Great care has been taken in making sure the Model 175 is of a similar height to Reference Class products like the 069 CD player or 077 preamplifier, and that includes the baseplate. Although appearances can be deceptive here, because that baseplate is in fact a form of magnetic suspension, and the whole enormo-mass of the 175’s upper slopes float on a trio of magnets (all other relevant Burmester Home Audio products have four feet that sit in a conventional plinth/baseplate). This also allows a degree of levelling on less than level surfaces, but no-one in their right mind puts a £30,000 turntable on an uneven surface, would they? I guess that might be a test of the turnkey nature of the turntable, but somehow I think that misses the point.
That point is it’s an excellent turntable package that fits beautifully into the Burmester ‘ecosystem’ (and beyond) in looks but most importantly in sound. There’s an interesting aspect to the performance here; play something with a good, infectious beat like ‘Wake Up and Make Love with Me’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads [New Boots and Panties!! Stiff/Speakers Corner] as an opening gambit and it almost sounds slow. Come back to it two or three tracks later, and it’s bouncy and rhythmic and deep. This highlights the sophistication of the turntable because that depth of rhythm and sheer low-end retrival takes a time for your brain to process. If I came back to the track after a couple of pieces of music and it still sounded slow, I’d conclude it was because the deck sounded slow. Instead, it took some in-head processing cycles to acclimate to the bottom end energy and drive, which is an extremely good sign.
The overall character of the turntable is extremely easy to sit in front of. There’s a lot of high-frequency and low-frequency energy to be had; there’s a lot of mid-band detail, too, and yet none of this is thrown at you in a hard or aggressive manner, to the point where it almost sounds laid back at first. Like the bass performance, this takes some acclimatisation time, but this hurdle is overcome faster if you compare it to one of its digital stablemates in the Burmester Reference Line. It’s the effortlessness and naturalness of the products that seems to be a common design feature. Whether this is the way Burmester ‘voices’ its Reference Line, or it’s simply that the products are all designed to be the best they can be and that’s how the best sounds, I’ll leave up to you. For my part I think it’s a bit of both. That might not fit so snugly outside of the Burmester ecosystem, where bright and forward is the order of the day, but this effortless character does make for more comfortable listening than happens with the more pinched and forward designs.
What the Burmester 175 does extremely well is atmospheric, room filling swells, because it seems to play these with absolute precision and fidelity. ‘Rakim’ by the Dead Can Dance live album Toward The Within[4AD] is a perfect example of this; it’s a mini-maelstrom of sound, and should envelop the listener in a range of deep and impressive sounds from the musicians. Often, it just sounds like a overproduced, pretentious mess, but not here. That’s difficult to reproduce.
The Burmester’s ability with such tracks seems to come from a combination of two factors; the almost totally noise free phono signal chain (you could turn the amp up to 11 and use the cartridge as a microphone and still barely get above baseline electronics hiss - it’s that quiet) and its outstanding pitch stability. With the hidden belts and the rapid start-up, you’d be forgiven for thinking this a direct drive deck, and the precision of the speed control helps reinforce that thinking.
It also has the rare ability to not be musically troubled by surface noise, even the sort of surface noise that borders on track damage. Pops and clicks are still noticeable and unfortunate, but not as musically intrusive as some. I noticed this with a copy of Faure’s ‘Requiem’ [EMI] that I have and that has seen better days. The choir begins to get almost raspy due to track collapse, but this is masked in most turntables by the sound of bacon frying in the foreground from all the pops and crackles. The frying bacon sound hasn’t gone away, and neither has the raspy choir sound, but you can here ‘through’ them better. This perhaps does dovetail with the more effortless and relaxed upper midband of the 175, but whether this is ‘character’ or ‘accuracy’ remains difficult to say definitively. Certainly if you associate ‘accuracy’ with ‘clinical coolness’ this isn’t the turntable for you, but if you like a sound that is overly lush or rich, then the 175 is not the deck for you either.
There are so many aspects that this turntable does right, but perhaps what makes it most immediately recognisable as a top-notch turntable is its ability to force the listener to drink deep. Turning a piece of music off during play is not quite the travesty it can be with some systems, but you are perfectly happy to let one track drift into a whole side, and maybe reach for more. Don’t go to audition this with Yessongs!
Because this is a Burmester product there is one aspect of the design that some outside of the Burmester ecosystem might find an annoyance. It is a balanced-only output. This is actually an inherently ‘right’ idea on two fronts; Burmester products are designed as balanced products (they supply XLR-phono downmixing connectors for those with single-ended RCA products), and cartridges are an inherently balanced source. But there will be those almost militantly opposed to balanced connections and they will strike this from their list of options. More fool them!