Recommended Components 2022 Edition Turntables



OMA K3: $363,000 including power supply and Schröder SLM tonearm
MF described this idiosyncratically styled, massive, and very expensive turntable as looking "somewhat like the Guggenheim Museum topped by a heliport and a construction crane." Even so, he was impressed by its performance, with the 11.1" "aluminum girder" Schröder tonearm fitted with Ortofon Anna D, Lyra Etna Lambda SL, and Lyra Atlas Lambda SL phono cartridges. He described the K3's sound as "fast, clean, detailed, highly resolving, super-transparent, effortlessly dynamic, and capable of producing unparalleled transient precision and depth-charge-deep bass 'wallop' that's fully extended yet totally free from overhang." He concluded, "As with any truly great audio product, regardless of price, the OMA K3 turntable speaks with a singular voice." Offers 33 1/3, 45, and 78rpm speeds. Dedicated stand costs $40,000. (Vol.44 No.10 WWW)

SAT XD1: €180,000 without tonearm
This extraordinary and extraordinarily expensive Swedish turntable begins life as a Technics SP-10R direct-drive motor system, which is stripped down to a handful of essential components, reimagined, reengineered, and rebuilt to much higher mechanical standards. Mark Gomez focused on isolation from external disturbances, speed stability, rigidity, and vacuum hold-down. There are "pods" for two armboards. The platter's top layer is made from a "proprietary advanced technical polymer infused with carbon-fiber micro powder and UHM carbon nanotubes." The XD1's price includes a custom, low-profile, Minus K–based "negative stiffness" isolation platform, and the control electronics are housed in an outboard chassis machined from a single block of aluminum that sits on 10Hz-and-up isolation feet. The result, with SAT's CF1-9Ti tonearm, was better than with MF's long-term reference turntable, the Continuum Caliburn: "With the SAT 'table, every drum and bass element was in its place for the first time—ever. They were smaller, deeper, far more powerful, and controlled; the attack, sustain, and decay occurred on time. This allowed previously overwhelmed, blurred, and buried instruments to emerge in a clarified mix that produced greater musical excitement and zero listening fatigue." MF concluded that the SAT XD1 with the CF1-09Ti tonearm (€76,000 when purchased with the turntable) was the best-sounding, best-engineered, best-built turntable he's had in his system to date. (Vol.43 No.12 WWW)

TechDAS Air Force One Premium: $162,000 w/titanium upper platter
The standard version of the TechDAS Air Force One turntable was awarded an A+ and sat atop these ratings for six years. Now MF has auditioned the Premium version of same, which betters the original AFO with a motorized air pump and automatic, continuous pressure-monitoring system for its air-suspension mechanism. MF's review sample also featured an optional titanium upper platter. (Without the latter, the AFO Premium sells for $145,000.) Auditioned with a Graham Engineering Elite tonearm, the AFO Premium impressed MF with "its ultraquiet backgrounds, the generosity of its presentation of instrumental sustain and decay, its neutral spectral balance, and [its] dynamic presentation … . It's as much reliable test instrument as supreme carrier of unassuming musical pleasure." (Vol.43 No.2)

TechDAS Air Force Zero: $450,000 (basic version)
TechDAS founder Hideaki Nishikawa's ultimate analog statement, the Air Force Zero is limited to a production run of just 40 units. Weighing 725.5lb with its ultraheavy main subchassis assembly, it combines rebuilt, new-old-stock, high-torque Papst motors driving multiple massive platters with a customized air-bearing spindle and flywheel. LPs are held in place with a vacuum hold-down system. Using SAT and Graham tonearms and his reference phono cartridges from Lyra and X-quisite, MF found that the Zero "let through each cartridge's timbral and dynamic character while imparting its own unique and immediately recognizable weight, sledgehammer 'slam,' ultragenerous sustain and decay, and the blackest backgrounds I've heard a turntable produce. … no other turntable, or none that I've yet reviewed, so effectively sinks unwanted and extraneous noise while passing the musical goods with effortless ease, often in the most subtle and nuanced ways." (Vol.44 No.9 WWW)


