Acoustic Signature Double X Turntable With TA 2000 Tonearm And Dynavector XX2 MC Cartridge
A vehicle to bring all the escapist enjoyment your musical heart desires. What's this?!? Every week it seems yet another new turntable pops up. It's starting to look very much like a turntable war! A case in point, after 41 years of high-end audio manufacturing Burmester Audiosysteme's introduced its first turntable; it's called the Model 175. Around the same time Bryston Audio ("we will never") debuts their very first turntable the BLP-1. Not likely to miss an opportunity the Best Buy store chain now sells a total of 16 integrated turntables. Harman International's Mark Levinson brand now offers a turntable. This is getting confusing because many different companies are making and selling vinyl rotators that look alike.
Consider that there is only a finite way to make a turntable.
If you take a broad view, turntable construction can be roughly classified into two design classes. Mass loaded and Compliant Suspension types. Some manufactures will incorporate a bit of both methods to achieve better isolation. Emphasis is on the word Isolation. Both design approaches try to isolate the phono cartridge and arm from unwanted vibration feedback (may be that word should be feed-through) emanating from both internal and external forces. The mass loading concept is simple, if a turntable is heavy enough it cannot be easily moved / vibrated. The complaint Suspension approach isolates the platter and cartridge by damping and dissipating vibration energy in the form of heat.
Both basic design approaches can benefit by additional vibration damping called, Constrained Layer construction. Employing constrained layer methods the Double X manufacturer, AS Distribution uses it to improve the acoustic properties of the Double X base and the turntables aluminum platter. This is not rocket science. Very simply, if you sandwich and glue two or more different materials atop one another, like wood, aluminum or plastic, each will have a tendency to react to different vibration frequencies. So the combined layers effectively damp each individual vibration by an adjacent dissimilar material. Both basic design approaches can be highly effective if done intelligently.
When you think of Compliant Suspension think of Sota, SME and Linn. Then there are...
...Mass loaded designs like the 275 pound Triangle Reference SE and the VPI signature series tables both fit this heavy weight classification. We should include the Invictustable manufactured by Acoustic Signature. This is a massive four drive motor turntable weighing just over 315 pounds. It is a prime example of an inert Mass Loaded design.
Acoustic Signature Catalog
The review turntable is the mid-priced Acoustic Signature Double X. This is the latest design from the German Company, AS Distribution GMBH. It replaces the Triple X turntable in their line. The company manufactures twelve different turntables and six different tone arms. The top four tonearm models can be purchased in three lengths, 9, 10, and 12 inches. Additionally you could chose three tonearm finishes, Gold, Black our Silver. In addition there are three different platters available. The basic unadorned platter is a 24.2 pound chunk of machined billet aluminum. The mid line (Double X) sample contains eight evenly spaced round brass inserts embedded in the platter surface. The turntable has a leather mat with eight holes that line up with the brass inserts. Acoustic Signature refers to these as silencers. The top of the line tables use a more expensive platter that has 12 brass silencers embedded in the surface. The brass inserts are not fixed they sit on a compliant material as am told they are used to damp platter vibration.
I find it interestingly the new mega buck flagship Technics SL1000 R turntable has 12 Tungsten weights embedded in the periphery of the platters surface). All of the these features provide the Acoustic Signature buyer with many different options.
Acoustic Signature Double X Turntable
Falls into the Mass Damping design category. The combined table and platter weighs 66 pounds. The table is powered by a separate Class-B 12 Volt Direct Current transformer. As supplied to me the review Double X turntable is $5495, and it came with the 9-inch TA 2000 tone arm $2795. Lastly, there's the beloved Dynavector XX2 MC cartridge at $2000.
That's a total price of $10,290. Of course the selection of a cartridge is a personal choice and there are hundreds to choose from. The Double X review sample has a very attractive composite MDF base. A shining black lacquer finish coats the four sides of the base. The top of the plinth has a beautiful rosewood inlay. There is one other plinth available for the Double X. Again with black lacquer sides and with a very beautiful Makassar grained wood top. A representative from the distributor Fidelis AV came to my home and setup the turntable and cartridge and connected it to my system. The tonearm cable was of interest. It is about a half meter long Audioquest cable with a 72 Volt DBS battery. The letters DBS stand for, Dielectric Bias System. I can vouch for this application; the battery does make an audible difference. So for the purposes of this evaluation I did not mess with any part of the turntable setup. Reasoning they must know what they are doing and how it will perform. However I did need to reset the load resistance of my Tavish tube phono amplifier.
