The art of compromise
Burmester B18 is such a pair of speakers that satisfy both eyes and ears.
Since it is not common to get both in a bag and a sack, you often have to bite your teeth together and accept that you can not get everything.
Compromises are sometimes hard to swallow. Not even when you have spent a considerable amount. The perfect does not exist, but the perfect compromise can be a good substitute.
The sleek floor-standing speakers from German Burmester, look as if they are designed for a minimally decorated, modern home where knick-knacks and applied art do not exist. A tight, slim design, which testifies that you have made an effort to make a speaker that appeals to people with a well-developed aesthetic sense.
It has given the Burmester B18 not only an appealing appearance, but a small footprint, and location-friendly proportions. These can be pushed into the wall, without getting too much bass, and thus achieve a relatively discreet placement of the speakers.
Especially if you choose white speakers. Then they go almost in one with the white back wall.
The speakers measure just 105 cm, but are only 20 cm wide. They are more compact, but cost almost the same as the Audiovector SR6 Signature, Sonus faber Olympica III and Dynaudio Contour 60. To name three very good floor standing speakers in the same class.
The wood in the Sonus-faber speakers is beautifully executed, but it is a speaker that thrives best in a carefully measured layout. Preferably a little out on the floor, to perform their best. The tall Audiovectors do not give the same feeling of luxury, but can be placed close to the back wall without any problems. It can not Contour 60 which is demanding both to operate and to place.
Thus, the B18 can seem like an interesting alternative, for those who want a pair of placement-friendly high-end speakers, which do not compromise too much with the sound quality.
The cabinet is available in glossy wood veneer, macassar, light or dark walnut and in white.
The speakers are handmade, and the workmanship is excellent in all respects. The five mm thick aluminum front – available in black – which covers the upper part of the 43 mm thick front, is perfectly integrated in the lower part of the front plate, which is 48 mm thick.
All screws are submerged and the cover plate of the crossover filter is level with the back plate.
In addition to a couple of powerful cable terminals, there is a small switch to dampen or raise the bass level, depending on whether the speakers are next to the wall or further out on the parquet.
The aluminum base is connected to the cabinet with damping material in between and a solid steel plate above to dampen vibrations to the floor.
It may look like they are three-way, or at least two-way, since there are three elements on the front. The truth is that the speaker is designed as a 2 1/2 way model. With a 17 cm midrange equipped with a fiberglass membrane, and a 28 mm large ring tweeter in a closed cabinet, while the third element – also the 17 cm with fiberglass, acts as a bass element in a bass reflex cabinet. If bass ports can actually be dampened with foam plugs if you get too much bass.
The two 17 cm large elements overlap each other slightly, and are divided around 400 Hz, while the treble takes over for the middle element at 3200 Hz. With 4 ohm load impedance and 88 dB sensitivity, they are moderately easy to drive for a powerful amplifier.
Dynamic contrast and warm sound
I would recommend choosing an amplifier that does not get shortness of breath at low resistance, because the impedance can drop a bit in the bass (below 4 ohms) when you tilt the bass switch, and suck more power from the amplifier.
The speakers work beyond expectations when placed near the back wall. The scale shrinks slightly, but do not pull them more than 30 cm out of the wall before it grows noticeably.
Burmester states 42 as the lower effective bass frequency, but in practice it seems as if they actually go deeper than that. Don’t get me wrong, they do not go deep into the bass. You have to get real deep bass with a subwoofer, but I feel sure that most people will find the bass reproduction from B18 more than sufficient depth.
At least it is tight and generous at the same time. The bass track on Portrait Of A Silence from Paul Bley’s album In The Evenings Out There (ECM), sounds seriously fat with an almost nauseating bass when you turn up the volume. Flip the bass switch to minus, and the bass is slightly dampened, but at the same time it becomes even tighter without losing any of its definitional ability.
The speakers often play loud, thankfully the balance is full enough, and the treble controlled enough that the sound never gets loud or screaming.
The sound balance is pleasantly warm without feeling like wool. For the richness of detail in Radiohead’s album Hail to the Thief, is enormously present in the room via the speakers. On Sit Down, Stand up, the details flood in cascades from the speakers. Which presents the music with exceptionally good depth, where the music is reproduced in several layers.
The next track, Sail to the Moon, has a much deeper soundtrack and here you can see how well damped the solid cabinet is. The deep sound of the piano, the bass and the generally dark atmosphere on the track, immediately fills the room and creates a completely different atmosphere than on the previous track.
Classical music is just as demanding. Hector Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, is a literally sparkling example. Here, the speakers easily manage to tour the complex dynamic contrasts, and the gradually quite massive flow of dynamic passages that are demanding enough even for heavy speakers.
The dynamic contrast in the lower octaves is a bit better in the Contour 60, and the treble is more airy in a pair of Audiovectors with a band treble, but the combination of sound balance, bass range, transparency and ease of placement, is unsurpassed in the Burmester B18.
In this class, the Burmester B18 is a brilliant compromise. It combines an appealing design with placement-friendly dimensions, with excellent well-balanced sound. For a high-end speaker below the magic limit of $ 100,000, there are many options, but few of them are as successful on as many parameters as these.