Acoustic Signature Montana NEO: $30,995 w/o tonearm
Non-suspended, mass-loaded, triple–belt-driven turntable with a constrained-layer–damped, 55lb aluminum-alloy chassis sitting on height-adjustable, gel-damped feet. The outboard power supply features a vibration-canceling system that combines hardware and software to control the three 24-pole, two-coil AC motors. Offers 33 1/3 and 45rpm speeds. With the Montana NEO fitted with Acoustic Signature's TA-7000 NEO 9" tonearm—see Tonearms—and an Ortofon A95 phono cartridge, MF found that with a 1980 orchestral LP, the timbral, spatial, and dynamic presentation was "warm and inviting and intensely three-dimensional." He added that the "well-damped but not overdamped, fully controlled, supremely well-focused, rock-solid stable presentation produced a memorable 3D picture." This was similar, he noted, to his impression of the A95's sonic character; changing to an AudioQuest Etna Lambda 𝜆 SL produced "a more generous, rich, full midrange and midbass, a presentation that added spatial context and richness to vocals and acoustic instruments." MF summed up the Montana NEO/TA-7000 NEO combo as "a neutral and revealing carrier." (Vol.45 No.1 WWW)

AMG Viella Forte Engraved: $25,000 without arm, $32,000 with 12JT tonearm
This massive turntable features an outboard, crystal-controlled power supply and a black-anodized aluminum two-piece platter that weighs almost 31lb and has a weighted rim (producing a flywheel effect), a gently convex, inlaid-PVC top surface, and a decoupled spindle. The plinth weighs 50.7lb! According to MF, who auditioned the Forte Engraved with AMG's 12JT tonearm (see "Tonearms") and an Ortofon Anna Diamond cartridge, what makes this turntable so appealing is its midrange presentation, "which, though ever so slightly thick, is highly resolved and includes complete freedom from overhang." He added that "the very bottom, too, while not the most fully extended, is completely free of muddy hangover." He concluded that the Viella Forte "is among the best values in 'top tier' turntables. Its build quality and engineering make it worthy of placement in that category even if the sonic performance is a notch below the absolute best." "Engraved" because of the elegant scrollwork on the plinth's surface; the nonengraved version costs $2000 less. (Vol.43 No.9 WWW)

Döhmann Audio Helix One Mk2: $51,500
Compared with the original Helix, which MF reviewed in Vol.40 No.3, the Helix One Mk2 has been redesigned, and it now incorporates Döhmann's Minus K negative-stiffness isolation base. The outboard power supply is now installed in the "PowerBase" that the massive turntable chassis rests on. The review sample was supplied with the Thrax-manufactured Schröder CB 9" arm ($5500). The Mk2's speed measurements were "somewhat disappointing" compared to the original Helix One's, but MF didn't notice any issues in his auditioning. While the Helix One Mk2 didn't sound as smooth as the TechDAS Air Force One, MF found that "This turntable exudes complete authority and control, and never leaves you feeling that there's more to be extracted from the grooves … or that anything is being withheld dynamically, spatially, or in terms of detail resolution." Price is for black-anodized finish; it's $55,600 in plated nickel and titanium. (Vol.43 No.4 WWW)

Garrard 301: $23,500 (plus freight) w/arm and plinth
Since 2011, when he began using a 1957 Garrard 301 as his reference turntable, AD has been looking for a way to sneak that product among this magazine's Recommended Components. The Cadence Group, which owns SME, Spendor, and other British brands, has provided a means to do just that: In 2018, they added Garrard to their holdings, and in 2019 they reintroduced the 301 to the market. Samples available now comprise a mix of new, NOS, and reconditioned parts, but the company says that proportion will change as they tool up to make new components. Less than ideally, Garrard will sell a 301 only with their own plinth and with an SME M2-12R tonearm; fortunately, according to AD, that arm is itself recommendable. But the sound's the thing, and in that regard, AD feels that Edmund W. Mortimer's timeless high-torque turntable design remains the surest way to retrieve all of the touch, force, color, and momentum locked in the groove. (Vol.42 No.12 WWW)

J.Sikora Initial: $9495 without tonearm.
The least expensive in this Polish manufacturer's line, the belt-drive Initial comes with a standalone power supply/controller and either a blank arm mount or a mount predrilled for Kuzma, Jelco, Ortofon, Origin Live, or SME tonearms. Price as reviewed was $11,053 with a glass platter mat ($259), a two-piece record weight ($799), and a Jelco TL-850M tonearm (though Jelco announced in May 2020 that it was ceasing production). The plinth is aluminum, the platter Delrin, and the DC motor is sourced from Papst. With a Grado Aeon3 phono cartridge, the J.Sikora sounded conspicuously unmechanical, unnervingly dark, superquiet, noticeably dynamic, and unbelievably microdetailed, wrote HR. "But, he added, "it also—strangely—sounded like nothing I'd heard before." After trying several different cartridges, HR decided that "J.Sikora's Initial gave me what I consider to be a majority portion of what the Porsche-Maserati turntables do at a Cadillac-Oldsmobile price." Crystal glass mat is now included. (Vol.43 No.6 WWW)

