The C-Sharp/Quintet Black maintained the tempo and dynamic drive captured on the Klavier Records reissue of the original EMI recording of Massenet’s Le Cid ballet music. Once again, this turntable/cartridge combo appeared to prioritize the lower registers of instruments, while still preserving the tracing of high-frequency percussion—although at levels reduced in amplitude vis-à-vis the low end. (I’ll explain what accounts for this below.)
Given my observations about the behavior of the C-Sharp/Quintet Black, I wanted to discover which characteristics were attributable to which component. So, I first switched out the Quintet Black and installed the van den Hul Colibri cartridge. Spot-checking some of the same records mentioned above (as well as many others) revealed the C-Sharp tonearm’s ability to let this cartridge showcase most of its attributes without any losses of composure on any records played. Some of the notable characteristics of this particular Colibri are its clarity, speedy transient response, liberal but well controlled high frequencies, and slightly warm but reduced bass output. With it installed in the C-Sharp, the music gained sparkle in the top registers—a trait that the Quintet Black also had, only at a much lower output level. Overall, the Colibri was more generous in its top registers, while the Quintet Black tended to fill in the bottom ones. Like chocolate or vanilla, there was nothing inherently wrong with either of these cartridges on the C-Sharp; which you’d prefer would be a matter of personal preference.
I began to muse about the Quintet Black’s sound character because it tended to remind me of the “ideal” EQ curves programmed into many digital signal processing-based (DSP) room-correction systems, which tend to have a slow but steadily declining frequency response slope from the lows to the highs. In an effort to satisfy my curiosity, I checked the frequency response of the Quintet Black, and the results (regardless of SRA setting) showed something similar to the target curves of room-correction devices. This observation helped me understand why the Quintet Black successfully traced high frequencies, albeit at reduced output levels, but had more generous low-frequency output relative to some of the other cartridges that measure more linearly. I want to point out that this isn’t such a bad thing given the multitude of hot- and/or thin-sounding, non-audiophile recordings in circulation. To the contrary, reducing a little upper-octave energy and ultra-detail can yield more enjoyable listening sessions in these cases. This is especially true for those who want to re-experience some not-so-well-recorded music of the past—and the present.
Isolation is always something to consider when purchasing a turntable and finding the right location for it in your listening room. While the C-Sharp has internal damping within its sandwich chassis as well as elastomer-damped feet, care should be taken with its placement. The top chassis is a bit lively when touched or tapped—enough to hear sound through the speakers. This liveliness can result in the ’table being susceptible to airborne or robust floorborne vibrations. Acoustic feedback, especially from powerful bass-heavy transients, can potentially cause turntable systems to oscillate. For my evaluation, placing the C-Sharp on a rigid corner shelf provided sufficient isolation for all but the most demanding music played back at amplitudes far beyond normal listening levels. If you tend to play very loud, you may either need to consider some additional isolation or to find a different location for the ’table. (These comments are not exclusive to the C-Sharp and should be considered with any turntable.)
The speed stability of the C-Sharp was excellent. The main reason for the head-bopping drive and remarkable timing I experienced during my evaluation was the ’table’s drive system—with which I could find no fault. Well done.
The combination of the C-Sharp and Quintet Black produced appealing sound that had rhythmic drive and made nearly everything I spun fun to listen to. While not the most detailed presentation, the combo just played the music on nearly everything I threw at it. Although it lacked the ultimate resolution and complete neutrality of pricier analog front-ends, the C-Sharp/Quintet Black had a way of convincing this listener that its “sins” of omission were more than acceptable. Indeed, I found myself spending more time listening to complete albums during the review period than what I’d originally allocated.
It’s worth mentioning that a buyer can acquire an Ortofon Quintet Black at what amounts to 50 percent off retail price when it is purchased as part of the C-Sharp package. And that only sweetens the deal on a combo that’s sure to please with its no-nonsense performance, and musical drive that keeps on giving.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Belt-driven turntable
Speed: 33/45rpm, driven by microprocessor
Speed variance: 33rpm +/-0.08%, 45rpm +/-0.09%
Wow and flutter: +/- < 0.01%
Signal to noise ratio: -40dB (mechanical noise)
Downforce range: 0–3.0g
Effective tonearm mass: 16.5g
Effective tonearm length: 254mm
Dimensions: 500mm x 400mm x 115mm
Weight: 13.5 kg (turntable) + 0.5 kg (separate control panel)
Price: $4500 with Ortofon Quintet Black; $4000 without cartridge
VANA LTD. (U.S. Distributor)