Munich High End 2017 – Analogue Sources

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Categories:
Turntables,
Cartridges,
Tonearms,
Record-cleaning machines,
Turntable set-up tools

Best Analogue Sound of Show

AudioSilente Blackstone Reference turntable & BlackSilent tone arm

The Italian firm AudioSilente has long been a proponent of super high-quality idler-wheel drive turntables in the vein of certain classic designs from Lenco and Thorens) as evidenced first by AudioSilente’s original Blackstone turntable and now by the even more ambitious Blackstone Reference turntable (€39,000). Please understand that these are not ordinary idler-wheel designs, but rather turntables that execute the idler-wheel concept with aerospace-like precision and with attention to detail that makes the turntable drive mechanism seem more than a little like a fine mechanical Swiss watch writ large.

Accordingly, the thick triangular plinth of the Blackstone Reference is formed from “isostatic graphite HDG” (a very high density form of graphite that looks, well, like a slab of black stone, only better), wear components are made from precision ground and chrome plated casehardened steel, rotating parts are made of machined aluminium and then balanced, the 8kg platter is fashioned from brass and bronze with an isostatic graphite HDG sub-platter, the main spindle bearing is made of oil-pre-preg sintered bronze and milled to almost ridiculous tolerances (0.005mm!), both spindle and pulley bearings rest on grade 3 ceramic ball bearings (with ruby bearings as an option), and power is supplied by a very high-torque Pabst motor with speeds controlled by a Quartz-oscillator equipped electronic control system that promises speed accuracy of 99.9998% with a 50% reduction in motor speeds vis-à-vis competing designs. Capping things off is Audiosilente’s 13.5-inch Black Silent tone arm (also available in a 10-inch version with graphite arm tube.

The upshot is a turntable/tone arm combination that is extraordinarily quiet, offers authoritative pitch stability, and that supplies an unfailingly solid foundation against which the music can unfold. There is a subtle but pervasive sense of confidence and self-assuredness about the AudioSilente turntable, as if it is incapable of being flustered by anything short of a bomb blast and will never put a foot wrong. It’s a great turntable that bears further watching and listening.

SME 30/12 turnable and tone arm

After being away from the Munich show for roughly 27 years, the great British analogue audio company SME was back with a purpose. The SME stand featured a static display highlighting not only current SME turntable and tonearms models, but also including a glass “Wall of Fame” case featuring a display of SME’s greatest analogue products from the past.

But the best part of the stand featured an inner demo room where SME has set up a system featuring its flagship Model 30/12 turntable, Nagra electronics, and YG Acoustics Sonya 1.3 floorstanding loudspeakers. For those not familiar with the SME 30/12, it is in essence an uprated version of the firm’s Model 30/2 turntable, but one geared specifically for use with the flagship SME V-12 (12-inch) tonearm. The 30/12 is not a new turntable/tonearm system, but it is without a doubt one of the world’s finest—as was made very clear during the brief listening session I was able to enjoy. The SME/Nagra/YG Acoustics system sounded—in a word—“magnificent”, with levels of transparency, dynamic expression, and all-round quietude that rather forcefully reminded me of what a great record playing machine SME’s 30/12 really is. While the new and now has a certain fascination, the 30/12 reminds us, as the old saying goes, that “sometimes the old ways are best”.

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