Burmester 100 Phono:

It’s been a long time since Burmester has produced a phono stage.  Their last model, the 838, was produced in the 80’s.  However, with vinyl making such a comeback, Dieter Burmester felt the time was right to build a phono stage that was worthy of his current Reference Line components.  And in typical Burmester fashion, it addresses every aspect of the analog domain – it can even be ordered with a studio quality ADC (analog to digital converter) on board, so that any vinyl enthusiast migrating to the high quality digital world has all of their bases covered.

Occupying the same amount of rack space as my reference Burmester 011 preamplifier, the sleek casework and mirror finished front panel makes for a perfect aesthetic match. When viewed under studio conditions on a bright white background, you might think the Burmester gear “too shiny,” but when it is in place in your listening room, it mirrors your environment and disappears – a pleasing aesthetic illusion.

Your final configuration determines the price: The 100 Phono outfitted with two phono preamp modules, (sans the ADC and Burmester’s Burlink interface card) has an MSRP of $22,995.  The base model with one phono card and no ADC or Burlink specs out at $16,995. This probably isn’t going to be your first phono stage, but it could very well be  the last one you will need to purchase – thanks both to Burmester’s legendary build quality and their commitment to product upgrades.  Like other products in the Burmester range, the 100 will never become obsolete.  Think of it as an investment in your vinyl future.

Ultimate flexibility

The 100 can be configured to your specification with your choice of one or two inputs.  Either input can be designated as MM (moving magnet) or MC (moving coil), but once the choice has been made, the 100 must be sent back to your dealer for one of the inputs to be changed.  The MM gain can be adjusted in six steps from 37 db to 52 db and the MC stage (also six steps) from 57 db to 73 db, so even the lowest output cartridges can be accommodated.   Capacitance can be adjusted on the MM side from 68 pf to 400 pf and MC input loading has six options:  33, 75, 220, 390, 1000 and 47k ohms.  MC purists may be put off at the odd choices, but I had no problem using cartridges that I would normally load at 100 ohms with the 75-ohm setting or the 390-ohm setting for cartridges that I would use 500 ohms on another phono preamplifier.

The subsonic filter worked well with a few older, more warped records that have not had a session with the Furutech flattener yet and I was unable to hear any difference in low frequency output.  If the wide range of gain settings still isn’t enough, the 100 has the ability to boost the output by an additional 6db, so there should never be a situation where the 100 Phono does not possess enough gain.

Burmester’s “auto adjust” feature, when used with the supplied test record, will make up for channel imbalance in your phono cartridge. It compares the left and right channel signals, adjusting the level between channels to .2db, able to make the compensation up to 6db, though I can’t imagine a premium phono cartridge having this much channel error.  The only thing missing is a mono switch.


The Model 100 sounded slightly flat out of the box compared to my other Burmester components that have been powered up for over a year now, but because there are no capacitors in the signal path, there is no long drawn out break in with this preamplifier.  It opens up dramatically after a few days of constant play, and after it’s been on for about a week, you’re 100% there.  If you don’t have 12 hours a day to spin records, I highly suggest a Hagerman Technologies Reverse-RIAA between your CD player and the 100.  Leave it on repeat 24 hours a day for a few days to speed up the process. If you are one of the audiophiles that pooh-poohs component break in/stabilization, play your favorite record on the 100 straight out of the box and then again after a few days of burn in and you will be stunned at the improvement.

All controls are easily available on the front panel and clearly marked, so finding the proper loading and gain settings for your cartridge couldn’t be easier.  If you have multiple turntable/cartridge owners will be instantly at ease with this flexibility that few other phono stages match.

For those incorporating the 100 into a non-Burmester system, there is a phase reversal switch that works with the RCA outputs as well as the balanced XLR outputs.  This is particularly important because Burmester uses pin 3 for signal positive and 2 negative, while most other manufacturers do just the opposite.  A quick flip of the switch keeps everything in phase.

