Spin Doctor #13: Acoustic Signature Verona NEO turntable, TA-5000 NEO, TA-7000 NEO tonearms, Ultra Carbon TC-40 record weight

I sometimes joke about how audio designers create products that resemble themselves, not just in how they look, but also in the design approach used, and especially the way they sound. So, we have tall, cool, pragmatic Scandinavians making gear like the lean, elegant Børresen loudspeakers, while the Italians build luscious curvy equipment endowed with natural wood and leather, like Sonus Faber speakers and Unison Research amplifiers. Continuing this blatant stereotyping, we have Acoustic Signature founder Gunther Frohnhöfer, a stout German known for creating precision-built turntables that are as solid-looking as he is (footnote 1).

When I visited the Acoustic Signature factory in 2023, I watched as they hewed massive slabs of aluminum into beautiful, heavyweight turntables. This approach is the opposite of the lightweight-but-rigid philosophy embraced by Rega, and while the resulting performance has different strengths, I would argue that it is at least equally valid. As with Rega, Acoustic Signature products have a purposeful simplicity, in a way that would allow a nonaudiophile to instantly recognize what their function is.

During my visit to the Acoustic Signature factory last year, I got a sneak peek at the Verona NEO turntable ($15,995 in Macassar Ebony or Piano Black) just before it was officially launched at the High End Munich audio show a few days later. Unlike the sculpted-aluminum forms used for most models in the Acoustic Signature turntable lineup, the Verona joins the Double X NEO as the only models built around a wooden plinth. This endows these two models with a warmer and more furniture-like appearance, which should make them more domestically acceptable in a design-conscious household. The plinth itself is made from a multilayered sandwich of plywood, steel, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), providing constrained-layer damping to minimize vibrations. The top surface of the review sample was finished with a Macassar Ebony veneer, topped with a mirrorlike high-gloss finish, while the sides of the plinth were high gloss piano black. As an option, you can get the Verona with its entire plinth finished in the high-gloss black, while the metalwork, including the platter, arm bases, and control panel, can be finished in either silver or black.

Note that I said arm bases—plural—because unlike the smaller Double X NEO, the Verona comes ready to accept two tonearms, both of which can be either 9" or 12" long. Acoustic Signature can provide arm bases for a variety of common tonearms, while their own tonearms are normally fitted with an adapter plate that makes them compatible with the popular SME arm mount. The review turntable came with two arms from near the top of Acoustic Signature's extensive range: a 12" TA-5000 NEO ($8995) and a 9" TA-7000 NEO ($15995). At first, I figured I would mount the more upmarket 7000 in the standard right-side position for easier access, but

I found that when you put a 9" arm on the Verona in the right-hand side position, it must be rotated outward when it is in the rest position rather than sitting parallel to the side of the plinth. There's absolutely no problem with doing this from a functional or performance standpoint, but it could upset OCD sensibilities. By swapping the arm bases and moving the 7000 to the rear position, I was able to put the longer 5000 in the standard position on the right, where it could sit parallel to the side of the plinth and be less likely to trigger anyone's sense of (dis)order.

The Acoustic Signature Verona NEO is a massive, high-performance turntable with two motors, two tonearms, and an external power supply, but the company has gone to lengths to make the setup as straightforward and unintimidating as possible. After hefting the Verona's main chassis into position on your rack or shelf, you connect it to the DMC-20 power supply using a pair of RJ45 network cables provided in fetching shades of red and blue. The same power supply is used for several Acoustic Signature models, current and legacy, so there are a bunch of additional connectors you won't need to use. But while you're back there, take note of the two little buttons that can be used to fine-tune the pitch at each of the Verona's two speeds.

Continuing with the main chassis setup, you remove a pair of hand-tightened plastic transit screws near the main bearing, level the chassis using the three big, threaded isolating feet, and lower the platter onto the main bearing. At no point do you need to add oil to the bearing or even touch a drive belt, and there's no fiddly suspension to adjust. If you didn't read the manual, you might not even realize that this is a belt-drive turntable, because most of its working parts, including the inner platter, the two AC synchronous motors, and the two drive belts, are hidden under a cover beneath the platter. Along the top front edge of the plinth are two switches, one to start and stop the platter, the other to change the speed from 33.33 to 45rpm. In normal use, you should never need to access the DMC-20 power supply; it can be tucked away from view.

The TA-5000 NEO and TA-7000 NEO tonearms continue the effort to keep things simple, providing all of the key adjustments and most of the tools needed for an accurate cartridge setup. Azimuth adjusts in the familiar Acoustic Signature way, by slightly loosening the two screws that attach the armtube to the bearing assembly, then rotating the tube. An uncalibrated counterweight screws onto a fine-pitch threaded rod at the back of the arm, making it easy to fine-tune small changes in the tracking force. The antiskating adjustment is a simple, calibrated dial. The arm comes with a nice dedicated Dennesen-style single-point alignment protractor for setting overhang and zenith, but you will need to provide your own tracking force gauge. I recommend and use the Riverstone Audio gauge: It's accurate, affordable, and it measures the tracking force close to the level of a record's surface.

