It looks compact but beautiful.
Review: Pure Fidelity Harmony Turntable
I wasn’t in the market for a new turntable. I was enjoying my time with the Sempersonus TE-2, which was outfitted with a 12” TW Acustic Raven arm and a Charisma Audio Signature One cartridge. I had put together this rig in collaboration with Paulo Rebordão, chief proprietor of Sempersonus, after agreeing to serve as an early adopter of his latest design. All was well–the table sounded great (long REVIEW if you are interested). Except it wasn’t–there were a few lingering fit and finish issues which were not successfully resolved, all a byproduct of the pandemic and the harsh realities of global shipping, and they were bugging me. As an “early adopter” I anticipated a few bugs would need to be ironed out but despite lots of time, effort and good will on all sides, the problems remained. The TE-2 sounded great, but ultimately Paulo and I agreed that the table should go back to Portugal for replacement and upgrade of some key parts and then on to another client for further evaluation.
It didn’t take me long to come up with a shortlist of contenders in the sub $10K range as a replacement. Then one day an ad from Pure Fidelity in one of the rags I still subscribe to caught my eye. How did I miss this beauty? Maybe it was the pandemic–I hadn’t been to a show or dealer for almost two years. Somehow I hadn’t seen anything on the forums either. I did a little digging. A few reviews popped up along with a video rave by the guy on New Record Day–earnest, amusing, yet slightly annoying. I reached out to the brand manager (PJ Zornosa) and ended up in a helpful three-way conversation that included John Stratton, the owner of Pure Fidelity, which is based in Vancouver. Both were very responsive and helpful in answering questions and guiding me toward the right product in the PF lineup. They also connected me with a nearby dealer they had recently signed up (Dan Oest of Stellar Home Audio in NY) who would handle the purchase.
About Pure Fidelity:
If you haven’t heard of them, I would encourage you to check out the PF product offerings. They include four turntables which can be outfitted at the factory with PF branded arms or those supplied by Acoustic Signature or Origin Live. (Of course other options are possible). All of the tables feature solid MDF plinths with simply gorgeous veneer options as well as piano black–custom finishes are also available, just ask. (Ask I did, choosing a custom satin black finish that came out spectacular!). Build quality is exceptional at this price point–PF uses bronze bearings with a ruby ball, massive delrin platters, and precise CNC machining of all parts, including the aluminum subplatter, which is driven by dual drive belts. There is also a separate speed control unit and power supply, which provide exceptional speed stability and adjustment (33/45rpm). More about these later.
Unlike the Eclipse/Encore which are first tier players in the lineup, the Horizon and Harmony topline tables feature a heavy duty machined aluminum isolation platform with Isoacoustics GIAI IV isolation feet threaded into the base. Basically, the entire plinth, including feet, of what would be an Encore/Eclipse simply drops into the isolation platform, adding significant mass, improved isolation, and a handsome contrast to the veneered plinth above. Other than the thickness of the platter and the isolation platform, the only difference between the Eclipse/Encore and the top modes is the speed control unit, which is slightly more robust on the topline models. Within each tier one can choose between a traditional square plinth or one that is rounded on the platter side–both look super cool. Finally, all PF tables come with an in-house designed stainless steel record weight (SS-10) which looks simple, feels robust and which, in direct A-B comparison, equaled the performance of my Stillpoints LP-1 which I abruptly sold. Thanks PF!
The New Record Day review of the Harmony begins with a rant about packing and for too many high end manufacturers this is truly an afterthought. Not so with PF–the packing is absolutely first rate, with layers of foam and a sensible arrangement of the goodies. Set up was a breeze. I ordered my Harmony with an Origin Live Conqueror MK 4. I have long lusted after an OL arm and when I suddenly found myself in the market for a table I was determined to get one for my next rig. Mounting the Conqueror to the Harmony was equally simple and it wasn’t long before I had the Charisma Signature One from my TE-2 dialed in and ready to play some tunes. Use of the Charisma would allow a nice A-B comparison with my prior analogue playback system, whose retail was several thousand dollars more expensive than the PF Harmony/OL.
This will not be a lengthy review–time is short and there are tunes to play. However, there are a few notable characteristics of the PF Harmony/OL combination that are unique in my experience and which make this table an incredible value for money.