Burmester feels that keeping the signal path balanced all the way through, so the 100 only has balanced inputs.  This will require cable retermination or using the supplied XLR to RCA adaptors.  Considering the additional benefit to running a phono cartridge balanced, I would highly suggest having your tonearm cable terminated for balanced operation.  I used a Cardas Clear Phono cable and the Burmester Silver Balanced Phono Cable ($1,595) The Burmester cable was perhaps a bit too revealing for my taste, but again like any other cable, this is a tone control that needs to be fitted to your taste.

The Sound

Having used Burmester amplification as my reference for almost two years now, I’ve become very familiar with the “Burmester sound” or perhaps lack of it.  A year ago, I proclaimed the 911 mk. 3 power amplifier “The best power amplifier I’ve ever heard” and I still feel that way.  Dieter Burmester has managed to design and build electronics that bridges the gap between solid-state and vacuum tubes, offering the known advantages of both with the disadvantages of neither.

Burmester electronics have always offered a tonal richness that is usually associated with vacuum tubes, yet has an equal helping of dynamic contrast and weight that normally can only be achieved with the best solid-state gear.  If you are an analog lover, it’s much like the difference between hearing a master tape and a great pressing of your favorite record – the tonality has not been altered, but there is an ease, an extra level of naturalness that the record doesn’t have. If you haven’t heard the master tape you don’t know what you are missing, yet once you have, the difference is easy to discern. This is the ease in which Burmester electronics present the music.

Listening to the current Chris Bellman remaster of Van Halen II brought the first major strength of the model 100 to the front – impact.  This recording now has a lot more punch, and some serious low-end energy and the model 100 was able to capture every bit of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar harmonics.   It was also much easier to hear the differences between Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony singing harmonies on “Women In Love.”  Most excellent.

Classical and ambient music lovers will appreciate the subtlety of the subsonic filter.  When auditioning the vinyl edition of Brian Eno’s Small Craft on a Milk Sea, which features incredibly low synthesizer tones, I was able to play this record considerably louder than I could with the subsonic filter out – yet it never felt like there was any less bass energy on the record.  Granted, this is something you probably won’t need often, but a nice feature to have available. In combination with the GamuT S9 speakers and a pair of Burmester 911 mk. 3 amplifiers, I was able to achieve sound pressure levels that you would expect to hear in a club without strain – and without a touch of acoustic feedback.

High frequencies – sublime.  Again, when listening to your favorite acoustic music, the speakers just melt into the room and allow you to forget about the gear.  Spinning at least half a dozen of the latest Blue Note remasters from Music Matters Jazz I was always taken back at how natural cymbals and drum heads were sounding; always with perfect attack and smooth decay.  The true sign of an exceptional piece of gear, the 100 did not favor any particular type of music.

A few things always stand out with the Burmester experience beyond perfect tonality; ultra low noise, massive weight and lightning quick dynamics.  The 100 stays true to the rest of my Burmester gear.  Spinning the latest ORG pressing of Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns and their latest remake of Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes revealed even more detail than I was used to with these two perfect pressings. This ultra quiet background always made for huge dynamic swings on records that had the scale, but also revealed a stunning amount of low-level detail as well. The 100 is one of those rare additions to your system that will offer a further look into recordings you thought you knew intimately.

This realism is further enhanced by the 100’s ability to start and stop instantly.  It exhibits lightning fast response during the attack phase of a musical transient, but exhibits no overhang, stopping instantly as well.  This contributes to the 100’s complete lack of fatigue when listening for long periods of time.

A few quick comparisons

To keep the playing field level, I captured some tracks at 24/192 files with my Nagra LB pro digital recorder, as I do with the other phono stages I’ve used in the last year.  This offered an  for an indirect comparison to the ARC REF Phono 2 and the Boulder 1008 to the 100 Phono.  While this does not reveal 100% of what each of the respective phono stages can do, it’s a great way to compare phono stages past, without relying on memory alone.  When comparing the high res digital samples of Hissing of Summer Lawns, it confirmed what I suspected: The Boulder offered slightly more bass grunt, and my ARC REF Phono 2 had slightly less than the Burmester. When comparing the REF to the Burmester in real time, the Burmester was definitely an order of magnitude quieter – quite possibly the quietest I’ve ever heard.