Kuzma Stabi R w/one arm wing: $8845
According to its designer, Franc Kuzma, the new Stabi R is essentially a scaled-down version of his upmarket Stabi M: same 8kg belt-driven platter, same two-speed (33.3 and 45rpm) DC power supply, and same high-torque DC drive motor. The heavyweight (66lb in its most basic version) Stabi R is also available with a wood frame that adds $910 to the price (and another 13lb), and can be used with up to four tonearms (additional armboards are extra-cost options). Used with a Kuzma 4Point 11 tonearm ($6675 as supplied), the Stabi R wowed KM—whose reference turntable is the less expensive Kuzma Stabi S—with "its ability to communicate force at lower volumes, a kind of tranquil power." Is the Stabi R worth four times the price of the Stabi S? According to KM, "Yes. No other turntable has created its level of stability, presence, resolution, and sheer physicality—not in my system." (Vol.42 No.7 WWW)

Reed Muse 1C: $15,000 (with friction drive and black finish)
This dramatic- and attractive-looking Lithuanian-made turntable features a thin leather/suede platter mat and a two-motor drive system. An aluminum subplatter, machined with a tapered hub, is driven by two opposing phase-locked–loop DC motors that turn at slightly different speeds; the two motor pulleys are fitted with rubber/elastomer drive wheels of slightly different diameters. (A belt-drive option is available.) "Tapping anywhere on the plinth produced the tiniest of 'tinks,' with no low-frequency component and no overhanging sound," according to MF. Reed's 5T tonearm (see "Tonearms") and an Ortofon MC Century cartridge "extracted musical fun from every record I played, plus a sense of ease and relaxation." (Vol.43 No.6 WWW)

Rega Planar 10: $6375 (w/o cartridge)
Save for their ca-$45,000 Naiad, the newly revised Planar 10 represents the pinnacle of Rega's high-tech and extremely well-thought-out minimalism. Its skeletal plinth is machined from a super-rigid laminate in which a lightweight polyurethane foam core is a key element, supported by three elastomer footers. The diamond-cut ceramic platter rests on a machined-aluminum subplatter, with upper and lower ceramic braces between the platter bearing and the tonearm mount, the latter home to a Rega RB3000 arm. A 24V, low-vibration synchronous motor is individually tuned to its outboard drive electronics; this propels the platter via two drive belts that are precision-molded from a very high-tech polymer. MF found the sound of the new P10 to be "fast, tight, well-defined, tuneful, and exciting on the bottom," adding that "anyone who thinks a lightweight 'table can't produce deep, tuneful, and well-sculpted bass should listen to the P10." Apheta3 cartridge adds $1000; Aphelion2 cartridge adds $4000. (Vol.43 No.3 WWW)

SME Synergy: $21,900 with Series IV tonearm
In December of 2019, SME announced that they would no longer offer tonearms as standalone items and would instead sell them only when bundled with SME turntables; in retrospect, that sheds light on the May 2018 introduction of the Synergy, SME's first-ever integrated record player. The Synergy combines a newly designed and relatively high-mass belt-drive turntable—one whose vibration-isolation scheme eschews the O-ring suspension used in previous SME models—with a magnesium-tube tonearm, an Ortofon Windfeld Ti MC cartridge, and a built-in Nagra phono preamplifier. The Synergy offers 33.3, 45, and 78rpm, all microfine-adjustable via the 'table's outboard power supply. Setting up the Synergy is relatively easy, as one might expect from an expensive turnkey player, but the "the Synergy is not exactly 'plug'n'play,'" according to MF, who also praised the "soundstage three-dimensionality" and "complete freedom from mechanical artifacts" of this "very competent and fine SME player." (Vol.42 No.11)