The Sound of Quiet:
The Harmony has very little self-noise and is by far the quietest turntable I’ve ever owned. This realization is strange and came upon me immediately. I don’t typically think of self-noise with regard to turntables–amplifiers, yes. I recall hearing the David Berning designed LTA amp in my system for the first time and being blown away at how little self-noise it generated, allowing so much more natural detail to emerge from the speakers. The same “holy cow” moment occurred when I cued up the Harmony on the first play. There was no background noise–total blackness–and a corresponding increase in low level detail that was naturally rendered. If this were the only attribute that distinguished the Harmony from other tables I’ve owned it would be plenty enough. I’m not talking about surface noise, I’m talking about noise that is generated within the deck that is amplified by the cartridge, competing with the signal etched in the grooves that the cartridge is trying to convey. It’s the kind of noise you tend not to notice until it is gone, and then you wonder how you could have lived with it all along. I’m not sure why the Harmony is so quiet–it could be the bronze bearing and ruby ball, the precision machined subplatter, or simply every design element working in unison. But once you hear the quiet you will understand immediately why the Harmony is such a seductive performer. It all begins with the absence of noise.
The Harmony’s other salient quality is the way it gets out of the way and allows you to hear more clearly what is pressed into the grooves. I would say this “transparency” to the source is another defining characteristic of this playback system. Throughout my time with the Harmony, I developed a new appreciation for the production value of each recording in my collection. Stellar recordings with dynamics, ambient information, instrumental separation, and natural tone are presented in all their glory. Lesser recordings individual flaws are easily identified and unfortunate production choices made in the studio are readily discernible. This does not necessarily mean that poor recordings are made to sound bad. Rather, it turns listening to them into a bit of an audio archeology exercise, placing you in the studio contextually. To me, the Harmony is just doing it’s job–getting a close read on the grooves so your system can let you hear what was laid down in the studio. Other tables I’ve owned presented a more homogenized version of my music collection. The really good news is that when the recording is well done your system really shines!
The Rest of It:
The PF Harmony, as equipped, simply checks every remaining box for top tier vinyl playback. I won’t list them here–you know what I mean. We are talking about really exceptional sound. Think of the best of what digital and analogue bring to the table seamlessly joined in one blissfully coherent sound. No frequencies embellished or diminished, everything naturally rendered, including the performance space, utter transparency to the source, dynamic agility and musical flow. I could say more but will stop with this–I’ve had at least 10 high end turntables at this point in my journey and can say without a doubt that the Harmony is far and away the best built and best sounding of them all. To be completely fair, one must consider the contribution of the OL Conqueror MK4. Many consider it to be among the best arms available at any price. It may be that good–and yet the Harmony stands as a more than capable partner in this marriage.
So What’s Not to Love:
There are two areas for improvement that I can detect. First, while the bass response of the PF package goes deeper than the Sempersonus or the VPI I had before it, it is ever so slightly less tuneful on some recordings than the idler-type TE-2. This can be discerned when listening to less well recorded rock or jazz, where the propulsive drive seems to lose a tiny bit of verve, leaving your toes less inclined to tap away to the beat. Good recordings do not suffer the same fate. Que up some well recorded jazz and you will find the Harmony in full swing. It’s interesting–regardless of the recording the bass detail is all there, yet somehow with less desirable records a bit of the swing is lost in the way the notes are stitched together. This is not something that I would have noticed had the Harmony not come in on the heels of the TE-2, whose drive system excelled in the PRaT department. But I did notice so I am reporting it here.
Second, I’m not a huge fan of the Maestro speed control unit. The aluminum casework is not up to the same level of quality as the rest of the table and the toggle switches (on/off and 33/45) are too small, as is the print on the front panel which I cannot read without retrieving my glasses. It looks well enough and, in conjunction with the power supply, maintains excellent speed stability, but the entire arrangement is simply not commensurate with the rest of the effort–which is exceptional. I have shared this opinion with John in hopes a more worthy replacement is offered, perhaps as an upgrade for those who are so inclined.
I’ve now had the PF Harmony for over six months and it continues to provide exceptional performance and flawless operation. In one of the promotional videos that appears on the PF site John claims as a goal to build “heirloom” tables that his clients will be proud to own for a lifetime. Maestro aside, I believe he has well cleared the mark with the Harmony and Horizon. With their integrated aluminum base and Isoacoustics footers, these topline tables in the PF lineup offer exceptional build quality, outstanding sonics, and timeless aesthetics that are a refreshing contrast to the behemoth bling spinners currently in vogue. Equipped with a top flight arm like the OL or Acoustic Signature and appropriate cartridge, I cannot imagine better sound from a belt driven table anywhere near the money. If your fancy leans toward vintage idler or direct drive then of course look elsewhere, but if you have $8-10K to drop on a belt drive playback system (table, arm, cartridge) then you will be hard pressed to do better than the PF Horizon or Harmony.
