Another Listen to Music Hall's MMF 11.1 Turntable

Another listen to Music Hall's MMF 11.1 turntable? Wasn't one full review sufficient?

Under most circumstances yes. The turntable arrives, you unbox it, and following the instructions, you set it up. Simple enough. However, in this case the turntable arrived at my door in the hands of Roy Hall himself. No box. No instruction manual. Roy carried it in, we brought it downstairs, I put it on the top shelf of the HRS SXR rack's top shelf and after telling me how self-explanatory it was, Roy left.

It came with a Goldring cartridge installed but I preferred more familiar cartridges and so used my own. What could be simpler?

I wrote the review noting "If you mostly play rock the MMF 11.1 might not be for you, but if you listen mostly to acoustic music—jazz, folk and classical—it’s definitely worthy of your attention." One commenter noted "It's hard to belive that MMF 11,1 can't handle rock, because my 9.1 plays it great." Roy Hall's comment was typically acidic but even Roy thought the review was accurate and fair, he also wrote, "It's actually fucking great on rock."

So what accounted for the rock disparity? I had no idea. Have a look at this photo though:

What do you see? If you know what you are looking at you'll notice the three transit screws still in place! I didn't know what I was looking at because I didn't have an instruction manual but Roy's partner Leland Leard noticed those screws when he read the review some time well after it was published but before Mr. Hall had had a chance to visit and retrieve the turntable.

Of course this SNAFU is IMO all Roy Hall's fault. But that's what happens when the formal reviewing process breaks down and is replaced with a more casual approach resulting in some "reviewing slop." In the meantime, I'd re-installed the Goldring cartridge, which has large diameter pins. In the process of pushing one of the clips onto one of the pins I accidentally broke off one of the clips.

Then Mr. Leard phoned and called my attention to the photo in the review showing the transit screws. OMG! We agreed I'd ship the arm back for repair, after which it would be returned and I'd give the 'table another listen.

So here we are. Guess what? With the three transit screws removed, the 'table further opened up, producing greater dynamic punch blacker backgrounds and an overall more assertive personality. Just to be sure, of course I replaced the screws and listened some more. Even with the screws in place the 'table sounds great—as reviewed—but not surprisingly it sounds even better with the transit screws removed.

rdh79730's picture

I'm learning that things with these boutique audio manufacturers don't always run smoothly. Working in Boulder right down the road from PS Audio I was able to take my broken gear to them. I left with still broken gear and a very bad opinion of PS Audio. I ordered a replacement motor once from Roy for my old MMF-5. After several weeks of money paid and no motor, I called. Talked to Roy. "Sorry, it's on the way!" Two weeks later and it finally arrived. Turned out it wasn't a motor issue, just the nature of the table design. I sold the MMF-5, which was a solid table for the price, and I'm PS Audio free after all their stuff died. Now I have a VPI Scout II that I love. Please VPI, don't let me down if I ever have to request something of you.

Unlike you, Mike, I had the instructions for my MMF-5 and I actually read them (Who DOESN'T read the instructions??? Answer: everyone else, apparently). So I knew to remove the screw holding the plinths together. With those screws removed, they will just lift apart.

volvic's picture

My YBA CD player and older Oracle turntable had transit screws that looked like transit screws; knurled knob screws that actually look like temp screws. Those look like wood screws or dry wall screws. I can see how someone would miss that if they didn't read or have instructions.

isaacrivera's picture

The three outer screws? Those look pretty structural to my eyes. Without specific instructions to remove them I would not touch them. Specially if Mr. Hall brought it to my home, left it with the platter on and told me it was ready for use. In fact, if those are transit screws, they look like an afterthought to correct for not taking in consideration during the table's design the fact that they have to be shipped to their destination.

Toptip's picture

If a turntable sounds so little different with and without transport screws, to ears as qualified as YOURS... I am ever less sure how there can be such great differences, as reported in reviews, between turntables of a certain quality level. A turntable with transport screws! Is that not like test driving a Ferrari with a skinny spare tire mounted or eating Roquefort cheese with the aluminum foil on? And not knowing the difference?

