Bardo hifi world - Brinkmann Audio

Bardo hifi world - Brinkmann Audio
David Price tunes in to
Brinkmann's new Bardo
turntable, a bang up-to-
date direct drive design...
lame the Technics SL1200.
Back in the early nine-
teen seventies, when this
deck was first released, it
might has well have been
from an alien civilisation,
such were its measurements. The dif-
ference between it and your average
wobbly belt drive or noisy idler drive
were like night and day, in terms of
its wow and flutter and signal to
noise ratio.
Unsurprisingly (and as | remark
in my column), Matsushita decided
to celebrate this (well, you would,
wouldn't you) and began the trend
adopted by Japanese manufacturers
of the day to sell their hi-fi by its
specification. Be it Watts per channel
or damping factor, the big Nipponese
names obsessed about their
products” measured performance,
and tried to get the British buying
public to join in too. Vell, a deck with
0.03% WRMS wow and flutter simply
had to be better than a Brit belt
drive with 0.07%, didn't it?
The answer of course was no.
For whilst by the end of the nineteen
seventies the Japanese were able
to produce quartz-locked direct
drives for their music centres that
outperformed a Linn LPI? in terms
of its absolute speed stability, this
emphatically did not mean it had then
to sound better. In the same way
that jitter is a good thing to banish
from your digital replay chain but
isn’t the beginning and the end of the
subject of digital sound quality, so
low turntable wow and flutter was
desirable but not the final guarantor
of serious sound. 3
The British press rather —
fixated on this point, in my view.
Indeed, it was almost as if, counterin-
tuitively, it was good for a turntable
to be belt drive because “they sound
better”, despite invariably measuring
worse. Such was the climate of the
day that they made direct drive
out to be the province of cheap,
mass produced Japanese turntables,
unlike their beloved belt drive Linns,
Aristons, Dunlops and Regas. In
Britain, thanks to its press's prosely-
tising, belt drive was good and direct
drive was bad.
It's taken a long time for us to
get over this conceit.Visit Japan of
course and there was never such a
view; high end Japanese direct drives
were as routine in broadcast studios
or audiophiles homes as Toyota
Century limousines were at the
Imperial Palace. Things are changing
in the UK now however, and | think
people are beginning to see that in
many ways direct drive is the intellec-
tually correct way of spinning a
turntable platter - providing (and this
is a big if’) it's done properly.
The traditional objection about
direct drive, where the platter is
driven from a motor mounted right
at its centre, was that you could
here it ‘cogging’. This was the issue
arising from the fact that the fields
of a direct drive motor’s permanent
magnet are not uniform (they'll
always be strongest on the two ends
and weakest in its centre), which
causes the motor torque to fluctuate
slightly. This makes for ‘hunting,
y |
servo is const:
summoning up
little bursts
of extra ©
power, ог A
little drops pe @
in power, to ‘ ae,
correct the
platter speed.
The contention then asserted that
belt drive is immune from this.
Well, as I've argued in the past,
this is to an extent true. Direct
drives can never be at exactly the
right speed, however good ones are
always very close to it. And depending
on the quality of the motor,
electronics and speed sensing, they
can be very, very close. Conversely,
belt drives can never be at the right
speed either; the trouble is that
whilst the motor speed is at (or very
close to) the right speed, the platter
itself is decoupled by the rubber belt,
which effectively acts as a clutch.
Given that playing a record presents
a continually varying load, thanks to
the inertia that the stylus creates in
the groove as its modulation varies,
a belt drive is always being slowed
down fractionally by the drag of
the stylus, and what gives is the belt
(or the coupling of the belt to the
spindle), effectively producing a slight
slurring on transients, rounding off
the leading edges of notes.
Now, opponents of this theory
validly point’
out that the
drag the stylus
creates is a fraction
of what's needed to slow a motor
down. But the fact remains that |
can still hear, with my own ears, how
different belt drives and direct drives
sound. And judging by the direct drive
revival, Im not the only one...
You too can hear for yourself;
go to your local nightclub and listen
to an SL1200 play. You'll be amazed
by things such as rimshots and bass
drums which sound completely
different to those played on a belt
drive. Now, I'm not saying it's all
better from an SL1200 (it isnt), but
in respect of speed stability at least
it gets things very right. That's why
some manufacturers have begun
a move back to direct drive, with
Brinkmann being one its champions.
Helmut Brinkmann's first Oasis
sported magnetic direct drive, and
now the Bardo uses this too, in
a more affordable and versatile
package. Inspired by the design of
their top-of-the-line models Balance
and LaGrange, this is a very flexible
way of getting into Brinkmann
ownership, with a range of options.