Looks nicely made, but the motor is puny - probably why you discern bass issue.
It seems strange that you waxed lyrical about the Sempersonus - suggesting it was the best thing since sliced bread, and now its not so great.
I guess by next year you'll find another best of breed ...
For the same money I'd buy the Rega P10, it has a great pedigree and shocked Michael Fremer with its performance level compared to his megabucks.
@dover I don't have a lot of information about the motor but I do prefer the subplatter arrangement on the Harmony (like the Rega) over driving the edge of the platter (like VPI). I also appreciate the use of dual belts to drive the subplatter which should theoretically provide more consistent speed by helping to counteract stylus drag. In framing my comments to tried to acknowledge the many positive attributes of the Sempersonus--I stand behind my assessment of that table. (Could it be possible that both tables perform at a very high level?) My issues with the TE-2 had to do with shipping damage and the challenges of obtaining replacement parts given supply chain issues. The TE-2 is a great sounding table and once the packing and fit/finish challenges are resolved an easy recommendation. The Harmony, however, is simply better built all around with better execution (fit/finish). It is also quieter than the TE-2 and more transparent. The TE-2 seemed to have better drive and PRaT on many recordings. I am fortunate to have used the same cartridge on both setups. It is rare for many of us to compare turntables head-to-head. I think my comments fairly capture the strengths and weaknesses of the Harmony in comparison with the TE-2. My purpose in posting is to allow others to benefit from what I have been able to observe in listening to two table/arm combinations at roughly the same price point. Obviously, folks are welcome to take or leave what I have shared but best done without the snark, which doesn't really move the conversation forward.
@tablejockey Thank you! Pure Fidelity offers a special version of the Origin Live Illustrious (called the "SE") with any of the tables in their lineup. I almost chose that option but I have wanted a OL Conqueror for some time and as the next model up the chain is said to outperform the Illustrious by a noticeable margin. I also needed a slightly longer set of ICs so was going to have to order from the factory special anyway so decided to go for it. My timing was good in that OL had just released a MK4 version of the Conqueror which had not seen improvements in many years so I was able to get the most recent version. I think for most folks the Illustrious would be an excellent choice--I prefer the OL arms to the Acoustic Signature offerings. The Harmony or Horizon with the Illustrious SE as a package would bring the price down and probably sacrifice little by way of performance.
I have a friend that recently picked up the Harmony with an Acoustic Signature signature tonearm. This is a beautiful table. I am very familiar with your Origin Live tonearm as I use an Enterprise 4 and Illustrious 3c on my OL Sovereign TT. The Acoustic Signature and Origin Live arms use the same pivot to spindle distance of 223mm which is the base design for the Pure Fidelity TTs. The weight of the Harmony's platter and sub platter provide enough inertia that the 12 VAC AC motor and its custom power supply can easily maintain excellent drive and speed consistency. The power supply is designed to initially start out at a lower speed and once the platter is rotating the power supply increases output to reach and maintain the desired speed. Well designed and executed based on listening and participating in the initial setup of the table. The only issue we encountered is the spindle diameter is on the upper end of the specification range and is extremely tight on some records. Congratulations on your fine table and tonearm.
@drrsutliff Thanks, Rick. Thanks for mentioning the "soft start" feature--I neglected to mention this in my review. I like the way it powers up to full speed and have found speed stability exceptional. Piano recordings have the pitch stability of digital without smearing of the notes. I have not encountered any issues with the spindle diameter as of yet The record weight/clamp provided does a surprisingly good job and has good ergonomics. Overall, this is a very well designed and constructed table. I was a little hesitant to order a custom finish--their wood veneers are very well done--but I wanted black without the glossy bling factor. John went back and forth with me to get just the right level of sheen on the satin finish. It looks great and the application is even and perfect. Really well done!
Nice review of the Harmony. It's a great turntable that I have been very happy with over the last three or so months that I have owned it. I stuck with the Acoustic Signature tonearm on mine and really like it. I wanted as close to set and forget as possible on this table and I've heard the Origin arm height sometimes needs to repositioned.
