Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 23, 2023
hfnoutstandingUpdating the DS-W2 with a host of trickle-down technology from the brand's flagship 'dual mono' Grand Master, the new DS-W3 'optical' pick-up looks to steal the limelight

An object lesson in how to create a monopoly: make something no-one else can copy. As tricky to manufacture as CD players, electric cars, digital cameras and quartz watches might have been at the outset, competitors soon emerged for each. Not so DS Audio's 'optical' cartridges, which have captivated the high-end since arriving in 2015. Imitators have yet to emerge.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 19, 2023
hfnoutstandingHaving rolled out its first direct-drive deck in the HW-40 Anniversary, VPI has grafted its proven motor design into the flexible Avenger platform, complete with arm and MC

We may have a first here as VPI offers its Avenger turntables in belt-drive, rim-drive and direct-drive guises, the latter £36,500 Avenger Direct bringing the range to a total of four models. The genesis of the Avenger Direct was bittersweet, however, because it was inspired by, and has subsequently 'leap-frogged' over, the long-awaited VPI Vanquish flagship. In the meantime, the launch of the £100,000+ Vanquish remains on hold...

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 09, 2023
hfnoutstandingAs the 'Anna' is dropped from Ortofon's MC Diamond, its new flagship retains the sintered titanium body and diamond cantilever but adopts a Verismo-like suspension...

It's long been said that 'diamonds are a girl's best friend' but, according to Ortofon, they also have the potential to be the number one chum of any vinyl fan. While diamonds have been used for styli for decades, few manufacturers have the skill or, indeed, the budget to implement them elsewhere. Enter the Ortofon MC Diamond – the company's new £7349 flagship low-output moving-coil that features not only a diamond stylus, but also a diamond cantilever.

Review: Ken Kessler, Review: Paul Miller  |  Dec 26, 2022
hfnedchoiceEver worried about off-centre LP pressings? Neither did we – until we tried DS Audio's mind-boggling ES-001 Eccentricity Detection (and correction) Stabiliser

As I stated in a recent column: I'll no longer be making apologies for high-end pricing. So £5500 is needed to acquire the DS Audio ES-001 Eccentricity Detection Stabiliser, a highly specialised device that allows for the correction of off-centre pressings. It is, I believe, the first attempt at resolving this issue since the demise of Nakamichi's TX-1000 and Dragon CT turntables (1982-1993), which tackled the issue mechanically using a sliding two-part platter [see Vintage Review, HFN Aug '16].

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 19, 2022
hfnoutstandingThe longest serving, and arguably most diverse of Pro-Ject's turntable ranges is the Debut, launched in 2000. Now there's a new model, with an equally new S-shaped arm

Launching new turntable models as regular as clockwork is part-and-parcel of Pro-Ject's business model, but say what you will: its approach of incrementally improving and tweaking proven designs has certainly not done the Austria-based manufacturer any harm. Lacking accurate market numbers, it's hard to say conclusively, but there seems little doubt the company founded by Heinz Lichtenegger in 1991 is surely the largest turntable manufacturer on the planet, both for the in-house Pro-Ject brand and as an OEM supplier for third parties.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 15, 2022
hfnoutstandingCrafted as part of Clearaudio's 40th anniversary celebrations, the Jubilee MC features the brand's proven moving-coil mechanism housed in a 'bullet-proof' jacket

How time flies: Clearaudio was born during the height of analogue playback, survived the arrival of digital, stuck to its guns and is now enjoying the fruits of its loyalty to the vinyl cause. Along with a vast array of record decks, Clearaudio has 16 moving-coil cartridges in its catalogue – yes, sixteen. To mark its 40th birthday, the company has added one more to the middle of the group of MCs, those featuring the distinctive 'flower' top plate as seen on the flagship Goldfinger Statement [HFN Jan '15]. The new Jubilee MC, however, is a third of the Goldfinger's cost at £4460.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 03, 2022
hfnoutstandingStill featuring the iconic V-shaped plinth, this Jubilee update on Clearaudio's inaugural Reference deck features a Panzerholz plinth and magnetically-assisted ceramic bearing

Bunting must surely be in short supply. Along with the Royal Jubilee, we had SME officially celebrating its 60th birthday while Nagra rolled out the cake for its 70th – and now Clearaudio has released a product to celebrate its '40 years of excellence' (an anniversary that actually fell in 2018, but product delays are nothing new). The good news is that the result is the £17,500 Clearaudio Reference Jubilee turntable; the bad news is that production is limited to 250 units worldwide.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 27, 2022
hfnoutstandingMoving-coil pick-ups are inherently 'balanced' and Pro-Ject is determined to reveal them at their best with this balanced-wired version of the X2 deck and phono preamp

One burning question is begged by the arrival of Pro-Ject's X2 B turntable and Phono Box S3 B phono stage: why did it take so long for the industry to simplify a balanced vinyl-playing front-end? It's not like balanced operation wasn't adopted by high-end listeners decades ago as superior to single-ended for both line-level sources – DACs and top-flight CD players – and pre-to-power amp connections. MC cartridges are inherently balanced. So why the wait?

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 20, 2022
hfnoutstandingJapan is home to more boutique cartridge brands than any other hi-fi territory, and the Harmony, brainchild of vinyl addict Yasuo Ozawa, is a product of this artisanship

According to the dictionary placed at my elbow, the definition of 'harmony' is 'the process by which individual sounds are joined together or composed into whole units or compositions'. That, and the obvious association with the world of music, probably explains why it's appeared in the name of more than a few domestic and pro-audio brands and products over the years. This particular celebration of 'Harmony' comes in the form of Shelter's flagship moving-coil cartridge which, at £4300, is far from the costliest pick-up on the high-end scene.

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…

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