The Artisan Fidelity Turntables Drew Me In, the Sound Made Me Stay.

Artisan Fidelity restores and re-imagines vintage turntables from Lenco, Garrard and Garrard/Loricraft. The room featured one of each as you'll see on the video.

A Lenco motor-based 'table equipped with a Kuzma 4 Point fitted with a Lyra Kleos was the source. A David Berning vacuum tube based preamp and OTL mono block amplifiers were the electronics. The speaker was a spectacularly finished, single coaxial driver design from LaHave Audio.

Sound Design Labs, Inc. provided the power conditioning and cabling, including the Joule Case Reference AE Hybrid Power Distribution Unit/Variable Bias Power Supply and Active-Link cables including various power cords, interconnect an speaker cabling.

I asked to hear the test pressing I'd brought of Ellington Masterpieces, the mono spectacular recently reissued by Analog Productions (At the show Chad Kassem told me the Ellington record would probably surpass in less than a year the total number of copies sold of Tea For the Tillerman).

The system's rendering of "Mood Indigo"—the record's opener— had me believing. I've played that record all over the place. Some systems bring this performance close to life—expressing the mono record's intense three-dimensionality, textural generosity and harmonic accuracy. Some systems bury the piano in soft muck and soften the recording's sophisticated rendering of transients and some coarsen in the opposite direction.

This system produced image-coherence, stability, focus and three-dimensionality as well as convincing instrumental harmonics, transients and microdynamics. I've heard that long opening track many times. At this point only the best renderings keep me from stopping part way through. What I heard kept me there the whole time—and this was Sunday afternoon shortly before I had to leave for the airport.

Artisan Sound's Christopher Thornton then played a track from the Analogue Productions reissue of Oscar Peterson's We Get Requests. The speaker's low frequency extension was startlingly deep and impressively well-controlled, if just a bit "ripe", but not so-much so that it muddied the piano's lower keyboard.

I asked if I could play files from a USB stick through the system's LampizatOr Audio DAC. Thornton told me a JRiver software glitch prevented that. They'd tried to get it going, but couldn't. So going against type, I asked if I could try to fix it.

A few minutes later one of the files I'd recorded from vinyl just before leaving for Chicago played through the Lahave speakers and everyone, with great surprise applauded. The "analog guy" got the computer music working? Yes.

I told them, "Just because I'm known as the 'analog guy' doesn't mean I don't do digital. My wife shows dogs. Part of the judge's job description is to feel the dog's balls. That doesn't mean he goes around on the street asking people if he can feel their dog's balls!"

It was funny, and I felt a sense of (meager) accomplishment, but I also got to hear the newly recorded files through a revealing system.

Many rooms produced interesting, accomplished sound, including those containing gear from familiar companies like Wilson, Magnapan, Audio Resarch, Tidal and others, but overall, for whatever reason or reasons, the sound in the Lakeview Audio room was my favorite. Here's the video:

cooker's picture

is a work of art!!!!!

Grant M's picture

I've seen a couple of interviews with Chris from Artisan Fidelity before, they seem to be doing some really special things with both restoration and now apparently entirely new construction idler drive 'tables. It would be really interesting to have Mikey's thoughts on this trend. It seems like the cult of these designs has replaced the cult of the Lp12 in this current vinyl resurgence. If one were shopping for a upgrade 'table in 2015, should an idler drive be on my "must hear" list?

audiof001's picture

A properly set up idler sounds quite different than belt or direct drive tables. I wasn't an idler fan until I saved a Neat Shield MO-19 from being tossed into a dumpster - it took a good while to get running and I modified one and built another 12" arm for it. I have two other tables, a Well Tempered Turntable with lots of mods and LP Labs carbon fiber arm as well as a Pro-Ject Perspective, but the idler provides a rhythm and excitement that's impossible to miss. There may be a little noise from the motor but I'll take that any day for the toe-tapping fun I get from listening to the Neat.

Steve Edwards's picture

when he put's one in the bad guys' belly with a pistol instead of his trusty rifle, " I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it."

OldschoolE's picture

I really like that grey one with the machined platter, just stunning. (I'm bad with model numbers). Unfortunately, even the wood one is far away from ever being affordable for me. I was not even sure I could afford to watch this video,(kidding about that).Still, I can't even afford to dream of stuff like this.
This make goes way back to the beginnings of vinyl and turntables, which I really like. Ahh, legacy tables! Really stunning work these guys did!

Banditcat200's picture

After having tried a number of remarkable rimdrives and direct drives in my time incl. Thorens, Linn, Pierre Lurne, Micro Seiki, Tecnics Sls, Sony, Kenwoods.
I have finally settled for a Garrard 301 Idlerdrive turnable after having carefully refurbished this gem, there are some issues that have to be adressed in this old design from the late 50´s.
But bottomline is when the issues/refurbishing have been done properly, the resulting soundquality is very hard to beat at any pricelevel.
The most significant property here being the rytm and timing in the music performed from the records played.
But there more to it then this, many think there is a lack soundstage on the old idlerdrives, think Again, if the motor- plint and tonearm gard is properly vibrition controlled and feed by a proper powerconditioner, this changes all together and now what you have is rytm-timing-soundstage wide and Deep and dynamics to die for.
I have never looked back to rim and directdrives ever since, they miss something everytime i try them out.
Best of regards from a idlerdrive fanatic.
Maybe i am a bit colored, but sound telles the story and so do the records, my other big passion.