Michael Fremer's picture
If you'd like hyper-hysterical prose I can send you to that website. Don't forget: this 'table was placed on a Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR platform, which is an extremely effective isolation device itself. That's point one. Point two is that it is the same turntable with or without the screws. It's essential character did not change but it did change as I described. It is NOT like eating cheese with aluminum foil on!
roy hall's picture

Yes I delivered the table without instructions, Yes I left the transit screws in but..., Mikey, you are the Guru of turntables. If I had told you what to do you would have kicked me and the table out of your house.
New tables actually have a a label saying, "please remove 3 transit screws"
Nevertheless as I am not feeling particularly 'acidic' just now, I have to thank Mikey for re-reviewing the table.
Rock on!

liuj88's picture

Mr. Fremer shouldn't be expected to know the design of Music Hall's products, your backhanded compliment notwithstanding.
Whether the lack of packaging materials and instructions was intentional (to keep from insulting the reviewer--suuuure), it is most definitely not profesional.
Your attempt at a humorous response has the opposite effect on me, and I think on many others, from what you may desire. This snafu has resulted in double the coverage of your product on this web site--more than you deserve, I think. Much more importantly, this has taken time away from the reviewer to review other products, and readers to learn about them. You may want to appear to be indifferent, but many of us take this very, very seriously.
If I were you, I'd have acknowledged and apologized for the error, and left the glib remarks where you put the box and the instructions.
Does any reasonable person here believe that Mr. Fremer is at fault for what transpired? To be more precise, does anyone believe that Mr. Hall is faultless here?

jkritikos's picture

I've always wondered what MMF stand for? Is it an acronym for the founders of the company?

Toptip's picture

Probably best not asked...Mike...mother...especially in view of this F-up!

Reading this site day after day, I always hope that reality will one day dawn. About why we like vinyl. Hint: It is not because "it sounds better" (may be it does but I will not go there!).

For years, especially in the British press, there has been comparisons between hi-fi and expensive mechanical watches: "Why is it that people do not mind shelling out serious money on watches but when it comes to hi-fi they find it offensive?"

There are clearly many reasons (main one being, NO-ONE has ever become more attractive for ownership of a stereo) but think about this: When was the last time you heard Rolex or Patek Philippe claiming that mechanical watches keep better time than a $20 Seiko? Never (and they do not).

I think the same applies to our industry. The difference between a (high bit rate) MP3 and vinyl is more akin to chugging down Chablis, straight from the bottle (or the carton) and having a persnickety sommelier (not that dissimilar to a Fremer with a spoon dangling from his neck) sweating the details of the bottle foil, the pour, the decanter, the anti-skate, the VTA... Yes it produces the same inebbriation but the ritual in the latter brings some fleeting sense of meaning to our mortal existences that is missing in the cardboard Chablis / MP3.

I suspect it is different for everyone.

audiof001's picture

In response to your assertion that 'There are clearly many reasons (main one
being, NO-ONE has ever become more attractive for ownership of a stereo)' I
beg to differ. While I find myself far from shallow, my interest in my then
new girlfriend (now my wife of 11 years) was certainly peaked upon my first
visit to her apartment 15 years ago. It was an understated and beautifully
styled place... in spite of being above a working funeral home. She was also
the first woman I'd ever met who owned a surround system and invested in a
very nice steel rack. And yes, before someone else points out the obvious...
she had a very nice 'rack!'

audiof001's picture

Hey Mike, could your web handlers add an edit function so we can correct our content? I write better than posted but proofreading isn't my forte!

Michael Fremer's picture
Other than a run on sentence (big deal) your post was great! Meanwhile I can edit posts so post again what you meant to post and I'll delete the first one (if it even matters now to you)....
liuj88's picture

I second audiof001's request. I've made made numerous grammar/spelling errors over time that would be nice to correct by myself. Some of these errors are minor, and not worth your effort and time to edit, but still annoying.

audiof001's picture

In response to your assertion that 'There are clearly many reasons (main one being, NO-ONE has ever become more attractive for ownership of a stereo)' I beg to differ. While I find myself far from shallow, my interest in my then new girlfriend (now my wife of 11 years) was certainly peaked upon my first visit to her apartment 15 years ago. It was an understated and beautifully styled place... in spite of being above a working funeral home. She was also the first woman I'd ever met who owned a surround system and invested in a very nice steel rack. And yes, before someone else points out the obvious... she had a very nice 'rack!'

isaacrivera's picture

have been marketing on the superior precision and performance under rough conditions of their products for decades. Today, if you own a smart phone, nobody needs a watch, time keeping is equal or better under normal conditions by a smart phone and it serves other functions just as well.