The order was reversed when listening for that image depth; here the vacuum tubes in the ARC offered a bit larger musical image with the 100 seeming to make the room a bit smaller, with the Boulder now in last place. The 100 exceeded the other two in terms of dynamic contrast and the lowest noise floor. Considering adjustability, ease of use and the thought of never having to search for vacuum tubes, makes the 100 the big winner in my book.  Keep in mind that the order of magnitude we are discussing here is very small – indeed much of these differences could be minimized by cartridge choice.

When listening to Andrew Bird’s 2005 release Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs, I was consistently impressed by the low level detail and clarity presented. If you value a wide soundstage where images are painted in a very specific place across that sonic landscape, the Burmester is at the top of this category as well.  While I haven’t had the privilege of listening to all of the top $30k – $60k phono stages yet, the Model 100 is at the top of my list in regards to everything else I’ve heard in the 10-25k range.  And we still haven’t discussed the ADC…

The deciding factor in choosing the 100 over something else up in the stratosphere of phono stages will boil down to the sound you prefer and synergy with the rest of your components.  Of course if you have an all Burmester system, just write the check, it doesn’t get any better or any easier.

And now for something completely digital

If you’ve been curious about high quality digital capture and are either thinking about digitizing some of your favorite LP’s for a music server or just archival purposes, the extra $2,995 spent on the ADC module is a bargain.  Capturing files via USB and my MacBook Pro was fairly straightforward, (as I’ve been doing my fair share of this with other tools lately) though the instructions are fairly cryptic.  Those completely new to digital capture will probably be lost, so insist that your dealer give you a good run through on this part of the process.

All digital captures taken with the 100 feature 24-bit resolution, with a choice of 48khz, 96khz or 192khz sample rates.  Obviously the 24/192 files were of the highest quality, but the 29/96 files were not far behind and the 48 khz files were probably the most impressive, because they still offered excellent playback.  Even using the Burmester 088 CD player as a DAC, the difference between these and the original vinyl was minimal.

Though my Nagra LB digital recorder is easier to use and more user friendly than the Burmester, the Burmester offers a significant jump in recording quality. If you have ever thought about adding this functionality to your system, the Burmester does a fantastic job. Unfortunately, you will have to transfer your files somewhere and transcode to 16/44.1, should you want to burn any of these digital files to a CD.  Again, I would have liked to see this as an option in the ADC, so as to not have to perform yet another option in the digital domain.


If you only require one phono input and do not possess an all Burmester system, the 100 Phono is probably a bit on the high side of the price spectrum, but it becomes more reasonable (at least as reasonable as a $20,000 + phono stage can be…) as you add the second input and even more so if you make the ADC part of the bargain.

Nervous audiophiles that swap gear gear fairly often may not appreciate what makes the Burmester components such a great long-term value.  They are built with the precision of a Porsche engine and placed inside casework that is fitting of the best Swiss watches.  If you are someone that desires high quality audio equipment that you will live with for years to come, the Burmester 100 Phono will sound as great in 20 years as it does today.  And that, on many levels is its highest value.

The Burmester 100 Phono

MSRP:  $16,995 – $22,995 (depending on configuration)

Manufacturers Information:  www.burmester.de


Turntables                        Spiral Groove SG-2 w/Triplanar, AVID Acutus Reference SP w/SME V, AVID Volvere SP w/SME 309 and Rega P9/RB1000

Cartridges                        Dynavector XV-1s, Koetsu Urushi Blue, Grado Statement 1, Lyra Skala, SoundSmith Sussurro Paua

Preamplifier                      Burmester 011, McIntosh C500

Amplifiers                      Burmester 911mk. 3 monoblocks, McIntosh MC 1.2kw monoblocks

Speakers                         GamuT S9

TONEAudio at the Montreal HiFi Show!

