Image HiFi Burmester 111 Review

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Image HiFi Burmester 111 Review
Audio-Server Burmester 111 Musiccenter
Autor: Heinz Gelking Fotografie: Rolf Winter
IP 192.111.111.1
The manual warns: The device is
heavy and, when falling down, may
cause injuries. One would have to
add: ... and don't underestimate the
addictive effect of high-resolution
360°-Grad-Ansicht unter image-hifi.com
audio!
PDF image-hifi.com 6/2012
A little mind game for a change: In the Burmester 111 Musiccenter you can store three terabyte of music data, which are internally mirrored onto a second harddisk. This is equivalent to
more than 6000 audio CDs. If you possessed so many CDs and
picked one of these for each day, you would at least need 16 years
to listen through all of them. This harddisk memory capacity
should be large enough, right?
Which gets us to the probably most vital function of Burmester's new Musiccenter: i.e. to rip CDs and keep them stored on
harddisk for playback. At the same time the growing music
collection can be thoroughly explored by an app on the included
iPad. Well, you needn't simply dispose of the CDs afterwards. No
doubt you can find a place for them somewhere, if need be even
in the attic. I at least would keep them – for reasons of nostalgia
or legacy or because of the booklets.
My interest in the Musiccenter is not based on the idea that it
would be "practical" to ban all sound media out of sight. I don't
care about comfort. Likewise, it would be comfortable if racing
cycles were replaced by e-bikes, dinghies by rubber boats or fishing rods by fish fingers. Do we want it that way? Records and
CDs never bothered me. Much less than the necessity to keep
them strictly in order so that I wouldn't have to look for ZZ Top
between Abba and the Yankees for hours on end some day, just
because the record simply can't be found in the lower right-hand
corner where it belongs. I don't need to outline this any further
here. Perhaps you know that from your own flat. Sure, it might be
a seductive notion to have your music collection perfectly under
control, thanks to iPad and Musiccenter.
Nevertheless the "soft skills" of the Burmester 111 such as flipping through on the iPad, downloading of coloured covers, the
sorting functions by artists or genres will thematically fall by the
wayside as of now. Because this is up for grabs elsewhere in a similarly good quality for less. Now, what do I find exciting? The
sound from the harddisk instead from CD and high-resolution
audio up to 24 bit/192 kHz. Precisely for this reason I have kept
my eyes on the Burmester 111 since its presentation in Munich 18
months ago. However, the prologue actually begins at another
place and even earlier: In the winter of 2004/2005 I was first ex-
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Test equipment
Turntables: Transrotor Orfeo Doppio w. TMD bearing Tonearms: SME 3500, VPI
JMW 12.5 Pickup cartridge: Transrotor Merlo Phono preamp: SAC Entrata Disco CD player: Pro-Ject CD Box SE (used as drive) D/A converter: Violectric V800
Preamp: SAC Alpha w. dual power supply Power amp: SAC Il Piccolo Speakers:
Revel Performa F32 Cables: primarily HMS, but also TMR, Harmonix, High-Tune
and Phonosophie Accessories: TMR power strip, Solid-Tech rack, DIY turntable
console and Helmholtz resonators, various tuning products from Harmonix, Artkustik
and others, Fritzbox, HP laptop
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periencing music from harddisk on a
high level – from the harddisk, but not
from the computer. I was then writing
about the Audio Physic Tempo and on
the occasion of picking up and returning the speaker, I quickly checked out
a Yamaha harddisk recorder, modified
by Manfred Diestertich, which he was
using as digital source device because
he mistrusted the impact of drives on
the sound. I kept this in my memory. It
really sounded exceptionally good, somehow more fluent than usual. Later I
had another encounter with "hifi from
the harddisk", presented by the Reson
RH2. This server with an upgraded output stage, originally designed by
Hermstedt, also sounded definitely
more involving in the harddisk than in
the CD player mode. On the other
hand, the harddisk of my laptop,
equipped with Foobar and ASIO4ALL,
could not yet convince me as music
supplier. At least I find some of the circulating "pro harddisk" arguments
reasonable. Most notably that the "data foundation" of the music reproduction is objectively better with scratched and soiled CDs, because they can
be read out patiently several times
when ripping them.
One reader criticised me in a letter
claiming the recently reviewed 20,000
EUR players solved mechanical problems that my laptop didn't know at all
(image hifi 5/2012). This wins me over
only halfway. Of course, the harddisk
6/2012 image-hifi.com PDF
Audio-Server Burmester 111 Musiccenter
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Interview with Dieter Burmester on the Burmester 111 Musiccenter
Heinz Gelking: Mr Burmester, what are you having in your house,
a belt-driven CD player or already a 111 Musiccenter?
