Vertere Acoustics is a British high-end audio manufacturer whose founder and CEO is none other than the famous audio designer/entrepreneur Touraj Moghaddam, who also co-founded the firm Roksan. Moghaddam is among other things a veteran analogue audio design expert who helped create Roksan’s well-loved Xerxes and Radius turntables and also Roksan’s NIMA and SARA tonearms.
After departing from Roksan and founding Vertere, one of Moghaddam’s first acts was to develop and launch the spectacularly good (but also stratospherically expensive) Vertere RG-1 Reference Groove turntable and Reference Tonearm (hint: the arm alone costs more than both of my household vehicles combined!). Over time, however, Moghaddam eventually developed two (somewhat) less expensive analogue systems: SG-1 Super Groove turntable with SG-1 MkII tonearm and the even less costly MG-1 Magic Groove turntable, also with the SG-1 MkII arm. Moghaddam prefers calling all three of his analogue systems by an old-school yet elegantly descriptive moniker: record players.
From a performance standpoint, Vertere’s first three record players were winners, which comes as no surprise given that the SG-1 and MG-1 both shared design DNA with the cost-no-object RG-1. The catch, if there was one, involved the fact that even the least costly of these record players—namely the Magic Groove system—was still quite expensive and not by any stretch of the imagination an ‘entry level’ rig. Wisely, Moghaddam recognised Vertere had no product to meet the needs of serious music lovers who are either budget constrained or simply want an easy-to-set-up and almost ‘plug-n-play’ record player—one that would sound really good, but with a minimum of fuss, bother and tweaking. With precisely such prospective customers in mind Vertere set about creating the DG-1 Dynamic Groove turntable and tonearm, which was released late last year and is the subject of this review.
Vertere proudly states, ‘the DG-1 Dynamic Groove Record Player is our most affordable design; the easiest to set up and use, and also contains some of our most innovative thinking.’ They aren’t kidding. In its home country the DG-1 sells for £2,750 (thousands and thousands of pounds less than the next model up in the range), while in my home country the DG-1 sells for $3,895 (not exactly ‘entry level’, but also not wallet-crushingly expensive either). In order to achieve these price points while preserving Vertere’s sonic values, the Dynamic Groove represents an artful mixture of pre-existing and new-to-Vertere technical design ideas.
The DG-1 turntable uses a cleverly cost-reduced reiteration of design concepts drawn from Vertere’s upscale models. Thus, the design starts with a futuristic-looking plinth made of three layers of cast acrylic: black on top, clear in the middle and black again on the bottom. The plinth serves as the mounting point for the unit’s illuminated push-button-type on/off and speed control switch, the turntable’s user-selectable mood lighting (which causes the clear layer of the plinth to glow with soft white light when the DG-1 is plugged in), and the four-point silicon rubber isolation elements that go between the main plinth and a separate sub-plinth that carries the platter/main bearing and tonearm. Last but not least, the plinth provides integrated hinge attachment points for the DG‑1’s included non-resonant acrylic dust cover.
Beneath the plinth is a rectangular, tray-like steel chassis that houses the DG-1’s 24-pole synchronous motor, drive circuit, tone arm signal output jacks and ground connections, and three adjustable feet that support the turntable as a whole. Interestingly, the 24-pole precision synchronous motor is said to be the same as the one used for the RG-1, SG-1, and MG-1, but one that is controlled by an all-new circuit ‘derived from that developed for the flagship RG-1 Reference Motor Drive.’ In the RG-1, the motor controller gets its own outboard chassis separate from the turntable proper, but for the DG-1, says Vertere, ‘the advanced electrics have been designed down to a single microprocessor PCB, which is both addressable for precision setting during manufacture and programmable for future upgrades.’ In practice this means the motor and its control circuit are essentially a matched set that is tuned during manufacture for an absolute minimum of noise. Within the DG-1’s steel chassis, copper/stainless steel shielding protects the motor control PCB from unwanted interference.
The DG-1 uses a main bearing featuring a polished stainless steel spindle that rides in a brass housing on a ‘super precision tungsten carbide ball, avoiding the need for complex regimes of lubrication…’ Both the spindle and bearing housing are said to achieve concentricity, roundness and bore tolerances of < 5 Microns. Mounted atop the spindle flange is a comparatively thin but precision-machined aluminium platter plate whose topside features a PETG bonded record interface mat and whose underside features a cork/Neoprene/nitrile bonded resonance control disc. The platter is driven at its rim by a ‘bespoke silicon rubber drive belt for smoothness and durability’.