A visit to the High-End show in Munich, Germany feels like being assaulted by the sheer range and variety of turntables. What’s more, between German brands in particular, there’s lots of competition to produce the biggest, shiniest turntable of the show. One of those competitors is Acoustic Solid which has recently been made available in the UK by Elite Audio who submitted the Solid Wood Round MPX for our consideration. While the Solid Wood Round MPX is a large and shiny turntable in its own right, by the standards of Acoustic Solid’s catalogue, it’s restrained. The company has two ranges, Aluminium and Classic, with the latter offering metal platters on wooden plinths, of which the Wood Round MPX is but one of 12 models.
Acoustic Solid was founded in 1997 by brothers E. and Karl Wirth who did it the traditional way by starting in the basement and working up to a fully formed factory four years later. This factory is in Altdorf near Nuremberg – which is in the south of the country – in a facility that looks far too green and pleasant to contain CNC machines… but that’s Germany for you. Acoustic Solid make a range of accessories for turntables, including some that come with this model. It also provides a booklet of ‘Plattentips’ or ‘recommended records’ and contains some well-known favourites alongside surprise choices like Lambchop’s Awcmonnoyoucmon and The Shadows Greatest Hits. I want to meet the person who put together that list and browse their record collection; it’s sure to be filled with the weird and the wonderful.
Despite its high-end styling, the Acoustic Solid Wood Round MPX is a ready-to-roll record player package with everything set up out of the box; you don’t even need to fit the counterweight. You do, however, need to fit the arm into the armboard, but that’s a lot easier than adjusting a counterweight or getting the arm height right for VTA. Acoustic Solid provides a good quality digital downforce scale and cartridge alignment gauge in the box, presumably for future upgrades. The needle supplied is an Ortofon Quintet Red, a moving coil that retails for £249 and has an elliptical stylus and high output, it works with any load impedance above 70 Ohms and runs at a highish 2.1 to 2.5g downforce. I looked that info up and put it on the scales to discover that it had been set at the lower end of this scale already; I also checked VTA and found it to be spot-on correct. The WTB 370 tonearm is a Rega that’s bolted to a collar, which slots into the armboard and sits at the right height when it’s fully seated. There is a pinch bolt in the side of the board that allows height adjustment, albeit only upwards, I suspect that Acoustic Solid supply different height spacers between the armboard and the outrigger that connects it to the wooden plinth to accommodate smaller cartridges.
There’s a school of thought that suggests once you get beyond a certain price point, the notion of a turnkey turntable becomes unworkable. The high-end, it seems, would rather pick and choose, roll their own, and set up vinyl to their own tastes than choose an off-the-shelf product. Except that, when you scratch the surface of this argument, it’s clearly nonsense. Linn owners, for example, tend to choose from a very select portfolio of (typically Linn) arms and cartridges in assembling their masterpieces, and many other turntable brands – if pressed – will admit their turntables are often used with the same arm and cartridge combinations. Acoustic Solid is not the first – nor will it be the last – company to make it easy on its customers by supplying a complete package.
The main body of the turntable is as the name suggests wood and round albeit with three posts for the feet, it’s also plywood rather than a lump of real tree, which must make for much easier manufacture. A small spike supports each leg, with the spikes having holes that allow easy height adjustment with one of the two supplied Allen keys. Spike receptors are provided to stop these pressure points from giving your equipment support a free round of acupuncture.
The whole thing comes in two sturdy boxes; when the first large box arrived, I was surprised to find that it contained only the arm and platter. The other half of the Wood Round MPX was still in the warehouse. That first box alone was large enough to accommodate most turntables. This filled me with some trepidation; the box for the turntable might be the size of a Aga. Fortunately, the two were managable and I didn’t achieve ‘cardboard capacity’.
The platter is weighty enough as it’s made from 60mm thick aluminium, and the plinth (which can accommodate two armboards) is not a lot lighter. The motor is a shiny free-standing column with a pulley that drives two long transparent belts around the perimeter of the platter. Given the elasticity of the belts and the weight of the platter startup is remarkably swift, so there must be plenty of torque on offer. It has a connection for a separate selector puck that sits wherever there is space, and this turntable requires more than its fair share of space.
