High End 2012

The times they are a-changin', and the High End show is no longer the oasis of analog insanity it once was. Whereas tonearms used to be measured in feet rather than inches and record players took on a nearly baroque style and complexity, things are now almost sensible -- or as sensible as playing records ever gets. Take the Hartvig TT Signature turntable as a case in point. If ever a product had "I did it the way I wanted it" stamped all over it, then this is it.

There’s certainly nothing revolutionary about the Hartvig (except perhaps the simplicity of its rather prosaic name), and it certainly can’t be categorized as affordable. But in this case, your €21,000 (without 'arm, €25,000 including a battery power supply) does at least buy you a serious slice of practicality and sheer common sense.

The compact plinth is pressure-formed from a five-layer sandwich of MDF and acrylic, creating an incredibly inert base that is supported on three isolating feet, two of which are easily and precisely adjustable from above. The massive separate motor housing offers switching for 33 and 45 and uses a flat rubber belt and DC motor to drive a deep, T6-aluminum platter that must be all of 75mm (3") thick. This spins on a large-diameter, grease-lined, inverted bearing, topped with a ceramic ball that supports a phosphor-bronze sleeve. On top of this, separated from direct physical contact with the bearing, sits a 75mm-thick acrylic platter -- a combination that is said to deliver the speed stability and musical presence of a heavy platter coupled with the clarity and overall neutrality of acrylic. The pivoting acrylic armboard will accept 'arms of different lengths, including well out beyond 12" if that’s what your fancy demands. The whole 26kg (57-pound) plinth system is amazingly compact, and with a wide range of finishes, rather elegant if you like the currently fashionable, slightly blocky styling of modern Scandinavian products.

More finish options and that standalone tonearm base.

But the bit we really like is the separate, free-standing armbase that allows you to run two or even three 'arms. It’s stable and heavy enough to stay were you place it, maintaining correct tonearm geometry, while versatile as regards placement relative to the platter, and as an optional extra, it only costs those who actually want the facility. Now that’s simple, sensible and, taken as a whole, mightily effective.

Running with Tri-Planar/Shelter 7000 and Breuer/Dynavector XV-1s 'arm/cartridge combinations, the jet-black version certainly complemented the aesthetic sensibilities of the Tidal electronics and speakers it was playing with. More on the system as a whole later, but this is one ‘table we’d definitely like to take for a spin.

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