Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 21, 2022
hfnvintageThis compact '80s turntable took the fight to market leader Technics by driving down the price of automatic track selection and programmable repeat. Is it a big hitter?

The LP sleeve-sized turntable, first seen in 1979 in the form of the Technics SL-10 [HFN Apr '19], proved such a success that within a year or so most of the major Japanese manufacturers had added one to their range. In a fast-changing world where digital tuners, remote-controlled amps and full-logic cassette decks were beginning to make traditional turntables look out of date, this new look helped maintain sales.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 27, 2021
Arguably best known for its high-end strain-gauge pick-ups, Soundsmith also offers a series of high- and low-output moving-iron/fixed-coil cartridges. Is the Zephyr a 'star'?

The so-called 'vinyl revival' has not only fermented an uptick in sales of both turntables and LP records but it's also created a renewed demand for cartridges of all shapes, sizes and types. Designer/audio artisan Peter Ledermann was far from alone in seizing the opportunity, sensing, very specifically in this instance, that many Bang & Olufsen turntable owners wanted to get their ageing record players going again. He successfully obtained a licence to restart production of these plug-in MMC pick-ups, and Soundsmith was born.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 23, 2021
hfncommendedLaunched as part of a series including a CD transport and two amplifiers – one with onboard streaming – the Attessa turntable completes Roksan's most stylish offering

There are a few announcements guaranteed to make an audio fan sit up and take notice, one being the unveiling of a new turntable from Roksan. After all, the company burst onto the scene in 1985 with the Xerxes – a deck that is still going strong 36 years later in '20 Plus' guise [HFN Dec '11]. However, the new deck in question is the £995 Attessa turntable, and it forms part of a completely new Roksan range.

Review: Ed Selley, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 26, 2021
While one Austrian/Czech brand may account for over 50% of 'hi-fi' turntables sold, this hasn't stopped other brands from offering alternative vinyl-friendly packages

With enthusiasm for vinyl showing no sign of diminishing, many companies are now launching record players in a bid to reel in buyers. For the most part this process sees them approach an existing turntable manufacturer and select anything between core components on which to base their own design, to a complete 'turnkey' unit, requiring only the application of branding and a name.

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  |  Oct 25, 2021
Dubbed the 'most audiophile' Debut turntable yet, this deck/arm/cartridge solution takes over from last year's Debut Carbon model with a host of detail refinements

Like the Land Rover and Ray-Ban sunglasses, the Pro-Ject Debut comes in many flavours. What started as a pure entry-level product has been joined by enough siblings over the last 20 years that the new Debut PRO reviewed here can be regarded as the range's flagship and crowning glory. The numerous improvements elevate the price to £699, but even that hasn't undermined this record deck's bargain status.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 09, 2021
hfnoutstandingLinn's 'most affordable' route into the world of the iconic Sondek LP12 turntable is all the more convenient now its Majik deck is packaged with Clearaudio-sourced Krane arm

Meet the latest 'entry level' Linn Sondek LP12. As you can see, things have changed since 1973, where the first model came out of the (then) new company's Glasgow factory, complete with a fluted Afrormosia hardwood plinth and tinted Perspex dustcover. Or have they? Rather like the newest Porsche 911 sports car that looks similar to the original '70s icon, this has many of the visual clues of the first Sondek but much has changed under the skin – almost entirely for the better.

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: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 06, 2021
hfnoutstandingThe most popular range of MMs on the planet – Ortofon's 2M series – has just got a new chief. All hail the Black LVB 250, anointed by none other than Beethoven himself

One body and 'motor', but different styli or cantilevers: I'm not sure which of the latter two choices is more important if a manufacturer wants to create a range from a primary design with an upgrade path. Ortofon has no such doubts and is taking no chances with the 2M Black LVB 250. While it looks like the circa-£95 2M Red I have been using for years as my reference entry-level MM cartridge, save for the colour, this new flagship for the 2M moving-magnet family comes in at a heady £829. That, however, accounts for the top-of-the-range 2M magnet and coils, new suspension and cantilever.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 21, 2021
hfnoutstandingSingular driving force behind the revival of the strain gauge generator system first seen in phono pick-ups from the '60-70s, Soundsmith's latest offering is nothing if not flexible

Hardly scientific, I know, but I am predisposed toward components that cause binge-listening. Not knowing what to expect of the Soundsmith Strain Gauge cartridge and the accompanying SG-230 preamp/energiser at a pound shy of £16,000, I will declare my surprise upon discovering that it was so engaging, I listened to 14 LPs in a row in their entirety. I repeat: fourteen.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 13, 2021
hfnoutstandingAVID's trio of MCs are distinguished, principally, by choice of cantilever. The mid-range model uses boron in place of ruby, saving a whopping £2000. Is this the sweet-spot?

Here we go again: a moving-coil cartridge that costs more than I paid for a near-mint, limited-edition Series 2 Mazda MX-5. With the rare hardtop. That said, I am sure AVID priced the Boron at £4000 for good reason, but let's skip over the entirely moot concept of 'value for money' and deal, instead, with sound quality. So the AVID Boron is the middle model in a three-cartridge lineup, and thus sells for a substantial £2000 less than the flagship Reference Ruby [HFN Nov '20].

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 07, 2021
hfnvintageMore miniature magic from a brand proud to beat its own path came in 1982 in the form of probably the smallest hi-fi turntable ever made. How does it sound today?

When Technics released its SL-10 turntable in1979 [HFN Apr '19], it was evident that a record player did not have to be large, overly expensive or complicated in use to give top quality results. So compelling was this concept that soon all of the big players in the Japanese hi-fi industry were racing to produce something similar. Well, almost all. Sony, the great master of miniaturisation, was not a company to imitate others.

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 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…)

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 07, 2021
hfnoutstandingA 2021 refresh of VPI's most popular turntable also sees a 'plus' option with bespoke moving-coil from Audio-Technica and RCA tonearm cable sourced from Nordost

By no means a newcomer to the audiophile LP-spinning scene – the brand is some 40 years young – VPI's recent range expansion has doubtless been further fuelled by the worldwide 'vinyl revival'. In addition to its diverse collection of tonearms, and innovative turntables including the direct-drive HW-40 Anniversary [HFN Apr '19], there are now two additions to VPI's 'Prime' series in the form of the Prime 21 and Prime 21+, priced at £4500 and £6500.

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