Turntable Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 20, 2019  |  41 comments
Unless a truly budget-priced Air Force model is in the works, the TechDAS turntable lineup now seems complete: The recently introduced Air Force Zero ($450,000) is at the top, and the "affordable" Air Force V ($19,500) is at the bottom. The Air Force One, Two, and III turntables, all available in both standard and Premium versions, sit in the costly middle.

There's no Air Force IV because in East Asia that number is considered bad luck—which also explains why Japanese golfers shout "Six!" when someone hooks a shot into an adjacent fairway (joke alert).

Art Dudley  |  Aug 01, 2019  |  6 comments
Money, that unreliable buyer of happiness, has at times proven effective at delivering good sound. It can buy other things, as well: Audiophiles can swap cash for products that function as objets d'art, as status symbols, or even as canny investments.

But—do you think money can buy peace of mind for the audio enthusiast who frets over binding voice-coils, leaking capacitors, drifting resistor values, oxidizing connectors, aging or incorrectly biased tubes, and that most pernicious worry of all, distortion and premature record wear from incorrectly aligned phono cartridges? Sadly, most of those neuroses, some quite reasonable, remain unaddressed by cash almighty.

Ken Micallef  |  Jun 18, 2019  |  25 comments
I've been the proud owner of a Kuzma Stabi S turntable and Stogi S tonearm since 2001. The combination was an impulse purchase, made after seeing and hearing it in action at Stereophile's Home Entertainment Show at the New York Hilton. Even under unruly show conditions, the Kuzma player created rock-solid images and played music with serious jump factor. With its matte brass finish, tubular bell looks, and overtly industrial design, the Slovenian-made Stabi S/Stogi S was steampunk before steampunk. Looking back, it was one of my best-ever audio purchases.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 13, 2018  |  5 comments
I needed one black tiddledywink (not provided) to use Dr. Feickert Analogue's three-speed, two-motor, two-armboard Blackbird turntable. The tiddledywink was for covering the Blackbird's painfully bright power-on LED so that it didn't blind me when I cued up a record. The first night, in my dark listening room, this tiny indicator sprayed the wall behind and the ceiling above with more light than a bright-emitting 845 vacuum tube.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 19, 2018  |  4 comments
Record players and the average consumer enjoy an on-again/off-again relationship—happily, at this moment in time, it is very much on—but to high-end audio enthusiasts, the turntable has endured as an object of near-talismanic importance. I think that's not only because the turntable continues to give us so much pleasure, but also because it seems so understandable—at its simplest, it's just a motor and a rotatable platter, attached to a board that also has some provisions for fastening a tonearm. End of story. Who among us has not, at one time or another, considered the lot of the turntable designer and thought, I could do that?
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 08, 2018  |  7 comments
In my October 2017 column I reported on two turntables, the Palmer 2.5 and AMG Giro G9, each costing $10,000 and up, depending on ancillaries. It wasn't that I wanted to get all Mikey Fremer Uptown on you; I wanted to refine my listening skills and familiarize my senses with what my own humble system would sound like with a pair of world-class record players.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 03, 2017  |  70 comments
It's get-ting bet-ter all the time (it can't get no worse)—John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Remasterings of recordings make me angry—they mess with my memories of the songs I love, especially songs from the 1960s that I played in my bedroom on a cheap Garrard turntable through Lafayette speakers. Like my first girlfriend, these songs permanently entered my psyche and modified my DNA.

Art Dudley  |  Sep 19, 2017  |  13 comments
We got our wish. Phonograph ownership is once again depicted as commonplace, even hip, in popular films, TV shows, and ads for other products. Turntables and LP jackets show up in photos in Elle Decor and Vanity Fair. New LPs are sold in stores in nice neighborhoods, and in malls with Cinnabon franchises and J.Crew stores. A shockingly high percentage of new record releases in which normal people are interested, and a few in which they are not, are now available on vinyl. For the first time in decades, I receive occasional gifts of new LPs—presumably because they're once again easy for nonenthusiasts to find and to buy—and the very few CDs I've received in the past few years have been homemade.
Art Dudley  |  Jun 27, 2017  |  20 comments
Sometimes I feign interest in living in the Soviet Union of the 1950s and '60s. This happens mostly when I'm shopping for toothpaste at my local supermarket, where the toothpaste aisle is as long as a football field. "I don't want so many choices," I say in my Abe Simpson voice, "because all these choices are stupid. I wish I lived in the USSR: Shopping for toothpaste wouldn't take so long." But I'm only kidding.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 22, 2017  |  2 comments
My main task is to describe an audio component's basic character. How was it made? How did it fit into my system? How effectively did it deliver musical performances? My goal is to create stories that generate sounds and images in your mind—stories that will allow you to imagine how the component might perform in your system.

I can hear the moans from all you objectivist guys: Please, Herb, spare us your purple prose.

Herb Reichert  |  Jan 31, 2017  |  13 comments
UK, 1976: Upon its release, Rega Research's original Planar 3 turntable became the poor man's Linn Sondek LP12. It opened a gateway of affordability to the exotic world of high-quality British record players. Forty years later, the new Planar 3 turntable and its "light and rigid" engineering aesthetic, as conceived by Rega founder Roy Gandy, still occupy an admirably working-class, pro-music position in an audio world increasingly populated by gold-plated tonearms and quarter-ton turntables.
Ken Micallef  |  Aug 25, 2016  |  9 comments
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.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  17 comments
Which record player has achieved international acclaim as a musical instrument in its own right?

Which turntable is revered for its near-indestructible build quality?

Which disc spinner has played more records—and made more people drink, drug, dance, and make out—than any other?

Which turntable has sold over three million units?

Hint: It is not made in the US, the UK, China, or Switzerland.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 29, 2016  |  12 comments
"Hail, Neophyte!"

That's what members of the Smoky Basement Secret Audio Society would exclaim in unison at the end of each ceremony admitting a new devotee. It was called the Smoky Basement Society not because everyone smoked (though they did), but because its members believed that whenever an audio designer finally got a design dialed in just right, he or she had metaphorically "let the smoke out." They exclaimed, "Hail, Neophyte!" because they believed that the most important aspect of being an audio engineer was to have a fully open "beginner's mind." In Zen practice, this is called Shoshin, or beginner's heart.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 10, 2016  |  0 comments
Dr. Feickert Analogue's top-of-the line turntable, the Firebird ($12,500), is a generously sized record player designed to easily accommodate two 12" tonearms. Its three brushless, three-phase DC motors, arranged around the platter in an equilateral triangle, are connected to a proprietary controller in a phase-locked loop (PLL); according to the Firebird's designer, Dr. Christian Feickert, a reference signal from just one of the motors drives all three—thus one motor is the master while the other two are slaves. (Man, today that is politically incorrect, however descriptively accurate.) Feickert says that the key to this drive system is the motor design, which was done in close consultation with its manufacturer, Pabst. The result is a feedback-based system in which the controller produces the very low jitter levels claimed by Feickert.

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