Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The new table search starts

I've had it with my Aries. It can make great music once set up well (and boy, was this a learning curve the end of which I am delighted to reach) but it's out of its depth now with the rest of my rig. Further, I think now I just don't care for the JMW unipivot, it's too fiddly for my set-it-forget-it disposition. I mean, lift it up in a hurry at the end of a side and you risk throwing the azimuth out. Yes, the player spins well and always makes me feel like I can enjoy the music but I feel disinclined to spend more an a top cartridge until I feel the rest is as good as I can get it.

Now, the process of buying a new table is a real index of the state of audio retailing. The dealer network is sparse, home trials are impossible, yet the strength of user opinion online is through the roof. Here's what I've learned so far:

1) Every table has a fan and a dismisser. Some fans and dismissers have never heard the table in question.
2) There is no import tax on any overseas made turntable under current US regulations -- someone ask Sumiko to explain their prices here please since a new SME from the UK can be bought for less than the price of some used offerings here
3) Grown men get very heated over arm lengths and alignment geometries
4) Some people believe idler drive designs from decades ago outperform modern belt-drive tables but science seems to be unable to determine the veracity of such claims, either way. Even if it could, I doubt it would change some people's minds.
5) It's not clear why some tables costs thousands of dollars more than others.While one can envisage this being true in software based systems where it can be hard to see what went into the design, you might imagine that a physical artifact would reveal its quality to our senses directly.
6) Table companies don't seem unduly bothered by any of the above points and they have few ideas on how to make the situation better.



Anonymous said...

Well I am in the middle of my search, although it feels like I have only just begun. I think turntable search is the most difficult quest for an audiophile. What kind of cartridge is on it, when you hear the turntable, does it match the tonearm, how much brings the tonearm into the equation, how much the tonearm cable, what about the turntable stand, what about the motor supply (lots of upgrade potential here), what about the phono pre which is used. What about the rest of the system? I have heard the same table sounding absolutely awesome and sounding like an ugly duck (other cartridge, other tonearm, one table was matched to a system I really didnt like...).
And because tables are so fiddly no dealer will lend you one over the weekend.
Hope you make the right decision.
All the best from Berlin

PatrickD said...

Thanks Claude -- let us know what you end up doing too. I added a new phono stage first and it's given the Aries a new lease of life so my search is stretching out but am leaning to either an SME or Avid table with an SME arm, love the solidity of their work.