Reference Turntable, The Step Beyond

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
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38
Utah
#1
Given the dominance of digital and all the new high end widgets showing incredible super powers perfecting “The Perfect Sound Forever” what’s the current resurgence of vinyl and turntables about? At every show one can see a plethora of new and old tables, arms, cartridges, phono stages, etc. in every price point, even more choices than the hey days of analog, why? Among other things audiophiles tend to be incurable tinkerers with busy hands, and share similar gear oriented hobbies like photography where one can tinker and have endless discussions about nothing too. I get it and Records can be become the tinkering audiophile’s ultimate fetish toy.


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What about the unimagined appeal of LPs with the “i” generation? You can see it at Urban Outfitters, a Mecca for the “i”s.

UrbanOutfitters-8em.jpg

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Fad? Definitely for some but the prevailing reason behind the sudden vinyl renaissance or abundance is simple and basic economics. The silver disc is on its way out and the cloud transformed the digital business model diminishing profits. The same corporations who force fed us “the perfect sound forever” crap are now back to vinyl to bolster their lost sales and get the consumer back to physical purchases of their music. For the most part these are vinyl pressings of digital masters and irrelevant to the focus of this forum is ANALOG. More specifically about Reference Turntables as it relates to ANALOG recordings.

Steve & I discussed the subject and this being “What’s The Best” Forums by definition these Turntables will be limited to a few ultra high end ones and couple that are even beyond that. There won’t be any reviews or comparisons made, imo it doesn’t serve a purpose here. While presentation is different individually any of these turntables is capable of recreating the intent of the original event as captured in the recording. Not as a messenger of but a conduit to. Their “Nature” and “Natural” abilities as a conduit is what sets them apart from the crowd and from each other. For everyone’s appreciation I’ll attempt to define “Natural” as we progress in the series.


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The Reference Turntables described in the series are from my own collection, the ones I settled on after many years as the best conduits to the original event. This forum isn’t about me or my system or anyone else’s! Nor is it about the platform wars, I’ll happily engage anyone in other forums. I want to share and raise awareness of these machines and their musical experience. I’m hoping for others here who I know have some of these turntables to chime in with the same spirit.


Friendly participation is encouraged and welcome! I’ll try to answer relevant questions along the way the best I can. Time permitting I hope to add a new Beyond Turntable installment every 2-3 weeks mixed with related topics until we’re done with all 5.


In no special order my top 5 Reference Turntables that I found to perform at levels Beyond what most of us recognize as high end;


- 3 tables from Micro Seiki, SX-8000, SX-8000II, SZ-1t
- Thorens Reference
- Goldmund Reference
- EMT 927
- The American Sound


I want to give credit here to my friends and mentors Vladimir Lamm and George Walker for opening my horizons.


Enjoy!


david
 
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Mosin

[Industry Expert]
Mar 11, 2012
894
0
0
#2
Given the dominance of digital and all the new high end widgets showing incredible super powers perfecting “The Perfect Sound Forever” what’s the current resurgence of vinyl and turntables about? ...

david
1) It is arguable, I know, but many people are convinced that when done right it sounds better. I am solidly in that camp.
2) It is thought provoking. By that, I mean that it slows the listener down and occupies his mind in a way that causes him to pay closer attention to the music. It also puts him in closer touch with the artist because he is more prone to read LP liners than whatever words come with a CD. Files have nothing comparable, of course.
3) It prepares the listener for his listening journey by slowing him down, too. In many cases the objective is to escape the rat race for a time, and visit another place and time. One has to slow down to really relax. Vinyl makes the fantasy work better.
4) It promotes some primal instincts. One of those is the need to build something. You can always add something to a turntable that's neat, a light, a cartridge, an arm, etc.
5) Another primal instinct is hoarding. The whole exercise is a hoarder's delight.
6) Bragger's rights. Turntables are as individual as their owners.
7) And, not least of all...the ability to own a truly wonderful piece of art. ;)
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#3
7) And, not least of all...the ability to own a truly wonderful piece of art. ;)
You can say that again, Win! One of the episodes is dedicated to idler drives, I know why you went that route ;)!

david
 

rockitman

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2011
6,868
1
38
Northern NY
#4
In no special order my top 5 Reference Turntables that I found to perform at levels Beyond what most of us recognize as high end;

