It's always exciting to receive a set of top flight turntable components to assemble, set up and review and the following are quite out of this world! Put together with suggestions from premium retailer Sydney Hi-Fi Castle Hill the Soulines tt42 was supplied as a package including the unique Sorane TA-1 tonearm and Soundsmith Sussurro mk II cartridge. All these are individually highly-capable solo artists but how will they perform as a tightly-knit ensemble?
Serbian manufacturer Soulines’ tt42 turntable is the company's flagship disc spinner and is designed for easy setup. It’s a beautiful aesthetic style too. Soulines owner and designer Igor Gligorov has produced a compact player able to support two tonearms, with emphasis on adjustability and vibration control. Gligorov has a good sense of humour, referencing Douglas Adam's Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, naming his flagship turntable with the answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything”.
Next up is Japanese tonearm manufacturer Sorane. They produce a variety of different arms from traditional S shaped to large solid aluminium 'beam' types. The TA-1 is a more traditional S shaped arm with removable headshell and a full complement of adjustments is available. The name Sorane in Japanese means 'Space Sound’, so this tonearm/turntable combination could be a marriage made in Heaven!
And to finish off the trinity of sound. The cartridge maker Soundsmith is here represented by the fixed coil design (also known as a moving iron) Sussurro mk II. It's a low output cartridge employing very low mass components for the best music detail retrieval from vinyl. The engineering prowess of Soundsmith owner Peter Ledermann is known throughout the Galaxy…
That's a brief introduction to the systems under review and so I would like you, dear reader, to join me in my in-depth analysis of these highly-acclaimed components. So buckle up and let's fall into the rabbit hole or should that be worm hole…
Soulines tt42 Turntable
Soulines tt42 turntable is an open platform design using a high-torque DC motor to drive a high-mass acrylic platter via a white 'rubber type' belt. Both 33 ⅓ and 45 rpm speeds are available and can be adjusted for precision.
Designed using 3D modelling software, Finite Element Analysis and mathematics developed by the ancient Greeks, namely the Golden Ratio or Phi. Designer Igor Gligorov joins such artists and architects as Le Corbusier and Leonardo De Vinci in using the Golden Ratio. Next time you pull-out your credit card, have a look at the shape, you are holding a Golden Ratio design – 1 to 1.618 (I did warn of a rabbit hole!).
Starting from the ground up the tt42 sits on three adjustable stainless steel feet for levelling. The feet are in-turn connected to aluminium pods via rubber/cork damping washers. Sandwiched between the trio of feet is the acrylic and aluminium main plinth. An aluminium sub-plinth contains the main bearing assembly and tonearm mounting pods. The inverted bearing consists of a stainless steel shaft and a hardened stainless steel ball at the top. The shaft runs inside a brass bearing sleeve and a thrust pad made of Delrin rides on top of the ball. Careful use of rubber/cork washers control unwanted vibrations.
A high mass 5.4kg laminated machined acrylic platter is then placed carefully over the bearing on assembly. The acrylic platter and bearing are manufactured as precision-matched pairs. The elegant design ensures that the platter's centre of gravity and its moment of inertia are the same. A cork/rubber mat is also included as well as a printed cartridge alignment template.
Three types of aluminium arm boards are included and can accommodate 9 and 12 inch arms using SME, Jelco and Rega mounting systems. Stainless steel spacers of various sizes are included to setup the correct tone arm heights. Soulines will also manufacture bespoke armboards to fit any type of tonearm known in the Galaxy.
As mentioned, drive is via a precision high torque motor and two different circumference belts are provided. Speed adjustment via two rotary controls one for 33 ⅓ and for 45 rpm. All components are precision CNC manufactured and finished by hand to the highest standards. The tt42 manages to look both beautiful, compact and industrial.
I asked designer Igor Gligorov for insights into his design philosophies, musical tastes and interesting product naming.
My turntable design is extensively aided by modern modelling software, so determining the Center of the Mass of the whole system (the turntable) and/or calculation of the Moments of Inertia is quite easy, allowing to design a turntable which is almost perfectly balanced. By carefully modelling turntable parts (shapes, dimensions, mass, material characteristics) the Moments of Inertia along all three axes can be minimized and the Center of the Mass of the whole assembly can be placed at an ideal place, which in turn results in excellent mechanical balance of the assembly, providing final neutral sound of the turntable. With the tt42 it was quite a challenge, requiring the possibility to mount any combination of two tonearms of any kind (weight) and length, so solving the balance of the whole system wasn't an easy task.
