What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 12 Nov 2013, 11:47am

Burmester 069

Tested at £35840
100100
5

The best CD player money can buy? Quite possibly, we haven’t heard anything better

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For

  • A sweet, refined yet still exciting sound
  • Class-leading composure
  • Excellent detail
  • Exceptional build and finish

Against

  • No USB input
  • DAC limited to 24-bit/96kHz replay
  • Unintuitive remote control

From experience we know German high-end specialist Burmester doesn’t do things by halves. The Burmester 069 we have on test here is its range-topping CD player, and is every bit a true high-end statement.

While the price tag is sky high, it’s also true that rivals for the ‘World’s Best CD player’ crown weigh in at even less palatable prices.

Burmester 069

Design

Like or loathe the company’s customary chrome finish, there’s no denying the superlative quality of the build. This is how high-end hi-fi should be done.

The build is sturdy enough to give a block of granite something to think about, and the finish is truly immaculate. Every edge on that chunky casework lines up perfectly, and there isn’t a blemish to be seen.

We also like the firm but precise nature of the controls, particularly the brand’s distinctive toggle switches. The Burmester 069 may cost mega-money but it looks and feels it too.

Burmester 069

There are two versions of this CD player. There’s a single box version that saves you around £7000 and does without the hefty outboard power supply. The one we have on test is the full-fat two-box version. After all, if you’re going to spend big, why hold back?

Connections and controls

The two boxes are connected via a thick umbilical that screws on at both ends – it looks hefty enough to carry the current for a small tower block, let alone power just a CD player. Over-engineering is very much part of the package at this price level.

Both the CD player and power supply come with their own isolation platform. This takes the form of a thick, heavy aluminium plate and four carbon-fibre discs.

The component’s feet rest on the discs, which sit in machined cutouts and provide a certain amount of compliance. You can discard the platforms, but we wouldn’t. The whole set-up works better with them.

Burmester 069

This Burmester 069 is more than just a CD player. It has digital inputs – although, a little disappointingly, these are limited to one optical and two coaxials. It seems a little odd not to get a USB option. It’s also a shame that the upper resolution limit is 96kHz rather than the increasingly common 192kHz.

There’s also an analogue balanced XLR input which, when combined with the 069’s ability to deliver a variable output, means that this Burmester can function as a stripped down system preamp too.

If you have a relatively simple system the 069 works well in such an arrangement – the inherent transparency of its circuitry does a good job of whatever we connected to it.

Burmester 069

We’re less taken with the remote control. We can accept that it’s bigger and heavier than necessary, simply because such things are common with high-priced kit – and, of course, it’s preferable to the ultra-cheap plastic remotes that many rivals come with.

However, our problem is with the button layout, which makes the handset so much harder to use than it needs to be. Yes, it’s a system control, and that means many of the buttons are superfluous to just one set of needs, but even then the engineers should be able to come up with a layout more intuitive than this. Come on Burmester, sort it out.

Sound quality

How does a £36,000 CD player sound? Quite stunning, as you might expect. The overriding impression is one of refinement and composure. Doesn't sound very interesting does it? But in fact these qualities are a terrific base to start from.

Burmester 069

Play a demanding piece of music such as Kanye West’s All of the Lights and the Burmester takes it all in its stride. This is a complex track that can quite easily sound like a mess. It doesn’t through the 069.

This CD player conveys a solid rhythmic structure and fills it with an explosive combination of vivid dynamics and hefty punch.

As expected there's a massive amount of detail on show; in fact, out of the mega-money CD players we've tested only the mighty three-box £33,000 dCS Scarlatti combo has any chance of competing.

Burmester 069

Importantly, the Burmester doesn't take the recovery of all this information as the end of the job. It organises the detail brilliantly, which is what gives the player its enviable composure.

That’s not all. This player is capable of delivering a sound of huge scale when the recording demands. Listening to old favourites like the Gladiator soundtrack is an ear-opening experience. We’ve heard this recording on hundreds of occasions but we're stunned by the power and authority on offer here.

Yet the 069's class-leading refinement and slightly rich tonal balance means the results remain listenable, even at the highest volume levels. It also helps the player sound more forgiving with poorer recordings than might be expected from something so revealing.

Burmester 069

A top-class CD performance suggests a talented DAC section, and so it proves. Despite our disappointment about the lack of a USB input, we're really happy with the sounds we get through the coaxial and optical inputs.

Given that the upper limit is restricted to 24-bit/96kHz the sound from both our Naim NDS/555ps streamer and Apple MacBook is impressive. The confident and insightful character we noted from CD replay is apparent here, as is the Burmester's wonderfully refined and dynamic presentation.

If ever a sonic presentation could be described as luxurious, this is it.

The story is consistent through the single analogue line-level input. It's a shame the company hasn't added a single-ended option too, although that’s  understandable as Burmester has long promoted the idea of balanced circuitry in its products. It’s certainly unlikely to compromise this philosophy in its range-topping CD player.

Verdict

This is a wonderful player. Some people might never get past the price tag, and we can fully understand  that. However, if our numbers came up in the lottery, there's a very strong chance that – along with that trip to space – our money would go here. 

 

MORE: Best CD players 2013

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