Recommended Components Fall 2022 Edition Turntables

Turntables

A+

J.Sikora Reference: $47,000 w/o tonearm
This Polish company's top-of-the-line turntable is a nonsuspended, high-mass design, weighing 253lb. The dynamically and statically balanced platter alone weighs 40lb! Drive is with four square belts spun by four Papst DC motors. MF found that the plinth was immune to knuckle raps and motor start-up noises and wrote that the Reference was very quiet. He decided that this J.Sikora 'table had been superbly tuned to extract deep, well-controlled bass free of overhang or excess. The measured speed accuracy was impressive, as was its isolation from the outside world. Using J.Sikora's own KV12 VTA tonearm ($8995) as well as SAT and Kuzma tonearms, MF couldn't find fault with any aspect of the Reference's sonic performance or its machining and physical presentation. He summed up: "For those willing to make the expenditure, add the J.Sikora Reference to the list of great mass-loaded turntables at this price." (Vol.45 No.7 WWW)

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: $172,000 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 WWW)

TechDAS Air Force Zero: $550,000 (as reviewed w/Tungsten platter); $500,000 w/Titanium platter
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)

A

Acoustic Signature Montana NEO: $33,995 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 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: $27,000 without arm, $34,000 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)

Clearaudio Reference Jubilee: $30,000 incl. tonearm
A belt-drive design that uses a POM main platter sitting on a stainless steel subplatter flywheel, the boomerang-shaped Jubilee features a patented Ceramic Magnetic Bearing and a Panzerholz plinth. An updated 9" Clearaudio Universal tonearm is included in the price and features a carbon fiber armtube. Also included in the price are Clearaudio's 1.6lb Statement Clamp, 1.5lb Outer Limit peripheral clamp and locator rim, and Professional Power 24V DC power supply. KM found that the turntable ran about 0.3% fast. He wrote that the Reference Jubilee's sound combined vivid detail retrieval, forceful dynamics, a delicate, refined top end, and a translucent midrange. Levels of resolution, clarity, transparency, and trueness-to-source left him vinyl-shocked and thinking, "So that's what's on this recording?" He added that the Reference Jubilee, Universal Tonearm, and Jubilee MC cartridge "combined staggering detail, energy, and forward-flow allied to a 3D stage that was large, deep, and transparent. The music it made was profound and life-affirming." (Vol.45 No.7 WWW)

Döhmann Audio Helix One Mk2: $53,000
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: $9594 w/o 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: $10,314 and up depending on options
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)

Linn Klimax LP12: $30,120 incl. tonearm, MC phono cartridge, and phono stage
The fully loaded review sample was fitted with the Karousel bearing, a NASA-grade Keel subchassis ($3705), and the optional fluted plinth ($220). Also included were Linn's Ekstatik moving coil cartridge ($7150), Ekos Super Evolution (SE) tonearm ($5645), the machined-chassis version of the Radikal motor controller/power supply, and the Urika phono stage ($10,400 for both). HR found that the Klimax LP12 was dramatically better-sounding than his vintage Sondek. It offered "conspicuously quiet (deep black) backgrounds" and tempo, focus, and immediacy that were "near-laboratory quality." His conclusion was that the Linn Klimax record player "looks like a piece of heirloom furniture, is built to a very high standard of fit'n'finish, and is eternally upgradeable. Its substantial dealer base makes it easily and expertly serviceable in a way few other turntable brands can match. These facts alone make the Klimax worth its price." (Vol.45 No.6 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: $6345 (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 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)

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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: $4300 w/Satisfy Black tonearm & Concept MM cartridge; $5200 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: $7495 ★
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 WWW)

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: $2499 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)

Music Hall Stealth: $1649
See Herb Reichert's review elsewhere in this issue. (Vol.45 No.10)

SME Model 6: $7995 w/SME M2-9 tonearm
SME Model 6 Classic: $9495 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. The Classic version substitutes the M2-9-R for the straight-pipe M2-9 provided with the original Model 6, which has a curved stainless steel pipe terminating in SME's familiar locking collet. (A headshell is provided, as well as an extra counterweight that can be threaded onto the arm's rear shaft if needed.) (Vol.44 No.5, Vol.45 No.4 WWW)

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)

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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)

D

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)

Deletions
VPI HW-40 Anniversary Edition, discontinued. Technics SL-1000R, Technics SP-10R Motor Unit, Technics SP10R with OMA Iron Plinth, not auditioned in a long time.

