Face it: The best stuff is expensive

High-end cars, like Jaguar's $80,000 XFR, are bought for their stellar performance and good looks. High-end audio? Same deal.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
Burmester B25 speakers "Home Entertainment" magazine

Here at CNET we write about all sorts of gadgets and toys, but I've noticed that when I write about high-end gear I get the biggest reaction.

I like hearing about stuff I can't afford, like the recent road test of the $80,000 Jaguar XFR. The big sedan can hit 162 mph, can stop from 150 in 6 seconds, and it's a ball to drive fast. Funny, the road tester never mentioned fuel economy. There you go, people don't buy $80,000 cars for their practicality, they buy them to be seen in and for how well they perform.

High-end audio isn't so different, but it's more private. High-end buyers' families and friends are the only ones who'll ever get to be bowled over by the sound and looks of their spectacular audio systems. So while you've probably heard of Jaguar, chances are you're less familiar with high-end audio brands. I'm here to help raise awareness of quality audio.

I write about the world's best audio gear for "Home Entertainment" magazine, and I recently had the pleasure of testing the Burmester 032 integrated stereo amplifier ($22,495) and B25 speakers ($11,995/pair). Burmester is based in Berlin, Germany. The company builds the sort of hi-fis a Jaguar owner would buy.

The 032 amplifier in all its German splendor Burmester

The 032 amplifier's sculptured metalwork is drop-dead gorgeous. The amplifier's front and sides are covered by machined heat sinks. They provide optimal cooling for the stereo 240-watt-per-channel amplifier's output transistors, eliminating the need for noisy fans. Burmester components, fully decked out in chrome, are a startling sight to behold.

The 032's mirrored surfaces will reflect your room's color and lighting, so the electronics disappear more than your average high-end component would. Each assembled 032 is run through a 300-point computer test regime, the amplifier is then played for a solid week, and then put through the complete 300-point testing process again. The first and second test results must be identical before the amp moves onto final testing. Each and every Burmester undergoes a thorough listening test before it leaves the factory.

The B25 tower speaker's 42-inch-tall cabinet is fabricated from high-density fiberboard and birch plywood. Standard finishes include Aluminum Laminate, Makassar, or Elsberry veneers. Burmester can custom finish speakers to your exact specification. Burmesters decked out in gloss white with chrome baffles are among the most beautiful speakers I've ever seen.

Right from the get-go the Burmester duo's wide-open imaging and sonic purity were hard to miss. Feed the Burmester system high-quality recordings and it will reward your ears with dazzling resolution of fine detail.

My complete review is on the "Home Entertainment" Web site.