Enjoy the Music.com's Special 20/20 Award
Phono Cartridges And Turntables -- Page
Steven R. Rochlin chooses the most notable products during
the past 20 years.
As Chosen By Editor & Creative
Director Steven R. Rochlin
KRONOS Dual-Platter Turntable
KRONOS takes a unique approach to vinyl LP playback by using two platters spinning in the opposite direction to achieve the very best in music
playback ($38,000). Torsional forces, a natural tendency of the sub-platter frame to rotate in sync with the platter, is thus eliminated. KRONOS employs two identical high mass platters, the top rotating in the normal direction and one below rotating in the opposite direction, is said to completely eliminate torsional forces. Judicious use of materials helps minimize the transfer of remaining mechanical vibrations emitted from the bearings and stylus friction. The company uses two high quality Swiss-made DC motors that consistently deliver quiet, smooth, linear power to rotate the platters. DC voltage to the motors is produced from a fully regulated CLASS A dual power supply and precision CPU-controlled to maintain constant speed. The CPU controller receives speed readings from the platters via optical sensors and adjusts voltage to each DC motor in real time to ensure speed stability of the rotating platter. In designing the critical bearing, KRONOS did extensive research of base metal alloys and
vapor deposit coatings within the aerospace industry. They inverted the bearing design to place contact in the rotational plane to successfully reduce torque-induced drag. A double hydraulic insulation system provides outstanding dampening properties. Every Kronos turntable is entirely hand assembled and duly adjusted and tested before it is shipped to you. Dimensions are 22" x 14" x 11" (WxDxH) and it weighs 90 lbs.
Dr. Feickert Universal Protractor
There is no way to have a Best Of when discussing turntables and LP playback without giving the nod to Dr. Feickert Universal Protractor ($259 in next gen version). You could have the very best in synergy turntable, tonearm, and cartridge yet without proper
alignment you're cheating yourself by not achieving the very best in music playback. Dr. Feickert Universal Protractor is the solution you need to ensure your cartridge is setup perfectly. Our Joe Audiophile (a.k.a. Scott faller) says "Though this tool may be a bit much for the casual or even average vinyl enthusiast, I see the hardcore vinylphile (like myself) needing one of these. As often as we switch cartridges and arms, we need a solid tool that does a better job than the typical downloaded alignment protractors and plastic metric scales. At $250 from Acoustic Sounds, though not inexpensive, for me it is an indispensable tool. If ever you have worked on cars in the past you'll be able to relate to this analogy; when you do a tune up on a car, you can get it running reasonably well by setting the points with a matchbook then dialing in the timing by ear and test driving listening to how the engine sounds under load. But to get the motor to run at its optimum you really need a set feeler gauges (or dwell meter in GM's case) and a timing light. That is the only way you are going to get the best performance and gas mileage out of your vehicle. The same goes for a turntable; you need the right tools for the job. Using the former will get you from point A to point B without failing but the ride might get a bit jerky at times. The latter you can rest assured it will be smooth sailing all the time."
Scott's review of Dr. Feickert's Universal Protractor
can be seen here.
Technics SL1200 (SL-1200GLD shown)
While many audiophiles have never touched a Technics SL-1200, DJs all around the world (and Yours truly) have used a pair of them to broadcast music on vinyl to
hundreds, probably thousands of millions(!) club'ers, ravers, etc. Technics' SL-1200
was first offered in October 1972 and was in continuous manufacture right up through 2010 by Matsushita. It was first offered to normal
consumers, yet quickly became the choice for DJs due to its durability and direct drive high torque motor. The quartz-controlled high torque motor system, when combined with a proper slip mat, allows you to beat
match music. DJs also used this setup to turn the SL-1200 into a type of musical instrument (scratching).
To this very day there are DJ competitions that use the SL-1200. According to Wikipedia, "It is widely regarded as one of the most durable and reliable turntables ever produced. Many of the models manufactured in the 1970s are still in heavy use." SL-1200 turntables have, and continue
to appear, within
museums worldwide. You can't say that about many other bits of analog kit can you?
Triangle Art Ultimate LE Turntable
One of the most visually stunning turntables featuring a multi-level stand arrangement is the Triangle Art Ultimate LE
turntable ($129,000). The Ultimate LE combines a
technically excellent design with solid engineering. A 9" thick chrome platter weighing over 100 lbs. is driven by an AC motor controlled with Crystal Digital Technology. Using a non-inverted hydro dynamic oil fed bearing for the main platter, the Ultimate LE can handle up to two tonearms. Must agree with their website as it says, "Every piece of this turntable exudes a luxurious feel and is packed with innovations that enhance your listening experience." All told, this
gargantuan design weighs 850 lbs! The gleaming chrome and brass plating is a feast for your eyes. Triangle Art's Ultimate LE turntable can be the centerpiece of any high-end audio system plus it stands tall at 45" x 22" x 20.5".
VPI Industries HR-X Belt-Drive
First allow us to start by saying that VPI Industries' amazing HR-X was purchased
by one of Enjoy the Music.com's reviewers. In fact it was the very first HR-X made by Harry for production purposes and there's an interesting story involving interstate law enforcement agents. VPI's HR-X is known worldwide for its ability to deliver high-end audiophile-class detail, extremely low noise, and rock solid pace. Unlike any turntable, where you need to constantly be fiddling with things to keep the turntable
optimized, VPI's HR-X is a set-and-forget type. Ease of use is assured other than the occasional VTA for those who want to
optimize their LP replay depending on the thickness of the record. Multiple belts are joined by a center and periphery clamp to ensure vanishingly low wow, flutter, and rumble. The triple laminated chassis (Acrylic-Aluminum-Acrylic) guarantees dampening of unwanted vibrations from reaching the stylus. The 40 lb. machined drive system uses two low-powered 24-pole 300 RPM AC synchronous motors driving a 12-pound flywheel. The flywheel spins at 300 RPM and has 62 times the inertia of a 25 lb. 6061 aluminum platter.
