Natural Wonders

I normally consider LP turntables to be squarely in Stereophile's bailiwick, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to profile these gorgeous vinyl spinners from Audiowood. The wood foundation of each one is handcrafted and unique, though designs such as the Barky pictured above can be replicated with relative ease since it's based on a slice from a log.

Others, such as Big Red, use a piece of burlwood, resulting in a one-of-a-kind artwork. But these turntables are not just to look at—they are serious pieces of audiophile gear, using high-end parts to achieve high-end performance. For example, Big Red incorporates a VPI platter and bearing and an Origin Live motor and controller, and it is designed to accommodate SME tonearms.

The Knobby nestles a classic AR XA mechanism in walnut burlwood and is fitted for Rega tonearms and Michell VTA adjusters. As with many Audiowood turntables, this one rests on solid-brass cones.

Not all of Audiowood's products have a semi-unfinished look—for example, the Manta is a fully sculpted design with a NOS Linn platter and Origin Live Advanced motor. The armboard is normally fitted for Rega/Origin Live tonearms, but it cam be modified to accommodate most 9-inch arms. And like all the fully machined designs, this one can be made to order out of many different types of wood.

The Pod combines fully machined walnut with a redwood burl holding a Rega mechanism. The feet and armboard are fashioned from solid Gabon ebony.

Aptly named Thor, this walnut-burl design marks the rebirth of the Thorens TD 160 mkII and is fitted for a Rega tonearm and Michell VTA adjuster. The turntable is undermounted to retain the original's suspended character, and the feet are removable.

It takes builder Joel Scilley between 8 and 60 hours to complete one of his beautiful Audiowood turntables, which cost from $1000 to $3500—not including the tonearm and cartridge that can add hundreds or even thousands more to the final price. Still, that's not out of line for a visual work of art that also serves up the vinyl artistry so prized by many audiophiles.