Palmer 2.5 Turntable

No Fuss

Equipment report
Palmer 2.5
Palmer 2.5 Turntable

It did. But I’d go one step further and say that there was an additional synergy: The Cadenza Bronze in the Origami on the Palmer 2.5 made for one of the most irresistibly addictive vinyl setups in my experience. I never tired of listening to it, always wanted more, and was continually rewarded with involving, natural reproduction. Source permitting, of course—but unless a recording is simply atrocious, rarely was the reproduction ever stressful, so much in control, so unperturbed was this combination in negotiating anything sent its way. Tracking was outstanding, surface noise and all the other detritus of vinyl well suppressed, and the background blackness fully competitive even with some SME models I’ve tested. Whatever Palmer was up to here, in the 2.5 he translated it into listening experiences of beauty, precision, clarity, and power.

My longstanding Carmen (Bernstein/DG) was as big, bold, and blazingly colorful as it should be, the brashness of the recording ever so slightly, and welcomely, ameliorated, which is exactly one of the house specialties of the Bronze. When it comes to sound-staging, this recording replicates the experience of a really good opera house that few can match, and the Palmer & Co. represented it that way. On Stokowski’s Rhapsody album, the Hungarian had gloriously dimensional, thrusting, and detailed bass, superbly controlled with extraordinary resolution. The companion Rumanian Rhapsody was rhythmically dazzling, and, like the Hungarian, essayed with spectacular dynamic crunch and slam.

In conjunction with a review of Colin Davis: The Philips Years, I pulled out his magnificent Messiah from the late sixties. More than ever this is one of the great recordings and great interpretations: big-boned, generous of tone and utterance, and almost voluptuous in its color and texture—unlike Bach, Handel was a hedonist, and even when reduced forces are used, he should sound that way. He is also among the most dramatic of composers, as the “Surely” chorus here demonstrates, Davis’s tempo ideally balancing urgency with just enough drag to give the idea of bearing our grief’s expressive weight. The Palmer/Origami/Bronze setup brought this recording thrillingly to life in my listening room. Likewise, Mehta’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, on Decca with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, truly a sonic spectacular because the opening 32Hz organ pedal is actually on the recording, lived up to its reputation here, the pedal point filling the room with scary power (thanks in no small part to a new REL subwoofer, review forthcoming). I was initially concentrating on big stuff with deep bass just to reassure myself that all was right in the way of low noise and freedom from feedback despite the lack of suspension. Nothing to worry about (though every environment presents a different collection of problems).

Another great performance, which again revealed the imaging capabilities of the Palmer, is Bernstein’s Beethoven Opus 131 with the full complement of the Vienna Philharmonic strings. There’s a lovely moment when a motif is passed from first violin to second, then viola and finally cello, left to right across a seamless soundstage, which was reproduced to holographic perfection. A different sort of soundstaging is represented by Impex’s new reissue of Monk’s Dream, which is extremely vivid and listenable—“Bright Mississippi” certainly gets the toes tapping. But the recording is close up and dry with the standard left/center/right miking so prevalent in its era. Yet with this setup the performers don’t sound as if each is coming from its own black space discontinuous from the others. From more or less the same vintage is Ellington’s Piano in the Foreground, where the piano was reproduced . . . well, in the foreground—with startlingly reach-out-and-touch-it presence!

To check detail and resolution, I often turn to Graceland— an original vinyl pressing. The big reverberative opening was dispatched with stunning power and inner detail. The complex lines and textures (“lasers in the jungle”) are splendidly clarified without being picked apart, and the individualities of the instruments, including the computer-generated ones, are distinct and easily recognizable (even if you don’t know what they are). Rhythmically the 2.5 is certainly as ship-shape as anyone could desire, yet it never exhibits that excessive articulation some turntables do. On “Homeless,” it nails the crucial distinction between space and volume, while in “Under African Skies” Linda Ronstadt’s voice is at once distinctive yet perfectly blended. I can truthfully say I’ve never enjoyed this album more. I made a note here: “I wonder if the secret to the success of this turntable is that it’s a fundamentally simple and practical design that has been executed to the nines in each of its aspects.”

This is one turntable that I cannot recommend highly enough, especially for those in search of a set-it-up-and-forget-it record-playing component that at the same time allows for a very fine degree of precision in adjustment and very high performance. I wish I had more time to try it with other arms—I’d especially like to hear it with a Graham Phantom—but in saying that, I have no wish to suggest I was in any way dissatisfied with the combination as loaned.

And one final point before I sign off: I really love the classic aesthetics of the Palmer, the clean, simple lines, the reasonable size (you can lift it without fear of hernia), and most especially the use of wood. I can’t tell you how tired I am of intricate space-age designs made from gleaming glass and polished metals and acrylics that look fabulous when they first come out of the box, then get dusty, smudged, and scratched and require more time to clean than a Viking stove (with far greater risk of damaging something). I am reminded of Thoreau at Walden finding three pieces of limestone that struck his fancy. He brought them home and placed them on his desk. When a few days later he discovered to his horror that he had to dust them, he reckoned their decorative value wasn’t worth the effort and tossed them out. The Palmer looks as good as it sounds, requires almost zero maintenance, and with an all-wood plinth, doesn’t show dust, is easy to clean, and its soft, warm, glowing beauty will look as good in ten years as it does now. That’s my kind of pulchritude.


Drive system: Belt
Speeds: 33, 45
Suspension: Fixed
Dimensions: 18.9" x 13.8"
Weight: 44 lbs.
Price: $7995 ($10,990 with Audio Origami PU7 tonearm)

Fidelis A/V (U.S. Distributor)
460 Amherst St.,
Nashua, NH 03063
(603) 880-HIFI (4434)

Featured Articles