I listened to a megabuck turntable... SHOOTOUT! *Part 3 - updated*

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 16992 times.

G E

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 365
There is no guarantee a high dollar system will sound good.

A friend was auditioning a turntable in his home- magnet drive platter, SME tone arm and a cart that retailed for $11k. All together the turntable set up listed for $40k. Yeah.....

The hallmark of the system was dead silence in lead in grooves and a complete lack of background noise. It was beguiling at first.

But after an hour of listening I realized my foot wasn't tapping and we exchanged notes - there was no excitement in the presentation and emotion of the music did not come through be it joy, anger or wistfulness.

The turntable is going back to the store this week.

Went home and played some of the songs just played on my WTA and wow- what a difference. The life of the music pours out of the grooves. A vibrant and engaging experience.

And for 10% of the cost.
 
« Last Edit: 13 Nov 2016, 01:03 am by G E »

rob400

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 298
  • Versalex and Audio Note for the rest
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #1 on: 11 Jul 2016, 05:02 am »
Have a listen to 400 Royale. More of the involvement, tone and neutrality but with much better bass authority underpinning it all. It takes some accommodating though with it's weight and dimensions but worth it!

G E

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 365
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #2 on: 20 Jul 2016, 12:41 am »
So- the TransRotor went back to the shop.... And is coming back with a different cartridge. So I am going back over for another listen this weekend. I will also bring over a different single malt to enjoy during the proceedings. Hopefully that won't skew our test results. We are altering TWO variables, not just one. My old college science professors would be aghast.

Devil Doc

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 2191
  • On the road to Perdition
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #3 on: 20 Jul 2016, 12:54 am »
From a great deal of experience, I've found that it takes at least three drams to skew the results.

Doc

Bob2

Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #4 on: 20 Jul 2016, 01:44 am »
"it takes at least three drams to skew the results."

+1



Rocket_Ronny

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 1112
  • Your Room Is Everything - Use It Well.
    • ScriptureSongs.com
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #5 on: 20 Jul 2016, 02:01 am »
What was the vertical tracking angle? That can make a huge difference.

Rocket Ronny

G E

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 365
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #6 on: 20 Jul 2016, 02:22 am »
What was the vertical tracking angle? That can make a huge difference.

Rocket Ronny

VTA can make a big difference - directly witnessed this with my Grado Reference Master 1 on my WTA. Best results with tail slightly down.

It appeared the SME arm and cart were tails up but somewhat hard to judge due to the taper of the arm. We assumed the dealer knows his business and properly set up cart/arm/VTA.

We had no way to measure stylus rake and we were not inclined to get too close to a cart costing $11k. If it needed to be dialed in the dealer got a second chance with a different cart.

And yes, I have mentioned the Royale 400 a few times and he has heard my WTA/Grado.  He likes it but likes his VPI sound even more. Something for everybody...


tipatina

Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #7 on: 23 Jul 2016, 03:41 am »
This kinda stuff comes alive on the WTA
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2XRoe3fs2gQ

Kimiimacman

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 41
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #8 on: 23 Jul 2016, 12:44 pm »
The one and only WT Royale 400 is currently residing in Berkshire's only dealer and magnificent it sounds too. My wife will be so glad it's too big to sit atop my Audiotech wallshelf. So's my bank manager! Here for the next few weeks so feel to drop by for a listen.

ATB

Simon

G E

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 365
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #9 on: 24 Jul 2016, 05:21 pm »
The TransRotor table did not make it to my friend's place yet so he came over to my place for a listen (or as I call it, a palate re-calibration  :lol: )
We sample three scotches: Aberlour 12 (sherry bomb), Highland 12, and a really smokey/peaty blend that Total Wine and Spirits is pushing hard.  It's not a good companion to the other two, but a couple splashes of water make it OK on its own.  I won't be getting it again.