The selector offers on/off, speed selection, and fine speed adjustment. Acoustic Solid provides a small strobe disc to check speed, but you need to have an ‘authoritative’ 50Hz light source to read it. The power unit is a small plastic brick that presumably contains a switched-mode supply and sits out of sight (and mind) behind the rack. A 5mm thick transparent acrylic mat covers the platter’s suede leather upper surface, which itself provides a degree of damping between acrylic and aluminium. The bearing supporting this mass has a ceramic tip and a Teflon thrust pad, or in modern parliance TL:DR, it’s a good, solid, high-end and high-mass turntable design, made for immediate out-the-box playing.
Running the output of the Ortofon into a Tom Evans Groove+ SRX phono stage with the impedance set to 100 Ohms I got a large scale (and even fulsome) image from the relatively high output of the MC. With Patricia Barber’s ‘Touch of Trash’ [Modern Cool, Premonition], there is plenty of low-end, and the trumpet is brassy and forward, perhaps a little bit more than usual, but it’s never precisely retiring on this track. The Wood Round MPX reflects the recording’s luxurious nature and the absence of de-essing in its production; which is a bit odd but probably contributes to the vitality of the sound that Premonition gets on this album. You get a nice bluesy feel on ‘Let It Rain’ which contributes to the rich experience of turntable and album.
The Acoustic Solid is not the most upbeat turntable around; it’s relaxed and the timing a little on the circumspect side, but this is often the case with high-mass platters. What they give in return is a sense of stability and ease that makes for effortless listening and – in the case of this Acoustic Solid – useful, large-scale imaging. Evidence of the turntable’s imaging properties comes from Conjure’s ‘Untitled II’ [Music For The Texts Of Ishmael Reed, American Clavé], where the sax solo was beautifully nuanced and the recording’s dynamic range well exploited. By comparison, streaming the same track on an Auralic Altair G1 resulted in a tighter, more precise rendition of events with a relatively dry balance that made the Wood Round MPX sound valve-like in its generous roundedness. KT Tunstall’s latest release Acoustic Extravaganza [Virgin] filled the room with a big blowsy soundstage in which the vocals are well defined; you can easily hear that they have been doubled up for extra depth. The bass line is also bold and chewy with plenty of impact.
I wondered whether the Ortofon might have been overloading the input on the Tom Evans phono stage, so I tried a Rega Aria where you can reduce the gain. This added some focus and reduced a sense of bloom in the sound which resulted in a more insightful experience, primarily where tonality was concerned. Lyrical intelligibility proved to be good with this phono stage and while ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’ [Astral Weeks, Van Morrison, Warner Bros] wasn’t as cogent as it might be, ‘Madame George’ was particularly moving. It extracted the energy from Binker and Moses’s superb sounding Alive in the East [Gearbox] but didn’t quite manage to give a real sense of the acoustic of the small venue. That did not undermine the intensity of the playing from a band at the height of its powers, however.
With Rymden’s Reflections and Odysseys [Jazzland] spinning at 45rpm (it sounded a bit sluggish at 33.3!) the double bass took the soundstage by storm with lots of texture and some lovely vibrato playing from Dan Berglund and deep bass notes from Henrik Schwarz’s synth. There was still plenty of space for the piano to get lyrical in; this turntable gives good melody, that’s for sure. Playing the next track ‘Bergen’ where the piano is stronger in the mix, made me think that the sound had improved since the beginning of the side, possibly a setup thing or maybe a ‘stylus warm-up situation’ even though this wasn’t the first slab of vinyl to be played on the occasion. Perhaps I was just relaxing into the music itself!
The Acoustic Solid Wood Round MPX is a substantial and beautifully made German turntable at an attractive price. It is also the most straightforward to set up high-mass record player I’ve encountered, with no need to tweak and fettle, which is quite an achievement. It gives you the effortless warmth of vinyl with a good dose of bass to boot, which is hard to achieve with less substantial alternatives. It is also a statement turntable for less than bonkers money, and that I suspect will make it very popular.
Type: High mass wood and aluminium turntable with arm and cartridge
Rotational Speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM
Supported Tonearm Length(s): 9-inch to 12-inch arms supported
Tonearm: WTB 370
Cartridge: Ortofon Quintet Red
Drive Mechanism: Synchronous motor with twin belt drive
Speed Control: Microprocessor controlled
Platter Type: 12-inch aluminium platter with leather and acrylic mats
Platter Weight: Not specified
Bearing Type: Ceramic ball and Teflon thrust pad
Plinth Configuration: Single piece solid plinth
Dimensions (H×W×D): 190 × 310 × 310mm plus motor and control switch
Manufacturer: Acoustic Solid
Tel: +49 (0) 71 27 / 3 27 18
UK Distributor: Elite Audio
Tel: 01334 570 666
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