Turntables, Arms & Cartridges

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Review: Jonathan Gorse, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 22, 2020
hfnoutstandingWith nearly a half century of MC experience under its corporate belt, Sumiko knows how to optimise pick-up performance: enter the Pearwood, an MC that tracks like an MM

Since it was founded in 1972 by noted audio designer David Fletcher, the US-based Sumiko Corporation has been making some of the world's most desirable pick-ups at its production facility in Japan. What's more, not only has it become one of the leading agents for audio equipment in North America but its UK presence has recently been boosted by distributor Henley Audio.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 10, 2020
hfnvintageA mid '80s deck designed to boost vinyl replay at a time when the convenience of CD was making all the news. Did it succeed, and how does it compare today?

The products we usually seek to feature in our Vintage Review pages are those that were among the first to introduce a new format, function, level of performance or design theme. However, this month our subject is the Technics SL-J33 turntable of 1986, one of the last in a series that had a footprint the size of an LP sleeve, which began with the SL-10 [HFN Apr '19].

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 17, 2020
hfnoutstandingSupplied with or without a partnering MM cartridge, this new 'entry-level' deck to the Vertere range comes equipped with a re-imagining of the archetypal flat tonearm

In a world of plug 'n' play convenience, having to manually configure a piece of equipment before it can be used is felt by some to be far too great a barrier to enjoyment. And perhaps in no area of hi-fi is this truer than vinyl replay. I know of many people who have consciously shied away from exploring the ol' black stuff because they believe it to be 'just too much hard work'. So any manufacturer able to help eliminate any of the perceived faff and complexity that comes with putting together and setting up a turntable – not to mention its arm – is onto a winner.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 26, 2020
hfncommendedNestling in the foothills of the Swabian Jura, southern Germany, the tiny municipality of Altdorf is home to some very big turntables from the boutique Acoustic Solid brand

Weighing 22kg, with a good deal of this mass being platter, the Wood Round MPX is the latest turntable from German company Acoustic Solid and fits neatly into its seven-strong 'Classic Line', sitting above the Classic Wood but below the Wood Referenz. The deck's appearance, with its three pillars, echoes the company's top 'Aluminium Line' models and also differentiates it from the rectangular decks that make up the rest of the Classic Line.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2020
hfnvintageIt was a deck designed to keep vinyl replay relevant in a market attracted to the convenience of CD. Did it succeed and, more importantly, how does it sound today?

One challenge faced by those designing hi-fi in the high-tech 1980s was how to re-package the LP in a way that would ensure it remained of interest to consumers in a future that was clearly going digital. Released in late 1979, the Technics SL-10 turntable [HFN Apr '19], with its parallel tracking, optical position sensing and slick packaging was one of the first components to address this issue seriously.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2020
hfnoutstandingOne-time distributor of Grace, Kiseki, Supex and other brands from the vinyl vault, Sumiko is also a manufacturer with a legacy. Here's its new open-bodied MC flagship

One testament to the continuing love for vinyl is that the steady trickle of brand new cartridges making their way onto the market shows no sign of abating. The latest company to pep up the party is US-based distributor and manufacturer Sumiko.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 30, 2020
hfnoutstandingKeeping up with progress in Pro-Ject's Mistelbach headquarters is enough to make anyone's head spin. The latest deck to be updated is the Classic, four years after launch

As the undisputed juggernaut of the vinyl world, Pro-Ject's progress has been dizzying, particularly in recent years, and the brand now even has its own record label. So there's clearly a lot to celebrate as the company reaches its 30th anniversary this year. It all started with the Pro-Ject 1 – a cheap, no-nonsense, 'plug 'n play' record player launched when the received wisdom held that vinyl as a format was dying. Since then, the company has produced a huge array of different models – broadening its design strategy to ensure it can offer a turntable for every taste and budget.