The system is such that there's only
one bearing for the motor and the
a cir
magnet is mounted ~~ TT
into the bearing of the platter and is
concentrically driven into rotation via
coils on the circuit board under the
magnet. An electronic circuit drives
the coils via two magnetic sensitive
resistors that react to the magnetic
fields into a highly constant and slow
circular movement. Brinkmann say
their motor control system transfers
just enough energy to the motor
for it to remain at a constant speed.
Interesting that this is where the
thinking from some leading lights
in the Technics mod community is
going too; the set-up of the servo on
the SL1200 is designed for fast start
up and gives an overly ‘tight’ sound
which many like to ‘relax’ a little. As
such, the Bardo has a start up time of
twelve seconds on 33.333RPM, and
four more on 45RPM, compared to
under a second on an SL1200!
The Bardo motor's stator
consists of four specially designed
field coils, which are mounted
concentrically with high precision
around the platter bearing. Based on
listening sessions Brinkmann decided
to forgo
the typical
mounting angle
in favour of a non-
standard 22.5-degree
roster, which, due to the magnetic
fields overlapping, further reduced
cogging. The motor's rotor also
acts as the subplatter and carries a
magnetic ring with eight poles on its
underside. Inside the motor, the rpm
of a speedometer disc is measured
and turned into variable voltage that
is fed into a control circuit where the
RPM is compared to the reference
voltage that is adjustable via the
trim pots. Speeds are selectable by
a switch, and there's a speed LED
(green for 33, red for 45).
The Bardo's main bearing
itself is a lubricated precision
(hydrodynamic) journal affair, said
to be quiet and maintenance-
free. It's kept permanently warm
due to the quiescent current of
the motor control electronics. lt
supports the 9.8kg platter which
is hewn from a special ‘resonance-
optimised’ aluminium alloy, with a
black acrylic platter mat. The chassis
is 15mm Duralumin, measures
420x320x 100mm, and the whole
deck weighs 14.8kg (chassis 5kg,
platter 9.8 kg). Cleverly, the Bardo’s
tonearm base can be rotated and
fixed without play to allow simple
and precise tonearm adjustment for
all tonearms between 9” and 10.5”,
without the need to fiddle with the
arm. Brinkmann drill the base to the
customer's choice. The rear of the
deck has a choice of RCA phono or
XLR output sockets, and Brinkmann
says it's also possible to install
tonearms with DIN connectors or
fixed cables. Our review sample
came fitted with the Brinkmann 10.5
tonearm (£3,895) and an EMT ti MC
cartridge (£2,595).
As its name suggests (in
Tibetan ‘bardo’ means ‘transitional
state’, and I'm guessing that's the
allusion?) the basic Bardo is an entry
level Brinkmann deck that can be
upgraded to an altogether higher
form. The stock £4,495 package
comprises the acrylic platter mat and
small plastic housed power supply.
Upgrade stage | (£695) features the
metal cased power supply that is
used for the Balance and LaGrange
turntables instead of the standard
power supply.
Stage 2 (£695) features a glass
platter mat and a record clamp
instead of the black acrylic platter
mat. Upgrade stage 3 combines
stages | and 2, and is said to give
the Bardo “nearly the bandwidth and
dynamic resolution of Brinkmann's
bigger turntables”. There's also the
option of a matching granite platform
(440x3 1 0x30mm), claimed to further
improve sonics.
As high end turntables go, the
Bardo is blissfully simple. The chassis
is effectively just an armboard, a
bearing housing and a link between
the two. On to this sits the very
heavy platter, and the whole shebang
can then sit on the optional granite
base. This is an important point
because the Brinkmann of course
has no isolation from the outside
world apart from its mass. As such,
correct siting is essential. | found
the base worked well, but Avid's
isolation platform worked better
still. In fact, | used two of them, atop
a Quadraspire Sunoko vent rack,
whereupon the Bardo really began
to sing. If it's not properly sited, the
deck just sounds like a dirge, so
experimentation is well worthwhile.
Given that, these days, about 99.9%
of all serious hi-fi turntables are belt
driven, perhaps it's helpful to first
describe what direct drive turntables
actually sound like! After all, most
audiophiles will simply never have
heard one before. There is a real
difference. Of course, whether or not
you think it's better or worse than a
belt drive is a matter of opinion, but
there's definitely a different feel.
Even the biggest direct drive fan
would have to admit theyre more
‘matter of fact’ sounding, kind of like
a great Class A transistor amplifier
compared to the single ended triode
that is a classic belt drive. They sort
of ‘dump’ the sound on you; there
it is, right in front of you, masses of
detail pushing out with seemingly
bottomless reserves of self-
confidence. At the same time, there's
layer upon layer of stuff going on
behind, all seemingly independent of
the lead instruments. And all sorts of
little rhythmic flourishes from rhythm
guitars, percussion and keyboard
lines, bursting out for your attention.
