Acoustic Signature Triple X turntable & TA-1000 tonearm Page 2

I measured the Triple X's speed accuracy using Dr. Feickert Analogue's 7" test record and ProgTec's PlatterSpeed software for the Apple iPhone. Set to 33 1/3rpm, the platter's actual speed ranged from 33.39 to 33.50rpm. Wow, in accordance with DIN IEC 386, was ±0.13% using the 2-Sigma method. As for the tonearm's behavior, when equipped with my Denon 103 cartridge, the TA-1000 exhibited resonant frequencies of 11–13Hz in the lateral plane and 14Hz in the vertical, observed with the aid of the Test Record (LP, Hi-Fi News HFN001) created and sold by the British magazine Hi-Fi News. Both modes were quite pronounced, with effects both audible and visible.

Listening, Round 1
The first record I tried on the Triple X was Jacqueline Du Pré's recording, with organist Roy Jesson, of the Adagio from J.S. Bach's Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C, BWV 564 (LP, EMI HQS 1437). I was somewhat underwhelmed: The music was pallid—the solo cello exhibited none of the timbral opening-up or bloom I hear with my combination of Garrard 301 turntable and EMT 997 tonearm—not to mention dynamically unstirring and notably lacking in force. On the other hand, the moment the stylus of my Denon DL 103 touched the record's surface, I was aware that the Acoustic Signature was the source of notably less low-frequency bearing noise than is my bazillion-year-old Garrard.

The next few records suggested that freedom from rumble was not the German player's only strength. Among those selections was a drop-dead-gorgeous reissue of the famous recording of Mahler's Symphony 9 by John Barbirolli and the Berlin Philharmonic (LP, EMI/Electric Recording Company ASD 596 and 597), in which I heard a strong sense of center fill—the Acoustic Signature combo exceeded my reference in that regard, though not in overall scale and solidity—and suggestions of decent touch on drumbeats, plucked strings, and the like. Colors, especially of the larger brass and woodwind instruments, were satisfying, though still less vivid than I like. Bass tones were solid, tight, and well fleshed out, though not terribly forceful; at the other end of the audioband, however, I heard some congestion in the higher-pitched notes from the strings, especially in louder passages. The bag was still mixed.

Up to this point, I had felt that the Acoustic Signature combination was holding back the music. Certain elements of the sound were praiseworthy, but recorded performances weren't as stirring as I'd hoped. Even "Alex Chilton," from the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me (LP, Sire 25557-1)—a song that seldom fails to inspire, regardless of playback gear—seemed lackluster. It was then that I decided not to wait until the end of my time with the Triple X before replacing its stock wall wart with the AC-1 power-supply upgrade ($250 when purchased with the Triple X, $350 when purchased separately), which distributor Fidelis AV had also supplied. The AC-1 also connects to the turntable by means of a CAT-5 connector, so it was easy to switch back and forth and compare the effects of the two. The distinction was surprisingly unsubtle—and that, as Robert Frost would surely say, has made all the difference.

Listening, Round 2
With the possible exception of the refinement conferred on my Linn LP12 by Naim Audio's Armageddon isolation transformer, I believe Acoustic Signature's AC-1 was responsible for the greatest improvement I've ever heard a power supply wring from a turntable (footnote 2). In the Replacements' "Alex Chilton," Tommy Stinson's electric bass suddenly jumped from the mix, sounding tight, forceful, and altogether louder than it had before I ditched the wall wart for the AC-1. That song sounded so much better, and gained so much drive, that I had no choice but to leave the needle in the groove for the rest of the side. I'm glad I did. Otherwise, I would have missed the similar increase in propulsiveness and sheer fun the upgrade added to the hilariously jaded "I Don't Know." After that, I wasted no time in listening again to the records with which I began my review—and there was the bloom in Du Pré's cello, there were the clean, clear trebles and at least some of the bass force I've come to expect from the Barbirolli Mahler.

From that point forward, the Acoustic Signature combination distinguished itself with excellent clarity and poise, very good temporal performance, and acceptably good touch, impact, and color, all presented with a good if not great sense of scale but better-than-average spatial qualities, the latter especially in terms of its excellent center-fill solidity and stage depth. Surprisingly for a high-mass turntable, the Triple X did not provide the last word in bass extension and power, and was handily beaten in that regard by my Garrard 301, which also had an even better sense of drive.