Michael Fremer's picture
No one knows what VPI stands for either.
Jim Tavegia's picture

but you new that.

jkritikos's picture

No I didn't, never much cared for the style of these tt's to really look it up. They probably sound

good though.

Thank-you Mr Tavegla!

roy hall's picture

I see there are some people who take this, "very, very seriously"
I brought it without packing because
A, it was my personal table.
B, the box is very bulky and heavy so it saved Michael and me the bother of packing/unpacking etc.

I probably should have brought the manual, but Mike never called and asked for it. (he is the pre-eminent turntable reviewer and knows my number)
It is also available on our website, the place where reviewers and others go to for info.
It was a minor mistake. Lighten up, it's only Hi Fi.

jazz and cocktails's picture

I think the more interesting question, given it's roy's personal TT, does HE listen to it with the transport screws in place?


liuj88's picture

Once again, your response doesn't improve your standing. Quite the opposite, because
A) whose table was sent for review is irrelevant, as long as it is accurately represents is sold to the consumer
B)all the accessories, packaging, literature, and other pieces that are part of the finished product that the you send to whoever receives the product--dealer, consumer, or whoever--are legitimate items for review.

That you used your personal table, and whatever you presumed bothers the reviewer, are on you, no one else.

While you try to justify what transpired, every reasonable person here understands that whatever "bother" was saved by not providing a complete product for review is overwhelmed by the extra amount of time and effort used to compensate for your mistake.

You didn't "probably" should have brought the manual; you should have, period. You can't rightfully expect the reviewer to know the details of your design any more than he can expect you to know your competitors'. He is under no obligation to contact you or your company for something that you intentionally did not supply. He proceeded with his best judgment given what he was given (and reported it), and that is all we can expect from him. That he has your number, and that the instructions are available online, are irrelevant. My point is, all the could-haves and should-haves would not exist if the reviewer received a complete product. Well, at least you admitted that it was a mistake, even if a "minor" one.

Your first remark blew off/explained away this whole snafu with your backhanded compliment and glib remarks. Your semi-apology/second remark is no more acceptable.
(Since you decided to use sarcasm against me by quoting my "very, very seriously" statement, let me clarify: I meant that not as an absolute measure, but to illustrate the apparent gap between what you portrayed, and what I and surely others feel.)

azmoon's picture

take a chill pill. I have met Mr. Hall at shows and he is a great guy who has nice products. He likes to have a laugh. Try it sometime - see if you like it.

liuj88's picture

I do not question Mr. Hall's, or his products' qualities, only the nature of his initial response. And, judging from his second response, he seems to have doubled down. That's his prerogative.

To the readers who may be concerned: Lighten up. This brand, as represented by Mr. Hall, is just one of many. No need to think about its {in)actions, or it.

To the manufacturers who are paying attention: Professionalism and courtesy do matter to many of us.

azmoon's picture

you pompous a**

liuj88's picture

Did you take your own pill? Or are ad hominem attacks a side effect? If so, I suggest you find another pusher.

amarok89's picture

I have liked the occasional salty banter between Fremer and Hall. I always thought they had respect for each other under their crusty outer layers. But what do I know?

JohnnyCanuck's picture

This thread is starting to remind me of the flame wars on Fidonet. Yes, I'm that old.