Dieter Burmester: I'm still listening over a CD player. You know
that from the shoemaker's children who have got no shoes: The
first series of the 111 is completely sold out, the second is in the
making – and I must join the end of the queue. I hope someone
from my designer team can find at least the time to update a preproduction unit for me at home. But I'm happy, of course. After all,
the 111 was the most expensive development in the history of our
company. Five people were involved for two years. Obviously it
seems to have been worth the effort.
Heinz Gelking: What do you prefer to listen to – CD or harddisk?
Dieter Burmester: During the ripping process a CD can be read
out several times. In theory the harddisk has therefore an edge
over the CD drive. But for me the music world is still alright when I
pick a CD from the shelf and a good CD player is playing the music
at my tummy in a round and accurate manner. With three pushes
of a button I gain an hour of wellbeing, pure emotion – what more
could I ask for? I'm not going to get rid of my CD player.
Music listening over the 111 is a different story, you are kind of
"surfing" on the music. You can flip through on the iPad and have
everything at your fingertips. Soundwise, too, the 111 has a slightly different character. It sounds smoother and more relaxed, but also reveals a lot of details. Personally, I'm very pleased about the
fact that, with such a device, the digital world is capable of picturing the analogue world.
Heinz Gelking: What do you mean by that?
Dieter Burmester: When I digitise a record with our 100 phono
stage and play back the data via the 111 Musiccenter, it sounds
quasi like the original record. To me this is the most beautiful proof
that we're bang on target.
Heinz Gelking: I have often been wondering what I'm supposed to
do with the remote. The iPad can do a lot more – and it's more fun!
Dieter Burmester: For instance, to turn it on or off.or simply to
lower the volume when someone else is just surfing on the internet with the iPad. He or she won't have to switch to the Burmester
app then.
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PDF image-hifi.com 6/2012
Dieter Burmester, Executive director of the Burmester AudioSysteme GmbH (Reference: PR)
Heinz Gelking: Speaking of apps, will there also be an Android
app some day?
Dieter Burmester: This is my wish. Actually I'm not such a big
Apple fan. I, for one, don't have an iPhone, but a Blackberry. I
would always give preference to a free system.
Heinz Gelking: Which operating system does the 111 run on?
Dieter Burmester: On the basis of an open Linux programming.
We developed the software together with a local company from
Berlin we are on friendly terms with. This offers the advantage
that we can get to every bit and implement customer suggestions
as well as problem solutions fast. It's good to control those things
yourself. For the music data management we are using SQ Lite.
Heinz Gelking: What's your advice to someone who is interested
in the 111 for its sound or operating comfort, but has fears of
contact with computers and networks?
Dieter Burmester: This is why we rely on the iPad with pre-programmed app. With it one can approach the 111 kind of "playfully". No computer knowledge is required.
Heinz Gelking: Except maybe for the first installation in your home network and the transmission of HD files to the 111, where
you have to work with folder structures ...
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Dieter Burmester: For the initial installation we offer dealer trainings, and as far as HD files are concerned, the supply must still
get a lot bigger above all. While it keeps growing, the software,
too, will be developed further. I'm sure that more comfortable solutions for uploading HD files will arise in due time, which we will
update then.
Heinz Gelking: 28 kilogrammes – what makes the Musiccenter
so heavy?
Dieter Burmester: In addition to the massive housing we also
have a sophisticated power supply. Besides a switching power
supply, the "computer side" also features an accumulator buffering. And a hefty analogue power supply, very classical with transformer and electrolytic caps, has been provided to energise the
converter and preamp discretely.
Heinz Gelking: What can you tell me about the converter design?
Dieter Burmester: It's the same as in the 069, our CD player of
the Reference Line. However, we have never shown off the manufacturer names of DAC ICs and other components. In my experience the acoustic result is determined in the first place by how a
component is used and in which environment.
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Heinz Gelking: I've been amazed by the sound quality of the preamp.
Dieter Burmester: Apart from a power supply which has been
designed one step smaller for reasons of space, it conforms to
our 077 reference preamp. As is customary with Burmester, it
features a balanced circuit layout and a totally DC-coupled signal
path without annoying coupling capacitors. Other than in the server unit, the preamp and converter are strictly galvanically isolated, leaving no chance to interferences.
Heinz Gelking: What can we expect from Burmester in the future? The Reference Line now has its Musiccenter. What about the
other lines?
Dieter Burmester: Currently we are happy to meet with approval in both worlds – in traditional hifi just like in the world of
streaming and harddisks. Maybe we'll offer a server in the other
lines some day, too. But then it would probably have less functions. With its preamp and the converter the 111 would definitely
be suited as the heart of a system.