If you are going to be in Montreal, we suggest that you pay a visit to the Salon Son & Image event, and if so, stop in our room and say hello. We always enjoy meeting our readers up close and in person! It is being held at the Hilton Bonaventure in the heart of downtown Montreal. 900 de La Gauchetiere St. West H5A 1E4 514-878-2332

We will be featuring a full Burmester system in our room and will be playing plenty of music daily. We’ll have quite a few recent MoFi discs as well as some old favorites. So bring a disc or listen to ours. And bring snack treats, it’s a long day in trade show world.

See you in Montreal!

The Sooloos – Explained!

For those new to the music server world, the Sooloos is by far the easiest and most comprehensive way to organize your music collection. As a very happy Sooloos owner for three years now, it’s definitely made my life easier and allowed me to listen to a lot more of my music collection.

Sooloos has produced a brief video explaining things and you can view it here.

We are currently working on a review of their latest products, the Control 15, the MS600 and the Media Core 200, so stay tuned…

“Unspeakable Fire Flowing Through Art:” Bob Gendron Interviews the Man In Charge of the Roadburn Festival

An intimate four-day gathering of psychedelic, avant-garde, heavy, and nearly every other imaginable cutting-edge sonic delight, Roadburn Festival is without peer. Every April, dozens of bands and eager listeners from more than 40 countries descend upon a quaint town in the Netherlands to share in a common love of sensory-absorbing music, underground art, and likeminded discussion. It’s not difficult to understand why.

Unlike most festivals, Roadburn is focused and small; boundaries between the performers and audience are practically nonexistent. Due to its international reputation, unparalleled vision, and limited capacity, the multi-day event sells out within minutes. Indeed, Roadburn has become the gold standard in a music industry that’s increasingly more reliant on festivals. This year’s lineup represents a veritable wet dream for any metal, experimental, or doom fan: Sunn O))), Godflesh, Shrinebuilder, Winter, Trap Them, Corrosion of Conformity, Keiji Haino, The Secret, Earth, and Swans are just some of the names involved.

TONE is honored and humbled by the organizers’ invitation to attend Roadburn 2011. Our forthcoming report will serve as the magazine’s cover feature in Issue 37. In the meantime, to get an even better understanding of Roadburn’s history, purpose, and unique characteristics, we talked with festival organizer—and fellow audiophile—Walter Hoeijmakers via email. All festival directors should bring his level of passion, insight, and dedication to the fore.

BG: Roadburn began as a website but ultimately turned into a festival. Can
you give some background on how the music festival came about, and when you

“At the very beginning, we just wanted to convey the overall feel of the website onto the stage. We started out very small by inviting several bands that we had featured on the website. Plus, we wanted to project parts of the website’s artwork behind the bands, and also have deejays spinning the music we were covering. Along the way, we started to experiment with live streams since we also sought to keep up with Internet’s progress. There was no real master plan; but nothing was contrived, either. We just did what felt best, and got tons of creative input along the way. All of this cumulated into the 10th Roadburn festival in 2005, which became the blueprint for the festival as we know it today.”

Most festivals are sprawling affairs that involve tens of thousands of people and vague artistic focus. Roadburn is the opposite. It strives to melt any boundaries between artists, fans and organizers. How do you manage to accomplish this? And what motivated you to set these goals?

“We want Roadburn to be a small, intimate, and well-organized festival. We love the bands, and thrive on creating a unique social vibe by emphasizing the cutting edge and honoring the forefathers. This is all joined together by a love of music. We’re not thriving on financial goals, neither do we want to be the next ‘best outdoor festival.’ Our main goal is to bring together a diverse group of artists that push the envelope, are truly original, and inspire us all with the unspeakable fire flowing through their art. It’s a gathering of kindred spirits, bands, and fans alike, and the lines between them are often completely blurred as they all worship the power of sound together. At Roadburn, most bands don’t hang out backstage: They can be found down in front!”

