Turntable Reviews

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Michael Fremer, Herb Reichert  |  Jul 06, 2017  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2014  |  11 comments
Palmer Audio's 2.5 turntable, with its laminated plinth of Baltic birch and metallic features, looks Scandinavian but is made in the UK. It shares a few conceptual similarities with the turntables made by Nottingham Analogue, another British brand. The review sample had the optional side panels of cherrywood veneer.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 27, 2017  |  20 comments
Sometimes I feign interest in living in the Soviet Union of the 1950s and '60s. This happens mostly when I'm shopping for toothpaste at my local supermarket, where the toothpaste aisle is as long as a football field. "I don't want so many choices," I say in my Abe Simpson voice, "because all these choices are stupid. I wish I lived in the USSR: Shopping for toothpaste wouldn't take so long." But I'm only kidding.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 22, 2017  |  1 comments
My main task is to describe an audio component's basic character. How was it made? How did it fit into my system? How effectively did it deliver musical performances? My goal is to create stories that generate sounds and images in your mind—stories that will allow you to imagine how the component might perform in your system.

I can hear the moans from all you objectivist guys: Please, Herb, spare us your purple prose.

Guy Lemcoe  |  May 11, 2017  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1993  |  6 comments
When Tom Norton asked if I'd like to review an entry-level turntable from SOTA, I responded with a resounding "Yes!" I've long felt that there's a conspicuous absence of affordable, good-sounding record players on dealers' shelves. With the AR ES-1 package deals no longer available and the Rega 3 now selling for $775, at $599, SOTA's new Comet promised to be stiff competition for the Basiks, Revolvers, Duals, and Thorenses of the world. Also, due to my tenacious embrace of vinyl, I try to encourage as many music lovers as I can to experience the satisfaction derived from LPs and the fun and excitement of collecting them. If I can point them in the direction of a competent, sanely priced analog rig, I'll consider a good part of my mission accomplished.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 31, 2017  |  12 comments
UK, 1976: Upon its release, Rega Research's original Planar 3 turntable became the poor man's Linn Sondek LP12. It opened a gateway of affordability to the exotic world of high-quality British record players. Forty years later, the new Planar 3 turntable and its "light and rigid" engineering aesthetic, as conceived by Rega founder Roy Gandy, still occupy an admirably working-class, pro-music position in an audio world increasingly populated by gold-plated tonearms and quarter-ton turntables.
Ken Micallef  |  Aug 25, 2016  |  8 comments
Stereophile and Music Hall Audio share a long mutual history. Like most relationships, it's had its ups and downs; unlike most relationships, this one is well documented—in retired writer Sam Tellig's much-loved "Audio Cheapskate" and "Sam's Space" columns, and Music Hall Audio proprietor Roy Hall's responses in "Manufacturers' Comments." I always found Sam and Roy's gentlemanly brawling to be good, clean, if occasionally uncomfortable fun—like the touchy rapport between a gregarious dog and a rascally cat forced to live under the same roof: A truce may have been called, but don't expect them to make nice.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  17 comments
Which record player has achieved international acclaim as a musical instrument in its own right?

Which turntable is revered for its near-indestructible build quality?

Which disc spinner has played more records—and made more people drink, drug, dance, and make out—than any other?

Which turntable has sold over three million units?

Hint: It is not made in the US, the UK, China, or Switzerland.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 29, 2016  |  12 comments
"Hail, Neophyte!"

