Nottingham Audio Space Deck Review

Analog is dead, long live analog! I feel compelled to write this review about the Nottingham Analog Space Deck. Vinyl is approaching extinction and I feel morally obligated to do my share of spreading the analog gospel to delay its impending doom. When CD was introduced, I was one of the very first ones to jump on the bandwagon. Dumped my turntable and bought the most expensive CD player I could afford. After a few weeks, the grim reality started to sink in - the sound sucked! The industry lied. The CD medium was not perfect as it was purported to be. It was seriously flawed. I realized this upon hearing the first CD I played, "Morning Dance" by Spiro Gyra. The soundstage shrunk, imaging collapsed and Beckenstein's sax lost its impact and metallic luster. The simmer and ethereal quality of the cymbals on "RASUL", cut 3, side 1, turned into slush and grit. The musicians lost their souls to the digital incubus! Off the bandwagon I went and back to analog! Whew! Bought a used Rega Planar 3, a new Monster Cable Alpha 2 and I was back in business and never looked back. Pardon me for getting side-tracked; now back to the subject of this review, the Space Deck!

I've been bitten by the upgrade bug a number of times and have gone through a number of superb turntables; Well Tempered, SOTA, VPI and Clearaudio to name a few. In my humble opinion and experience, none of these well-regarded disk spinners hold a candle to the Space Deck when it comes to overall musical satisfaction. First a disclaimer: I haven't heard the multi-kilobuck candidates, such as the top-of-the-line Basis, Walker Audio, Clearaudio or VPI. The Space Deck is the first reasonably priced turntable that fooled me, even only for a few precious seconds, that I was back in Carnegie Hall, cavorting and applauding with the rest of the audience, cheering good ol' Harry Belafonte. On his Live at Carnegie Hall double album, side 3, first cut, "MAMA LOOK A BOO BOO*", when the orchestra and horns go full tilt, watch out!!! The soundstage was so wide and holographic, it enveloped me; the trumpet blasts in the middle of the song was so powerful and frighteningly real, it scared me shitless! None of the aforementioned tables, save the Space Deck, have reproduced this cut in such a realistic manner. Another prime example is Gene Ammons' "BOSS TENOR**", side 1, first cut, "Hittin' the Jug". When Gene enters after a few bars, the smoothness and jaw-dropping sonority of his sax will mesmerize and leave you breathless. The Space Deck's noise floor is so low, you can hear every inflection and subtle cue. Heck, you can even hear his lips moving around the sax's doggoned mouthpiece! Again, I have never heard this effect before with the other tables. Reproduction of the middle frequencies is also world-class and supremely natural. Listen to Allison Krauss crooning "New Favorite***", if you don't get a stiffy, then you're either a comatose or your last name is Bobbit!

To extract the last iota of performance from your Space Deck, you must do the following:

a. Replace the stock mat with Boston Audio's Mat 1 - this graphite composite mat significantly improved the table's transparency. It also elevated the deck's performance closer to its much more expensive sibling, the HYPERSPACE.

b. Go to your nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond Store and get the 2 1/2" chopping board, made of Canadian maple. Replace the stock base with the chopping board. This tweak will solidify the bass and extend frequency response. If you want, you can have the chopping block repainted to enhance visual appeal. I had mine refinished and painted "PIANO BLACK". Wow!

c. Do not skimp on the tonearm and cartridge. You can't use Big Moe's Mark IV Bamboo Shoot tonearm and expect sonic bliss. I am presently using a modified Silver 250 from Origin Live and a Shelter 901. Tonearm was modified by installing the HIFI Stabilzer Mod by the venerable Mr. Tom Lyons. That's "TWL" to you Audiogoners! This mod, in my opinion, catapulted the Silver 250's performance to the superarms level. It removed a significant amount of sonic muck and really let the Shelter strut its stuff! No need for me to further expound on the virtues of the Shelter. You all know it's an exemplary performer.

d. You must find a way to tighten the screws on the adjustable feet. Find some nuts that will fit the screws and tighten them against the base after leveling the table. Doing this will eliminate the microspic wobbling that muddies up the sound. Now you are ready to play!

I love the contemporary looks of the Nottingham. It may not have the Swiss quality craftsmanship of an SME, but hey, it costs a lot less and its performance is competitive with the best. If you decide to get this table, make sure you are getting the latest version - the one with the thicker platter. The pictures you see in most their ads are those of the older version. You can distinguish the older version by checking the platter. The older version has a thinner platter with only one rubber ring around the edge. The platter of the latest version is thicker with 2 rubber rings.

Now is the best time to get into analog. Most treasured recordings from the Golden Age of analog are now being remastered using the best vinyl formulations and the finest mastering equipment. I'm glad I'm still here to enjoy it at its zenith!

So there you go, my premier equipment review. Hope I made a few converts. English is not my native language, so please excuse the misspellings and grammatical errors.

