Prog 56: Gear

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Welcome to Prog’s debut gear column, where we hope to take you through the murky world of buying hi-fi gear without falling foul of a shop assistant disdainfully intoning “Gram-O-phone” or querying “D’you want Dolby with it?” So we got hi-fi expert Ashley Norris in to tell us. Each issue we’ll be looking at a specific item of audio gear, guiding you through an entry level, mid-range and high-end option in order to make your own choices that little bit easier. And we’ll never ask you, “D’you want a bag on your head!?” This issue, with the advent of the newly launched vinyl chart, we turn our attention to turntables…

Pro-Ject 2 Xperience SB DC £1049.00

After hearing the Pro-Ject 2 Xperience hooked up to several thousand pounds worth of pre and power amps and high end speakers, it was tough to go back to the budget decks. Listening to I Know What I Like on it felt as though Gabriel and co were playing right in the room. There is a level of detail that the budget models can’t match. To make a fair comparison, we plugged the deck, which has some useful high-end features, like being able to digitally ensure that the speed is 100% accurate, to the same system as the other two and it still sounded like a huge leap on. Much of that is down to the heavy MDF plinth (the base of the player) which is ultra solid and ensures that as the high-end Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge glides across the vinyl, the sound isn’t compromised by unwanted vibrations. If you really love music and have a few grand knocking around, then give this a listen.

NAD C556 £249.99

There are a few reasonable quality turntables on sale for less than £249, but if you want to make the most of your vinyl collection, this is the place to start. It’s fairly basic; for example, if you want to change the speed from 33 to 45 RPM, you have to lift up the platter and tweak the rubber band. The reason why the NAD is special is that the company have put build quality first, and this is a rock solid player. Easy to setup and use – though it should be added there’s no phono stage so if your amp is a recent model and doesn’t have a phono input you might need to add of these – the NAD delivered a great performance with lots of detail and a lower end (bass) that was tight and controlled, unlike a lot of budget decks. Definitely a great place to start.

Flexson VinylPlay £329.00

Flexson bills this striking deck as a digital turntable. In otherwords, it is optimised to act as the vinyl heart of a streaming audio system. This model works well with the SONOS system and can be connected to the SONOS PLAY:5 speaker, or into a SONOS CONNECT. In fact it can be paired with any speaker on the SONOS network, or any powered speaker. There’s no need for a phono stage here as it is already built in. It is beautifully made with lots of attention lavished on the build. The acoustic intro of Anathema’s A Natural Disaster had a real presence through this, with lots of detail. Sonically though the lower frequencies on I Know What I Like sounded a little looser than the NAD, but the differences between the turntables was fairly minimal. Both offer excellent value for money.

PROG CONCLUSION

If you want a budget deck, then the NAD is the place to start. It had a slight edge in terms of sound quality over the Flexson and is cheaper, too – though don’t forget you might need to factor in a few quid for phono stage. If you want a no fuss, easy to install and use turnable, then the Flexson has your name on it. Though to get the most out of it, be careful which components you team it up with. If money really is no object, the Pro-Ject 2 Xperience SB DC is the one. Its industrial strength build quality ensures that the vibrations won’t affect the performance of the player. It needs to be teamed up with high-end quality speakers and a decent amp to really sing, though. Better start saving!

Sponsored by http://www.sevenoakssoundandvision.co.uk