Turntable Wars- Reviewers take sides

Seems that there's an undeclared war between the top analogue writers on just who makes 'The Best Turntable in the World'.....
For the last 9 years Michael Fremer has stood firm behind the Continuum Caliburn but now Jonathan Valin has thrown down the gauntlet
whilst Peter Breuninger gives you his 'guarantee' for the Kronos
and Roy Gregory goes for the Grand Prix Monaco

But hold your horses....
There appears to be a new 'Player' about to be introduced which may shake the established wisdom (although at a price of around 280,000 Euros I wonder how many reviewers will get one?)...
They should increase the price to half a million euros - that will help sell it. The figure of 280000 euros doesn't look convincing. Those people in Germany have no real confidence.

I remember when the Rockport was considered the greatest TT since sliced bread. I guess that TT would be considered a bargain nowadays.

The Acoustic Signature is only $123K. Peanuts compared to some of the other high-bling turntables out there. Doesn’t the Clearaudio cost $250K? Not to mention the 280,000-Euro Apolyt (please). And with the AS you get a tonearm with inner tubes, as well, for your money.
Well, here's something to consider: In the face of the growing number of six-figure turntables, VPI offers a turntable in the same rarefied air of Stereophile Class A+ recommended turntables, the VPI Classic Direct, with direct drive and 3D printed tonearm, for a relatiely mere $30,000.

So now you can get an A+ turntable for the price of a mid-priced car instead of a vacation home or cabin cruiser.
I use my wallet and by ears don't care what these turkeys have to say.

johhnyb53, maybe but you forgot that mandatory $10,000 cartridge !
I'll take the Koetsu Coral Platinum cartridge thank you very much.  You can keep the rest.


I'm expecting Mikey to change to a new turntable sooner rather than later (do I hear Doehmann?).
It's OK for Art Dudley to have his vintage 'off-market' esoteric equipment and write about it..... but it's poor form for the chief analogue writer of Stereophile to own equipment that the buyers of the magazine can no longer purchase...👅

Do you think so, Henry?  Back in the day, HP routinely had lots of unobtainium gear with which to play and on which he leaked incomplete reports now and then, with a vague promise of more to follow, which never happened.  If I still cared about such things, I would want my guru to be listening to the best of the best, if he had the linguistic skills and the scientific bent that would allow him to make cogent comparisons to real world (affordable) gear and to communicate his findings.  Unfortunately, most reviewers can't do those things.  Most don't have a clue.  Take a look at Peter Breuninger's video(s).  Have you ever seen more sincerity wrapped up in a look? He actually believes what he says, maybe.

johhnyb53, maybe but you forgot that mandatory $10,000 cartridge!

Not really. After all, $40K total is still in the mid-pack new automobile range, and a lot less than $150K plus that same 5-figure cartridge.
Back in the day, HP routinely had lots of unobtainium gear with which to play and on which he leaked incomplete reports now and then
I think they were the good old days when TAS had no Ads Lew....
The commercial situation I think has changed since then...😢
I've had my Grand Prix Monaco turntable now for over 7 years.   And my Nagra VPS phono stage.   Lot of other stuff changes in my system...but those two pieces never seem to.
I have no interest in audio critics who tote ridiculously priced top end audio jewelry

shouldn't their job be finding the stellar equipment that hits the point of price versus diminishing returns?

those pieces are only sold to a few audio extremists

giving a reviewer one in hopes he is enamored with it and shouts it from the rooftops is sad, and doesn't uplight our audio community
They can take sides all they want and they can BS all they want, it is all meaningless.  PB and JV have never had a VPI Direct Drive in house with the same cartridge on both tables, plus the tables must be on the same stand.  MF had his Caliburn on a $25,000 isolation platform and the VPI DD was on whatever was there and it still was just as good, I was there I heard the comparison.  These reviewers build up friendships and the only way to keep getting new and more expensive gear to listen to, gear they could never afford at retail, is to kiss there asses.

I know exactly how much it costs to make a turntable so these numbers are beyond stupid for the performance received.

I remember HP having the Clearaudio on its 700 pound seismic stand and the Classic 4 on a piece of 3/4" plywood and it really, really, sounded so close it was ridiculous.

They don't want you to know that the VPI DD is more accurate in all ways because then it makes these uber expensive decks a moronic choice.  This is the list of things a table has to do:
1- Start and run (I was at HP's house over and over, we were good friends, and most of the time these super decks were not running)
2- Run at the right speed with no wow or flutter (The VPI DD has 1/3 the speed error of the Caliburn and probably the rest of these belt drives and I could write a book about all the other super tables I have heard running at the wrong speed)
3- Still be made and have a warrantee
4- Deliver the smoothness and dynamic range of a reel to reel tape (No problem, I have over 500 reel to reels and 7 machines so I know what they sound like)
5- Be affordable in some way!!!!!!!!!

Seriously guys, how can they make these claims when no one other than MF has ever had the table in there system knowing that it is in Class A+ and measures so well.  They have never even asked!!!!!!!!!

BTW, no one needs to spend more than $10K for a table to achieve world class sound and I might even kick that back to $5K if you pick your cartridge well.

There is no reviewer that has all the gear I have and have listened to and set up, they are wrong, 5K with a good matched cartridge.

Best surprise Hanukkah present is seeing contributions from HW on Agon! Thanks for sharing your time & insights with us. 

Check out my icon image - tiny replica TNT6HR! Cheers,


Wow, when do you begin making watches!!  Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all on Agon.


I agree sbank.....great to see HW contributing here 😎
And in the true spirit of Festivus....he begins with ’The Airing of Grievances’....
They don’t want you to know that the VPI DD is more accurate in all ways because then it makes these uber expensive decks a moronic choice.
By the way...I agree with your admiration for the Victor TT-101 Harry
What plinth and tonearm have you got yours set-up with and how does it compare to your VPI Direct?

