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Analogue Sources – A Baker’s Dozen from Munich High End 2016

Analogue Sources – A Baker’s Dozen from Munich High End 2016

At Munich High End 2016, one of my key coverage topics was Analogue source components. However, given that I visited over 110 manufacturers at the show, it quickly became apparent that doing a brand-by-brand show report would not be feasible. 

So, as an alternative, Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom and I hatched a plan whereby we would each report on a ‘baker’s dozen’ of key components in each category that particularly caught our eyes and/or ears.

What follows are my descriptions of thirteen noteworthy analogue sources seen in Munich. Please note that my selections in no way reflect any lack of merit in the many components I’ve left off this list. Rather, the list is in a sense a concession to space and time constraints and gives some indication of the sheer richness and inventiveness of our industry.

Acoustical Systems Apolyt turntable

Neither words nor pictures can do full justice to the massive Apolyt air-suspended and air-bearing equipped turntable for Acoustical Systems, a firm perhaps best known for its cleverly and exquisitely-made Axiom tonearm. But if the Axiom is all delicacy, intricacy, and finesse, the Apolyt comes across with the presence of, say, a Panzer tank—massive and muscular in all the right places.  The Apolyt weighs a staggering 380 kg and spins a platter that weighs full 85 kg.  The turntable rests upon air suspension modules fitted atop beefy, tubular support legs, while beneath the massive platter assembly there is an elaborate, pull-out, air-control console to regulate air press to the suspension system and to the turntable’s main air-bearing.

It was fun to watch show attendees clustering in groups around the Apolyt, as this gave me the impression that they were not so much studying the turntable as worshipping it! The Apolyt is priced at €280,000.
 

Audio-Technica AT-ART1000 direct power moving coil phono cartridge

It isn’t often that the Japanese giant that it Audio-Technica pulls out all the stops to create a world-class phono cartridge, yet that is exactly what has happened with the new AT-ART1000 direct power moving coil phono cartridge, priced at €4,100 and available only in very limited quantities.

The phrase “direct power” in the product’s name hints at what makes it so special, since in contrast to virtually all other moving-coil cartridge designs the AT-ART1000, says Audio-Technica, “places the moving coil directly on top of the stylus tip to ensure that audio quality is not compromised with the negative effects introduced by the cantilever’s length and materials. With the coils in such close proximity, the stylus tip allows the cartridge to vividly render the most subtle sonic details with unsurpassed transient response.”

A brief audition in a purpose-built listening room centred on showcasing the AT-ART1000 convinced me that this is a very special phono cartridge indeed.

CH Precision P1 phono stage

The beautiful and very refined CH Precision P1 phono stage offers some uncommon options, such as two moving coil inputs featuring current-mode amplification (which eliminate the need for impedance loading adjustments), plus an FET-driven voltage mode input that can be used for moving magnet or moving coil cartridges and that provides a 500-step cartridge loading adjustment system. Finally, the P1 comes standard with an RIAA EQ curve, but offers and option EQ board that provides curves for EMI, Columbia, Decca, and Teldec phono equalization. The P1 is priced at €21,850.

D’Agostino Master Audio Systems Momentum phono stage

Over time, Dan D’Agostino has gradually been building out the elements that comprise his flagship Momentum range of audio components, and now there is a Momentum-series phono stage, priced at €33,000. The Momentum phono stage offers what D’Agostino says, “may well be the cleanest AC power supply ever created for a phono preamp. The phono stage provides four inputs (two MM, two MC), adjustable gain settings, and five user selectable EQ curves: RIAA, FFRR, RCA Orthophonic, Columbia, and DGG. An extensive set of resistive and capacitive load settings are provided.

 

 

 

ELAC-Miracord 90 Anniversary turntable & tonearm

Most enthusiasts think of ELAC as a loudspeaker company, but the fact is that for most of its 90-year history the firm’s Miracord division built an enviable reputation for constructing high-quality turntables. Since 2016 marks ELAC 90th anniversary, the firm is celebrating, in part, with a return to its roots in the form of the new ELAC-Miracord 90 Anniversary turntable and tonearms, which is offered in an impressive arrays of wood and brightly coloured gloss lacquer finished. Pricing will be approximately €2,000.

Hartvig TT Signature and TT turntables, with isolation bases & battery power supplies

The Danish firm Hartvig Audio, headed by designer/constructor Sören Hartvig, produces two turntables: the TT (€9,700) and the considerably larger TT Signature (€21,000 – €32000 depending on options chosen).  Both models exude a certain fineness of line and absolutely exquisite machining and construction. This comes as no surprise once one learns that Mr Hartvig is, among other things, a factory-certified Ducati technician (since, as knowledgeable Ducastisti will tell you, adjusting the desmodromic valves on a Ducati motorcycle is pretty much the mechanical world’s equivalent of performing brain surgery). 

As with Ducati motorcycles, Hartvig turntables offer performance options galore, including optional solid copper platters, a battery power supply used to drive the turntable’s DC brushless motor, and the Hartvig Master Reference Platform, said to eliminate “almost all vibrations from the surroundings”.
 

Landmesser Audio LP1 Laufwerk turntable, Le Fil tonearm & L’Ardoise isolation base

Munich High End of course affords the opportunity to see many premium-priced components, but every once in while one also runs across product that look like they sure would command five-figure price tags, yet that turn out to be much more affordable than that. One such product would be the lovely combination of the Landmesser Audio LP1 turntable (€3,980), Le Fil tonearm (€2,980) and the L’Ardoise isolation base for the turntable (€848).

