As Mark Levinson is keen to point out the low-end capabilities of this turntable, I found one of my heaviest albums in Burnt Friedman and Jaki Liebezeit’s Secret Rhythms [Nonplace]. This 45rpm pressing of bass and percussion revealed that the No. 515 does indeed plumb the depths well; low drums in particular kick with a resounding thud and the percussive metal work zings into life. The resulting full bandwidth powerplay is highly entertaining and sofa-vibrating in equal measure. It could have a bit more of the reverb that the best turntables extract from this album, but the calm, powerful delivery is easy to enjoy. I went back to the Ortofon Cadenza at this point to see how close it could get and discovered a delivery with impressive extension and some genuinely 3D imaging. It didn’t have the charm of the pricier cartridge, but I have to say that the texture it found in bowed double bass and the stability it brought to lively passages was not unentertaining. Continued listening did little to undermine this impression with a clean and open sound that’s strong on instruments and gives voices a sense of ‘body’ in the room.
Mark Levinson makes the No. 515 with the company’s customer base in mind, and ML amplifiers now have seriously good phono stages onboard (which put paid to my suggestion that they make a stage that could fit under the plinth of this turntable). The opportunity to buy a matching record player will appeal to that base. For the rest of us, the No. 515 is a substantial turntable with many appealing qualities and a sound that is as physical as the record player itself. It would be interesting to contrast cartridges that you can get for the £2,000 premium for the Ortofon Cadenza Bronze to the turntable, This Ortofon is competent and revealing, but there may be alternatives that are a little easier to love, and the turntable is more than capable of handling a more up-market cartridge. But such things are often in the ear of the beholder so don’t discount it by any means.
Type: Full-size, AC-drive turntable with 10inch tonearm
Rotational Speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM
Supplied Tonearm Length(s): 10-inch
Drive Mechanism: Belt driven via AC synchronous motor. Triple belt drive
Speed Control: Electronic speed control
Platter Type: Solid aluminium with soft mat
Platter Weight: Not specified
Bearing Type: Hardened stainless steel shaft spinning in a phosphor bronze bushing
Plinth Configuration: Rigid plinth on Delrin and aluminium feet
Dimensions (H×W×D): 200 × 533 × 404mm
Price: £10,000 (turntable), £12,000 (inc Ortofon Cadenza Bronze)
Manufactured by: Harman International
Distributed in the UK by Arcam
Tel: +44(0)7917 685759