Turntable Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Nov 05, 2020  |  22 comments
Pro-Ject’s Heinz Lichtenegger pulled me aside at High End Munich 2018. He appeared agitated—not the usual easygoing (but intense) demeanor of a guy who in the early 1990s bet the farm on analog and won—bigtime.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 02, 2020  |  10 comments
Let’s head off at the pass what will surely be in the comments section under this review of a remarkably compact, full-featured, remote-controllable music playback system that includes in a single box, a high quality Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit 3 speed turntable with dustcover, fitted with an Ortofon 2M “Silver” cartridge (incorrectly identified as OM2 on the Andover website—it’s similar to the Ortofon 2M Red but with fewer winds of the same silver-plated copper wire found in Ortofon’s 2M Bronze and 2M Black) that alone sells for $599 and includes an acrylic platter and 8.6” carbon fiber tonearm, an A/D converter, a 192/24 bit DAC, analog and digital inputs plus a subwoofer “out”, Bluetooth ( Qualcomm APT-X) streaming and built in amplification (2 x 70 Class D watts to woofers and 2 x 30 watts to tweeters) and of course multiple (6) high quality speakers (4 “long throw” aluminum diaphragm woofers and a pair of Air Motion Transformer tweeters originally invented by Dr. Oskar Heil that uses metal-etched folded polyethylene sheets to move air in process we won’t go into here!).

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 22, 2020  |  49 comments
(Schiit just announced it is producing a new pulley that will run the turntable at the correct speed and will send them free to all existing customers.)Executive decision: no Schiit jokes, ok? Especially since the Sol turntable is so well conceived, designed, executed, made in America and remarkably priced at $799 including a $119 Audio Technica AT-VM95EN cartridge.

That said, if you want an “open the box, plug and play” type turntable, the SOL might not be for you. On the other hand, if you buy one with the cartridge already installed, Schiit makes the Sol reasonably easy to set up.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 15, 2020  |  30 comments
Back in 1972 the original Thorens introduced the TD 160, a triple spring-suspended sub-chassis design that quickly became a long-in-production classic and the blueprint from which many other turntables, er, sprung—Linn for instance.

The original AR XA turntable designed by Edgar Villchur and introduced way back in 1961 for $58 was, to the best of my knowledge, the first to place the platter assembly and tone arm on the same sub-chassis isolated by a three point spring mount from the rest of the turntable (and from the outside world).

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 08, 2020  |  23 comments
In the blink of a vinyl resurgence Technics went from retiring in 2010 the venerable SL-1200 turntable to resurrecting it six years later with two all new “Grand Class” 1200s aimed not at the DJ market as was the original 1200, but at audiophiles.

The limited to 1200 units SL-1200GAE quickly sold out. In 2017 we reviewed the SL-1200G, which other than having a different magnesium tone arm finish and minus a plaque was identical to the limited edition SL-1200GAE.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 26, 2020  |  16 comments
Cambridge Audio’s $1699 Direct-Drive Alva (named after Thomas Alva Edison) is not the first “plug’n’play turntable, but it’s the first serious, well-engineered one that combines set up ease with high performance, both mechanical and sonic. An added attraction is high resolution Bluetooth SBC [lowest resolution 320 bit MP3]/apt X/apt X HD [up to 24 bit/48kHz Hi-res] functionality that allows wireless connectivity to a Bluetooth loudspeaker or headphones.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 31, 2020  |  20 comments
Canada-based Fluance’s $250 RT81 reviewed here a little over three years ago was a pleasant surprise. It offered reasonably good mechanical and sonic performance as well as useful convenience features and attractive looks. Fluance’s new RT85 Reference turntable doubles the cost to $499.95. Is it twice as good?

It doesn’t take a turntable forensic genius to note that the RT81 is manufactured at the same Taiwanese factory that produced the $1099.99 Thorens TD 402 Direct Drive Semi-Automatic turntable that back in November took a review beating here.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 01, 2019  |  27 comments
Technics follows up on its successful re-entry into the turntable business (SL-1200 series, SP10R, SL1000R) with the SL1500C, a lower cost ($1199) direct drive turntable that features a version of the sophisticated coreless, single rotor direct drive motor used on its more costly turntables.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 20, 2019  |  29 comments
Hermann Thorens founded his company in 1883 to manufacture music boxes in Switzerland. Cylinder-based phonograph manufacturing began around the turn of the century. In 1956 the company introduced the TD-124—the company’s first high performance turntable and one that among collectors is still in demand. The company moved to Germany in 1966 and merged with EMT. The classic TD-125 followed in 1968.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 24, 2019  |  28 comments
Pro-Ject’s Heinz Lichtenegger is not shy about expressing his contempt for el-cheapo turntables coming from China and elsewhere. He thinks these mediocre-sounding turntables ruin the sonic experience for a young generation getting into vinyl.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 06, 2019  |  44 comments
Call it “P8” or “Planar 8” but do not call this new Rega turntable “RP8”. That was the previous 8. Despite the obvious superficial Rega similarities the new Planar 8 differs greatly from its predecessor.

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 27, 2018  |  14 comments
U.K. based Gearbox, best known for its restored vintage all-tubed Westrex mastering system (Haeco Scully lathe with Westrex RA1700 series amps, Westrex 3DIIA cutting head and Telefunken U73B tube limiter) and eclectic all-analog vinyl record catalog recently entered the hardware business with this cool “compact disc” player it calls “The Gearbox Automatic” though it’s a manual player.

Malachi Lui  |  Oct 07, 2018  |  7 comments
The all-in-one turntable market has one gargantuan issue looming over it: the Crosley Cruiser. With everything an analog neophyte thinks he or she needs, these $70 “turntables” sell by the boatload, only to seriously damage records after but a few plays with their five grams of tracking force. Why are they so popular then? Because they’re small, inexpensive and the purchaser doesn’t have to think about piecing together an entire system; it’s right in front of them. Even so, it still feels extremely wrong to spend $100 on a vinyl box set and subject it to the evils of a $70 turntable.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2018  |  6 comments
Best known for its sexy looking Delphi turntable first introduced in 1979 and currently in its MK VI iteration ($8850), Canada-based Oracle Audio recently updated its lowest priced Origine turntable to MKII status.

The upgraded version includes a new “wall-wart” powered 16V AC synchronous motor (the original was 24V AC—customers with that motor can get a free upgrade, paying for shipping one way) and a new silicon damped cueing mechanism replacing the original’s “direct action” cueing system (which for original Origine owners can be upgraded for $85). It uses a knob rather than a traditional lever, that you turn to raise and lower the arm.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 21, 2018  |  37 comments
In the recent story about the week I spent with Technics' new SL-1000R turntable, the difference between what's commonly referred to as an arm's "effective length" and how Technics uses the term in its literature led to some confusion and a series of conceptual errors on my part for which I take full responsibility.

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