Brinkmann Edison-II reference Phono stage w remote & slate base

BR 02 PH ED
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Brinkmann

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

New

“The Edison sounds pure. And it is addictive. It lets the music shine so relaxed and at the same time involving, so colourful but also precise, an experience that I only had in rare moments before. Maybe there are are other competitors that play more precisely. Or better, competitors that appear to play more precisely. The Edison counters effortlessly with a musical flow and a fascinating integrity that is outstanding in my opinion. I rarely experienced such a direct and intense access to music. The various possibilities for adjustments and the three inputs ultimately make it an absolute dream for analogue lovers.........Stefan Gawlick, HiFi & Records

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

After eight years in development, the stunning Edison phono stage is now in stock and ready for those who demand only the best will do.  

It has three inputs, each of which’s loading & gain can be adjusted by the remote control. The settings can be stored in memory. It uses vacuum tubes both for the first gain stage as well as for the balanced implementation

The »Marconi« Linestage Preamp and the »Edison« phono stage are closely related, visually as well as sonically. They both process the signal with vacuum tubes and solid-state components and of course they are both optimised for sound quality without cutting corners and are built with highest precision in mind.

It uses vacuum tubes both for the first gain stage as well as for the balanced implementation. Impedance is adjustable via a face plate mounted 12 step control switch, ranging from 47 Ohm to 47 kOhm. Two additional front panel mounted switches allow for further adjustments of the sensitivity for two inputs in 16 step increments; the third is a fixed level input. 

The signal is first amplified by 12db's through a FET input stage designed around a fully complementary Diamond topology. The RIAA equalisation curve is then applied symmetrically at the tube output stage level. As is typical of Brinkmann, switching between the RIAA and IEC curve is done via a simple switch. 

Due to its very high signal to noise ratio, »Edison« is capable of extracting the most music information from either low output MC or MM style cartridges.

The »Edison« offers three separate phono inputs, each of which’s loading & gain can be adjusted by the remote control (the settings can be stored in memory), followed by switchable 1:1 input transformers. The impedance can be optimized for each input in 12 steps between 47 Ohms and 47 kOhms.

The gain can be adjusted for each input individually in 16 steps by means of a knob on the front plate; the settings for gain, impedance and routing (transformer in or bypassed) are saved in an EPROM chip when switching to another input.

The first gain stage employs bipolar transistors carefully selected for their sonics.
The RIAA equalization curve is applied between the two following tube stages;  the EQ network is implemented partly as local feedback and partly as plate load of the first tube stage.
A third tube stage handles the phase inversion for the balanced outputs.
(As is to be expected from Brinkmann, the equalization is very precise and switchable between RIAA and IEC curve.)

With its adjustable gain, the superior S/N ratio and the extremely low distortions, the »Edison« will extract all possible information from any given cartridge.

Specifications

Reviews

Specifications

Brinkmann Edison Specifications
THD/IM distortion: 0,01%/0,05%
S/N ratio: MM/MC 82/78 dBA
Frequency response: DC ... 250 kHz
Gain adjustable:, max. 66 dB
Output voltage: maximum ± 12 V symmetrical
Output impedance: 600 Ohm symmetrical
Input impedance: MC 47 Ohm ... 47 kOhm
Input capacitance: MM 50 pF
Dimensions: 420W x 95H x 310D mm (with granite base);
power supply: 120W x 80H x 160D mm
Weight: 12 kg;
granite base: 12 kg;
power supply: 3,2 kg
Included in delivery phono preamplifier, power supply, power cord, granite base

Reviews

World-class phono preamp, comprehensive equipment, excellent workmanship. In view of if the flexibility, effort and quality,
Michael Lang


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music you can feel 

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

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

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

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

Brinkmann introduction
Brinkmann introduction

Phono stage »Edison«
The »Marconi« line stage and the »Edison« phono stage are closely related, visually as well as sonically. They both process the signal with vacuum tubes and solid-state components. And of course they are both optimized for sound quality without cutting corners and are built with highest precision in mind. The »Edison« offers three separate phono inputs followed by switchable 1:1 input transformers. The impedance can be optimized for each input in 12 steps between 47 Ohms and 47 kOhms. The gain can be adjusted for each input individually in 16 steps by means of a knob on the front plate; the settings for gain, impedance and routing (transformer in or bypassed) are saved in an EPROM chip when switching to another input. The first gain stage employs bipolar transistors carefully selected for their sonics. The RIAA equalization curve is applied between the two following tube stages; the EQ network is implemented partly as local feedback and partly as plate load of the first tube stage. A third tube stage handles the phase inversion for the balanced outputs. (As is to be expected from Brinkmann, the equalization is very precise and switchable between RIAA and IEC curve.) With its adjustable gain, the superior S/N ratio and the extremely low distortions, the »Edison« will extract all possible information from any given cartridge.