Technics SL-1000R: $18,999
Technics SP-10R motor unit: $10,999
In 2018, Technics did something that had seemed unthinkable even five years earlier: They tooled up to make a brand-new, hand-built-in-Japan version of their flagship direct-drive turntable. The SP-10R motor unit is built around a brand-new double-coil, twin-rotor, coreless direct-drive motor, topped with a 17.5lb brass-and-aluminum platter controlled by an outboard switching power supply, and built into a metal chassis that allows drop-in replacement of older SP-10s in existing plinths. The SP-10R is also available with a newly designed plinth and tonearm, comprising a complete player sold as the Technics SL-1000R ($20,000); the new arm, fixed to an armboard at the usual 2 o'clock position, can't be swapped out for other makes/models, but the user can add up to two auxiliary armboards. MF praised the SL-1000R, noting that its "accuracy and stability of speed helped produce precise but not overly sharp transients that helped contribute to a complete absence of listening fatigue." He also described the player's sound as "serenity-inducing … and refreshingly non-mechanical," although he noted that the SL-1000R "did not produce the 'blackest' backgrounds behind the music," and that the bottom end was "not as explosive, muscular, or grippy" as with other players. (Vol.41 No.11 WWW)

Technics SP10R with OMA iron plinth: $22,000
Perhaps spurred by the success accorded Technics's recent SP-10R turntable (see elsewhere in "Recommended Components"), Oswalds Mill Audio has designed for that and earlier Technics motor units their SP10 Plinth System, which combines a base unit made of hypoeutectic iron—said to combine high mass with exceptional rigidity and vibration-damping properties—with a removable armboard of torrefied ash, the latter adaptable to tonearms ranging from 9" to 12" and longer. The SP10 is large (26.125" wide by 4.125" high by 20.125" deep) and very heavy (110lb without turntable), and is available in clear or black powder finishes; the price has yet to be determined, but is expected to be under $10,000—ie, less than the SP-10R itself. Writing of his experiences with the SP-10R and Schröder CB tonearm mounted in the OMA Plinth System, MF described an "austere" sound that was "rhythmically taut and, overall, 'together' from top to bottom," with music pouring forth from "the 'blackest' backdrops," leading him to praise this pricey plinth as "one super energy sink." (Vol.42 No.2 WWW)

Thorens TD 124 DD: $11,999 w/TP 124 tonearm
The original TD 124 turntable from Swiss manufacturer Thorens, with its innovative drive mechanism that utilized both a belt and an idler wheel, was introduced in 1957. It became a classic and examples in good condition are much sought after. The current Thorens company, owned by former Denon manager and ELAC CEO Gunter Kürten, is based in Germany. Rather than manufacture an authentic reproduction of the 1957 TD 124, the TD 124 DD, available in a limited run of 500 units, is intended to maintain as much of the original as possible while updating its function in key areas. The biggest change is the use of a 12-pole direct drive motor. The TP 124 tonearm is also new. It features an internally damped aluminum armtube with a heavy brass counterweight to balance the 30gm weight of the Ortofon SPU 124 cartridge used by KM in his auditioning. (A second, lighter counterweight is included, along with a headshell, for use with more typical cartridges.) KM liked what he heard: The TD 124 DD "excelled at rhythmic punch and dynamics, producing music with vigor and drive. The 'table's low noisefloor made for stark dynamic contrasts as music burst from the subtlest ppp to the boldest fff." His conclusion? "The designers' most heretical move—replacing the original 124's peculiar drive system, which resulted in a turntable with fluidity and, well, drive—with direct drive has achieved an even more propulsive sound, with a somewhat larger soundstage and better dynamics." (Vol.44 No.8 WWW)

VPI Avenger Reference: $24,000 including Gimbal FatBoy tonearm
The heavy (85lb) Avenger Reference is built on a plinth made from layers of acrylic and aluminum, shaped with three outriggers fitted with massive steel corner posts, themselves supported by aluminum cones resting on Delrin/ball-bearing isolation bases. A cantilevered aluminum armboard clamps to the tops of those corner posts—the Avenger Reference can simultaneously accommodate up to three tonearms—and the platter is rim-driven by an idler wheel that is itself belt-driven by two AC synchronous motors. The idler drives a lower platter that's precision-machined from aluminum; that platter propels, by means of magnetic drive, a similar upper platter—a thin gap is maintained between the two. The Avenger Reference is fitted with VPI's Fatboy tonearm, a 12" unipivot with a 3D-printed polymer armtube. (Additional Fatboys are available for $6000 for the complete tonearm, $4000 for a spare armtube only.) Despite isolation feet that "provided little actual isolation," Mikey found that the Avenger Reference "fulfilled the promise of rim drive's benefits minus the noise and rumble." He noted the 'table's "excellent speed stability and consistency," and praised the combo for producing "'black' backgrounds." (Vol.41 No.12 WWW)

