Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 11, 2019
hfncommendedContinuum's third LP-spinning package, the Obsidian and Viper, departs from the template of its vacuum-equipped predecessors. Can the brand do 'conventional'?

Looks can be deceiving, especially if you first see a Continuum Obsidian turntable and Viper arm fully-assembled. Its three-legged, dust-coverless design recalls innumerable open-plan decks from affordable up to high-five-figure absurdity. Then you note the Continuum's price tag and realise it's of the latter: the Obsidian sells for £39,998, the Viper £11,998. Generously, you can save a grand buying the pair for £49,998.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 23, 2021
hfncommendedStill in production since 1964, and instantly recognisable to audiophiles across the globe, Denon's classic DL-103 moving-coil pick-up gets the Anniversary treatment

Don't let the model name confuse you if our pictures assault your memory bank: this £499 Denon DL-A110 phono cartridge is the best-selling, much-loved sexagenarian DL-103, only with a slick headshell and packaging plush enough for a wristwatch. This anniversary offering joins Denon's AVC-A110 AV amp, PMA-A110 integrated amplifier and DCD-A110 SACD player [HFN Dec '20], the quartet marking the company's first-century-plus-10. (Oddly, there's no record deck…)

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.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 04, 2021
hfnoutstandingWith the DS 003, DS Audio delivers its 3rd generation technology in a system one-tenth the price of its flagship Grand Master. Can it hope to offer a taste of its authority?

Attesting to what I firmly believe is a 'hi-fi truth' – that differing technologies have innate sonic traits, eg, valve vs transistor – is this latest DS Audio 'optical' cartridge, the £4995 DS 003 with matching energiser. It replaces the £5050 DS 002 [HFN Jun '17], so there's even a slight price reduction.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 24, 2019
hfnoutstandingFollowing a flow of revolutionary, hugely desirable but astronomically-priced 'optical' cartridges, DS Audio introduces the DS-E1 – could 'E' stand for 'Everyman'?

This is the second review this month that's been tough for me to write if, in this instance, for entirely positive reasons. You see, the DS Audio DS-E1 is actually too good, and the asking price of £2295 is the reason. I do not want to inflict any hardship upon DS Audio, which offers three models above this, but, like an entry-level Rolex, Leica CL camera or Porsche Cayman, it begs the question: why pay more?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2019
hfnoutstandingReplacing the inaugural DS-W1 while benefiting from a host of trickle-down tech from the brand's flagship Master 1, the new DS-W2 'optical' pick-up is firmly in the limelight

When I first heard about DS Audio's optical cartridges, I wrote them off as 'dreamware' unlikely to end up chez Kessler. As it turns out, the audio gods smiled on me and I have, to my surprise and delight, managed to review just about all of them, watching the series evolve while using the Master 1 as my reference. Now, with the DS-W2 selling for £9995 with the equaliser/phono stage, the brand is delivering nearly all the performance of its flagship at half the price.

Review: Ken Kessler, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 04, 2021
hfnoutstandingFollowing its groundbreaking Master 1 optical cartridge, DS Audio introduces the Grand Master, and a two-box energiser/equaliser, to up the ante even further

In every field, not just 'hypercars' and luxury wristwatches, there's an extreme, cost-no-object pinnacle. From chefs' knives to sunglasses to fishing reels, there are items which push engineering and price limits, a phenomenon we are used to in high-end audio. Thus, with shaking hands (not a desirable state with this item), I installed the DS Audio Grand Master cartridge, at £11,995 surely the most expensive pick-up I have ever reviewed, if not the most expensive on the planet.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfnedchoice.pngDS Audio’s flagship optical cartridge is one of the most expensive we’ve tested – but the £20k price tag includes a dedicated PSU/equaliser. KK rediscovers his LP collection...