Michael Fremer's picture
This is conduct unbecoming analogplanet readers. So Roy cool it! (Just kidding I mean everyone else. Roy is just being Roy)...(written and posted from 30,000 feet)
Jim Tavegia's picture

I think that often Roy Hall does not get enough credit for bringing and very nice, full turntable line to market and not keep changing models like the auto industry. His choices are carefully made to make the most he can at a price point. I have always thought his MMF 5 was at least the equal of any sub $1k table out their and the MMF7 a great buy. The idea of isolating the motor in the 7 and 9 made a great deal of sense to me.

abit_nyc's picture

I just wish I could afford the 7 or 9. Unfortunately, student loans and big apple rent keep me down! Anyways, I'm a big fan of isolating the motor those models.

thomoz's picture

Roy can crack all the jokes he wants without me raking him over the coals for it. He makes very good products and prices them reasonably. I'm glad to know that he's human, too - and unlike some, he has a sense of humor and does not take himself too seriously.

torturegarden's picture

I've owned an MMF5 SE for several years and have been quite happy with it. It fit my meager budget and was a huge step up from my old Rotel direct drive table. I've replaced the mat and sub platter, but kept the Goldring cartridge, and everyone that has heard it has beeb impressed.

Superfuzz's picture

Mikey, haven't you reviewed other Music Hall turntables before? I'm pretty sure the 7.1 with it's two plinths, and certainly the 9.1 with it's three plinths (which I own) have similarly places screws to hold the plinths together during shipping. Just saying.

The 11.1 looks great... but wow, it's more than twice the price of the 9.1. It has the same tonearm, same platter... the biggest differences are - one extra plinth, and a completely different motor. The feet on the bottom are also different. I'm not saying the 11.1 is not worth it... it just seems like less of a bargain.

thefinalsound's picture

Uh oh, I own an old MMF 7 and am pretty sure I've never removed those transport screws! It sure pays to keep up on things here at analog planet, there's a free sound upgrade for me for Christmas. Thanks Mikey!

J.D.'s picture

Sorry to see the largely correct poster above (liuj88) being swamped a bit in his efforts. It's a real Internet tradition, this "I bought one, so I'll badmouth people who would ever talk back to the company owner" .. and the chillpill biz is forever adolescent.

For those of us who are longtime observers of the Hifi scene, the bluff, who-me-serious entrepreneurs like Hall will never be mistaken for real audio authorities.

"Lighten up, it's only HiFi," -Roy Hall.

The astounding reliability of his ho-ho-look-over-there kind of responses to nearly any controversy have probably served him pretty well in terms of the dollars, over the years. The booze-bottle-in-the-demo room and hearty old jokester thing will never get him confused with real audio people though. Anyone paying attention can spot a Salesman like Hall, and knows the difference. (The 'MMF = make money fast' thing is still just a rumor, of course, but it is certainly not thrown into doubt one little bit by the overall approach Hall employs.)

No one who has been taking notice will ever confuse Hall with a Tim de Paravicini, a Junji Kimura, a Franz Kuzma or a Nelson Pass.

But his firm is probably a safe stock to buy into. HiFi vs profit margin, separate kinds of things.

patrick50's picture

I’m just not clear how the table sounded decent with jazz but not with rock just because of the transit screws??? IF they were screwed in to provide support during transit, how could the player even work?

MannyE's picture

I stumbled upon this old thread because I'm eagerly awaiting the SL 1200 G review and read through it because I've owned an MMF-5 since 1999 or 2000 (can't remember exactly...but a long fucking time).

I paid $499 bucks for it at the time and recently noticed that the Goldring 1012GX it came with is priced at more than that all by itself! So considering I've never had a problem with it, and the original belt and cart are still rocking and sounding good on everything from rock to opera I can safely say it was a great buy. It's an early 120 volt motor model. All this time later it's still working flawlessly.

Why people feel the need to bash Roy Hall is beyond me. Especially if they don't own any of the products. I didn't see anything in his responses on this thread that merit the kind of vitriol being thrown around. In fact, I'm happy to see that Mr. Hall is willing to take it light. Why can't levity and devotion to a great product go hand in hand? I'm pretty sure he doesn't run around at work cracking jokes all the time or he wouldn't still be selling turntables.

If it wasn't for the MMF-5 I would have never been able to enter the world of vinyl and get hooked on things like SET flea amps and folded horn speakers or spend hours and hours trolling through thrift shops in search of that elusive Fisher tube amp and countless hours flipping through dusty boxes of old records. Come to think of it... Fuck you Hall! :)