Initially I had misgivings about the Nottingham’s always-on motor and kick-start platter, but once I heard the Space 294 in action I had to concede that it produced quieter backgrounds than any other turntable I’ve had in my home. In fact, the Space 294’s noise floor was so low that it became easy to discern minute variations in levels and textures of tape hiss and record surface noises. The Space 294 reveals that blank grooves on 1970s vintage Columbia discs typically exhibit more grit and grain than those on EMI discs of the same period. Similarly, the Nottingham shows how eerily silent the disc surfaces on Analogue Productions’ 45rpm LPs really are. The point is that the Space 294 is so quiet that it effectively removes itself from the playback equation; all you hear is the record, and nothing but the record.
Complementing the Space 294 is the Ace-Space 294 tonearm, which features a long-grain carbon-fiber arm tube and an underslung counterweight. Unlike most unipivot arms, the Ace-Space 294 does not use eccentric counterweights or side-weights of any kind for azimuth control. Instead, Nottingham says, the arm uses internal “stabilizer bars and tiny ball bearing chases to maintain azimuth,” with the bars and central pivot bearing both coated with a proprietary, highly viscous damping material that “does not flow and does not require ‘settling time’.” The arm also incorporates a so-called “in-line” headshell that features no finger lift and no offset, and is positioned directly in line with the arm tube. As a result the Ace-Space 294 arm exhibits minimal side-to-side rocking motion and requires little if any azimuth adjustment, at least with some cartridges.
Should azimuth tweaking be required, as was the case with the Shelter 7000 cartridge I used, another surprise awaits. Unlike tonearms whose headshells are made of one piece with the arm tube, the Ace-Space 294 provides a milled aluminum headshell that is coupled to its carbon-fiber arm tube via a tight but hand-adjustable press fitting. To fine-tune azimuth, users grasp the arm tube in one hand and the headshell in the other, then carefully rotate the headshell into the desired position. On paper this might sound somewhat imprecise, but in practice it works like a charm. This arm pays huge sonic dividends for those who take the time to get azimuth and vertical tracking angle properly dialed in. Though it takes a fair amount of trial and error to reach an optimal setup, the good news is that the Ace-Space 294 makes the effects of even minor adjustments easy to assess, so that when you reach the sonic “promised land” you’ll know it. And once that happens, here’s what you can expect.