Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Ed Selley  |  Sep 06, 2011
An excellent performer at a very creditable price New York’s Grado Labs is truly a family business with John Grado, nephew of founder Joseph Grado, taking the company’s presidency in recent years. Alongside phono cartridges, Grado also manufactures a selection of audiophile headphones to suit a range of budgets [HFN May ’11]. The Grado Gold1 cartridge updates the previous Gold model and sits atop Grado’s entry-level Prestige Series, with five other models beneath, all named after colours with corresponding coloured dots that sit either side of the stylus assembly. These six models should actually be considered as three pairs, each comprising a standard version and a higher-end variant drawn from the same production run, but which achieved a higher specification.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 06, 2011
An entry level moving coil with many strong sonic qualities As the largest producer of phonograph cartridges in the world, Ortofon (which is Greek for ‘correct sound’) produces a wealth of models and ranges to suit every type of listener, from scratch DJ to discerning audiophile. The Vivo range represents Ortofon’s entry-level, low output moving-coil models, with the Vivo Red (£220) priced just below the Vivo Blue on test here. The extra outlay accounts for improved profiling of the Blue’s nude elliptical stylus which, according to Ortofon’s website, affords a wider frequency range and better tracking ability. The conservative looking casework is made from Lexan DMX, a rigid polycarbonate-based resin which houses coils made from 7N oxygen-free copper wire.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 06, 2011
Some setup curiosities don't detract from a very fine cartridge Handcrafted in its Erlangen factory in Germany, Clearaudio’s products stem from founder Peter Suchy’s aim to offer ‘a complete range of all the necessary things in the reproduction of analogue music’… tonearms, turntables, amps, plugs, cables, records, racks and, of course, phono cartridges. Clearaudio offers an extensive selection of both moving-magnet and moving-coil models, with the reference Goldfinder MC cartridge costing in excess of £7k. Its MM types sit at the other end of the price scale and the Aurum Beta occupies the middle rung of a seven-strong range. Each is offered with a choice of aluminium or satiné wood body materials.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  Jun 08, 2011
One of Germany’s heavyweight turntable makers lightens up, giving its stylish new baby an Italian-sounding name. So is the Barzetti more than just a fashion item? Perhaps, like me, you were brought up and nurtured on the idea that all the best turntables had a suspended subchassis, so that the platter was always bouncing freely on a set of springs. But if you always hated the way a suspended platter wobbles slightly as you put the record on, and the cartridge recoils from your touch, you’ll be receptive to the concept of Gunther Frohnhoefer, Acoustic Signature’s founder and designer. ‘When I was younger,’ he says, ‘I had contact with subchassis players, like the Thorens.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2011
Taking advantage of Ortofon’s latest cartridge range update, Pro-Ject offers a new keenly-priced plug-and-play turntable package that promises moving-coil bliss There’s always been a strand of hi-fi culture that says you have to suffer to be beautiful, an idea that you just have to go through a lot of mixing and matching, and twiddling and tweaking, to get good sound from the old vinyl LP. If you’re prey to this kind of thinking, an all-in-one, plug-and-play record deck solution just seems too easy. But why fight it, when the manufacturer will do it all for you? Pragmatic as ever, Pro-Ject offers a huge range of package options, from its basic Debut series upwards. If you’re just trying to stop your spending going much into four figures, you can try a package in the more refined Xperience series.
John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  Apr 10, 2011
For its appropriately named Classic series of turntables VPI Industries of New Jersey has gone back to basics – and should score a hit with today’s vinyl enthusiasts Is it because retro is cool? Perhaps it’s the appeal of its almost plug ’n’ play simplicity… Whatever the reason (and I suspect it’s a combination of many factors, not least the ability for vinyl enthusiasts all over the world to communicate in internet forums) it’s a fact that lovers of the black stuff seem mostly to love this big, bold and brutish turntable, one that’s undeniably a throwback to the good old days when proper turntables were: well, big, bold and brutish. If you look back to our Nov ’09 issue, where we reviewed VPI Industries’ venerable Aries Scout turntable (updated to MkII status with improved tonearm and 35mm-thick acrylic platter), you will surely agree that it looks sleek and modern – very much a deck of the 21st century, one with its motor separated from the main chassis to minimise breakthrough of deleterious vibrations to platter and tonearm. The latest Classic series of turntables, however, of which this Classic 1 is the entry model, couldn’t be more different. THIRTY YEARS ON Thirty years have passed since founder Harry Weisfeld launched his first record player (the company started in 1978 by making record cleaning machines, and there are now three current versions) and consequently the Classics are being marketed to celebrate this anniversary of turntable production.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 24, 2010
The history of Garrard as a manufacturer can be traced back to World War One, when the famous jewellers to royalty wished to do ‘their bit’ for the wartime effort, ultimately setting up an ammunitions company. After hostilities ceased, the family was left with a small manufacturing plant in Swindon, which switched to the manufacture of wind-up motors for gramophones. From Tommy gun to turntables, one might say. .
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Sep 06, 2010
You’ve got to take your hat off to Avid Hi-Fi. Its top-of-the-range Acutus deck, first introduced 12 years ago and enhanced with the launch of the Reference outboard power supply in 2006, is certainly one beast of a turntable. Resplendent in black and silver chrome that’s polished to a mirror finish, it makes for an imposing sight atop any audiophile’s equipment rack. Want to make the ultimate statement? The deck is also available to order finished in polished 24K gold plate, though for this you’ll have to add an extra 35% to the price.
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.

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