Review: Jonathan Gorse, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 02, 2020
hfncommendedInspired by the Florentine Renaissance, this flagship turntable aims to combine avantgarde technological innovation with sumptuous Italian aesthetics

Think of Italy and one pictures a nation blessed with effortless style, eye-catching design and a strong sense of its own history. The Gold Note Mediterraneo boasts all these qualities, sitting atop the company's five-strong turntable range and costing £4990-£5445 (depending on finish) with the B-5.1 tonearm included. As well as the walnut plinth of our review sample, the deck is available in black lacquered MDF, white, and as a truly glorious alternative coated in an exquisitely-textured 24k gold foil. Sleek-looking and superbly crafted, when it comes to the spouse acceptance factor it's on a par with having George Clooney move in as a lodger.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 13, 2020
hfnoutstandingMobile Fidelity, champion of audiophile vinyl, has now wrapped up an EISA Award for its flagship UltraDeck – does the more affordable StudioDeck give much away?

It might seem that we played this one in reverse, reviewing Mobile Fidelity's dearer UltraDeck turntable first [HFN Jul '19], before working backward. A buzz in the underground, however, suggested that MoFi's less-costly, entry-level StudioDeck might be something of a 'sweet spot' candidate, so what could have been an anti-climax is anything but.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 17, 2020
hfnoutstandingAfter wowing the audio community with the Jo No5 moving-coil cartridge, EAT has unleashed the second in the family – the Jo No8. And it's an even bigger knock-out

Having previously dipped its toe in the water with the Yosegi moving-coil cartridge [HFN Mar '12] – effectively a rebodied-in-wood Japanese design – EAT stunned us last year with the Jo No5 [HFN Dec '18], selling at a sane £799. There's no shortage of amazing moving-coil cartridges on the market, but this was blatantly head-and-shoulders above the pack. It heralded a new range of MCs to complement EAT's expanding catalogue of turntables, arms, phono stages and its recently-unveiled integrated amplifier.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 30, 2020
hfnedchoiceLike a winery with one grape but a dozen variants, Koetsu's latest Urushis challenge moving-coil veterans with subtleties – will the Vermillion leave us seeing red?

Urushi and I? We go wa-a-y back. It was in the April 1990 issue that I reviewed my first, never having seen such gorgeous lacquer on anything, let alone an MC cartridge. As with Sonus faber rewriting speaker design language, the Urushi was 'something else'. It wasn't the first time high-end cartridges exhibited aesthetics beyond the style of a cool profile – the body of Goldbug's Mr Brier [HFN May' 86] was egg-shaped wood, and pastel-anodised metal had been around for years – but this was jewellery.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 14, 2020
hfnvintageOne of many distinctive mid-priced turntables to surface in the 1980s, this dinky deck enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame, but then refused to go away. How will it sound today?

If we could warp back to 1984 we would find a hi-fi scene dramatically different to how it is now. Vinyl may have been in the autumn of its life as a mass music format, but it still dominated. With CD very much in its infancy, the LP was the only practical way serious music lovers could hear their prized albums.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 09, 2020
hfncommendedThe new big brother to the successful X1 adds a host of improvements in order to justify its £300 price premium. But at this new price, it can be tougher to succeed

Sometimes a product comes along that really hits the spot, delivering a combination of performance and value that shakes up the hi-fi world. Audiophiles of more mature years will be able to reel off a number of these, whether it be the NAD 3020 amplifier of the late '70s [HFN Nov '12], the mid '80s Wharfedale Diamond loudspeakers [HFN May '18], or the Marantz CD63 MkII KI Signature CD player from 1996.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 31, 2019
hfnoutstandingWith its sintered titanium body, rare earth magnets, exquisite stylus and now a diamond cantilever, Ortofon's latest MC Anna is the very model of a high-tech flagship moving-coil

On the face of it, all that separates this new flagship pick-up from Ortofon's original MC Anna [HFN Oct '12] is the exchange of the latter's rigid boron cantilever for an even more rigid 'diamond' rod. The line-contact Replicant 100 diamond stylus, the 'wide-range armature damping' system (WRD), the sintered titanium body and rare earth alloy magnet are all, ostensibly, unchanged. Nevertheless, this 'Diamond' MC Anna is no mere blinged-up clone.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 26, 2019
hfnvintageWith its ultra low mass arm and cartridge system, the CS 606 was one of a trio of decks that was finally able to claw back sales from the Japanese. How does it perform today?

The fact that Dual couldn't achieve serious success in the middle sector of the British turntable market back in the late '70s was testament to how fast the hi-fi world had changed. That part of the market was becoming the province of Japanese companies such as Pioneer, Sony and Technics, which were making complex, technologically advanced turntables packed with modern, user-friendly features that people wanted to buy.

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