The one adjustment Acoustic Signature could have made easier is changing the arm height to dial in the VTA/SRA. It would be great to have a VTA tower such as you get on many VPI and Kuzma arms, but that capability wasn't provided here, presumably because it could compromise the arm's mechanical stiffness and energy-transfer efficiency. A simpler approach is to add a simple height-limit screw such as you get with SAT, Brinkmann, and SME arms. Acoustic Signature has chosen to keep it old school with a simple clamping arm collar to hold the arm post at the required height. If you loosen the clamp to make a change, be sure to have a firm grip on it with your other hand or be prepared for the arm to fall to its lowest position. This is just me griping from the perspective of a turntable-setup guy; once the arm is tweaked and locked in position, such details don't matter.

The advantages and disadvantages of 9" vs longer tonearms has been a popular debate topic among turntable aficionados for decades, so let me summarize briefly. The longer an arm is, the lower its maximum lateral tracking error will be when properly adjusted; an infinitely long arm would have zero lateral tracking error, remaining tangential to the record groove at all times—but an infinitely long arm has other disadvantages. Another advantage of a longer arm is that the headshell offset angle is less acute, so less antiskating force is needed. On the other hand, making the armtube 3" longer introduces more opportunity for the arm to flex and resonate, which can result in a loss of dynamics and clarity. Twelve-inch arms tend to be a bit more awkward to use, with less precise cueing; really long tonearms can feel a bit like the tail wagging the dog.

Footnote 1: Acoustic Signature, AS-Distribution GmbH Hillenbrand Strasse 10 D-73079 Suessen, Germany Tel: +49 762 20797. Email: info@as-distribution.de Web: acoustic-signature.com. US distributor: Rutherford Audio, 14 Inverness Dr. East, Unit G-108, Englewood, CO 80112. Tel: (888) 279-6765. Email: info@acousticsignature.audio Web: acousticsignature.audio

cognoscente's picture

Who still rides a horse with carriage here just for the sake of nostalgia? A false kind of romance!

We have put this behind us, music storage is digital these days. The challenge for today's audiophile is how to get that right. I swear by buying and downloading music digitally (not streaming) and a good R2R ladder dac. This gives a better result than old-fashioned and user-unfriendly vinyl. And is cheaper as well so ....

MatthewT's picture

"Stop liking what I don't like."

cognoscente's picture

the sum of my posts is hopefully a (constructive) criticism and above all down-to-earth view of audio, motivated by involvement and enthusiasm.

Yes, I know I'm the autistic one who's ruining the party for others here, I'm simply too much of an individual, idiosyncratic thinker and not a (compliant) social group animal.

Glotz's picture

You are mostly full of shit and very under-informed. Even your ego is trite.

You wrote nothing of the product nor the column in any way. You trolled this column, bringing nothing unique here. The same garbage every month.

Stick to the topic or stop posting garbage.

cognoscente's picture

why this tone? what does this reflect?

Glotz's picture

Your complete lack of respect to the author or the column, hence my deepest disdain of your trite ramblings.

Learn how to write to the topic at hand or stop blathering on altogether. You add nothing.

Anton's picture

Roaming the site shitting on LP playback is simply juvenile, not autistic.

Are you simply showing off for the lemmings at another site??

hb72's picture

... can be another person's habit of buying & downloading digital music files and run them via an R2R dac.

I'd love to hear those phantastic record players, perhaps with Darren Mayer's PSA phono stage.. and a good pressing of say Weather Report or whatever (it always felt more special to listen to the media of original release, as if a time travel was included). Like you I am limited to digital (though plus radio, Qobuz & Spotify) at the moment, and if properly done (a wide field of discussion & tinkering), it can be very nice. But what can I say about the quality of today's prime vinyl playback? Not much, really.. what counts is the music and whether it moves us or not.


cognoscente's picture

I always laugh at record players with a USB or Bluetooth output. Is this for real? Are they really made and sold? (okay, here on Stereophile we don't talk about record players like that)

I also started with a record player as a teenager. But actually I mainly used my cassette recorder because of the possibility of making compilation cassettes, playlists so to speak. The CD player was already a considerable improvement in terms of quality and ease of use. But digital music only really became "nice" (to use) with the arrival of iTunes and the iPod. I put all my CDs in full quality (AIFF) on my Mac and created playlists in iTunes and put them on the iPod. To listen with headphones on the go (I don't do that anymore, listening to music has become a sacred moment for me) or to listen to the iPod on my stereo system via an external DAC. The iPod has been replaced by an iPhone (a kind of iPod with which you can also make calls, take photos and surf the Internet anywhere) and physical CDs have been replaced by purchased music files (HiRes or 16/44) on Qobuz (still in AIFF ). The iPhone is connected with a cable, so no Airplay. I think this is the best method qualitatively.

I recognize your curiosity, what would it sound like. I have that with new music, what would the new Billie Eilish, or Noah Haidu or Masaaki Suzuki sound like on my set. It's tempting to buy too much music too often.

Glotz's picture

I would kill for this table and arm. Pricing has gone up this month and I'm sure it brings the Maximus Neo up in price as well. Thanks for reviewing the clamp as well this month as a follow-up.

Disappointingly, non-interested parties above have once again hi-jacked the conversation to bring this to another topic altogether. Not one comment about the product or the column.