What’s the ultimate purpose of a turntable? To spin a vinyl record at a precise speed without introducing any vibrations into the cartridge. Of course, this is the holy grail of turntable design, and basically an impossible task. Turntables are constantly in a miniature battle to counteract opposing forces. When the Beach Boys sang about “good vibrations,” they weren’t talking about their turntables. Many turntable manufacturers go to great lengths to reduce the effects of unwanted vibrations, but as the designs become more exotic, so do the prices. So when a turntable comes along that does its job well—and does it without costing a year’s salary—that’s something to celebrate. Maybe somebody at Acoustic Signature had a wry sense of humor when he decided to name this ’table the Wow; irony aside, the Wow XL is all wow factor without all of the Gleichlaufschwankung (the bad wow).
The $2395 Wow XL is one solid piece of precision German engineering. The plinth is a beveled design about the same thickness as the platter, though it is a combination of aluminum and wood (the wood is masked by the outer shell of the plinth). Three height-adjustable feet allow for easy leveling of the entire ’table. The platter alone weighs fourteen pounds and is over one-and-a-half inches of solid aluminum; it could probably be used for home defense, if necessary. Be ultra-careful as you slide the platter spindle into the bearing, as the fit is a bit snug. The heavy weight of the platter can easily pinch a finger, so make sure to drop it in while holding the outer circumference. The bearing is Acoustic Signature’s “signature” Tidorfolon bearing, which is the same proprietary bearing design used in all AS turntables, including AS’s flagship Ascona turntable reviewed by Jonathan Valin back in 2012. Luckily, you don’t need to spend $34k to benefit from the bearing technology employed in this ’table.
The Wow XL is driven by an ultra-precise synchronous motor that employs a 20MHz microprocessor that provides “perfect” speed stability and fine-tuning. Two small recessed buttons on the back of the ’table allow ±0.1% speed adjustments, so you can dial-in the speed during initial setup. I checked the speed after I set up everything, and it was spot on. I checked it three weeks later, and things were still spinning correctly. It’s safe to assume that once you initially set the speed, you can leave it be without worrying—it’s always good to check speed if you move the ’table, though. The motor is extremely quiet, too. Fitting the belt was easy, and once the motor was turned on any twists were straightened out after a few revolutions. Two stainless-steel buttons are located to the left of the platter, an on/off button and a 33/45 button to easily switch speeds. Turn the turntable on, and a red LED blinks above the speed button until the precise speed is reached.
When I first pulled the ’table out of the box, I wondered why there was an Ethernet port in the back of it. The interesting thing about the power supply is that it plugs into the back of the turntable using what looks like an RJ45 Ethernet cable. My one quibble is with the wall-wart, which is so large (roughly 3" x 4.5") it blocked two adjacent outlets on my power conditioner. Plus, the wall-wart is so long that I had to slide my power conditioner to the very back of the rack to let the power supply hang over the edge. This might not be an issue with every power conditioner, but it’s something to be aware of; you wouldn’t want to spend $3k on a conditioner and have three plugs taken up by the Wow XL’s wall-wart.
My Wow XL review sample was shipped with a Funk Firm FXR-II tonearm ($2400), which makes a really superb combination with this ’table. (Most dealers will receive Acoustic Signature ’tables in this price range with the Funk FXR-II, the Funk F6 thread-bearing tonearm [$600; see my Funk Flamenca review in this issue for more], or the Rega RB202 [$400].) The ’table sans tonearm is $2395. The FXR-II was a breeze to set up: adjusting VTA takes no time with the supplied Allen wrench, and the detachable headshell allows for easy cartridge mounting and azimuth adjustment. I used the Ortofon 2M Black moving-magnet cartridge ($720) for this review, and a Pro-Ject Tube Box II ($450) with a pair of Mullard 12AX7 tubes for the phonostage. All told, it took about an hour to set up the Wow XL, with periodic adjustments here and there to fine-tune the sound.