We recently posted news about German audio expert Burmester and its ‘Key To Burmester’ industry-only factory tour. Invited media and trade could experience the company’s home and in-car audio and glimpse Burmester’s future. I was one of those attendees. While of academic interest, you might think a trade-only event is not the most exciting thing to discuss publicly.
However, the event was an interesting take on what the future holds for audio, for Burmester and beyond. I’ve divided the event into four key sections to highlight precisely ‘why’.
The Car Key to Burmester
Burmester isn’t the only audio specialist with an automotive division. It wasn’t the first to put audio equipment inside luxury cars. However, it has remained a partner with the same brands for years and has recently added Ferrari to its partnerships. So, Burmester is patently doing something ‘right’ in automotive audio engineering.
We had access to the sound systems of two examples of Burmester’s current in-car expertise. These systems were installed in a Porsche Taycan Turbo S and a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
The two are different, as befits different driving experiences. The Porsche sound is more immediate, punchy, and dynamic, with more slam and depth to the bass. The Maybach – and its sound system – are engineered for refinement. While the Maybach can do ‘punch’ and ‘loud’ well, the system’s forte is detail and precision. There is also a better sense of stereo soundstage in the Maybach’s rear seats.
Red cars go faster?
Basically, it’s a sonic reflection of the difference between a car you ‘drive’ and one where you are ‘driven’. This isn’t simply ‘red cars go faster’ style confirmation bias; it’s a design brief between the three manufacturers.
This was demonstrated when visiting the company’s in-car test facility during ‘Key To Burmester’. This featured a mid-range Mercedes tricked out with next-gen audio equipment in prototype form. The roadmap (pun intended) shows spatial audio systems becoming a major part of the next generations of automobiles. And this only happens thanks to long-standing cooperation with car marques.
Thanks to these cooperative ventures, car designers began to move away from limiting the options for audio companies. Loudspeaker drive unit numbers and placement can be more intelligently considered. The soundfield in the car is less of an afterthought and is integral in developing the vehicle’s interior. There is mutual respect for each other’s requirements and criteria.
The keys to the Burmester factory
Last year, Burmester decided to outsource manufacturing while redeveloping its factory floor. This was temporary, but Burmester engaged local manufacturers and ensured products were built to the company’s unstinting standards. The ‘Key To Burmester’ tour allowed us to see the factory just before it reopened. As I write this, Burmester is moving its production back to its Berlin home.
A key (another intended pun) element in the rebuilt factory is innovative workstation systems. High-end audio in all its guises has one thing in common… it’s heavy! Burmester products are no exception and lifting and turning products during their manufacture risks damage, both to the product being built and the spinal columns of those building that product. As seen at the ‘Key to Burmester’ presentation, it has installed clever workstation jigs and a powerful vacuum lifting system to counter this.
One worker can lift a product from its storage space to a dedicated building area. The same worker can gain easy, three-dimensional access to any systems they build or install. And the same worker can return that product to storage or soak testing. They do not need to call for backup to move or lift that product. The investment is significant and primarily to reduce the risks to Burmester’s expert building team. However, it also brings a more 21st-century approach to manufacturing, which easily applies to product design.
From the outside, this might seem like nothing more than a small, in-house change in build practices. This kind of manufacturing system is key (that word again) to the next generation of Burmester audio equipment.
The keys to Burmester’s audio equipment
At this year’s Munich High-End, Burmester showed a prototype of its new 232 integrated amplifier. Part of the company’s Classic Line, the 232 has a new look, a new rotary encoder, and new circuitry. Those who tried it love the encoder that changes its haptics depending on its use at that time. This amp has cleaner lines than previous models but retains a distinctly Burmester identity. Equally importantly, the 232 bristles with new circuit designs.
The 232 uses the company’s new Single Board Computer module, which guarantees connectivity to the sources of today and tomorrow. This provides a logic-driven command and control system for preamplification. Additionally, it uses a Class A/B power amp stage, power supply, and transformer, all operating in dual mono. The 232 is also the biggest change to Burmester home audio electronics in the company’s long history.
Not your typical German
Here’s why. The man whose name these products carry was unique. Dieter Burmester was nothing like the stereotype of a German engineer. But, when it came to audio equipment, he was a traditionalist. Every product was delineated until 232. The idea of a ‘streaming DAC preamp’ would be anathema to Dieter… that’s three products, not one! But the audio world has changed immeasurably recently, and what proved popular a decade ago doesn’t ‘cut it’ today.
The 232 reflects that change in audio buying trends. It has two optional modules for phono and a built-in DAC, already a bold departure for Burmester amplifiers. In connectivity terms, it’s more “the answer is ‘yes’, now what was the question?” than any existing Burmester design. The styling, technology, and connectivity of the 232 will very likely define subsequent products from the brand.
The key to bespoke
Burmester’s fruitful connections with like-minded brands beyond the audio world are paying off unexpectedly. At ‘Key To Burmester’ the company introduced a bespoke service and showed samples of this using collaboration with various partners. Perhaps the best-known of these (outside the automotive tie-ins) is its work with the German silversmith Robbe & Berking. Building loudspeakers with silver baffles and – in one case – the deck of a Sterling Cup-winning yacht can be possible. And that’s just the start.
Alongside Robbe & Berking, the company has teamed up with the sans pareil of German manufacturing. These are pre-eminent companies in their respective fields. This is more than simply ‘a talking shop’ as they regularly interact and discuss continual improvement. This spirit of ‘cooperative competition’ is hard to imagine happening anywhere else but seems like the German way of doing things!
The key to a conclusion
A while ago, having released no new audio products for years, I feared for Burmester’s future. That fear is gone. Instead, Burmester now represents a template for high-end audio success.
Sure, these are the edited highlights of Burmester. The company featured its mighty 159 mono power amplifier from the Signature Line. An amplifier that uses copper bars as conductors and delivers enough power to jump-start a Boeing never fails to impress. And yes, there was wining and dining. But we were also privy to new product designs and concepts that will form the next decade of Burmester. And no, those new designs aren’t for sharing… yet.
What we came away from after two days in Berlin is a sense of a company shifting gears. Burmester is a company in change but not leaving its core values behind.
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