Heinz Gelking: Thank you very much for this conversation!
Dieter Burmester: You're welcome!
Audio-Server Burmester 111 Musiccenter
A large toroidal mains transformer is the heart of the sophisticated power supply
which energises the converter and preamp separately – as classical as it gets
PDF image-hifi.com 6/2012
The X-Amp-2 output stages are identical to
those of the 077 reference preamp and also
accept signals from the analogue input
board above it
has an easier job, thanks to its more
constant rotation and the magnetic
data readout (without problematic
stray light) than a CD drive. But what
is a harddisk supposed to be other than
a mechanical challenge? Not without
reason it's called a harddisk drive. I can
already see them slipping underneath
harddisks: gel pads, springs, aluminium blocks. Not to mention the electrical efforts we see in top players with up
to four transformers. Music from the
harddisk – yes, please! But in my opinion the alternative to a top-level CD
player is not the laptop, but a music
server like our test device.
CD player, server, preamp, converter
and then some more, e.g. internet radio – in everyday life the complexity of
the Burmester 111 melts down to the
simple insight: can replace anything
which normally sits before the power
amp in a chain, except for the phono
section. However, the operating controls could do with some clarification.
At first I see myself confronted with two rotary and pushbuttons
to the right and left of the 7" front panel display (only for core
functions), an all-metal remote control (can do even less) and a
Burmester app on the iPad (can do anything but import music
data). But soon later I've lost the front panel and the remote completely from my view. The iPad is really – easygoing and elegant.
After several minutes of familiarisation I (normally a Windows
and Ubuntu user) am preparing playlists, selecting inputs, controlling the volume level and have to admit that unfortunately the
overpriced Apple flounder contributes significantly to my pleasure of "working" with the Musiccenter.
When the Burmester 111 is linked to your home network via cable, only the import of HD tracks from the internet will effectively require some concentration. Because at the current development status you can't just do this "en passant" by using the app;
rather you need to address the Burmester 111 through a web browser under your IP address in the home network and carry out
the import after previous log-in with user ID and password
through the detour of a transfer file and with respect to certain file structures. For this you certainly don't need a study in computer science, but with sheer intuition you won't bring home the bacon, either. Good thing that the manual explains everything very
descriptively and in German.
20 minutes after unpacking I'm basically ready for takeoff to
music listening. Still lying on the armrest of my couch is The Man
6/2012 image-hifi.com PDF
Audio-Server Burmester 111 Musiccenter
A switching power supply shielded by a perforated metal plate is provided for the
computer section of the Musiccenter and energises e.g. the flat slot-in drive
From God Knows Where by Tom Russell (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD
209). Into the slot drive with it. The
Burmester 111 gives off a rumbling
noise, then the music sets in, first guitars, then the voice and everything sounds – not so great. I should have foreseen that. A computer drive designed
for data readout rarely offers outstan-
PDF image-hifi.com 6/2012
ding CD sound. And those who are sensitive towards noises from
the engine room of a hifi device, should think long and hard about the question what could be their maximum distance to the listening spot for setting up the Burmester 111. During the test period the devices are always right by my side, and at least at this
short range the Musiccenter remains present with a soft hiss in
musical breaks – not disturbing, yet audible.
Without dwelling extensively on the CD mode, I activate the ripping process via the iPad, and because the CD is already a bit ge-
The rear panel mirrors the rich functionality. Burmester even includes RCA adapters for the analogue XLR inputs
riatric, I select the slower of two speeds that is recommended for
soiled and scratched CDs and which may consume up to 30 minutes (in the fast mode it's up to 15 minutes). The data from the CD
are now stored in the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format on
the harddisk and will be available there "forever" with an extremely fast access time. Dinner time. Later I return in an easy mood, not
meaning any harm, I press the play button and have one of those
jaw-dropping moments which leave
you thinking: Okay, now I'm going to
lock myself in with that thing for three
days, just to enjoy ... The Burmester 111
opens up an enormously large scenery.
Even larger than the equally superb
Chord Red Reference Mk III was doing
Audio-Server Burmester 111 Musiccenter
it with its well-toned, prosaic detail-loving style, albeit less pointedly trimmed
for Leica sharpness, but rounder, more
integrative, heavier. Attention to detail?
Yes! But the large Burmester pictures
can also integrate details particularly
well "into the ensemble". So for example, the fretting noises on the guitar
neck or the creaking of the floorboards
simply remain what they would also be
at the concert: side issues. It's the music
which stands in the foreground: Each
string with that extra dose of vibrant
tension which gives it so much "live"
character, and Russell's voice so firm as
I know it from good valve amplifiers
(and I'm not talking about single-ended triodes, but modern powerhouses).
