Thales TTT-Slim II, Simplicity II, X-quisite CA turntable, arm and cartridge
Setting up the Simplicity II arm is eased by the provision of a counterweight that’s designed for this cartridge but what’s unusual about Thales twin arm arrangement is that it doesn’t inherently provide the same tracking weight at all points across the record. You need to check both inner and outer downforces and rotate the rearmost part of the counterweight to compensate; it was necessary to turn it such that the mass was entirely on the inside to offset higher downforce at the centre of the record. I also used the azimuth adjustment to make the cartridge vertical above the platter. The platter itself is covered with a smooth rubber-like material and this combined with the optional non-threaded clamp ensures that the vinyl is well damped.
The sound reflects this to some extent with a darker balance than average but one that has plenty of scope for delivering energy and solidity of sound. It has an appealingly unflappable quality that suggests it will cope with whatever is thrown at it, what you get is no more intense or aggressive than the recording requires and that is not something that all turntables can achieve. It also gives a sense of inky black backgrounds that allow the tonal character of instruments and voices to stand out.
Live recordings are delivered with a strong sense of scale and image depth and the better studio productions can sound superb. Joni Mitchell’s Mingus [Asylum] being one clear example where everything sounded spot on, the voice stood out with beautiful tone and nuance and it felt as if you could hear right into the studio. Making it particularly easy to appreciate the efforts of the various top-notch musicians Mitchell gathered for this project; Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine being the best known but even the percussion playing is in the top flight. All of this is revealed by the way that this Thales record player shows you not only what and how each note is created but, equally important, ensures that those notes stop and start precisely and allow what artists call the negative space, the quiet between notes to be clarified as well. I forgot to put the clamp on initially with this album so got to hear the way it solidifies the bass and adds definition to leading edges when it’s added. On some turntables clamps are not always beneficial but here it brings obvious increases in resolution.
Bass is a strong point on the Thales. The low-end is both solid and particularly articulate. I often play a hi-res digital version of ‘The Drycleaner from Des Moines’ on a streamer and digital usually has advantage in the bass but this record player made it clear that vinyl can compete in this arena where there is fine detail to be extracted from an analogue recording. Tonal character is usually an area where good turntables excel and that’s certainly the case here, on Conjure’s ‘Skydiving’ [Music For The Texts Of Ishmael Reed, American Clavé] instruments like congas really pop out of the speakers and there is strong contrast between the various horns, guitars and sounds in this rich mix with all elements getting to occupy a space in the soundstage. This is relatively easy with smaller ensembles but the Thales can do it with larger bands too.
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