Contrast this to a good belt
drive, and the latter sounds more
beguiling, perhaps a tad more
romantic, a bit more ‘all of a piece’,
arguably rhythmically a little less
urgent but often just as propulsive,
perhaps due to the way belt
drives tend to slur or soften
the very extreme leading edges
of bass notes a bit. All those
little production effects
that direct drives punch
out at you appear slightly
more subdued, locked
into the general mass
of the mix. The effect is
often more relaxed, less
challenging and more
beguiling (or boring,
depending on your
point of view).
Listening to
the Bardo, and from
the first bars of 10cc’s *
Tm Mandy, Fly Me’, you're left
in no doubt that this is a direct
drive turntable. The strummed steel
string guitars have so much more
bite; it's as if you can hear the space
between every plectrum strike on
the string almost in slow motion,
whereas belt drives simply blur it.
Ditto, for example, the lead steel
string guitar work on Tears For Fears’
‘Pale Shelter’, or the opening guitar
arpeggios on Kate Bush’s ‘Babooshka’.
There's more; instruments seem
to jump out of a ‘sea of black’.
Compared to a Michell Orbe for
example, a brilliant belt drive (in my
opinion) and the Michell seems to tie
everything together more, so there's
never a sense that bass guitar notes
have ever stopped; one seems to run
into the next. The Bardo does not
do this; rather it's as if percussive
elements almost blink on and off like
light emitting diodes in the dark. |
am of course overstating this slightly;
the subjective differences are more
subtle but still have a profound effect
on the sound.
Direct drives also tend to pick
out studio effects more than belt
drives, thanks to their glassy clarity,
and here the Bardo did its stuff.
Going back to the |0cc track, an
apparently simple song suddenly
became a highly complex production,
the deck showcasing the countless
little effects; whistles, tape loops,
glockenspiels, overdriven guitars
through fuzz boxes, vocal echo, and
so on. The Brinkmann proved a
forensic interrogator of mixes, in the
way of the Avid Acutus, but in a way
cleaner still.Another aspect of this
is the focus across the treble; angrily
struck hi hats had an incredible
speed; the envelope of the note was
quite different to that via even a high
end belt; it simply sounded faster and
more ‘metallic’. The conjunction of
the drummer’s simultaneously struck
hi hat and bass drum in “The Things
We Do for Love’ was a joy to behold,
sounding so crisp yet powerful. Then,
into the middle
eight and
from far
the morass
of the lead
instruments like
bells in the night; many
rival belt drives at this price
simply fuzz over them.
Moving to Steely Dan’s ‘Rickie
Don’t Lose That Number’ and the
Bardo provided what's best described
as a mastertape-like rendition. It’s
a cliche in a hi-fi magazine | admit,
but it summed up the Brinkmann
in a nutshell. Tight, taut, incisive and
super-detailed, yet at the same time
authoritative and effortless. That
last adjective is key, as you can get
almost all of this
from a £500 Technics
SL1200, but one thing
the so-called ‘D) deck’
doesn’t do so well is
to provide an easy calm
to the proceedings; the Technics is to
rhythms what a pogo-ing punk is to
ballet, which is fun to behold but not
strictly accurate. The Bardo however
is on another level in this respect;
it doesn’t push the song along as if
it's just come out of the bathroom
sneezing with a runny nose (if you
get my drift). Rather, it lets the song
be subtle, carrying the beautiful
interplay between Walker Becker’s
guitar work and the languid drum
parts in all its finery.
Tonally, it’s also a fair way away
from the Technics, as one might
expect. Here we have - surprisingly
- a slightly less powerful bass, but one
that can express itself more naturally.
(Going back to an SL1200 is rather
like pressing a loudness button;
there's suddenly a lot more bass
energy going through but if anything
it's less convincing.) There's still just
as much low end as, say, an SME
Model l0, but it sounds far better
articulated. Across the midband, the
Bardo has a neutrality that you can’t
help but love; there's little of the
creamy warmth of your average belt
drive superdeck, but neither is there
the chill of classic high end Technics
designs, for example, and absolutely
no sense of a clangy, chromium
plated upper mid. Rather, it's a akin to
a gently sunny summer's day where
nothing blinds you but all's still there
in sharp relief. This fine balance is
topped off by a sparkling treble that’s
in no way as sharp as any of the last
generation of Japanese direct drives,
but still has their vivid presence. A
fine balance, to be sure.
Feed this turntable with some
classic electro and it's breathtaking.
