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Review: Brinkmann Audio Nyquist mk II streaming DAC, Marconi mk II preamp C & Mono power amplifier

Detailed review of Brinkmann Audio Nyquist mk II streaming DAC, Marconi mk II preamp C & Mono power amplifier.

After previously highlighting two beautiful products from the German AVM, I make way for another German audio manufacturer for this story, and what a one! The brand of owner and chief designer Helmut Brinkmann has been legendary since 1985 for its almost flawless products. Designs that are packed with well-thought-out electrical and mechanical inventions under the skin. I especially mention the word mechanical here, because one of the main pillars consists of an extensive analog program. Including no less than seven(!) different high-end turntables, three arms and much more analogue beauty. Nevertheless, this test was deliberately chosen to highlight another side of this special brand.

The nice thing about discussing beautiful high-end products is that every brand has its own thoughts and ideas about the matter. Ideas what the ultimate goal should be for them and especially how this can be achieved in a technical sense. Due to the extremely high difficulty of this obstacle, you hear some say that playing music perfectly is simply an illusion. But like several other top designers, Helmut Brinkmann is certainly not deterred by this. On the contrary, because by leaving nothing to chance, this fanatic technician and music lover has been working on perfecting this illusion since 1985.

Helmut: ‘When I look at what I consider to be the ultimate music reproduction, I initially end up with analog LP reproduction. Suppose I put one of my favorite albums on the turntable mat, then sit back and close my eyes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the artists appear in full 3D. So I ‘see’ the artists ‘real’ singing and playing and almost literally feel their presence. This is and remains a wonderful miracle every time, which never bores and continues to amaze even after many years of designing. Yet it is only an illusion and in some cases the artists are long dead. The moment you open your eyes again and you only see your own speakers in the well-known living room or listening room, I always have to smile.

Everything has an influence

‘The difficult thing about designing audio equipment is that literally everything affects the reproduction and that we have to accept that we have no scientific explanation for a number of aspects – at least for the time being. Every device, be it a record player or an amplifier, has a well-defined function. Good design for me is the reduction of the ingredients to their true essence. In an ideal world there should be nothing inside or on the device that is not directly related to the function of the device.’ How much influence small and apparently insignificant things can have, Helmut noticed one day as he looked through his microscope and worked with the three small screws that serve to adjust the needle carrier on a template. These miniature screws are made of steel and he suddenly wondered whether a magnetizable material so close to powerful magnets was such a clever design idea. One by one, he replaced these small steel screws with ones made of aluminum, brass, nylon, titanium and many more exotic materials. He then spent countless weeks conducting critical listening tests. As the listening sessions progressed, he became more and more amazed at how much even such a seemingly trivial part could have on sound quality. At the end of his extensive research, he concluded that the rendering was most similar to the original when only one of the three screws was replaced with a model made of titanium. Although this is just one example, it illustrates very well the working method that Brinkmann uses for all its products. Endless perfection down to the smallest detail, with the particularly long lifespan of every Brinkmann product, according to this manufacturer, being the direct result of the full attention to every (small) detail.

Marconi mk II preamplifier

But before that I would like to introduce two other family members to you. The first concerns the long-running Marconi preamp. The reason for this long service life is that Brinkmann wants its products to withstand the test of time for a long time. Although this sometimes seems less sensible commercially, this is the way that this South German company has remained faithful all these years. As a result, the Marconi has become a real classic that, just like the Nyquist, was helped to an Mk II status not so long ago. Although a line preamplifier can basically be characterized as a very simple design and only has to deal with input selection, volume control and the ability to drive every cable and amplifier load, the practice often turns out to be a lot more unruly. Because performing these seemingly simple functions without signal loss or impact on musical integrity is one of the biggest challenges in audio land. After all, everything you lose here will never come back further down the chain. To get started with the all-important volume control, it works on two different levels. First, the sensitivity or “trim” of each of the six inputs can be individually adjusted and stored, eliminating annoying volume jumps when switching between sources. And second, the “master” volume control consists of a motorized potentiometer that can be operated remotely or from the front panel. This potentiometer digitally controls ICs which in turn passively adjust playback volume with discrete resistors in precise steps of 0,

