Burmester B25 loudspeaker Page 2

I positioned the Burmester B25s 5' from the front wall, 6' apart (measured from the tweeter centers), and toed-in 45° to focus on my listening chair 7' away. This placement maximized soundstage depth. I biwired the B25s by using four Pure Silver Cable double-ribbon speaker cables. I used two different solid-state amplifiers from Mark Levinson: a pair of ML-2 monoblocks (50W into 4 ohms) and, later, a No.334 (250Wpc into 4 ohms). The B25 allowed me to hear these amps' characteristics: the ML-2s' three-dimensional, transparent sound at more intimate volumes, and the No.334's lease-busting bass dynamics and slightly etched treble.

I did all of my listening with the B25s unsupported by spikes (provided) and their port plugs removed.

With a sensitivity of 88dB/2.83V/m, the B25 proved capable of 106dB peak sound-pressure levels (SPLs). To assess low-frequency extension, I used the low-frequency warble tones from Test CD 3 (Stereophile STPH006-2), as measured by a RadioShack SPL meter resting on the arm of my listening chair. With the B25s' port plugs removed, the low-frequency warble tones were audible and pitch-perfect from 200Hz down to 40Hz, ±4dB, and reached down to 31Hz, –8dB. Although I could hear faint doubling below 30Hz, during these tests I heard no chuffing from the port. With the plugs inserted, the bass response rolled off below 50Hz.

I then played the usual phase-check and pink-noise tracks from Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), and did some comparative listening in the relative nearfield (7' away) and farfield (16' away). The pink noise revealed that the B25's treble balance became significantly duller when I stood up. This may have had something to do with the fact that the Burmester's tweeter is 36" above the floor—as are my ears when I'm sitting down. The tweeters of many taller floorstanding speakers are farther above the floor, which means it's not as easy to be above their main lobe in the vertical plane when standing. With my hand on a B25's sidewall opposite the woofer, I felt the cabinet buzz at 63Hz and 125Hz when I played the chromatic half-step sinewaves of track 19 of Editor's Choice. This sensation was more intense, with some muddying of the sound, when I played Chris Jones' fretless-bass segment of "Blizzard Limbs," from Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2).

The B25's AMT tweeter rendered the treble and upper midrange with air and an absence of grain. The vibe accompaniment in "The Mooche," from Rendezvous: Jerome Harris Quintet Plays Jazz (CD, Stereophile STPH013-2), shimmered with cascades of clearly defined harmonics, while the biting trumpet and trombone solos were full of the "brassy blattiness" that so delights Stereophile reviewers. I particularly loved the vibes' subtle harmonic overtones in "Unspoken Words," from Joe Beck's The Journey (CD, DMP DMP-211), and the eerie, shimmering, translucent chimes that open H. Owen Reed's La Fiesta Mexicana, from Howard Dunn and the Dallas Wind Symphony's Fiesta! (CD, Reference RR-38CD). José Carreras' clear tenor in the Kyrie, from José Luis Ocejo's recording of Ariel Ramirez's Misa Criolla (CD, Philips 420 955-2), was effortless, immediate, and natural. In "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," from the soundtrack album of When Harry Met Sally... (CD, Columbia CK 45319), Harry Connick Jr.'s voice had a natural timbre with no sign of honk.

As good as the B25s' midrange and treble were, the sonic qualities that most pleased me were their imaging and ambience retrieval. Playing the L.A. Four's Going Home (Japanese import CD, Ai Music 3 2JD10043), the B25s seemed to "disappear" as they imaged Laurindo Almeida's guitar to the left, Ray Brown's double bass at center, Bud Shank's alto sax and flute to the right, and Shelly Manne's drum kit rear center. I could easily discern the separate but overlapping voices of Dr. John and Odetta singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," from Strike a Deep Chord: Blues Guitars for the Homeless (Justice JR003-01) as they sang alternate choruses. And I could make out the many layered male voices of the Turtle Creek Chorale as they sang John Rutter's "Lord, Make me an Instrument of Thy Peace," from Requiem, conducted by Timothy Seelig (CD, Reference RR-57CD).

The combination of Mark Levinson No.334 and Burmester B25s produced quick, tuneful bass with lots of punch that set objects dancing on nearby shelves, the Burmesters reproducing my pipe-organ recordings with unexpected authority and definition. Pedal notes were delivered with pressure and room lock, particularly the 32Hz note that ends organist James Busby's performance of Herbert Howells' Master Tallis's Testament, from Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago 101). However, I had to be sure to back off the volume control; both the ML-2 and No.334 amplifiers made the left B25's midrange driver buzz and rattle when the sustained organ note was played, indicating that it needed to be replaced. I heard a similar rattle when playing the solo kick drum from Attention Screen's "Blizzard Limbs." At more moderate volumes, the synthesizer that strikes the first explosive chord in Star Trek (The Movie): Main Theme, from Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops' Time Warp (CD, Telarc CD-80106), played with stunning impact and good definition. And the pedal chords in Gnomus, in organist Jean Guillou's arrangement and performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (CD, Dorian DOR-90117), were pitch-perfect—a fine performance, particularly from such a diminutive loudspeaker.

The Burmester B25 appealed to me for its imaging, transparency, ambience retrieval, ability to "disappear," fine timbral detailing, jewel-like build quality, and gorgeous appearance. Although the pair of them described a small sweet spot that required that I sit in one place in my listening chair, when I did, the three-dimensional soundstage was impressive.

Like some other loudspeakers, the B25 combines some "gotta have 'em" strengths with some quirks. Its cabinet had resonances that I could sometimes hear, and its sweet spot for best imaging—and what good imaging that could be—was small. Because of these foibles, the Burmester B25 may feel the heat of other competing floorstanders—such as the PSB Synchrony One ($4500/pair; reviewed by JA in Vol.31 No.4), which played with equal clarity when I heard it at the 2008 CES, or the Esoteric MG-20, which John Atkinson favored in his review ($10,500/pair; Vol.31 No.8).

That said, the B25 has some of the same very attractive attributes—stable, well-defined imaging, clear and grain-free upper registers, the ability to capture the natural timbres of instruments and singers—heard in Burmester's more expensive models. Elegant build quality at a lower price is well worth celebrating, particularly in these recession-prone times. No wonder Dieter Burmester and Udo Besser were so proud of the B25 at the 2008 CES.

Burmester Audiosystems GmbH
US distributor: Audiophile Systems, Ltd.
8709 Castle Park Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46256
(317) 841-4100

rimu's picture

The whole review becomes somewhat redundant after reading the Setup section: terrible amplifier pairing and incorrect positioning make auditioning a speaker completely useless. Burmesters have a side firing bass driver and are designed to be positioned in parallel without or with very little toe-in. As for the amps: Burmester sounds OK with many amps, making somewhat better pairing with some particular models, but among all I've heard Mark Levinson was the worst pairing for them by a large margin. With ML monoblocks the sound was just small, unambitious and zero-fun, although detailed.
Many people would give a serious credit to reviews on Stereophile, so it's a pity that sometimes such weird things happen with the reviews. The best pairing I've heard for these were Audionet AMP monoblocks, and the sound was just a miracle.
In fact B25 has its sonic character and is not a 100% neutral 'audiophile' thing. It's musical and in the same time insanely coherent and resolving. There are not many speakers that could boast combining these traits so well. It particularly shines reproducing vocals. B25 is not so good for orchestral music, so if this is what you are after, B25 won't be the best choice.
For my taste it was the best speaker I could find after listening to a very long list of candidates.