By Keijo Tanskanen
First class engineering and finish!
Some High-End vendors have got more attention and reputation than others. Burmester has always launched respectable products which undeniably belong to the high-end. Although Burmester has been around for a long time we haven’t had an importer here in Finland, until last year Hifiguru added Burmester to their product assortment. Surely this brand is worth importing and even more importantly, well worth listening to.
Burmester 995 MK III is a relatively small three way speaker with a very sturdy cabinet. When I knocked on the cabinet with my finger there were no signs of acoustic resonances. I heard only dead-like “knock”. That is always a good sign of cabinet quality. The standard cabinet finishes are elsberry, silver/laminate, black high-gloss lacquer, high-gloss silver and macassar. The custom finishes are available on separate request. The front plates are optional for some reason, but correspondingly there are bi-wiring terminals on the backside of the speaker.
The 995 MK III has custom made and computer-matched drivers for perfect mating. The woofer and midrange drivers have quite traditional constructions but the tweeter deserves more attention. The Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is an audio transducer invented by Dr. Oskar Heil. The AMT moves air in an augmented, semi-perpendicular motion using a folded sheet (made of Polyethylene, Mylar or Kapton), structured around a series of aluminum struts positioned in a high intensity magnetic field. Although it is possible to operate the diaphragm without the magnetic field using piezoelectric technology, this method is rarely employed. Burmester does not reveal any details about their tweeter, only AMT is mentioned.
The highest power rating recommendation for the 995 MK III is 85 watts. I don’t know if the limit comes from the elements or crossover or from both of them. Anyway, 85 watts is not much but practically enough for normal listening sessions. Personally I have no interest in testing the power handling abilities during the sessions. Occasionally I may listen loud but never with earth shaking and ear damaging powers.
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Placing the speakers
The listening room was 45 square meters with partial acoustic treatment. The speakers were placed 3,6 meters apart and the distance to the listening chair was approximately 4,2 meters. The speakers’ fronts were about 2,3 meters from the front wall and 1,6 meters from the side walls. I didn’t try to change locations significantly because there was no space for that. The speaker pair we used was burned in some tens of hours although Burmester advertises that their speakers are already burned-in.
I also began this session with live rock music (Pink Floyd’s The Wall Live, Emi 5240752 and Frank Marino’s Live, Axe Killer 3065028). The music immediately had a lot of live-like dynamics and sharpness which I positively registered. At the same time I noticed the sonic images of the bands to be lower than they have used to be. So, the vertical soundstaging must be slightly restricted. The bass was unbelievably good and plentiful. Honestly, I had to verify that all the sound came from the 995 MK III and not from the subwoofer. The listening room was 45 square meters and there was no lack of bass! That was quite an achievement. I also listened carefully to the vocals and guitars and noticed that they were a bit further back than the other instruments, not crucially but noticeably. On the other hand all the transients from the guitar strings were excellently produced.
When I listened to jazz I became even more surprised. Diana Krall’s voice and piano (Love Scenes, IMP 12342) was very realistic. Because this CD has been mastered with Diana’s voice very immediate and close, the previously noticed balance “lack” did not disturb me at all. George Duke’s After Hours (WB 947073) gave nice results as well; especially the dynamics were surprisingly good. Both records also sound very unconstrained which helps to get the feet tapping. With knowledge of these apparent strengths, I can really imagine that these speakers could be showstoppers as well. Only a deeper and more careful investigation reveals that some natural and forced compromises have been made. On the whole those jazz sessions were very good without any trials to find the power handling limits of the speakers, but when I adjusted the volume closer to the limits, the usual loss of control and accuracy began slightly to disturb the listening experience.
I think that well made classical music recordings are the best sources for evaluating focus and soundstaging. I’ve noticed that if the classical orchestra music works well in some system the live rock music will do that as well. I used Burmester´s excellent test CD III and Reference Records’ marvellous Respighi (RR-95 CD) - actually the Burmester test CD includes a wide variety of music, not only classical pieces. Both CD´s gave nice results with an excellent amount of speed and very good control. On the other hand the sound was slightly crisp and lacked the last bit of right tonal balance. Also the single instruments of the orchestra were less focused than they usually are in my reference systems. For example the location of the big drum in Respighi’s War Dance was generally in the right direction but missed the promptness. The soundstaging notifications which I made before were verified as well and some space was missing. Despite those slight flaws the results were respectable when the price of the speakers was taken into account.
Balance: Quite neutral. The 995 MK III had a very slight loudness phenomenon which actually suits well for some recordings. Some vocals and guitars were slightly pushed backwards.
Resolution: Excellent resolution. For example all the low level string tones were very easy to pick up.
Transparency: Excellent overall presentation, but the midrange seemed to be slightly veiled with certain music samples. I think the frequency balance may be the one to blame.
Treble: The treble was very good and clean but sometimes slightly forward and with a hint of extra sibilance.
Midrange: The midrange is slightly bipartite. On one hand it offers very nice results, for example when the music samples include female vocals. On the other hand some male vocals and guitars were a bit veiled and recessed.
Bass: The bass was a very positive surprise. I never expected this kind of presentation from such a small speaker, which the 995 MK III is at the end of the day. The bass easily filled the 45 square meters room! The quality was excellent (given its limits) as well although the very lowest frequencies were unreachable.
Dynamics: Excellent if the speakers used within their power handling limits. The lower register really surprised.
Spatial information: The overall presentation was very good but the vertical dimensions seemed to be restricted.
The Burmester 995 MK III is a high-end speaker from top to toe. It offers excellent resolution, dynamics, speed and purity if the power handling limits are not exceeded. The strengths of this speaker are easily comparable to even more expensive speakers like the Audio Physic Avanti V. For example some of the low level information is extremely easy to catch with these speakers; sometimes I had even a feeling that 995 IIIs slightly overdose on certain details. The bass region of 995 MK III is also excellent but needs to be driven within its limits which is evident from the power rating specs.
On the other hand the neutrality and soundstaging features do not quite reach the highest levels, at least not in this setup. I verified my notifications by a direct comparison with the Acapella Fidelio IIs which actually happens to be one of the best mini monitors available. On one hand Fidelio IIs are a bit more airy and accurate and paint a bigger sonic picture but on the other hand they are clearly behind the 995s in terms of bass extension. I’ve also had several long sessions in my friend’s listening room where the Burmester B-100s stand proudly. The B-100 is a superior speaker at the frequency extremes, as well as regarding neutrality and cleanness. Naturally the 995 MK III couldn’t produce that kind of presentation.
Anyway, Burmester has managed to develop a pure high-end speaker at a fairly affordable price. The 995 MK IIIs clearly have a nature of their own which includes some surprises in their impressiveness: They have much bigger and fuller sound features than their size would let you assume They’ll offer also several technical features which unquestionably give a base for the excellent sound production, and besides that they’ll give some extra confidence to their owners as well. I think that’s a lot from such a tiny high-end floorstander.
Floorstanding 3 way bass
Tweeter: JET (Air Motion Transformer)
Mid-range driver: 130 mm Kevlar cone
Woofers: 2 x 170 mm aluminium cone woofer, double ventilated coil
Height: 950 mm; Width: 210 mm; Depth: 297 mm
Weight: 23 kg
Power rating: 85 W
Frequency response: 45Hz-26kHz (-3 dB)
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Impedance: 4 ohms
Price: 7600 € in Finland
CD player: Burmester 052
Stereo AMP: Burmester 051
Interconnects: Transparent Music Link Super Balanced
Speaker cables: Transparent Music Wave Plus
Power Filter: Burmester 948
Power cords: Transparent Power Link Super