Nov132018| November 13, 2018
Pro-Ject Debut III S Audiophile
Pros: Impressive bass, focused mids, and low noise.
Verdict: A design that goes all out to produce top sound quality at an affordable price-point.
One of Pro-Ject’s principle sub-brands is the Debut series. There are various models in the catalogue, many of which feature targeted accessories. For example, the Debut Carbon Phono USB turntable includes a USB phono stage built into the chassis, while the Debut RecordMaster includes a built-in ADC to enable you to rip vinyl to a digital file.
The Debut III S Audiophile does none of this. In fact, in terms of the ‘toys’ that are sometimes found in a turntable chassis, the manual, two-speed, belt-driven Debut III S is surprisingly minimal. The clue is found within the ‘Audiophile’ bit of the name because this particular Debut is built to provide the best sound quality that Pro-Ject could for the money.
Let’s start from the bottom up. Weighing in at 5kg, it features a sturdy MDF plinth, which is available in black or white. The platter, along with its felt mat, has been taken directly from the Debut Carbon, along with the sub-platter and motor.
The III S does offer a big surprise in terms of its overall design: an S-shaped tonearm. As S-shaped arms are not plentiful, this example will make the Debut III S stand out from the budget crowd. The aluminium arm tube is a one-piece piece design and comes in at 8.6”.
Another point of interest here is the cartridge. Ortofon has been busy developing a new cartridge for Pro-Ject, coming up with a variant on the popular OM series. The new Pick It 25A includes silver spools to enhance sound quality.
The plinth is supported by aluminium/TPE feet instead of the ubiquitous plastic, inverted conical, anti-resonant variety. Around the back are sockets for Connect it E phono cables, which are also included in the box. On the top of the plinth is a power switch on the front left with a minimalist new logo on the front right. You change the speed by manually lifting the platter and moving the belt from one pulley to another.
For the sound tests, I played a combination of Ian Dury and jazz vocalist, Ethel Ennis. The Dury LP highlighted the turntable’s complete control over all frequencies (a reflection of that thick plinth), with impressive bass performance, that was precise and focused.
On the Ennis LP, the mid-range precision and low noise enhanced the orchestra’s output, allowing the trumpets to be light, while the cymbal taps were both fragile and delicate.
Well built and nicely positioned in terms of parts, the Debut III S Audiophile is a top notch budget turntable.
Sep252018| September 25, 2018
With Technics SL-1200s and Pioneer CDJs, the standards for vinyl turntables and digital playback are rarely a point of debate. Mixers are a different story.
From functional, stripped-down portable mixers, to busier, visual consoles with BPM counters, onboard effects and enough knobs to operate a small car, picking the right mixer to suit your needs requires careful consideration. For this reason, we’ve selected a range of nine DJ mixers available today. From budget to high-end and with respect for a range of mixing approaches, including Traktor and Serato integration, there’s something here for everyone.
A short note before counting down. Beyond budget and individual DJing style, one important factor to keep in mind when shopping for a mixer is the number of channels you require. All mixers have at least two channels (one for each sound source) with dedicated strips to control individual track level and EQ. While you’ll only need two channels to get started, as your skills improve, you may want to up the ante with a third turntable or live performance tools like samplers and drum machines. Investing in a four channel mixer, even if you only use two channels to start with, is worthwhile for serious beginners.
IK Multimedia iRig Mix
IK Multimedia’s iRig Mix is a portable mixer designed for use with iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. In combination with a free app called DJ Rig and IK’s X-sync technology, you can beat-match audio from one or two different devices — e.g. an iPhone and an iPad — at the same time. In the single device setup, the stereo output is split into two mono signals and sent to individual mixer channels. iRig includes all the basic professional controls — crossfader, cues, EQ, volume control—grouped into an ultra-compact and lightweight design that can fit into a shoulder bag. This small size, paired with a battery power supply option, makes the mixer a good choice for DJs looking to play impromptu house parties and outdoor locations. With an extra input jack, there’s room for plugging in a mic or guitar for live accompaniment too.
The M101 is aimed at DJs looking for an affordable, two-channel mixer that just provides the basics. It includes a mic input, straightforward cue functionalities and an EQ for bass and treble on each channel. Additionally, you can connect via USB to your laptop to play tracks or record sets without the need for external interfaces. There is no flash to the M101 — it has no BPM counter, no sample triggers and no effects. Bottom line: if you need a stripped-down mixer dependable and versatile enough for home use as well as small clubs, look no further than Numark’s M101. For an additional £100, the Numark M6 offers two more channels in a similar design.
