September 16, 2021 § Leave a comment
It may seem contradictory to note that a turntable with a base price of $450,000 has a recognizable sound, but if you get to hear the Air Force Zero under conditions commensurate with its performance capabilities, you’ll quickly understand that it’s not contradictory at all. The turntable is recognizable because no other turntable, or none that I’ve yet reviewed, so effectively sinks unwanted and extraneous noise while passing the musical goods with effortless ease, often in the most subtle and nuanced ways. The AF Zero is not a flashy-sounding “show off” turntable.
The Zero is the most speed-consistent belt-drive turntable I’ve reviewed, and with its air-bearing platters and air suspension, also the quietest, best isolated, and most inert, with stable sonics, quiet, and exceptional detail resolution with no added grain or unnatural, mechanical edge definition. The Zero was also trouble- and hassle-free for six months and as much fun to use as it was to hear.
September 7, 2021 § Leave a comment
Yet, the Phaedra and Viridia could play with superb finesse when called for—possessing a feathery touch with the most delicate of sounds. When I played “Clair de Lune,” the famed solo piano piece by composer Claude Debussy, its achingly slow tempo, as performed by Ivan Moravec on Debussy (Connoisseur Society 1866), was exquisite. The beautiful chiming of the right-hand melody came like chiffon clouds over a plein-air landscape in progress. Moravec’s notes rose in the soundstage as though from an actual piano, the image of his big, concert grand high as the ceiling and wide as the walls of my listening room. Isolated, individual notes came ghostily, sending teasing chills like soft snowflakes landing on still pond water.
August 31, 2021 § Leave a comment
A large part of a record player’s tonality comes from the cartridge, and here the Ortofon Quintet Black S delivers exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Danish brand’s more premium offerings. It’s a clean, even-handed performer that errs slightly on the cooler side of neutral, which suits the turntable’s character well. When mounted in the No.5105, we have no issue with the cartridge’s detail resolution or its ability to track low-level instrumental strands in a complex piece of music. It’s a good choice for the turntable design and works well in context.
This Mark Levinson sounds big-boned and composed no matter what we throw at it. There’s good insight when we play Orff’s Carmina Burana, the turntable able to communicate the over-the-top drama of this piece well. Singers come through with a convincing presence and there’s no issue in revealing subtle instrumental or vocal textures.
August 30, 2021 § Leave a comment
And while I’m sure that Conti’s Transcendence and other stratospherically priced designs may take you steps beyond the 2200/Vector 4 ($18,410 with Reflex Clamp, Calibrator Base, and Cable Isolation), I must report that never in my almost four decades as an audiophile have I lived with a record player like this one—so across-the-board uncolored, transparent, coherent, and seemingly responsive to whatever frequency, dynamic, ambient, tonal, spatial, ambient, and other microscopic information may be pressed into vinyl grooves.
August 19, 2021 § Leave a comment
Two things I learned from listening: Technics was correct to supply a rubber record mat. I tried the various hard mats I had on hand—made of carbon fiber, graphite, etc.—and while I’m a fan of the Funk Firm’s Achromat and Stein Music’s The Perfect Interface fiber mat, if you want the “blackest” backgrounds the SL-1000R can produce, rubber rules.
The other thing I learned, and quickly: While the SL-1000R’s feet let you easily lock out the silicon-rubber insulators, I don’t recommend it. I placed the SL-1000R on a decoupled Harmonic Resolution Systems base, and because two different decoupling suspensions used simultaneously can sometimes fight one another, I locked out the turntable’s. But that audibly raised the noise floor.
August 17, 2021 § Leave a comment
This table has a lively sound, somewhere in-between what you can expect from similarly priced Rega or Pro-Ject tables, and when you line them up, it’s easy to spot a lot of crossover in the basic engineering. The T-1 offers solid bass fundamentals, and thanks to the mating between cartridge and arm is able to create a big soundfield between your speakers. This table is right at the point where (if your records are nice and clean) you can start to hear a difference between analog and digital.
August 11, 2021 § Leave a comment
It has designed compliance into the deck’s 47-ply plinth core to provide a degree of mechanical decoupling of the main bearing and arm from the rest of the turntable structure. Aluminium top and bottom plates are used to rigidly couple the arm to the main bearing, and other plates reinforce the plinth’s ply core where compliance isn’t needed. Even the feet are specially designed to filter out certain frequencies.
That chunky aluminium platter is topped off by a felt mat and doesn’t have fashionable extras, such as a clamp to hold the record down. There’s no lid supplied as standard, though Clearaudio does offer dust covers for its own decks that will do the job for the Solstice.
August 5, 2021 § Leave a comment
The new TP 124 tonearm consists of an internally damped aluminum armtube with a heavy brass counterweight to balance the SPU 124 cartridge’s 30gm weight. The effective tonearm length is 9.17″. A second, lighter counterweight is included (along with a headshell) for use with more typical cartridges, which have less heft than the SPU 124. The TP 124 tonearm is a “cardanic suspended tonearm with Löfgren geometry.” Chiarella explained, in an email: “‘Cardanic” is a bearing arrangement whereby there are two ball bearing races in the vertical plane—above and below the arm tube—and another two ball bearing races to the left and right of the arm tube.” Tonearm support rod, cueing lift, and antiskate filament sleeve are made of aluminum, as is the tonearm’s cylindrical bearing housing.
July 19, 2021 § Leave a comment
If I played these files for you, you’d hear the differences, all at what might be defined as at the margins of audibility of, among other things, transparency, spatial definition, background “blackness,” and low-frequency extension and resolution. At the margins, yes, but add them all together, and the cumulative difference was significant and dramatic.
I think the biggest differences were produced more by the tonearms than by the turntables. What that really tells you is how well the Avenger Reference turntable performs, and how effective the new ADS motor controller is. Between these two arms, the one costing more than twice the price of the Avenger Reference with arm is simply in a league of its own—and I know of at least one owner of a Avenger Reference with SAT LM-09 who agrees.