Associated Equipment:

Audio Synthesis Pro-Passion
Sonic Frontiers Phono One
Cary Audio Design CAD 280SA "V12"
Dynaudio Contour 1.3SE

Records Used during Evaluation:

*Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, RCA Victor, LSO-6006, Reissued by Classic Records (200 Gram, Quiex SV-P)
**Boss Tenor, Gene Ammons, Prestige 7180, Reissued by Analog Productions, 45 RPM, 180 Gram Vinyl.
***New Favorite, Alison Krauss + Union Station, Diverse Records, DIV 001LP, German Pressing
My name is Jo and my primary hobby is cleaning records.

Well done Aisip,I felt the same about CD.
I only had a chance to introduce myself to CD after 10 years in early 90's aftery they appeared and had to admit had the same digital dissapointment. Later-on I found out reasons digging through the radio journals and going through the signal tests to understand why these goddamn CDs don't sound as good as they should.
In reality and even theoretically they realy should all sound good but they don't. I can't tell precisely the reason why... but in regular red-book standard the level of resolution almost never reaches 16-bit. In CDs of early 90's some of them was only reaching 9 bits of dynamic information stored. The plotted graph of sampled sine wave by 44.1kHz x 9-bits on oscilloscope screen looked wierd since more than 20% of signal is being lost and there are large gaps to be recovered in DA proccessing. Anywhay distortions in this case are huge and it only takes to buy under $150 analogue setup including phono with cartridge and arm to smoke this CD sonically since the distortions level will be much lower.

Nowdays things got better due to more advanced computer technology that allowes more controll over the recording or transfering from analogue tapes so CDs makes sence to get remastered but after a word of "remastered" there goes ridiculouse price. Contemporary jazz CDs do actually sound great.

We've been fooled realy for a number of years expecting one thing and getting in reality another.
Aisip, first of all, while I am not sure what is your first language, I wish that my second (Spanish) and third (German) languages were as fluent as your English! Thanks for the review of the Spacedeck. Having owned mine for some time now, I would concur with your evaluation in nearly all respects. It is a most dynamic table that has that very low noise floor that you mention (my epiphany in that regard, so to speak, was hearing the spittle crackling on Art Pepper’s sax reed while at the same time being able to hear the subtlety of the valves “popping” open!). I think that many of the Spacedeck’s virtues stem from a very good and accurate bearing assembly and the provision of very stable speed control.

I am most intrigued by your mention of the tweaking you have done. I should probably just e-mail you, but maybe other Spacedeck owners will benefit from the following discourse regarding each of the excellent points you raise.

a) I agree that, not unlike many tables, one is better served by replacing the stock mat. I am using the Mystic Mat, which is very similar, indeed, to the BA Mat1. Ringmats, cork mats, etc., do not seem to work as well as the stock mat, but the graphite mats are just excellent.

b) I imagine that the Spacedeck looks very nice atop that piano black base! I tried my Spacedeck, with and without the stock plinth, atop a 2” maple cutting board that provides the base for a DIY wall unit that I constructed. I initially liked mine best sitting directly on top of the maple (without the stock plinth) until I purchased a set of three brass cones and pucks from Ed Soler (esoler) here on Audiogon. As you likely know, the three contact pads under the three support pods on the Spacedeck form a nearly exact 10” equilateral triangle. I first found the point at which the pivot arm support pad rested atop the stock plinth, when positioned appropriately, and scribed a mark on the bottom of the plinth at that point. Then, I marked three points to form the same 10” equilateral triangle and used these points to position the brass cones. Finally, with the cones and pucks between the maple and the stock plinth, I placed the table with the support pods directly over the cones. This made a subtle but noticeable improvement by providing even more air and firming up the bass a bit more.

c) I agree, never skimp on the arm. With any table, really. Good to hear that you are having such success with the Twl-modded Silver. There are a good number of arms that find worthy homes on the Spacedeck and it is exceedingly flexible in accepting a variety of different arms WITHOUT drilling a new arm board. One can obtain adapter rings of various sizes to allow individual arms to fit the arm pod collet for about $30US.

d) OVERWHELMING KUDOS to you for mentioning this tweak. In fact, one of us should suggest this to Tom Fletcher as a stock item. I fretted and stewed about the “wiggle” of the threads in the tapped holes when adjusting for levelness until I recalled the same situation with speaker spikes. I used nylon nuts on mine and it is a MAJOR, MAJOR improvement for just pennies.

The only point at which we slightly diverge is the mention of the new, thicker platter. I have heard the Spacedeck with and without the thicker platter and don’t feel that it makes too much, if any, difference. I have a suspicion, though, that this is dependent upon setup and the arm/cartridge employed. I found the platter about the same, but ONLY when using the graphite mat. Without the mat, the thicker platter was the clear winner. I have a hunch that the graphite dissipates resonance sufficiently before the platter comes into play. At any rate, my opinion is that one not shy away from buying a used Spacedeck that did not have the thicker platter.

My next foray into tweaking will be to try a DC power supply. Will let you know how THAT works out.

Thanks again for the review. Very informative.
Fantastic review and responses! Those of us researching a new turntable purchase applaud such excellent efforts. It's a joke for most of us to be told "go listen for yourself", since the cost to do that for just a minor sampling of turntables would pay for one of them! So we must rely on those such as yourselves with direct experience. I, for one, am grateful for the effort.

