The AVM R5.3 is a really good turntable in many ways. It is unusually compact, easy to set up and use, and provides excellent sound quality with a wide range of cartridges. It is relatively insensitive to placement and vibration (though all turntables are affected by these factors to some degree), and is the kind of exercise in precision German engineering that seems likely to last as long as it is given even halfway-decent handling.
As such, the AVM R5.3 is easy to recommend. What are far harder to characterize are its sonic nuances compared to other really good designs. Here, cartridge choice, interaction with the tonearm and room, use of accessories, and phono cable and preamp preferences will produce different nuances in every installation. The inherent colorations in given records will also affect the sound. Equally importantly, the quality of cartridge setup and alignment will be absolutely critical in a turntable/tonearm combination this revealing.
So, keep these factors in mind as you read this review. You’ll get really good results in almost any setup, but when it comes to the subtler nuances, you need to be aware that they will be shaped by every element of the phono front end, and not by the turntable and tonearm alone.
Features and Technology
The AVM R5.3 is a real-world “form follows function” design that any Bauhaus artist would have been proud of. It is an unusually efficient unit, and though it comes complete with a good transparent plastic turntable cover, it has few features other than a choice of 33 1/3 or 45rpm speeds and off/on, although you can turn on a light (dimmable) that gives the platter a soothing blue glow. The $8999 R5.3 can also be ordered in a beautiful chrome finish for a $3000 price premium. The built-in tonearm is easy to adjust, and the cueing is smooth and precise. The AVM R.5.3 is packaged in ways that make it easy to assemble, place, and install the cartridge. It seems unusually resistant to any form of hum and noise, sonic breakthrough, and room vibration.
If you are looking for a massive 100-pound-plus be-hemoth that will give you angst from delivery to every time you spin a record, this isn’t your turntable. The R5.3 is actually fun to live with and easy to operate, and its size, design, set-up, and leveling features make it as easy to operate as any turntable I know of. The tonearm also comes with a range of weights, and the tonearm’s mass and headshell design make it compatible with almost all modern cartridges.
What you can’t see from the outside is the amount of effort that went into its design and features. AVM’s Udo Besser explains some of the R5.3’s design details in the accompanying sidebar.