Mixars Cut MKII
In the early 2010s, the sales of standalone entry-level mixers dwindled. Uninterested with techy (and expensive) modular kit, newcomers gravitated toward all-in-one DJ setups instead. Cut MKII is Mixars’ attempt to challenge this trend by offering up an affordable and portable two-channel mixer aimed at battle DJs using vinyl or time coded emulations. With a solid metal case and the always-reliable Innofader, it can endure the physicality of frequent, fast cuts. For precision, Innofader direction can be reversed and adjusted based on resistance. Each channel also has an aggressive three-band EQ. A rugged, but high-quality choice for battle DJs or those simply looking for a budget-friendly mixer.
Behringer DJX900 USB
Behringer’s DJX900 is built for smooth, clean club mixes. It boasts four channels, with an added fifth for a mic, a host of FX with editable parameters, and three EQ options for each channel. As the name implies, there is seamless laptop integration to play digital tracks and record mixes. More advanced features like BPM counters, visual tempo display, and the CF Curve, which allows for crossfader customisation to match desired levels of tension and sensitivity, give DJs more than enough to execute impressive blends. This is a smart but busy mixer at a fair price point for serious beginners or intermediate users.
Allen & Heath Xone:23
The sleek Xone:23 is a two-channel, four-input mixer from consistently dependable audio hardware designers Allen & Heath. Many Xone mixers have been made over the years, but this model best balances studio usage, club performance, and affordability. It comes equipped with a three-band EQ for each channel plus a full kill option. After EQ, there’s an analogue low-pass and high-pass filter with resonance control for “mild to wild” frequency sweeps. While this is the only built-in effect on the mixer, there is an FX loop send and return on the back panel for external reverbs, delays, and so on. A modern update on the traditional two-channel mixer. If you plan on incorporating your laptop, it’s recommended to look into the Xone:23c model, which is identical, with the addition of an internal soundcard, USB port, and X:Link connection for use with the Xone:K controller.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2
Moving up the price scale is the Traktor Kontrol Z2 by Native Instruments, a combination of a stand-alone mixer, audio interface, and Traktor controller. It is a two-track mixer, but Traktor decks C and D are available for remix duties with a dedicated volume knob and nothing else. In order to take full advantage of its hybrid capabilities, the Z2 comes with the latest Traktor Scratch Pro 2 software as well as time coded vinyl and CDs. The mixer follows a traditional design — two channel faders with dedicated EQs up top and a crossfader down low. On either side there are four RBG Traktor cue buttons and flux mode control, which allow you to trigger samples or skip to any point in a track without losing its original spot upon return. The Macro FX section offers a range of professional audio effects suitable for all manner of electronic and hip-hop styles. A solid entry for both club and battle-style scratch DJs looking to make an investment.
Reloop RMX-90 DVS
Reloop’s RMX-90 DVS is a powerful four-channel mixer with seamless Serato integration. It comes with many of the standard features we’ve seen so far, like three-band adjustable EQs, individual channel filters, and USB connectivity, plus the bonus of MIDI control, BPM display, and twelve audio effects for further sound shaping. The big benefit of this mixer goes to DJs transitioning to digital who do not yet own Serato and want a sophisticated, modern mixer to pair with existing decks. The RMX-90 DVS comes with a bundled Serato license and two time-coded 12″s, so you save £200 and can plug-and-play right out of the box. A suitable mixer for club DJs who want to do a bit of scratching and cutting, along with all the benefits of Serato.
Pioneer DJM2000 Nexus
As far as live remixing and effects processing goes, few mixers reach the same height as Pioneer’s DJM2000 Nexus. At its core is a four-channel mixer with the EQ and filtering options we now know well. The touch screen interface is one source of its creativity and originality, offering a range of cutting-edge live sampling, beat slicing, and frequency mixing features. Over the course of a one- or two-hour set, you can easily avoid repeating the same transition twice.
Each channel has six tonal FX — noise, jet, zip, crush, high-pass, and low-pass—that can be interesting when used at the right time. But they are nowhere near as useful or expressive as the thirteen quantised beat FX, the most unique of the bunch being slip roll, which records small track snippets you can play like a drum sampler. To top it off, using a Pro-Link LAN connection, you can connect up to two laptops and four CDJs for additional control and composition. This is an expensive, but limitless mixer for career DJs.