Honestly, as I approached the Landmesser stand to enquire about the product, I was expecting to hear a price in the mid-€20k range, which made the all-up price of €7,808 pretty refreshing by comparison.

Pear Audio Analogue Captain John Handy turntable & Cornet 1 tonearm

Pear Audio Analogue, led by designer and all-around analogue audio champion Peter Mezek, vigourously carries forward the design legacy of the late Tom Fletcher (of Nottingham Analogue Systems fame). Almost all models in the Pear range bear design touches created by Fletcher, but augmented—in certain key areas—by design elements created by Mezek (albeit very much in keeping with the principles Fletcher espoused).

The firm’s newest model, the Captain John Handy turntable with Cornet 1 tonearm, happens to be one of the firm’s most affordable and most physically compact offerings and is priced at USD$3,495.  What’s the meaning of the name? All but one of Pear Audio Analogue’s turntables are named for early-generation, New Orleans-based jazz trumpeters (hence, too, the tonearm name, “Cornet”).

 

Pro-Ject Classic turntable & tonearm

Pro-Ject turntables have long been known as class leaders in terms of performance for money, but at Munich the firm rolled out a new model that is so elegant in it appearance, so well-conceived in its overall design, and so very affordable that we suspect it will probably sell like free beer on St. Patrick’s Day.

The model in question is the Pro-Ject’s new Classic turntable and tonearm, which—lets’ face it—bears more than a passing resemblance to the iconic Linn Sondek LP12, yet that is priced at €999, complete with the turntable, tonearm, and an Ortofon 2M Silver phono cartridge.

The Class is a belt-drive turntable featuring a chassis-over-sub-chassis design where the two are isolated by thermo plastic elastomer (TPE) dampers. The platter is made of aluminium damped with TPE, with a sub-platter that is similar to the one used on the Pro-Ject Debut. The Classic tonearm features an arm tube made of a sandwich of aluminium and carbon fibre. Cardan-type bearings, made of Zircon, complete the picture. As a final touch, the ‘table comes standard with damped and height-adjustable feet.

Technics SL-1200GAE direct drive turntable & tonearm

Part of the big news of the Munich show is that Technics is back with a vengeance and as analogue enthusiasts of a certain age might have hoped, this also means a re-birth (and complete redesign) of the brand’s classis SL-1200GAE direct-drive turntable, now priced at €2,999. A company spokesperson indicated, however, that the new SL-1200GAE is far better than the original SL-1200 ever was, as the new model features a twin rotor, cogless direct-drive motor, while the tonearm is now made of magnesium.

I couldn’t help but ask if we could expect to see a return of the legendary SL-10 direct drive turntable and the response was a sly, wry smile and the non-commital comment that the idea was, “under study.” Stay tuned.
 

Thales TTT Slim turntable & Easy tonearm

I have long followed the evolution of turntables and tonearms from the Swiss firm Thales (pronounced “Tahl-us”), but Munich marked the first time I have ever seen the firm’s least costly turntable/tonearm combination: namely, the battery-powered TTT Slim turntable and the variable offset angle, tangential-pivoted Easy tonearm, together priced at €11,000.

The TTT Slim features an ultra-quiet battery power supply with a built-in charging system that can be engaged when the turntable is not in use; importantly, the battery system allows roughly 20 hours of playback time between charges. In turn, the Easy arm offer most of the benefits (and none of the inherent finickiness or complexity) of radial tracking arms—specifically the characteristic of± vanishingly low angular tracking error, which the Easy holds to within ±0.4°.

Tone Tools Sprocket turntable & Dereneville DTT-02 radial-tracking tonearm

Tone Tools’ impressive Sprocket turntable, priced at €108,900, would have been noteworthy in its own right, but what really takes things over the top is the remarkable Dereneville DTT-02 electronically-controlled radial-tracking tonearm, priced at a stunning €120,000. The Dereneville is designed to eliminated the step-function-like, stop-go-stop-go motions to which some radial trackers are prone, instead using sophisticated arm tracking and motion-control technologies to ensure smooth, continuous arm motion that easily accommodates variations in groove pitch and can even handle those rare few records that are design to be played from the inner grooves outward (that’s right; the DTT-02 can play records in the normal outside-in direction, or vice versa, should the need arise).

What is more, the arm’s controls are designed so that users need never touch the tonearm proper or purposes of cueing or for position the stylus in the lead-in area at the beginning of a track. Plans are underway to give the arm capabilities for spotting inter-track spaces on a record, making it possible to program the arm to automatically play specific tracks on a disc.
 

VPI Avenger Reference-series turntable & Player Cliffwood-series turntable

VPI Industries President Mat Weisfeld is in the process of making sweeping changes in his firm’s product lines, two clear signs of which were seen at Munich. First, there was the new Avenger turntable, which serves as the first model in the firm’s Reference Line. The versatile Avenger can be configured in many different ways, with pricing ranging from USD$9000 to about USD$33,000, depending upon have liberally the options list is explored. Magnetic drive will be available on the Avenger.

At the other end of the pricing scale will be a new entry-level turntable, tentatively called the Player, which will serve as the centerpiece of VPI’s value-minded Cliffwood-series range (VPI turntables are manufactured in Cliffwood, New Jersey, USA). Final pricing for the Player is yet to be determined and several variations are envisioned, but an educated guess is that the basic Player could sell in the vicinity of USD$800, give or take a bit. 

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