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October 2006
Superior Audio Equipment Review

Oracle Delphi MK V Turntable With
Oracle/SME 345 Tonearm

Reigniting my love of vinyl! 
Review By Steven R. Rochlin
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 

 

Oracle Delphi MK V Vinyl LP Turntable With Oracle/SME 345 Tonearm  Few high-end audio companies can claim manufacturing the same product, with evolutionary upgrades, for well over the past 25 years. Oracle's Delphi turntable is one of those very rare products that was greeted with critical acclaim decades ago and flourishes today in the sea of DAC-of-the-month clubs as the Digital G-ds bestow yet another format to the awaiting masses. i see no need to cover the broad description of aural delights via vinyl replay, as many music lovers are well aware of analog replay. What does need to be said is how the Oracle Delphi turntable now offers astonishing performance coupled with ease of use.

 

Some History And Setup
Approximately 20 years ago one of my friends purchased a used Oracle, the Delphi II i think, and the sound it produced was truly outstanding. He would occasionally complain about the turntable's springs going out of adjustment, which cased a deterioration in the sound quality. These were the days of high-end audio where it was a badge of honor when your system needed constant attention or a piece of gear broke down and was in for repair. Critics of the day gave the Oracle's Delphi turntable very high marks, with hints that it improved upon the legendary Linn LP12! A bold statement indeed, yet this is what some were saying and far be it from me to disagree.

Oracle has since fine-tuned this design plus it now comes fully tweaked from the factory. This is great news as anyone who has setup and fiddled with suspended turntables can tell you, getting that magic bounce just right can be time consuming but is worth every minute of attention. Like the Linn and my current reference VOYD turntable, you aim for a perfectly even bounce with zero side-to-side wobbling. The owner's manual is extremely well written and it took me about 3 hours from opening the box to musical sounds.

Oracle, and the accompanying tonearm package from SME, both receive very high marks for providing precise and clearly written instructions plus virtually every tool necessary for installing their products. All components come carefully packaged for shipment and are easily identified for proper positioning. Once unpacked it was only a matter of taking my time to ensure precision setup using the tools provided. The only additional two tools a tweak-head like me needed was a very high precision tracking force gauge (for VTF) from Clearaudio and my trusty CEN-TECH digital caliper from Harbor Freight Tools to measure the tonearm's vertical tracking angle (VTA). Some may feel the use of a high-precision digital caliper may be a bit overkill, though if you want 0.01" accuracy i can think of no better way to go about it.

 

Technical Description
Oracle's Delphi Mk V's main plinth is made from acrylic, though a Black African granite plinth is available. The critical bearing system uses six precision surfaced nylon setscrews for extreme accuracy and should never need adjustment. Three precision machined aluminum towers each hold a spring that allows the platter to float. The factory presets the tension of these springs and i found that no additional spring adjustments needed to be made for optimized suspension bounce. The 8.8 lbs. aluminum platter features a concave mat, made from specially formulated polymer, is claimed to show better matching characteristics (impedance) with the vinyl disc. The slightly concave shape ensures even contact from the center of the record to its outer edge. No additional turntable mat was needed, and my stash of mats only made matters worse so they were not used during the review.

To quote further technical details i just received from Oracle Audio, "Each suspension tower assembly combines no less than 12 different components on the Delphi turntable. The Mk V suspension system is a highly sophisticated device combining 7 different mechanical filters, all working as a whole to efficiently control unwanted vibrations. The turntable's convex shaped leveling feet constitute the first barrier in preventing vibrations from reaching the record-playing platform. The Delrin suspension pillars will cut mid and higher frequencies. The upper spring rubber bushing controls spring resonance, while the conical shaped suspension spring takes care of the crucial lower frequencies from 5Hz and up. The spring adjustment sleeve provides for spring calibration, while controlling spring resonance. The Sorbothane damper represents the mechanical energy trap that reduces vibrations to an insignificant level, while the felt dampers control the internal resonance of the springs."