Phono stage »Edison«
The »Marconi« line stage and the »Edison« phono stage are closely related, visually as well as sonically. They both process the signal with vacuum tubes and solid-state components. And of course they are both optimized for sound quality without cutting corners and are built with highest precision in mind. The »Edison« offers three separate phono inputs followed by switchable 1:1 input transformers. The impedance can be optimized for each input in 12 steps between 47 Ohms and 47 kOhms. The gain can be adjusted for each input individually in 16 steps by means of a knob on the front plate; the settings for gain, impedance and routing (transformer in or bypassed) are saved in an EPROM chip when switching to another input. The first gain stage employs bipolar transistors carefully selected for their sonics. The RIAA equalization curve is applied between the two following tube stages; the EQ network is implemented partly as local feedback and partly as plate load of the first tube stage. A third tube stage handles the phase inversion for the balanced outputs. (As is to be expected from Brinkmann, the equalization is very precise and switchable between RIAA and IEC curve.) With its adjustable gain, the superior S/N ratio and the extremely low distortions, the »Edison« will extract all possible information from any given cartridge.

BRINKMANN was One of the Five Best-Sounding Systems at High End 2012 in Munich

Munich 5This year, Germany’s annual High End show was held May 3-6 at the Munich Order Center, a beautiful, modern event facility that’s well suited to the display of high-end audio gear. Jeff Fritz and I were there for all four days -- our report, on SoundStage, covers most of the highlights, but missing from it are my five picks for the best-sounding systems at the show. I spotlight them here.

German electronics manufacturer Brinkmann Audio shared a spacious, brightly lit room with the US’s Vandersteen Audio, Harmonic Resolution Systems, and Shunyata Research, who respectively make loudspeakers, stands, and cables. The last link in the playback chain was Vandersteen’s Model Seven speakers, which I’ve heard sound good at other shows -- but never so good as in Munich.

Although the bass frequencies were strong and deep, and the highs well extended and very clean, what floored me was a combination of smoothness and detail in the midrange that was nothing short of spectacular. Then there was the imaging -- the best I heard at High End 2012. When Helmut Brinkmann played an LP of Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club, I sat there slack-jawed for several minutes, listening to how wide and deep the stage was, and how tangibly present the musicians and their instruments were in that space. Companies often complain about not being able to create great sound under show conditions -- this room proved that it’s possible.

Vandersteen room

Brinkmann Nyquist Mk II DAC, Marconi Mk II Linestage, Edison Mk II Phonostage - Irresistible
Jacob Heilbrunn

CONCLUSION: When contrasted with much more expensive equipment from CH Precision, Boulder, and Ypsilon, the Brinkmann gear doesn’t quite have their magnanimity of sound, grip, and airiness. CH Precision produces a cavernous black space that seems unrivaled. Boulder has a degree of control that is unique to it. And Ypsilon lights up the soundstage. But Brinkmann comes remarkably close and has its own set of virtues. It has a dynamism and smooth continuity that are immensely beguiling. It represents formidable German engineering allied to a profound sense of musicality that will be difficult for most listeners to resist.

Brinkmann Nyquist Mk II DAC, Marconi Mk II Linestage, Edison Mk II Phonostage

In New York, over a decade ago, I first came across the Brinkmann Balanced turntable. It was hooked up to a tube power supply—an act of dedication that inspired confidence in the company’s mission to extract the very best possible sound from vinyl records. It remains the only turntable I’ve seen that was powered by tubes. 