- 3 tables from Micro Seiki, SX-8000, SX-8000II, SZ-1t
- Thorens Reference
- Goldmund Reference
- EMT 927
- The American Sound
what...no love for the AFO ?
I think DEV on this site has had most MS's and prefers the AFO...
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#5
what...no love for the AFO ?
I think DEV on this site has had most MS's and prefers the AFO...
The list is limited to the designer's ultimate expression and it has qualities Beyond merely high end. We already know that there's a Beyond model above AF-1 in the works.
Congrats on the new car!
david
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,556
1
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#6
- 3 tables from Micro Seiki, SX-8000, SX-8000II, SZ-1t
- Thorens Reference
- Goldmund Reference
- EMT 927
- The American Sound
david
I'd also have to disagree on the EMT 927. I had one in here for almost 2yr. and it was mediocre at best. I tried to do some vinyl rips for my clients and I and the results were less than satisfactory. I got better results from MikeL's tables at the time. He has the EMT now and could probably give you a good comparison to his NVS. Mostly, it sat unused.
As for it's other qualities... typical broadcast table. Nothing really special.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#7
I'd also have to disagree on the EMT 927. I had one in here for almost 2yr. and it was mediocre at best. I tried to do some vinyl rips for my clients and I and the results were less than satisfactory. I got better results from MikeL's tables at the time. He has the EMT now and could probably give you a good comparison to his NVS. Mostly, it sat unused.
As for it's other qualities... typical broadcast table. Nothing really special.
I have to disagree with you on that Bruce, we have a very different experience. There are parts tables out there that don't sound right and EMT's phono stages suck, best bypassed. I know Mike's 948 and have the 950 myself, very different animals, they're direct drives and sound very different, as does his NVS. I can understand the typical broadcast sentiment if we were talking about the 930 but the 927 is very different. I kept it for later for a reason.
david
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,556
1
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#8
I have to disagree with you on that Bruce, we have a very different experience. There are parts tables out there that don't sound right and EMT's phono stages suck, best bypassed. I know Mike's 948 and have the 950 myself, very different animals, they're direct drives and sound very different, as does his NVS. I can understand the typical broadcast sentiment if we were talking about the 930 but the 927 is very different. I kept it for later for a reason.
david
I'm sorry... my mistake... it was the 948.
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#9
I'm sorry... my mistake... it was the 948.

My advice is to let David work through his five Beyond turntables and to read his reasons why. No one except a handful of hobbyists have such an extreme collection of all things analog
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#10
I'm sorry... my mistake... it was the 948.
No problem Bruce, they all start with 900 and get mixed up unless you actually go through the pain of owning all of them. As far as the 948 goes, I'm with you 100% on that. EMT's legendary models are the 927 and the 930 and for me as good as the 930 is, its nowhere near this league.

david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#12
ah, the Denon 100M is missing and I would know one more...
Nevertheless that is a very convincing list David!

www.Audio16.com
Unfortunately I don't have mine anymore otherwise it would the only DD that I know that belongs in this group.

david
 
Dec 20, 2014
199
0
16
#13
Dear David - out of pure interest, and genuinely, without a view to being a devils advocate, I am very curious as to the following:
1. Musically, what are you most sensitive too? - apparently I am timing sensitive, some people are treble, some image - can this be directing you towards the decks you love
2. following from the above - you seem to prefer belts (927 aside) over DD (denon 100 aside too) have you a particular reason or is it just that your preferences have taken you that way?
3. money where your mouth is - which of them will you take to a desert island (I long ago decided on a hand wind gramaphone - just in case I run out of electricity :)
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#14
Dear David - out of pure interest, and genuinely, without a view to being a devils advocate, I am very curious as to the following:
1. Musically, what are you most sensitive too? - apparently I am timing sensitive, some people are treble, some image - can this be directing you towards the decks you love
2. following from the above - you seem to prefer belts (927 aside) over DD (denon 100 aside too) have you a particular reason or is it just that your preferences have taken you that way?
3. money where your mouth is - which of them will you take to a desert island (I long ago decided on a hand wind gramaphone - just in case I run out of electricity :)
Hi Loheswaran,

1- My main value is "Naturalness" and "Realism" and I find that the quality of bass has a lot to do with it. This leads to your 2nd question, in general I find the constant adjustment and intrusion of the servo very intrusive and unnatural, hence why I don't have any DD tables. The servo's intrusion is most apparent in the lower frequencies that I find essential.

3- It has to be the EMT 927, sonically its on a par with the American Sound but can also plays 78s, which I'm partial too. On a real desert island I'd have to share your gramophone!

david
 
Dec 20, 2014
199
0
16
#15
Hi Loheswaran,

1- My main value is "Naturalness" and "Realism" and I find that the quality of bass has a lot to do with it. This leads to your 2nd question, in general I find the constant adjustment and intrusion of the servo very intrusive and unnatural, hence why I don't have any DD tables. The servo's intrusion is most apparent in the lower frequencies that I find essential.

