Although our reviews are existential in nature (“I feel…” rather than “it does…”), we do try to take the personal element out of the story behind the product, but this time, it’s difficult. You see, I’ve been at this audio reviewing lark for getting on for a quarter of a century and in that time there has been many a turntable gracing the Sircom shelves. And yet, despite its considerable importance over the last 25 years, simply due to the way the cards fell, I have never once spied a product from the turntable maker closest to me geographically – Roksan.
The Xerxes sits somewhere between suspended and solid turntables; its sub-chassis uses a series of blobs between it and the plinth and the plinth is decoupled from the sub-plinth by a series of anti-vibration mounts. In other words, rather than accepting the limitations of one of the two usual ways of making a turntable, Roksan did the lateral thinking thing and side-stepped the whole issue by going for decoupling and isolation.
Roksan has traditionally made some very smart decisions when it comes to sharing components across the line. So, while the Xerxes.20plus models look very different to the original Xerxes, Xerxes.10 or even Xerxes.20, there are a lot of common parts allowing both repairs and upgrades to be performed throughout the line. No, it’s not possible to take a 1985 turntable and end up with a 2013 turntable, but the unsullied Xerxes from 28 years ago is still a contender and with a few judicious tweaks can get very close to the 20plus’ performance.
Similarly, the power supply and phono stage are in common ‘Caspian’ cases, so there is no need for extra tooling for one case over another. This does mean the rear panel might have sections with blanked out socket holes, though. There is also a cheaper XPS 7 power supply.
When it comes to the .20plus, the most obvious upgrade came from trickling down the developments that went into the company’s former flagship turntable, the TMS3. After Touraj Moghaddam left (in what must be the least acrimonious company partner split in history), rising costs of making a limited run high-end deck and having a flagship named after the founder of a cable brand was not the most forward-thinking option, so the .20plus incorporated key elements from the TMS3, including the tungsten carbide bearing ball, inner and outer platter, mat and decoupler blobs. In the process, Roksan created a turntable that is said to get attain virtually all the TMS3 performance without the ‘should we remortgage the house?’ price tag. Roksan recommends the bearing ball, decouplers and mat as useful upgrades to existing .10 and .20 owners (the platter change is not recommended).
I got the complete package deal, featuring the latest version of the Xerxes deck with offboard Reference power supply, the Tabriz Zi arm (second in command to the Artemiz 2, but both share the same intelligent – underslung – counterweight concept) and Shiraz moving coil cartridge, the add-on upgrade plinth, even the Reference DXP SE phono preamp. This last has a set of DIP-switches on its underside to adjust cartridge loading and gain, and as the Shiraz is a relatively low output moving coil, take this step seriously.