Helmut Brinkmann’s eponymous company is probably best known for its turntable line, but it has produced a variety of front-end equipment for several decades. Now this German company is mounting a fresh effort to make a mark in that sphere with a passel of new products, including its Nyquist DAC Mk II, Edison Mk II phonostage and Marconi Mk II linestage—all of which, incidentally, contain new old stock Telefunken PCF-803 tubes that were originally used in color television sets back in the 1960s. Brinkmann rates them as having a life expectancy of around twenty years. Brinkmann’s gregarious American representative, Anthony Chiarella, dropped off all three of the Brinkmann units at my house and listened to them for an afternoon before leaving them with me for review. 

 

Brinkmann Marconi Mk II

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Brinkmann gear, but I did know that the company’s emphasis on tubes is very much a good thing. I’ve heard a lot of solid-state equipment in recent years, but have never been fully convinced that it can quite attain the ethereal regions that tubes seem to reach and deliver. There is a certain nuance and alacrity, transparency and silkiness, that tubes offer. Don’t get me wrong: Solid-state keeps getting better almost every day in every way. But as with vinyl, the case for using tubes isn’t going away. If anything, it’s getting stronger.

The hybrid Brinkmann equipment is a good case in point. No one would call it inexpensive. But my sense in listening to it was that, in an age when the prices of top-flight equipment appear to be soaring into the stratosphere and beyond, Brinkmann has a lot to offer. It’s seduction in a small package. For the first thing that you’ll notice about these new Brinkmann pieces is that they are sleek and unobtrusive. They convey a certain elegance, plus the glass tops are fun to peer through, allowing a glimpse of the internal parts. They also come with black granite bases that are supposed to function as absorbers of untoward vibrations that can muck up the sound. 

All three units run balanced. On its website, Brinkmann claims that “immunity from noise can only be achieved with balanced signal processing.” Hmmm. That would come as news to a variety of other designers. My single-ended Ypsilon gear, for example, runs pretty much dead quiet. You won’t hear any noise emanating from the loudspeaker or, for that matter, from the equipment itself. But there is no question that balanced operation, with its advantage of common-mode rejection, is supposed in theory to offer quieter performance, and I never heard any buzz or hum from the Brinkmann gear. Instead, it was free of noise.

There can be no question that Brinkmann packs a lot into its fetching units. Some of the highlights: Each has its own independent solid-state power supply that is attached to the main unit via a DIN connector. A total of four tubes are side-mounted in over-sized heat sinks and offer what Brinkmann calls virtually “zero voltage delay.” The volume control of the preamp allows you to set each of the six inputs individually. The Nyquist DAC offers a wealth of streaming opportunities so that you can take advantage of the latest and greatest in the digital world, including MQA decoding and PCM up to 384kHz/32 bits (including DXD), as well as DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256—I find, incidentally, that when streaming music I tend to ramble around more musically, whereas with CDs and a fortiori with LPs, I am more focused on the piece at hand. For all its technological wizardry, the Nyquist employs tubes in its output stage. And—drum roll, please—there is also the obverse of digital, the Edison phonostage. It offers continuous gain from 49dB to 73dB, multiple loading settings, and the option of running through a step-up transformer for low-output moving-coil cartridges (or bypassing it), not to mention a mono switch. The ability to play mono records in full fidelity, which I did, is definitely a nice feature, as is the ability to fine-tune the volume setting to your heart’s delight, which I also did via a large knob on the front panel.

Listening kicked off in the digital realm with a variety of CDs and the welcome opportunity to test the Nyquist’s streaming capabilities. On both fronts, the Brinkmann DAC acquitted itself very well, indeed. It was immediately obvious that it errs on the side of a sumptuous and velvety sound. Upholstered, if you will. I ran it and the Brinkmann Marconi Mk II preamp into the Ypsilon Hyperion and D’Agostino Relentless amplifiers, each of which demonstrated different features of this front-end equipment. The Relentless is simply a blockbuster of an amp, allowing you to test dynamics to the limit. The Hyperion likes to probe into the furthest recesses of a panoramic soundstage.

On Leonard Cohen’s final album You Want It Darker, the Nyquist and Marconi created a wide and deep soundstage that allowed you to track each accompanying instrument carefully. The bass was deep, but always carefully delineated. 

