Spin Doctor

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Michael Trei  |  Sep 21, 2023  |  7 comments
I have found that turntable designers typically fall into one of two camps. First are what I call the obsessive machinists. These are the people with impressive manufacturing chops and a sharp eye for fine detail and precision. For them, making a better turntable usually involves taking what we already know and simply doing it better.

Whether it's a thicker chassis, more powerful motor, more precise bearing, more effective isolation system, or something else, the emphasis is always on stepping things up a notch or two, rather than reinventing the wheel. This obsession can result in some impressive 'tables—some of the most impressive in the world, with awesome attention to detail. But are they the best sounding?

The other camp is what I call the deep thinkers. They approach the task of playing a record from a theoretical perspective and leverage their knowledge of physics to come up with fresh and innovative designs. The results may look unconventional, or even odd at first glance, but when such lateral thinking clicks, it can really push the boundaries of what's possible.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 27, 2023  |  2 comments
At High End Munich, Michael Trei chats with Thorens CEO Gunter Kürten (right) about the Thorens Reference turntable's active suspension. (Photo: Jeff Joseph.)

It's hard to convey the scope of the annual High End Munich audio show to someone who has never attended. Spread out over three floors of a large facility called the Munich Order Center (MOC), the show is notable for how different it is from audio shows in the US. The ground floor is an area about the size of three American football fields, where brands set up professional trade show booths to display their wares. This is a long way from the draped folding tables and back curtain on a rail that defines a "show booth" at most US shows. What you'll find on this level is mostly static displays, although scattered among the displays you'll find prefabricated sound rooms, acoustically designed spaces designed to allow live demonstrations on the ground floor.

My main focus at the show was to try to root out interesting new record-playing gear. I was not disappointed. Here are a few select highlights from what I saw at the show.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 27, 2023  |  3 comments
10. Acoustic Signature's listening room with its massive PBN loudspeaker system.

May has long been one of my favorite months of the year, mostly because it means it's time for the Munich show, the annual gathering of the high-end audio tribe in the Bavarian capital. High End Munich 2023 marked my return to the biggest audio show in the Western world following three years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, so I was eager to get back to the land of Wiener schnitzel and bratwurst.

This year, as an added bonus, I was invited to visit the production facilities of turntable and tonearm manufacturer Acoustic Signature, which is based about 110 miles west of Munich, near Stuttgart.

Michael Trei  |  Jul 05, 2023  |  2 comments
In 1928, Swiss engineer and inventor Jean-Léon Reutter created a clock that could run for years without human interaction or any type of external power source. The Atmos Clock required no AC power, batteries, solar panels, or hand-winding. It was able to wind itself by leveraging subtle changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature.

The design was so energy efficient that a single degree of temperature change provided enough power for two days of operation; it would take an incredible 60 million Atmos clocks to equal the power demands of a single 15W light bulb. 95 years later, the Atmos Clock is still being manufactured in Switzerland by Jaeger-LeCoultre, but like most high-precision, Swiss-made instruments, it isn't cheap. Prices start around $7500.

Michael Trei  |  May 15, 2023  |  4 comments
Over the last 40 years, I have set up or serviced literally thousands of turntables, and during that time I have seen a lot of increasingly sophisticated tools become available to help in getting your turntable optimized. I've had my eye on the Shaknspin speed analyzer since it was launched a couple of years ago, and now there's a new Shaknspin2, which promises more accurate results.