Vinyl audio reproduction media is back in fashion….again!
It’s not just the ‘hipster’ crowd who have contributed to this resurgence.
One theory is the backlash response to the ‘virtual’ technology of today where there is not even any ‘media’ to really see, touch and appreciate. It’s all about streaming and downloads of audio files out of the ether or mysterious ‘Cloud’.
Perhaps I’m showing my vintage by mentioning my fascination for ‘picture discs’: vinyl records with images printed for both visual and aural pleasure.
Your high fidelity sound reproduction is only as good as the source and I won’t discuss the analogue vs digital debate because much of it is subjective. Those who love vinyl will often cite the warmth of sound. It is likely that this “warm” factor describes the inherent distortions in the vinyl format giving the characterful sound that some people prefer.
Over a fine dinner with a most agreeable wine, my buddy – founder of a venerable high fidelity audio brand – revealed the psychology of blinded listening tests and reviewers who preferred ‘dirty’ sound that his engineers dialed into the equipment, just to mess with their heads!
In no particular order, we’ve selected three turntables that represent a shortlist of top ‘record’ players to consider if you want to rejoin the ‘vinyl audio reproduction media’ crowd.
Linn Klimax LP12
Since 1972, the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable has been the reference for vinyl lovers and more than 40 years’ worth of R&D has been invested in the latest incarnation of the Glasgow-based company’s flagship Klimax LP12 turntable that they tout as the pinnacle of vinyl reproduction today.
Each precision-engineered upgrade by Linn is suppose to uncover more music from the depths of the record groove and because it’s modular, you can update whenever they release a new upgrade. Today’s Klimax LP12 has the following specification:
- Sondek LP12 turntable
- Keel machined sub-chassis and armboard
- Radikal motor control unit & power supply
- Brushed DC motor in acoustically isolated housing
- Ekos SE precision tonearm
- Kandid moving coil (MC) cartridge
- Urika II Moving Coil phono stage built into suspended base.
The aluminium Trampolin base board has suspended feet to isolate the deck from vibration and can be retro-fitted to any LP12. The Keel integrated sub-chassis, armboard and tonearm collar are machined from solid aluminium with varying ‘pocket’ depths for consistent centre of gravity. There are no screws, fixings and joints between each component so that virtually all vibration is removed, providing “a more faithful reproduction” of your music collection.
Ekos SE is a machined titanium arm tube with ultra-low friction bearings in the stainless steel housing. The springs are temperature-compensated for consistent pressure.
ONEDOF™ (One Degree of Freedom) – Where Science meets Art
Touted as the most sensitive engineering instrument for reproducing vinyl records, ONEDOF™ was designed by NASA aerospace engineer Aleks Bakman, proprietor of Onedof LLC in Denver, Colorado, USA. The idea of a perfect, zero tolerance, self-centering, non-resonant, friction-free bearing came to him in 2000, while skiing on the 14,265 ft. (4350m) Quandary Peak in Colorado. After that, it took five more years of research, calculations, and design during evenings and weekends because his daytime job was developing spacecraft for Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
So, it really is rocket science!
ONEDOF™ is a fundamentally reinvented analogue vinyl disc turntable featuring:
- Self-centering in all directions non-resonant platter bearing based on smart fluid technology.
- Innovative bearing that stops platter spindle instability, eliminating a never before addressed cause of acoustic distortion.
- Noiseless, noise canceling drive.
- Damped and automatically centred record clamping ring for the highest-in-the-industry allowable volume of music reproduction without distortions.
- Tonearm tower with continuous, smooth yet solid on-the-fly Vertical Tracking Angle adjustment over three inches.
- 70 lb (31.8kg) metallic platter spindle with internal viscous liquid damping, clamping rim and centre weight. The turntable weight is 120 lb (54.5kg).
- 24 carat gold plating and aerospace grade metals.
ONEDOF means “one degree of freedom of motion” as reference to the steady rotation of the self-centering bearing, which is maintenance free with no friction, no wear, virtually no heat generated, no thickening nor pollution of the oil.
Another first in the history of turntables is a resonance free suspension achieved with viscous incompressible liquid lifting the heavy rotating mass. Pressure is generated by the rotation of the platter without pumps. This suspension isolates the platter from the stand, blocks environmental distortions, cancels vibration of the platter/spindle assembly and provides non-linear damping. Large sealed chambers inside the platter are filled with a secret mix of viscous oil and solid particles.
The vinyl record is pressed down by a massive damped and automatically centered clamping ring.
Walker Proscenium Black Diamond V (PBD V)
The latest incarnation of Proscenium turntable from Walker Audio is the Black Diamond V, that follows the accolades of its predecessors. The proprietary secret is a specially treated, fine-grained crystalline material that reduces static buildup and cancels EMI, RFI and microwaves. It is friction- and resonance-free thanks to the air-bearing arm and platter and adjustable oil-free air suspension.
The concept is to provide ‘the blackest of black backgrounds’ to the sound so “the transparency is crystal-clear, dynamics are explosive, sound-staging is expansive and the bass is profound.” They achieve this by improvements to the air supply, record clamp and motor base assembly as well as that mysterious ‘black diamond’ specially-treated, fine-grained crystalline material.
The PBD V turntable is friction-free due to the air-bearing arm and platter, resonance-free due to its adjustable air suspension, electrical-noise-free due to the PBD V upgrades and the linear-tracking arm plays records exactly the way they’re made, eliminating tracking errors.
Techno-freaks will get excited by the Arm wiring being sourced from a bio-medical laboratory; using the same ultra-pure, solid core, silver wire with Teflon insulation that is used in medical research to connect the ear to the brain. That is directionally wired and cryogenically treated for improved sound.
Techno-trivia: The on/off switch is solid silver; I’m sure there is a geeky reason why.
The Air Supply System for adjustable tri-air suspension is a complicated mess of under-table chambers and air pods with a precision regulator, gauge and check valve. The oil-less air supply stays active so that the turntable is always ready to play – no need to wait for the air supply to come up to pressure. A 100-foot roll of clear flexible plastic tubing is included so the air supply can be placed anywhere up to 100 feet away, even in another room.
You can be forgiven for thinking Walker Audio seems to be selling magic snake oil with the specifications of the PBD V turntable above but you would be wrong.
The most amazing magic they sell is the Talisman Optimizer that is suppose to “temporarily reduce magnetic fields and static electricity” from vinyl records, CDs, SACDs, DVDs, HD-DVDs, and Blu Ray discs, as well as treating your audio and video cables!
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).