Tickets for this year’s festival sold out in about 15 minutes. The fest is now an internationally recognized phenomenon. Do you have any idea how many countries are represented by the people attending? Do you remember how long it took the first festival to sell out?

“The first-ever Roadburn Festivals didn’t sell out at all. We sold out in 2003 for the very first time when the festival took place at the Effenaar club in Eindhoven; 450 people showed up. Then, in 2006, Roadburn sold out a few days prior to the festival. We had moved to the 013 venue in Tilburg, and offered 1750 tickets. It was crazy to see that approximately 70% of our attendees were from abroad and not from the Netherlands. These figures still stand today, as we have about 44 different nationalities attending the festival. They descend upon Tilburg from the world over, ranging from the USA and South America to Australia and Japan, and all the European countries in between. For Roadburn 2011, we’re even welcoming people from Singapore and Indonesia. It’s something that still amazes me today as we just started the festival out of a labor of love, and still do it for that very reason.”

As the organizer, can you share what your duties involve and how early you start planning? Once the festival begins, are you able to enjoy it or are you too busy managing logistics?

“We start planning one year in advance. I’m already working on Roadburn 2012 even though the 2011 edition has yet to take place. Unfortunately, I’m not able to see much at the festival as I’m often busy micro-managing. I always tend to spend time with bands and attendees, and as soon as I’m able to catch up with them, you’ll find me backstage or talking to all the wonderful people in the venue’s hallways. Sometimes I can enjoy a band. There’s always a show that I’m trying to catch in its entirety, and it’s my goal to catch several this year. I desperately want to see likes of Wovenhand and Shrinebuilder, among others. Luckily, we record most performances for the on-demand audio streams, and I catch up with everything at home when listening to the steams.”

The lineup for Roadburn 2011 is any metal and underground music fan’s dream. How do you go about inviting artists? Do you start with a wish list? Do certain bands contact you expressing their desire?

“Both Jurgen van den Brand (Roadburn’s co-organizer) and I start out with a band list. We have a pretty good idea of the bands we’d like to invite for the festival. The list keeps changing throughout the year, and we’re very proactive by approaching the bands ourselves. It’s always very rewarding if certain bands on our list start to approach us. It’s in the spirit of the festival, and makes confirming their involvement easy. On a personal note, I’ve been around in the underground scene for more than 25 years and happen to know many bands personally, as well as lots of bookings agents, managers, and journalists. This is really helpful, because getting in touch with certain bands is really easy for me. The Roadburn phenomenon also helps to get in touch with bands that I don’t know on a personal level.”

You were able to get Keiji Haino, Caspar Brotzmann Massaker, Ufomammut, and at least a half dozen other bands that can be considered nothing less than coups for any festival. How does one go about doing this?

“Keiji Haino and Caspar Brotzmann Massaker have been invited by Sunn O))) for their curated Roadburn event. We asked [Sunn O))) leaders] Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley to open up the styles and sounds of the festival, and they did a great job. Their curated day is nothing short of amazing, and a tribute to some master guitarists that influenced them as artists. Offering a day of the festival to a curating band or artist is of great help in getting coups for Roadburn. It inspires other bands to be part of the festival as well, as they want to be among their peers in an intimate setting—which is Roadburn.”

This year’s lineup has a definite psychedelic and doom flavor. Was this intentional? If so, are there any bands that you targeted that, for some reason, you weren’t able to get for the festival?

