December 18, 2013
27% of young people who buy records don’t own a turntable. Make sure you’re not one of them. The Vinyl Factory reviews the 8 best audiophile record players.
Words: Paul Rigby
Vinyl still offers the best sound – in terms of physical or download formats – on the planet. While digital imposes an artificial glass ceiling on sound quality, only analogue provides limitless potential. As such, it is great to see the vinyl format enjoying a welcome renaissance, illustrated by a gamut of new album and single releases alongside a whole host of reissues.
For some time now, hi-fi magazines have seen many more new turntables presented to them for evaluation than CD players which means that it has never been easier for you to get in on the act. Prices can be very affordable while set-up time on the budget models is just a couple of minutes.
So, if you are yet to take the plunge, why not check out our new Top Turntable list and select the best model for you.
PRO-JECT ESSENTIAL 2
This turntable is a real plug-and-play model that arrives from the factory with the arm and cartridge fitted and aligned. All you have to do is place the belt on the outside of the platter and the motor pulley. A felt mat covers the plinth, screw on the arm counterweight and off you go. It’s a basic turntable but has the ability to offer quite energising rhythms being rather musical in an infectious way. So the beat of a rock track, for example, is quite tightly described without being over emphasised while the wide soundstage holds heaps of detail.
REGA RP1 TURNTABLE
Highly respected as an audiophile outfit, Rega has produced a turntable that can be easily sourced (Amazon sell them, for example) and is a doddle to set-up. This is a simple turntable in construction. The RP1 continues to display the traditional Rega characteristics of an open midrange that includes superb clarity for the price. Vinyl is certainly going through resurgence, at the moment. If you want to be part of it but don’t yet have a turntable or are looking for a source for a low cost second system then check out the Rega RP1. It’s a great way to listen to great music.
THE FUNK FIRM FLAMENCA
Flamenca is Funk’s new entry-level turntable. This new deck has been designed in-house and has also been designed from the ground up. There is no tweaking a few features and adding a new name badge here. Although belt driven, the conventional rubber belt has been rejected in favour of a monofilament, peripheral drive. In fact, monofilaments are a recurring theme in this design. Flamenca sports Funk’s new F6 arm, which also uses monofilaments for the bearing system. Cost-effective and dual speed, the F6 is advanced yet very straightforward to setup and use. The result is a technically advanced turntable system of unusual musical articulation.
MICHEL GYRODEC SE
One of the all-time classics in turntable production, the Gyrodec is entering its fourth decade of production but still bests most turntables, not only in its own price bracket but also many turntables of much higher value. There have been improvements and tweaks to the design over that time, yes, but the essentials are still the same, which gives the deck an open and detailed demeanour. The presentation also has the knack of being both solid but free in its presentation, digging deep into the mix to extract the smallest amount of detail while the overall clarity is quite sublime.
VPI SCOUT 1.1
Based in the USA, the Scout is a hefty, solid design. In terms of performance, vocals are dealt with maturely, being alive with texture while orchestrations tend to be lush. The stage effect provided by this turntable provides a large-scale stage weight giving space in front of and behind the speakers. Bass tends to be tight and snappy while timing is concise. The tonality of instruments played via the Scout are well described. All in all, the Scout provides an even-handed approach with air and space surrounding instruments. Excellent overall performance.
WILSON BENESCH FULL CIRCLE
The Full Circle turntable is an attractive design. Its compact nature will please many users that are restricted by space. Providing a fairly straightforward set-up routine, the deck provides deep and solid bass and a spacious upper midrange with, if sited correctly, not a hint of brightness. What it lacks in the rich, extended dynamics of a more expensive turntable, it more than makes up for in terms of focus with a single-minded approach to the soundstage that is clean and uncluttered. Strong and powerful in terms of lower frequencies with airy upper frequencies, the Full Circle is a strong contender in this price bracket.
ORIGIN LIVE SOVEREIGN MK.3
In partnership with the included 12” version of the Enterprise C arm, the origin Live duo is absolutely devastating. The Origin pair exudes tremendous focus and the stereo image is rock solid while the soundstage is wide and high: they offer a real ‘stage’ performance, in fact. Upper mids are sparkling with strings being light and lively. Brass impresses in terms of its metallic attack without being aggressive to the ear while bass is punchy and rock solid. As a whole, the system is absorbing, offering a focused and perceptive listen. As it stands, it’s pretty damn impressive.
AVID ACUTUS SP REFERENCE
This British company believes in engineering perfection that is why this turntable not only looks and sounds great but, even at this price, offers superb value for money. While the design basics are worthy of note, the secret to the Reference standard is that separate power supply box. Like any good engine, the Reference power supply provides the Acutus with enough clean power to provide the smoothest of aural rides. Listening to the Reference, it features a mature, open, detailed sound with superb transparency, delicate upper midrange and big, bold, firm bass response.