First, on good recordings, the Nottingham produces soundstages of exceptional depth, width, and overall three-dimensionality— arguably the turntable’s greatest strength. I put on the Von Karajan/ Berlin recording of Stravinsky’s Apollon Musagète [Deutsche Grammophon] and was dumbstruck by the way the ’table captured the sheer size and physical stage presence of the Berlin Philharmonic. The Nottingham let me hear how individual orchestra sections interacted with one another and—especially—with the hall, conveying a sense of the orchestra as a living, breathing organism. This is not one of those polite turntables that presents soundstages in miniature; on the contrary, the aptly named Space 294 sounds appropriately big and full-bodied, always letting you hear and appreciate the acoustics of the recording venue.
Second, the Nottingham produces rock-solid images that are consistently stable and tightly focused. On “Missile Blues” from the Wes Montgomery Trio’s eponymous album [Riverside, Analogue Productions reissue, 45rpm], I was floored by the vivid illusion that Montgomery’s sweet-sounding guitar amp was located only a few feet away and directly across the room from my listening chair. The illusion was further enhanced when, as Montgomery emphasized certain notes and phrases, I was able to hear the acoustic sound of his picking and fingering noises as separate and distinct from the amplified sound of the guitar. A thousand and one small sonic details have to come together in unison to produce images this believable, and the Nottingham captures them effortlessly.
Finally, the Nottingham delivers a carefully balanced combination of resolution and detail on the one hand, and natural warmth on the other. Tom Fletcher is on record as saying that “our (Nottingham’s) turntables are generally on the warm side of neutral,” though I think his statement is somewhat misleading. If we use the sound of live music as our standard, then I would argue the Space 294/Ace-Space 294 sound is truly neutral, where many “definition-driven” products sound colder, brighter, and more clinical than the real thing. Let me provide a concrete example to illustrate the point. As I write this paragraph, I am listening to the Michael Tilson Thomas/Boston recording of Debussy’s Images pour Orchestre [Deutsche Grammophon]. Many analog systems capture the basic beauty of this recording yet impart a cold, steely quality over the top of the strings, which spoils the effect I believe Debussy was after. But the Notthingham is different; though very detailed in its overall presentation, it nails the rich, almost buttery-smooth quality of the Boston strings in a way that brings the entire composition alive and lets it sing.