Originally it was set at 300 Ohms the cartridge manufacturer specifies 30 Ohms. One other thing since the XX did not come with a dust cover or a record clamp or tools at times I used my ADC record clamp. I did try the old standard test; listen to the turntable base with a stethoscope.
Spinning a record without using the cartridge and tonearm there is a slight motor noise. But I believe it contributes nothing detrimental to effect music reproduction. The heavy platter the Silencers and the turntable mat should nullify this residual vibration.
Note: (My listening space is small, my equipment fronts an 11' 8" wide wall. As a consequence my room has a problem with some bass passages). Because of the way the table was set up it generates lots of clean articulate bass. There is nothing wrong with it except this would not be my preference.
A small VTA adjustment is all that would be necessary to balance the bass level relative to the mid and treble frequencies. But that is an alteration I cannot do.
Even today Harry Pearson's influence is with me. Like him I favor Moving Coil Cartridges and the ability to recover Soundstage depth, detail, airiness and transparency. (My favorite Harry Pearson descriptive word is, "continuousness") Many of these terms we use to describe audio reproduction were coined by him. My reference is the sound of the human voice, that is the thing I know best.
To begin this story I let the table run in for a while and played a few Flea Market finds, then selected two of my better records. From the Steely Dan album, Gaucho. Side A, the second cut, "Hey Nineteen". The repeating song line lyrics... "The Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian, make tonight a wonderful thing. The Table, Arm and this Dynavector cartridge combo hide nothing." Wonderful details and nuance are unburied in this mix. So much so that you can almost look into the stereo stage and detail how the engineer mixed it down. Oddly this stage is predominately a two channel mix with the lead vocal dead center, but it's a not very deep center image. At times a backup voice appears in both channels at the same time and at the same volume.
As a consequence you get clean transient sound but the image is a bit strange. The stage is wide but with limited front to back depth, not much going on. Next up is my old reference vinyl LP Christopher Cross, Another Page. This recording has great layered depth with a good instrumental score and a wonderful all-star vocal backup. The reference track,All Right, is the lead cut on side two. For me the depth and dimensionality and imaging are the elements on this recording that draws me in. When I say in, I mean that's when the music layers across the wall behind my speakers.
Then my room becomes part of the stage. Just a bit off to my left shoulder a backup voice replies the word, "Alright" it echos just after the line, "I think I'm gonna make it." That's the dimensional stereo image I strive for. I want to feel like I can be there on stage, just dim the room lights please. Filled with curiosity, another Flea-Market find that I will play for the very first time.Ella Fitzgerald recorded live in concert, in Berlin West Germany at the Deutschlandhallen on February 13, 1960. This has got to be a rare historic recording, on this date the wall still looms over Berlin. Ella Fitzgerald traveled with a Quartet, Piano, Guitar, String Bass, And Drum kit. They were one and all a great jazz backup band.
The old stereo record plays with pops and tics. In spite of that it is a live close up with good separation on individual artists. Ella sings, "The lady is a tramp." the up tempo tune is fast but that never effects Ms. Fitzgerald's ability to style a phrase like no one else can. The B side has Mack The Knife. Halfway through it she totally forgets the words to the song. What she does shows what a musical savant she was. Never missing a beat she improvises phrases that perfectly fit the melody modulations. The very last cut is, “How High The Moon" she sings the last half in Scat, Piano off on her right side Ella Center and left center.
Question: So what is a turntable supposed to do?
Theoretically, the Ideal turntable would hold and rotate your vinyl record with stability and precision. It would permit only the information imprinted in the recordings modulated tracks to be extracted by your cartridge. It would add nothing and subtract nothing, it would be totally transparent. Over a space of many years turntables have made significant advancements. Some have even advanced to that theoretical level of nothingness. You can buy them with six figure Euros or Dollars. The best most of us can do is set a price and hunt for the best value for our money.
Enter the Acoustic Signature Double X. Its faults are few and minor. Play a recording and you will only hear the information contained in the recording as interpreted by the cartridge. I hate to tell you, but there is indeed a correlation between price and performance. Can you spend a lot less and still hear music? You already know the answer. As for me, could I settle for less musical verity? The answer is hell no! I would never stop wondering. Like the Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is". The Double X is the vehicle to bring all the escapist enjoyment your musical heart desires. It is made with all the Teutonic precision that allows Mega Cartridges of any price to perform for you.