Brinkmann Nyquist Mk II DAC, Marconi Mk II Linestage, Edison Mk II Phonostage

The dominant impression that the Brinkmann equipment conveyed was of a sumptuous but never bloated sound. Dynamics were superb. On Mavis Staples’ album One True Vine [ANTI-Records], the drums and bass boasted real kick. Throughout, the Brinkmann gear handled the bass region extremely well, revealing nuances that other equipment sometimes skate over. On a Leonard Bernstein recording of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 with the Vienna Philharmonic, I was bowled over by the texture of the doublebasses at the start of the first movement. Whether listening to solo piano or trumpet, it became obvious that this Teutonic gear wants to woo you, not bludgeon you over the head, with its swagger. Highs were slightly on the darker side, but this helped create a burnished sound.

This came home to me most vividly in listening to the Edison phonostage, which brings us to the heart of the Brinkmann enterprise, namely, vinyl. I listened to the Edison both through the Brinkmann and Ypsilon Silver PST-100 preamps. I found it most useful to isolate its sound by using the familiar Ypsilon. This afforded me the opportunity to hear exactly what it was—and was not—doing as it amplified the tiny signal from my Continuum Caliburn turntable and Swedish Analog Technologies reference CF1 tonearm via the Lyra Atlas SL and Miyajima Infinity mono cartridges.

The phonostage is quite flexible, allowing you to switch the transformers in and out of the circuit to boost the signal from moving-coil cartridges before the amplification stage. On stereo records I found the transformer to be indispensable. On mono records not so much. Many of the mono records from my jazz collection simply sounded incredible on the Brinkmann. Take the album Li’l Ol’ Groovemaker….Basie! The drums were set back far in the rear of the soundstage while the brass choirs came screaming out with what seemed like unprecedented ferocity in my system on cuts like “Nasty Magnus.” Basie apparently told Quincy Jones after the first run-through, “You ought to have written four of these, Quincy! That’s wailin’!” Indeed. Sonny Payne’s drums had visceral impact as the orchestra blasted out a series of crescendos. 

Brinkmann Edison Mk II

 

Then there was the marvelous 1954 Norgran LP The Artistry of Buddy DeFranco. The interplay between DeFranco and the pianist Sonny Clark, who died in 1963 at the age of 31 and cut a number of solo albums for Blue Note including the classic Cool Struttin’, on songs such as “You Go To My Head” had a visceral palpability to it. The Edison finely rendered Clarke’s assured piano playing while capturing DeFranco’s lambent tone. It was simplicity itself to follow their exchange of musical ideas. The sound was so spectacular that it prompted me to whip out a bunch of other mono albums. It’s always salutary to return to mono records, which have their own weighty sound that can often elude later, supposedly superior stereo recordings. I’ve found that this is so particularly in the bass region. I thus much enjoyed listening to Red Garland’s Prestige album All Kinds of Weather, which features the legendary Paul Chambers on bass. The Edison provided a rock-solid rendition of this trio, the best I’ve hitherto heard. 

In waxing eloquent over mono recordings that I’ve accumulated over the years, I hardly mean to scant stereo. The sheer artistry that the Edison conveyed on the Philips recording The Delectable Elly Ameling was a combination of the sublime and the beautiful. On Mozart’s wonderful motet Exsultate, Jubilate, which he composed in 1773, the Edison tracked every syllable, every quaver, every trill that Ameling enunciated during her ravishing performance. It nailed the antiphonal effects between Ameling and the oboe as she sang “Hallelujah.” Once more, there wasn’t a trace of sibilance or harshness. Instead, the Brinkmann delivered a posh, upholstered sound that was quite delectable. Actually, I should say breathtaking. On the Bach “Floesst, mein Heiland, floesst dein Namen,” the interchanges between Ameling, two oboes, and chorus reach an exalted level. Listening to such works made me think of the eighteenth century German writer Friedrich Schiller’s famous distinction between naïve and sentimental poetry—the former being the natural state that we aspire to but can no longer achieve. In sonic terms, Brinkmann, you could say, tries to bridge the gap.

When contrasted with much more expensive equipment from CH Precision, Boulder, and Ypsilon, the Brinkmann gear doesn’t quite have their magnanimity of sound, grip, and airiness. CH Precision produces a cavernous black space that seems unrivaled. Boulder has a degree of control that is unique to it. And Ypsilon lights up the soundstage. But Brinkmann comes remarkably close and has its own set of virtues. It has a dynamism and smooth continuity that are immensely beguiling. It represents formidable German engineering allied to a profound sense of musicality that will be difficult for most listeners to resist.