Music included Buddy Guy/Jr Wells Record Store Day 2016 special, some live Billy Holiday very late in her career (wild red and white colored vinyl with no cover), Red Head Stranger Willy Nelson (Impex reissue, incredible), Some jazz featuring Stanley Clark, Chick Corea and Freddy Hubbard, a live Jan Hammer and Jeff beck record, and a couple of Gentle Giant records (acquiring the Taste and Octopus).  A very good time was had by all.


rob400

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 298
  • Versalex and Audio Note for the rest
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #10 on: 24 Jul 2016, 08:44 pm »
The one and only WT Royale 400 is currently residing in Berkshire's only dealer and magnificent it sounds too. My wife will be so glad it's too big to sit atop my Audiotech wallshelf. So's my bank manager! Here for the next few weeks so feel to drop by for a listen.

ATB

Simon

As the manager of Audio T at least you can buy the 400 at trade Simon :-).

Kimiimacman

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 41
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #11 on: 25 Jul 2016, 09:54 am »
As the manager of Audio T at least you can buy the 400 at trade Simon :-).
True enough but all things are relative. Anyway I have to say I'm delighted with my Versalex/XV1-t which ended my 29 year tenure with an LP12 the last incarnation of which was LP12/Radikal/Aro/Cadenza Bronze, there really is no going back.
John Burns did warn me that owning the deck will be costly though. He was right, never bought so much vinyl, many outside of my comfort zone too.

Simon

rob400

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 298
  • Versalex and Audio Note for the rest
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #12 on: 25 Jul 2016, 07:12 pm »
We share a similar experience. I went from a Naim'd LP12 to Versalex/ XV1s and have found myself listening to lots more Classical and Jazz. Count Basie never sounded quite right on the LP12.......

How do you find the improvement going from Versalex to Royale?




Kimiimacman

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 41
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #13 on: 25 Jul 2016, 08:14 pm »
We share a similar experience. I went from a Naim'd LP12 to Versalex/ XV1s and have found myself listening to lots more Classical and Jazz. Count Basie never sounded quite right on the LP12.......

How do you find the improvement going from Versalex to Royale?
Yes, same but lots of 1950s Miles Davis albums.

As for the comparison? Well I've only had a couple of days with it playing in the font of house and now I'm away on the North Yorkshire Moors. John kindly left his XV1-t so I intend bringing my Versalex (rather that than have to reset the cart alignment) in for a bake off next week. There's no way I could listen at home regrettably and we don't have the full Rega Reference system I use at home so I'm listening to it with mid-range Naim. We're using Shahinian Arc 2, Obelisk and Hawk, I have MK3 SBLs.

Simon

rob400

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 298
  • Versalex and Audio Note for the rest
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend
« Reply #14 on: 26 Jul 2016, 05:40 am »
Yes, same but lots of 1950s Miles Davis albums.

As for the comparison? Well I've only had a couple of days with it playing in the font of house and now I'm away on the North Yorkshire Moors. John kindly left his XV1-t so I intend bringing my Versalex (rather that than have to reset the cart alignment) in for a bake off next week. There's no way I could listen at home regrettably and we don't have the full Rega Reference system I use at home so I'm listening to it with mid-range Naim. We're using Shahinian Arc 2, Obelisk and Hawk, I have MK3 SBLs.

Simon

Ditto regarding Miles Davis.

I owned an Naim 250 active SBL system for years. I now own a lovely John Burns system driving Obs 2 with L300/P300 / 2 x HX100. The more consistently good sound we have referred to is furthered with the DV/SH combo IMO. I do occasionally miss that fast dynamic bass but otherwise not. CD sounds way better now as well. I know John pretty well. He's a top man. Mention Rob from Leeds next time you chat with him Simon.

ATB

Rob

G E

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 365
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend *Part 2*
« Reply #15 on: 3 Aug 2016, 02:35 am »
Last Sunday I was invited back for another listen to the Transrotor turntable, this time equipped with a Shelter Accord cartridge, about 1/3 the price of the previous cart (I will get the name and add this info later).

The dead silence of intro and inter-song grooves remained.  Much better bass, reasonably well controlled, decent high end, no sibilance, not etched.  A little less detail than the more expensive cart.  But in our view it was a much more involving sound.  The emotion of the music returned.  The midrange was somewhat recessed which I am not crazy about.  But this combination provided a much more involving experience than before.  The music swung.  The only thing that changed was the cartridge... well, we were drinking bourbon instead of scotch....

