Burmester 101

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Burmester 101
Burmester 101

The standard audio industry autumn roll-out of shows and factory visits had a strange, unexpected side-effect. It made me understand something fundamental about the Burmester 101 integrated amplifier, and Burmester products in general.

You see, most people think that chrome front panel on Burmester products is there as a spot of bling. It’s not; it’s there because Burmester thinks very long term. You begin to understand this when staring at the 23rd chromed shower tap in almost as many days; kitchen and bathroom designers use chrome brightwork because it doesn’t tarnish even after years of installation in an inherently wet environment. An audio amplifier doesn’t spend its days in shower stall humidity, but that thick chrome front panel means the 101 integrated amplifier will look as new in a quarter of a century as it does today.

Burmester is mostly about pre-power amplifiers; the company’s best known product (still in production after 34 years) is the 808 preamplifier and its best seller is the 911 power amplifier. However, Burmester has made several integrated designs over the years, and currently produces three models; the 101 is the latest (the first two numbers of the three number product code here denote the original launch date; the 808 being launched in 1980 and the 101 first saw the light of day in 2010), and least expensive in the whole catalogue. Unlike the other integrated designs in the range, the 101 is smaller, slimmer, lighter, and more conventional looking than its stable-mates. In truth, the conventional looks belie the fact that the 101 is perhaps the most radical design in Burmester’s long amplifier history.

The 101 amplifier is a 120W design, and uses Class D power sections, in place of the predominantly Class A topology of other amps in the Burmester range. Class D operation polarises audio enthusiasts, but the 101 takes the Class D concept and runs with it. Instead of using off-the-shelf modules and the standard-issue switch-mode power supply, the 101 features custom-designed filters, and a high-grade linear supply. Both the preamplifier and the high-grade headphone amplifier are DC coupled, thereby limiting the number of capacitors in the signal path.

Also outside the signal path is a protection circuit, designed for overload, overheat, and DC offset protection. As a result, you don’t necessarily need to observe good housekeeping and turn the amplifier off before swapping speakers. However, I strongly advise you do power down the amplifier between speaker changes, as it ensures the amplifier modules react properly to the new loudspeaker. This is important in order to get the best from the 101, and Class D amps in general. This won’t trouble most people in reality, but if you audition the 101 and the demonstrator fails to cycle the power between speaker changes, you probably aren’t hearing the amp at its best.

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