The Acoustic Signature combination succeeded at portraying the complex temporal interaction between, and occasional clashes of, Pierre Michelot's bass and Kenny Clarke's drums in the first of several takes of "Nuit sur les Champs-élysées," from Miles Davis's soundtrack to Louis Malle's 1958 film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (LP, Fontana/Speakers Corner 0660213). I was also impressed with the good performance on this track in terms of spatial perspectives, Davis's trumpet being front and center and pleasantly substantial, the other instruments seemingly arranged in a small, tight circle behind him. Davis's tone was exquisite throughout, and the Triple X also gave a beautiful account of the sound of Barney Wilen's tenor sax in his abortive solo at the end of the first take, although my reference player allowed the bass a much bigger, fuller sound, and gave more snap and touch to the distant drums.

Piano music was mostly well served by the Triple X and T-1000. Throughout Lenny Tristano's idiosyncratic The New Tristano (LP, Atlantic 1357), lines of notes had good momentum and "pull," and the densest passages were presented clearly and explicitly. Tristano's piano sound was slightly lacking in texture but had believably good tone and freedom from an overly mechanical or glassy sound, as was also true of the piano in Clifford Curzon's recording of Liszt's Sonata in B Minor (LP, Decca/Speakers Corner SXL 6076). And despite their bandwidth-limited and often grossly colored sound, even the crazy old piano recordings I so often enjoy, including a slightly oversanitized transcription of Alfred Cortot's performance of the Liszt from 1933 (LP, EMI Electrola C 047-01 504), sounded convincingly, serenely musical via the Acoustic Signature combo.

Pressed to name a recording that showed the Acoustic Signatures at their best, I'd point to two. First was Ella Fitzgerald's lovely performance of "But Not for Me," from Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Gershwin Songbook (LP, Verve MGVS-7000). Fitzgerald's voice was tonally and spatially convincing—again, that image was locked solidly in place—and the orchestra occupied a stage of generous scale, if not quite as large as I prefer. Strings were sweet, the celesta chimed prettily and colorfully and with realistic decay, and the double bass had enough touch to keep the piece moving forward. My second choice would be the AS's way with pianist Wilhelm Kempff's later Bach recordings, especially his Prelude and Fugue No.10 in e, BWV 855 (LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2531 299). The AS combo was clean without sterility and supremely musical, with excellent momentum and flow, and there were no distortions of pitch to detract from Kempff's singular gravitas. The playback was further enhanced by the AS combo's slightly more recessed spatial perspective compared to that of my reference, which is almost too up front and intense to do this record justice. Again, only a slight lack of texture in the piano's lowest strings held back the sound.

Our favorite neighbors came over on Memorial Day for a cookout, and the wife brought along her parents, in town for a visit. The older couple, both in their 70s, couldn't help seeing the many LPs stored throughout the house, and noted with enthusiasm their awareness of vinyl's recent ascendance. "I hear that CDs are pretty much dead," said the missus. "Deader than Julius Caesar's dog," said I. Then my wife made margaritas.

This is, in other words, a good time to be in the turntable business—and if I hadn't already taken the vows of the Holy Order of the Reviewer, even I might be tempted to give it a spin. Were I to do so, I'm not sure I'd make anything as expensive as the Triple X—but, at the same time, one should note that this model, like its Acoustic Signature stablemates, costs less than the high-tech/high-mass turntables from other firms. The TA-1000, too, is a value standout in an era when so many new high-end tonearms strain against and occasionally herniate the five-figure barrier, apparently without blushing. Good value notwithstanding, I must note that I preferred the previously reviewed (July 2015) Pear Audio Kid Howard turntable and Cornet 2 tonearm ($4995 when purchased together), for their bigger, more textured sound, and—remarkably!—the turntable's quicker startup times. But both players had me wishing for a good old-fashioned toggle-type power switch.

Nevertheless, with its excellent speed stability and temporal performance, notable clarity, and superb reproduction of space, the Acoustic Signature combination of Triple X turntable and TA-1000 tonearm deserves consideration; in particular, anyone considering buying a more expensive high-mass turntable owes it to himself/herself to audition the Acoustic Signature Triple X before spending money on something else.

Footnote 2: Although the turntable's measured performance changed with the addition of the AC-1, it's difficult to draw from the new numbers any useful conclusions. With the AC-1 supplying the juice, the Triple X's platter speed ranged from 33.46 to 33.60rpm. Wow, measured with DIN IEC 386, was ±0.19 using the 2-Sigma method—actually a bit worse, and now slightly on the high side of acceptable—and ±0.16 with dynamic weighting. Go figure.
AS-Distribution GmbH
US distributor: Fidelis AV
460 Amherst Street (Route 101A)
Nashua, NH 03063
(603) 880-4434

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