3- It has to be the EMT 927, sonically its on a par with the American Sound but can also plays 78s, which I'm partial too. On a real desert island I'd have to share your gramophone!

david
Hi David

I really appreciate your insight and speedy response.

That's very interesting what you say about the bass being the issue given that many say that is where DD excels. I have a few long-term projects on the go:
1. EMT 950 - my black taj mahal - need to get the guys at EMT to do a full rebuild (I have the arm, but need to order cartridge)
2. 2 goldring lencos (in the loft to sell on when the tie is right) - another Lenco that I need to get a few springs for (already rebuilt the motor)
3. My favourite - Sony TTS 8000A

I was drawn to the TTS8000 because the magnetic strip works much like a reel to reel, and a certain fine cartridge manufacturer said it combines the best of belts and DD - I will post once I have it all up and running - I am going to do a genuine comparison at some stage using same arm and cart on each deck

I use my Amazon model one, or my Townshend Elite Rock - love the trough - in fact have a spare trough to use on my TTS project.

A nice guy on Audiogon who goes by the name Syntax uses Micro Seiki decks - interesting that you have three in your list.

So far as the Gramaphone - trying to find one that keeps speed constant and can mount a Helius Omega - only problem is I can't get a wind up amp :D
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,230
11
38
E. England
#16
Dave et al, I am very interested in this thread since it pertains some choices I may make re potential final destination tt option.
I started w/a belt drive Roksan Xerxes/Artemiz/Shiraz/ArtaXerxes in late 90's. V. detailed, but on the terse side, and ultimately fatigueing.
Moved in the early 00's to a belt drive Michell Orbe (w/Origin Live motor psu upgrade, and eventual Pederson plinth and arboard upgrades)/SME V/Transfiguation Spirit to Orpheus to Zu Denon 103R/Tom Evans Groove Plus SRX. Much more musical, but a softening in dynamics, and lacking in jump factor.
Currently I have an underappreciated analog gem, my high torque direct rim drive Trans Fi Salvation (magnetically isolated massy platter and feet, slate plinth, analogue speed control w/no servo speed hunting, no clamp/periphery ring/vaccum hold down)/Trans Fi Terminator air bearing linear tracking arm/Soundsmith Straingauge SG200 w/Red Wine Audio batt psu. Now I have all the detail I want, and an amazing blend of neutrality and warmth.
I have compared this rig here to the SME 20/V and TW Acustic AC3/Graham, and it trumps both.
I'm not convinced going back to belt drive/low torque like the AFO is the way fwd re my current sound preference, and I believe the Saskia Redference 11 may be the upgrade to consider. I do very much like the GP Monaco/Triplanar I heard a while ago too.
Thoughts?...
 

DaveyF

Active Member
Aug 1, 2010
5,617
2
38
La Jolla, Calif USA
#17
Dave et al, I am very interested in this thread since it pertains some choices I may make re potential final destination tt option.
I started w/a belt drive Roksan Xerxes/Artemiz/Shiraz/ArtaXerxes in late 90's. V. detailed, but on the terse side, and ultimately fatigueing.
Moved in the early 00's to a belt drive Michell Orbe (w/Origin Live motor psu upgrade, and eventual Pederson plinth and arboard upgrades)/SME V/Transfiguation Spirit to Orpheus to Zu Denon 103R/Tom Evans Groove Plus SRX. Much more musical, but a softening in dynamics, and lacking in jump factor.
Currently I have an underappreciated analog gem, my high torque direct rim drive Trans Fi Salvation (magnetically isolated massy platter and feet, slate plinth, analogue speed control w/no servo speed hunting, no clamp/periphery ring/vaccum hold down)/Trans Fi Terminator air bearing linear tracking arm/Soundsmith Straingauge SG200 w/Red Wine Audio batt psu. Now I have all the detail I want, and an amazing blend of neutrality and warmth.
I have compared this rig here to the SME 20/V and TW Acustic AC3/Graham, and it trumps both.
I'm not convinced going back to belt drive/low torque like the AFO is the way fwd re my current sound preference, and I believe the Saskia Redference 11 may be the upgrade to consider. I do very much like the GP Monaco/Triplanar I heard a while ago too.
Thoughts?...
Marc, the GP Monaco/Triplanar is an excellent set-up. I am not so sure that I agree that the drive system is the only thing to consider when looking at a TT. For instance, the Basis TT's are superb and they all use a belt. I would consider one of their TT's on my short list.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,230
11
38
E. England
#18
Davey, I'm very close to RonR, who has the Basis Work Of Art on order, and he ABS raves about A.J. Conti. For me, I really find the combination of moving from belt to rim drive/going to linear tracking, is something I can't imagine changing. W/my cdp, Eera Tentation, being as close to analogue of any digital product I've heard other than Lampi DACs, and my analog front end having a lot more digital-like neutrality, my sound sources are converging twds a happy medium. But I do know the Monaco, and perhaps esp the Sakia would take my new benchmark a few notches on. In the meantime, I'm upgrading my tt isolation over a period to incorporate a Symposium Acoustics Quantum Signature shelf, finally to go on a Spiers And Robertson air rolling table, to isolate down to 3 Hz.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#19
Hi David

I really appreciate your insight and speedy response.