“It all happened naturally. When we started to work on this year’s Roadburn festival, we noticed some very interesting doom and psychedelic bands that we really liked. It’s part of our mission to put emphasis on the cutting edge. Thus, inviting these bands was inevitable, and pushed Roadburn 2011 in a more doomy and dark psychedelic direction. We love evolving the festival in manners like this to keep it interesting for our attendees. In the end, the festival should be a tribute to the open minds of bands and attendees alike. As far as bands we wanted but didn’t get, it would have been great if we could have had The Obsessed for Roadburn 2011, but we couldn’t pull of the reunion yet!”

There’s an incredible balance between new and older bands on the bill, i.e., with highly influential veterans such as COC, Pentagram, Godflesh, and Earth sharing the bill with relative newcomers such as The Secret, Liturgy, et al. Was this by design?

“We want Roadburn to be a well-balanced festival and do everything to keep it that way even if it means that we have to pass on certain opportunities. In order to keep the balance, several great bands didn’t make it on this year’s lineup. However, we remain in touch with these bands for future Roadburn festivals since they are good reference points for next year’s direction.”

Is there anything that you are doing for this year’s festival that improves upon what you did in the past?

“We keep improving every year, whether it’s about backlines, projections, crowd control, food vendors, a merchandise venue, or the metal disco. We want to maintain the laidback vibe of the festival as much as we possibly can. Luckily, the incredible staff of the 013 venue, home of Roadburn, is of great help—they are a main part of the festival, too.”

What advice what you give somebody who has never been to Roadburn?

“Go with the flow. Don’t try to catch as many bands as you’d like or get distracted by some overlaps. Please immerse yourself in the laidback vibe of the festival, and enjoy the company of all these like-minded people. Then you’ll experience the camaraderie amongst the festivalgoers and end up seeing some amazing bands you didn’t intend to see while making new friends along the way.”

You’ve been there from the start. Can you share a few favorite memories?

“There are way too many stories to be told. Maybe I should write a book some day about all the shenanigans and debauchery behind the scenes—hahaha! All joking aside, if someone would have told me 25 years ago that I would run a festival like Roadburn and collaborate with either Neurosis, Tom G Warrior (of Celtic Frost and Triptykon), Saint Vitus, or Hawkwind, I simply wouldn’t believe them. It all just happened.”

Is there any single band or performance this year that you can’t wait to see?

“As I said earlier, I’m really looking forward to seeing Dave Eugene Edward’s Wovenhand at Roadburn. It’s an incredible coup for the festival to have the band on the bill. At first glimpse, Wovenhand is a little off-kilter, as Roadburn tends to be an underground festival for psychedelic, avant-garde, doom, or any other variation of leftfield sonic pleasures that push the boundaries of music. But Wovenhand will prove that making really heavy music does not necessarily mean having the loudest guitar or the most amps.”

You’re obviously a huge music fan. And the intimate construction of the festival suggests that you appreciate good sound. Are you interested in audio gear? If so, on what kind of system do you listen to music at home?

“I have been fascinated by audio gear and spent lots of money on speakers, interlinks, tweaks, and the like over the years—just like many of TONE’s readers, I suppose. For the last 8 years, I’ve been really enjoying my Marantz Music Link series (preamp, phono preamp and monoblocks). My current set of speakers is Floating Systems’ Synthese.

“I have a pair of AE4s (by Acoustic Energy) as well, but don’t use them very often. I really love old MIT interlinks and MIT Terminator speaker cables, which I prefer over high-end Japanese brands like 47 Lab; I have some of their interlinks as well.

“I’m in love with my mid-70s Ariston RD 11 turntable (it’s the predecessor of Linn’s LP12) plus SME tonearm. As far as cartridges go, I’m sticking to a Grado Statement Wood—amazing warmth, and perfect for my vast collection of 60s and 70s rock on vinyl. “I prefer vinyl over CDs any time, but have an experimental CD player that’s custom-built by a Swiss audio geek. I bought it relatively cheap. Sometimes you need to be lucky!”

MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESL is here…

In 1992, MartinLogan debuted the Aerius loudspeaker, shrinking the sound of their Sequel II in to a smaller and more affordable sized speaker, with an 8-inch woofer, at a retail price of $1,995 per pair. Stereophile’s John Atkinson gave these speakers a highly enthusiastic review, saying the panel/woofer integration was “seamless” and that “he was struck by the unity of the Aerius’s sound.”

I bought a pair of Aerius’s, based on that review, because while I had loved my former CLS’s, my current digs did not afford the room that the CLS required, but I really missed the MartinLogan sound. So out went my Acoustat 1+1’s and I was back in LoganWorld! My system consisted of a Klyne Audio Arts SK-5 preamplifier, a Conrad Johnson MV-50 and a Rega P3 with Dynavector Ruby Carat cartridge and I was digging the panel goodness. The Aerius’s could definitely rock out better than my Acoustats were able to.

Over the last 19 years, I’ve owned and reviewed a lot of speakers, but I always remember that pair of Aerius’s well. A little sniffing around the internet reveals a doggedly loyal following, even today. Considering that you can still get a replacement set of ESL panels for your Aerius’s, it’s easy to keep them singing.

At the end of 2010, Devin Zell (MartinLogan’s Marketing Manager) started talking about a new hybrid ESL that was going to come in right at $1995, to which I said, “Is this going to be a 21st Century Aerius?” Zell’s excitement for the project was tough to keep under wraps, as I had obviously hit a hot button. We then proceeded to nerd out about all things MartinLogan for a while and a review pair was promised.

Zell went way above and beyond the call of duty this time. He not only sent me a pair of the ElectroMotion speakers you see here in my driveway, but he had a pair of Aerius’s refurbished at the factory for me to use for comparison purposes! I felt this was so cool, I had to meet the challenge. My MV-50 just got back from Conrad Johnson, freshened up with their current CJD Teflon capacitors, so it will sound even better than it did back in the early 90’s when I first had my Aerius’s and I found a mint Klyne preamp as well. Add a current Rega P9 with Dynavector cartridge and it’s as close to going back in time as I can muster.

So, stay tuned. This will certainly be a fun review – of both speakers.

For now, here’s a little more information on the ElectroMotion’s:

06 Ken Kessler

Ken Kessler is an American-born, UK-based journalist whose articles on hi-fi, watches, pens, and cars have appeared in more than 140 different publications in more than 20 countries. After working as Assistant Editor for the short-lived Stereo – The Magazine, in 1983 he joined Hi-Fi News & Record Review, where he still serves, latterly as Senior Contributing Editor.

Ken is among the most widely published hi-fi journalists at work today, and is the author of Quad: The Closest Approach and McIntosh…For The Love Of Music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife, his son and three cats.

We are thrilled to have Ken bring decades of insight into our vintage audio column.

Klipsch Heresy III’s a ton of fun

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the obvious. With new speakers hitting the market every day, here’s an updated classic that’s sure to please. The Klipsch Heresy hit the market in the late 50’s and now is in its third generation, featuring a 12-inch, 3 way design with a horn loaded midrange and tweeter. The result is a high efficiency (99db/1 watt sensitivity) speaker that rocks out in a major way with a minimum of amplifier power.

These speakers arrived yesterday, and have been blasting since I got them out of the box. Using the 40 watt Croft hybrid power amplifier tested recently, it’s going to take a while to find the volume limits of these speakers. Even with 40 watts per channel on tap, a modest twist of the volume control is producing plenty of oomph.

We’ll have a full review in issue 38, but even after a day’s listening, this is a speaker has put a big smile on my face.

$799 each, mfrs. info here

The World’s Best Wilson Audio Experience?

While visiting Washington DC, I had quite the audio experience at contributing writer Jacob Heilbrunn’s house. After attending an outstanding dealer event at JS Audio, that was packed until well past closing with demos from Wilson Audio’s Peter McGrath and Rich Maez from Boulder, the real treat was yet to come.