Fully Balanced Construction

Brinkmann believes in balanced signal processing, because only in this way can immunity to interference influences be achieved. As a result, this stereo preamplifier requires four complete amplifiers – two per channel. This is because the signal is processed both in-phase and inverted. Since non-musical artifacts (including noise) affect the in- and out-phase signals to exactly the same extent (known as “Common-Mode Noise”), they can be eliminated at the input of the amplifier. This is because the inverting and non-inverting signals cancel each other out. This ability to eliminate spurious signals (known as “Common-Mode Rejection”) justifies, in the designers’ opinion, double the number of parts and circuit complexity. The attractive accompanying remote control also takes care of input selection, volume control (including mute) and phase inversion on this device. The extended front panel display shows input, volume and phase status. Whoever goes from the Nyquist DAC to the Marconi preamplifier will have to take a good look at which of the two devices it is, because they are quite similar in terms of button layout and display. However, there are of course also differences and these are mainly related to the two rotary knobs at the front to set the balance and ‘trim’ separately for each channel. The glass plate at the top shows even greater differences, while the rear of this preamplifier, which was again supplied with a granite plate, again yields a pretty solid 24 kilos.

Meaningful connections

Fortunately, as you would more or less expect from a truly versatile top-of-the-range preamplifier, the Marconi does indeed accommodate a large number of sources. As many as four single ended (RCA) and two balanced (RCA) can be connected here. In terms of outputs, a fixed pair of RCA copies are available for, for example, a recording device and a variable pair of RCA and XLR connectors for controlling a power amplifier(s). The DIN connection, which is now familiar to Brinkmann, also refers here to the particularly high-quality independent solid-state power supply. Finally, the Marconi can provide a balanced maximum output voltage of 12 Volts and 6 Volts single ended.

Mono power amplifier

After the slim profile styled Nyquist and Marconi, the only mono Brinkmann power amplifier in the range is actually titled ‘mono’. There are no buttons on it and although the glass top panel is of course present, both devices still have the most resemblance to the Kaaba. The central shrine of Islam, which stands in the Great Mosque in the pilgrimage town of Mecca, where pilgrims walk around the Kaaba seven times as part of the Hajj. Of course, these mono power amps are not nearly as big at 19 wide, 22 cm high (including the granite base) and 31.5 cm deep, but they do exude the same kind of low-key charisma and mystique. Due to the extremely robust power supply, the scales tip here to 18 kilos for one power amplifier to which 5 kilos must be added for the base. The extremely stable power supply consists of a transformer that can deliver up to 1,500 Watts of peak power and is completed by four capacitors that together contain a capacity of no less than 132 millifarads. All this resulting in a pleasantly spacious power of 150 Watts at 8 Ohms and 250 Watts at 4 Ohms. It is striking that the damping factor of 80 for a transistor design can be called low. This indicates a deliberately chosen value to find an optimal balance between control and musicality, just like with good tube amplifiers. When I dive a little deeper into the design, I arrive at the starting part devised by Brinkmann himself, which is constructed according to their “Diamond” topology. This ensures that its low impedance is always maintained at all frequencies and phase angles without negative feedback.

The art of free-sounding music playback

Helmut Brinkman: ‘Many quality-conscious contemporary loudspeakers are able to reproduce the full frequency range that music can contain, at realistic levels. This includes the deepest growling lows, the most subtle mids and the finest sparkling highs. The condition is that amplifiers then simultaneously master the art of both letting the music flow freely, but also keeping the loudspeakers tightly under control at the same time. Our Mono and Stereo power amplifiers meet these requirements in the best tradition and style of Brinkmann. In addition, they offer a musically compact yet sonically open music reproduction, regardless of the frequency range and volume level.