Heaven |17's ‘Fascist Groove Thang),
with all its complex sequenced
synthetic sounds and high energy
percussion was rendered with
blistering speed and insight, the
Bardo setting up a very large and
precise soundstage inside which
everything was explicitly located.
Glenn Gregory's voice was carried
with startling immediacy, the
recording sounding incredibly fresh
despite both its age and the humble
recording studio the track was laid
down in. Although deconstructive,
throwing all the elements into sharp
relief, the deck nevertheless managed
to push the song out
very much as a cohesive
whole. This made for an
enjoyable rendition,
and one facet
of this was the
effortless way it
could ‘get louder’
when called upon
so to do; it is a great
conveyor of dynamics, making many
rival belt drive decks at the price
sound positively disinterested in what
they're supposed to be playing.
This combination of powerful
dynamics, serious grip and glassy
clarity also proved a delight with
classical music. The gorgeous
Linn boxset of Handel’s ‘Messiah’
(Dunedin Consort and Players, John
Butt) showed the Bardo to be a star;
although not a romantic performer it
is utterly musically convincing with its
wide, deep and precisely structured
recorded acoustic,
delicious timbre to
instruments and a sense
of effortless and easy
rhythmic flow. Alongside
all of this, what | so loved
about the Bardo was the
way it held together so
nonchalantly in complex, heavily
modulated passages, where so
many turntables just slightly lower
their levels of grip. In this respect
it is superlative and surely the
equal of almost anything under
I'll make no secret
of the fact that I'm a
direct drive fan, and
if you ever doubt
my reasoning then
| suggest you take a
listen to the Brinkmann
Bardo; it will soon
show you why. First, as
a user experience it’s
fiendishly simple; so
many other high end
turntables are more
like assembling a kit
of parts, and can take
ages to set up. But
this deck might as well
be a Rega P2; it’s all
together in a jiffy. This
done, it is lovely to use;
silent, uncomplaining,
non-wobbly and small
in size, it's a turntable
for those who believe
a deck should be heard
and not seen. Finally,
sonically it is almost SENA
unique. Aside from the
placement issues (it's
got to be well isolated
from the outside world), | found it
hard to fault.
Delivering a big, powerful,
effortless punch into your system,
you'll be shocked at the level of
detail and insight it's got, and the
eerie ‘spaces between the notes’
that you simply don’t hear via belts.
Fantastic dynamics, a shimmering
high treble and bucketloads of air
and space complete a prime package.
Yet there's a caveat; just as many
simply didn’t ‘like’ the sound of direct
drive (such as it is, or is not!) back
in the seventies when it was briefly
all the rage, so many may crave the
slightly warmer, more charming and
cosseting sound of a belt drive deck
now. So do audition carefully, not all
hi-fi is for everyone. For me though,
this is an important new entry to the
high end turntable market; superbly
and subtly engineered, it deserves to
Marantz TT1000/0L Enterprise turntable
Emille Allure phono stage
Musical Fidelity AMS35i integrated amplifier
Yamaha NS1000M loudspeakers
Brinkmann Bardo
upgraded power supply
glass mat and clamp
10.5 tonearm
EMT ti MC cartridge
With startling clarity and dizzying
speed, this is an exceptional
performer at the price and thus an
essential audition.
(REVIEWED) £5,845
Symmetry Systems
© +44(0)1727 865488.
- power, precision, grip
- pinpoint soundstaging
- easy authority
- ease of set up and use
- engineering
- demands careful placement
LLE ar a TAS
Our measurement of tonearm vibration
with a Bruel & Kjaer accelerometer
shows harmonically related peaks at
175 Hz, 525Hz, 1125Hz. The first main
bending mode at 175Hz is quite low
but well damped and, as is common,
the third order bending mode, as a
vibrating system, is most prominent
in its influence. The peak it produces
IS not especially severe however,
reaching just 0.15g at 525Hz, not
enough to significantly affect sound.
Better is possible, from Rega and SME
for example, but this 1s still a good
result so the Bardo arm is structurally
well designed and constructed.
The turntable had a very low DIN
weighted Wow and Flutter figure of
just 0.046%, analysis on our Rohde
E Schwarz UPL shows. The main
peak visible is due to DIN test disc
eccentricity, even though it was
carefully centred with the aid of a
locked outside groove. In practice it is
difficult to measure reliably lower than
this with a test disc, but at least we
can confirm the Bardo is very speed
The Brinkmann Bardo arm and
turntable measure well. The arm is
good, if not the best. NK
tube mode
“ POST FFT CH1, us
Main arm |
| il
| |
— у 4 E !
Input RMS Frequency
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