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Brinkmann’s never ending search for the perfect illusion  

Some say that perfect music playback is an illusion. Helmut Brinkmann however, leaves nothing to chance as he works on perfecting this illusion, thus making music playback as real as possible.  

 

Welcome to the world of Brinkmann high performance audio components. Curious, are you familiar with the term “High Fidelity”? No, we are not talking about Nick Hornby’s novel, the cult-classic film adaptation or the movie soundtrack (although all three are highly recommended). We are strictly referencing the ideal of perfect music playback, in essence making it indistinguishable from the original. For Brinkmann, “High Fidelity” stands as the ultimate pinnacle of achievable sound reproduction. Simply put, there is nothing better than “High Fidelity”: after all, a facsimile can never sound better than the original.  

 

Having said that, we caution you not to be confused by the use of such marketing terms as “High-End”; “State of the Art” or “Ultra-Fi”: these terms simply stand only for what is currently technically feasible. Actually, you will be surprised to hear that one of the more funny oxymoron’s in music playback history is the so called “Hi-Fi Norm, DIN 45500 (German industry standard term)” standard. This “standard” which dates back decades is the ultimate proof that it has nothing in common with what is technically possible. Alas, let that be subject of a discussion for another day.  

 

So, let’s examine true “High Fidelity”: placing your favorite recording of say “Ella and Louis” on your turntable, you lean back in the comfort of your chair and close your eyes. Suddenly, Ella and Louis appear before you, in full Technicolor 3D sound. When the duet of “Potatoes” and “Potatos” comes along, you not only hear all its nuances and marvels, you quite literally see Ella and Louis perform before you, even though you know that this is only an illusion as both Ella and Louis have long since passed away. When you open your eyes however, all you see are your loudspeakers. “High Fidelity” is a perfect illusion and High Fidelity remains our ultimate goal, even though we know that we will never reach it, as illusions aren’t real. Fortunately for us then, we appear to be pretty close to that goal, as professionals in the audio industry tell us on a regular basis. At Brinkmann we leave nothing untried, no detail overlooked in our quest to keep improving music playback, therefore making it that much more real.  

 

 

 

How concerned is Helmut Brinkmann with perfection? Consider that as part of his daily grind, he listens to such details as even the sound of a single, tiny screw.  

 

It is common knowledge that everything impacts the quality of sound one way or another. Thus, if we can hear these sonic influences, we must therefore accept them as real, even though sometimes we can’t quite scientifically measure them (not yet anyway).  

 

Each component, regardless of whether it is a turntable or amplifier, has a predetermined function. A well-designed component defines simplicity by concentrating on only the most necessary elements to function properly. Nothing that isn’t absolutely necessary is left out. As we noted earlier, each part of a component imparts a sonic signature on the rest of the system, including even the tiniest of screws.  

 

One day, as Helmut Brinkmann was looking through his microscope, he noticed the cantilever mount on an EMT cartridge being adjusted by several tiny M1 steel screws (see picture lower left). He then asked himself the question whether a magnetic material closely surrounded by such powerful magnets was really that clever of a design idea. One by one he replaced each one of these tiny M1 steel screws with ones made of brass, nylon, aluminum, titanium and many other even more exotic materials. Next, he spent countless weeks performing critical listening tests. As the listening sessions progressed, he became more and more astounded by just how much sound quality changed as he replaced such a seemingly trivial design elements. After all, each of these tiny screws measures just a mere 1 x 2 mm! At the end of his exhaustive research, he concluded that the sound resembled the original most closely when only one of three screws were replaced by a model manufactured of titanium. (By no means is this example a one-off experience: in the end, perfect music playback is a careful optimization process that involves 0.1% inspiration and 99.9% perspiration. As they say, for “High Fidelity” to truly shine, you need patience, diligence, more patience, a dash of tenacity and of course even more patience – not to mention many tiny M1 type screws made of super exotic materials).  

 

 

Behind Brinkmann (the logo), stands Brinkmann (the man).  

 

“You can design a technical apparatus differently, but not better”. We were both happy and yet anxious by this praise phrase of a renowned audio publication: have we reached the end? Is it really impossible to further improve upon our level of performance?  

