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Listening #175: Soulines Kubrick DCX turntable Page 2

The very last chore was to fit the platter with the supplied cork platter mat, which brings me to the second thing that impressed me about the Kubrick: Its platter bearing and platter are so beautifully machined that, looking at the platter from the side, I couldn't tell when it was spinning. I could detect no platter wobble—zero. To put into proper context this often underemphasized aspect of turntable construction: Lack of unwanted movement in a device whose sole job is to measure, at correct and steady speed, bumps in the record groove that range in size down to that of dust-mite feces is always a good thing.

That brought me, in short order, to the third thing that impressed me about the Soulines Kubrick DCX: When I lowered the stylus of my Denon DL-103 to the lead-in groove of the first record I tried—Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings, performed by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble (LP, Argo ZRG 569)—I was shocked by how big the ensemble sounded. I'd been listening to that record a lot in the days leading up to this review, and the difference I heard compared to my Garrard 301–based player—which itself has a typically large sense of scale—was unmistakable. In previous columns and reviews I've wondered about which design aspects of playback gear might contribute to generous scale—and I've mused that, in loudspeakers in particular, one might consider that quality an additive distortion, owing to unintended sound reflections from physically large cabinets. I still haven't got the slightest idea what's responsible for this effect, but I like it.

Listening closely to that Mendelssohn recording, I heard that the Kubrick-based record player also focused more on the sound of the recording space than did my Garrard rig: reverb, like scale, was far more generous. Yet this did not come at the expense of any of the performance characteristics nearest and dearest to me. Musical momentum and flow were superb—and, especially in the final movement of Boccherini's Cello Quintet in C, Op.37 No.7, also included on this LP, the sense of bounce in bowed note attacks was delightfully real. Overall tonal balance was very slightly dark, yet with no lack of sparkle—and surface noise was never brought to the fore.

As I said: I was impressed!

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I moved on to a new LP acquisition: the Incredible String Band's wonderful Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air (LP, Island ILPS 9172). The first time I heard this record was in March, at the Montreal Audio Fest, in the room sponsored by Toronto dealer Sonic Artistry. It was also the first time I'd heard the Döhmann Helix 1 turntable and Frank Schröder–designed CB 12" tonearm—and it was to that player I attributed the remarkable touch and force and presence I then heard from that LP. I heard the same qualities when playing my own copy of that record on my idler-drive Garrard, and while the Soulines Kubrick DCX delivered the same nice things in somewhat smaller measures, deliver them it did. But the Kubrick told me what the Kubrick wanted to tell me, which was all about the very large recording space captured on this record. In the opening track, "Talking of the End," there are, among other instruments, a pennywhistle at far stage right and a violin at far stage left—and with the Soulines Kubrick, those sounds were spaced farther apart than with my Garrard. The other sounds—including those of a harmonium, an oud, and various percussion instruments—were also generously sized, and the first lead vocal, from Robin Williamson, had really good presence and body. No less important, his voice was clear and without apparent colorations, and the violin and harmonium in particular displayed believable, natural textures.

One eccentric British pop record leads to another, and so, as the time had come to get a handle on the Kubrick's bass extension, I reached for the better of my two copies of Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (2 LPs, Atco/Classic SD 2-401), and listened for the bass pedals that begin halfway through "Fly on a Windshield," as well as the lowest of many similarly deep tones—a D-flat, I think—in "The Chamber of 32 Doors." From those experiences and that of listening for the weight and impact of the orchestral bass drum in the recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with Sir Adrian Boult leading various soloists, the New Philharmonia Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic and John Aldis choirs (2 LPs, EMI SLS 987), I found the Kubrick's performance better than average—at least as good as my Linn LP12 with the same arm and cartridge, if not up to Garrard 301 or Thorens TD 124 levels. That said, the Kubrick's very good momentum endured, making this an involving listening experience, and the combination maintained its composure throughout this set's many very loud moments.

But all of the above paled in comparison with the experience I had when I played on the Kubrick my copy of Sonny Rollins's The Bridge (LP, Japanese Victor/RCA RCA-6011) .For whatever reason, that record and that record player just fell in love with each other. Unsurprisingly, the soundfield was huge—and Jim Hall's guitar, in the left channel, had a size and presence that can be described only as magisterial. Bob Cranshaw's double bass had heft, power, speed, color, and, above all, drive. Ben Riley's drumming was energetic and well-paced. And Rollins's tenor sax had tone and substance, flesh and blood, in great abundance.

