The dominant impression that the Brinkmann equipment conveyed was of a sumptuous but never bloated sound. Dynamics were superb. On Mavis Staples’ album One True Vine [ANTI-Records], the drums and bass boasted real kick. Throughout, the Brinkmann gear handled the bass region extremely well, revealing nuances that other equipment sometimes skate over. On a Leonard Bernstein recording of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 with the Vienna Philharmonic, I was bowled over by the texture of the doublebasses at the start of the first movement. Whether listening to solo piano or trumpet, it became obvious that this Teutonic gear wants to woo you, not bludgeon you over the head, with its swagger. Highs were slightly on the darker side, but this helped create a burnished sound.
This came home to me most vividly in listening to the Edison phonostage, which brings us to the heart of the Brinkmann enterprise, namely, vinyl. I listened to the Edison both through the Brinkmann and Ypsilon Silver PST-100 preamps. I found it most useful to isolate its sound by using the familiar Ypsilon. This afforded me the opportunity to hear exactly what it was—and was not—doing as it amplified the tiny signal from my Continuum Caliburn turntable and Swedish Analog Technologies reference CF1 tonearm via the Lyra Atlas SL and Miyajima Infinity mono cartridges.
The phonostage is quite flexible, allowing you to switch the transformers in and out of the circuit to boost the signal from moving-coil cartridges before the amplification stage. On stereo records I found the transformer to be indispensable. On mono records not so much. Many of the mono records from my jazz collection simply sounded incredible on the Brinkmann. Take the album Li’l Ol’ Groovemaker….Basie! The drums were set back far in the rear of the soundstage while the brass choirs came screaming out with what seemed like unprecedented ferocity in my system on cuts like “Nasty Magnus.” Basie apparently told Quincy Jones after the first run-through, “You ought to have written four of these, Quincy! That’s wailin’!” Indeed. Sonny Payne’s drums had visceral impact as the orchestra blasted out a series of crescendos.
Then there was the marvelous 1954 Norgran LP The Artistry of Buddy DeFranco. The interplay between DeFranco and the pianist Sonny Clark, who died in 1963 at the age of 31 and cut a number of solo albums for Blue Note including the classic Cool Struttin’, on songs such as “You Go To My Head” had a visceral palpability to it. The Edison finely rendered Clarke’s assured piano playing while capturing DeFranco’s lambent tone. It was simplicity itself to follow their exchange of musical ideas. The sound was so spectacular that it prompted me to whip out a bunch of other mono albums. It’s always salutary to return to mono records, which have their own weighty sound that can often elude later, supposedly superior stereo recordings. I’ve found that this is so particularly in the bass region. I thus much enjoyed listening to Red Garland’s Prestige album All Kinds of Weather, which features the legendary Paul Chambers on bass. The Edison provided a rock-solid rendition of this trio, the best I’ve hitherto heard.
In waxing eloquent over mono recordings that I’ve accumulated over the years, I hardly mean to scant stereo. The sheer artistry that the Edison conveyed on the Philips recording The Delectable Elly Ameling was a combination of the sublime and the beautiful. On Mozart’s wonderful motet Exsultate, Jubilate, which he composed in 1773, the Edison tracked every syllable, every quaver, every trill that Ameling enunciated during her ravishing performance. It nailed the antiphonal effects between Ameling and the oboe as she sang “Hallelujah.” Once more, there wasn’t a trace of sibilance or harshness. Instead, the Brinkmann delivered a posh, upholstered sound that was quite delectable. Actually, I should say breathtaking. On the Bach “Floesst, mein Heiland, floesst dein Namen,” the interchanges between Ameling, two oboes, and chorus reach an exalted level. Listening to such works made me think of the eighteenth century German writer Friedrich Schiller’s famous distinction between naïve and sentimental poetry—the former being the natural state that we aspire to but can no longer achieve. In sonic terms, Brinkmann, you could say, tries to bridge the gap.
When contrasted with much more expensive equipment from CH Precision, Boulder, and Ypsilon, the Brinkmann gear doesn’t quite have their magnanimity of sound, grip, and airiness. CH Precision produces a cavernous black space that seems unrivaled. Boulder has a degree of control that is unique to it. And Ypsilon lights up the soundstage. But Brinkmann comes remarkably close and has its own set of virtues. It has a dynamism and smooth continuity that are immensely beguiling. It represents formidable German engineering allied to a profound sense of musicality that will be difficult for most listeners to resist.
Specs & Pricing
Nyquist Mk II DAC
Features: Digital module upgradable, separate converters for PCM and DSD, remote control
Inputs: USB 2.0, SPDIF, AES/EBU, TosLink, RJ45 Ethernet
Streaming support: DLNA, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, vTuner, and Roon
Formats: MQA, PCM up to 384kHz (DXD), DSD 64, DSD128 via DoP, DSD256 native
Gain: 0 to +10dB
Output voltage: Maximum 3.5V eff.
Output impedance:10 ohms balanced
Headphone output: 30–600 ohms
Dimensions: 420 x 95 x 310mm (DAC with granite base); 120 x 80 x 160mm (power supply)
Weight: DAC, 12kg; granite base, 12kg; power supply, 3.2kg
Edison, Mk II Phonostage
Features: Switches for input transformer, mono/stereo, phase invert, remote control, input impedance and gain individually adjustable for each input
Inputs: Three total (two RCA/XLR, one RCA)
Gain: Adjustable (in 16 steps) from 49dB to 73dB
Input impedance: Adjustable (in 12 steps) from 50 ohms to 47k ohms
Output voltage: Maximum ± 8V balanced
Output impedance: 1k ohm balanced
Dimensions: 420 x 95 x 310mm (phonostage with granite base); 120 x 80 x 160mm (power supply)
Weight: Edison, 12kg; granite base, 12kg; power supply, 3.2kg
Marconi, Mk II Linestage
Features: Gain trim for each input, phase/invert switch, remote control
Inputs: Four single-ended, two balanced
Output voltage: Maximum ± 12V balanced
Input impedance: 20k ohms, balanced and single-ended
Output impedance: < 0.1 ohms balanced
Dimensions: 420 x 95 x 310mm (linestage with granite base); 120 x 80 x 160mm (power supply)
Weight: Linestage, 12kg; granite base, 12kg; power supply 3.2kg
SOUND & VISION (U.S. Representative)
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Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey 07677