Listen

I spent a lot of time listening to this sober and almost stoically chic operating Brinkmann quartet. Time that was needed to properly appreciate the remarkably stable performing but also remarkably unspectacular display. The very first thing I noticed, and in my view that is a very good thing, is that it seemed that all four devices were not switched on even after switching on. By that I mean that apart from the commissioning light indications, nothing else could be heard. So no humming transformers or soft noise from the speakers here. This may seem obvious, but it certainly isn’t. Although I also listened to various other sources, which also went well, I quickly focused on experiencing and especially experiencing the complete Brinkmann setting. Why? Because from the first moment it was immediately clear that all these products were designed with an identical design philosophy. They do indeed avoid the music in a certain and very recognizable way, like Helmut Brinkman did. However, this does not mean that they do not have their own signature, more about that later. The reproduction as I experience it with these devices is one of a completely holistic whole, where the reproduction immediately grabs you and a strong musical involvement is created. In the distance, this character sounds a bit like the previous generation Pass Labs X.5 power amplifier model series and the earlier French Audioanalyse/Duson models. So it is a stable,

Music!

Connected to Magico A1, Master Conteporary C, Dynaudio Heritage Special, Graham LS 5/5 and PMC Twenty 5.23i loudspeakers, I can beautifully examine how the interaction with the Brinkmann set takes place in practice on a wide range of completely different loudspeakers. Although the match with actually all these challengers goes more than well and the music flows into the listening room in all these cases in a dynamic but casual way, I myself prefer to combine them with reproducers that basically have a certain liveliness. Not that it’s necessarily necessary, but it makes the music just that little bit more exciting and challenging. This can be heard very well with the Israeli duo Invected Mushroom and their Converting Vegetarians, which dates back to 2003. Although this duo has become known for their uplifting psychedelic trance music that has sent many traditional music lovers into the proverbial curtains, their music also appears to have a completely different and more melodic, soft side. It’s that side that I’ve just discovered myself and that suddenly appears wonderfully beautiful at the end of Converting Vegetarians. The song Elevation is a calm track that starts with a very dry and crisply recorded piano. This is followed by almost equally dry recorded strings and percussion, gradually building up to a very layered climax. A musical apotheosis with deep bass lines, organic-sounding 3D keyboard parts and percussion accents that can revolve around you almost like a carousel. At least with the right audio components, the room acoustics are in order and especially the speakers are well set up. In this layered and complex music, the Brinkman quartet shows the integrity and intention of the song in a very beautiful way. The low end glowing, deep and controlled but fortunately not too much, the middle somewhat round and colorful but sufficiently fast and fully in the service of the music. While in the highest spectrum a hint of solid state character is noticeable, but at the same time this is also combined with the smooth and layered character that tubes are so good at. the middle somewhat round and colorful but sufficiently fast and completely in the service of the music. While in the highest spectrum a hint of solid state character is noticeable, but at the same time this is also combined with the smooth and layered character that tubes are so good at. the middle somewhat round and colorful but sufficiently fast and completely in the service of the music. While in the highest spectrum a hint of solid state character is noticeable, but at the same time this is also combined with the smooth and layered character that tubes are so good at.

 

worldly wisdom

The work of multi-instrumentalist Stephan Micus is of a completely different order. A very intriguing and above all talented musician who knows how to musically shape his travels all over the world in his own unique way. This musical loner is certainly at his very best on his best albums in my opinion The Garden Of Mirrors and Nomad Songs to be discussed here, both of which were released on the famous ECM label. Stephan has been working on Nomad Songs for three years and unlike all the other albums on this German label by Manfred Eicher, Micus also acts as a music producer here! As usual within his oeuvre and what makes him so irresistible to me, is that he manages to add new exotic musical instruments to this album as well. In this case it concerns the genbri (a Moroccan lute) and the ndingo, a thumb piano in the lamellophone category from Botswana. Nomad Songs is a very minimalistic and very strong album that you as a listener really have to play from beginning to end. Certainly if the eavesdropping chain ‘allows’ it, you can enter a kind of higher state of mind. This story gets so nice and vague, but what I want to make clear with this is that a very well-coordinated brand like Brinkmann offers the listener the opportunity to really dive deep into the music. Certainly if the eavesdropping chain ‘allows’ it, you can enter a kind of higher state of mind. This story gets so nice and vague, but what I want to make clear with this is that a very well-coordinated brand like Brinkmann offers the listener the opportunity to really dive deep into the music. Certainly if the eavesdropping chain ‘allows’ it, you can enter a kind of higher state of mind. This story gets so nice and vague, but what I want to make clear with this is that a very well-coordinated brand like Brinkmann offers the listener the opportunity to really dive deep into the music.