Being a music lover, not an audiophile, has me always looking for the pleasure and joy of emotion transfer when listening to the music. I use all different kinds of music I like for testing and tuning of my turntables, depending on my current mood; some records are used more often, so here is the short list [edited] of those:
- The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico
- The Velvet Underground - Live At Max's Kansas City
- David Bowie - Heroes
- The Jesus And Mary Chain - Psychocandy
- Jimi Hendrix - Blues
- Elgar, Jacqueline Du Pré, Sir John Barbirolli, London Symphony Orchestra - Cello Concerto/Sea Pictures
- Ravel/Mussorgsky - Herbert von Karajan-Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Bolero/Tableaux D'une Exposition
- Johnny Cash - American III: Solitary Man
- Cowboy Junkies - The Trinity Session
- Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Let Love In
- Mstislav Rostropovich - Bach: The Cello Suites
- The Cramps - Songs The Lord Taught Us
- Einstürzende Neubauten - Greatest Hits
And so much more…
And my question on the turntable products’ interesting names:
Names of my turntables don’t have anything to do with their ‘sonic flavour’; I'm naming them in the honour of some artists whose work I admire and consider important for our civilization in general.
Sorane TA-1 Tonearm
The Japanese manufacturer Sorane, as it’s currently named, has been designing analogue equipment since 1974 and moved into making its own designs since 2013 under the name Abis. The name was subsequently change to the current ‘Sorane’ in 2017. Very reminiscent of Dynavector’s 500 series of tonearms, the Abis/Sorane SA-1.2 received great reviews.
The Sorane TA-1 tonearm is a 9 inch design of the traditional shaped variety using SME type mounting and removal headshell systems. Constructed from aluminium alloys the TA-1 features solid aluminium housing using precision radial bearings in horizontal and vertical planes. According to Sorane this provides for “excellent bass, dynamics and imaging, as we as unconditional azimuth stability”.
The removable headshell has an Allen key bolt for azimuth setting as well as extended headshell mounting slots for correct cartridge alignment. Arm height adjustment is via Allen key bolts. Accommodation of cartridges weighing 5 to 31 grams is allowed for using standard and stub counterweights.
The tonearm tube is made from extruded aluminium. A clever dial-type anti skate system allows for careful adjustment 'on the fly'. Internal wiring of 4N-purity copper wire is used both in the arm and headshell. The mounting diameter of 22mm is suitable for SME sled style bases. Included with the arm is a pivot to spindle and alignment gauge. As this was made from 'floppy' cardboard I used my own alignment systems. The fit and finish of the Sorane TA-1 is exemplary.
Soundsmith Sussurro mk II Moving Iron Cartridge
Sitting second from the top of the range of moving iron cartridges, the Sussurro mk II is a low output model delivering 0.4 mV. Using the moving iron principle, Peter Ledermann owner and designer for Soundsmith has concentrated on reducing the stylus/cantilever mass to as low as possible in order to reduce 'cartridge jitter'. Basically, this means the lighter the stylus assembly mass the better and faster it is at reading the information contained in the vinyl grooves.
The Sussurro mk II uses a nude line contact stylus fixed to a synthetic ruby cantilever. An iron cross shaped pole at the end of the cantilever creates the signal via passing the fixed coils and magnets. The cartridge body is designed to channel unwanted vibrations away from the stylus assembly and into the tonearm to assist with accurate readings from the vinyl grooves.
Completing the design is the ability to fit a single alumina rod (supplied) to the top of the cartridge body. This allows for fine adjustment of azimuth between headshell and cartridge using headshell screws. The cartridge is fitted with threaded holes for mounting and a slotted area in front of the Sussurro allows for accurate record cueing.
The stylus gluing on the cantilever is perfect! Correct azimuth and zenith alignments mean that the cartridge body can be used accurately for alignment. Not many cartridge manufacturers can claim the same level of accuracy with allowances of plus or minus 5 degrees being acceptable!
Peter Ledermann works on the high-end Soundsmith designs himself and signs the elegant timber box the cartridge comes in.
With the high quality of engineering involved with these three products, it was no surprise that they fitted with accuracy. Sorane manufactures a sliding SME base as an extra, and this was used to help with setting the pivot to spindle distance. The pivot point is marked on top of the TA-1 and using my Acoustical Systems Smartractor Alignment tool and microscope I aligned the Sussurro mk2 to the LoefgrenB curve. Test disks and software from AnalogMagik completed the cartridge setup.
After levelling the tt42 and connecting its output to my tube phono via a Music First Audio step up (version 2), it was time to listen!
Soulful Space Tunes
Deep in Galaxy, the colour of the sky could be described as pitch black or, as Kenny Burrell the great jazz guitarist described it, as Midnight Blue.
Okay, so I just made that up! But the album Midnight Blue does exist in my corner of the universe and it sounds lovely with this turntable package. The 1950s recording by engineer Rudy Van Gelder on the Blue Note label is as fresh and well-laid down as any modern recording. On the track “Chitlins Con Carne” the detail of Bill English’s brushes stroking on the cymbals was clearly defined and immediately drew me into the music. Master conga player Ray Burretto's hand slapping was natural sounding, palms on the leather heightening the realism of the playing. Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax sounded suitably biting and brassy.
The track Mule starts with Kenny Burrell picking out notes on his electric guitar. Major Holley Jr's bass lines are easily followed. Some turntables can make bass notes muddy and hard to follow, the turntable, Sorane and Sussurro team had no trouble defining individual bass sounds. Stanley Turrentine blows hard on his sax solos and at one point he moves away from the microphone to cough and that comes through clearly!
