Dr. Feickert Analogue Firebird turntable Page 2

So, when Axxis Audio's Art Manzano offered a Reed 3P for review, I chose the 9" version and attempted to mount it in the Firebird's right-hand corner, with my Kuzma 4Point in the left. But that didn't work—the Reed's pivot assembly was where the Kuzma's long headshell wanted to be.

Nor was it possible to mount and conveniently use the Reed arm on the left with the Mørch DP8 arm (9.25" effective length) on the right. These shorter arms have a shorter pivot-to-spindle distance, which puts both of them closer to the platter; when correctly set up, these arms, too, interfered with each other.

So I ended up doing much of my listening with just the very familiar Kuzma 4Point mounted on the Firebird's right armboard. Later, I managed to mount and use the Mørch and Reed arms—but in order to use the Reed on the left mount without it banging into the Mørch, I had to move the Mørch from its rest, then carefully lift the stylus of the cartridge mounted in the Reed over the widely spaced side weights of the Mørch. I was able to use both arms, but not easily.

From all of this, I concluded that while the Firebird is perfectly suited to be used as designed—ie, with one or two 12" tonearms—before buying you should carefully check for its compatibility with whichever two arms you're considering or already own, and know that you'll still be comfortable if your favored arm might have to be mounted on the Firebird's left armboard.

My experience with the Firebird challenged two long-held opinions: First: The best platter motor is no motor at all. But because a platter must be rotated by something, you have to compromise. But why triple the noise by adding two more motors and their pulleys, knowing that it's virtually impossible to machine either to sufficiently low tolerance to prevent chatter? Second: The best plinth is no plinth at all. But, again, you need one, so you'd better make it as small as possible, to avoid a large, resonating surface.

The Firebird has made it clear that if enough design attention is paid to the motors, pulley tolerances, mounting arrangement, controller, and interface between motors and platter, the problems of noise and jitter can be, if not completely solved, then reduced to near-irrelevance, leaving intact all of the benefits Dr. Feickert Analogue claims for the design. In fact, when I placed a stethoscope on the Firebird's plinth close to each of its motors, I heard near silence—and far less noise than I've heard from many single-motor designs I've 'scoped. Same with the Firebird's heavy, well-damped plinth: When I tapped it, I heard near-silence, whether from the stethoscope or my speakers.

In short, if a manufacturer's aim is to make a turntable with a big plinth and the alleged benefits of three motors, it should be done right. In the Firebird, Christian Feickert has. And if your aim is to own a turntable that can easily and competently handle two 12" tonearms, the Firebird is well worth considering. But if you're considering buying or already own a 9" arm or two, spending $12,500 on a Firebird buys you an awful lot of costly, unnecessary real estate.

Smooth Sound
The Firebird's sound gave me a sensation of gliding smoothness and a sophistication of leading-edge transients. It avoided rough, hard edges as well as oversmoothed transients, but it definitely leaned toward the latter.

Tonally, the Firebird had a pleasing neutrality, and excelled in the midrange, which was particularly rich and full bodied. High- and low-frequency extension were very good, but in my opinion, well-damped metal platters produce more crystalline, more precisely drawn highs, and a more concentrated and impactful bottom end, with decays that plunge faster into "black." While POM isn't exactly acrylic, it's similar enough to produce acrylic's pleasingly smooth but somewhat soft overall sound, which is less than dynamically punchy, but which many listeners prefer.

If you mostly listen to small-ensemble classical music or acoustic jazz, the Firebird's strong suits will carry the day—you'll have to look hard to find sweeter tone and suppleness in massed strings. But if you're a rocker or mostly listen to large-scale symphonic works, you'll find that greater dynamic slam, low-frequency punch, and fireworks-like transients can be had elsewhere for about the same price.

The Firebird's strong suits were tonal neutrality from top to bottom, and an especially smooth, lush, delicately drawn midrange. Its speeds remained precisely correct during the review period, with fluctuations that were small, consistent, and symmetrical. No wonder it achieved such a pleasing textural smoothness and was so free from etch and grain.

In terms of attack, sustain, and decay, the Firebird's overall sound indicates careful design that has avoided the sonic thickness and loss of control that, respectively, can be caused by over- or underdamping.

While the Firebird takes Christian Feickert's design concepts to their extremes of performance and price, I suspect that the sweet spot of performance for price in the Dr. Feickert Analogue turntable line is the redesigned Blackbird—especially if you enjoy its overall sound and plan on sticking with one or even two 9" tonearms. If you do, paying for the Firebird's extra real estate won't make sense.

But if you're looking for an all-in-one turntable that avoids the hassles of outboard tonearm and motor pods and can accommodate two or more 12" arms, the Firebird is well worth considering. I greatly enjoyed my months of listening with it.

Dr. Feickert Analogue
US distributor: VANA
2845 Middle Country Road
Lake Grove, NY 11755
(631) 246-4412