I am not sure my friend has his checkbook out yet, I sense some hesitancy.  No doubt because this bit of kit still fetches a dear sum, even with the "budget cart"

Perhaps there is another cartridge that will dial it in to nirvana.  Getting closer but not there.  Tricky and expensive business with this level of equipment.  Synergies are ever so important.  And the Shelter is out of the box new and is settling in, maybe another 30 hours brings it on home.

I still feel my WTA and Grado Reference Master 1 "in my system" outplays it.

But we have wildly different approaches to sound reproduction.  He has tube VAC amplification and Focal Scala Utopia (if memory serves).

I have VMPS speakers with ribbon mids and tweets, Bryston 28s ( sweet sounding amps believe it or not), Bel Canto Pre6, and a humble Hagerman Cornet 2 with ancient amperex tubes.  My room is also acoustically treated.


Kimiimacman

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 41
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend *Part 2*
« Reply #16 on: 5 Aug 2016, 11:16 am »
Having spent the best part of three days between customers and other distractions like telephone calls, lunch and coffee; listening to and comparing the Royale 400 with the Versalex, I'd like to share our initial impressions. This is in no way an exhaustive comparison as we decided to keep the music selection limited to a few tracks from a handful of records.

To the Mods. I hope you allow this post. Although I'm a registered dealer, these are my personal thoughts as a personal owner of WT products to assist other readers of this rarest of decks and in no way offered as a sales pitch.

Listening was carried out in our storefront with the 'house system' of Naim NAC282/HC/250-2DR Shahinian Arc2 on Fraimlite. Also used was Dynavector L200/HX100(prototype kindly loaned by Pear Audio) a Rega Osiris and a Consonance Cyber 10 Signature valve amp, so a reasonably broad spectrum of amplification. Phonostage used was Cyrus Signature/PSXR-2. Both decks played atop the WT table for the Royale 400 and a Dynavector XV1-t swapped between the two.
I'm not going to make comparative comments on the amps as all the same conclusions were drawn.

Having had the Versalex/XV1-t in my personal system for 12 months now I feel I'm pretty familiar with its strengths and weaknesses (no many of the later as any owner out there would already know). This, coming from an LP12/Radikal/Aro/Cadenza Bronze.

First up, a recently purchased copy of Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus, Analogue Productions APRJ-7079. Track; Blue 7.
This great but simple mono recording sounded both rich and vibrant on the Versalex, with great rhythm but on the Royale 400 what sounded like a great recording was transformed into an awesome performance such was the startling lift in dynamics and expression. Also evident was a noticeable increase in soundstage in all directions with much greater grip and weight to all components but not in a 'hear me!, in yer face' way just more realistic. The often-overused cliché of a performer 'being there' was quite apt. Both Marc and I agreed it sounded much louder which of course it couldn't have been; such was the increase in dynamic range, which bodes particularly well for those like myself who often listen in the small hours and very low levels.

Next was Creedence Clearwater Revival's On the Bayou, Fantasy 8387 Steve Hoffman remastered QRP pressing.  The title track has a wonderful rhythmic quality and swing, which isn't overly rehearsed to sound sterile and mechanical but loose and organic. Again the 400 comprehensively bettered the Versalex in this important aspect whilst retaining the dynamic lift.

Lastly Richard Thompson, one of my all-time favourite performers (seen him more times than any other act) and songwriters. Front Parlour Ballads on Diverse Records DIV009LP Track: The Boys From Mutton St.
Well, I like to think I know how he both sounds and performs (I own the same Lowden L27f guitar purely by chance) and with the Royale 400 I was totally blown away by how palpable he sounded but more than that how moving his playing and singing was, talk about goose bumps? Chord change after chord change got me time and again, frankly this was by far the best I've ever heard this album, neh, the best I've ever heard him outside of being live! Incredible.

