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Editors’ Choice: Turntables $5000-$10000

Pear Audio Blue Kid Thomas

Dr. Feickert Woodpecker Turntable

Dr. Feickert Woodpecker

$5295 

Incorporating a host of purposeful updates, the gorgeous-looking Woodpecker proves itself capable of performance appropriate to its good design execution. While having a slightly higher noise floor than much more expensively executed designs, the Woodpecker is a very capable platform for vinyl playback that should serve its owner far into the future. 

Rega Planar 10 

$5695 ($6695 with pre-mounted Apheta 3 cartridge; $9695 with pre-mounted Aphelion 2 cartridge)

The latest in a near-legendary line of turntables, the top-of-line Rega Planar 10 exemplifies Rega founder Roy Gandy’s latest design thinking. With its stiff and light plinth, ceramic platter, and Apheta 3 cartridge mounted in Rega’s best arm, the Planar 10 pulls a truly amazing amount of detail out of LPs, all the while remaining extraordinarily quiet. The presentation is tonally neutral with lifelike weight, body, and presence. Lower octaves are deep, tight, and fully defined while resolution, articulation, pitch accuracy, and timbre are superb. When purchased with the pre-mounted cartridge, the Planar 10 can literally be set up and ready to go in minutes. An external power supply provides rock-solid speed stability and makes changing speeds a snap. Simple, straightforward, and exceptional. 

VPI Classic Signature

VPI Classic Signature

$6000 

The VPI Classic Signature is an exceptional effort by a company that knows the analog landscape like few others. Arriving complete with the Classic unipivot tonearm, an HR-X center weight, and a PRC ring clamp to fully flatten stubborn LPs, the Classic Signature is fast, lucid, and responsive. Rhythmically it has an upbeat, forward-leaning personality with excellent timbre and pitch definition in the low frequencies. The tonearm is also brilliant, with-on-the-fly VTA adjustability and removable armwands for the slickest cartridge-swapping in town. 

Clearaudio Performance DC Wood with Tracer Tonearm

$6400

The Performance DC Wood turntable’s evenhandedness and consistency (of speed, etc.) capably conveyed complex layering of instruments and/or vocals, helping to preserve their true characteristic tonality for a more realistic and compelling presentation. Better still, this presentation benefitted any type of music, making the Performance DC Wood/Tracer tonearm (with optional Stradivari V2 cartridge) an excellent choice for multi-genre vinyl lovers, who (like JM) have all-over-the-map musical tastes. If you have the means, this turntable/tonearm should be on your short list. 

JR Transrotor Dark Star

$6500 

With its out-of-this-world good looks yet approachably down-to-Earth affordability Transrotor’s Dark Star conveys little sense of compromise. Fully equipped for LP playback—it is bundled with a Jelco SA-750D tonearm and a Goldring Elektra moving-magnet cartridge—this belt-driven, suspensionless design picks up transient cues as if it were anticipating the record groove before the stylus begins tracking. Though a bit lighter and quicker in balance, and slightly less dynamic in the bass, than some, the Dark Star is an elegant package and a sonic delight. 

Clearaudio Ovation

$7000 ($9500 w/Tracer tonearm) 

Continuing the trend of bundling together even more sophisticated turntables, ‘arms, and cartridges into fine-sounding but relatively hassle-free combinations, Clearaudio recently released what may be the most ambitious such package yet. With the Tracer carbon-fiber tonearm and Talisman v2 Gold cartridge, the Ovation is a terrific-sounding combo. It is very well balanced, with excellent detail that emerges from silent backgrounds, exceptional pitch stability, and sweet extended highs—if not the powerhouse bottom-end found in the highest-end models. 

Acoustic Signature Tornado Neo 

$7495

Acoustic Signature implemented across-the-board improvements to its entire turntable lineup: an accumulation of at least twenty-five years of industry experience, along with the present-day implementation of its innovations in vibration control, platter bearing design, and constrained-layer damping. With these updates, the mostly all-metal Tornado Neo provides a stable platform for multiple cartridges and tonearms to easily show their individual differences and performance characteristics. With already solid construction and the Neo advancements, the Tornado provides exceptional performance, along with countless hours of musical enjoyment.

Helius Alexia TT and Helius Omega

Helius Alexia with Omega tonearm 

$8790 

The Helius Alexia turntable and Omega tonearm represent a combination of traditional and genuinely innovative thinking. A two-speed (33/45) belt-drive, the Alexia features a novel suspension that is very compliant in the vertical dimension, completely fixed in the lateral, while an optical sensor below the platter results in unusually effective speed accuracy and constancy. The Omega’s bearing is a uniquely “tetrahedral” configuration that offers “a captured design and minimal friction.” Reviewer PS was impressed by the setup’s stability of pitch, wide dynamic window, and excellent tracking of inner grooves. 

Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101

$8995

Having taken his Heirloom design as far as possible, George Merrill has produced a radically innovative, non-suspended turntable that makes extensive use of elastomers to dampen resonances (without dampening the life out of the music). Coupled with a sophisticated microprocessor-controlled motor-drive system, and optional periphery ring and clamp, the R.E.A.L. has an astonishingly low noise floor and excellent speed stability and control. Music emerges from a jet-black background without any blurring and with lots of fine musical detail. 

Pear Audio Blue Kid Thomas

$9995 (w/Cornet 2 tonearm and external power supply)

Based on the pedigree and designs of the late Tom Fletcher (of Nottingham Analogue fame), the Pear Audio Blue Kid Thomas is an advancement over Fletcher’s older products. Pear Audio’s goal with the Kid Thomas is “sonic harmony.” In this case, every aspect of the Kid Thomas’ design was tested, down to the smallest parts, to optimize performance. The act of merging art and craftsmanship with measurements and science allows this turntable package to become a subjectively quiet playback system that can reproduce music in a way that is like more expensive turntable systems. 

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