Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 12, 2022
hfnoutstandingBased on Vertere's flagship RG-1 Reference Groove turntable, and differing only in the bearing and platter, there's a host of innovation in the brand's SG-1 Super Groove...

Anyone who has followed Vertere's founder Touraj Moghaddam, all the way back to the early days of Roksan, cannot fail to have been impressed with his iconoclasm. A lifetime later, he's still making cutting-edge turntables from left-field. I knew he hadn't mellowed as soon as he dissuaded me from using a clamp or a weight on the LP, before removing the spindle with a flourish. That was my introduction to the SG-1 Super Groove, one model below the flagship RG-1 Reference Groove.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 16, 2022
hfnvintageWhen it came to Lilliputian LP players Sony was late to the party, but is this early '80s deck with two motors and a tangential arm now an overlooked gem? We find out...

The 'small and square' turntables that appeared in the early 1980s were arguably the last important development in vinyl playback before CD arrived. Begun by Technics in 1979 with its SL-10 [HFN Apr '19], Japan's hi-fi industry rushed to produce something similar, with varying degrees of success.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 04, 2022
hfnoutstandingThis icon of British hi-fi is typically sparing in its celebration of milestones, but SME's Diamond jubilee demanded something very special indeed. And here it is...

If the engineers at SME felt the need for a motivational quote or two while working on the company's new turntable, Rolls-Royce co-founder Sir Henry Royce's 'Take the best that exists and make it better' would have been a good choice. This summed up the challenge facing the UK company in designing a successor to the previous Model 30 flagship – the result is the £49,950 SME Model 60, and it has a tough act to follow.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 27, 2022
hfncommendedAustria's vinyl juggernaut has leveraged German expertise to launch a series of fully-automatic turntables. The range starts spinning with the A1, inc. a built-in phono stage            

Decades ago, along with tone controls, the automatic turntable was relegated to 'amateur' status because audiophiles revel in masochism. 'What? The arm lifts up at the end of the side?'. As lies were told about CD, so were falsehoods spread about how triggering the arm lift would snap your cantilever. It was a load of tosh, and as many new to LP want convenience, Pro-Ject has responded with the A1 at only £369.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 02, 2022
hfncommendedThe foundation of AVID's MC pick-up range, beneath the Ruby and Boron, is the Ionic (not the 'Alloy'!), and featuring more than a little artisan wizardry in its construction

No rest for the wicked, I feared, as PM assigned me another AVID MC cartridge. But I worried needlessly, thinking I might be reduced to comparing cantilevers once more. Not so. The dynamic was different here because the time had arrived to deal with the entry-level model in the Brit brand's range. Both stylus and cantilever differ from those in its siblings, the £6000 Reference Ruby [HFN Nov '20] and £4000 Boron [HFN Apr '21], so the £2000 Ionic blazes its own trail despite all three sharing the same magnet, coils and body design.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2022
hfnoutstandingLaunched to mark Sumiko's 40th, this latest version of the 'Celebration' moving-coil takes its cues from the mkII Pearwood, albeit with Plumwood to invoke a unique hue...

This celebratory model, marking 40 years, recalls a bygone time, its perfectly apt wooden box and body inadvertently honouring a specific Japanese MC cartridge with the greatest claim to establishing the genre in the West: the original Koetsu [HFN Nov '80]. What doesn't evoke the 1980s is the £3199 price tag, although this is perhaps not so forbidding when we can list a dozen £10,000-plus cartridges, aimed at those who quaff Petrus at every meal…

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 14, 2022
hfnoutstandingA handful of turntable brands lay claim to the first suspended subchassis model, but few, unlike Thorens' TD 150 from 1965, were mass produced. Here's its great grandson

Thorens CEO Gunter Kürten is true to his word: when we first met at the Tokyo High End Show in 2019, he hinted that the hugely-important, wildly-popular three-point suspended-subchassis, belt-drive TD 150 of 1965 might make a return in updated form. This wasn't your typical case of just exploiting retro because the TD 150 was more than a best-seller for Thorens. It was a breakthrough in the evolution of turntables.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 08, 2022
hfnvintageThis compact '70s deck packed some clever tech when it came to speed control, but is it now an underappreciated classic? Time to find out as the GA 202 is put to the test...

