Platter Matters: Three Turntables Page 7

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The Short Form

Price $9,800 (AS TESTED) / / 908-850-5955
Stunning industrial design, massive build, and big, luxurious sound make this combo a keeper.
•A true analog-statement system, both sonically and visually •Amazingly easy to set up •Very well isolated from external vibration •Ships with high-quality 12-inch tonearm
•Let's face it: It's not exactly cheap
Key Features
•SME Model 312 12-inch tonearm •Aircraft-grade aluminum body with fully-floating magnetic suspension •Finish: metallic anthracite, blue, red, silver •20 x 19 x 6 in; approximately 55 lb
SETUP With its magnetic suspension, the Baltic M was far less sensitive about its supporting structure than the two smaller turntables in this roundup, but I still used a massive VPI stand to get the best possible performance. As before, I carefully ran-in the cartridge and optimized the alignment before doing any critical listening.

PERFORMANCE Right from the outset, it was clear that the Baltic M could play music with a sense of scale and dimensionality that the more affordable models could never quite match. With a well-recorded orchestral LP such as Erich Gruenberg's fine recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto on Chandos, the soundstage was reproduced with an immense sense of space, yet at the same time the soloist remained focused and well proportioned. There was always a reassuring solidity to the sound, along with an ability to handle really large dynamic swings with ease.

With its highly damped and massive 17-pound platter, partnered by the critically damped SME tonearm, the Baltic M presents music over a spookily quiet background, and this enables you to hear tiny low-level details that would otherwise be buried. I think Sumiko's decision to stay away from a finicky stylus for the Pearwood cartridge was a good one, as the amount of fine detail it could extract was never in question. Tracking ability was also exceptional, something that can't be said for some other low-output moving-coil cartridges.

BOTTOM LINE Overall, the V.Y.G.E.R. Baltic M presents music with a big, powerful, and luxuriant sound. Likening it to another sort of voyager, I would call it a Rolls Royce Phantom next to the Roksan Radius5's Lotus Exige and the Pro-Ject Debut III's VW GTI.