Don’t let its unusual looks fool you. Ditto its odd name. Deceptively simple in design and eminently user-friendly, this belt-driven turntable was created for those who want to purchase a quality analog source without breaking the bank. GEM Dandy company founder George Merrill—whose initials make up the “GEM” part of the ’table’s name—designed the GEM Dandy PolyTable especially for analog fans seeking a high-performance unit that is a cut above mass-market offerings. I found that the GEM did, indeed, deliver solid sound and a positive user experience—from basic assembly and setup to hours of listening enjoyment. Made in the U.S. (in a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee), this ’table is, in fact, so good it won our 2015 Product of the Year Award in the Affordable Analog category.
About the PolyTable’s design: It avoids fuss and frills, and though it has a small footprint—another plus for those with less-than-palatial living spaces—to a large extent its form follows its function. Its trio of sturdy, knob-like, adjustable feet gives it a sort of spaceship vibe. Of course, beauty is famously in the eye of the beholder, but I find the PolyTable to have a certain spare, straightforward appeal that is also kind of sleek and modern. Moreover, its streamlined look befits its streamlined operation, suitable for both budding and more experienced audiophiles. It’s as if this little “gem” of a turntable has nothing to hide.
The PolyTable’s unsuspended plinth, sub-platter, and platter are made of polyvinyl-chloride synthetic plastic, which is produced by polymerization of vinyl-chloride monomer.
George Merrill, who has been designing and building turntables for more than three decades, pioneered the use of such materials and holds related patents (applicable to some of his other turntables). “These polymers manage energy to an overwhelmingly better degree then any metal can,” he says. “None of the turntables since my first Heirloom design (1979) has had any metal in the critical signal path.” The catchy PolyTable name—and those of its PolyCover and PolyWeight accessories—comes from the use of polymer plastics.
Arrival and Assembly
My PolyTable review sample arrived in a larger box than I expected; it was well packed and included a helpful, four-page, color instruction manual. The PolyTable turntables are shipped with Japanese-made Jelco tonearms; upon ordering you can choose from one of three models at tiered prices: the entry-level SA-250 (which was supplied with my sample), the SA-750D, or the 10" SA-750E. The PolyTables do not come bundled with a cartridge, so you’ll have to buy one for yourself, although a range of Ortofon models is available through Merrill’s store online.
Assembly instructions for the ’table and tonearm—and assembly itself—were simple. The aforementioned brief guide contains photos that make setup even easier. The PolyTable is a subplatter/platter design that uses an oil-well bearing and shaft that require the addition of about 10 drops of oil (included) when you fit the platters together. There are three leveling feet (adjustable via internal screws) on the bottom of the plinth. The platter is lined on its surface with a rubber and cork compound, and there’s a small bubble level built into the plinth. I moved house partway through the audition period, so that little level came in handy for readjusting the feet to compensate for my new home’s not-quite-level hardwood floors. Like any ’table worth its salt, the PolyTable allows for VTF, VTA, and azimuth adjustments to enable optimization of a wide range of cartridges.