That's what members of the Smoky Basement Secret Audio Society would exclaim in unison at the end of each ceremony admitting a new devotee. It was called the Smoky Basement Society not because everyone smoked (though they did), but because its members believed that whenever an audio designer finally got a design dialed in just right, he or she had metaphorically "let the smoke out." They exclaimed, "Hail, Neophyte!" because they believed that the most important aspect of being an audio engineer was to have a fully open "beginner's mind." In Zen practice, this is called Shoshin, or beginner's heart.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 10, 2016  |  0 comments
Dr. Feickert Analogue's top-of-the line turntable, the Firebird ($12,500), is a generously sized record player designed to easily accommodate two 12" tonearms. Its three brushless, three-phase DC motors, arranged around the platter in an equilateral triangle, are connected to a proprietary controller in a phase-locked loop (PLL); according to the Firebird's designer, Dr. Christian Feickert, a reference signal from just one of the motors drives all three—thus one motor is the master while the other two are slaves. (Man, today that is politically incorrect, however descriptively accurate.) Feickert says that the key to this drive system is the motor design, which was done in close consultation with its manufacturer, Pabst. The result is a feedback-based system in which the controller produces the very low jitter levels claimed by Feickert.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 10, 2016  |  6 comments
Everyone in the room can hear the difference when I swap one phono cartridge for another. Same thing happens with loudspeakers. This is because both of these magnet-based transducer technologies are electromechanical devices, traditionally made of paper, wood, iron, and copper. (Nowadays, polymers, aluminum, and carbon composites are more typical.) Both are motor-generator mechanisms that either convert mechanical energy into electrical energy (cartridges) or vice versa (speakers). As audio devices, they are spool-and-wire simple, but even tiny changes in the materials and/or how those materials are configured can cause easily audible differences in how they transmit or present recordings of music. Why? Because every gross fragment and subatomic particle of these electromechanical contraptions is moving and shaking—shaking everything from the tiny jumping electrons to the wood, metal, and/or plastic containers that fix and locate these motor generators in space.
Robert Deutsch  |  Feb 09, 2016  |  5 comments
For some time now, I've been thinking that my record player was due for an upgrade. My Linn LP12 turntable and Ittok LVII tonearm are about 25 years old, and my AudioQuest AQ7000nsx cartridge is going on 15. During that time, my listening has become increasingly dominated by CDs, but I am not yet ready to give up on LPs. Updating my LP12—for which I have Linn's Lingo power supply but no other upgrades—would involve installing the Keel subchassis, for $3250—for which price I could get another maker's new, current-design turntable and still have the LP12 to sell. The Linn Ittok can't be upgraded, and its replacement, the Ekos SE, costs $4950—out of my range. AudioQuest no longer makes cartridges. Examining my AQ7000nsx's stylus under a microscope showed no visible wear, and there was no obvious audible problem that could be traced to the cartridge's suspension, but age must be having some sort of effect. Taking all these factors into account, I decided to replace my entire phono front end.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 28, 2016  |  4 comments
The stats are impressive: Quebec's Oracle Audio Technologies, formerly Trans Audio (footnote 1), has been in business for 37 years, during which they've sold nearly 11,000 Oracle Delphi turntables. That's not bad for a perfectionist turntable—and especially not bad for a perfectionist turntable whose first and most estimable competitor, the Linn Sondek LP12, was well established by the time of the Delphi's debut, in 1979.
Art Dudley  |  Sep 04, 2015  |  1 comments
In a bizarre but happy turn of events, recent consumer trends have given even the most socially awkward audiophile something to talk about at cocktail parties and family gatherings at which normal people predominate: the PonoPlayer and vinyl. These are hot topics; each is among the best-sounding music sources available, and both offer hope for our hobby, if not for music lovers in general. But vinyl has the advantage of appealing to a much wider range of budgets. LPs can be had from anywhere to "We'll pay you to haul these away" to "Your loan officer is on line one." Likewise, vinyl playback hardware is available in virtually every price range, from a second-hand Dual 1229 ($50 and up) to the highly praised Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn ($200,000 and down).
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 09, 2015  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2015  |  1 comments
Pear Audio Analogue's Peter Mezek can keep you up all night spinning fascinating turntable tales. Had my mind not been numbed by Sunday evening, October 12, the last day of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I might have insisted that he do just that.

Over dinner that evening he regaled Pear Audio's North American importer, Michael Vamos of Audio Skies, and me with turntable stories dating back to the late 1970s and the Linn Sondek LP12, which, until the early '80s, he distributed in Czechoslovakia. In the mid-'80s, Mezek was involved in the development and distribution of the Rational Audio turntable, designed for Mezek by Jirí Janda (pronounced Yeerzhee Yahnda), who died in 2000. For those of you old enough to remember, Janda, a founder of NAD, designed that company's 5120 turntable; among other features, it had a flat, flexible, plug-in tonearm that you could easily swap out, much as you can with VPI's current models.

Art Dudley  |  Jun 26, 2015  |  3 comments
There's nothing new under the sun, or so we are told. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s, a British designer named Tom Fletcher upset the audio status quo with a turntable that combined otherwise-familiar elements in a manner that was, at the very least, new with a lower-case n. Fletcher's product, the Space Deck, was perhaps the first original design in British phonography since the Roksan Xerxes of 1985; and his company, Nottingham Analogue, went from nothing to something in no time at all.

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