the tables I have had around over the years, only my reference Shindo-Garrard 301 is as easy to use on a daily basis and as free of hassles and potential heartaches. Once properly set up, you don't have to think about it again: no endless adjustments.

With the Brinkmann Balance, you are not only buying a state-of-the-art turntable, you are buying a commitment to excellent service and to your ongoing enjoyment of the table. And given the Brinkmann Balance, enjoyment is the least of it. More likely you will find insight into music and into the importance of music in a full and, one might say, balanced life.

The Brinkmann Balance Turntable: Analog Extraordinaire

No point in beating around the bush. The Brinkmann Balance turntable, outfitted with the Brinkmann arm and Brinkmann/EMT cartridge, sitting majestically on the HRS isolation platform, constitutes a remarkable achievement. Indeed, no turntable in my experience approaches the Brinkmann Balance's combination of benchmark analog playback, precision engineering ..... and stunning good looks. Its aesthetic is at once traditional and modern: strong and powerful, but soft and pliant to the touch – elegant yet inviting. One would not be surprised to find the Brinkmann Balance displayed in a museum of industrial design. Easy to admire for its natural beauty and its exceptional engineering; easier still to appreciate for its wonderful way with music.

The Brinkmann Balance reproduces music in a way that is focused, detailed and highly resolving on the one hand, yet refined, nuanced and relaxing on the other. Listening to LPs on the Brinkmann is like reading a well-crafted short story or novel. In reading, you could, were you so inclined, pause to appreciate individual sentences, paragraphs or chapters. But you don't. Instead, you read on captivated by the movement of the work. Only when you have completed the story do you find yourself pausing to consider the elements of the writing, the construction of the plot, the unfolding of the work's themes, the arc of the characters.

And so it is with the Brinkmann Balance turntable. All the distinct musical elements are displayed and laid bare. Everything is revealed and in its place. Still, listening never invites one to pause and attend to the parts. Rather, to listen through the Brinkmann is to want to experience the whole of a work, to understand it as something organic and complete. There will be time aplenty after the fact to go back and parse the elements that comprise the whole. But that is not time to be taken away from listening.

The Brinkmann is that rarest of rare breeds in audio, a turntable for the lover of music who believes, as I do, that not only are musicality and high resolution not incompatible with one another, but that high resolution is a precondition of musicality.

The Brinkmann Balance
No Johnny-come-lately to turntable design, Helmut Brinkmann has been designing and building turntables for the better part of three decades. The current Brinkmann line-up includes two turntables (with a mid-price third on the way) as well as a full compliment of very handsome and well-reviewed electronics.

Brinkmann turntables include the Balance and the somewhat less expensive LaGrange. The LaGrange can be configured for one or two arms, which has made it something of a favorite among European reviewers. Reviewers at Hi-Fi+, Hi-Fi News & Record Review as well as my personal favorite, Germany's Image Hi-Fi, have not only showered the LaGrange with praise, they have bought their review samples and employ the Brinkmann as their personal reference. More importantly, the LaGrange is mentioned in the same class as the legendary Verdier tables.

Other than exhibiting an unmistakable family resemblance, sharing a common lineage and overall design philosophy, the La Grange and the Balance are entirely different tables. They share no parts although as complete packages, both can be fitted with the Brinkmann arm and Brinkmann modified EMT cartridge. The Balance is Helmut Brinkmann's statement turntable, and though it has been in production longer than has the LaGrange, this is the first time that it has been reviewed anywhere.

Both the LaGrange and the Balance fall into the general category of high mass, suspension-less designs. Others in this category include the Verdier, Yorke, Pluto and Walker tables, as well as the Redpoint Testa Rossa that I recently reviewed. Like these high mass designs, the Brinkmann favors metal over acrylic platters. Other high mass designs including Clearaudio, La Luce, Scheu and many Transrotors favor acrylic.

The Brinkmann employs the modular approach favored in suspension-less designs. Starting at the bottom and working up, the Balance rests on a unified chassis/plinth (base); the platter then sits atop the plinth; the arm pod in turn fits into the extended part of the chassis. This approach is widely adopted (by the likes of Nottingham, Scheu and Transrotor to mention but a few who have taken this route), but eschewed by others including Redpoint who opt for separate arm and motor pods. Separate pods allow for improved individual isolation. On the other hand, there are good reasons for wanting the arm and the platter to be moving in conjunction with one another.

