Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Sep 04, 2009
Some turntable manufacturers seem to make one model last for decades, but Pro-Ject is not so inhibited. Even without counting all eight colourways for the Debut III, the Austrian company’s website lists no fewer than 21 different turntable packages. The very latest of these is the Pro-Ject 6 PerspeX. Visually, this is one of Pro-Ject’s happiest creations, certainly far more elegant than its earliest antecedent, the Pro-Ject 6, which I think was the brand’s first subchassis turntable.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  Aug 30, 2009
One of those recurring fallacies is that a hi-fi component should be like a musical instrument. Really, it should be something quite the opposite. An instrument amplifies the vibration of a string, for example, adding its own tonal character in the form of complex harmonics. A hi-fi component, by contrast, is not supposed to add its own character, but is meant to reproduce the signal that it receives, without adding or taking anything away.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Aug 04, 2009
Valves and vinyl go together like the proverbial horse and carriage, so it isn’t too surprising that one of Italy’s best-known tube amplifier manufacturers recently decided to offer its own turntable, arm and cartridge. You could say that Unison Research has carved its own niche because, apart from the tubes, its amplifiers are notable for the use of real wood as a styling element. When British manufacturers say ‘real wood’, they usually mean a thin slice of rosewood or whatever, glued to a thicker piece of chipboard. Not so the Italians, who still seem prepared to hew speaker cabinets out of solid trees, as Unison does its amplifier ornaments.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2009
Actually, there is nothing new about the turntable, or indeed the arm reviewed here. What is new, and rather exciting, is the completion of the P9 package with Rega’s long-awaited Apheta MC cartridge and the just-released Ios moving-coil phono stage. On paper, this is the best the company has to offer. A key feature of the P9 is the ceramic platter, as hard as ruby or sapphire, which first appeared on the preceding Planar 9 in 1997.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Jul 04, 2009
There must have been at least a few moments in the 1990s when Linn came close to dropping the Sondek for good. In the brave new world of multi-room, AV and custom install products aimed at well-heeled Beocustomers, that old belt-driven LP spinner was becoming a serious anachronism. Then there came a sea-change, as, to its credit, Linn seemed to rediscover its musical roots, launching the Majik CD playing system, and at around the same time starting to wheel out the LP12 for hi-fi shows once more. Subsequently, the latest enhancements of the LP12 and the Ekos arm have been highlighted as ‘SE’ upgrades.
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.

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