Brinkmann/Spiral Groove/TW Acustic Black Night...?


I'm seriously considering one of these turntables at the moment, and I would truly appreciate any opinions regarding them related to sonics, reliability, flexibility, ease of use & maintenance etc.

The candidates are:

- Brinkmann Balance anniversary (turntable, 10.5 tonearm, Ti-cartridge, tube power supply, HRS-platform)

- Spiral Groove SG1 + Centroid tonearm

- TW Acustic Black Night + Raven 10.5 tonearm

The price for these setups (used or new) are quite similar when adding a cartridge within the 4-5000$ price range to the Spiral Groove and TW Acoustic tables. But, I can get the Black Knight + Raven 10.5 tonearm new at about the same price as the others used.

I'm using the Brinkmann Bardo today, which I believe is a very neutral and reliable table. But, to some degree it doesn't manage to engage me enough emotionally being rather correct and slightly sharp around the edges. What I'm looking for in an upgrade is first and foremost a more generous and musical presentation (warmth, scale, texture, body, flow) - more music and less hifi if you wish.

My taste in music is varied, but I tend to optimize my system based on what I listen to the most (sing- and songwriters), which means that the handling of voices, acoustical instruments and piano are critical.

So far, my gut feeling tells me that the TW Acoustics Black Night might be the answer partnered with the right cartridge.

Of the three, only the Brinkmann Balance is available locally for audition.

My phono is the Zanden 1200 MKIII. The rest of the system consists of an Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse (preamp), Karan KA M2000 (monos) and Sonus Faber Futura (speakers). Cabling is Nordost Valhalla (power) + Kubala Sosna Elation (interconnects).

Any inputs are most welcome!
Sidekick i,

The TW will initially "sound" more like real music but that image will fade fairly quickly!
The Spiral Groove and arm will be the best of the three for reasons of musicality, pace,timing and accuracy.

That said, the cartridge itself will be the final arbiter as to the ease or harshness of the sound.

The S.G. is Allen.s twenty year plus labor of love and as such is built compact,complete and refined!

At 4 to5k you have a wonderful selection of cartridge's available...Pick the cartridge first THEN the tt...:-)

I've heard both the Balance and Bardo at a NYC show last year and the guy from the dealer who spun the LPs kept returning to the Balance. It did sound more natural to me. The Brinkmanns used to be demoed on HRS platforms, but now I think the dealers prefer showing them on Vibraplane platforms. I think the isolation is better.

I've also heard the Black Night at the same show in another room. The systems sounded very different, though I could not determine what the turntables were contributing to the sound.

In general, the TW rooms have sounded warmer, fuller and less tonally balanced than the Brinkmann rooms, but that could be a result of all sorts of things.
Taste is always different, but check the speed ability first from your choices before you do a serious investment. Some are really out of 33.3, some ignore that, because they like this kind of Pace, Rhythm and Timing. A Timeline from Sutherland can be a wake up call :-).
Same for Tonearm Geometry, some can handle demanding tracks better than others.
Good tables have no "sound", they spin a record correctly and that's it. Based on design some have a better frequency area than others. On a top System you get the emotion from the records, each one will show you something new, even with music you didn't like before.
But when you are not interested in digging a bit deeper, Linn LP12 is famous for midrange pushing, when you want foot whippin' with Schubert Chamber Orchestra, Ravens are generally a good ticket for that, Cheap (more or less) and good is Oracle Turntable with a Triplanar Arm...there are a lot of choices.
Anyway, I would be careful with "recommendations" for blind buy, when you are willing to invest a few thousand $, a personal visit, Dealer or Private owner, will be cheap at the end of day. I listened to many very expensive rigs, the majority of owners told and wrote me the most beautiful things about diving into music, at the end I asked for mercy and was glad coming home without deep depressions. But, that's me. And sometimes you can learn something. Not everything today is done the way you expect for the thousands of Dollars you want to spend :-)
Black Night is the best sounding best made out of the 3.They are all wonderful tables.You should hear them all and make the final decision.
I have a spiral groove sg2 with the tri-planar and I am smitten. Great prat and very musical. Just how vinyl should sound.
Brinkmann Bardo has such good reviews, there was another thread on Bardo versus Oasis, so the direct drive did not suite your taste? I was wondering because the reviews are so favorable, and the direct drive system reasonably unique.