Rane MP2015 Rotary
With a growing interest in vinyl over the last ten years, and a collective shy away from fully digital mixers in certain underground dance music scenes, 1970s-style rotary mixers have come back into vogue. The retro look of the MP2015 is the first thing you notice. Decked out with wood side panels, shiny chrome knobs, and a black matte surface, it looks like something that belongs under glass in a museum. Conversely, the mixer encourages a decidedly hands-on approach. With four knobs to control volume, and nearly a dozen more split between EQ and filtering duties, the MP2015 is associated with the frenetic frequency adjusting of Theo Parrish and Floating Points. Tucked into the mixer are two USB ports for digital DJs, send and return circuits for effects processing, and a sub-mix channel for group EQing. A high-quality, superb-sounding mixer.
Sep202018| September 20, 2018
What makes the iconic turntable tick?
The Technics SL-1200 has been the industry standard DJ turntable for decades – a no-frills direct-drive deck that does what it needs to do, and does it well. Many boast of having had theirs since the ’70s or ’80s, often without so much as a cursory check up.
When a Technics does start to cough and splutter though, NYC turntable repair station DJ Fix are the technicians to call. Following our short film inside their workshop, we’ve asked DJ Fix founder Jon Hildenstein to talk us through a few turntable basics, for a series of short films set to be released on VF over the next few months.
In this first instalment, he started by popping the hood of the iconic SL-1200 to have a poke around.
From the ingenious quartz pitch control, to the isolated direct-drive motor, Hildenstein talks us through just why the Technics is just as impressive below the platter, as above it.
Sep182018| September 18, 2018
Everything you always wanted to know about vinyl but were too afraid to ask.
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or a new recruit, our FAQ series aims to tackle questions big and small about records, turntables and everything in between.
From quizzical musings like “What does dust actually do to my records?” to the more fiddly “How do I change the cartridge?” or just handy information like “What’s the difference between a belt and direct drive deck?”, this series will have you covered.
First, let’s talk about ‘Ground’ in general terms. Your hi-fi is packed with electronics and electricity, and Ground is primarily included as a safety measure. All of your hi-fi boxes are electrically isolated from the metal exterior or chassis.
If for some reason, the safety measures within fail and electricity comes into contact with the chassis, the (often rubber) feet would prevent the electricity from going anywhere and it would sit waiting for someone to touch the chassis, with predictable consequences.
Having a Ground will mean any unwanted electricity will travel through the wire back to your electrical panel, tripping the circuit-breaker, and stopping the flow of electricity. Additionally, that wire must be connected to something that is in turn connected to the earth or ‘Ground’ outside.
This is where confusion can occur, because the turntable’s Ground is slightly different. This particular Ground is not a safety issue, it’s there to avoid a Ground Loop. If you have inter-connected equipment, of any kind, with more than one electrical path to the Ground, a Ground Loop can ultimately cause extra noise.
For a turntable, that handles sensitive signals from a delicate cartridge, the issue is (almost literally) amplified. A turntable suffering from a Ground Loop will produce a hum through your speakers. Because of this sensitivity, most turntable designs already arrive with a separate Ground wire attached principally to the tonearm, that can in turn either be attached to the amplifier or phono amplifier’s ground screw. Doing so will reduce the background hum tremendously.
Illustration by Abigail Carlin
Sep122018| September 12, 2018
Want a turntable system that won’t damage your records or break the bank? Paul Rigby offers three off-the-shelf options that will get you started in no time.
Buying a turntable set-up from scratch is an exciting endeavour, although it’s easy to become overwhelmed or confused by the vast choice and raft of price points out there. Knowing that most set-ups will require a turntable with an arm and cartridge, a phono amplifier (the specialist box that amplifies the tiny signal from the stylus), the main amplifier (which then takes over from the phono amplifier) and a set of speakers, it’s easy to be tempted by cheaper alternative that offer all these parts in one.
Suitcase-type turntables you are great if your budget is under £100 and you’re not too fussed about the state of your records, but the lack of an adjustable tonearm means the heavy tracking weight of these models will wear the grooves thin over time. If your intention is to hear music at a decent sound quality and also maintain the condition of your records, then you really need to look elsewhere.
You don’t have to spend too much, though. In fact, this feature will help you get started with building a vinyl system from a reasonable budget, by presenting you with three possible price points and then detailing a basic system for those budgets.