And now.....onto ’The Feats of Strength’.....💪

Hi Harry! My Harry's Workshop Classic 3 was spinning some holiday vinyl not a few hours ago! Looking forward to more over the coming days.

BTW, HW is not kidding. I was, as they say, gobsmacked when I saw all of the phenomenal stuff at his house, and had a chance to hear (among other things) master tapes on his reel to reel that just made me shake my head. The VPI tables we listened to presented the music very very convincingly by comparison.

Hi Harrry, love the ring clamp you sold me on eBay.  How's about listing over here with your next batch of goodies.  Merry Christmas. 
I have always wondered why these high-end audio snobs always downplay VPI. I guess it makes them feel superior to the average audiophile that can't afford the overpriced tables.

Harry give us more stories of the old days. It's like finding about the rat pack from people their who lived it. If I had a time machine I would be at the Sands and then go to Birdland in 40's and 50's.

For my money, Bill Firebaugh's Rube Goldberg contraption has been playing very well and making beautiful music in my system for around 30 years now. I feel no need whatsoever to upgrade to a more expensive table. 

jwm ...

Can I get on the time machine with you? I'd love to  hear Bird play live. Can you imagine what that would be like? Bird, Miles and Stan Levey?? Wow! Let's let Stan sit out for a couple of sets and let Max Roach play too. 
My father was really into Jazz so growing up I got to see Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Herb Alpert and Buddy Rich. When I look back I was really lucky to see such great artists. 
Taters, Wow...that's pretty cool !!
Henry, True that HP was at one time operating with no advertisers, but word was that he (and some of his top reviewers) would keep gear "lent" for review for indefinite periods of time, as in "forever".  This creates a conflict of interest, because it behooved him to massage the sources of his megabuck equipment.  This also may have played in to his never quite delivering on a "full review".  As long as he was about to gush over something but hadn't quite done so, yet, it was in the interest of the manufacturer to let him keep it.

HW, Were the 700-lb Clearaudio and the VPI DD turntables both available to HP, in his house, prior to his death?  Perhaps he had a prototype at least of the VPI DD?  Thanks for posting.

And finally, since this thread is more than anything an "airing of grievances", Happy Festivus to all.
I lived in Southern Cal for three years in the mid-'70s and--just going to Disneyland's Jazz Nights I saw Buddy Rich four times, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Melba Moore, Sarah Vaughan, Don Ellis twice, Freddie Hubbard, Maynard Ferguson, Ray Brown, and Ramsey Lewis. At jazz clubs I saw vibist Dave Pike, Louie Bellson & band, Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin, and the L.A. Four comprised of Shelley Manne, Ray Brown, Bud Shank, and Laurinda Almeida. I also managed to see Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, vibis Gary Burton (with Pat Metheny and Steve Swallow), and Stanley Turrentine in Cincinnati.

When I look back on it I can't believe I saw and heard so much great music in such a short time.
And you moved, johnny53?
Whether Johnny moved or not, most of those folks are no longer performing in LA or anywhere else.  Bud Shank is one of my candidates for least hyped and most accomplished sax players of all time. However, the jazz scene in most of our major cities is very much alive.  My wife and I go out for "live" jazz at least once a month.  Tonight I hope I can convince her to go hear Cyrus Chestnut at Blues Alley in DC.  What this has to do with very expensive turntables, I do not know, except to say that keeping in touch with the sound of live music is a humbling experience for any of us who try to create the illusion in our homes.  Like HW intimated, beyond a certain cost level, it's bling.

Thanks guys, nice to be here.  I fall asleep every night to the TV timer and a Seinfeld episode, watched Festivus yesterday!! (had to add Festivus to my dictionary otherwise it shows a red line under it!!)

HP used to store audio gear in his garage for decades.  I was there one day around 1998 when he pulled out a Dynavector 501 arm from 1980 something from that garage and said to me "What the hell is this".  I was bowled over.

He did not have the Classic Direct against the big Clearaudio, by the time it was available he was already sick and not able to do anything.

Mat and I were there when he compared Cat Steven's 'Peace Train" on the Classic 4 and the Clearaudio trying to show me how the Uber table showed the sounds drifting into the background and how it just went lower and lower but the end result was the Classic 4 did exactly the same thing for 1/17 the price sitting on a piece of 3/4" plywood!!

HP was amazing though, had a great ear, but like all of them they play the game and keep the equipment moving through.  I could write a book.


Halcro, I have the TT-101 in a custom made plinth the same size as the Classic Direct and made of the same materials which makes comparisons easy.

Using two 12" arm bases and moving the 12" 3D arm wand with Atlas between them the comparison is very interesting.   Both tables have amazing speed control and very low wow and flutter, 33.33 is 33.33 on both tables.  The piano and solo violin sound absolutely natural with no spectral shift due to speed error.  Very impressive from both.

The problem is when you get to dynamic range and the power of the orchestra, the TT-101 just doesn't have that you are there slam that a real orchestra has and what is on the master tape.  I think it is the fact that all these Japanese direct drives have skimpy platters that seem actually flimsy and drop on the motor, the VPI has a 20 pound solid aluminum platter damped with MDF and the platter is the rotor, not a platter dropped onto a motor. 

I mounted a Scout platter and centered it on the JVC platter, raised the arm almost 1.2" and it sounded much better.  I don't think the thrust plate was designed to handle this weight.

Bottom line is the JVC at the price they go for is excellent and when properly mounted and used with a good arm can really sound very, very good.  I can't say that much about a few other Japanese direct drives which sound thick and congested.