So, a most sincere thanks. By the way 4yanx, what arm are you using, and have either of you used the Space arm, and what is your opinion of it? Wouldn't mind knowing your cartridge and phono pre also!!
Hi Jojo.

I'm really glad you are enjoying your table and your system. That is what it is all about. I'm also glad you liked my tonearm mod.

Have fun!
Here is the link to a thread that may or may not be of some help to you regarding arms with the Spacedeck (there is also much more discussion of 'Nots on AA than here on Audiogon):

My Spacedeck came with the Spacearm and I think it is a unipivot arm that gives very solid, reliable, and ultimately musical performance. I have heard both the earlier metal tube and the current carbon fiber tube versions. I found the metal arm version to be a little less “nimble”, if that is an audiophile term. I found it slower in sound than the carbon version, but that was before doing other tweaking. The carbon fiber Spacearm is a breeze to setup with respect to VTA and VTF. Tom Fletcher designed two stabilizer bars in the Spacearm making it compatible with a good number of additional cartridges than normally the case with medium mass unipivots. It provides a very rich sound that I find a hint on the warm side of neutral. Because the Spacedeck itself is considered a “warm” and very lively table, some might find the Spacedeck and Spacearm, in combination, too much of a good thing. If the tweaks discussed earlier in this thread are incorporated, however, the combination will yield excellent results. One thing I would like to see in the Spacearm is a just bit more transparency, though, which is why a few folks order the Spacedeck and fit a different arm. Also, some just do not like unipivots and opt for a gimbaled arm.

Interestingly, I have heard lately of several glowing reports of the Spacearm on tables other than the 'Not, including Michells and Oracles.

I have used the Morch DP6 on a separate arm pod and found it excellent though a bit fussy with respect to setup. Plus, while my Shelter 501 sounds great in the Spacearm, it does not perform as well in the Morch. :-) I have also tried an OL Silver on my table. I thought the Spacearm bested the Silver on the Spacedeck, but I sold the Silver before hearing of or trying the Twl HIFI mod for that arm. I know others have had success in this regard and the price is certainly right.

I recently obtained an OL Illustrious on a fluke of very good luck, but have yet to install it on the table due to other pressing changes in my system. Will post eventually regarding this experience.
Hi Folks!

Thanks for all the kind words. Hopefully, discussions like this will attract a lot of attention and sway more music lovers to give analog a serious listen. Mr. 4YANX, just had the opportunity to listen to the OL Illustrious mounted on a Resolution table at a friend's abode. The experience was magical! I don't know what the secret recipe for a good tonearm is, but OL seemed to have deciphered it. We are planning to hold a turntable shoot-out between the Resolution and the Space Deck in the very near future. Will keep you guys posted.

Happy listening,
Aisip ,Great Post and Review. I really liked the information about the
OL Illustrious mounted on a Resolution table at your friend's abode, and the MAGICAL experience.
It's difficult to get info on these products.
Please do let us know how the shoot-out turns out.
I know 4YANKS for one can hardly wait.
On the subject of tweaking have any of you tried a motor controller like the one recently reviewed on 6moons from Walker Audio the PMC.

I am also about to get a Spacedeck installed in my system, and I will have the SpaceArm for a while, until they finish making a mounting collar for my Hadcock GH242SE w/Incognito tonearm.

I am hoping this will be a very synergisitc match as I have heard that the Spacedeck was originally designed with Hadcock tonearms in mind. I will certainly post my findings here.

Last question on the matter of replacing the MDF platter with a chopping block. How come you wouldn't just keep the supplied base on and just add the chopping block beneath that? It seems to me to you would get increased mass and the benefits of the chopping block still? Am I wrong?
Aisip, you will like the sound of the Illustrious on the Resolution. I will reserve offering my impressions until you've had the chance to do your own comparison.

Soliver, I was told by Tom Fletcher that the Spacedeck was initially voiced using a Hadcock. I ultimately kept my stock plinth between table and 2" maple to good effect but others, like Aisip, express good results without. Tom Fletcher has said that it was designed to be used with or without plinth. He included a plinth because some folks are used to a plinth and expect to see one but he wanted the table to perform the same either way. Try it both ways and see what you like. Seems about half and half like it one way or the other so that MIGHT be proof that it doesn't make much difference! :-)

Aisip, I see where you ALREADY like the Resolution/Illustrious combo, as do I. The comparison between the Spacedeck and Resolution with the same arm is interesting.
I purchased a VPI SDS for my Spacedeck. After about a week it was pretty obvious that in my system it wasn't needed. Actually, on some material I preferred the table straight into the wall instead of the SDS.


Hello Again,

Just found a better way to stabilize those wobbly adjustable feet: Rubber washers. You can get some at Home Depot, plumbing and faucet section. They are available in all kinds of sizes and thickness. Very easy to install. Just unscrew feet, slip washer(s) into screw, and screw back feet. Use one or two washers until your table is leveled.

Nott offers a $1200 power supply for their tables, called the "Wave Mechanic." Not sure how it compares to power supplies from other manufacturers, but it suggests the possibility that better power might have benefits.