Buying a decent quality vinyl system for £400 is pretty tough. Choices here are wide, but quality is harder to find. If you shop carefully though, you can find a gem or two.
PRO-JECT PRIMARY E
This is an intriguing turntable, because £149 shouldn’t really buy you very much. Remarkably, Pro-Ject has done a great job at getting a fine turntable out of the door at this price. There is a relatively quiet-running, stable motor here (a find in itself) and a nice 8.6″ aluminium tonearm featuring sapphire bearings. To see any cartridge with the Ortofon label at this price point is striking, and yet the Primary E comes with an OM cartridge, pre-configured to play straight out of the box. A detachable turntable dust cover competes the package.
CAMBRIDGE TOPAZ AM10
One of the most respected budget hi-fi names in the business, Cambridge offers a fully-featured amplifier with plenty of sockets to attach extra equipment such as a CD player, radio and more. There is also a built-in phono amp which saves cash and enables you to plug your turntable directly into this amplifier, as well as a built-in headphone amp.
WHARFEDALE DIAMOND 9.0 BLACK
Price: £59 or possibly £39
One of hi-fi’s most venerable brands, Wharfedale don’t make bad speakers, and these are excellent at a price that is laughably small. You’ve got two options here. If you live near a Richer Sounds shop you can pop in and pick up a pair for £39 and keep under budget, or you can buy from Amazon and be a few pounds over.
Adding a hundred pounds to the overall budget loosens the restrictions just enough to provide a few options. Here is an alternative to piecing together a set-up from three different brands or outlets: a one-stop-shop, adding to the convenience, which gets you up and running faster.
PRO-JECT JUKE BOX E
Pro-Ject is one of the largest budget audiophile turntable companies in the world. It also concentrates on sound quality over gimmicks, so when it presents an all-in-one turntable offering a host of features, it’s worth paying attention.
The turntable is very easy to set up, with the deck based upon a respected design – Pro-Ject’s own Primary with a 8.6” aluminium tonearm, sapphire bearings and Ortofon OM 5E cartridge. An integrated amplifier with 50W per-channel output is built into the turntable chassis, and the amplifier has a moving-magnet phono stage built-in, based on Pro-Ject’s Phono Box technology. There’s also a wireless Bluetooth input for streaming from a compatible smart device, and an additional Line input to add external products. It also arrives with a remote control.
You can also request a speaker bundle with this system which takes the price to just under £500.
Be aware that lumping all of this technology together, cheek by jowl, is not the best solution if pure sound quality is your thing. Ideally, the turntable, the phono amplifier and main amplifier should be separated into their own individual boxed chassis. Nevertheless, for those looking for decent sound at a decent price, one that treats your vinyl well and can get you up and running quickly, the Juke Box E is an ideal purchase.
With the extra cash, you can push the boat out a bit and start hunting for quality gear. These three elements are as good as any to start with, and you’ll begin to hear the difference in no time.
REGA PLANAR 1
The Rega Planar 1 is without doubt one of the best budget turntables in the world. The set-up is a breeze, the design is perfect, and the features are aimed only at quality of sound. The price is incredible for the level of sound quality on offer here, which cannot be bettered for a turntable at this price point.
There is nothing wrong with plumping for the Cambridge Topaz AM-10 listed above to fill this slot too. In fact, I’d would heartily recommend that particular design for this system. That said, if you want to see an alternative then this example is ideal. This specialist 2-channel model has the quality of Onkyo’s AV amplifier modules, probably because it keeps the design free from extraneous features. Offering a built-in phono amplifier, this functional yet well made amp arrives with a remote.
Q ACOUSTICS 3010
These little speakers feature a small tweeter and a mid/bass unit, and are readily available on Amazon. They provide a great sound for the price and a small footprint so they won’t take up much space.
Sep042018| September 4, 2018
The TRBxM is built to “military specifications”.
Mastersounds and TPI have collaborated to release a new turntable isolator aimed at removing unwanted feedback and vibration.
Described as the first in a series of designs “to offer a no-compromise turntable isolation solution”, the TRBxM (which uses their Total Resonance Blocking technology) has been developed to remove interference from 1Hz to 450Hz, and is initially made to fit Technics’ SL range, although modifications will be available.
“The definitive reference in turntable vibration isolation”, theTRBxM has been manufactured in England alongside TPI Aerospace to “military specifications”, presumably so it can withstand potential vibration caused by live music and large sound systems.