I know the Bardo well, and I've also heard the Balance at the Scandinavian distributor of Brinkmann on two occasions. I believe the Balance to deliver more authority and weight, but being a belt-drive design (compared to the direct-drive of the Bardo), there might be other differences in the presentation as well (which are hard to isolate as the Balance were a part of another system totally).

The TW-tables are most certainly different animals. Based on the testimonals of many owners, the attributes (warmer, fuller etc. - as you describe) might be close to what I'm looking for.


Thanks for valuable advice. I will listen to all tables of course, but I won't be able to try them out in my own system (which is logistically impossible). Buying used means I'm willing to take some risks, potentially passing the table on if things don't work out. Sometimes that's the only way forward for an audiophile with a passion for the slight exotic living in the northern hemisphere :)


Yes, the cartridge may have the most significant impact compared to the table and arm. Harshness/hardness = listening fatigue = less musical enjoyment is (still) my biggest challenge. A change in turntable setup will most certainly only be a part of the solution. I've been working with my room acoustics, speaker positioning, tube rolling etc. for quite some time, and things are slowly moving in the right direction.

I love the compactness and elegance of the Spiral Groove. Refined indeed.


Well, I have to admit I'm a sucker for the design and craft behind the Black Knight...


In the end, there will always be a rather high degree of gambling involved when choosing new gear as you will never know for sure how things will work out in your system (especially in the long run). Anxiety and thrill goes hand in hand :)

Thanks guys!
@Captain_winters. Well, I guess it's a matter of system matching and personal preferences. The Brinkmann setup is very revealing (which can be a very good or a not so good thing...). I find it hard to really relax and enjoy about 70-80% of my music collection at the moment, which I'm now trying to adress. My analogue front end is probably only one part of the problem.
Dear Sidekick_i: The Azjake advise+++++ " the cartridge itself will be the final arbiter " +++++

seems to me critical ( obviously that the final arbitrer will be you... ) and along that cartridge the next three links in the analog chain are IMHO more critical an important that the TT it self: tonearm, phono stage ( IMHO tube electronics technology , any, is the worst alternative/choose to fulfil the cartridge music needs. ) and where the LP is " seated " in the TT platter ( normally a TT mat. This mat is more important that what we can think. ).

So, IMHO as important as is the TT as more critical are those analog front end subjects.

Maybe could be time that you think again if what your audio system needs is a new TT, maybe you are the one that ask for a new TT.

Anyway, there are several alternatives to improve the quality performance level of your audio system, choose it with care gives you the best rewards.

Regards and enjoy the music,

"IMHO tube electronics technology , any, is the worst alternative/choose to fulfil the cartridge music needs."

Blanket statement, wouldn't you say?

So in your oh so humble opinion, why would you conclude that? AND what so called solid state phono pre's would you recommend (regardless of cost)?
Interesting choices for you to ponder !
As a happy and more than satisfied TW AC Black Night owner with a tube phono , I can only commend you on your impressive short list. These are all outstanding TTs. There are sooo many variables in analog( that adds to the fun/ frustration) that I am a wee bit sceptical about most dealer demos. For example how many dealers will optimally align a cart using a Mint LP protractor in a showroom enviroment.
Ideally, try and listen in a friends system. The time/money invested on travel is worthwhile considering the cost of the rig etc .The TT at best will provide a solid foundation/ platform for a good tone arm and cartridge.
I am not sure about your take on pricing. The TW BN was $40 k sans arm.
Each make/model has its detractors and die hard lobbyists on most forums so its not easy to pick a consensus candidate.
Best of luck on your journey

Very interesting choices indeed ;)