VPI HW-40 Anniversary Edition including Gimbal Fatboy tonearm: $20,000 $$$
A lot has happened since VPI introduced its $30,000 Classic Direct direct-drive turntable, the high price of which was determined in part by its high-tech ThinGap motor, which reportedly cost the manufacturer $4000 apiece. Based on that turntable's success, VPI has found themselves able to cut costs by ordering a lot of those motors—to which they now apply their own in house–designed drive electronics as well as a completely reworked bearing, subplatter, and platter. The result, according to MF, is a turntable that's "better in every way … than the Classic Direct." And while he didn't consider the HW-40's gimbal-bearing JMW-12 Gimbal Fatboy tonearm the equal of his reference SAT arm, MF said that, given the package's $15,000 price, the "very good arm is almost a freebie." (Going forward, the HW-40 will be available without an arm and with an interchangeable armboard.) MF noted the HW-40's "rock-solid musical drive," "exceptional transparency and retrieval of low-level detail," and "deep, powerful bass" and concluded that, "in terms of design, execution, and value, it's the best VPI turntable yet." (Vol.43 No.1 WWW)


AVM Rotation R 2.3: $4995 with tonearm
Hi-fi enthusiasts who already own one or more components from German company AVM might do well to consider the Rotation R 2.3, a similarly styled belt-drive record player manufactured by Pro-Ject. In addition to its aesthetic consistency with AVM's electronics—most apparent in its sleek aluminum "cover frame" and the blue-LED illumination of its recessed acrylic platter—the Rotation offers an inboard DC motor, permanently lubricated bronze platter bearing, and a gimbaled tonearm with an "impressively massive" bearing yoke and a sliding–single-bolt headshell for good cartridge adjustability. MF observed "excellent speed consistency" and a "well enough controlled" bottom end, and although he heard a slight softening of transients, Mikey noted that "the R 2.3 produced a pleasingly uncolored sound" overall. (Vol.42 No.12 WWW)

Clearaudio Concept Active Wood: $3700 w/Satisfy Black tonearm & Concept MM cartridge; $4600 w/Satisfy Carbon Fiber tonearm & Concept MC cartridge
Nonsuspended, belt-drive turntable from Germany that is available in two versions with different tonearms and cartridges. Both versions include an integral MM/MC phono preamplifier, which can be bypassed, and a headphone output. KM auditioned both versions. The pricier Active Wood with the Satisfy CF tonearm and the Concept MC cartridge sounded "clear, dynamic, rhythmic, and transparent; the combo excelled at playing black discs with detail and quiet backgrounds, with a large soundstage populated with well-sized images," he wrote. He found that what the less-expensive version gave up in transparency, refinement, and focus, "it gained in richness, warmth, and relaxation." Though he felt the Clearaudio's internal phono pre was outclassed by the tubed Tavish phono stage, it still "sounded quite good overall: palpable, solid, and upfront." KM's overall conclusion: "Its first-rate build quality and sound, and its ease of setup and versatility, make the Clearaudio Active Wood a solid choice for both turntable purists and enthusiasts." (Vol.44 No.6 WWW)

Dr. Feickert Blackbird, standard: $6995
The standard Feickert Blackbird is a belt-driven turntable in which a Delrin platter is propelled by two (!) high-torque AC motors, with provisions for mounting two tonearms. Its plinth is an aluminum-MDF-aluminum sandwich done up in a black Nextel finish. As reviewed by HR, fitted with Jelco's knife-bearing TK-850L tonearm and optional DIN-to-RCA cable, and upgraded with eight inertia-enhancing brass platter weights and a glossy wood finish ($9345 total), the Blackbird ingratiated itself in no time: "I admired the Dr. Feickert Analogue Blackbird the minute I set it up. After a couple of weeks, I was ready to propose marriage." As Herb describes it, "bass through the Feickert-Jelco combo was tighter and more vigorous" than with his AMG G9 player (see elsewhere in "Recommended Components"), and compared to even his Linn LP12, the Blackbird impressed him by re-creating musical momentum in a way that was "noticeably more visceral." (Vol.41 No.12 WWW)