Optical pick-ups were a dream in the 1960s and 1970s, but they were hamstrung by the light technology of the era. Weight, heat, power source – all mitigated against it. DS Audio, however, has the benefit of returning to the concept in the age of the LED, and its parent company is a global giant making optical sensors. Your £20k for the DS Audio Master 1 package, then, gets you cutting-edge design and manufacture rather than something a boffin cooked up in a garage. It also pays for the latest power supply-cum-phono stage, the cartridge not delivering a signal suitable for a conventional MM or MC phono input.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2019
hfnedchoiceAffordable German turntables are looking set to repeat their dominance of the market they owned 50 years ago. Can Dual's top-of-the-range CS 600 raise the stakes?

A tough review for me to write, at least objectively: I'm rooting for the CS 600 to be something special because my first turntable was a Dual and I recall it with fondness. I want the CS 600 to be a champ like the all-conquering '505 was back in the days of the NAD 3020-based systems. But this new deck costs £1199 in black, or another £200 in gloss black or white (as reviewed), and the competition for turntables with tonearms is fierce around this price point.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 21, 2022
hfnvintageIn 1975 one of the leading makers of budget turntables unveiled a fully automatic mid-priced deck with mighty ambitions. How will the package shape up today?

Any mention of Dual turntables usually brings one of the many incarnations of the company's CS 505 to mind. The original '505 was a typical Dual design, taking its cue from the basic turntables that had been around since the 1950s by being built on a sprung-steel plate. It was a budget deck, which sold mainly to those looking to take their first step on the audiophile ladder. But Dual made more ambitious models too.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 26, 2019
hfnvintageWith its ultra low mass arm and cartridge system, the CS 606 was one of a trio of decks that was finally able to claw back sales from the Japanese. How does it perform today?

The fact that Dual couldn't achieve serious success in the middle sector of the British turntable market back in the late '70s was testament to how fast the hi-fi world had changed. That part of the market was becoming the province of Japanese companies such as Pioneer, Sony and Technics, which were making complex, technologically advanced turntables packed with modern, user-friendly features that people wanted to buy.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Dec 22, 2014
If you were just taking your first steps into the world of hi-fi in the early 1980s you’d give serious consideration to the Dual CS505. Often partnered with a NAD 3020 amp by the canny hi-fi buyer on a budget, these two components started many listeners on a path that would bring countless hours of enjoyment. In the 1960s and ’70s Dual occupied a similar place in the German market to BSR and Garrard in the UK, producing turntable units for music centres and combination units. Yet it retained audiophile credibility for the quality of its separate belt-drives, which sold well across Europe.
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.
Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 13, 2020
hfnoutstandingDespite shedding all 'non-essential cosmetic adornments' EAT's B-Sharp still cuts a dash in the world of plug-and-play turntable solutions. Does it sound as slick as it looks?

Conditioning has, I believe, led the cynics among us to assume that 'plug 'n' play' is a sexy euphemism for 'lowest common denominator' or 'user-friendly-enough for anyone to appreciate'. After all, this is what freed normal souls from going crazy with pre-USB computer peripherals. Today, it welcomes newcomers to vinyl, referring almost exclusively, in a hi-fi context, to turnkey turntable/arm/cartridge packages, because every other audio source has always been plug 'n' play.

Paul Miller  |  Jan 14, 2012
EAT revives an old idea from NAD in the 1980s, but with a modern execution. Welcome the E-Flat belt-drive turntable with its, er, flat carbon fibre tonearm The wife of Pro-Ject’s CEO Heinz Lichtenegger, Jozefina, is one of the gutsiest individuals in hi-fi today. Not only does she insist that the turntables under her EAT Forté banner are high-end, while hubby’s Pro-Ject concentrates on the affordable, she’s had the sheer guts to revive a much reviled form. Flat tonearms are as old as hi-fi itself, the E-Flat’s arm following Connoisseur’s CS1, the wooden Grace G-714, an early Grado, the back half of the ‘hinged’ Dynavector DV-507 and many others.

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