Of course, this becomes idle philosophical noodling if the turntable system itself isn’t up to the mark, but the 175 more than fits that bill. It joins the company’s new Reference Line products, putting it at the top of the Burmester Home Audio line-up, keeping company with some of the greats of the audio busines, including the 069 CD player, the 111 Musiccenter, and the evergreen 808 Mk5 preamp. As discussed earlier, it’s also Burmester’s first turntable in its 41 year-long history. Conspiracy theorists will doubtless jump to conclusions about the first ever turntable happening after Dieter Burmester’s death, but the 175 was already a design project at the time of his passing.
The first thing to note is the 175 is deceptively heavy. Rogue osteopaths and physiotherapists could use one to drum up business (“Could you just lift that up?” and thinking it weighs about 20kg, the almost 60kg of the complete package will leave bits of you bulging in places they really should not bulge). A good part of that is the platter itself, which consists of two layers of aluminium with a layer of solid brass in a sandwich construction. This was designed from the outset to deliver optimal damping and less resultant resonance in the process. The bitumen coating on the reverse of the platter and the three-leathers mat increase the damping properties even further. The platter is extraordinarily heavy; if it were any massier, light would not escape its clutches. And that kind of high mass puts strain on the sub-platter and bearing unless it is of a suitably high grade of engineering excellence. Of course this is Burmester we’re talking about so that ‘high grade of engineering excellence’ comes as standard, so the conical sub-platter is equally substantial (its conical shape allows easy mounting, precise centring and excellent concentricity... it’s funny how the ability to be good at being ‘round’ might come in handy for a record platter) and the bearing is designed to be maintenance-free for life.
The 175 turntable is driven by four motors located in the outer square around the sub-platter. This is similar to the layout deployed by the Kuzma XL4 before the company went to DC motors. In this case, however, the belt arrangement is hidden from view. The reason for four motors (aside from providing the torque needed to turn a massive platter) is to prevent any kind of irregular tension on the bearing. This tension won’t shorten the life of the bearing (OK, it might have meant some far off future race – like the Morlocks or the Eloi from HG Wells’ The Time Machine– could have found the bearing was running a bit ‘ticky’ but in reality the bearing will probably outlive the great-great-grandchildren of anyone reading this) but might have some influence on ultimate speed stability. Multiple belts and motors shortens the ramp-up time and improves synchronisation, too. This simultaneously results in an improved sound and a fast starting time for the drive.
The 175’s four AC synchronous motors are driven by digital motor electronics in the turntable itself under the motors, which use a high-precision oscillator to deliver high-quality sine voltages. The electronics are therfore both immune to fluctuations in the mains voltage frequency, and away from the delicate signals of the cartridge and the equally delicate electronics in the phono stage. Due to the seemingly high level of efficiency of the electronics, driver stages, and motors, the entire unit remains cool and free from heat-related impairments.
Moving across to the arm, this is no off-the-shelf affair. Instead, it’s a nine-inch, cardanic mounted tone-arm with a carbon-aluminium composite armtube, with a gimballed bearing in the form of a hybrid of steel and ceramic. Although the arm uses the a conventional counterweight, the anti-skating is gradually adjustable via control knob. This is all preset as standard to match the supplied cartridge. This moving coil design is tightly specified by Burmester, is housed in aluminium, which also helps match the rest of the design, and is supplied installed.
The 175 is designed as a turnkey table, which Burmester calls an “active” turntable, which means it has a built-in phono stage. At the outset, in early prototype form, that inserted phono stage was a Model 100. The one in the production model is more of a distillation of what’s best on a Model 100 for the typical user. This means the very small signals from the pick-up to be gently amplified after the shortest possible path. We’re talking a little less than 30cm from cartridge tag to phono stage. This phono stage contains all ‘the good bits’ from the Model 100 (i.e., almost everything except the on-board MM phono circuit, A-D converter, and the VU meter) and these have been optimised for use inside the 175 and allow external voltage values at a superior level. If you decide to move away from the supplied cartridge, the phono stage is designed for moving coil only and is adjustable for load (this is one of the few immediately visible changes to the production model from the prototype shown at Munich ‘17 – the phono stage controls were on the front panel and arenow moved to the rear of the deck).