The Delphi Mk V employs a dual current drive circuitry that allows for speed stability, high torque energy and low motor vibration. My review sample came with the Turbo power supply. A single rubber belt attaches from the motor to the underside of the platter and the A.C. synchronous motor can be  electronically adjusted by 5 percent via potentiometers on the back of the turntable's aluminum base. Speed selection is via two protruding arms that are clearly marked 33 or 45, which when selected the numerals light up. There is a leveling bubble at the 4 o'clock position just below the platter so you know it is level.

Oracle/SME 345 TonearmOracle worked closely with tonearm manufacture SME and in doing so included the SME 345 with my review sample. This arm features an effective length of 232.2 mm with sliding base. The pressure die-cast magnesium headshell is detachable, this allows for fast shell/cartridge changing. The arm itself is made with layers to dampen distortion-causing vibrations and anti-skate control is via a clearly marked knob. Alas, there is no knob to easily change vertical tracking angle (VTA) for those who have records of different thicknesses. This lack of VTA adjustment makes life a bit more challenging for guys like me who have everything from standard vinyl to 180- and 200-gram variants.

Upon studying the tonearm i feel it is an amazing design of very high-precision and technical engineering. The underslung counterweight keeps the arm's center of gravity (CG) even. Internal wiring is oxygen free copper wound in the Litz pattern. This wire is terminated with a 90 degree angle DIN plug. A 1-meter interconnect with mating DIN plug on one end has gold plated phono plugs on the other. While this DIN plug arrangement can be fairly standard on some tonearms, and allows for easy wire experimentation, perhaps i am being overly critical in saying my preference would be to have the wire attach to the cartridge using the usual plugs and eventually find it's way through the tube and out the bottom of the arm assembly, extending about a meter and finally ending with standard RCA jacks. As i see it, in my minimalist way you have only two connections versus the SME 345's six.

Cartridge used for this review is the excellent Clearaudio Stradivari (see review here). This wood-bodied cartridge is a bit on the light side weight-wise so my trick of Blu-tac'ing a Euro coin to the headshell worked wonders. Criticize me if you will, but this adds good weight for ease of balancing while also dampening the headshell. It works for me. Phonostage is the Ray Samuels Emmeline XR-10B (reviewed here). Oracle includes a screw down vinyl-to-platter clamp and this was employed as heavy weight-based hold down clamps will throw off the critical suspension spring balance.

 

And Finally... The Music
It is great to get back to a suspended suspension turntable. After using the Acoustic Solid and Clearaudio, with the Clearaudio being very impressive, it appears my preference is for those of the suspended variety. Maybe i simply need to invest into one of those high dollar carbon fiber Grad Prix turntable stands or Vibraplanes, who knows? My listening notes say my toes tapped as the music's rhythm was beautifully portrayed. For some reason the unsuspended type of tables just don't 'do it' for me to the same degree a suspended table does. This toe tapping, or lack thereof, includes the legendary Goldmund Reference way back in the day. Whatever the reason, things just felt right in the time domain.

Being in a The Who mood (see this month editorial within the Review Magazine) i put on Who's Next reissue [MCA-11164]. My reward was a very involving experience, unlike that of the MoFi CD reissue. This is not to critique MoFi, but there are times no matter how much i try to enjoy CD there is something missing. Due to my decades of experience as a percussionist/drummer perhaps my sensitivity to what i'll refer to as the 'beat frequency' of digital replay that strips away musical flow. With this stripping is removal of the human factor, those small timing cues jazz musicians (in particular) live for. Of course we have to remember that CD is a compressed format as recording studios for decades had to squash their mastering gear's higher digital stream to that of CD's lowly 16-bit/44.1kHz data rate. Note i have been avoiding the whole DVD-Audio versus SACD debacle. Last thing i desire in my home in a Philips CDi or Sony Elcasette (old joke, but those of you over 50 probably understand where i am coming from).

Sonically, the MCA Heavy Vinyl release had wonderful delineation between instruments and superb clarity in comparison to other analog setups within my home over the years. The cymbals on "We Won't Get Fooled Again" had very good sheen and were never lost within the mix. Each musician was properly portrayed to make the music a wholly enjoyable experience. Harmonically, everything is very well balanced, if a touch bit light on the deep bass.

