Music Hall Audio MMF-7.3 turntable

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.

One of Sam's classic comments, from a review of a Music Hall turntable: "Roy Hall has his famous Music Hall MMF (Make Money Fast) turntables made for him in the Czech Republic."

More Sam, from a review of a Music Hall DAC: "[Roy Hall] approached the dac25.2 the same way he does Music Hall turntables: by borrowing and then combining bits and pieces of what's worked here and there. Pick four from Column A and two from Column B. Just like the Golden Garden Chinese restaurant in Great Neck. That's a nifty name for Music Hall's next product."

Roy Hall's retorts are legendary. In one "Manufacturer's Comment" (footnote 1), he directed his ire at reviewers as a single unruly group: "I do agree with Robert Harley that many manufacturers treat reviewers with false friendship. It's hard not to when reviewers wield such power. I have found that most of them seem to respond best to a healthy measure of derision. They do . . . receive far too much artificial respect."

And that was Roy Hall lite.

Reading "Sam's Space," I assumed that Sam and Roy were simply taking the Mickey—that, down deep, Sam respected Roy's design acumen and marketing skills, and Roy respected Sam's well-honed insights and brilliant writing. But, hey, I could be wrong. Perhaps the reality is that although Sam held the keys, Roy thought he owned the house.

So how should I, the new kid on Stereophile's block, approach my first review for this magazine of a Music Hall Audio product? During a Stereophile show held in New York's midtown Hilton sometime in the mid-2000s, my girlfriend and I wandered into Music Hall's exhibition room, ogled the turntables, drank Roy's scotch, and enjoyed the sounds. Roy said, "I know you! But how did you—a mediocre writer at best—get such a lovely girlfriend?!"

Thanks, Roy. Guess I've made the grade.

Which brings us to Music Hall's recently introduced MMF-7.3 turntable ($1395, or $1595 with cartridge). Save for its on/off switch, the MMF-7.3 looks to be the identical twin of its precursor, the MMF-7.1. What's the 411, Roy?

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Design
On scouring Music Hall's website for information about the MMF-7.3 and MMF-7.1, I found only one major difference between the turntables themselves: the '7.3 has a DC motor, the '7.1 an AC motor. Additionally, for those who choose the full record-playing package, the two turntables are sold with different cartridges: the '7.3 comes with the moving-magnet Ortofon 2M Bronze ($440 when sold separately), while the '7.1, now discontinued, was bundled with Music Hall's Ortofon-made Mojo ($500). "Incredible performance at a relatively reasonable price," was Roy's stated goal for the '7.3. "The arm on the '7.3 is one-piece carbon fiber," he informed me after taking the redeye home from the High End audio show, in Munich. "The '7.1 has an aluminum headshell. And the cartridge on the '7.3 is better. Sonically, it's much better."

The MMF-7.3 has the Roy Hall–inspired multiple-platform design found in other Music Hall turntables. Its double-plinth construction is intended to isolate the turntable's upper platform—to which the main bearing and tonearm are fastened—from the lower platform, which sits on three adjustable steel feet: sharply pointed cones, supplied with support cups to help prevent scratches on the surrounding furniture. Suspension and damping between the two platforms, both of which are finished in gleaming, piano-black lacquer (which highlighted smudges), are provided by four "Sorbothane hemispheres," as Music Hall calls them.

A combination on/off button and speed control is mounted atop the decoupled 15V motor, which is form-fitted into what Music Hall calls a resonance-damping puck. The isolated motor keeps vibrations from interfering with the delicate duties to be performed by the platter and tonearm. "Placing the motor diagonally opposite the arm," states the manual, "reduces any vibrations caused by the belt from entering into the cartridge. Any vibrations would be absorbed along the length of the arm thus bypassing the stylus."

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The MMF-7.3's 22.6oz acrylic platter comes equipped with a generic felt record mat and a metal screw-on record clamp, which I found useful for battening down warped LPs. The '7.3's stainless-steel main bearing is sheathed in Teflon for, in the words of Music Hall, "noise-free operation." The familiar-looking tonearm has an effective length of 9.055" (230mm) and is a carbon-fiber version of Pro-Ject's 9.1 arm. I didn't use the included dustcover, and as the turntable's shiny finish highlighted dust and finger smears, I covered it with a silk pillowcase when not in use. Music Hall's reasonably high-quality (though loose-fitting) RCA-terminated phono cable was supplied as standard.

Setup
Setting up the MMF-7.3 was moderately trouble free. (I took a tip from Art Dudley and photographed the turntable's individual components as I unpacked them, to ensure easy and accurate repacking.) The various parts went together easily enough, with guidance from the first-rate owner's manual. Using the supplied paper protractor and the Hi-Fi News Analogue Test LP protractor, I found the factory-set cartridge alignment for the Ortofon 2M Bronze was indeed spot on. So was the upper platform's horizontality, after I'd leveled it using the surface-mounted spirit level. I screwed on the counterweight, zeroed the tonearm, and set the vertical tracking force (VTF) at the suggested 1.5gm. I then wrapped the antiskate monofilament around the tonearm rod's second notch, as directed, and gently lowered the tiny weight in place.

The MMF-7.3's vertical tracking angle (VTA) and azimuth were preset, but the latter was slightly off. Following the instructions in the owner's manual, I loosened the appropriate setscrew at the rear of the arm and rotated the armtube slightly (the tactile feedback for this procedure was just right, making it easy to dial in the correct azimuth). The toughest maneuvers in setting up the MMF-7.3 involved: a) lowering the plinth's cutout hole directly over the motor, so as to provide even spacing around the motor's circumference; and b) mounting the round-cross-section drive belt, made of rubber composite, around the motor's plastic pulley and the acrylic platter. I achieved the latter by holding the pulley with one hand while very slowly wrapping the belt around the platter with the other hand.