Priced at £299, the TRBxM follows Mastersounds’ industry standard turntable weights and a set of beautiful rotary mixers, and will be available from the 10th September.
Click here for more information, and see more images below.
Aug232018| August 23, 2018
The unsung heroes keeping the city’s Technics in rotation.
There aren’t many items built to last like a Technics SL-1200. The Land Rover Defender of turntables, such was their resilience Panasonic only recently felt the need to upgrade what has become an industry standard. Many of those still in the clubs and homes of New York date back decades.
But where do you go if your platter starts doing the 3am wobble?
Jon Hidenstein’s turntable workshop DJ Fix specialises in greasing the wheels of New York’s sprawling club culture landscape. From bedroom DJs to the biggest names, local bars to major clubs, this small basement is an urban field hospital for world-weary decks that have seen better days – or more often than not, just been on the wrong end of a late night beer bath.
In the first instalment of short films at the workshop, where Jon will be talking us through a series of easy fixes and adjustments you can make to your set-up at home, we had a snoop around to see what goes on when your deck is in rehab.
Aug222018| August 22, 2018
Including Jeremy Deller, Chapman Brothers and Es Devlin.
Secret 7″ has unveiled a new initiative in which ten acclaimed contemporary artists have created 10 unique turntable designs, each of which will be auctioned to raise money for mental health charity Mind.
Watch next: Inside Rega’s turntable factory
The artists include: Gavin Turk, Jeremy Deller, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Es Devlin, Stuart Semple, James Joyce, Jean Jullien, Pete Fowler, Hsiao-Chi Tsai & Kimiya Yoshikawa and Francis Richardson.
The project is an extension of Secret 7″‘s annual event, in which seven hundred artists provide bespoke record sleeves for seven 7″ singles, and which this year saw Anish Kapoor feature among the contributors.
For his effort, VF artist Jeremey Deller adorned his Planar 1 with Neolithic arrow-heads, while British artist Gavin Turk re-imagined his iconic blue plaque work ‘Cave’ as the turntable’s platter.
All ten decks will up be for grabs via an online auction which opens on 29th August and will run until 9pm on the 12th September. The turntables will be on display at Ace Hotel in London for the duration of the auction.
Click here for more information and to see all ten designs.
Aug202018| August 20, 2018
A lower priced alternative to its UltraDeck model.
American audio company MoFi Electronics has released a new belt-drive turntable called the StudioDeck, reports CNET.
MoFi Electronics launched its turntable range in 2016, following over 50 years manufacturing records at its Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab studios.
Described by the company as “high-caliber sound at a value price”, the StudioDeck features a 10-inch aluminium tonearm, 300 RPM stepped-pulley AC motor, anti-vibration feet by HRS, and 3/4-inch Delrin polymer platter.
StudioDeck clocks in at 8.66 kg with a retail price of £995.
It follows MoFi’s 2016 UltraDeck model, which retails for £1,995.
Jun292018| June 29, 2018
Following our rundown of the year’s best albums so far, here are the best decks to play them on.
We’re halfway through the year now and a few turntables have hit the market, while other slightly older turntables, have been presented in a new light. From these, and a few models released towards the end of last year, we’ve formed an overall picture of the current state of play.
The most noticeable theme in turntable design are further moves to integrate. That is, putting the likes of a phono amp, USB port and even a headphone amplifier in the turntable chassis. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because it offers value for money, a small overall footprint and reduced installation time and effort. Bad because stuffing this lot up close to delicate turntable engineering and especially close to the delicate cartridge promotes electrical interference which lowers sound quality. Some designs cope with the demands better than others, though.
The Funk Firm Rage II
Prices: F7 tonearm: Achromat (5mm): £70, £425 Bo!ng Feet (For Rega – 3 Feet): £112
Upgrade your Planar 3 gradually, with each of the above enhancements one at a time, or send your Planar 3 to The Funk Firm for the full Rage II upgrade. Also, “…as Rega belts are notorious for stretching, a new belt will be supplied if a full kit is purchased,” said the company. Funk Firm will also give your old deck a service. As for the sound quality of the Rage II? Brilliant! It gives the Planar 3 a new lease of life.
