After an 8-year absence, the man behind Pink Triangle is back With a shape and color reminiscent of one of those pulsating blobs from a ps ychedelic light show , the Funk Firm Funk Vector —and just tr y to top that name —is , if nothing else , a most eye-catching design . But the $1950 Funk is more than just a funky shape with a funky name; it’s also a very good sounding turntable that springs from one of our most original thinkers on vinyl playback, Arthur Khoubesserian, the man behind Pink Triangle.
Seasoned audiophiles will recall the Pink Triangle turntables that were in production from roughly 1983 to 1999. They, too, were rather unusually shaped things that became known for certain design innovations, at least one of which has become nearly ubiquitous—the bare (as in no mat) acrylic platter. Before Pink Triangle came along, most LPs sat on platters made of metal or some other rigid surface covered with a felt, cork, rubber, or other type mat to dampen vibration as well protect the LPs underbelly. Reckoning that non-matted and undamped acrylic would create a superior record/platter impedance match, Khoubesserian and Pink Triangle pioneered the acrylic platter. He added other twists, too, such as inverting the main bearing and mounting a low-vibration DC motor directly on the turntable’s sub-chassis (AC motors were the accepted standard for belt drives of the day).
After an 8-year absence from manufacturing—if not audio itself—Khoubesserian is back. And he’s lost none of his fiery, freethinking spirit. As he did at Pink Triangle, Khoubesserian, who holds a degree in physics and has two patents pending on the Funk design, continues to rethink the turntable. For example, that blobby form isn’t strictly for visuals. Computer measurements showed Khoubesserian that this particular shape— basically a round-edged triangle—was less resonant than a more conventional rectangular plinth (though those, too are becoming less common). As he put it in an e-mail exchange: “If we look at turntable plinths in particular, these are excited from the outside world by their point of contact—the feet. This makes them like an NXT speaker with an exciter, except that now we have not one exciter but 3 or 4! And so we run the risk of hitting a high ‘Q’ point when our arm is then subjected to a less than stable platform. By focusing on reducing the dominant modes we have given our arm (and hence cartridge) an easier ride. Funk’s plinths have far more complex modes with no simple solutions (or eigenvalues), at the same time creating a more interesting visual product for us to enjoy.”
Moving beyond his innovative acrylic platters, Khoubesserian is now using a new lightweight material he calls Achromat. While I still don’t know exactly what this stuff is, and a patent is pending, Khoubesserian’s colorful comments remain eminently quotable: “I find it odd that since I invented the impedance-matched record interface in the form of the acrylic platter back in 1980, people have not beaten me at my own game. Goodness knows that I spent enough time telling everyone how good it was and more importantly how good it wasn’t! It shouldn’t have taken too much effort to work it out from there...should it? Surprisingly, experiments with solid vinyl were not as good as I would have hoped. So the search was on. We can ‘turn over’ a problem in our mind, whilst asleep, whilst driving, getting our rocks off, or whenever. So just thinking out the physics of the vibrations passing into the platter was to me akin to thinking about lying in bed. Get the mattress wrong and it’s uncomfortable; considering a memory-foam bed and how it works, with all the bubbles acting as a transmission line to dissipate the energy, provided a viable answer. All that was then left was to create the physical form to suit records rather than our soft squiggy carcasses! And the result? Achro. It is a pain to deal with—acrylic is far better behaved and more consistent. The stresses in the fine walls all come out variably; it does its best to confound us in our attempts to machine it and so on but the results more than justify the effort.”
Another of Funk’s design elements is Khoubesserian’s likewise patent-pending Vector 3-pulley DC-motor drive system. Some turntables, like the Voyd I owned many years ago and the Audio Note models that sprang from them, use a three-motor system to greatly increase the effective mass of their intentionally lightweight platters. The thinking here is that a lightweight platter driven by three powerful, speed-locked motors produces a situation where the mass is stored in the motors’ torque, therefore minimizing the energy that gets reflected and stored in the platter. But Khoubesserian dismisses the three-motor, if not the three-pulley, approach because he believes the motors will always be fighting each other. As the Funk white paper puts it, “For bearings to work there must be a gap. Compared to [record] groove dimensions, engineering tolerances are large. As the motor drives the platter it constantly tugs the bearing (in its gap) in one dimension. No longer gyroscopic, the unstable platter teeter-totters constantly, bicycle-style, as it vainly struggles to stay upright.” And again from our e-mails: “Using a belt in a derived Vector drive, we can apply an asymmetric set of Vectors and so to provide a first-order compensation for this imbalance. This is especially so given the bearing philosophy adopted in Funk, namely a very free system where the platter effectively ‘floats’—it benefits from as little control as possible. The principle is that we are trying to create an isolated environment so our stylus can go about its business scratching grooves. So Vector is basically a way of direct-driving and then skewing the drive to balance out various unbalancing forces.”
The Funk arm is Rega’s familiar RB 300, here fitted with a VTA adjustment and wired up with Moth Mk 3 Incognito leads and supplied by U.S. distributor Acoustic Sounds with a Lyra Dorian medium-high-output moving coil.
The first thing of note about the Funk’s sound is its pitch stability. The claims Khoubesserian makes for his Vector drive are not mere designer hyperbole, they are immediately audible. On Walton’s Symphony No. 1 (Previn/LSO [RCA]), for instance, this could be heard in the pitches of individual instruments as well as their image stability, and also in the rhythmic precision of the full orchestra, its lively dynamic presentation, and the quiet background the sound emerged from. This sense of stability is part and parcel of the Funk sound, whether you’re spinning Walton, Thelonious Monk, or anything else you’re in the mood for. And in this regard the Funk surpasses any other ’table I know of in this price range.
Another surprise is Funk’s bottom end. My experience with lighter-weight turntables—and the Funk is very light—led me to expect a lightweight sound here. And though the Funk doesn’t plumb the depths the way far more costly and massive designs will, I have to say it was nonetheless pretty impressive. With Igor Stravinsky conducting his delightful L’Histoire du Soldat Suite [Columbia], the bass drum whacks in the “Tango” section were delivered with the kind of almost “silent” power we hear live when the percussionist just barely taps the drum’s skin and yet it fills the room with reverberant power. The Funk was simply very fine across the board. From the terrific textural qualities in the Stravinsky suite—a lumbering bowed bass, the rat-a-tat-tat of a snare—to its excellent rendering of depth and its ability to easily carve out differently recorded acoustic spaces, to the wonderful sense of interplay between musicians.
By the way, the Funk is exceptionally easy to set up and maintain, and you can lock in the speed by accessing two small screws located near the teardrop-shaped power/ speed selection knob. It never drifted over my several-week evaluation period.
Lyra’s Dorian is a $750 medium-output mc with a very nicely balanced and easy-tolike sound. Obviously the sounds described above are both from the Funk and the Dorian, and during the Walton Symphony’s very dynamic first movement, the Dorian showed that it’s also a terrific tracker, able to navigate—or as Arthur Khoubesserian would say, “scratch”—the grooves without breaking up. The depth, quickness, rhythmic precision, overall neutrality, and far better than average detail I heard throughout my sessions are a tribute to both the Dorian and the Funk.
It’s a pleasure to report that analog of this quality can be found for a reasonably affordable price—especially when you consider that I placed the combination in a very revealing and far more costly system than it would typically be found in. TAS