I used the Hi-Fi News Analogue Test LP (HFN 002) to further confirm setup: The disc's 300Hz test tone produced mildly harsh distortion, indicating an incorrect antiskate setting. I moved the weight's fishing line from notch 2 to notch 1 of its rod, thus increasing the bias force a smidge. Voilà! Distortion DOA.

Listening #1: the Ortofon 2M Bronze
I put the MMF-7.3 and Ortofon 2M Bronze through their paces with a variety of "black discs" (thanks, Herb Reichert) from artists including Miles Davis, Father John Misty, FKA Twigs, Moderat, and Jimi Hendrix.

The '7.3 is powered-up by pressing the tiny, motor-mounted button that also selects between 331/3 and 45rpm, each speed indicated by an LED that flashes as the tempo increases, turning solid baby blue when the desired speed is reached. I used the cueing lever to move the tonearm to the black disc, and the needle gently sank to the vinyl's surface.



Footnote 1: See "Manufacturers' Comments," December 1991.
COMPANY INFO
Armour Home Electronics Ltd. UK
Distributor: Music Hall Audio
108 Station Road
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 487-3663
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Anton's picture

I have a friend with that cartridge and I thought it sounded good. I can't explain such a poor perception of it. Could it be a dislike of the Ortofon "house sound" thing?

Anyway, if I were in the market for a table in that range, the review would put it at the top of my list. I think Roy Hall just has a grumpy-old-man persona to maintain. It was very well written and gave me a solid idea of what I would expect from the table.

Bill Leebens's picture

It's only fair!

Anton's picture

Maybe next time I see you!

Cheers, amigo.

tonykaz's picture

You should've asked for various features to be explained.

I went to your Web page and read a long list of desirable features that I didn't notice in the review.

A Piano Lacquer finish? Is it actually as good looking as it is in the snaps?, very nice Curb appeal for the Mrs.

Sorbothane, multi layer plinth, 22 oz platter, hmm, does the Motor have Quartz speed control ( to what level of accuracy? ), does it have Litz wire to those GOLD RCAs on the back?, what is the Arm resonance freq.?, what cartridge compliance is ideal?, will it work ok on wooden floors? ( LINN LP-12 will bounce when folks walk around ) .

I would expect a reviewer to be properly informed, am I asking too much?

Of course the reviewer might've called and talked to you!

Both Guilty, shared 50/50!

Having said that, you certainly had me looking at your web page and I'm not an Analog Man, since 1985.

I was in the Audio Business long ago, I think I met you a couple of times, rather pleasant memory of you considering you're a Brit.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Can you pleeeeeze send Nigel Farge back home, he's causing a bit of a ruckus round these parts. ( but then, maybe you don't want him either )

Catcher10's picture

I don't have a "7.3", but rather a 7.1 I purchased 4yrs ago and last year upgraded the 9c arm to the 9cc and added a Cruise Control. Essentially I made a 7.3 from my 7.1

I have had zero desire to change tables in the past 4yrs, or now in the future. Having owned many tables in the past 30yrs, this design has given me the best sound retrieval from my LPs....Period! It has taken many cartridge upgrades and each time I have experienced a better sound, I run a Lyra Delos on it now and am beyond satisfied with the higher end performance. I would love a mmf-11.1 table but cannot afford that model, I'd like to think one day!!

I have communicated with Roy Hall via email several times, and every time he has been more than cordial and very prompt in his responses. When I first received my 7.1, I was having an issue with setup, I emailed him and within 20min I had several responses...BTW it was a Saturday afternoon. I don't get the dislike of him....just me though.

I love my table.....

Eoldschool's picture

First of all, the Ortofon 2M Bronze is hardly a budget and mediocre cart. Sure compared to a $1000, it may be "budget", but cost never equates to quality. Most folks do not run 4 digit carts either, so that bit is skewered.
Secondly, it should have been pointed out that an MC cart (in the case of the Goldring) is a different animal to an MM cart and each have their good and bad, but both are fine for the job.
Third, different tonearms are compatible with different carts. For instance, I put a Shure 97xMe on my Denon DP47f and it was awful no matter what I did with my analog front. It was just not compatible. Swapped it with a 2M Bronze and night and day. In fact, I learned that the 2M Blue would be an even better choice for the Denon tonearm on that table as would the Denon 103 for a MC cart.
Fourth-You don't mention whether you are using a phono preamp or not and if so it likely adjustable to which you can make the cart behave differently.
Fifth- did you try changing the platter mat?
None of these important things were mentioned and therefore your review is skewered in a certain direction.
Yes, there are many fine tables out there under $2000. Even the lowly Music Hall MF2.2 can handle better carts than it comes with. However, when you think about just that fact alone not to mention others, the MF2.2 isn't all that lowly. The MF7.3 of course has better refinements and such and is just as good a choice as any other table in the range.
It's the beauty of analog, the fact that one can simply change the mat let alone anything else and get a completely different sound, a sound the way the individual likes it.

George Napalm's picture

I received the October issue of the magazine and noticed that Music Hall MMF-7.3 is listed as Class B component. But despite being the cheapest turntable in this category it doesn't have a "$$$" mark. Was it placed in B category by mistake?

Bobbersound's picture

Can anyone tell me just how much better this mmf7.3 is compared to the Ikura and mmf5.3 tables im interested in the best sound for least money i wish not to waste money for little gain, the Bronze cart is what interested me about the 7.3 over the other two which come with the blue cartridge how much of an upgrade is it ????

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