Turntable Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Oct 03, 2017  |  68 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  |  1 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  |  12 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  |  8 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.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 10, 2016  |  6 comments
Everyone in the room can hear the difference when I swap one phono cartridge for another. Same thing happens with loudspeakers. This is because both of these magnet-based transducer technologies are electromechanical devices, traditionally made of paper, wood, iron, and copper. (Nowadays, polymers, aluminum, and carbon composites are more typical.) Both are motor-generator mechanisms that either convert mechanical energy into electrical energy (cartridges) or vice versa (speakers). As audio devices, they are spool-and-wire simple, but even tiny changes in the materials and/or how those materials are configured can cause easily audible differences in how they transmit or present recordings of music. Why? Because every gross fragment and subatomic particle of these electromechanical contraptions is moving and shaking—shaking everything from the tiny jumping electrons to the wood, metal, and/or plastic containers that fix and locate these motor generators in space.
Robert Deutsch  |  Feb 09, 2016  |  5 comments
For some time now, I've been thinking that my record player was due for an upgrade. My Linn LP12 turntable and Ittok LVII tonearm are about 25 years old, and my AudioQuest AQ7000nsx cartridge is going on 15. During that time, my listening has become increasingly dominated by CDs, but I am not yet ready to give up on LPs. Updating my LP12—for which I have Linn's Lingo power supply but no other upgrades—would involve installing the Keel subchassis, for $3250—for which price I could get another maker's new, current-design turntable and still have the LP12 to sell. The Linn Ittok can't be upgraded, and its replacement, the Ekos SE, costs $4950—out of my range. AudioQuest no longer makes cartridges. Examining my AQ7000nsx's stylus under a microscope showed no visible wear, and there was no obvious audible problem that could be traced to the cartridge's suspension, but age must be having some sort of effect. Taking all these factors into account, I decided to replace my entire phono front end.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 28, 2016  |  4 comments
The stats are impressive: Quebec's Oracle Audio Technologies, formerly Trans Audio (footnote 1), has been in business for 37 years, during which they've sold nearly 11,000 Oracle Delphi turntables. That's not bad for a perfectionist turntable—and especially not bad for a perfectionist turntable whose first and most estimable competitor, the Linn Sondek LP12, was well established by the time of the Delphi's debut, in 1979.
Art Dudley  |  Sep 04, 2015  |  1 comments
In a bizarre but happy turn of events, recent consumer trends have given even the most socially awkward audiophile something to talk about at cocktail parties and family gatherings at which normal people predominate: the PonoPlayer and vinyl. These are hot topics; each is among the best-sounding music sources available, and both offer hope for our hobby, if not for music lovers in general. But vinyl has the advantage of appealing to a much wider range of budgets. LPs can be had from anywhere to "We'll pay you to haul these away" to "Your loan officer is on line one." Likewise, vinyl playback hardware is available in virtually every price range, from a second-hand Dual 1229 ($50 and up) to the highly praised Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn ($200,000 and down).
Art Dudley  |  Jun 26, 2015  |  3 comments
There's nothing new under the sun, or so we are told. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s, a British designer named Tom Fletcher upset the audio status quo with a turntable that combined otherwise-familiar elements in a manner that was, at the very least, new with a lower-case n. Fletcher's product, the Space Deck, was perhaps the first original design in British phonography since the Roksan Xerxes of 1985; and his company, Nottingham Analogue, went from nothing to something in no time at all.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 11, 2015  |  20 comments
Before I moved to the boat, I lived in a big old firehouse with a shiny brass pole and a red door. The fire engines were gone but it was still a boy-toy pilgrimage site. The first thing one noticed on entering was a red 356 Porsche coupe. Behind it was a black '32 Ford hot rod with a flat-head V8 and triple Strombergs. Behind that was a 1939 Lincoln convertible from some Godfather movie. On the second floor . . .

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