Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Aug 15, 2010
Few would argue that the Oracle Delphi looks drop dead gorgeous. With its sleek, futuristic lines and gleaming precision-turned parts there’s something about its design that makes even disinterested passers-by pause to take a second look. Did I say futuristic? What’s remarkable about the design is that the first incarnation of the Oracle, looking not dissimilar to this latest Delphi Mk VI model, first went on sale in 1979 – the year that Thatcher arrived at Downing Street, The Village People topped the singles chart with ‘YMCA’ and the Christmas No 1 was Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’. Hailing from Quebec in Canada, designer Marcel Riendeau’s Oracle Audio Technologies created shock waves among the audio fraternity on the other side of the Atlantic with his ultramodern record player.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2010
Moving-coil cartridges have been around for more than a half-century, but they didn’t displace the moving magnet as ‘the audiophile’s choice’ until the 1970s. Before that, MMs ruled for two simple reasons: higher output and better tracking ability. For decades, Shure, Goldring, ADC and other moving magnetics were default purchases. They put few demands on phono stages, allowing the industry to standardise 47kohm inputs, and MMs (allegedly) took better care of LPs.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jul 15, 2010
If someone had told you, even as recently as 2000, that the market would be overrun with genuinely stunning turntables at sensible prices in 2010, you might have snorted with derision. During the LP’s limbo period of 1985-2005, as it clawed its way back to its current ‘cool’ status, the focus seemed to be on extremely expensive high-end players. That limbo period is now over thanks to CD’s decline, and the black vinyl record is regaining small but steady market share, including crucially an audience amongst those born after CD arrived. Clearaudio has always had affordable turntables for newcomers, but the company created something special with the Concept, one of those rare occasions when the object isn’t merely greater than the sum of its parts: it merits, straight out of the box, a gold star, an Oscar and a Michelin rating.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Jun 15, 2010
Looks can be deceiving. At first glance, you might think that the TD 309 was designed just as an eye-catcher, but in reality it is easily the most radical and innovative turntable Thorens has produced since the company was revived around ten years ago by the dynamic Heinz Rohrer. For the TD 309 project, Rohrer called in Fink Audio Consulting of Essen in Germany, best known for its expertise in loudspeaker design. But, as Karl-Heinz Fink says, ‘We are all turntable guys! We like turntables! And if you work on loudspeakers, you deal with vibration at a micro level, dealing with problems that are similar.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  May 16, 2010
I can’t deny it. There is something highly evocative about a cartridge that glows in the dark. That’s right: two blue LEDs at the front of the Soundsmith cartridge light up to confirm its operational status. Just a gimmick? No, not really.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2010
Bigger and fatter even than the RPM 9, which it otherwise resembles, the RPM 10. 1 Evolution updates on the earlier RPM 10 with a better arm and other refinements. But the choice of materials is as important as the quantities of them. Pro-Ject’s Austrian founder and owner has been experimenting with different materials since the inception of the company 20 years ago.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Mar 15, 2010
It’s tough at the top. About 20 years ago, Ortofon started telling us that its aim was to survive by continuing to gain an increasing share of a fast-shrinking market, until the point would come when it would be the only cartridge-maker left standing. This hasn’t happened, of course. There was a period when the numbers could be kept up only by pandering to the needs of DJs, whose destructive tendencies (fortunately) tended to help sales once you’d gained their loyalty; but eventually the shrinking hi-fi market stabilised.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Jan 15, 2010
Strange as it may seem now, in the early 1990s there was a period when you could go for months without seeing a vinyl-playing product reviewed in Hi-Fi News. Here in the UK, at that time, there just weren’t any new turntables to review. In Germany, though, things were different. Every time we visited the High End Show, which was then held every year in Frankfurt, we would see more turntables than you could shake a tonearm wand at, not just new turntable models, but enthusiastic new turntable manufacturers.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Dec 04, 2009
Simplicity! That was the slogan when Linn advertised in the 1974 Hi-Fi Yearbook. ‘Simplicity itself. . .
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  Nov 30, 2009
Outstanding hi-fi products have never been designed by committee. They nearly always originate in the mind of one very gifted individual, like the late Dr Noboru Tominari. Dr Tominari was a professor of engineering at Tokyo State University when he launched the Dynavector company in 1975. He developed the first successful high-output moving-coil, which did not need a special step-up device but worked with the moving-magnet phono input that was then standard on every hi-fi amplifier.
Chris Breunig and Paul Miller  |  Nov 30, 2009
In our September 2006 MC cartridge group test, the Zyx R1000 Airy 3 emerged well and I ended up buying the review sample. I’ve lived very happily with it since. However, now Mr Nakatsuka has produced a flagship MC, which he describes as built ‘like the Parthenon’. He’s referring to its skeletal acrylic body, designed to eliminate panel resonances, which results in a net weight of only 4g.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Nov 03, 2009
Last year, an amusing VPI newsletter listed three important events of 1978. Coca-Cola reached China, and the Grateful Dead played at the Pyramids, ‘seeking perfect sound and immortality’. Finally, ‘VPI Industries, Inc, started its first year in business. ’ And 30 years on, VPI is still family-owned, building turntables in its small factory in New Jersey.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  Oct 30, 2009
Very few western audiophiles speak or read the language, but there are a couple of Japanese pictograms familiar to all. They have appeared on every Koetsu cartridge since the 1970s, and they always tell you that you’re looking at one of the hi-fi world’s most enduring objects of desire. When the original Koetsu MC1 reached the UK market in 1980, it was already a cult product in the USA and Japan. Here it cost about three times as much as any other top-of-the-range moving-coil available, but it quickly gained fervent devotees.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Oct 04, 2009
Who better than a cartridge set-up maven to build a turntable? While any deck that accepts universal arms will, intrinsically, suffer an enormous margin for set-up errors when compared to decks with dedicated, integral arms, there’s something reassuring about the Feickert. . . especially for those who’ve used his set-up device.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  Oct 04, 2009
Vinyl record-player design sometimes progresses, often just precesses, and always revolves. You could say that any ‘new’ idea comes round again every 33. 3 years, although in the case of the 12in arm revival, it’s more like 45 years. Be that as it may, the ever-increasing band of enthusiasts who must have extra inches now have yet another intriguing new option.

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