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2015 Buyer’s Guide: Turntables $1500-$5000

Funk Firm Flamenca
Funk Firm has been innovating for a long time, and the Flamenca paired with Funk’s new F6 tonearm is about as good as it gets for $1600. No, it’s not a Well Tempered tonearm; it’s actually a threadbearing “pickup,” which sounds like dreamy air when playing your favorite vinyl. Though setup is a little tricky with a thread-bearing ’arm, your patience will be rewarded with glorious analog sound, and at an affordable price. Definitely a contender for best turntable under $2k. thefunkfirm.co.uk

Acoustic Signature Wow XL
If you’re looking for a solid foundation upon which to build your analog front end, the German-engineered-and-built Acoustic Signature Wow XL is about as rock-solid as you get in this price range. Precision bearings and speed control, technology from Acoustic Signature’s flagship Ascona, and first-rate build-quality are what make this turntable one killer setup. Choose your favorite tonearm and cartridge combo, and you’re ready to go. The possibilities are endless when you have a solid base for your vinyl, and the Wow XL is it. acoustic-signature.com

VPI Scout 1.1
$2000 with Scout tonearm
The Scout 1.1 is the first major upgrade to VPI’s ten-year-old platform. Gone is the familiar acrylic platter and in its place is a big chunky one made from aluminum. An oil-bath bearing and a new, included, gimbaled tonearm round out the major advancements over the outgoing model. Still “Made in Jersey,” still belt-driven, the Scout with its outboard motor is rock-solid and provides excellent speed control. Sound quality is uncomfortably good for the money. It is not necessarily an entrylevel ’table at this price; nonetheless, you can, and probably will (at some point), spend far more and get less. The challenge you’ll find, however, is to spend more and actually get a significantly better-sounding turntable. It’s not as easy as it sounds—good luck. vpiindustries.com

SOTA Sapphire Series V
The Series V upgrade of this venerable David Fletcher classic boasts improvements in parts, engineering, machining, and performance— all retrofittable to earlier versions. Its time-proven four‑point hanging suspension is still the ultimate in isolating the ’arm/pickup/ groove from external disturbances. For PS, the Sapphire is the least expensive turntable in his experience to reach the echelon of what the so-called “super-turntables” are all about, sacrificing only a bit of ultimate resolution and control, most of which you get back by adding vacuum hold-down or by getting it already fitted in SOTA’s Star or Nova models ($3800/4200). Recommended without qualification. sotaturntables.com

Rega RP8
$2995, $3995 with Apheta mc
The latest in the recently rapid evolution of Rega’s designs, the RP8 is a “skeletal” design, which includes not just the shape but also the material of the plinth. A three-piece “super flywheel” platter made of float glass and the newly fashioned RB808 ’arm complete this top model. The sound of the RP8 brings new levels of transparency, fine detail, soundstage definition, and drive to the always engaging, now more so, Rega sound, along with newfound tonal richness, weight, and dynamism. In the past, one often called a Rega “good for the money.” The RP8 is simply one of the best mid-priced designs on the market. soundorg.com

Pro-Ject Xtension 10
$2999 with 10cc Evolution tonearm
Pro-Ject is onto something wonderful here: A turntable that hits all the right sonic notes, while providing a rare combination of intellectual and emotional connection to the music. A slightly scaled-down edition of the Extension 12 (the model numbers reference the length of the carbon-fiber Evolution ’arms on each model), the 10 offers a smaller footprint but similar weight. The design features a mass-loaded, magnetically floated sub-chassis, a 3″-tall, 12.6-pound vinyl/alloy platter, a precision ceramic bearing that’s notably friction-free, and a three-speed AC motor whose speed is adjusted by a built-in electronic controller. The Extension 10 can be purchased with a SuperPack option ($3699) that includes a Sumiko BlackBird cartridge and an upgraded ’arm cable. Regardless of the cartridge used the Xtension 10 provides not only a high level of musical satisfaction, but does so in a way that delivers a powerful emotional wallop. sumikoaudio.net

Townshend Audio Rock 7 MkII
The Townshend Rock 7 turntable is the latest realization of Max Townshend’s unique and uniquely effective ideas about vinyl playback, including the fluid-containing trough that damps the ’arm at the cartridge end. With its own lack of resonant signatures of any type and its silent background, and with the trough taking up the cartridge vibrations that might otherwise go into the ’arm itself (and come back later to disturb the sound), the Rock 7 is truly remarkable in its truth to what is really on the record. The bass performance in particular is superb. And the Rock 7 has the solidity and neutrality of mastertape sound to a startling extent. The Townshend is convenient to use and stable in setup, and the ingenious suspension system is so effective that outboard isolation devices are not needed. The price is modest, indeed, by highend standards, but the sonic results are spectacular. townshendaudio.com

Acoustic Signature Challenger III
A worthy little brother to one of analog’s top dogs, the Acoustic Signature Challenger II uses the same exceptional bearing found in the company’s top-of-the-line Ascona. Though it may not have the sheer low-end weight and power of some designs, here is a turntable of remarkable purity, focus, elegance of presentation, and exceptional musicality. That’s not to say that the Challenger is lightweight or in any way sterile. Drums may not have the ultimate punch, but are terrifically fast, textured, and dynamically explosive. The Challenger II is also remarkably simple to set up and maintain, and the first-rate buildquality has clearly paid off with the performance of this remarkably low-coloration turntable. proaudio.com

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