 

Brinkmann doesn’t build according to cost optimized manufacturing processes. Instead, Brinkmann components are all hand made. Prior to delivery, Helmut Brinkmann personally scrutinizes each and every component, making sure that every piece works and functions exactly as intended. Only this level of rigorous quality control assures our clients that we are completely satisfied with the level of performance of our – admittedly very high – standards. Don’t let the term “handmade” fool you however; of course we don’t really manufacture anything with our bare hands. Instead, our facilities utilize only the finest and most modern high performance CNC machines and tools available today, which enable us to deliver precision products impossible only a few short years ago. This level of precision is of utmost importance to us, as it allows us to build our components to the exact tolerances and specifications we have identified during painstaking listening sessions and product evaluations. As we then begin to assemble each of the parts by hand (as opposed to mass manufacturing on an assembly line) and turn them into amplifiers, tonearms and turntables, we can eliminate any compromises from the equation. Through this process we can leave assembly line optimizations to others and instead focus on optimal sound quality and perfect execution. The longevity of our product line is a direct result from our careful and complete attention to every (tiny) detail – after all, it is our (and our customer’s) belief that once a Brinkmann component is made, it should ideally never return to our factory for defects. Naturally, the price one pays for this level of performance isn’t cheap, even though in absolute audio terms the price we charge for our components can actually be considered somewhat of a bargain, especially considering our sonic qualities and manufacturing processes. Ultimately, we vouch for this with our name; as we said earlier: behind Brinkmann the logo stands (firmly!) Brinkmann the man.  

 

 

Brinkmann’s art of extracting the most colorful soundscapes from black vinyl.  

 

Despite continued advances in digital playback, the vinyl record (in spite of it’s limitations) remains the foremost important music format in the world and this is also especially true for Brinkmann.  

 

Proper vinyl playback is an exceedingly delicate and massively complex undertaking. Consider that even the largest undulations in the record’s groove produce only the tiniest of signals, measuring at most a thousandth of a volt. Most importantly, in addition to producing only tiny amounts of voltage, tracing these grooves produces all sorts of unwanted vibrations. If left unattended, these vibrations add a layer of noise over the already miniscule and fragile signal. As good as a cantilever is at tracing groove undulations more or less accurately, it unfortunately also tends to convert all sorts of other external influencers such as motor and bearing noise into electrical voltage as well. As records are cut at precisely 331/3 revolutions per minute, they must therefore also be played back at exactly the same speed, otherwise pitch will be off. This explains the most important requirements for proper playback:  

 

— accurate and consistent speed  

— gentle, yet accurate groove tracing  

— high level of immunity from external and internal vibrations  

— low friction of platter and tonearm bearings  

 

All is easier said than done however, precisely because the groove’s undulations, peaks and valleys are so tiny and miniscule in size. Brinkmann offers a complete lineup of analog playback equipment consisting of various disc drives “turntables”, tonearms and phono cartridges. Alternatively, you can use components from other manufacturers. As is often the case however, the sum of all our parts working together in harmony is greater than each individual component. Besides, you would be missing the whole Brinkmann experience in first place.  

 

 

 

Brinkmann amplifiers and the secret to musical sounding electrons.  

 

Mechanics and electronics have more in common than meets the eye. On one hand, electronics play a major role in our mechanical components (the MOS-Fet bearing heater for example, or the difference between our tube and solid state disc drive power supply), on the other hand, electronic components are heavily impacted by mechanical resonances. In order for a designer to build reference quality audio components, he therefore must have a thorough understanding of not only circuit design but also mechanical systems and engineering.  

 

Perfect music playback isn’t merely a product of accidental discoveries: truth is that in reality it constitutes countless hours of careful optimizations throughout the system chain. For example, each capacitor is carefully auditioned prior to use; as a result, we sample products and components (even PCB boards and solder iron) from many different suppliers in order to pick the best one suitable for the application. Through carefully conducted listening sessions we also discovered that even the most trivial of components such as the different industrial ceramics we use impact the overall sound quality one way or the other. You see, during the sintering process of metal oxides, ceramic becomes very sensitive which results in high frequency distortions. Unfortunately, you can’t quite do without ceramics as it is a key element in resistors, capacitors, switches, potentiometers, tube sockets and many other components. Based on our findings, we therefore try to limit use of these types of sound impairing components to a minimum. We are excited to offer our range of pre-, power and integrated amplifiers, which cover a wide range of musical tastes and applications. 

 

Last update 07.12.2018
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