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Known as phonographs, gramophones, record players, or turntables, the altar of the dark vinyl disc has enjoyed a popular revival in recent years. However, for audiophiles, vinyl records have remained a constant presence. Over the years, a small handful of companies have been quietly toiling away to push the boundaries of turntable design – in some cases producing incredible products that are rarely seen outside of the occasional electronics show or audiophile home. Some consider the pursuit of perfect analogue reproduction to be insane given vinyl’s inherent flaws. But can an art form ever be truly perfected?
Pondering that question, we have scoured the industry for the most artistic and beautiful examples of the iconic turntable, which are manufactured in all corners of the globe. Each example is designed with perfect sound reproduction in mind and cost as no object. They are the culmination of countless hours of research, development, and design efforts, borne of an obsession with the ultimate goal of experiencing pure music.
Take a spin with these examples and decide for yourself.
The Statement is certainly not hard on the eyes. Its otherworldly frosted acrylic platter rises from the cleanly machined metal tower like a futuristic power source, spinning at the perfect speed and waiting for the rectangular structure above to drop its stylus into the groove. The Statement will set you back US$170,000 (S$242,000), but you can be confident that you are getting the very best the venerable German manufacturer has to offer, including components that NASA used on the Mars Rover. The turntable offers impeccable speed control, a massive weight balancing the bearing at the bottom, and instant speed correction if any drag is detected on the platter.
2. AAS Gabriel
Brand: DaVinvi Audio
Analogue playback is a precise art. To that end, it makes sense to trust Swiss manufacturing when selecting a turntable for your exacting audio playback needs. The AAS Gabriel from DaVinciAudio meets those needs and looks good doing it, coming in a variety of automotive colours, including Ferrari Rosso Corsa and Aston Martin Onyx Black. The bearing is magnetic, and the platter is damped to eliminate resonances. It can accommodate up to four tone-arm bases, but a basic rig with two tone-arm bases and one tone are Grand Reference VIRTU will set you back around US$80,000 (S$113,910).
3. Artus FMD
What has six legs, weighs 220kg, and will set you back about US$130,000 (S$185,000)? The Artus FMD, the top-of-the-line reference offered by Transrotor, whose design philosophy promises to reproduce music with no “colouration" to the sound – meaning the equipment used does not add any discernable change to the music. The Artus FMD (free magnetic drive) features a Cardanic suspension on a gimbal that works similar to a gyroscope, so it can remain level regardless of the subfloor it is placed on, with no interruption of music. This masterpiece of German engineering is machined from solid billets of high-quality aluminium and is sure to live up to its musical promises thanks to its total isolation of the platter from the motor.
4. Ultimate LE
Brand: Triangle Art
The Triangle Art Ultimate LE lives up to its moniker in many ways. It is especially ultimate in heft, as the entire turntable weighs in at 385kg, with the platter itself a solid 45kg metal component. It is no surprise that it is also ultimate in sonic quality. The Ultimate LE is called the most stable turntable in the world due to its sheer mass and exceptional hydrodynamic oil-fed bearing. The gleaming gold and chrome tower is designed to support two tone-arms and stands 135cm tall. The Ultimate LE is priced at US$129,000 (S$183,700) and is a worthy centrepiece for any analogue audio collection.
5. Black Diamond V
Brand: Walker Proscenium
Classic and timeless, the quintessential granddaddy of all high-end turntables is the Walker Proscenium Black Diamond V (about US$110,000 / S$156,630). Affixed to a 27kg lead platter and driven on an effortless, frictionless air-bearing with a linear-tracking tone-arm also based on an air-bearing design, the Black Diamond is considered by many to be the pinnacle of analogue production. Its sharp piano-black styling and gold accents harken to the steam-engine glamour of the roaring ’20s. Those who have heard one should count themselves lucky, and those who own one will probably never need to purchase another turntable in their lifetime.