The Burmester 111 is playing with verve, yet also in a well-mannered style.
With a self-confident gesture it spreads
the music at my feet as if it wanted to
say: Look, you're not in the studio here,
Tom Russell's songs ain't no dull stuff,
he's telling stories of the struggle for
survival during the immigration to
America, so we also want to hear it now
in "true-to-life size", please. I've been
admiring the 032 integrated amplifier
for its mixture of generosity and transparency (image hifi 4/2004), and this
holds true unreservedly for the Musiccenter as well. Another trait characterises its sound in a decisive way: An almost "analogue" silence like I've
witnessed in the world of CD players at
best in the Esoteric K-01 and which I
don't necessarily associate with a toplevel mass drive plus vinyl, but rather
with an open-reel machine with a master tape running. The CD reproduction from the Burmester 111's harddisk
is simply world class.
PDF image-hifi.com 6/2012
The high-quality antenna extension is used
in difficult WLAN reception conditions
Safety first: The harddisks in the RAID 1 array ensure data safety just like
the back-up battery next to them. Right: The WLAN antennas
However, one shouldn't underestimate the effect which the built-in preamp has on the sound. Because it's
here where the reproduction gets its
juice and punch from. Suddenly all
connected external devices seem to have eaten a more substantial breakfast.
Even my Pro-Ject CD-Box SE is dabbling on cinema instead of television –
and by no means poorly. Even with
very high demands a separate preamp
alongside the Burmester 111 would be
dispensable.
But the real kicker is high-resolution
audio from the harddisk. Unfortunately SACDs cannot be ripped; this is prevented by the efficient copy protection.
In this case the Burmester will only
store the CD track. In so far it serves
the SACD right that we are watching
out more than ever for online alternatives – and strike a bonanza with suppliers of HD files. I have compared a
ripped CD track to a 24/192 file. Both
employ DXD data in 24 Bit/352.8 kHz
as original material which the Norwegian 2L label uses as the basis for downsampling into marketable formats.
Tone Wik performs the recital and the
aria "Cupido, tu vedi ..." of the cantata
RV 679 by Antonio Vivaldi (Belazza
Crudel, Tone Wik & Barokkanerne, 2L
No. 56, File: http://www.2l.no/ in the
"brand store" under "test bench" for
free download). The CD track sounds
pretty good, but the HD file indeed
better still. Tone Wik has more breath,
she is singing with a more mellifluous
voice, and the spatial correlation between her and the instrumental ensemble seems to be more conclusive. The
last bit of graininess has disappeared
from the reproduction, the orchestra
instruments are painting with more intense and tendentially darker colours, their sound is reaching out further. It's interesting
that such things affect our perception of the interplay as well:
With the HD file the instrumental parts of the orchestra score intertwine in a more conclusive way, disentangling from a crowded
narrowness to a vibrating web. Hence one can also understand
that Morten Lindberg, the boss of 2L, preferably records in churches and similar rooms. Music needs space to sound that open
and free. The HD file can impart this, less so the CD track. It's already much too early for apodictic statements, especially as we
shouldn't yet give up on the SACD completely, but high-resolution audio from harddisk could still bring a lot of joy to us audiophiles in the future. And even more so with a source device like
the Burmester 111. Hopefully the following proposition does not
sound cynical in view of its steep price: In a certain sense the Burmester 111 even "pays off ". Traditional system combinations on a
similar level would have to comprise at least a top-class player and
a top-class preamp and would certainly be more costly – no matter if you bought them from Burmester or their competition. By
the way, with regard to material input and quality of workmanship the following phrase will continue to be true: Burmester will
be Burmester and build hifi "for eternity". In five or ten years time I'm going to see if I can afford this brilliant source device at
least second hand ...
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Audio-Server
Burmester 111 Musiccenter
Functions: UPnP server, CD player, converter, preamp, internet radio Analogue
inputs: 3 x XLR (adapter for RCA included)
Digital inputs: 3 x RCA, 3 x Toslink Analogue outputs: XLR, RCA, tape, headphone Digital outputs: RCA, Toslink Internet
connectivity: LAN, WLAN HD memory capacity: 2 x 3 terabyte (RAID) Audio
formats: flac, wav, mp3 Special features: iPad included, BURLINK control (RS232 or USB) Dimensions (W/H/D): 46/22/41 cm (18.1/8.7/16.1 in.) Weight: 28 kg
(61.8 lbs) Warranty: 3 years Price: 29 000 EUR
Contact: Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH, Wilhelm-Kabus-Strasse 47, 10829 Berlin, Phone +49 (0)30/787968-0, www.burmester.de
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6/2012 image-hifi.com PDF

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