Haniwa Player w/HTAM01 Arm: $15,000
The Player, which is made for Haniwa by German manufacturer Transrotor, is a compact but massive belt-drive design with a heavy aluminum platter topped with a butyl rubber Oyaide mat. Its companion tonearm is billed by Haniwa as their HTAM01 model, but MF recognized it as the ViV Laboratory Rigid Float tonearm, which he wrote about in the August 2014 Stereophile. The Haniwa/ViV tonearm is an odd duck, designed so that a cartridge mounted therein exhibits underhang instead of overhang, and with zero offset angle. MF praised the player's ease of setup and high quality of construction and finish, but noted that, contrary to the claims made for it by Haniwa, it is not optimized for use with low-internal-impedance cartridges and their companion current amplification phono preamps, and he dismissed the HTAM01 for design solutions that are "misguided and demonstrably ineffective." (Vol.42 No.10)

Linn Sondek LP12: $3000 for turntable only ★
Since 1972, Linn has devised and offered for their belt-drive, suspended-subchassis flagship all manner of upgrades; commendably, all have been retrofittable. Some standouts: The Lingo power-supply mod of 1990 minimizes the LP12's propensity toward a slightly fat midbass and subjectively "adds an octave of low-bass extension," according to JA. The Keel one-piece subchassis, tonearm board, and Linn-specific tonearm-mounting collar of 2006 makes "an unambiguous improvement in the LP12's performance," according to AD. And the Linn Radikal mod—a DC motor with an outboard switch-mode power supply—impressed Mr. D with "more force, more momentum, and a little more sheer grip on the notes." At present, the least expensive LP12 package is the Majik LP12 ($4320): standard subchassis, wood-composite armboard, single-speed power supply, Pro-Ject 9cc tonearm, and a Linn Adikt moving magnet cartridge. Experience leads us to expect high Class B performance—superbly low measured rumble, excellent speed stability, and very good musical involvement—from an entry-level LP12, while previous incarnations of the full-monty LP12 have delivered true Class A sound. (Vol.7 No.2, Vol.13 No.3, Vol.14 No.1, Vol.16 No.12, Vol.17 No.5, Vol.19 No.2, Vol.26 No.11, Vol.28 No.2, Vol.30 No.10, Vol.34 No.6, Vol.39 No.6 WWW)

Mark Levinson No5105: $6600; $7700 with Ortofon Quintet Black phono cartridge
Designed in collaboration with and sourced from a German manufacturer, this elegant-looking, high-mass (75lb), belt-drive turntable comes complete with a 10" tonearm that features a rigid, glossy, carbon-fiber tube. Michael Fremer found the No5105 easy to set up and use and, with a fast, detailed cartridge like the Ortofon Quintet Black, it produced sound that was rich, relaxed, generous, and typical of higher mass, damped-style turntables. (Vol.44 No.4 WWW)

MoFi Electronics UltraDeck: $1999 with tonearm
Decades after the first Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab record comes the first MoFi record player—the UltraDeck turntable with Ultra tonearm, both made in the US and created with design input from Spiral Groove's Allen Perkins. The UltraDeck's sturdy plinth comprises three aluminum plates bonded to the top of an MDF core, and its belt-driven platter—machined from Delrin and weighing 6.8lb—rides on an inverted bearing. Four height-adjustable feet, designed in collaboration with Harmonic Resolution Systems (HRS), support the plinth. The Ultra tonearm has a 10" aluminum armtube, Cardas wiring, and a gimbaled bearing. According to HR, the UltraDeck, when used with MoFi's top-of-the-line moving magnet cartridge, the MasterTracker (a $2198 package; the MasterTracker is sold separately for $699), didn't provide the "deep 'black' backgrounds or enormous sound spaces" of the considerably more expensive AMG Giro G9 player, "but it did present me with an infectious, easy-flowing, liquid vitality." According to Herb, the MoFi combo "had stronger energy, achieved bigger dynamic swings, and was more detailed than comparatively priced 'tables from VPI and Rega." (Vol.41 No.2 WWW)

