Bauer Audio dps turntable Page 3

The dps was also, as far as I could tell, the most completely uncolored turntable I've heard. Similarly, it was among the most spatially amazing source components I've had in my home: Playing stereo records, its ability to suggest depth and the precise layering and positioning of voices and instruments was almost revelatory. (On that count I'll go back on my word, briefly, and say that the combination of dps turntable and dps tonearm was superior, although the German 'table wrung a lot more spatial performance from the musically solid Naim Aro than I'd imagined was there.) On Leonard Cohen's "The Gypsy's Wife," from Recent Songs (Columbia JC 36264), the voice, guitar, bass, and oud were all disembodied from the speakers, yet solid in their own rights. My reference Thorens TD-124, with EMT 997 or Schick tonearm, was just as solid and substantial, but flatter and less spatially detailed. And Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra's recording of Samuel Barber's Capricorn Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Trumpet and Strings (Mercury Living Presence SRI-75049)—the sort of beautifully made LP that sounds fine on almost any player—was more convincing on the dps: great snap, great presence, and, again, extraordinarily good stereo imaging. Flutes, trumpets, and all the string-section voices were there.

Given that superior pitch stability was among the goals specified for the dps's unique bearing design, I made sure to audition a few records with which I'm most sensitive to wow and flutter, particularly Nick Drake's "Time Has Told Me," from the album Five Leaves Left, itself from the Fruit Tree reissue box (Island 006025 17456969). The combination of Drake's rich chord voicings and mildly out-of-tune guitar make for challenging listening, even under the best of playback circumstances; on the dps, that and the other selections on the album were supremely easy to enjoy. Additionally, the instruments and voice had more substance than with my combination of Linn LP12 and Naim Aro—especially, I noticed, regarding Danny Thompson's acoustic bass, which sounded both bigger and woodier on the dps.

Comparing the combination of Bauer dps turntable and Naim Aro with my Thorens TD-124 turntable and EMT 997 arm might be interesting to most listeners, if not germane to the experiences of most audio hobbyists: The point can't be overmade that cartridges that work with one combo often can't function at all with another, making direct comparisons tricky and beset with the need for more than the usual degree of inference. (We can only guess what an Ortofon SPU might sound like with a Naim Aro: The pairing is in fact impossible.) That said, my Thorens setup often sounded fuller and deeper in the bottom two octaves, if occasionally a bit too full. Carl Radle's electric bass line in "Run of the Mill," from George Harrison's All Things Must Pass (Apple STCH 639), sounded pleasantly bigger on the Thorens; on the dps, by contrast, Radle sounded more "in the pocket," leaning against the beat in a more convincing and compelling way. But the hugely deep bass and percussion in "Polly Come Home," from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's Raising Sand (Rounder 11661), sounded thoroughly better on the Thorens rig: bigger, deeper, scarier. Even subtle low-frequency content, such as the low B with which the double basses of the London Symphony open Peter Maag's recording of Mendelssohn's Overture: The Hebrides (Decca/Speakers Corner SXL 2246), was at times stronger, and thus more musically effective, on the Thorens.

Notwithstanding its lesser whomp, the dps was quite good at getting across timbral color and richness, given records so endowed; in other words, the clean bass of the Bauer Audio turntable didn't translate into lean sound overall. The clarinet that opens Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Deutsche Grammophon/Speakers Corner 253 093, with Luben Yordanoff, violin, Albert Tetard, cello, Claude Desurmont, clarinet, and Daniel Barenboim, piano) sounded, if anything, richer and more complex on the dps. And for whatever reason, the Naim Aro was better with the dps than with the Linn LP12—same cartridge, of course—at keeping clean and poised the intense piano chords that open the work's Vocalise section. And the contribution to the playback made by the dps's superb spatial qualities can't be overstated.

Finally—and of great importance to me these days, having immersed myself in the world of powerful idler-wheel turntables, high-mass tonearms, and low-compliance pickups—let's consider the notion of musical momentum and flow: that feeling of the notes being pulled along purposefully rather than just bunching up between the speakers. In recent years I've come to expect less in that regard from modern players than their vintage counterparts, but I was pleasantly surprised by the dps. It sounded distinctly more involving than my Linn LP12 when used with the very same arm and cartridge, so much so that I wish the dps had a wide enough top plate to mount a proper tonearm (just kidding—sort of) so that I could make a real and fair comparison. But even as it stands, the dps was consistently involving and satisfying, and as far as very recent turntables are concerned, only the VPI Scout is on the same performance level in this regard.

Reviewers do their best work when they keep their minds open and avoid even thinking doctrinaire thoughts. That said, I can't fight the fact that the very best turntables I've used have been the sort that require painstaking setup—and that have a resolutely powerful motor/drive system. For anyone who needed it, here's more evidence.

Other than that, all bets are off: As so often happens in the face of original ideas, certain older notions fall by the wayside. Thanks to the fresh design work of Willi Bauer (and, for that matter, Charlie Hansen), the dps turntable may change your mind about belt drive, acrylic platters, clamps, or any number of other things.

But forget all that: Sound trumps theory and music trumps sound, by which axioms the Bauer Audio dps turntable is a striking, unambiguous success. My lack of enthusiasm for most modern record players has, I'm sorry to say, left me relatively ill equipped to judge the dps on the basis of value. But I'm satisfied that its US price is quite fair compared with what the 'table sells for in Europe, and I'm very much convinced of the quality of its parts and construction. As the English say of new products that seem more than prepared to compete, this should put the cat amongst the pigeons.

An extraordinary product, and fuller than most of ideas and music.

Bauer Audio
US distributor: Ayre Acoustics, Inc.
2300-B Central Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 442-7300