Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Andrew Simpson and Paul Miller  |  Nov 30, 2011
From Southern Germany comes a seriously heavyweight deck that's built on solid foundations. But will the Thunder's roar light up the skies or rain on the parade? Thanks to pioneering automotive inventors such as Rudolf Diesel and Karl Benz, German engineering has a long established reputation for ‘quality and innovation’. These qualities could also be used to describe the nation’s hi-fi industry where brands such as ELAC and T+A have been proudly flying Germany’s audiophile flag for decades, paving the way for relative newcomers like Acoustic Signature, with its ranges of turntables which are regular players in the superdeck league. The new Thunder boasts a number of features in common with the ‘milestone’ Ascona (costing £10k more).
Ed Selley  |  Nov 16, 2011
A classic Japanese brand stages a welcome return with a competitive design It’s easy to forget that movingcoils were once the minority cartridge choice (not least because the best of them were low-output types needing complicated step-ups). For most hi-fi enthusiasts, moving-magnets ruled. In between MMs and MCs were other types: variluctance, movingflux – with Nagaoka providing, with its ‘Moving Permalloy’, one of the more successful alternatives to straight MM operation. Common to all, or nearly all, non-MCs was a higher output that would work with the standard 47kohm phono input then prevalent.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 16, 2011
Ortofon's flagship moving magnet design offers superior spacial performance No strangers to the pages of HFN, Denmark’s Ortofon company remains one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of cartridges both for hi-fi and DJ use. Its best moving-magnets currently are the 2Ms, a four-strong series with interchangeable styli topped by this 2M Black, sporting a Nude Shibata stylus. It might appear that they all use the same body shell, with distinctive angular contours and internal generators with neodymium magnets, however the two best – the £280 2M Bronze with a Nude Fine Line stylus and this 2M Black model – are formed from a more rigid Noryl plastic/glass compound as well as employing better ‘engines’ featuring split pole pins with silver-plated copper wire. The 5mm-deep tapped fixing holes in the top of the body allow rigid bonding to an arm’s headshell.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2011
The latest version of the budget classic features additional bracing and a revised tonearm Rega’s philosophy is that while the plinth has to be as rigid as possible, it also should be as light as possible. And seeking to maximise the plinth’s rigidity between tonearm and main bearing, a phenolic stiffening brace is added. On the RP3, the brace visible on top of the plinth is complemented by a second one below, forming a stressed beam assembly. The actual plinth is a piece of special light furniture board, finished to a very high standard by something akin to a printing process.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2011
The latest improvements to a long-standing classic are subtle but extremely effective After launching the turntable range 20 years ago with the Model 30/2, SME founder Alastair Robertson-Aikman followed it with a lighter version called the Model 20 – thinner in upper chassis and subchassis plates, with a smaller, thinner platter and other reductions in mass. In 2006 SME released the 20 in a widened version that would accept a 12in arm. It was a huge success, so the Model 30/12 appeared to equal acclaim [HFN Mar ’09]. In the interim, the external power supply had been upgraded, and was made common to all models, while 2010 saw the introduction of a new black platter mat material.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2011
The American brand arrives in the UK with a design determined to make an impact Only recently have Spiral Groove products become available this side of the Atlantic. The SG2 turntable is determinedly luxurious, with an exemplary quality of finish. The SG2 eschews suspension in favour of constrained layer damping in its plinth and platter. The plinth has two thin layers of unspecified material separating three aluminium plates, while the platter comprises a thick phenolic layer followed by two thinner layers, one of vinyl, the top surface of graphite.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 16, 2011
Clearaudio's most affordable moving coil design yet Clearaudio has a range of MM cartridges in its portfolio with price tickets to suit all pockets, but its moving-coils are decidedly high-end. So this new Concept MC is pitched at enthusiasts wanting a delicious moving-coil instead, and one that won’t break the bank. Its body is of aluminium magnesium alloy with a ceramic surface layer; it features a boron cantilever and Micro Line Contact stylus profile, with oxygen-free copper (OFC) coil windings in its generator. The angular body shape with centre line at the front makes it easy to align, threaded holes meaning that you don’t have to fiddle with screws and nuts.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2011
