Brinkmann Balance turntable Follow-Up
Follow-Up from April 2012 (Vol.35 No.4):
The Brinkmann Balance epitomized elegance in turntable design when it was introduced more than 25 years ago, and it still does. With its understated architecture, compact and carefully considered shape, and jewel-like fit'n'finish, the maximum-mass, minimal-plinth Balance looks as good as it soundsand its sound is, in my experience, still near the top of the turntable hill. (I reviewed the Balance in May 2005, Vol.28 No.5, and the less-expensive Brinkmann Bardo turntable in May 2011.) The Balance has been recently upgraded, with a new motor built by Brinkmann, and all-new solid-state power-supply electronics. Brinkmann's optional RöNt tubed power supply has also been completely redesigned. The price of the complete player with the tubed power supply is $40,790.
Careful attention must be paid to where this suspensionless 'table is placed. My review sample sat atop a Harmonic Resolution Systems base similar to the one Brinkmann themselves offer through HRS. Brinkmann also supplied a 12.1, the 12.1"-long version of its 10.5 tonearm, as well as samples of the latest EMT cartridge built and tuned to Brinkmann's specifications, the EMT-ti, and the RöNt power supply.
The Balance's 3.25"-thick, 44-lb platter, made of an alloy of aluminum, lead, and copper and topped with a plate of elastomer-bonded crystal glass, is so perfectly executed you might not notice that it's spinning. It's driven by a brushless, dual-phase AC motor via an O-ring that rides in a groove machined into the platter's rim. Because the platter bearing is electrically heated, no warm-up is necessary, and bearing tolerances can be extremely low.
Setting up the Balance was straightforward, and using it even easier. As for its sound, I wrote in "Analog Corner" in May 2005 that "I had never experienced such fundamentally correct, deep, tight, articulate, yet delicate bottom-end performance from any turntable, including, perhaps, the Rockport [System III Sirius]." Had I not shortly thereafter encountered the Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn, I'd be writing the same thing today.
The Brinkmann Balance managed to match the SME 30 turntable's bottom-end weight and solidity without sounding overdamped or somewhat thick in the middle, as the SME sometimes can, and it produced an appropriately light, airy, pure soundstage while never sounding hard and/or bright, as can some spring-suspended designs. In short, the Balance lived up to its name.
Without getting into what different tonearms and/or cartridges might add to or subtract from its performance, the Brinkmann Balance with Brinkmann 12.1 tonearm and EMT-Ti cartridge will likely satisfy, even thrill, the vast majority of vinyl-loving audiophiles. The Brinkmann Balance remains one of a handful of the finest turntables being made today. Oh, and Brinkmann's RöNt tubed power supply made a not particularly subtle improvement in the sound, helping to produce cleaner, better-articulated mid- and high-frequency transients.Michael Fremer