Writing this at the end of the summer 2020, and without spilling any political blood, let’s just collectively agree that this year has been at the very least, well, stressful. So how about something we could all use in the midst of this crazy rollercoaster? In the words of the above-quoted Joan Armatrading, how about the opportunity to really laugh? To really love. No 1967 Haight-Ashbury, Summer of Love type of thing. What we could really use is a simple, personal, mental pause where we can instinctively throw our heads back and feel something. Trust something. We need a lover, not just a friend.
In our world where down is seamlessly (shamelessly?) argued as up, this review will acknowledge our dystopia and put the listening/use impressions before any description of the product under review. If I were braver, I’d leave these opening introductory paragraphs till last and throw the conclusion up front, but all those who skip a review body to read the final few paragraphs would have their heads implode. I don’t want that on my public record, even though I’d be secretly pleased.
In Listening: Immediate Relief
Stress is really your CPU (that would be your brain) being overworked. It’s at max capacity. No buffer left. If you’ve felt that way (you’re human—you have), you know the way I feel about audio gear in general, but especially at this time in history. I don’t have the extra processing and time available to figure you out. If you’re damaged or complicated, high maintenance, or in any way a “project,” I’m quickly moving on with my life…without you (audio equipment that is).
The Brinkmann Taurus turntable reviewed here ($14,990 plus tonearm) gets right to the musical point. There is no delayed gratification. Let’s call that immediacy. On most occasions, I found myself snapping my fingers, slapping my thigh, or doing whatever the music called for within 10 seconds of the needle hitting the groove (and frequently before I had a chance to sit down in the listening chair!). I put this characteristic of immediacy very high on my “needs to have” list, and I lead with it here because of our times, and because the Taurus checks that really big box without sacrificing the technical merits one would expect from a ’table in this category. Less stress. More music. Love at first listen. Just what we need. Just what I need!
Paul Bley is one of my favorite jazz pianists, and about as “free” as I get. There is something in his artistic and technical creativity that strikes me as thoughtful. Bley manages to connect with me as a listener. The Taurus (especially with the RöNt II tube power supply) brought me into Bley’s Open, to Love (1973, ECM) in a way that only great, substantial ’tables can. Really good turntables create a believable picture. They paint with engaging yet recognizable color and brushstrokes. But the very best open a wormhole into the recording’s reality. They bring you into the there rather than setting up an “observer/observed” opposition. And on this album I felt privy to every aspect of Bley’s creative thoughtfulness. Long, resonant decays played against a massive yet silent background. Beautifully delicate sounds of fingers reaching inside the instrument to directly brush strings. The weight and impact of hammers. Even the awareness of Bley’s Jarrett/Gould-like humming as a fellow participant in the experience. The Taurus had me into the silence (thanks ECM!). Believing it. Trusting it. Loving it.
A turntable is a mechano-electronic device (I think I just made that up). It converts little vibrations into an electric signal. We find its opposite in the loudspeaker at the other end of the chain, an electro-mechanical device that converts the electrical signal into physical movements that excite the air and create the soundwaves we hear, hopefully as music. The thing about the Taurus is that it presents itself more like a purely electronic device in the middle of the reproduction chain that anything (usually more colorful) at either end. It reminded me more of the Esoteric E-02 phonostage, for instance, than any other piece of equipment I’ve reviewed. As with the Esoteric, I consistently had the very reassuring feeling that I was getting the most out of the groove. Balanced and brilliant. Deeply refined and quiet. Giant yet invisible.
This uncommon balance and stability here served all music, all the time. Tom Waits’ brilliant concept of a “live/studio” album Nighthawks at the Diner (1975, Asylum) was reproduced with an eye-opening sense of the audience and space. My notes regarding the BSO’s performance of Debussy’s La Mer (1958, RCA) were embarrassingly complimentary: “Complicated rhythmic lines easily, joyfully unfolded.” “All that density without feeling heavy. All the cues. All the texture. No after taste or residual damage.” “Spectacular brass!” “A complete, colorful, dimensional, living soundscape.” It’s almost as though I was enjoying myself.
By Allan Moulton
Let’s just start with a confession of sorts. I enjoyed listening to the combined talents of Roger Whittaker, Nana Mouskouri, The Irish Rovers, Zamfir, and Chuck Mangione with my family as a youth (Allan winces).More articles from this editor
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