A classic British name returns with a real heavyweight Systemdek is back, with two brand new decks for vinyl aficionados, both high-end designs. There’s a tastylooking 3D Precision model and this go-for-broke 3D Reference. Given its eye-watering price, it was bound to be a serious high-end statement. And it’s a heavyweight piece of engineering indeed.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2011
A cost-effective Swiss offering that gets to the heart of the music With a background in developing delicate instrumentation (including Swiss time pieces), turning his hand to styli and cartridges seemed an obvious step for music-loving Ernst Benz, who founded Benz Micro and subsequently released a number of high-end MC cartridges from the 1980s onwards. In 1994 Ernst retired, selling Benz Micro to his friend and long time product collaborator Albert Lukaschek who still runs the company today. The Swiss pedigree is obvious from the packaging and accompanying accessories alone, which include a circular bubble level and stainless miniature screwdriver. The Micro ACE is the third model up in Benz’s MC-only product line, priced alongside a low output version distinguished by its red casework, and the cheapest to feature a solid boron cantilever and line contact stylus, rather than conical or elliptical profiles.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2011
The more affordable Paris V incorporates technology from the latest Delphi In 2009 Jacques Riendeau, brother of Oracle founder Marcel, recommenced work as chief designer in the re-formed Quebec company Oracle. The first result was the Delphi MkVI. Work from this was fed into the new Paris MkV turntable. Revisions to the Paris suspension aimed for better lateral stability: a ‘semi-floating’ subchassis is supported not on metal springs but on two fibreglass rods which terminate in Sorbothane rings.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 16, 2011
The latest member of the Acrylic series boasts performance to match the looks Part of Thorens’ Acrylic Series, the TD2030A sports a 33mm-thick plinth made up of two 15mm slabs of clear acrylic with a 3mm blue tinted layer sandwiched between. Looking edge-on, the plinth appears clear with just a thin dark line, but from any other angle, it’s filled with gorgeous colour, like the blue of the Aegean under a cloudless sky. The plinth stands on three imposing legs. These end in small pointed feet that screw in or out for levelling adjustment.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 16, 2011
Cosmetically identical, the latest revisions to the OC9 are all internal. For those wanting a taste of luxury at a sensible price there has long been Audio-Technica’s AT-OC9. First introduced in 1987 it has always been regarded a bargain of sorts, boasting robust construction, excellent tracking ability and a polished and pure sound. Certainly it was less romantic and mellifluous sounding than many cost-noobject MCs, but it was highly detailed and refined while possessing terrifically tight bass and vivid imaging.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 16, 2011
As well as looking impressive, the Series 3 included some interesting features When JBE unveiled its Slatedeck in the late 1970s, it wasn’t just a turntable different for its time. It was a design that remains radical to this very day. Not only did its looks set it aside from its contemporaries (slightly Kubrick 2001 to our eyes) but it featured such niceties as a Japanese-sourced direct-drive motor system with a variable-pitch outboard electronic power supply – years before anyone else in the UK offered one at this price point. Construction was also unique, the solid non-sprung plinth was either manufactured from clear plastic acrylic, or (in sonic preference and name) slate quarried from North Wales.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Sep 06, 2011
Cost effective and not without its charm Enjoying a renaissance within the audio industry in recent years, Nagaoka now describes itself as a specialist processor for a range of hard-to-cut materials including jewels, ceramics, tungsten carbide and magnets. This portfolio clearly builds on its heritage as a manufacturer of the diamond styli fitted to its range of cartridges. The MP-100 is the entry level model of the range. With this model you get a ‘superfine’ conical diamond tip attached via an alloy cantilever to a samarium cobalt magnet hinting at the other strings to the company’s bow.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 06, 2011
Some treble issues detract from the overall performance With nearly 50 years’ experience under its belt, Audio-Technica has established a reputation for building good value MM and MC phono cartridges. The AT120E is second from the top of Audio-Technica’s MM range, sitting just below the AT440MLA (£159) which has inspired its body shape and alloy tube cantilever. Where they differ is in the stylus, with the AT440MLA using Audio-Technica’s square MicroLine design, compared to the AT120E’s more conventional elliptical profile. The AT120E has a functional fit and finish illustrated by the lack of branding on its nose.

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