SME Model 6: $8995 w/SME M2-9 tonearm
SME Model 6 Classic: $10,495 w/SME M2-9-R tonearm
SME's least expensive turntable uses an outboard power supply and a chassis CNC-machined from what the company says is a "unique polymer high-density resin material," claimed to have "superb resonance absorption." It sits on four elastomer feet made from a vibration-absorbing compound, but as these aren't height-adjustable, the user needs to make sure the turntable support is level. The belt-driven, 4lb platter appears to be machined from Delrin. The M2-9 tonearm—an MF favorite—can accommodate cartridges weighing 5–12gm, and azimuth, VTA, and SRA are all adjustable. As with all SME turntables, there's no dustcover. While MF didn't like the screw-down three-piece record clamp, he appreciated how the Model 6 performed with Ortofon Cadenza Black and 2M Black LVB phono cartridges. "The more I used it, the more I enjoyed its open, airy sound and its solid bottom end," he concluded. See Michael Fremer's review of the Classic version in this month's Analog Corner. (Vol.44 No.5 WWW, Vol.45 No.4)

Thales Slim II Turntable: $6750
From Swiss watchmaker–turned–audio craftsman Micha Huber comes the Thales TTT Slim II belt-drive turntable, which mates a DC motor—powered by a battery that charges itself when you're not looking—and a 7.7lb aluminum platter with an attractively compact yet surprisingly heavy plinth. Combined with the Thales Simplicity II pivoting, tangential-tracking tonearm ($9450, or bundled with the TTT Slim II for $14,180), the Thales turntable lacked the last word in idler-drive-style impact, but it satisfied with its superb momentum and flow and its very good tactile qualities—not to mention its ease of setup and notably high build quality. (Vol.42 No.8 WWW)


Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO: $599 with tonearm & cartridge $$$
This bargain-priced, belt-drive turntable comes complete with a carbon-fiber tonearm, a Sumiko Rainier moving magnet cartridge ($150 when sold separately), and a shielded, directional phono cable. The 3.75lb steel platter is damped along its outer edge with a strip of thermoplastic elastomer. AH found that the review sample, like Rega turntables, ran slightly fast, but also felt it didn't release notes "with quite the screen-door-hitting-them-on-the-ass urgency of the [Rega] Planar 3 (which costs nearly twice as much without a cartridge)." He also found that the Pro-Ject and its cartridge made surface noise more intrusive than many other record players he'd heard. However, AH summed up his time with this turntable by saying "If there's a design parameter more crucial than a hi-fi component's ability to hold our attention and enable us to feel things, I don't know what it is. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO does this consistently, emphatically, at an attainable price." (Vol.44 No.3 WWW)

Pro-Ject Debut PRO: $999 w/tonearm & cartridge
Based on Pro-Ject's Debut Carbon EVO turntable, the belt-drive, non-suspended Debut PRO improves on earlier Pro-Ject models with CNC-milled aluminum parts, an upgraded bearing and tonearm with a hybrid aluminum–carbon fiber armtube, and what KM described as "a few more subtle but still beneficial upgrades." The price includes a Sumiko Oyster Rainier moving magnet cartridge. KM described the Debut PRO's presentation as featuring fast transients, strong dynamics, and crisp highs. "The Debut PRO is a lively, fun, exhilarating turntable; it makes records—or rather music from records—jump, boogie, and sing. … I was consistently surprised at the Debut PRO's ability to relay gobs of detail in a natural, compelling manner." KM's conclusion? "This ca $1000, handsome-but-unassuming record player proved to me what a manufacturer with decades of experience and expertise can do when designing an analog machine to a price point. The Debut PRO bowled me over with its dynamics, detail, soundstaging, spatial depth, and scale, especially with the more expensive [Sumiko] Wellfleet cartridge. The Debut PRO made the most of every style of music I put to it." (Vol.45 No.1 WWW)

Rega Planar 3 with Elys 2 cartridge in black, white, or red: $1395 ★
Forty years after introducing the original Planar 3, Rega has dusted off that model name and applied it to a comprehensively redesigned package that includes a new tonearm (the Rega RB330), a new 24V motor, and a newly re-engineered if outwardly similar plinth that incorporates the "metalized phenolic" tonearm-to-platter-bearing top brace that characterizes Rega's higher-end turntable models. In examining the new Planar 3, HR noted that his review sample did indeed run a bit fast, and he wondered whether some measure of the "'pacey,' boogie-down Rega sound" has to do with a combination of that and a microscopic "doubling" effect from the player's lively plinth. That said, Herb wrote, "For me, the best record-playing system is the one that most vigorously directs my attention toward the humans behind the music… . Rega's new Planar 3 is exceptional at doing just that." Price includes Elys 2 moving magnet cartridge; base price for turntable with tonearm is $945. Optional Drive Belt (in Floridian-retiree white): $59. (Vol.34 No.12, Vol.35 No.11, Vol.40 No.2 WWW)