Pro-Ject Debut III S Audiophile
A complete contrast to the Juke E turntable seen below. This belt-driven, two-speed turntable arrives with a S-shaped arm and the newly developed Ortofon Pick it 25A cartridge. Based upon the OM series of cartridges, the Pick it 25A, made exclusively for Pro-Ject’s use, includes silver spools. This deck is all about sound quality. It provides a strong yet relaxed suite of bass frequencies combined with low noise-induced midrange detail that enhances clarity.
Pro-Ject Juke E
Addressing the ‘all in one’ market, the turntable includes a built-in phono stage, a pre-amplifier, a power amplifier and Bluetooth in one chassis. This unit only needs a pair of speakers to run and you’re away. Don’t expect too much in the way of low-noise sonic nirvana here, not with all of this gear poised cheek by jowl. Do expect a great value for money package with good sound quality providing an ideal entry point for the beginner.
Thorens TD 240-2
The result of a collaboration between Thorens and Dual, this turntable benefits from automatic play, which will bring a nostalgic tear to the eye of some, but also a sigh of relief to others who want to operate the turntable largely by button pressing only. This is a well built deck with a solid wooden plinth that provides seriously mean bass response.
Elipson Omega 100 RIAA BT Carbon Black
The deck features a built-in phono amplifier, Bluetooth, and a USB port fitted to the rear of the turntable, that allows you to rip vinyl to a digital. You also get Ortofon’s 2M Red as the cartridge (valued at around £100 on its own). A carbon fibre arm and plinth is also part of the package. The sound quality is decent, but it’s not really aimed at audiophiles. In this market though, it offers great value.
Newly presented by Avid with a lower price (because the higher specification Ingenium 2 is on the way), this solid turntable is a highly simplified version of the top-of-the-range Acutus turntable. It arrives with a TA-1 arm and cartridge bundle. The deck is competitively priced, it oozes quality in both construction and sound, and offers an excellent entry point to high-end audio.
Another turntable that looks to stuff as much into its chassis as possible. Those wanting the audiophile version of this same turntable, stripped of all of its toys should look out for the Cliffwood variant. This Player option includes an arm, cartridge, built -n phono amplifier and built-in headphone amplifier. This means that you don’t even have to connect a pair of speakers to get it up and running. Excellent performance in its class.
EAT C-Major Super Pack
Price: £1,998 (or £1,798 without the cartridge)
The C-Major is effectively a slightly stripped-back version of the popular C-Sharp turntable. Hence, the C-Major offers a tonearm that spans 9” instead to the C-Sharp’s 10”. There is no separate speed control on the C-Major and the latter’s plinth is slightly smaller. Here, you get a Ortofon MC Quintet Blue cartridge as well. You will need to add a good quality stabiliser (bin the EAT model), and add a quality platter mat to get the best from it. Once done, the EAT sings.
Jun122018| June 12, 2018
Since it was originally published in June 2014, our guide to the 8 best vintage turntables has proved to be the most visited article on the whole site.
Being a list of vintage turntables, there’s less need to update the list as regularly as others. However, times and tastes change, as does availability on the second hand market. With that in mind, we asked Paul Rigby to revisit the original pieces and refresh it by swapping in four new old decks and what you need to consider when buying them.
Buying a vintage turntable is a great option. For many, a budget for any sort of hi-fi is a low priority. Once the bills are paid, it can be virtually impossible to purchase a new, top quality hi-fi system. Going vintage can offer quality at a low cost. Others may have spent a bundle on a new deck but have little in reserve for that second system that would be ideal for a study, bedroom or spare room. Some might even want to revisit younger days when the then ‘new’ turntables were objects of desire and now they can afford to purchase one, or even two of these classic designs.
Below, we have listed our Top 8 vintage purchases, but before you run off to your local second-hand store or eBay account, pause for thought.
It is true that you can grab some startling bargains on the vintage circuit with beautifully engineered turntables going cheap but bear in mind a couple of things. Firstly, do some research about the state of current prices. Don’t be conned into paying over the odds. Make sure that turntable on offer for £200 isn’t shifting for £50 a pop elsewhere.
There may be, however, a good reason why any particular vintage turntable is for sale at a relatively high price, which brings me to my next caveat: condition. Don’t buy junk.
Vintage turntables are vintage for a reason. They have been well used and are old, but some may not have been well cared for. You are recommended to examine any turntable before you buy it. If you can do this in person then all the better. Ask for a demo and see the thing working in action. If you can’t see it before you buy it, make sure to ask as many questions as possible and request as many close-up photographs of the deck from all angles to get a look at the less photogenic aspects of the deck.
