The Remarkably Similar Sonics of Most High-End Turntables

[This was originally written early this year (with some minor editing in the last few minutes to make less incorrect my English) but was not posted at that time after seeing the Postive Feedback review of the Walker that appeared simultaneously with the writing of this post – making it seem too weird, if not plain redundant, to have yet another piece on this turntable. But since we are discussing these very same reviews and turntable below – maybe it is time to finally get this out of my drafts folder (I have been seeing it for the last 10 months or so, every single time I post anything on this blog… :-))].

There was a lot of chattering and hoopla’ing about the $90K Continuum turntable that was shown at CES 2006.

Then there was more skuttlebutt when Mike Fremer decided to buy one for himself.

Steve Hoffman’s Forum

Romy’s Forum

And now a rumor that Mike Lavigne wants to sell his $70K Sirius III and get one too?

Well, far be it from us to be against people spending lots of money on audio equipment… 🙂 but this is all so strange as we were really underwhelmed by the sound of the Continuum at CES 2006, and I was also underwhelmed by it at HE 2005 (though Neli liked the system there well enough). [P.S. We also later gave the Peak Consult / Berning / Continuum room at HE 2006 best of show, and, though we were still underwhelmed by the table, they had setup a very nice system there]

After CES we both kept saying to each other “what is going on? The Continuum seemed no better than our $20K Brinkmann!”.

At first I thought that I just did not have the experience to pick out the sound of these turntables in a system – even though I can pick out the sound of a digital player fairly well. I mean – $90K – it has to be great, right? But then I remembered what the Walker sounds like in unfamiliar systems. I have always been able to hear what IT is doing.

Then we thought about an even more outlandish idea: that most of the turntables in the $20K+++ range sound a LOT alike.

Then I read on Romy’s site that he is thinknig along the same lines:

The Foolishness of Analog People

What does ‘a lot alike’ mean?

It means that the difference in sound between a component and another is less than or equal to the difference caused by adding or removing a tweak in the system.

But some components out there are different, they do not sound like others and stick out as being something special. For example: Let’s talk about CD Players.

[Let’s not. But you might imagine this could get us all into a lot of trouble – even though the three brands of players we have here all do something special – many out there do not]

It is like Romance novels or Science Fiction movies – one person has a good idea and then a 1000 people copy it.

One might argue that sounding generic is a good thing. And this argument might be interesting.

We chose to carry the Brinkmann turntable because of the exceptional build quality, ease of use, attactive and streamlined appearance, and excellent support network. And, of course, how it sounds.

And as far as value goes – its sonic quality, at $20K, is in the same class, based on all the systems we have heard so far, as the Continuum, $80K Blue Pearl, $75K Vyger, and also the Sirius III if MikeL really thinks the Continuum is better. In fact, I think a really tweaked out VPI TNT is in this sonic class. Sorry.

OK, I can here you thinking out there. Mike Fremer had the Brinkmann, and now has the Continuum, and he says that the 5 times more expensive turntable really sounds better. Well, I am one of the few people who thinks Mike does indeed have ears. But. But his room is broken and his system is broken. What sounds optimal in his environment may not, in general, be optimal outside his environment. Also, as a reviewer, he has other motivations. Nothing sinister or anything – but he is a professional and needs to think about his readers and his career.

If you really want to know the truth, the only turntable we have heard that generates an immediate response of ‘Now THAT is Analog’, no matter what system it is in, is the Walker Procenium Gold turntable.

Now, I hesitate to say that. Lord knows Lloyd Walker does not need more encouragement :-). And we shivver to think we are adding to the overwhelming wealth of disturbingly unbalanced copy on the Walker line on both the Positive Feedback and 6moons sites.

And, like everything else, the Walker does have its issues.

But we have to say it, if you really want something that actually sounds better than anything else out there, that can’t just be achieved by a new cartridge or vibration control device or a better interconnect….then get a Walker.

It is not that there is anything wrong with the megabuck tables that I can see. Someday we may even carry the Blue Pearl or Continuum. They are quite beautiful and impressive.

Let’s put it like this: There is a lot, Lot, LOT more difference between most $20K speakers and most $90K speakers than most $20K turntables and most $90K turntables.

Unless it is the Walker.

Yeah, that is what we wanted to say. Maybe I should just delete the rest?