Heilbrunn’s purpose built room, featuring the Continuum Caliburn turntable with a matching pair of Cobra tonearms (featuring the Lyra Titan mono and the AirTight PC-1 Supreme), and the Ypsilon phono stage, showcasing a pair of Wilson Audio Alexandra 2’s driven by a pair of Classe 600 watt monoblocks. Digital was handled by the Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD player and all sources channeled through the Messenger preamplifier. If this pair of enormous full range speakers wasn’t enough, Heilbrunn had a pair of Wilson Thor subwoofers, which McGrath had just recently installed in the room for a future review in The Absolute Sound. But the system was as much a testament to finesse as brute strength.

Running through a gamut of jazz, blues and classic rock, I was stunned at the system’s limitless dynamic range and perfect tonality. While many audiophiles like to think that recorded music can’t approach the real thing, it’s only a pile of cash away. In this case, about 400 large (Clevelands not Franklins), and it unquestionably delivers the goods. Having been to Wilson Audio’s Valhalla – David Wilson’s living room, even his spectacular system comes up short in terms of the delicacy and ultimate resolution I experienced here. McGrath went on to say that while listening to a live jazz recording as he was packing up at Heilbrunn’s house, the people chatting on the couch at the back of the room just added to the ambiance. “I really felt as if I was sitting right there in the club, experiencing a live show.”. McGrath also confirmed my analysis of Heilbrunn’s system and felt it might be the best he’s ever experienced as well. But he left it open with a wry smile, as he said “There is one customer of ours in Spain…”

This is truly a system that does it all. The monstrous X-2’s disappeared in the room completely; we didn’t need to dim the lights as a parlor trick. It was if they were coated with something from the Army’s latest stealth arsenal. (With the Pentagon only a few miles away and Heilbrunn’s day job covering politics, who knows? Maybe I did have an X-Files experience?). These six foot tall speakers never drew attention to themselves and had a top to bottom coherence that even the best panel speakers lack.

In the quest for even higher fidelity, Heibrunn is in the process of building a new sound room when he moves in fall. As we leave for the airport he ponders, “Is there more resolution available?”

We will see. Watch for the complete chronicle of his new project later this year in a future issue of TONEAudio.

Issue 35


Standalone Motherfucker: A Conversation with Twilight Singers Leader Greg Dulli
By Bob Gendron

Alex James Interview: Dolorean’s Introspective Folk Rock Beauty
By Jaan Uhelszki

Budget Gear: Silverline Minuet Mini Monitors
By Lawrence Devoe

Journeyman Audiophile: Truth and Soul: The ZuAudio Soul Superfly speakers
By Steve Guttenberg

Old School Alexandria: The Forgotten Oracle
By Jeff Dorgay

Tone Style

The Ace Hotel Sleep here if you love music

40: A Doonesbury Retrospective

The Omron Blood Pressure Monitor

Fentimans Curiosity Cola

Drobo S: Back it up!

The McIntosh Clock

Spend an Extra Day In Montreal By Bob Gendron


Live Music: Buddy Guy, Motorhead, Black Dub and Trap Them

Current Releases:
Fresh Releases in the Pop/Rock World
By the TONE Staff

Audiophile Pressings
By Jeff Dorgay

Jazz and Blues
Three new releases
By Jim Macnie

Club Mix
MICS Show coverage from Monaco
By Scott Tetzlaff


AVID Acutus Reference SP Turntable

Vitus Audio MP-P201 Phono Preamp

NAD PP-3 Phono Preamp


EXCLUSIVE: The Devialet D-Premier
By Jeff Dorgay

The Nagra MSA Amplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

Bel Canto’s FM1 Tuner
By Lawrence Devoe

Totem Acoustic Forest Speakers
By Mark Marcantonio

The EAT ECC803S tubes
By Jeff Dorgay

Ultimate Versatility: The McIntosh C500 Control Center
By Jeff Dorgay

Budget Audio Redefined: The Polk Audio Blackstone speakers
By Jeff Dorgay

Classics on the cheap