To my ears, the PF has great PRAT and the bass really explodes out of the black backgrounds, but I'm comparing it to the VPIs and Regas that I have owned, and the PF is a much better table than anything I've heard from either of those two brands. I have not spent any time with idler drive tables though. I'd love to spend time with restored Garrard at some point.
I think the real trick that the John gets so right on these tables is the overall sonic balance between tone/texture/PRAT/Slam. It doesn't really exaggerate one at the expense of another which leaves a wonderfully balanced and engaging listen. Later this year, I'm going to try to DS Audio 003 optical cartridge and "energizer" with my Harmony to see how that sounds. But I want to spends more time as currently set up first.
I am not familiar with your equipment, but am quite familiar with changing the perception of a quality of Bass Note by working with Sub Plinth Assemblies and Platter Mats on TT's.
With the results achieved creating a Sub Plinth construction on mainly Idler and Direct Drives, I am sure the same can be produced for Belt Drive TT's as well. My own Belt Drive TT is not regularly used at present.
When it comes to Platter Mats, I have made my own ones available for loan to Belt Drive TT owners, and there has been some very good experiences had by the TT owners, and some of my materials have been adopted to be used.
I believe the environment the TT is used in has a influence on the SQ and presentation, which makes many TT's in their dedicated environment unique and not ubiquitous. To spend a little extra time trialling with methods for creating a structure to support the TT, can yield results that are quite attractive and noticeably improved.
Your description makes it known that the Plinth Design already has a system in place to work with managing transferred energies, which is sounding like a design that has been thought through.
A additional Sub Plinth arrangement can be a very worthwhile ancillary to work with what is already in place.
Granite Works for me as the Sub Plinth to be built off. It is a course granular igneous rock due to its formation. It offers properties that align themselves to being Massey and also for a rock, has a efficient Dissipation when managing energies transferred to it.
A Suspension Footer with a good damping material seated upon it, with the Granite on top is a very good first tier of a structure.
Slate has its followers and I was once quite interested in the use of it, but after my research on rock types and learning that the layered formation acts as reflective surface when managing transferred energies, this become a rock that was not the most desirable to have.
I chose to stay closer to Granite for its dissipation qualities, and do feel the benefits on offer for maintaining this choice are being repaid.
Most recently Densified Wood has proven to be very effective as a Sub Plinth Material and does bring something to the SQ that is attractive, maybe a little less smearing, or the overall envelope is better defined, it is early days yet with this material.
I don't care for MDF as a structural material for a turntable plinth, but other than that, this looks like a well thought out and well built turntable that I guess would sound fine. None of it is groundbreaking, but they chose good ideas from a number of other existing turntables and melded them together nicely. I also imagine the thick solid alu base firmly bonded to the upper plinth ameliorates much of what I don't like about MDF. The veneer would help too.
I’ve had my Pure Fidelity Harmony for about 3 weeks now, and my early assessment is quite similar to yours, aside from the Maestro box criticisms and the occasional lack of PRaT on lesser produced records. In short I’m ecstatic with mine, but I will say that I have a lot less turntable experience than it sounds like you’ve had. I am coming from a $400 Technics SL-1200Mk2 with an Ortofon 2M Blue cart. So naturally the jump in fidelity is going to be quite noticeable though I still think the Technics is a GREAT table.
John and his team did a custom tint on my quilted maple to match my bosse cedar Volti Rival speakers and they did an absolutely stunning job, it really is a perfect match.
My Harmony is equipped with the Illustrious SE tone arm and the Stratos cartridge and it sounds transparent, silky, a touch shy on detail when compared to the Technics/2M Blue but the depth of the soundstage is stunning…
I save highest praise for the build quality, as the OP described, it really is an heirloom piece. I haven’t spent this kind of money on anything else in my system besides my speakers but like my speakers I know that this piece will likely never leave my system. Of course I could see eventually down the road experimenting with other amps, preamps, streamers, DACs, etc. But just as the Volti Rivals have a permanent home in my system, the Pure Fidelity Harmony will be the last turntable I buy.