Issues to be aware of include the condition of the stylus, the bearing (When was the bearing oil last replaced? Does the platter make scraping sounds when it rotates?) The attached cables, are they in good condition? Any signs of fraying or rust? Does the arm move freely on its bearing? Is the motor still usable? How about the belt, if applicable, does it need replacing? Look inside the chassis – is it full of rubbish, dust and fluff? Does the turntable hum? There may be grounding issues.
If you can sort out issues of this nature or you know someone who can, then you can buy with confidence. If your skills are limited then buy with an extra measure of caution and be selective in your buying choices.
Typical Price: £120
From 1970, this is a relatively simple turntable with a nicely produced motor and a decent tonearm. There also seem to still be plenty of spare parts around which will help you keep it running. The turntable also includes a speed adjustment, anywhere from 30 to 86rpm. If you have the ability or a knowledgable friend, the turntable is vastly improved with a better quality arm.
Michell Focus One
Typical Price: £200
If you can find any second hand Michell turntable available to buy at a reasonable price and it is in decent working order – buy it. Firstly, all Michells produce excellent sound quality, all are built to a very high standard in engineering terms and, even better, London-based Michell will service any of their decks that you ship over to them. I’ve visited their workshop and can assure you that they are a safe bet.
Typical Price: £250
The Axis was produced as a cut down Linn Sondek, the classic – and very expensive – turntable that is still made in Scotland. Unlike the Axis, that is. You will often find an Axis with one of a few Linn-supplied, integrated arms and cartridges. The price may vary depending on the type of arm and cartridge fitted, though. Watch out for decks stored in damp conditions, producing split and swollen MDF chassis seams.
Typical Price: £300+
Not, strictly speaking, the best hi-fi turntable that you have ever heard in your life, the SL-1200 is blessed with magnificent bass characteristics from its direct drive motor. There are, however, a host of audiophile upgrade kits on the market to turn a basic SL-1200 into a mean audiophile killer of a turntable. A quick ‘Technics SL-1200 upgrade’ Google will tell you everything you need to know.
Pink Triangle Tarantella
Typical Price: £400
The company died and turned into the outfit now known as Funk Firm, but the older Pink Triangle decks were always seen as direct competitors to the Linn Sondek. They are still highly prized. In fact, the reissue record label, Ace, uses a Pink Triangle in its mastering studio to this day. The Tarantella features awesome sound quality if set up properly.
Ariston RD 11S
Typical Price: £400
The first super deck from Scotland! This design from 1972 took the Thorens approach as a basic theme and moved on from there. Both the high mass platter and tone arm rest on shock absorbers, and a high torque motor means that the deck gets up to speed pretty quickly. Offers a warm and attractive sound. Linn who?
Typical Price: £500
A important design from 1959 because it was a proto-superdeck. A sort of early outing for all of those big league turntables that you would eventually see during the ’70s, the drive system on this turntable was intriguing because it utilised an extra compliant belt, plus idler wheel to isolate any motor vibration.
Typical Price: £1,000
Prices for this 1953 idler-powered turntable vary tremendously depending on what plinth the Garrard is mated to. Look within the thriving hobby market for plinths which arrive in various materials including slate and marble. They will change the sound profile for the better. Generally, it’s slightly veiled in the upper frequencies but mighty powerful below.
May252018| May 25, 2018
Influenced by classic mid-century design.
New York Hudson Valley based company Symbol Audio has unveiled the Modern Record Player, a sleek new integrated turntable that combines a classic aesthetic with contemporary connectivity.
As the name suggests, Symbol Audio knowingly reference the old in their creation of the new, inspired in particular by Dieter Rams’ classic Braun SK55 turntable, which shocked the audio world by replacing typically heavy, wooden record player cabinets with a clean plastic finish (that would also go on to inspire Steve Jobs’ early iPod designs).
The Modern Record Player is fully wi-fi compatible and makes a point of hiding away any unwanted wires, with an integrated AB amplifier and speaker system designed by Morel hoping to provide the punch, although the site of the platter atop the speaker may make some audiophiles wince.
Symbol Audio have attempted to mitigate any unwanted vibration by placing the acrylic platter on a three-phase isolation system.
The Modern Record Player is available in black or white finishes, with or without floor-stand, although this will add another $500 to the turntable’s $3,295 price tag. [via Design Milk]
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16-18 Marshall Street
London W1F 7BE
Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.