Despite the age of the recording, it comes across as dynamic detailed and full. Wide imaging with good depth and height. Amazing micro details of deft touches of brushes on cymbals, realistic saxophone and great dynamic swings. The pace on Midnight Blue was snappy and the sound very realistic.
Moving on to female vocals, I have been enjoying the angst and heartfelt emotions from Marianne Faithfull's Broken English. Lush synths, fat and dynamic bass underline the title track. Pops and swirling synth noises provide strange bedfellows to Marianne's question, “What are you fighting for? It's not my security, it's just an old war not even a cold war…” Still a question we can ask now in our little corner of the Universe… but I digress.
On “Brain Drain” I could hear the sound was slightly louder in the right speaker. Due to the clever Sorane TA-1 anti-skate adjustment, I was able to reduce the weight on-the-fly while listening, a very handy feature that does require steady hands!
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” starts with synths building-up the melody and tension. Marianne Faithfull's singing comes across clearly and the unfortunate outcome for Lucy had breaking in goosebumps.
Broken English is full of dynamic and propulsive songs which the tt42 drove with great gusto. Yes, the combination of TA-1 and Sussurro was digging deeply into the mix. Add the fine adjustability of the tonearm while on the fly is a tweaker’s delight.
Love songs of the 50s
This two-record set is not an audiophile recording but it certainly is well produced and the songs reveal different recording styles. On the Dino record label this is one of my favourite albums to immerse myself in. Follow me…
Laid back and simple song structures are prevalent and lend the songs a clarity and innocence. “All I Have to do is Dream” from The Everly Brothers is wonderfully detailed and yet simple. I can hear Don and Phil's voices clearly with subtle inflections and phrasing, something I have not heard before on previous listening. The resolving power of the Sussurro really comes to the fore here.
From The Walker Brothers comes their version of “The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore...”. Recorded in London in 1966, this gave the Walker Brothers a ‘Number 1’ hit. It has a ‘wall of sound’ feel about it but was not recorded by legend Phil Spector. This rendition on the tt42 came across wide, tall and deep in terms of its soundstage, with subtle tambourines drifting from the dense layers. Deep bass and punchy sounding trumpets set up this pre-doomcore song!
I am a big fan of the Baroque Classical period and, in particular, the early instrument called Viola Da Gamba, this is an instrument that came before the cello. It uses six strings, not four and has frets like a guitar. Ralph Rousseau plays the Viol on songs written by Tobias Hume (1579-1645). The album is called A Pritty Thing and the analogue recording was done in the chapel of a Franciscan Convent in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The quality of this fine recording really comes through as dynamic with gorgeous and complex tones, just from the one instrument. A Universe of harmonies… This is an atmospheric recording with a great sense of the playing space. Detailed, fast without etch or sharpness. It is a neutral and accurate portrayal of this lovely instrument, it’s three-dimensional and sweet in sound. Carry me away to the Heavens please…
At this high echelon of the turntable market there are plenty of designs to whet an audiophile’s appetite. The combination under review, well I didn't like it, I loved it! Easy to set up and, given the fact that another arm can be set up, say, for 45rpm records means this is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a turntable.
Soulines recommends leaving the tt42 running while changing records and this is certainly not a difficult thing to do. Prospective buyers would certainly have a lot of experience with vinyl by the time they reach the high-end.
Combined with the elegantly engineered Sorane TA-1 tonearm and über-detailed and involving Soundsmith Sussurro mk II cartridge, this is a highly recommended and exciting turntable package. You will discover a great wealth of new sounds on familiar discs due to the combinations’ control over unwanted vibrations and ability to render the music naturally and sweetly.
Just got a call from Ground Control… Hey Scotty, beam me up will you!
… Mark Busby
- Speakers – Yamaha NS-1000M, custom 18-inch subwoofer
- Preamplifier – PS Audio BHK, Music First Audio step up transformer, EMIA two-box tube phono stage
- Amplifier – Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 300, Leak Stereo 60, Leak Stereo 20
- Sources – Analogue: Thorens TD 124 Mk1 with Woodsong bearing, Technics SP10 Mk3, SME 3012 silver wired tonearm, Fidelity Research FR-64S, Music Maker 3 moving iron & DS Audio DS-E1 optical cartridges, Tube Sound Audio phono stage, Sansui TU-717 tuner. Digital: Marantz CD-94 MkII, Musical Fidelity A5 CD players,
- Cables – Revelation Audio Lab solid silver and Vertere
Soulines tt42 Turntable
(Packaged with Sorane TA-1 Tonearm (AU$2800, 9 inch) + Soundsmith Sussurro mk II Cartridge AU$9170)
Price: AU$25,000 (tt42)
Warranty: Three Years (tt42)
Australian Distributor: Radiance Audio Visual
+61 2 9659 1117
Koce Kapetana 39
+381 61 2323073