That's very interesting what you say about the bass being the issue given that many say that is where DD excels. I have a few long-term projects on the go:
1. EMT 950 - my black taj mahal - need to get the guys at EMT to do a full rebuild (I have the arm, but need to order cartridge)
2. 2 goldring lencos (in the loft to sell on when the tie is right) - another Lenco that I need to get a few springs for (already rebuilt the motor)
3. My favourite - Sony TTS 8000A

I was drawn to the TTS8000 because the magnetic strip works much like a reel to reel, and a certain fine cartridge manufacturer said it combines the best of belts and DD - I will post once I have it all up and running - I am going to do a genuine comparison at some stage using same arm and cart on each deck

I use my Amazon model one, or my Townshend Elite Rock - love the trough - in fact have a spare trough to use on my TTS project.

A nice guy on Audiogon who goes by the name Syntax uses Micro Seiki decks - interesting that you have three in your list.

So far as the Gramaphone - trying to find one that keeps speed constant and can mount a Helius Omega - only problem is I can't get a wind up amp :D
Hi Loheswaran,

There are many variables when it comes to tts or anything else for that matter, IMO you need to categorize and quantify values accurately to reach the right conclusions. Let's take bass performance as a starting point, i.e what do we mean about better bass. In my case and for the types of music I listen to the overriding value is "Natural", balance is as important as realism here. Some people like their bass tighter, louder and want to get hit in the gut with it all the times so their idea of better bass is very different, its important to understand this. The next is category, the quality of DD bass vs other types is price dependent. Here we have a tiny group of tables considered to be the pinnacle of the art, outside a couple the best competing DD tables cost a fraction of the price of these tables. The DD technology seems to be a limiting factor at this level but if you look at it within a different price category, DD can have the upper hand. So clarification is important, please consider my comments limited to a narrow category and specific personal value.

I don't know where you live but it may be more cost effective to purchase a working EMT 950 than refurbishing one specially if you have to crate and ship it long distance, they're priced very low today,way below their sonic abilities.

david
 
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ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,444
4
38
Utah
#20
Dave et al, I am very interested in this thread since it pertains some choices I may make re potential final destination tt option.
I started w/a belt drive Roksan Xerxes/Artemiz/Shiraz/ArtaXerxes in late 90's. V. detailed, but on the terse side, and ultimately fatigueing.
Moved in the early 00's to a belt drive Michell Orbe (w/Origin Live motor psu upgrade, and eventual Pederson plinth and arboard upgrades)/SME V/Transfiguation Spirit to Orpheus to Zu Denon 103R/Tom Evans Groove Plus SRX. Much more musical, but a softening in dynamics, and lacking in jump factor.
Currently I have an underappreciated analog gem, my high torque direct rim drive Trans Fi Salvation (magnetically isolated massy platter and feet, slate plinth, analogue speed control w/no servo speed hunting, no clamp/periphery ring/vaccum hold down)/Trans Fi Terminator air bearing linear tracking arm/Soundsmith Straingauge SG200 w/Red Wine Audio batt psu. Now I have all the detail I want, and an amazing blend of neutrality and warmth.
I have compared this rig here to the SME 20/V and TW Acustic AC3/Graham, and it trumps both.
I'm not convinced going back to belt drive/low torque like the AFO is the way fwd re my current sound preference, and I believe the Saskia Redference 11 may be the upgrade to consider. I do very much like the GP Monaco/Triplanar I heard a while ago too.
Thoughts?...
Marc,

You need to go and listen to these tables with people who understand them and know what they're doing, they can explain their choices and make up your mind if its a must have for you. Yes, belt drive will sound different from an idler and I love both but I will tell you from direct experience that the AF-1 is one of the finest sounding tables ever made. Some of the conversation here might have given a different impression but that wasn't the intention, we were discussing very fine nuances in a very particular system and only in direct comparison to something else, the AF-1 is incredible. Please don't take offense but the past setups you mentioned leave a lot to be desired and shouldn't be used as a standard for belt drives, don't limit yourself based on them.

Happy hunting!

david