Granite plateaus

Finally, out of curiosity, I also tried what happens when I remove the granite plateaus supplied with the devices from underneath. This turned out to be a very interesting exercise, especially because it made it very clear how far Brinkmann is in controlling and controlling the final rendering. Because with this weighty base, the components immediately have more stability, weight and power in the low. This also creates a greater transparency in the overall reproduction and a stronger outline provides exactly the right degree of musical appeal. Without the plates, the sound immediately becomes softer, a bit warmer and in some cases even a little soft and diffused. They are therefore rightly part of the total package,

Conclusion – Brinkmann Audio

What a different brand and nice to be able to go back to the seventies and eighties. A period when pride of ownership still applied to almost every product and individuality and brand recognition were an extremely high good. Although the Brinkmann products are of course completely contemporary, they do have the atmosphere of that period. And this time it is not a false retro but more the almost anti-commercial prevention of premature obsolescence and therefore waste! A philosophy and pursuit that also fits seamlessly with importer SoundDesign and owner Jelmer Hovinga. An amiable, passionate man who already carries 35 years of importer’s history with him and who will also take care of the corresponding professional settlement with all associated service and thinking in the event of unexpected calamities. As far as Helmut Brinkmann and his company are concerned, they naturally also want to be able to live on the products they manufactured. But what these four models radiate in literally every facet is that they take you as a consumer very seriously. In addition, they are also extremely thorough and solidly built no-nonsense products, where you will rarely be faced with unpleasant surprises due to the use of top quality materials and the endlessly perfected technical concept. Finally, a very strong part of the Brinkmann concept is the way in which the products can be upgraded. So a very long life full of music fun that you will not have to worry about in the years to come. Bravo Helmut! But what these four models radiate in literally every facet is that they take you as a consumer very seriously. In addition, they are also extremely thorough and solidly built no-nonsense products, where you will rarely be faced with unpleasant surprises due to the use of top quality materials and the endlessly perfected technical concept. Finally, a very strong part of the Brinkmann concept is the way in which the products can be upgraded. So a very long life full of music fun that you will not have to worry about in the years to come. Bravo Helmut! But what these four models radiate in literally every facet is that they take you as a consumer very seriously. In addition, they are also extremely thorough and solidly built no-nonsense products, where you will rarely be faced with unpleasant surprises due to the use of top quality materials and the endlessly perfected technical concept. Finally, a very strong part of the Brinkmann concept is the way in which the products can be upgraded. So a very long life full of music fun that you will not have to worry about in the years to come. Bravo Helmut! you will rarely be faced with unpleasant surprises. Finally, a very strong part of the Brinkmann concept is the way in which the products can be upgraded. So a very long life full of music fun that you will not have to worry about in the years to come. Bravo Helmut! you will rarely be faced with unpleasant surprises. Finally, a very strong part of the Brinkmann concept is the way in which the products can be upgraded. So a very long life full of music fun that you will not have to worry about in the years to come. Bravo Helmut!

Prices of Brinkmann Audio:

  • Brinkmann Audio NYQUIST MK 2 Streamer/DAC Black or Silver € 17.490,-
  • Brinkmann Audio MARCONI MK 2 Preamplifier Black or Silver € 11,990
  • Brinkmann Audio Mono Power Amplifiers Black or Silver (per pair) € 15,990

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