A couple of years ago, a cable company made a tonearm. That is interesting enough in its own right, but the tonearm it made cost £27,000, making it the most expensive production tonearm in history. Anyone who scratched the surface discovered the full story was not quite as insane as it first looked.
First, the arm was damn good. And the reason for that was the cable company was a relatively new brand called Vertere. Vertere was the brain-child of one Touraj Moghaddam, one of the founders and chief designer of Roksan, the makers of the Xerxes turntable, Artemis tonearm, and so on. Suddenly, the idea of a cable maker bursting onto the vinyl scene didn’t seem so mad.
Despite (the more cynical might say ‘because of’) the price, the Reference arm proved more of success than Touraj could have dreamed of, and those who heard what it could do began to ask if there could be a turntable that drew on Touraj’s years of deck-building, that offers something close to the same performance. The answer was, unsurprisingly, ‘yes’… but the Vertere concept also needed to be able to reach a less well-heeled vinylista. The result was the SG-1 turntable and arm, and the RG-1 turntable. This is possibly the best example of ‘trickle down’ seen in audio for some time; the success of the Reference arm helped ‘green light’ the turntable and lower cost arm projects.
Those who have followed Touraj’s turntable designs from the original Xerxes to the TMS 3 will see commonalities between the Roksan and Vertere designs, but the SG-1 and RG-1 we tested are not simply ‘me too’ rehashed designs of old. In both Vertere turntables, the plinth itself is a three-and-a-bit layer design, with 30mm clear acrylic upper and lower plinths, a 15mm clear acrylic mid-plinth, and a 25mm ‘sub-plinth’ (that practically everyone else would call a sub-chassis). These form a three-stage compliant and two-stage rigid system, with the turntable sitting on hard rubber/stainless steel adjustable feet, with 3mm acrylic disc stand-offs providing the rigid part, and a dozen decouplers (made of tuned silicone rings on bobbins) providing the compliance.
The difference between the two decks comes down to the bearing and the platter. Where the SG-1 has a single-piece platter with a 3mm acrylic disc as the interface between LP and platter, the RG-1 is a higher-mass two-piece aluminium alloy, machined to interference-fit tolerances, and placing much of the overall platter mass to the periphery for the best balance between weight and inertia. The bearing itself might be similar between the two decks, but the SG-1 uses a high copper phosphor bronze, while the RG-1 uses aerospace grade phosphor bronze model, and this spells a slight – 2.5micron – difference in tolerance in the RG-1’s favour. The mass of the platter also demands the difference in bearing, as the bigger platter would damage the SG-1 bearing. It would be possible – but not financially justifiable – to upgrade from SG-1 to RG-1 turntable.
Meanwhile the SG-1 arm (tested with the RG-1 turntable, not the SG-1 turntable… this could get confusing) is what Vertere calls a Tri-Point Articulated (TPA) bearing. Essentially, the bearing is made up of three silicon nitride balls forming an equilateral triangle below the stainless steel pivot point, all bonded into the aluminium yoke. This supports an underslung counterweight (which is also good for correcting azimuth) on an aluminium outrigger, and a carbon-fibre wrap armtube ending in a bonded machined aluminium alloy headshell, with a fine-tuning weight at between the headshell and the armbase. There are variations to be had with the SG-1 arm, and these befit the company’s cable background. You can go from base model (with standard cable a D-Fi wiring) to the full hand-built wiring rig, and this can add almost £6,500 to the price of a £1,800 arm, it’s no trivial consideration.
As a complete turntable/arm package, it’s not exactly cheap at anywhere between £19,735-£26,700 (depending on arm cable options), but it stands its ground with turntables that cost considerably more, and shows a clean pair of phono sockets to its rivals at or below the price. Just how good, and just how important this turntable proves to be… well, you’ll just have to wait. Those of you who are subscribers or UK print magazine readers will have access to the full review already. US readers will have to wait a month, and the online readership will have to wait a little longer still.
But, the Vertere turntable duo is worth the wait.
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