COMMENTS
Auditor's picture

The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

John Atkinson's picture
Auditor wrote:
The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

Fixed. Thank you.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

lesmarshall's picture

I was very surprised to read that the Benchmark DAC 3 is no longer a Recommended Component . In the earlier 2022 edition of Recommend Components , it was an A+ component . Your stated reason for the deletion was because it was not auditioned in a long while . Well why not audition it then ? Also, why is an audition necessary ? It measured as one of the best DACs ever . Why would its measurements change simply because you have not auditioned it recently ? I understand its your policy , but it seems rather unfair to Benchmark that you no longer recommend it for that reason . I believe a much fairer policy would be that a highly rated component should only fall off the recommended list if it is auditioned periodically and you determine that its current level of recommendation is no longer justified based on the factors that you use to include a component of the recommended list .

JRT's picture

Les, toward some light hearted amusement, consider a reductio ad absurdum.

The quoted material below was excerpted from the first version (published 01 May 1963) of Stereophile's recommended components, just the A,B,C rated amplifiers and preamplifiers:

Quote:

Preamplifier-Control Units
A: Marantz 7, McIntosh C-20
B, C: Dynaco PAS-2

Power Amplifiers
A: Marantz 8B, McIntosh MC-60 (footnote 5), Marantz 9A (footnote 5)
B, C: Dynaco Stereo 70

Footnote 5: mono amplifier.

Reductio ad Absurdum... Should the old gear listed above continue as currently recommended gear, or is it best left in its original context in the circa 1963 article? ...and why or why not? ...and is it a much too different set of cases for comparison? ...why? Would that old gear be good fodder for a listing of recommended vintage gear, and is that good subject matter for the current Stereophile readership? These are mostly rhetorical questions, but not all.

JRT's picture

Would you also include the essentially similar PAS-3, and then also the PAS-3X with updated tone controls, and then maybe also Frank van Alstine's improved Super PAS Three, etc.? The original short-list can grow large.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-1-0

https://www.stereophile.com/tubepreamps/1088vana/index.html

georgehifi's picture

It would be nice if the "title" of the piece recommended was clickable, so one could easily then read the full review of all these thousands of "recommended components" instead of searching like a ???

Just a thought??

Cheers George

liquidsun's picture

I must say I'm surprised to see Perlistens into Restricted Extreme LF category as I thought they were full range speakers.

Kal Rubinson's picture

For most, they will be full range but, as you can see from JA's Fig. 4, the FR is rolling off smoothly below 100HZ such that it will easily mate with a complementary subwoofer. I believe that was Perlisten's intent. That said, unless you are assessing the sound of low, low organ pedal tones, explosions or thunder, the bass from the s7t is clean, powerful and musically satisfying.

Robin Landseadel's picture

There's a lot of Dance Pop/Techno music that gives the lowest octave a workout. Managed to blow out the small bass driver from a Paradigm bookshelf speaker with a Sarah McLaughlan track---"I Love You" from the album "Surfacing"---a quiet ballad with a synth bottom without overtones, so there's pure, deep bass. Another good example would be the work of Bill Laswell, a producer/bass player.

Kal Rubinson's picture

OK but how is this relevant? On the one hand, I am not surprised that one can blow out the small bass driver in a bookshelf speaker. On the other, I doubt if it would do that to the Perlisten.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Blowing out the driver of a Paradigm Atom might not be meaningful save that I blew it out with a track that is low in level and undynamic. More to the point, it sounds like the speakers in question could use a sub. Of course, you pointed out that the speakers in question are designed to integrate well with subs. My Infinity 250 speakers, small floor-standing speakers, also requires a sub for deep bass.

What is meaningful is that there is more to the bottom octave than organ pedals and explosions. Lots of modern productions take advantage of digital recording/playback's ability to record/reproduce the lowest octaves of sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, there is a lot more to the bottom end than I cared to mention but the distinction between the small Paradigm Atom and the s7t is that the former needs a sub (or a LP filter) merely to survive wide-band signals while the latter does not.

Did you read my comments about the Garage Door test? I doubt that either your Paradigm or your Infinity could compete with the Perlisten, with or without a sub.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Doubtless. My point was more about program material and really deep bass. In any case, my Infinity Primus 250s are aided by my Sonance Son of Sub. As the system is in a small room, it's probably as much bass as the room can take.

Anton's picture

I like to hit this issue and pretend all my Hi Fi gear is gone and I have to start over with my budget and this list.

Glotz's picture

Droooooool.. and I'm done FOREVER.

Soulution, MBL... heaven.

KEFLS50W's picture

It will be interesting to see if Stereophile catches up to the focus on active, integrated designs. The relevance of separates seems to be waning in comparison to these sexy and modern designs (many of which are good value to boot) from KEF, B&W, Q Acoustic, ATC, Dali, and others. LS50WII for example gives me access to high quality, high current class a/b amplification I would not have been able to afford with separates. On another note, why are REL subs not listed - they would floor the competition listed in terms of sonics and build quality. Sorry but SVS is a home theater product and KEF KC62 is for kids.

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