Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2019
hfnoutstandingReplacing the inaugural DS-W1 while benefiting from a host of trickle-down tech from the brand's flagship Master 1, the new DS-W2 'optical' pick-up is firmly in the limelight

When I first heard about DS Audio's optical cartridges, I wrote them off as 'dreamware' unlikely to end up chez Kessler. As it turns out, the audio gods smiled on me and I have, to my surprise and delight, managed to review just about all of them, watching the series evolve while using the Master 1 as my reference. Now, with the DS-W2 selling for £9995 with the equaliser/phono stage, the brand is delivering nearly all the performance of its flagship at half the price.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngFollowing its ever-descending prices for its high-value turntables, EAT (European Audio Team) has issued the Jo No5 moving-coil cartridge to do the same for phono pick-ups

As if to answer my continued pleas for sane price tags, and my continued dismay at the fees charged for some MC cartridges, the inclusively named European Audio Team (EAT) has delivered what may be a game-changer. It was the talk of 2018's High End Show in Munich, not least because it looks unlike nearly any cartridge ever seen before. And another thing: the EAT Jo No5 sells for £999.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThe Czech company beefs up its most popular turntable range with a deck boasting a sophisticated motor system and new S-shaped tonearm. Then there’s the new logo...

Recently I found myself chatting with a fellow hi-fi nut about the sheer number of turntables currently available. We discussed a few of our favourites and his final comment was: ‘Yes, a great selection; although about half of them are made by Pro-Ject!’ While we chuckled, I couldn’t help thinking he had a point...

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngLaunched in the late '70s as part of a new wave of shoebox-sized systems from Japan, this elegant deck packed plenty of groundbreaking tech. How does it perform today?

It wasn't until the 1970s that the LP reached its heyday. By then, most albums were stereo and the equipment needed to play them was widely available. In 1975, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells hit the high watermark for vinyl sales, confirming the format's dominance. At the time, most people still only had 'record players' – all-in-one turntables, amplifiers and speakers – but this was the peak of the decade's hi-fi boom, and people were scrambling to get their hands on proper, grown-up, stereo systems.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngA new name in turntables from Serbia and an equally new arm from Timestep in the UK make for a very stylish combination. But do they sound as good as they look?

It's not every day one comes across a turntable named after a film director but the Soulines Kubrick DCX really has been christened in honour of Stanley Kubrick. Soulines is no stranger to this naming practice, its other models being the Elgar and Satie (composers), Dostoyevsky (novelist) and Hermes (Greek god). Designer Igor Gligorov says he drew inspiration for the look of the £2995 Kubrick from the spinning, double-wheeled Space Station V depicted in the film director's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and that the name naturally followed.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngKiseki’s first all-new moving-coil cartridge since its return in 2011 isn’t just a fine transducer, it’s also affordable by current standards – enter the Kiseki Blue N.S.

Back when moving-coil cartridges stalked the earth, Koetsu occupied the top of the heap, and did so for at least a decade. But this purveyor of hand-made cartridges did not go unchallenged and, to its credit, Koetsu opened the door for a plethora of Japanese artisan moving-coils with equally exotic-sounding names. Among the most highly-regarded were the various Kisekis, the name meaning ‘miracle’, which could be regarded as either cynical or optimistic, so great was Koetsu’s dominance.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngTwo years since the rebirth of the iconic SL-1200, Panasonic's high-end brand is back with its flagship direct-drive turntable. It had to be special, and so it proved

The vinyl market hit rock bottom in 2009, but has been growing ever since,' says Technics' Tetsuya Itani, adding that, 'we foresee this trend will last.' And that, in a nutshell, is why one of the world's most iconic turntables has been relaunched. Panasonic – the brand's parent company – is not in the business of being nostalgic, remembering the glory days of vinyl, flared trousers and disco dancing. Instead, the reappearance of the SP-10 family is all about the here and now.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngAfter returning to making turntables two years ago, the company is now back with a more affordable package that includes a pre-fitted arm and cartridge, all ready to go

Vinyl’s renaissance has resulted in some thought-provoking developments, particularly when it comes to turntable manufacturers. Naturally, well-established brands such as Rega and Pro-Ject have seen their output rise dramatically and, unsurprisingly, more than a few new names have appeared on the scene. What is fascinating, however, is to see manufacturers that made turntables in the past return to their vinyl roots once more.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngWith a radically different design to other MCs, Lyra's second-to-top cartridge has a sound unlike anything else around. Costly yes, but what price the pursuit of perfection?