Well, I can quite easily audition the Balance and Spiral Groove SG2 locally (maybe even within my own system). But, I need to travel to audition the TW Acustic AC...and I will probably need to travel half way across Europe to be able to audition the Black Knight unfortenately.
You are welcome to visit my den. If you are comfortable with cattle class it will cost you less than $1.5k. Small change compared to a 50 k investment on a TW BN -:)
All the best

Thanks for the invitation. I'll think about it :)

I will not buy anything on this level "unheard" of course. The purpose of a thread like this is mainly to get an overall impression of the products at hand. Reliability issues, bad customer service etc. could exclude potential candidates on an early stage - which is something I would need to consider as well, besides sonic merits.
The brinkmann emt needs about 330 pf capacitive loading or it will sound too sharp and cold. The brinkmann phono stages have this built in
Happy owner of SG 1.1 and centroid. And Mr. Perkins is a wonderful human being. Very customer focused and goes the extra mile to make sure Spiral Groove owners are happy and taken care of. This means a lot to me. When buying an expensive turntable, having the master/expert/head of the company personally overseeing your table (even if bought used) is a big deal. And owning three high end tables including the AMG v12, the Spriral Groove (with Goldfinger Statement) is the most accurate and big wide open sound like being at a live event.
Sort of what Raul is saying, the platform on which the TT sits is a major factor in getting everything from your TT. I can't imagine the Bardo not being engaging. I have heard it many times at shows and have always admired the table. Cartridge set up, the cartridge choice, and a really good platform are where I would look. Btw, is your cartridge loaded correctly and do you have enough gain to support it with the Zanden?regardless of how much cash you spend on your analog front end, you will always need to fulfill all the other factors for successful performance.
I owned the Bardo and the only way it performs when it was on a Vibraplane (Dealer disclaimer) otherwise it was not engaging at all. When I sold the Bardo the customer also placed it on a Vibraplane and is very happy. The reason I sold the table was how Brinkmann treated it's past dealers after they let go On A Higher Note their USA distributor. Personally would never buy from a company that treated their dealers the way they handled the situation.

(Dealer disclaimer)

Sour grape! Stop it! It is not professional as a dealer to keep attacking the manufacturer. Be a professional and just. . . LET . . . IT . . . GO !

You've been doing that on another forum too. It does NOT make you look good!

I like to hear things like this. It reflects bad on the manufacturer not the dealer IMHO.
Dealers tell all, keep us informed.
I own a Brinkmann Oasis that I bought used. My screw-down clamp developed a problem. After my local dealer was utterly unhelpful, I contacted Brinkmann directly. Helmut was exceedingly gracious and sent me replacement parts free of charge. I wish all high-end manufacturers were so responsive.

Now, I don't know the details of Brinkmann's decision to change his U.S. distribution. Clearly, he determined that the old system wasn't working. The dealer I contacted wasn't working at all. Sometimes dealers make their own beds and then whine about being short-sheeted.
Spiral Groove is the only one which can be called a serious design. The other alternatives are toys for boys.
Syntax, could you please be more specific about why you think Spiral Groove is the only serious design? Thanks.
We have the Bardo and Balance in our store and I have listened to them both extensively. IMO the Bardo sounds like a really good table (and it is) the Balance just disappears, leaving a black canvas for the music to emerge from - it is ethereal... Quiet, dense and engaging.

Dealer disclaimer, but those are my honest feelings.
Kwb, The Balance is belt drive, correct? I've heard both of those in the same system and I agree with your observations.

I'm curious. As a dealer, do you recommend any form of isolation under the Brinkmann tables? I heard them under Vibraplanes, and I have a Vibraplane under my SME. I think some serious attempt at isolating these tables can make a very big improvement to their performance. Thanks.
I am obviously not KWB, but the BRINKMAN BALANCE is not a DD. Belt drive, and a very good one at that. Had one a few years ago, did move on though. Now using a PBN AUDIO GROOVE MASTER DD, which is essentially a highly modded VPI DD.

Hi Peter, yes the Brinkmann table being a mass loaded design benefits greatly from an isolation base. Brinkmann recommends HRS and I have also heard the table on top of a Vibraplane Both sounded very good, not sure which I preferred - I need to hear them again side by side which I plan on doing soon.