Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2020
hfnoutstandingOne-time distributor of Grace, Kiseki, Supex and other brands from the vinyl vault, Sumiko is also a manufacturer with a legacy. Here's its new open-bodied MC flagship

One testament to the continuing love for vinyl is that the steady trickle of brand new cartridges making their way onto the market shows no sign of abating. The latest company to pep up the party is US-based distributor and manufacturer Sumiko.

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.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 13, 2019
hfnoutstandingTechDAS' Air Force III gets the Premium treatment, with upgrades throughout the design, a heavier platter and revised 'Air Condenser' – does it punch above its weight?

Positioned in the 'lower half' of the burgeoning TechDAS catalogue, the original Air Force III [HFN Sep '16] delivered more compact dimensions, the capability to handle up to four tonearms and a substantial saving over the One [HFN Jun '13] and Two [HFN Apr '15] turntables. Even with its new, performance-gap-closing fitments in Premium guise, the price is two quid shy of £29,000 – roughly a tenth the estimated cost of the forthcoming Air Force Zero flagship and £17,000 less than the Two Premium. A bargain, then?

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Oct 21, 2014
It does not take a genius to see, even without hearing what one could do, that the Air Force One, with its air suspension, air bearing and vacuum LP hold-down, is something out of the ordinary. This turntable is the fruit of almost a half-century’s experience in high-end audio. Chief designer Hideaki Nishikawa-san says ‘The goal of Air Force One is to achieve silence in reproduction comparable to digital reproduction, especially in reproducing the recorded information of the background noise. ’ This is the first time we’ve ever heard a turntable designer acknowledge that the background and between-track silences of digital are virtues one should aspire to in analogue, even if attaining them seemed impossible.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 29, 2019
hfnoutstandingWho knew that TechDAS could follow the remarkable Air Force III with an even less-expensive, air-bearing, vacuum hold-down turntable? We welcome the Air Force V

Reason to celebrate: at £12,500, TechDAS's latest turntable – the Air Force V – costs one-tenth the price of the current Air Force One [HFN Jun '13]. Re-read that sentence. It means that the glory of owning one of the true upper-echelon turntables has been reduced by 90%. And you still get 90% of the performance.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 28, 2019
hfnvintageParallel tracking, optical position sensing and all in a slick package no larger than an LP sleeve. It dazzled in its day, but how does this '70s direct-drive deck sound now?

There is an argument which says that to recover maximum information from any recording the playback system should be as similar as possible to the arrangement with which it was made. For example, a tape deck identical to the one used in the studio should replay the original master tapes with the highest achievable accuracy.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngTwo years since the rebirth of the iconic SL-1200, Panasonic's high-end brand is back with its flagship direct-drive turntable. It had to be special, and so it proved

The vinyl market hit rock bottom in 2009, but has been growing ever since,' says Technics' Tetsuya Itani, adding that, 'we foresee this trend will last.' And that, in a nutshell, is why one of the world's most iconic turntables has been relaunched. Panasonic – the brand's parent company – is not in the business of being nostalgic, remembering the glory days of vinyl, flared trousers and disco dancing. Instead, the reappearance of the SP-10 family is all about the here and now.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 10, 2020
hfnvintageA mid '80s deck designed to boost vinyl replay at a time when the convenience of CD was making all the news. Did it succeed, and how does it compare today?

The products we usually seek to feature in our Vintage Review pages are those that were among the first to introduce a new format, function, level of performance or design theme. However, this month our subject is the Technics SL-J33 turntable of 1986, one of the last in a series that had a footprint the size of an LP sleeve, which began with the SL-10 [HFN Apr '19].

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngWhen launched, this turntable was just one of over a dozen Technics decks offered. Is it now the pick of the radial-tracking pack? Time to take it to the test bench...

Think of direct-drive turntables and the chances are that one brand will spring to mind: Technics. What's more, its SL-1200 turntable will be the model most people think of first. This famous deck casts a long shadow over the others in the company's range and yet there were many to choose from. In fact, when the SL-Q303 seen here was launched in the UK in 1982 it was part of a 13-model lineup – a series that went from the professional-spec SP-10 MkII right down to moulded plastic belt-drive budget models such as the SL-B202.

Martin Colloms  |  Feb 28, 2020  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1986
Martin Colloms gets to grips with the new SME Series V

The Series V tonearm is on sale at last, albeit in limited quantities. The fruit of many years of creative research, a handmade prototype 'V' was shown to prospective distributors at the American and German shows two years ago, but it has taken a long time to get the arm into production. Components were continually tried from prospective suppliers until the quality was right and when first shown in 1984, the price was targeted at what was then a very high level, at £750 or so. Some expressed doubts concerning its credibility at that price, indeed of any similarly-priced tonearm.

Ken Kessler  |  Nov 17, 2020  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1990
Koetsu enters the 1990s with a new standard-bearer in the shape of the hand-made Urushi moving-coil cartridge. Ken Kessler is smitten...

As I sat back and listened I thought, maybe it's the particular recording, perhaps it's my frame of mind but no – it can only be the cartridge. All I know is that my smooth and steady progress in coming to terms with CD has been set back to its 1985 level. Why? Because I was in peril of missing an important fact of hi-fi life, which is that just as CD hardware and software has been getting better and better, so has analogue.

Review: Ken Kessler, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2021
hfnoutstandingAn homage to the legendary TD 124 that reigned supreme from 1957-67, this latter-day derivative looks the part but trades an idler-drive for a custom direct-drive motor

As occasionally backward-looking as hi-fi is – if no worse than cars, fashion or watches – one needs to raise the dead with care. McIntosh, for example, has dazzled enthusiasts with its continuing evolution of the revered MC275 power amp [HFN Nov '93 & Feb '13], updating it through six generations without losing the spirit of the original. JBL, Klipsch, Tannoy – all revisited past successes with panache. Thorens, then, had a raised bar to address because, among historic turntables, Technics recently revived the SP10 as the SL-1000R [HFN Jun '18] to universal acclaim. This begged a question: how should Thorens update the adored TD 124?

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 03, 2021
hfncommendedFully auto turntables went out of fashion in the late '70s but Thorens has the history and experience to revive the format. Is the TD 148A in the vanguard of a new trend?

While fully automatic turntables have enjoyed a long history, arguably the daddy of them all was the Thorens TD-224 from 1962. Based on the TD-124, which appeared in 1957, it was able to retrieve LPs one at a time from a stack of discs located alongside the platter.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 14, 2022
hfnoutstandingA handful of turntable brands lay claim to the first suspended subchassis model, but few, unlike Thorens' TD 150 from 1965, were mass produced. Here's its great grandson

Thorens CEO Gunter Kürten is true to his word: when we first met at the Tokyo High End Show in 2019, he hinted that the hugely-important, wildly-popular three-point suspended-subchassis, belt-drive TD 150 of 1965 might make a return in updated form. This wasn't your typical case of just exploiting retro because the TD 150 was more than a best-seller for Thorens. It was a breakthrough in the evolution of turntables.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 03, 2020
hfnoutstandingOne of the oldest and most revered names in vinyl's history is back, refreshed and under new ownership, and with a deck that mixes modern materials with classic design cues

How many audiophiles ten years ago would have thought that come 2020 you would be able to buy a brand new Leak amplifier and a pair of Wharfedale Linton speakers? Not many, I'd bet. And it's now possible to front a system comprising these components with a belt-drive, suspended subchassis turntable made by Thorens, and one with 'TD160' in its name. It seems the onward march of 'retro' is unstoppable!

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