From acoustic jazz to both small ensemble and large scale orchestra was my mainstay during this review. This turntable has an extremely low noise floor. One so low i have not heard music pour forth from such a deep black background since hearing my friend's Goldmund Reference. It even beats out my fave VOYD! This black background may be part of the reason for the excellent microdynamic shadings, as there is less noise for the musical signal to rise above. Add to that the outstanding way the music has full freedom to bloom and my ears were in full bliss.

One of my most memorable live music experiences was in Venice about five years ago. It was a Stradivari and/or Guarneri festival and a stringed quintet was practicing in this church just off the waterway. Using my press credentials i was able to go inside and hear them practice for quite some time. As old yet smallish churches go, the acoustics were beautifully even in tonality and as the musicians played the notes truly floated within the air. This live musical event had that stunning completely enveloping 3D gentle hovering that only angels could have made come true. My point being that the Oracle Delphi V allowed the music to freely float and bloom. Not just within dynamitic crescendos, but also as they decresenco.

Midrange bloom, especially apparent within LPs featuring the likes of Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, was so highly resolved as to easily sniff out the difference between room acoustics and that ol' studio reverb sound. No matter the case, the soul of the music came through. It was never etched sounding or irritating. i can say the same thing applies for the upper registers, recordings that feature chimes and orchestra bells. There was so much to love about the sound that it took me looking back at my notes time and again to really find any faults. The best i can come up with is that slight lack of deep bass, below 45Hz would be my guess.

Speed stability was excellent, as it should be considering the Turbo power supply option. During the hundreds of hours of use i can not find any mechanical flaws and this new design appears to have solved the criticisms of the previous versions needing to have their suspension tweaked time and again.

 

So In Conclusion...
i can easily see why decades ago, when this turntable first appeared in the audiophile marketplace, how music lovers were swooned by it's ability to replay vinyl. Now in its MK V version, this very mature design still pleases a hard core music lover such as myself. With digital formats ripping the soul from the music, the Oracle Delphi MK V easily puts another proverbial nail into the digital coffins laying around my home. When analog sounds this good, and with the wide availability of both new and used vinyl easily accessible, it makes me wonder why people would consider digital replay at all?

If you are one of those ease of use guys or have not tried your hand at vinyl replay, once set up the Oracle Delphi MK V needs nothing more. You can then feel free to con every family member out of their vinyl collection. i remember my first love of vinyl and how it had me scouring all corners for the next musical high. This turntable re-ignites my thirst and makes me grateful for the over 8,000 albums that reside in my home. It also causes me to remind everyone "It's the music, stupid!" As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

Specifications
Delphi MKV Turntable
Type: 33.3 / 45 rpm vinyl record playback system
Drive system: Single belt
Motor Type & Control Method: A.C. synchronous motor, electronically controlled with adjustable speed of 5 percent
Turntable Plinth Material: Acrylic
Platter Material:  Aluminum with specially designed top
Wow & Flutter: 0.010% DIN Weighted
Suspension: Floating using springs with a resonant frequency of 3.5 Hz
Dimension: 14.5 x 19 x 6 (WxDxH in inches)
Weight: 35 pounds 
Warranty: 2 years against manufacturer's defects

 

Oracle 345 Tonearm
Type: Static type
Effective Length: 232.2 mm with sliding base. Center to turntable center of 213.4mm
Effective Mass: 9.5g
Cartridge Balance Range: 6 to 17 grams
Output Terminal: 240 (D.I.N.5-Pole)
Weight: 717 grams

 

Price: Delphi MK V Turntable, Clear acrylic plinth, pre-cut tone arm board, turbo power supply $4500

Oracle-SME 345 Tonearm $2200

 

Company Information
Oracle Audio Technologies
6136 Blvd. Bertrand Fabi, Suite 101
Sherbrooke, Quebec J1N 2P3
Canada

Voice: (819) 864-0480
Fax: (819) 864-9641
E-mail: info@oracle-audio.com
Website: www.oracle-audio.com

 

USA Distributor
Audiotion 
1313 Hillside Avenue
Richmond VA 23229

Voice: (804) 422-6500
Fax: (775) 890-6519
E-mail: Rusty@Audiotion.com
Website: www.audiotion.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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