I thought I would circle back to provide an update on my experience with the PF Harmony now that I have plenty of miles on the table and, more importantly, to include some comments on the new Conductor speed control unit. If you read my initial “review” you gathered that I saw and heard two areas for improvement in the original Harmony. The Maestro speed control unit was not up to the same fit, finish, and functionality of the table itself AND the Harmony didn’t carry a tune as well as my prior idler-type record spinner. To elaborate, I experienced a very slight loss of rhythmic propulsion and what seemed to be an equally subtle smearing of the notes on solo piano that became evident on some LPs with very naturally recorded initial transients, bloom, and decay. I am happy to report that the Conductor speed control unit resolves both of these concerns in spades.
The unit replaces the two piece Maestro speed controller by condensing the electronics into one gorgeous, finely crafted unit. (If you are interested you can see the two units in a comparison photo on my systems page and watch a video on the Conductor for more information). Not only is the Conductor far superior in build quality, but it is also a big ergonomic improvement. The push buttons have a firm feel and click into place with confident authority and they are illuminated to provide clear indication of on-off and speed selection. The speed selector switches flash briefly upon engagement until the platter reaches the selected speed and the controller maintains a steady rotation of the platter. (There are also trim pots on the rear of the unit which can be used to dial in speed accuracy if necessary). Simply put, the Conductor speed control unit is now the aesthetic and functional equivalent of the incredibly well-made and beautiful Harmony turntable.
Turning to the sound quality, I was able to do a (somewhat) immediate A-B comparison of the Maestro and Conductor units (with a two hour lag for the retrofit) using the same recordings I relied upon for my initial “review”. While I cannot explain the technical reasons for my conclusions, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the Conductor eliminates any small speed deviations that may have contributed to the slight smearing and lack of PRaT I had experienced with the Maestro running the show. Acoustic bass is tight, propulsive, and real. Solo piano has all the transient attack, bloom, and decay of the real deal. The Conductor really seems to take stronger command of the platter rotation and bring out the best of what the Harmony has to offer. It is also important to note that the new speed control unit does not detract in any way from the superlative attributes of the table noted in my initial review–the lack of self-noise and overall transparency to the source that I value greatly when spinning records.
The Conductor retrofit was easy if you are reasonably handy. I was able to elevate the table on my workbench, access and remove the motor cover from below, and replace the motor without removing the arm or upsetting cartridge alignment, VTA, VTF, etc. I was done in under two hours. I’m not sure whether the Conductor will replace the Maestro on their complete lineup or just the topline Harmony and Horizon models but, to their credit, PF will make the new unit available to Maestro owners who want to upgrade–price TBD.
For those interested in learning more the latest issue of Stereophile features an in-depth review of the Harmony with the new Conductor speed control unit. The review describes the engineering and build quality well and pretty much takes a shotgun approach with the accolades. But while there IS much to admire with this table I am sticking to my guns on what distinguishes it from other competent designs that I have experienced—it is super quiet, very transparent to the source, and beautifully designed and built. Loaded with an OL arm this table will get you where you want to be without breaking the bank.
@lewm There is no sensor feedback to the motor. The Conductor uses a sophisticated quartz lock control over the motor and the flywheel effect of the thick delrin platter and stainless steel/aluminum sub platter driven by two belts is designed to maintain speed and counteract stylus drag.
@dodgealum Interesting about the motor change. I'm not sure my dealer knows that, he mentioned it's just a cable change to the motor. Not sure the new speed controller is worth the $2K asking price, but I will get to ask more questions at the Capitol Audio Fest this weekend where a couple of the rooms will feature the Pure Fidelity turntables. Thanks!
@badgerdms The new motor comes with the cable hard wired and the lead attaches to the new speed control unit. It is an easy swap. The more I listen the more sonic benefits of the Conductor become apparent. It does make a difference and also significantly elevates the fit and finish of the entire playback system. Given the cost of the table and the performance/aesthetic gains I think it is worth the coin to do the upgrade but obviously this is a personal judgement call. I spun some vintage jazz last night and the propulsive toe-tapping quality that was slightly lacking with the Maestro governing the motor was there in spades. There is simply better musical flow with the Conductor on board.
I have had the Harmony (quilted maple) for about 6 months and it is terrific, have the OL Illustrious arm and dynavector cart. into an Icon audio ps3mk2 phono stage.
Punchy, full, open and musically engaging.....just like real music, all with regular everyday records. I use it with modest gear, source 1st really makes the difference.
Have owned lots o tables including 2 LP12s, the harmony raises and sets the bar.
Need to save my pennies to upgrade the power supply....off to work I go.