In total, the VPI Industries HR-X weights a hefty 115 lbs.
Soundsmith Mezzo Moving Iron Phono Cartridge
The Soundsmith Mezzo moving iron (MI) phono cartridge ($4800) breaks the stigma of moving coil or moving magnet and brings us into a new frontier of design. Inspired by Frank Schröder, and precision hand made at their factory, the Mezzo is a medium output MI cartridge with a single crystal Ruby cantilever. Their state-of-the-art damping system insures a precise and
continuous alignment of the stylus tip with the vinyl record's groove. With an ultra-low moving mass, approximately six times less than your typical moving coil (MC) design, every effort has been taken to virtually eliminate unwanted resonances to achieve a dead-silent playback. Soundsmith's Mezzo needs a 1500 to 47kOhm load and 48dB to 54dB of gain. Like all of Soundsmith products, you can get the cartridge rebuilt for a very reasonable fee ($600). Within his review,
Enjoy the Music.com's Tom Lyle says, "Even right out of the box the Mezzo's sound was quite impressive. After about forty or so hours of use it became even more impressive, and I became aware of the many things it got right and the very few (if any) things that it got wrong. It allowed me hear exactly what was pressed into the grooves of the record that was on my turntable. It was also quite striking how quiet the cartridge was when traveling through the grooves of each record -- the vanishingly small level of surface noise that the Mezzo reproduces is quite an accomplishment. But what was much more noticeable even early in the review process after only a playing a few records was that the Mezzo sounded like
real music." You can read our review of the Soundsmith Mezzo Moving Iron phono
cartridge at this link.
Gramovox Floating Record Vertical
As a wild card within Enjoy the Music.com's
Special 20/20 Awards is Gramovox's Floating Record ($350). This is a vertical turntable
that plays records vertically through built-in full-range stereo speakers or via
RCA line out. Gramovox's design philosophy "is to re-imagine vintage audio
design with modern technology". Their Floating Record provides the illusion
that your vinyl record is floating. "We designed the Floating Record for
everyone from the first-time record listener to the seasoned vinyl
enthusiast," says the company. "You'll be spinning tunes out of the
box in a matter of minutes. You don't need to set up your cartridge or purchase
additional outboard gear such as phono pre-amps, amplifiers and speakers
(although you have the option to). All of these are included in our integrated
design." You can easily switch between 33 or 45 rpm vinyl records by moving
the silicon belt over the inner or outer groove of the middle gear. Gramovox
also includes clamps for both types of records. You have the option of bypassing
the internal RIAA stage, 15 watt amplifier and speakers and simply output an
RIAA equalized line level signal from the built in phono-preamp via the Line Out
RCA jacks. There is a 1/8" stereo headphone jack for those who desire
private listening. A fully-adjustable, carbon-fiber tone-arm in included, whilst
tracking force is dynamically applied by a spring as opposed to the usual
counterweights found in horizontal record players. The tonearm is factory-set at
~2 grams for the included Audio Technica AT95E MM cartridge. For real wood
highlights, premium American dark walnut and maple woods are used for the base.
The Floating Record vertical turntable is completely universal for AC to DC
power including 50/60 Hz from 120 to 240 Volts. Dimensions are 17" x
10" x 16" (WxDxH) and it weighs 13 lbs.
While the below do not explicitly
meet the 20
year cutoff, i'd feel a bit remiss in not
Micro Seiki RX-1500FVG
The Micro Seiki RX-1500FVG uses an air bearing that floats the heavy platter 0.03mm over the base for ease of platter rotation without mechanical friction in the direction of thrust. A vacuum suction system secures the vinyl record to the platter while the quadruplex suspension system uses coil springs, rubber diaphragm pistons, compressed air, and high viscosity oil to reduce any acoustic feedback from reaching the delicate tracking of the needle.
Nakamichi TX-1000 Turntable
Nakamichi's TX-1000's is capable of virtually absolute centering of a vinyl record. The Quartz PLL motor operates within an oil bath "Pressure Regulation Chamber" and the shaft is finished within a highly precise (for that time) 1/100µ. The platter is made from diecast
aluminum with a specialized honeycomb structure to keep any resonance at bay. Nakamichi's TX-1000 turntable has a base made of diecast
aluminum and uses a triple suspension made with foam and rubber pieces of various thickness. The top glass platter is covered with a reflective magnetic material of anti-static properties. Whilst it might not have been well-received by some due to the high
¥1,100,000 price, plus the CD being the new tech, the Nakamichi TX-1000 turntable
still has a following by some collectors and joins Enjoy the Music.com's
Special 20/20 list due to the ability to self-center records.
And with many hours of personal debate, there you have
it my friend. Enjoy the Music.com's Special 20/20 Award. If you missed part
one, click here to see our first choices for phono cartridges and turntables. Each month i'll be choosing up to 20
products to receive Enjoy the Music.com's Special 20/20 Award within different categories
such as preamplification, amplification, loudspeakers, etc. Choosing items to
appear within the phono cartridges and turntables category has not been easy and hope you found something that benefited
you. As always, in the end what really matters is
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
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