Stereophile's 1999 Products of the Year Analog Source
Rega Planar 25 turntable
($1275 with tonearm; reviewed by Sam Tellig, Vol.22 No.5, May 1999)
VPI TNT Mk.IV turntable
($6400; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.22 No.2, February 1999)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum phono cartridge ($5500; reviewed by Jonathan Scull, Vol.21 No.11, November 1998)
Kuzma Stabi S turntable ($1200; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.22 No.7, July 1999)
van den Hul Black Beauty phono cartridge ($4000; reviewed by Jonathan Scull, Vol.22 No.5, May 1999)
van den Hul Grasshopper IV GLA phono cartridge ($5000; reviewed by Jonathan Scull, Vol.22 No.5, May 1999)
Well Tempered Reference turntable ($5495 with tonearm; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.22 No.8, August 1999)
Wilson-Benesch Full Circle turntable ($3895 with tonearm & cartridge; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.21 No.11, November 1998)
The two turntables sharing the award this year speak volumes about the state of the art of analog playback in this, the supposed twilight of vinyl.
The VPI TNT Mk.III was Stereophile's 1997 Analog Product of the Year. Although previous winners are usually not eligible to win again, the TNT Mk.IV was judged sufficiently improved over the Mk.III that, once again, the TNT garners the laurels. The Mk.IV replaces the spring suspension of yore with a pneumatic suspension; introduces Rulon bearings and a new bearing mounting technique; and the Flywheel, optional with the Mk.III, becomes standard issue. The SDS motor-speed controller supplied with the Mk.IV finishes making something new from something old. "It's well designed and beautifully built, simple and reliable, and offers a very high level of performance," reports BD.
The Planar 25 was designed for Rega's 25th anniversary as an upgrade to the Planar 3. It's meant to deliver a good measure of the performance of the more expensive Planar 9 in a more cost-effective 'table/tonearm package. According to MF, "At less than twice the price, the Planar 25 is way more than twice as good as the Planar 3. It's an incredible value, and a fine performer." It comes fitted with a new arm, the RB600 (essentially an RB300 wired with a low-capacitance cable), Neutrik RCA plugs, high-quality pre-loaded bearings, and a rigid, antiresonant, three-point mount of stainless steel. "Like the 9, the Planar 25 produced the kind of deep, tight, authoritative bass and rich, buttery highs I usually associate with far more expensive 'tables." Say no more!