Dr. Feickert will now say a few words
And now for the measurements, such as they are, made with Dr. Feickert Analogue's Adjust+ test record and PlatterSpeed software for Apple iOS. Out of the box, the Kubrick was a bit slow, outputting a mean frequency of 3137.4Hz for a 3150Hz groove modulation. Using the appropriate trim pot, I brought the speed up to a remeasured mean frequency of 3149.5, and then got the wow measurements shown in figs. 1 and 2: decent, if not up to the standard of my late-1950s Garrard 301.

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Fig.1 (left) Soulines Kubrick DCX, speed stability (raw frequency yellow; low-pass filtered frequency green).

Fig.2 (right) Soulines Kubrick DCX, speed stability data.

Unfailingly musical, and big, forward, and impactful—I keep thinking about the realistic sense of force the Kubrick DCX put across whenever guitarist Jim Hall raked his pick across those heavy-gauge strings of his—the sound of the Soulines impressed the hell out of me. And, again, this without adhering to any of the design approaches that, from experience, I'd associated with turntables that excel in all aspects of playback that are important to me. But there you go: Chinese statesman Deng Xiaoping, another communist, famously said, "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white: If it catches mice, it is a good cat"—a statement that put him at odds with Mao Tse-Tung's widow, whose mistrust of all things Western never dimmed.

How or why should a belt-drive turntable with a skeletal plinth, an acrylic platter, and an apparently lowish-torque DC motor pull so much impact, tone, and musical satisfaction from my LPs? Damned if I know—but it did. Next to the enduringly recommendable PTP Solid12 turntable—which itself uses some vintage components—this is one of the very best non-vintage turntables I've heard outside of the enormously expensive Döhmann Helix 1 ($40,000). Very highly recommended.

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COMMENTS
woodford's picture

I'm struck by how similar this design looks to an Avid TT. it's a bit prettier, but otherwise, virtually identical.

ravello's picture

Art,

I am glad you were "kidding" in your first paragraph. Otherwise I would have invited you to try what it is really like to have lived in the Soviet Union in the 1950's, toothpaste or not. You are a good writer and I generally like your stuff, but this was an inane intro. Sorry.

John Atkinson's picture
ravello wrote:
I am glad [Art was] "kidding" in [his] first paragraph.

About living in the Soviet Union, yes. About overwhelming choice, no. See the essay I wrote in 1998 about this marketing trend at www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/270/index.html, where I quoted Joni Mitchell on "Barangrill" (For the Roses, 1972): "The crazy you get from too much choice."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

rwwear's picture

Except for being so ugly, it's just another belt drive turntable. Ho hum.

Glotz's picture

And this is one awesome looking turntable. Very well machined!

I sooooo want one!

And very communicative review, AD.

volvic's picture

Trouble is no one wants to buy my HW-19.

Glotz's picture

otherwise you are most likely asking too much for the offering. If it's a mk2 or early mk3, the issue is with cosmetics most likely. There are too many more modern turntables out there and the look is pretty 80's retro.. as I've owned one for the past 30 years.

The other issue is the platter weighing down the plinth over decades of use, and it will warp the plinth (if not the steel plate underneath as well). This holds very true for the mk3 and mk4 with the delrin/lead platters. It's a lot of weight that slightly dishes the center of the plinth (where the bearing well is). I also bought a 2nd plinth 3 months ago for that reason and cosmetics as well.

What about refinishing the base? Zip Strip it properly, sand and re-stain with an unique stain. If you polyurethane it well, it will seem much more attractive compared to those already out there. At least it might make you happy as well at the new look. I've done several.

volvic's picture

Don't think I am asking too much, you can check it out yourself, it is on usaudiomart under volvic. I always said that I may have a better chance of selling it if I sell it off in pieces. It began as a junior and I slowly found the parts for it to bring it up to MK iii level. I do like it's tweak ability and the idea of dialing in the sra by lowering or raising the platter was always pretty neat. Sonically it's not bad, but its materials and fit and finish are not up today's standards. Plinth is fine and metal acrylic sandwich plate is flat to my eye with no dimple. It's not bad at all and has been quite reliable, but you read reviews like one above and hear the new Technics table or the SME 10 and you suddenly want to get THE last great turntable.

Glotz's picture

Excuse the off-topic thread here.

If the plinth is still the wood-only Jr. one, that is an obvious non-starter. I think you are talking about the black oak base, and not the plinth/sub-assembly, as you are implying you have the steel/mdf subchassis. The speed issues stated, another. (Who else would have the SDS that doesn't already have a VPI turntable? No one, though .4 rpms is not 'much' to whine about, as it is fast and not slow.)

The pulley is def another issue. The pulley shouldn't wobble, as the issue is probably with the connection to the motor base itself. If the motor shaft connection in the well is bent, non-starter... no fixing that, unless you can find a SAMA, which is now in 'good luck' territory. Simply, the Mk3 motor assembly triangle box introduces a lot of vibration into the system, and personally I would keep what you have and find a SAMA on that site, if another HW19 is parted out for such.