Rega Planar 1 with Carbon cartridge: $595 $$$ ★
The plug'n'play RP1 (for Rega Planar One) replaces Rega's popular P1. Nearly identical to the earlier model in size and shape, the RP1 uses an Ortofon OM5e moving magnet cartridge, but trades the P1's MDF platter for one of phenolic resin and adds Rega's new, solidly built RB101 tonearm. Additionally, the P1's drab gray finish is exchanged for the RP1's choice of White, Cool Gray, or Titanium. Compared to the P1, the RP1 delivered more drive, better focus, and was the more confident, purposeful, and authoritative player. "Rega's RP1 looks good, is easy to set up, and plays records like it means it," said SM. AD shared SM's enthusiasm: "It's not just that I can't imagine $445 buying more happiness; I can't imagine so modest an investment in money and effort buying more music." The RP1 Performance Pack Upgrade was easy to install and resulted in a bigger soundstage, deeper silences, and greater resolution of low-level detail, said SM. "A no-brainer," agreed AD. (Vol.34 Nos.2, 4, & 5 WWW)

Bergmann Galder, Brinkmann Balance, not auditioned in a long time.

donnrut's picture

Not a single disc player reviewed under $4 thou??? Come on. I don't drive a Porsche Taycan or a Lambo. I have a $7 thou turntable rig assembled over several years of upgrades. My SACD player died 5 years ago, and now, I am in the market for $500 or $1000 disc player. I'll stream eventually but I have listened to my CDs, tossed out the bad ones and have maybe 200 that are well engineered/mastered, about 50 SACDs. I want S'phile to help me get a decent player. There are maybe half a dozen newish models.

johnnythunder1's picture

been doing a little research. The Hegel (discontinued) was 5k. The Bryston is 3+k. Ive had my eye on a Rotel CD 11 Tribute. It's like $600 and gets very good reviews.

AndyT2050's picture

I have a Rega Research Apollo Cd Player. Beautiful sound, nice design in my opinion. Not too expensive

moinau's picture

Nothing in the 500 to 1000$ range SACD player, although this Arcam might interest you.
Arcam CDS50

Ulfilas's picture

There is one recommended in the integrated amps category:

I have one myself, and grateful for the recommendation I am.

rlo's picture

Can you please bring back the links on the mobile page that let you jump to the relevant recommended component page? This has been missing for the last few. It’s quite annoying to have to switch to desktop theme to be able to go directly to the page I want (e.g. loudspeakers, amplifiers etc)

Jonti's picture

I've had mine for about 18 months and still have a sense of quiet awe every time I listen to/through it.

Tube-rolling can also yield excellent results. I have switched to NOS Mullards, which work a treat by (to my EAR) thickening the syrup and stirring the pot in such a way that the ends and edges of trailing sounds glisten, firing off from a weightier centre. (The stock EAR-stamped tubes were fine, just different: lighter-sounding, I think; I assume Tim would have approved the use of NOS Mullards given his views on the quality of many new tubes doing the rounds.)

Just for the benefit of any readers thinking about rolling those tubes, here's some extra instruction I received from an engineer at EAR Yoshino on how to go about it:

"Remove the top cover by removing four screws on the bottom of the unit. The jumper plug is located on the left side of smaller power supply circuit board labeled ECC83 and 13D16. The default position for the jumper is 13D16 with standard 13D16 valves fitted. If ECC83 valves are fitted then move the jumper one position to the right in the ECC83. position."

And finally, on the subject of MM/MC carts, I think it's fair to say (as correctly reflected in its rating here) that the Phono Box gives a solid platform to MC carts but really excels with MM/MIs. Try it with a London Decca!

[Edited version of post on Herb's original review]

hesson11's picture

The comments under the heading "Harbeth P3ESR XD" seem to imply that the XD version is identical to the 40th Anniversary edition, which Herb reviewed. Is that, in fact, the indisputable truth? I don't believe I've ever seen any official word that this is, in fact, the case.