Review: Music Hall MMF-2.1 Turntable

Category: Analog

When a company puts out a product that sounds as great as the MMF-2.1, and at a price that’s so affordable, it hurts a music lover to bad-mouth it. But unfortunately, my experience with this low-budget wonder was mostly bad.

The MMF-2.1 arrived double-boxed from the good folks at Music Direct in Chicago. It arrived cosmetically perfect, with a sturdy dust cover and generally impressive looks. The flimsy tonearm and industrial-looking power switch were the only two dead giveaways to its $269 price tag ($299 is the retail).

Setup was easy, but the instructions were of no help. If this were my first turntable, I would have been on the phone to Music Direct every five minutes. (Not that they would’ve minded; they’ve always been more than happy to answer questions before and after the purchase in my experience.) Though the instructions were incomplete, the manufacturer was kind enough to include a cardboard cartridge alignment tool—handy if you want to change cartridges.

You may want to do just that. The supplied Goldring Elan is similar in sound quality to the Grado Green I once owned. Though this table/cartridge combo easily beats out any CD player I’ve heard for less than $300, it sounded a bit distant and icy. So I sold the cartridge and installed an Audio-Technica 440ML which retails for $199, but sells for around $100.

The Audio-Technica was much smoother. The veil that the Goldring placed over the music disappeared, and after break-in, the whole system sounded very pleasant—on par with my old Dual CS-505, and better than my overpriced $650 Denon DP-47F.

All was nice, except for one thing: the SCREECHING.

My particular Music Hall MMF-2.1 came with a manufacturing defect of some kind that caused a loud, miserable screeching noise from the speakers anytime it was even slightly jarred. Sometimes, it would also transmit a loud banging noise. And sometimes, this would happen without any warning. Scary, especially since this could easily damage speakers at a high volume.

I noticed a loose cartridge wire clip, so I replaced them all with premium Cardas clips. No luck. I switched cartridges. No luck. I switched cartridges again. No luck. I checked the interconnect, and it seemed fine. I also tried switching amps and swapping phono stages, but still no solution.

I did notice that, for some reason, brushing the headshell wires to the cartridge really got the noise going. And it would keep going for hours until you thumped on the tonearm just right.

I e-mailed my concern to the U.S. importer, but I never received a response. I tried everything Music Direct suggested, to no avail. I hated to give this table up, because when it worked, it was a winner. But after listening for about 60 hours, I called Music Direct and they cheerfully agreed to let me trade up to a Rega P2 even though it had been several months since my purchase.

Compared with the Rega P2, the Music Hall’s plinth is of comparable quality. The dustcover of the MMF-2.1 is actually better than the Rega’s, because it has thick metal hinges that won’t wear out like the Rega’s bendy-plastic things.

The MMF-2.1’s tonearm is just awful. The counterweight hangs loosely from the arm, and sheds rubber as it is twisted onto the threads. The fiddly counterweight is a pain in the butt to thread through the wire hanger, and the instructions never say which of the detents corresponds to what tracking weight.

However, for $269, this is probably a steal. Don’t expect this table to grow with you—the tonearm will only extract only so much performance from a cartridge. I tried to test the limits, but my Audio-Technica OC7 low output MC was too heavy for the tonearm; it wouldn’t balance. Don’t expect to turn the MMF-2.1 into a giant killer with a new mat, some damping material on the arm and a better cartridge.

If you’re just dipping your toes into analog, or have a small collection you’d like to resurrect on rare occasion, this is a great table. It’s basically plug and play. However, for someone with a larger collection who listens frequently, spring for the Rega P2 or a similar unit.

My experience was negative, and I’m a little cheesed, but if you buy from a friendly and reputable retailer who takes returns then the Music Hall MMF-2.1 might just be worth a try. The sound is right and the price is amazing.

Associated gear
Rega P2 turntable
Denon DL-160 cartridge
Rotel RC-980 preamplifier with MM/MC phono stage
Rotel RA-970 amplifier
Rotel RQ-970BX phono stage
Sony SCD-CE775 SACD player
Phillips AM/FM tuner
Realistic laserdisc player
RCA DVD player
Apex Digital 27” TV
Polk RT25i bookshelf loudspeakers
Polk PSW350 subwoofer
Paradigm speaker stands
Kimber Kable 4PR speaker cables
Straightwyre Harmony II subwoofer cable
Audioquest Jade/Monster 250 interconnects
Monster Power HTS 2500 Power Center

Similar products
Dual CS-505
Denon DP-47F
Rega P2 (new model)
NAD 533
So it worked fine out of the box; then you play around with different cartridges (was the new one aligned properly); and then messed around with the wiring; and now is does not work right. Sounds like you got the alignment all messed up and/or you broke it playing around with it.
MMF2.1 won't balance heavy MC carts, and the manufacturer doesn't offer a counterweight replacement - he says the bearings on the arm aren't rigid enough for decent MCs. Stay within MM on this table, and enjoy it for what it is - a simple and excellent table for a very very small amount of dough.
In response to BowWow and others who might rightly assume that I'm ham-fisted: (1) The Goldring Elan was actually not exactly properly aligned out of the box; I checked it using three different protractors and it was canted slightly to the left. (2) I've been installing and calibrating cartridges for years, and I use only the most precise tools and most gentle motions to do so. My Denon DP-47F, Dual CS-505, Linn Axis and Rega P2 survived numerous cartridge changes intact. But on the Music Hall, two clips came loose on the first change. (3) The tonearm wiring was obviously bad out of the box. Anyone could tell you that. (4) Hey, why not tweak if you can? To make a $300 table sound like a $1000 table would be great. That's part of the appeal of analog. Why leave well enough alone? There's plently of music on vinyl discs just waiting to be extracted, instead of being left to collect dust. Hey, my hat's off to Creek for introducing such a great product at a low price. And to me, this was just a fun project to see how far I could take a $300 table. Now I know. Thanks for reading and happy listening!
My experiences with this table were largely negative as well. For a deck that receives rave reviews, I was surprised at the poor quality of the tonearm. The counterweight is terrible - basically held on by friction between the rubber insert and a few threads on the rear of the arm. Gently twisting it one results in a few disturbing shavings of rubber and a very loose fit indeed. The left channel on mine went out after only 20 hours or so of play. When I contacted the distributer, I was told that the arm was probably bad and my only recourse was to purchase a new one for $100. It now sits in a box sans tonearm waiting to be posted on ebay "as is".
My experiences were exactly the same. Tonearm has the cheapest connectors - they snap so easily.

I was amazed at how really really cheap that counterweight was! It was laughable. I turned the weight and it squeeked. It had a lot of wobble and how could you ever be shure it at any given weight!!

Any, and I mean 'any', second-hand table would beat this thing to death. I tried putting this in place of a 20 year old Sansui and I thought if this is the state of affairs then it's all complete Hype.

I ended up with an NAD533 which is an OEM P2. A tweakers delight. (but if you love it it loves you back)

I would reccomend that anyone wanting to get into analog always buy a used table for no more than $50, get a Grado Green cartridge and see how it feels. The small investment will give pleasure until you go for a better rig...which you eventually will. ;-)