The separate motor (pod) connects via an aluminum tube to a mini-pod on which the on/off/33/45rpm buttons are located. One merely has to touch, not suppress the buttons to get the player up and running or to change speeds. The mixture of high mass and powerful look combined with sensitivity to the lightest of touches is very appealing and very cool.

The Balance comes with a solid-state power supply that serves two functions: one familiar, the other unique to the Brinkmann. The supply powers the motor and heats the oil in the bearing well to a constant temperature. An extraordinarily beautiful tube power supply fitted with a clear tempered glass top that sits on a polished granite platform for heat dissipation is available as an option. When the Balance is fitted with both power supplies, the tube supply powers the motor that drives the platter, and the solid-state supply is relegated to heating up the oil in the bearing well.

I did not employ the tube supply in my review, though I did have it on hand at the end of the review period. I did not have it in house long enough to get the kind of reading on its contribution to the sound that I would be comfortable reporting on. Still, I recommend purchasing the tube power supply option, whether or not you plan on using it. It is a work of art in its own right, and I would proudly display it as such whether or not it is called upon to serve in any other capacity. Did I mention that the Brinkmann Balance is a work of extraordinary beauty as well as precision engineering?

Both the La Grange and Balance turntables feature a bearing oil heater for two reasons. First, the viscosity of oil, at a given temperature (ambient) produces drag (friction) on the bearing. When the temperature is raised and stabilizes (this occurs some three hours after the table is plugged in), the amount of drag will remain constant to eliminate speed fluctuations. Second, the bearing oil well/spindle housing is CNC machined from aluminum, and when the oil reaches a constant 
temperature, that housing expands to meet the inside of the turntable platter (each are machined together and at the same time, to exacting tolerances) so that there might be no additional slippage. They thus become one then. Did I mention that the Brinkmann turntables are works of precision engineering as well as great beauty?

The plinth/chassis weighs 17.5 pounds and supports a 60-pound platter. The platter is made from an aluminum alloy containing lead and copper. The name of the game in audio is resonance control and broadband isolation. The aluminum/copper platter is designed to control vibrations and to turn mechanical energy into heat that is then dissipated.

An unusual crystal glass top the size of the typical LP sits atop the platter. The glass top serves two functions. The first is that it is easy to clean and so provides an even and clean surface for the records. The second, according to Brinkmann, is that crystal glass is a good coupler between the vinyl (plastic) of the record and the metal of the platter. I have no way of knowing whether this is true, and I was in no position to substitute a variety of mats for the glass top. I do know that the table sounded wonderful, and so it is quite clear that the glass top certainly was no obstacle to exceptional performance.

Records placed on a glass surface tend to slide around, and so a record clamp (not just a weight) is mandatory. Brinkmann provides a record clamp that is quite effective but takes a bit of getting used to. It needs to be screwed down just so – any less and the LP is inadequately secure; any more and the outer edges of the LP begins to rise. It takes no time to get a feel for proper screw-down and the clamp is not only very effective but like everything else on the Brinkmann Balance, a visual and tactile treat. I did try my reference Harmonix record weight as an alternative to the supplied clamp, the latter proving far more effective.
 
To complement his earlier tables, Mr. Brinkmann chose the Breuer tonearm. Rarely seen stateside, the Breuer enjoys a legendary status that is nowadays also enjoyed by Frank Schroeder's Reference arm. Both the Breuer and the Schroeder arms are handmade works of art. Among analog aficionados with a more global perspective, Schroeder and Breuer occupy an exalted status that we more provincial types here in the States tend to confer on Graham and Triplanar.

And just as those who prefer either the Graham or Triplanar approach are unlikely to be moved by the other, those who are drawn to either the Breuer or Schroeder arm are not likely to admire the other. So it is in audio; so it has always been. Ecumenicalism is not a concept that has much traction in audio. My reference turntable is fitted with a 12" arm that would never be endorsed by those who favor the Schroeder approach; but then again my other table employs the Well Tempered arm that is the most important historical antecedent to Schroeder's. I tend to adopt the very out-of-date approach of listening to how the arm sounds instead of arguing a priori from theory to evaluative conclusion!

Supply of the Breuer did not keep up with demand and in time, Mr. Brinkmann determined that however much he admired the Breuer arm, he needed to design and build his own. The net effect is the Brinkmann 10.5, which unsurprisingly resembles the Breuer. It is also one hell of a fine arm. It is elegant, easy to set up and use. Adjustments to VTA, HTA, azimuth and tracking force are easily performed and once optimized, stable over the long term.

