Kronos Sparta Turntable

A New Concept in Turntables

Equipment report
Categories:
Turntables
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Products:
Kronos Sparta
Kronos Sparta Turntable

Kronos Audio burst onto the scene some four years ago, the brainchild of one Louis Desjardins of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Louis studied science at Concordia University in Montreal, with a primary focus on the physics of waves as applied to both light and sound, particularly how those waves and vibrations were transmitted, reflected, and shifted when passing through different materials. He then spent 20 years working in optics and high-resolution photography with major clients such as BMW, Nissan, and Toyota.

Some ten years ago, while acknowledging a lifelong passion and fascination with audio, he found himself modifying turntables. It was only natural that he began applying the principles he had learned during his studies in optics. After discovering an article describing the decidedly negative impact that torque forces generated by a rotating platter have on the plinth of a suspended turntable, and by experimenting with drive and suspension designs, he soon realized that conventional solutions neither addressed the problem completely, nor at the source.

It seemed obvious to him that the correct approach would not be to try to dampen such vibrations, but to eliminate them entirely. The only sure way to offset the torsional forces, forces which then load the turntable’s suspension to the detriment of fine detail, tonal purity, focus, and resolution, would be to have two platters of the same mass, counter-rotating at the same speed, using the same bearings and motors—a clear application of Newton’s second law of motion.

His next step was to develop an experiment and build a prototype to verify this hypothesis. Over a two-year development period, he worked rigorously to implement all the lessons he had learned about drive systems, materials, bearings, and suspensions, tuning and refining every sub-system. With the exception of consulting with Labb Technologies to develop the DC motor controller, Louis was responsible for every other aspect of his turntable’s design.

Upon first playback, the advantages of contra-rotation and the refinements and optimizations he had implemented became plainly apparent. Excited to share what he had accomplished, he auditioned his prototype for René Laflamme, CEO, producer, and sound engineer at Montreal’s Fidelio Music. That initial demonstration pitted a test pressing of the label’s recent release of Holst’s The Planets on the prototype Kronos, compared head-to-head with the analog mastertape. René was moved by how closely the performance of the vinyl playback system mimicked the characteristics of the mastertape, so much so that he asked to use the prototype turntable at the Montreal Audio show in 2011 to launch this particular recording. That introductory performance was such a resounding success that Louis decided to manufacture the turntable, initially as a limited edition with a run of just 250 units. That run was so successful that the name was changed to the PRO and the company we now know as Kronos was established. The PRO saw its first official showing at CES 2012.

The Sparta was developed during 2013 and introduced at CES 2014 as a way to offer the lion’s share of the sonic advantage the $38,000 PRO brings to the party at a lower price. Once the decision was made to offer a more affordable variant, certain decisions had to be made to maximize the effectiveness of the necessary compromises.

The result was that the same motors (initially), suspension, counter-rotational scheme, and bearings were selected. However, the plinths and platters are of different construction, as is the DC-motor-control system. While the Sparta’s plinths utilize the same materials as the PRO, it is a simpler application with simpler finishing, resulting in manufacturing efficiencies that allow lower production cost at the price of somewhat lower vibration damping. As of January 2015, the PRO uses a newer, costlier DCX motor. The Sparta maintains the implementation of the original motors used in the PRO, providing more than adequate operation within its performance envelope.