Bergmann Audio's Sleipner Reference Turntable/Tonearm: Not Horsing Around

Named for a mythical Nordic eight legged horse whose name means "smooth" or "gliding", the Sleipner Reference looks and feels as smooth as its true air bearing, belt driven 20 pound aluminum platter floats and its air "bearing" arm slides.

The designer has paid attention to every detail within the design framework. The aluminum platter is topped with a three layer mat consisting of two layers of polycarbonate and one layer of acrylic. The tonearm is of a one piece damped carbon fiber construction with a decoupled counterweight.

A microprocessor controlled Hall sensor driven DC motor drives the platter, which has a vacuum hold down option. The plinth is a multilayer sandwich design supported by adjustable aluminum/cerraball feet.

Internal wire is of pure silver, while the cartridge clips are of silver plated copper.

This is a beautiful looking turntable and the sound produced by the turntable in the Ypsilon electronics/Rosso Fiorentia speakers room was promising.

Which brings me to this: show reports that concentrate on sonic minutia in hotel or convention center rooms is just so much audio masturbation. What's more, it is unfair to manufacturers saddled with bad rooms and who are sometimes forced to partner with gear that's less than complementary due to "office politics" or financial constraints.

I find such show reports self-absorbed and nauseating as they are usually excuses for stroking favored manufacturers (for those reviewers who play favorites, and they know who they are) and for punishing those who don't pay adoring attention to said reviewers. I'm just sick of it. As for "best of show" competitions, they are equally unproductive and repellant, though I admit to sometimes indulging in a 'best sound' comment when a room is particularly striking. But, negative sonic commentary in a show report is particularly offensive in my opinion—unless the room's host insists the sound is exemplary. Then he or she gets what he or she deserves!

Back to the Bergmann: I've been resistant to reviewing one of these because I admit to a prejudice against "floating flute" type tangential trackers like this. That is why I put the word "bearing" in quotes. By definition a "bearing" be it air or tiny balls, should apply force evenly. Imagine a platter "bearing" that was one sided or rotated around an uneven sleeve (my vernacular is lacking here but I think you get my point).

A true air bearing would be the one Rockport used in its System III Sirius or Kuzma uses in its Airline arm. It is a capture air bearing—not that these don't have their own issues. Bergmann uses the "flute" type design where air constantly blows through tiny holes. This pressurizes the space between the raid and the sleeve that holds the tone arm, so the sleeve floats.

But by definition the pressurization cannot be equal around the entire sleeve, nor can it be high pressure because the sleeve is not "captured". Now, the captured type has its own issues. The pressure is very high within the bearing, but at the annular gap at either end of the bearing the pressure must be ambient. In other words, pressure must go from high to room pressure almost instantly. If you want to know what that looks like blow up a balloon and let it go. Bergmann's design avoids that by being low pressure. The question then is how well does it maintain tangency to the groove? it appears to be tangent but there must be a degree of "slop" in such a low pressure design that might induce "crabbing" of the motion as the arm moves across the record surface.

That is the theoretical problem with such a design despite its visual beauty. But of course every design, especially a pivoted arm the describes an arc (my favorite compromise) has "issues." The question is, which design best solves the "issues."

I know Mr. Bergmann sat in on one of my turntable set-up seminars in which I discussed these issues and voiced my preference for pivoted designs and were I him I would not be happy sitting there. Would you?

So looking and listening to this turntable broke my will. If Mr. Bergmann allows, I hope to review this turntable later this year or early next—hopefully without prejudice.

Cybermynd's picture

I have often wished there was some sort of standardized method of capturing the sound of source components ( I think recording speaker output is way too problematic ) in such a way that it could be distributed to us unwashed masses for evaluation. The availability of high resolution recording devices would seem to make this possible. I guess you'd have to stop at the preamp but even that might provide some insight in the differences between components in that half of the chain.

Something to think about Mike?