The Brinkmann arm is a fixed bearing. The ideal for those who adopt the fixed bearing approach is to eliminate any play in the arm. If the tonearm moves too much in response to the energy traveling from the groove through the arm, the arm will ultimately lose its stability and be unable to adequately track the record and reproduce the music accurately. No play may be the ideal but it is of course impossible to secure in practice. The fact that the ideal cannot be realized in practice has led other designers to abandon the pursuit and adopt a unipivot approach (e.g. Graham) or variations (SME's knife bearing; Schroeder's magnetic rejection; Well Tempered's strung paddle in silicon 'goop').

Rather than abandon the fixed-bearing 'no play' ideal, Brinkmann, like Breuer, employs extremely small precision self-aligning ball bearings machined to very tight tolerances in Switzerland which enable the arm to approximate the fixed bearing ideal while allowing the arm to move with the least possible friction. The net effect of this approach is realized in great tracking and explosive dynamics.

The Brinkmann arm is medium compliant and works extremely well with a broad range of cartridges. The Balance I reviewed came fitted with the recommended Brinkmann modified EMT. I am a huge fan of cartridges from the Ortofon SPU and EMT families. My reference cartridges are a Shindo modified SPU classic, a Denon 103 and the Roksan Shiraz. The latter is a modified EMT. Einstein (also of Germany) as well as Brinkmann modify EMTs. It is worth noting that van den Hul cartridges began life as modified EMTs as well. The Brinkmann modifications are designed to control resonance and in doing so, to increase clarity and extension beyond the original.

I have had extensive experience with the Shiraz. The Brinkmann and Shiraz clearly have much in common. Properly loaded into a first-rate phono stage, the EMT is dynamic, lively, extremely detailed and full-bodied. It is not a warm and beautiful cartridge like a Koetsu. Nor is it analytic and ruthlessly revealing. It makes music in an absolutely convincing and tonally balanced way. Tonally and dynamically, it is an even-handed performer top to bottom: No hype in the presentation anywhere, a model of composure and self-confidence. Behind the SPU, the EMT is my second favorite cartridge at this point, and one I much prefer to almost all modern cartridges short of the Kondo Io – though I confess to a hankering to hear Edward Barker's reference, the Allaerts. I also recently made the acquaintance of the Magic Diamond cartridge (obviously modeled on the older SPUs) favored by Lloyd Walker, and that too shows much promise.

There are many ways to construct an analog playback system in the home, just as there are many ways to construct a music playback system more generally. One approach is to find a great plinth and platter combination, then to search out a motor or motor drive, then to find an arm, get an arm board made for the table; then find a cartridge, phono cables and put the whole thing together. There is nothing wrong with this approach or the many variants of it. With a good ear and even better luck, one can find analog nirvana this way.

Many people put together a music playback system the same way. Sources from one company, preamp from another, amps from yet another, speakers from another still, and so on. For years this was my approach as well and I suspect it remains the dominant one among audiophiles and reviewers alike. Again with a good ear and even more good luck, one can produce a good system. More often than not, however, I fear the results are cobbled-together systems that sound like many reports produced by committees read.

The alternative approach is to have one's analog playback system reflect one designer's vision or voice. The Brinkmann Balance realizes Helmut Brinkmann's vision of what analog playback should be. You can pick and choose among its parts as you like. The chassis/plinth and motor combination are excellent enough to stand up to any arm you desire. By the same token, the Brinkmann arm could grace the best analog playback systems extant. And the Brinkmann EMT will never be embarrassed in any setup.

The Balance, however, is not a confluence of good parts. Rather it begins with a vision of the whole and works back from that vision to a coordination of elements sufficient to realize the vision. It is a balance of elements, all excellent in their own right, but the whole of which far exceeds the sum of the parts.

The Balance is a mature and finished product. No element of the design has been overlooked. The arm is chosen because it is an optimal match for the table; the cartridge is chosen because it is an optimal match for the tonearm, and so on. This level of maturity in design and execution reflects the designer's approach and is in turn reflected in the way the product is distributed and marketed here in the States. Everything about the Brinkmann exudes quiet self-confidence and composure. The overall maturity of the company, its products and its representatives is uncommon and stands as a welcome and stark contrast to some of my recent experiences. Very welcome indeed.