When designing any turntable, ensuring that it maintains the correct and consistent speed is of paramount importance. Numerous techniques have been tried over the years, some with greater success than others. The Philips GA 202 Electronic turntable reviewed here was one of the first popular models to feature a motor controlled by an electronic servo, bringing easy operation and improved performance. This was the deck's key feature, but there were other striking aspects to the design.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 07, 2022
hfnoutstandingPrecision manufacturing, state-of-the-art materials and magnet technologies combine in this new addition to the 'Exclusives' MC range – the ultimate blend of art and science?

Talk about alpha to omega: we've looked at two Ortofon cartridges this month, the £295 2M Bronze supplied with Thorens' TD 1500 and now the MC Verismo moving-coil, at £5349. It's the latest MC in Ortofon's 'Exclusives' series, which already includes the £6999 MC Anna Diamond [HFN Oct '19] and £3799 MC Windfeld Ti [HFN Jan '18], but with an open body shape first pioneered in this Danish brand's MC A90 [HFN Sep '09].

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 21, 2022
hfnvintageIn 1975 one of the leading makers of budget turntables unveiled a fully automatic mid-priced deck with mighty ambitions. How will the package shape up today?

Any mention of Dual turntables usually brings one of the many incarnations of the company's CS 505 to mind. The original '505 was a typical Dual design, taking its cue from the basic turntables that had been around since the 1950s by being built on a sprung-steel plate. It was a budget deck, which sold mainly to those looking to take their first step on the audiophile ladder. But Dual made more ambitious models too.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 11, 2022
hfnoutstandingThis Brit-brand's range of audiophile pick-ups grows yet again with a sub-£1000 model slotting between its entry-level MM and flagship MC. Will the Sabre cut through?

In the heated-up marketplace that is 'LP Playback Circa 2022', and as with the ModWright PH 9.0 phono stage, we are also experiencing a surfeit of cartridges, tonearms and decks. With so crowded a playing field as this, Vertere – about as iconoclastic a manufacturer as analogue has seen in recent times – has to make its Sabre cartridge stand out from the rest. The company has chosen to address a usually neglected niche: true high-end moving-magnet designs.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 25, 2022
hfncommendedBudget-conscious vinyl fans wishing to digitise their prized record collections will want to sample this sleek, affordable turntable solution from an illustrious German brand

Like any company that can trace its lineage over one-and-a-quarter centuries, German turntable brand Thorens has had its share of high and, well, not-so-high points. Now under the ownership of ex-ELAC MD Gunter Kürten, the last three years has seen a revolution in the brand's ambitions, with a burgeoning product range to match.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 04, 2022
hfnoutstandingWith a range of affordable turntables and a trio of MM pick-ups already in its catalogue, the launch of a premium MC has been long-anticipated from this supremo of the vinyl LP

One thought dominated my recent rediscovery of the old Decca (now London) cartridges: there was much to be said for record labels also manufacturing playback equipment. As had Decca, EMI, RCA, and a few others in the past, Mobile Fidelity, aka MoFi, has continued to demonstrate this synergy through its portfolio of turntables [HFN Jul '19 and Jan '20], phono stages [HFN Mar '20] and three MM cartridges. The UltraGold is the first MoFi MC, and at £1499, it raises the brand's price point.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 21, 2022
hfnvintageThis compact '80s turntable took the fight to market leader Technics by driving down the price of automatic track selection and programmable repeat. Is it a big hitter?

The LP sleeve-sized turntable, first seen in 1979 in the form of the Technics SL-10 [HFN Apr '19], proved such a success that within a year or so most of the major Japanese manufacturers had added one to their range. In a fast-changing world where digital tuners, remote-controlled amps and full-logic cassette decks were beginning to make traditional turntables look out of date, this new look helped maintain sales.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 27, 2021
Arguably best known for its high-end strain-gauge pick-ups, Soundsmith also offers a series of high- and low-output moving-iron/fixed-coil cartridges. Is the Zephyr a 'star'?

The so-called 'vinyl revival' has not only fermented an uptick in sales of both turntables and LP records but it's also created a renewed demand for cartridges of all shapes, sizes and types. Designer/audio artisan Peter Ledermann was far from alone in seizing the opportunity, sensing, very specifically in this instance, that many Bang & Olufsen turntable owners wanted to get their ageing record players going again. He successfully obtained a licence to restart production of these plug-in MMC pick-ups, and Soundsmith was born.

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