What the Royale 400 is not is a completely different sounding deck from the Versalex in the way that some manufacturers or designers seek to appeal to every different customer's tastes. This, I believe is William Firebaugh's ultimate expression of his unique design philosophy. Tonally they sound more similar than they differ. It's the dynamic and musical expression that takes a significant step forward to a level I've not previously experienced. I've read comments that suggest that Bill has gone against a principle of making affordable high-end decks such is the cost of this thing. I don't subscribe to that. (I remember selling the WT Reference in 2001 for £4675; Naim’s prices have exactly doubled in that period and they have economies of scale too. The 400 in real money terms is no more expensive then and the Reference is trounced by the Versalex, let alone the Royale 400). No, I believe he realised that to achieve this level of performance with his current design ideas it takes this deck to achieve his goals.

Ah yes, cost. Well yesterday Pear Audio announced the UK pricing and considering we are now in post Brexit Britain I'm happy to inform that the deck itself is as predicted give or take at £10995 and the table at £2995, considerably less than the £7K initially suggested. We can all thank John for that one!
XV1-t has suffered a price increase to £5995 due to the slump in the pound.

All up the package is £20K. I say package, as I believe it should be considered such. Anyone spending this level on the deck and rack should consider the XV-1t and nothing lower imho. I'm sure it will prove to be very competitive, following in the Versalex's footsteps as a 'giant-killer'.

Tomorrow we intend one more comparison, Versalex/XV-1t vs Royale 400/XX2, just for fun. Cost wise, not a lot in it now that the Versalex is £3795.

The Versalex of course ripped up the rulebook in so many ways and in particular the one that suggests spending far less on the cartridge than the deck. Pa! The ‘t’ absolutely shines in a way it didn't on my Aro: sorry to those who have done that; as good as it is, the Aro's limited bandwidth holds back so much imho.

I very briefly tried the XX2 on the Royale 400 and it didn't grab me I have to say so a longer listen is definitely in order. Could it be that Bill has broken another 'rule' here? The ‘t’ on the Versalex sounds better than a lesser cart on the Royale 400?

So, it could be the best deck we've ever heard, it certainly is the biggest. In my last post I said there was no way I could house such a deck or even demo it at home, damn! So I got my tape measure out and was shocked by what i discovered. My setup at home sits on a 5-tier Isoblue rack, 3 components with an empty shelf between each and the deck on a Audiotech wall shelf. The Isoblue is actually 5mm wider!
Of course it nowhere near as deep but such is the depth of the amp that it has to be well clear of the skirting. In situ the Royale 400 will protrude a mere 2.5" more and I can loose the less than pretty wall shelf. Sod it, it's going home before John asks for it back though unlike those look-alike Naim boxes, there'll be no passing that one by without be noticed!!

I hope to go into more of the technical details that set the decks apart in another post with pictures of the hidden bits no-one's seen before.

Subject to a prolonged home demo I'm seriously considering stocking and becoming the first UK dealer to do so.

ATB

Simon
 





rob400

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 298
  • Versalex and Audio Note for the rest
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend *Part 2*
« Reply #17 on: 5 Aug 2016, 01:49 pm »
Very well written post! I own an XV1s on my Versalex and it has lots of life left in it. So might as well forget the 400 for a couple of years until the 's' is worn out then go 400/XV1t. Thanks for saving me £9k in the short term  :D  :wink:

Kimiimacman

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 41
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend *Part 2*
« Reply #18 on: 5 Aug 2016, 03:20 pm »
Ha Ha Ha! Well, as we don't have an 's' to compare, I couldn't say either way. You may just be 'slummin'' it for a couple of years unnecessarily  :lol:


G E

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 365
Re: I listened to a megabuck turntable this weekend *Part 2*
« Reply #19 on: 5 Aug 2016, 04:51 pm »
My equipment rack is by SolidSteel. One of the solutions for deck stand would involve a custom made maple shelf 4 inches thick.  Drill insets on the bottom at appropriate spacing to accept the support cones. Timbernation can do this.

I'd want to check with SolidSteel to assure the welded cross members can support the combined weight of turntable and shelf. 

But first I have to save up for the Royale 400. I wonder how long it would before the Mrs noticed some of her jewelry had gone missing?