Of all the tables I have had around over the years, only my reference Shindo-Garrard 301 is as easy to use on a daily basis and as free of hassles and potential heartaches. Once properly set up, you don't have to think about it again: no endless adjustments. One does not purchase the Brinkmann Balance anticipating a never-ending series of updates that must be incorporated to keep the table from falling behind sonically. You analog aficionados know what I am talking about - even you inveterate tweakers who actually enjoy the fact that it will be a challenge when you wake up tomorrow morning to produce the wonderful sound you heard from your turntable today. Turntable owners are more likely than any other category of audiophiles to refer to the finicky and tweaky as versatile. The Balance is the antithesis of finicky or tweaky; indeed, it is as close to plug-and-play as one might hope to find in the far reaches of the high end.

Don't be misled by the Balance's ease of setup and use. It offers the ultimate in high-resolution playback and must be matched with like-minded components. Match it properly and you will be rewarded with exceptional and exception-less performance from the moment you drop the stylus into the groove until you decide to give it a rest - something, I suspect, you will rarely be inclined to do.

For your listening pleasure
It is now a commonplace for reviewers to assess a component's sonic performance piecemeal: begin with high or low frequencies, move on to presence region or midbass, head straight for the midrange, then pass right through to the other end of the spectrum. Of course, one could do that with the Brinkmann Balance - but doing so would miss the point.

The Brinkmann Balance presents music the way you hear it live: as an organic whole, not as disconnected parts. Nevertheless, no information has gone missing and a listener intent on following particular musical parts is surely free to do so. It is all there as every aspect of the music on an LP is available for those inclined to listen analytically or as through a microscope. Still, the Brinkmann discourages detached, analytic listening. It invites the listener to embrace and be moved by the music, not to study or scope it.

It is also a commonplace to distinguish at least implicitly between musical and audiophile attributes of components or systems. Soundstaging is, if anything is, an audiophile property of components and systems. The same is true of cognate concepts like imaging. In contrast, the tone and timbre of instruments signify musical attributes, and a component's ability to reproduce either or both well constitutes a musically important feature of it. Other evaluative concepts, for example image density, are more difficult to categorize. I never listen for audiophile attributes but to be honest, I enjoy them when they are present. I just don't miss them much when they are not.

Over the years, I have become much more interested in timing and dynamics, in particular, the manner in which the music develops resolves and decays. The way in which a component or a system presents dynamics, including shadings and contrasts, can be among the most important and nevertheless misleading features of playback. To my ears, so many components present music in dynamically uneven ways: lots of punch in the midbass, but no dynamics at all in the higher frequencies. Some components are known for their big midrange bloom that is not matched anywhere else in the frequency spectrum. These are attention-getting attributes to be sure, just as a tipped up presence region gives one the impression of high frequency information and an artificially large soundstage. These are designer tricks and listeners are often caught unawares. Customers are taken by the sales pitch only to find themselves trading in their equipment a few months down the road. Too often, what passes for dynamic components or systems are simply unbalanced ones.

Timing is even more important to music and its reproduction. Many systems are let down by poor timing. Music without proper timing lacks coherence and falls apart. Rare is the backloaded hornspeaker that produces bass in time with the rest of the music. I am not passing out secrets here. Getting the timing right in such designs is as much a problem as is producing highly articulate, pitch-accurate lower frequencies more generally. It can be done of course, but it is one of the reasons why getting a full-range driver in a backloaded horn to sound right is a major engineering feat and often costly as well.

It is important to distinguish between two notions of correct timing: internal and external. A coherent playback system requires correct internal timing. When the internal timing of a system is correct, everything from the attack to the decay of notes in relationship to one another makes sense.

Still, a piece presented with good internal timing can nevertheless fail to be musically persuasive. All the elements cohere, but there is something nevertheless wrong, or better, unpersuasive about the overall presentation. Most of us have no difficulty in identifying when the overall sound is a bit sluggish - when it seems to take too long for notes to present themselves. And by the same token, the timing seems unnaturally quick when we hear lots of attack and leading edge but very little by the way of decay. In most modern systems, the sound is more likely to be a bit too fast than too slow. Long-time audiophiles know that the original Linn LP 12 was set up a bit fast. So much of what we hear in reproduced music strikes me as a bit rushed by comparison to the real thing. Mind you, this is very subtle and virtually no component or system really "nails" timing. But the palpability and the musical persuasiveness of a playback system and its components ultimately depends, I am inclined to think, on how close it gets to reproducing the way in which music in fact develops, resolves and decays. .

