Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Jul 04, 2009
Last year saw the 125th anniversary of the oldest brand in specialist hi-fi. While Thorens actually spent its first few decades producing musical boxes, it has a remarkable audio pedigree. So even if you think the current vogue for 12in tonearms is just a craze fuelled by audiophile one-upmanship, you certainly can’t accuse this venerable German company of bandwagon-jumping with its ‘anniversary’ TP 125 Special Edition. This arm looks perfect on Thorens’ flagship turntable, the TD 550.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jun 04, 2009
Only a fool – in these harsh times – would suggest that £2300 for a complete analogue package is a budget outlay. But judged in context, that amount spent on Clearaudio’s Performance turntable, Satisfy Carbon Directwire arm and Maestro Wood moving-magnet cartridge seems like a gift. After all, the tonearm on its own costs £870, while the cartridge sells for £645. Thus the Performance – sold only with the arm and cartridge – accounts for a mere £785 of the total package price.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jun 04, 2009
For those who use SME arms as the yardstick for all others, the mere presence – no pun intended – of Presence Audio’s London tonearm will come as a slap in the face. No, make that a bucket of foetid, lukewarm water poured over one’s post-modern, refined-by-Wallpaper magazine sensibilities. It looks as if it was made of scrap metal scavenged from a skip behind the Meccano factory, circa 1956. Finish? The review sample hit every branch on the shabby tree, and didn’t even stop at the roots.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  May 04, 2009
Before reading beyond this first paragraph, just pause for a moment to take a longer look at our photos of this gargantuan deck. Not for a long time has a product been the cause of so many ‘oohs and aahs’ in HFN’s photographic studio. In the flesh Pro-Ject’s latest turntable looks utterly gorgeous. We first spotted Pro-Ject’s new flagship, dubbed the Xtension, in January when it was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Apr 04, 2009
Like manual gearboxes, film cameras and mechanical wristwatches, turntables are intrinsically ‘retro’. Any or all might argue that, say, a manual gearbox gives a driver more control over the car, but let’s admit it: part of us simply revels in supporting the anachronistic. And no turntable I’ve seen in years better embodies a resistance to the evolution of high-end record spinners than Origin Live’s Resolution Mk 2. Everything about this deck reminded me of some turntable of yore, as did the Encounter arm.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Apr 04, 2009
As with so many of the audio industry’s small, specialist companies, Origin Live is the life blood of an enthusiast who designs products based largely on empiricism. Audio hobbyists of longstanding will be familiar with the Origin Live marque and the leader of this Southampton troupe: founder and designer Mark Baker. Over the years Origin Live has developed turntables, tonearms, amplifiers, loudspeakers, cables, and support stands. Says Mark Baker, this wide experience gives a holistic design approach which translates into products that are designed for system synergy.
Andrew Harrison and Paul Miller  |  Mar 04, 2009
It’s no idle exaggeration to say that the Sondek LP12 has been a touchstone for record playback during the three decades-plus of its continuous production. And although Linn Products has earned its credentials as a progressive company by embracing new areas of business such as multiroom and AV electronics, and despite the low demand for record players compared to the heyday of the 1980s, the LP12 has stubbornly stayed in the catalogue. It’s a reminder of the company’s heritage but also surely a testament to the turntable’s abiding popularity, since Linn wouldn’t trouble itself to make something no-one would buy. Externally almost identical since 1973, many small changes have been made inside over the years in order to improve its sound, principally by tightening tolerances on metal components and substituting superior suspension pieces.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Mar 04, 2009
It was as inevitable as Rocky 2. As soon as SME issued the Model 20/12 turntable in 2006, enthusiasts wondered, would it be joined by a 30/12? Shortly before he passed away that same year, Alastair Robertson-Aikman revealed that it was definitely happening. And almost two years to the day after the funeral, his son Cameron announced the Model 30/12. Its name was a given.
Paul Miller  |  Mar 04, 2009
Naming a cartridge after a firebird that rises from its own ashes may be a portentous omen, given Transfiguration’s previous success in crafting high-class pickups. So maybe the incendiary title is supposed to serve more as a pointer to a fiery performance? After the revamp of the brand’s lineup, this model doesn’t have a natural predecessor, by price at least, since it’s pitched below the former top Temper model, and above the similarly obsolete Spirit. But at £1350 it sits neatly between the award-winning Orpheus (£2750) [March ’07] and the new entry-level Axia at £890, and closely resembles the Spirit in body shape. Like former Transfigurations, it uses an unusual ‘yokeless’ generator inside with ring magnets surrounding the sets of coils.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Feb 04, 2009
In the run up to Christmas 2007 my 14-year-old daughter announced one evening over dinner that she’d like a record player. What brought this on I don’t know. She takes little notice of the hi-fi system in our living room, using it only to deliver ‘big sound’ when watching one of her favourite music channels on TV. I’m not sure that she’s even clocked the Townshend Rock Reference that’s been sitting on the top shelf of my equipment rack since before she was born.
Andy Whittle and Paul Miller  |  Feb 04, 2009
The TD 2030 sits just below the top of Thorens current range of turntables and retails for £1725 including the TP 300 VTA tonearm, but no cartridge. Thorens, thoughtfully, includes a pair of cotton gloves to keep your dabs off the acrylic plinth during setup, so gloves on and off we go. Since the acrylic plinth has no suspension, it’s a simple matter to position the deck on a suitable surface/table, and the plinth can then be levelled by screwing in/out the tip of each of the three feet. The heavy platter is an aluminium affair, weighing in at a substantial 6.
Andrew Harrison and Paul Miller  |  Jan 30, 2009
If you’re going to invest in a new moving-coil cartridge, who better to turn to than the first company to produce the MC cartridge – Ortofon. As discussed in last month’s ‘On Location’ report [Dec ’07, p112], Ortofon of Denmark has been building fixed-magnet cartridges since day one of the LP record, and it has continued to innovate, priding itself on high production runs with consistently high quality. From the late 1970s, one name at Ortofon became associated with refinements to the art which were realised in legendary cartridges such as the MC20, the MC3000 and MC5000, the Rohmann and Jubilee – Mr Per Windfeld. Now retired, it befell new Chief officer of Acoustics and Technology, Leif Johannsen, to honour the company’s long-term designer with a high-end design that would bear the PW name.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Jan 04, 2009
It was a brave move going into business making record players in the mid 1990s when LPs were already relegated to niche status. As Avid’s founder and chief designer Conrad Mas is wont to point out: ‘My friends and family thought I was bonkers. ’ Conrad’s bravery, coupled with his belief that there was still a market for high-end record players that were immaculately finished and built to last, has proved well founded. From humble beginnings Avid has grown to become an internationally recognised brand name among vinyl enthusiasts.

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