Burmester has, for most of its forty-plus years, been widely acknowledged as one of the pure-bred members of the High-Fidelity Royal Family. This reputation has helped gain its enviable position and brand recognition – lest we forget, it’s the top tier audio option in automobiles manufactured by fellow Teutonic Titans, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. However, there is far too much commitment to its home audio roots and the original vision of the late com pany founder, Dieter Burmester (1946–2015) for its concentration to veer too wide of the goalposts. Indeed, it remains probably the only audio company of its stature to be 100% privately owned by the family of the founder.
This solid and untarnished reputation has been firmly established largely on the grounds of their impeccably designed, robustly built and muscular sounding audio electronics. Despite this somewhat (in)accurate perception, throughout much of the company’s tenure at the top of the audio game it has consistently designed, manufactured and introduced loudspeakers – many examples of which were/are very fine indeed, as a profusion of customers around the globe will testify.
However, like many who have been around the block a bit in the audio game, I am loaded with preconceptions that were perhaps cemented in place years ago, and – in reality – deserve to stay in the past. So it is with Burmester loudspeakers; I couldn’t help feeling that every Burmester loudspeaker will have a treble, midrange, and bass that are impressive but unconnected. Every time I hear one, I realise that prejudice is (was) rooted in the listener (me), not the loudspeaker. There’s a salutary lesson worth learning here, and not just in evaluating loudspeakers. And there’s no better example of this lesson than the brand-newest design from Burmester Audiosysteme, Berlin in the form of the B38.
The latest loudspeaker in the ‘B’ range (there exists the smaller B18 floorstander and B10 standmount), this is one of those products that when seen in the flesh bears little resemblance to the impression given on paper. What first strikes you about this design is the significant presence of it, yet its ability to almost ’hide’ in the room once you’re in front of it. This is due to the combination of a relatively slim profile hiding a speaker of physical depth and substance with a simplistic yet highly attractive physical appearance. There are deliberately no monster-neck bolts or screws visible whatsoever and the dark contrast finish of our pair results in both a classy and decidedly inoffensive exterior. You know immediately by the robust build quality, depth and height that it’s firmly in the ‘serious loudspeaker’ category yet remains understated and room-friendly – as long as the room is medium-to-large, of course. It may not be the ideal choice for your average shoebox central London studio dwelling, for example. Although not huge in stature (in high-end terms), each one weighs in at 51kg, with a depth of 460mm, a slim width of 210mm and a not-insignificant looking height of 1165mm.
This height brings into focus one of the contributing technological factors of the B36. When sitting in a listening position, you notice that the height is somewhat taller than expected. This, again, is, of course, a deliberate decision and results in that impressive, highly desired ‘height’ of sound scale reminiscent of larger high-end speakers. To avoid it being disproportionately high, the AMT (Air-Motion Transformer) tweeter, favoured by Burmester’s top-end ‘speakers for many years, in this case, deploys a lower horizontal directivity to compensate for the overall cabinet height and to result in a wide (impressively so) sound stage. Also, in another first, this AMT unit was designed in collaboration with Burmester to employ a folded diaphragm in the centre of a very strong magnetic field. This conception was created to result in increased detail and transparency to combine with the wide staging of the directivity.
Further down the frequency range, we find a front-firing low/midrange unit that was again explicitly designed for – and with – Burmester. This is a 170mm unit with a fibre-glass membrane conceived for very fast attack and delay times and sonic clarity. This is partnered in each cabinet by an impressively sized 320mm side-firing bass drive unit, designed to be inward-facing. This is a long-throw but rigid woofer with a paper sandwich construction utilising a very large neodymium magnet.