You know exactly where you are with Burmester. There is no artifice. It’s unashamed German luxury for wealthy people. It’s why Burmester audio systems spring up in the best Mercedes Benz and Porsche cars. It’s why Burmester is one of the most recognised German brands among the cognoscenti. Those elements converge, too; German luxury goods are made with the ideals of German engineering culture. They are built up to a standard, not down to a price, and this gives them longevity, even when dealing with something as ever-changing as a media player. The 151 Musiccenter is built to last.
Followers of the brand will note this is not Burmester’s first go at a media player. That was the 111 Musiccenter, announced in 2011. As an aside, Burmester nomenclature is extremely logical; the first two numbers in the model name denote the year the product was launched, the last is simply the order in which that product was released that year, so the 151 is the first model to be released by Burmester in 2015. It shows just how ‘built to last’ is intrinsic to the company ethos that there are still models in the range that begin with the number ‘9’ and even the 808 preamplifier, which first saw the light of day in 1980.
The original 111 Musiccenter is part of Burmester’s Reference Line, a sans pareil range of products that are designed without compromise and are priced accordingly. The 111 is designed as a complete digital front‑end, replacing source component and preamplifier in one, and includes a full colour 7” display on its front panel. This might be a step too far for many people, and not simply in terms of price tag; all of the screen functions can be replicated on a tablet (Burmester supplies an Apple iPad Mini with the 151, preloaded with a dedicated app as an optional part of the package), and in many systems, a music player is best considered an additional source, rather than a hub, because there is already a preamplifier or integrated amp in place. In many respects, the 151 Musiccenter, from Burmester’s Top Line, fits those requirements better than the 111.
It’s also a later development than the 111, although this is seen more in intellectual musing than investigation of the product per se. The screen of the 111 is excellent, but shows the product was in development in a time before tablets became so ubiquitous. Its function was vital in a product where a front panel would be the primary way of accessing the 111’s music catalogue, but that task is neatly and largely handed over to the iPad. By eliminating the front panel screen, the 151 represents a post‑iPad development, and one that has been replicated by many media playing brands who were in the market as or before the iPad happened (for example, Naim’s first HDX hard disk player has a touchscreen for navigating its music library, but subsequent players have relied on a tablet to provide that functionality). Of course, the 111 has undergone several firmware updates along the way as part of Burmester’s ‘leave no man behind’ ethos of continuous development. However, I suspect in reality the 111’s screen spends a lot of time not being stared at, because ‘we have an App for that’. The 151 replaces that 7” screen with a green dot matrix display, which means the newer music streamer can fit into the standard Top Line form factor, with its thick chrome plated front panel, and solid brushed aluminium panels. This is not simply shiny bling; it’s designed to retain the timeless styling for decades without tarnish or damage.