When the timing is right, when reproduced music develops as music does, it all slows down just a bit and comes across as largely unrushed. There are many analogies in other contexts. When I play music with others who are far more accomplished than I am, I feel like I have to rush to keep up. When I ask them what it feels like to play when they are in command of their instruments, invariably they tell me that time stands still, everything feels unrushed. The same is true in sports. Composure, confidence and control are associated with the game slowing down, the baseball looking like a grapefruit traveling so slowly you can see the laces of the ball rotate individually. And so on.

Timing is a relational notion. Good internal timing gives reproduced music coherence, but it is not enough to render the experience persuasive or palpable. It is not enough to make it real. For this to occur, the timing of the reproduction must capture the timing of the real event. The notes must develop, resolve and decay as they do in life and not just in relationship to one another. When that happens, the listener can see deeply into the music - not just deeply into the soundstage as a physical space. This is what separates listening to music as a physical experience from listening to it as an emotional one.

The Brinkmann Balance is one of the very few turntables I have heard that pretty much gets the timing right. Because it gets the timing right, it plays music and invites the listener to see deeply into the music, to embrace and be moved by it: to experience its meaning while avoiding any tendency to parse it into component elements.

As with other high mass designs, the Balance has a deep, full and authoritative bottom end. Unlike some others I have heard, however, it stops and starts on a dime. It is much more agile in this regard than are some of its competitors. I like to put this in terms of recovery rate. After big, powerful moments in large orchestral pieces, there is no sense that the piece is starting back up too slowly or too quickly. There is a breath, a pause, a gathering of thoughts, and off we go again - all in order. I cannot tell you how often tables get this wrong.

The midrange is extremely detailed but natural. Improperly isolated high mass tables can be unnaturally edgy on top, but no doubt thanks in part to its HRS isolation platform, the Brinkmann is extended, airy and edgeless on top.

But is there anything to complain about sonically?
Not really. After listening for two months, I had the sense that Helmut Brinkmann likely voiced the table around classical music and small Jazz combos. I had gotten this impression from the fact that no matter how I tried, I couldn't get the table to play dirty or nasty.

The Chemical Brothers' "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" never fully came across as the ode to the Club Ecstasy scene that it is. Even Roy Buchanan's ear-piercing Telecaster on his signature "The Messiah Will Come Again" [Roy Buchanan, Polydor, PD5033, 1972] comes across somewhat tamer than it is in life. I couldn't get the Brinkmann to display bad manners - no matter how hard I tried.

If the Brinkmann has a character trait that leaves a fingerprint on the music, it resides in its refinement and good manners. The Brinkmann is well behaved and mannered, even on those rare occasions when you might want to see it throw some dirt in your face.

And there is more
The Brinkmann sounds great, looks great and is a work of exceptional engineering. But there is more. The more is reliability and service. Purchase the Balance with the Brinkmann arm, EMT cartridge and the HRS isolation platform and you are likely to have trouble-free world-class performance for years to come.

The extreme high end is populated by products that are made by hand. This is part of their charm and much of what accounts for their exceptional performance. These are not products designed to price points or to appeal to a mass audience. They express the designer's vision. They have a signature that is unmistakable. Often this can come at a cost, sometimes in terms of piece-to-piece consistency. Other times, there is a price to be paid in terms of delivery time or service.

Not so with Brinkmann. Should you have a problem, you can count on good service. Lawrence Blair protects the Brinkmann name. To that end, he has developed a first-rate dealer network that he supports who in turn support their customers. And Brinkmann itself has been in business for quite some time. If you have questions, Lawrence Blair will answer them patiently. If he cannot answer your question, he will call Mr Brinkmann and get the answer for you. I know, I asked many such questions. Should you need a replacement part, Brinkmann will have one to you in short order.

With the Brinkmann Balance, you are not only buying a state-of-the-art turntable, you are buying a commitment to excellent service and to your ongoing enjoyment of the table. And given the Brinkmann Balance, enjoyment is the least of it. More likely you will find insight into music and into the importance of music in a full and, one might say, balanced life.

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.
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.

Awards

6Moons: Blue Moon award

6Moons: Blue Moon award

6Moons: Blue Moon award

Gold Medal” for turntables from the ...

Gold Medal” for turntables from the “Image Hifi Millenium Awards

Gold Medal” for turntables from the “Image Hifi Millenium Awards