Yes, it may be German, but it is not that AMG. This one stands for Analog Manufaktur Germany and is the maker of an extremely nice all-aluminium turntable and arm called the V12 (technically the Viella 12). I guess that was irresistible given the whole AMG thing.
The turntable is an un-suspended oval shaped design, with a solid (11kg) machined platter, all built to a level of finish that is impossible to fault. Thus, that 25mm-thick platter is made out of aircraft-grade aluminium, the platter has a decoupled spindle, and the arm riser is is exceptionally solidly made. This is the kind of turntable that says all the right things about high-end – it’s built solidly and built to last. It is so solid, in fact, that there’s not much need for a suspension system; in the manner of a big Kuzma, the sort of shelving needed to hold the AMG in place is going to be solid enough not to be troubled by footfalls. To be honest, this isn’t much of an issue for me, as I tend to take the view that the suspension is there to isolate the motor from the playing surface, not to isolate the turntable from the rest of the planet. Not everyone agrees, though, and those who take the alternate view are likely never to even countenance the AMG V12. To each, his own.
When it comes to that motor on the AMG, it’s acoustically decoupled from the main platter by means of five rubber and metal mounts. The motor itself is a brushless 24V DC motor (AMG calls this a ‘Lorenzi’ motor, possibly with reference to the relevant differential equations developed by ‘the chaosfather’ Edward Lorenz in the early 1960s) with sintered bronze bearings. The integrated aluminium motor spindle looks all the world like a small piston from a car engine, the narrow belt fitting into the groove where a piston ring might normally sit. The turntable has three backlit touch buttons by the arm base for 33, 45 and 78 rpm, but there is no adjustment for variations in 78 rpm cutting speed. The nearest thing to prosaic is the external PSU, which is housed in a rectangular box. It’s nicely made and feels very solid, but is not as powerful a statement of intent as the rest of the deck. Taken as a statement piece atop a rack though, this is powerfully built stuff.
The 12” 12j2 arm is deceptively simple looking, but is in fact a ‘dual pivot’ design, which seems to be at least notionally similar to the wire-constrained unipivot seen in arms from Tom Fletcher, which itself is notionally similar to the kind of vertical bearing structure used in the rotor heads of helicopters. Given designer Werner Roeschlau’s background in aeronautical engineering and commercial flying (which neatly explains all the aircraft-grade aluminium in the turntable), this is a fairly logical way to make a tonearm bearing, because it brings all the vertical freedom of movement that comes with a unipivot, while providing some constraint to azimuth adjustment (where freedom of movement isn’t a good thing). Its movement along the horizontal is thanks to a needle roller bearing, made from hardened tool steel. It’s easy to set up (helped in part by a built in spirit level at the top of the bearing housing), and built to be maintenance free. OK, so the arm tube doesn’t have the ‘you could jump up and down on it’ solidity of an SME arm, but we use these things for high precision work, not for driving into a war zone!
It is possible to have the turntable supplied with two armboards for £675 extra, and there’s now a 9w2 9” version of the arm (to go with the smaller new Giro turntable). I’ve not tried this, but I prefer the full-bodied V12 option as it stands.
With one or two extremely minor (and related) caveats, this is an exceptionally easy turntable to set up. There’s even another small spirit level built into the chassis to allow easy levelling. The platter locks down to the bearing housing tightly. The deck comes with a small wooden clip to keep the belt in place when lowering the platter. Get this right, and everything just snaps into place with a resounding, satisfying ‘click’; get it wrong, and the satisfying click is drowned out by a sharp feeling of pain as you try to prize bits of knuckle and fingertip from the underside of the safe-like locked down platter. It is not locked forever, of course, but the two little pieces of balsa intended as stop-chocks here should be considered mandatory, if you don’t want your nails clipped by a platter.
The other caveat involves that wooden skirt around the plinth. It looks out of place, an unnecessary concession to the days of fruit-box turntable bases and we went with it removed in the photos. Still, aesthetic trivialities aside, this is a well-constructed turntable, built to SME levels of fit and finish. We don’t talk about ‘final vinyl’ anymore, because the age of turntablism shows no signs of coming to a close, but if you are thinking of buying a deck that will let your children’s children’s children play records, this one is built that way.
There’s one more observation; you’ll find it impossible not to say, “I took my AMG V12 for a spin” sometime early in the process. It’s a guy thing. Enjoy it.
What I find extremely attractive about the AMG V12 is it’s the way it makes you forget about all things turntable. Part of this comes from it being easy to use, unfussy, and once installed, there is nothing to go out of tune. But a bigger part of it is there is something just so chilled out about the sound of this combination. It’s just so damn natural; it should have a PRS logo painted on the skirt, because live music happens here. Within about three or four sides played, you will find yourself reaching for something recorded live and probably mostly unamplified; for me it was Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake (I’d just proof-read this month’s Classic Album Sundays and it had left a mark), and the sound just drifted from the loudspeakers like I was in the room with a sad yet sanguine man 45 years ago. It wasn’t forced, but neither was it laid back, it was just… right sounding.
There’s none of that sense of a ‘hi-fi sounding’ turntable about the AMG. It doesn’t have the overly growling, impressive super-bass of those turntables much loved by audio aficionados, but instead it has a sense of poise to the sound that makes it sound great on more than just Famous Blue Raincoat or Dead Can Dance albums. In this, it’s perhaps closer to the kind of sound you get from an SME or even one of the older classic decks like a Garrard or Lenco. Nothing’s overly polished or hyper-glitzy through the AMG, but the dynamic range is natural and lithe, the detail is all there (but not in a pinched or forced way), and that sense of realism that is sometimes sacrificed at the altar of leading edge detail and brightness is here in full effect. If there were mild criticisms of the expansiveness of the image width, the more you explored those criticisms, the more they seemed to have to do with our desire for music to be more impressively ‘hi-fi’ sounding, and not that the deck was holding things back.
The turntable part of the deal is outstanding in and of itself. But that arm! It’s a world-class product, in a field where there are, if we are being truly honest, very few world-class products. That the AMG arm isn’t spoken of with the same reverence as Graham or Schroeder says more about the nature of the audio industry (and, by extension, the high-end audio buyer) than it does about performance.
Of course, when you couple a world-class tonearm with a turntable capable of outstanding performance in its own right, and is a perfect match for that arm, everything suddenly takes on a higher order of excellence. Partner this with a good EMT cartridge (my own Benz SLR makes for a sublime combination, too, the whole unspoken combined connection with a certain car marque notwithstanding) and a good phono stage, and the question becomes simple: “why go further?” Frankly, the AMG package here makes me wonder if that question has just found its answer.
Viella 12 Turntable
Type: Unsuspended, belt-driven turntable with
integral tonearm, outboard motor controller, and screw-down clamp
Plinth: 25mm aircraft grade aluminum Platter bearing: hardened 16mm axle bearing
Platter: decoupled spindle, two-piece construction, 12.5-inch diameter, 11kg
Platter clamp: inverted, threaded attachment to decoupled spindle
Tonearm board: detachable high mass tonearm board, pre-drilled for AMG and Graham tonearms, other arm boards on request
Turntable motor: 24v DC Speeds: 33.3, 45, 78 rpm, speed change, speed fine adjust
Motor power supply: outboard
Viella 12-inch tonearm
Armwand: 12g effective mass
Dimensions (WxHxD): 525 x 205 x 320mm
Price: £11,250 (system) £8,650 (turntable), £3,450 (arm)
Manufactured by: Analog Manufaktur Germany
Distributed by: Select Audio
Tel: +44(0)1900 601954
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