Analogue addicts find themselves with a bewildering array of choices that extends way past which turntable and/or tonearm to buy. The world of cartridges is complex and potentially baffling, especially with moving-coil types. Many eventually progress from buying the big brands to trying out specialist makers – and it's here that we find Lyra. Its products inhabit a niche within a niche: they are all hand-built, low-volume devices that for nearly a generation now have sold largely to devotees of the brand.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngSporting a unique modular design that accommodates multiple tonearms, a tube-based PSU for the motor and novel heated bearing, this super deck is far from run of the mill

Does the world really need another high-end turntable? That’s the question Brinkmann’s Spyder has to answer, because there’s already a surfeit of fancy vinyl disc spinners sitting pretty in this high value market. This deck needs to be special in some way then, and so it proved. Costing £9795 in basic form, it’s one of two belt-driven decks in the German company’s range of hi-fi separates, sitting alongside the Balance 2 [HFN Jul ’14]. Brinkmann also makes the Bardo and Oasis direct-drive turntables, which themselves are interesting and innovative things.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe latest in a long line of 'affordable audiophile' turntables from a highly popular UK brand, the Planar 2 offers easy set-up, good looks and a taste of serious hi-fi sound

The 1970s were something of a high watermark for the vinyl format. Bolstered by Mike Oldfield's smash hit Tubular Bells, 1975 saw the highest ever LP sales in the UK, and this drove demand for turntables. At the time, the budget king was Garrard's rudimentary SP25, but soon the Japanese gifted us the fine Pioneer PL-12D, a deck that really raised the performance bar.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngWhen launched, this turntable was just one of over a dozen Technics decks offered. Is it now the pick of the radial-tracking pack? Time to take it to the test bench...

Think of direct-drive turntables and the chances are that one brand will spring to mind: Technics. What's more, its SL-1200 turntable will be the model most people think of first. This famous deck casts a long shadow over the others in the company's range and yet there were many to choose from. In fact, when the SL-Q303 seen here was launched in the UK in 1982 it was part of a 13-model lineup – a series that went from the professional-spec SP-10 MkII right down to moulded plastic belt-drive budget models such as the SL-B202.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngLimited to just 175 pieces, this luxuriously-appointed version of Pro-Ject's 'The Classic' turntable is offered in celebration of the VPO. Is this gilding the lily or musical gold?

Forget concept albums, for this is a 'concept turntable' – a striking looking record player that, at first sight, might seem rather 'Trump Tower', and perhaps aesthetically overpowering for conservative European eyes. Put your sunglasses on however, and all becomes clear as the VPO logo engraved into the lower right hand corner of the top plate is revealed. For this is a special commemorative product, a plush limited edition version of Pro-Ject's The Classic turntable [HFN Aug '16], made to celebrate one-and-three-quarter centuries of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfnedchoice.pngDS Audio’s flagship optical cartridge is one of the most expensive we’ve tested – but the £20k price tag includes a dedicated PSU/equaliser. KK rediscovers his LP collection...

Optical pick-ups were a dream in the 1960s and 1970s, but they were hamstrung by the light technology of the era. Weight, heat, power source – all mitigated against it. DS Audio, however, has the benefit of returning to the concept in the age of the LED, and its parent company is a global giant making optical sensors. Your £20k for the DS Audio Master 1 package, then, gets you cutting-edge design and manufacture rather than something a boffin cooked up in a garage. It also pays for the latest power supply-cum-phono stage, the cartridge not delivering a signal suitable for a conventional MM or MC phono input.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 30, 2015
Direct drive was viewed with suspicion here by many in the 1970s. Elsewhere, high-end direct-drive units from the Land of the Rising Sun were snapped up. The TTS-8000 is now widely regarded as the second best turntable Sony ever made (first place goes to the company’s PS-X9, aimed at studios). But the runner-up reviewed here did a sterling job in straddling both the domestic and professional markets.

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