Huge upgrade and I would also recommend dispensing with all sorbothane, and rather go with Herbie's platinum silicone products for all connecting parts... Tonearm base to armboard junction, spike points and bases, motor mounting screws to oak base, platter to plinth subassembly, armboard screws gaskets for under the armboard to mate with the subassembly, and many more. Massive improvements, as the sorbothane does a junk job of negating vibrations vs. even blutack. In fact, though the Herbies' products are super cheap (the armboard gaskets are a less than a buck a piece), I would even say that replacing the sorbo with blutack at the motor to base junction points is a huge improvement (as well as covering all triangle sides in Blutack. Blutack simply does a better job of negating vibrations than sorbo ever did (with anything that weighs less than 100 pounds (heavy speakers..yeah, turntable parts... no). That being said, Herbie's silicone products destroy all of them. Seriously. (I can now firmly press my ear to the oak plinth and hear no humming vibrations whatsoever.)

All being said, I think $600 would be more appropriate or even create a new ad to satisfy. Higher res pictures would help, as well as more angles and a re-write with less talking to the 'negatives'. Sorry man, just looking at what I've seen from past offerings over the years.

volvic's picture

I probably wasn't clear, there is no more wobble as the pulley is new and the motor is new, but the older pulley definitely has an issue. Good point on blutac the sorbothane has worked well there is no more vibration when I place a sthethoscope but blutac is better. I try and show the negative with the positive - prefer honesty.

Glotz's picture

and understood on the wobble clarification.

I don't want to imply that you should be dishonest, but rather re-write (and re-post) the offering so that each area of the focus is more clearly laid out. I just think there is some miscommunication about what you have there. It kind of scared me off when I read it (if I was a respective buyer).

Also, please be emphatic or clear about the new Isolators (from the Classic) installed that replaces the suspension. They do work nicely, though I use a set of Herbie's 1/8" circles over the tops, and it is transformative.

And yeah, cover the whole motor assembly in blutack at the least. It does a great job of containing vibes from the base. I also use blutack around the base skirt (inside), as well in the feet wells underneath. It works and the cost is nil.

volvic's picture

maybe you should buy it. LOL

Glotz's picture

Personally, I would strip and re-stain the turntable base and you may fall in love with it all over again. This is certainly the 'hobby' part that is fun. It's labor intensive, but one can remove the motor assembly and power button connection pretty simply and work on it unencumbered.

Keep in mind that unless got the dosh for a new turntable over $2500, it would be smarter to hang on to it until you are within $500 of the new purchase (whatever the new turntable may be). Even if someone gave you $1000 for it, that's 1/4 of the Soullines retail price.

volvic's picture

As does a slightly used SME 10 for less and even the newer lower priced Vertere has my curiosity peaked. The issue is how much better are they? I have taken apart the HW-19 many times to improve or change motor or add the isolators and it is robustly made and is even more quiet than it ever was. My Dad always tells me you have three great tables; HW-19, new LP12 and a Technics 1200 waiting for a new SME IV or M2 tonearm to be mounted, just enjoy your records and stop looking for incremental upgrades. But I see this Soulines or SME 10 which I can afford and drool. But at some point all of this upgrade craziness has to stop.

Glotz's picture

Not sure where you live, but go out and listen to a set-up with the unit in-line. Yes, there are way too many variables at play in a dealership, but listening at some point is required. Without that, it is all speculation.

Remember that all reviews are a signpost to audition for yourself. You are not Mikey, John, Herb or Art.

You may or may not like what YOU hear.

volvic's picture

But, I will be selling it, one could tweak it to the max, won't change its character nor build quality. It is a great turntable, but I have auditioned the SME 10 and the new Technics and think they are leagues ahead. In the end this is why we subscribe to Stereophile and go to shows, so that we can carefully upgrade our gear when the opportunity presents itself. I might regret it but want to make one last purchase before the kid is of college age. Cheers

KAMonnig's picture

Manufacturer website-Can't find a price.
Distributor website-Can't find a price.
This article-Can't find a price

John Atkinson's picture
KAMonnig wrote:
This article-Can't find a price

My apologies. The price of the Kubrick turntable is $4000 without the tonearm.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

jeffdyer's picture

"I thought the turntable sounded pleasantly louder and more forward with the white belt, but I may have imagined that."

You certainly did.

Glotz's picture

anything (and then emphatically state you know). It's rude and you haven't heard the turntable, white belt or not.

Vibrations are transmitted through ALL belts. The material therein determines how much vibration travels from the motor (and pulley) to the platter. It's connected dude.

But you already knew that.

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