ATTESSA TURNTABLE FROM ROKSAN
30th November 2021
Looking for a turntable under £1k? Paul Rigby reviews this new belt drive design
It’s been a while. Since I reviewed a Roksan turntable that is. The last review I did was, if memory serves, the Xerxes 20 Plus over four years ago. So then. It’s about time. This design is relatively unusual because of its price. For a Roksan, under £1k is indeed a low price for a turntable.
What we have here is a compact design that doesn’t take an awful lot of installation time to get you up and running.
This is a twin-speed, belt-drive design weighing in at 6.3kg and spanning 432 x 115 x 353mm. An acrylic dust cover, basic tracking weight gauge for the cartridge and phono cable are included. The Attessa arrives with a rather groovy plinth with rounded edges.
Running on a stainless steel 303 bearing, the belt revolves around a small sub-platter. Over that is the main platter that is intriguingly built from 10mm of toughened glass, edged in anodised aluminium. On top of that is a fairly basic felt platter mat, made from that rather thicker material that feels less felt and more harder, processed fibres.
The built-in speed controller is a digitally synthesised AC signal generator including a factory-calibrated digital motor.
The rather striking tonearm is a unipivot with an aluminium 5052 section fitted to the lower part and ABS on the upper, flatter surface. It looks like a concept design or something Vertere might come up with.
What I didn’t like was the lack of a protective cradle clip to secure the tonearm. As it is, it’s all too easy to knock the tonearm off its cradle and damage the stylus.
The tonearm features an enclosed tracking force weight which rotates in use, producing a quite stylish substructure. Anti-skate is sorted via a simple wire and O-ring dangly bit that fits onto the tonearm and hangs over an angled piece of wire.
Attached at the rear of the tonearm is another tool to easily change the tonearm’s azimuth.
A DATE WITH DANA
Hanging off the front end is a moving magnet cartridge called the Dana. This new cartridge didn’t receive a great deal of attention from the initial Roksan marketing but I talked to the company and received more information. Basically, this design uses a bonded elliptical stylus shape and a diamond titanium stylus tip with a tapered aluminium cantilever. In fact, the same aluminium type as used in the tonearm. Weighing 6.4g, the cartridge demands a tracking force of 2g. Bought separately? Expect to pay £250.
The cartridge arrives fitted to the tonearm but I would advise you to not dive an and play the turntable ‘as is’. Now maybe a shop-bought Attessa is a different kettle of fish. Maybe my example has done the reviewing rounds and has been thoroughly messed about but my example needed the tracking weight readjusting and the basic position realigning so I would recommend that you thoroughly check the cartridge before you play.
Installing the turntable includes placing the main platter and mat over the sub platter, checking the cartridge and tracking weight, plugging in the very basic switch-mode power supply and switching on. There’s nothing too gratuitous here. You should be up and running in no time at all.
Before switching on, if you take one step back and gaze at the construction you’ll not how different it looks from most other models currently on the market. Roksan certainly has a unique design here. Yes, there are nods to Vertere with that tonearm and even the older Roksan Oxygene turntable from 2015 in terms of the round-edged plinth but the overall design looks unique and attractive, compact, neat and tidy. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I liked it.
The interface is basic yet simple with a power button and two others for the speed selection. When you plug the turntable into the mains you only need to press the speed of choice to start the turntable. The motor is of a philosophical bent because it pauses for a moment, contemplates life and the universe and then pushes the platter into action.
Around the back is the usual pair of RCA outputs but inside is a built-in moving magnet-supporting phono amplifier. You can turn this unit on (active mode) or off (passive mode) but doing so means poking a pointy thing into a very small recess (your finger has no hope at all of reaching the switch) and then moving the tiny – and I mean tiny – switch left or right. I wonder how many times you’ll be able to poke at this switch before the switch itself deforms, mangles and crumbles under the pressure.
As it stands, this switch is arguably inaccessible but definitely hard to operate. I did ask Roksan about the design of this area and it replied, “The switch is designed to be deliberately hard to access to prevent a user accidentally switching it from passive to active once set up is complete.”
I find that part of the statement intriguing because the switch is placed at the rear of the plinth. A place turntable users tend not to approach during normal day-to-day use. But even those who treat this area with care, those who actually want to operate the switch, will find it hard going. So it feels that Roksan has been overly cautious here. To an extreme, in fact. This is the only feature on the turntable that I would call a genuinely bad design decision. It needs changing.
Let’s move from switches to sound now. How does the Roksan Attessa Turntable sound in operation?
I began the sound tests with a sound track and title track from Ennio Morricone. Metti, Una Sera A Cena provides a wordless female vocal fronting a string section, electric and acoustic guitars percussion and secondary percussion, bells and something resembling glockenspiel.
I’ve said this before but when I begin any sound quality test, I am normally struck by at least one aspect of the product’s personality. Something that stands out. Something that hits you first before all else. The epitome of that product’s personality.
That happened here too.
Why I got from the Attessa was this – an impressive transparency. That, I have to assure you, is no mean feat for any hi-fi product, never mind a turntable. What I normally get is big bass notes, upper mid detail, even dynamic reach but for the transparency to hit me first smacks of downright quality. So that first reaction was certainly promising and quite startling, to be honest.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. The left channel on this track held the string section which sat right behind the vocal. The vocal itself was not exactly operatic but it was relatively complex and slightly masked the strings which hit the ear as a single band of violins.
Not any more via the Attessa. Oh no. What you heard with the Attessa was those violins but with a focused bit to their work. You could hear effort being placed in their movement so the strength behind their motion, the emotion of the reaction to the music itself, was palpable now.
The transparency element lay just beyond the first bank of strings. I say, ‘first bank’ because the ear, with the Attessa, now took note of a second bank of strings, just beyond, for the first time. Relatively subtle they were, that’s for sure and slightly buried but the second set occupied a lower register which was why these strings could be easily missed.
Nevertheless, they provided a tonal counterpoint to the first bank that actually provided a harmony of sort. One that I was hearing for the first time.
Now yes, this information is there. It’s always there but the ear tends not to pull towards it too often from a turntable at this price point. It’s not an obvious sonic feature. It takes a turntable of quality to separate the frequencies apart and to push through to the rear of the mix to scoop all of the available information on offer.
Bass, on the right channel didn’t suddenly leap forward or dominate here. It retained its position and power but bass did become larger, more imposing. Like a man mountain might do just by suddenly standing up from a sitting position, he becomes a focus of attention by his very presence. Without actually doing much. That’s what the Attessa provided to this track. Bass didn’t do much but it took the ear as as imposing presence now. It took a fuller part in the mix.
The guitars, both electric and acoustic, offered impressive precision with a real focus, the piano presented itself with great control while the cymbals showed impressive midrange insight, giving carefree splashes that send reverb tails in all directions.
Playing Thin Lizzy’s We Will be Strong from the album, China Town showed that the Attessa could rock with the best of them. The soundstage was big, impressive and allowed room for the bold and aggressive electric guitars to frame the music. Drums were solid. Powerful without masking the rest of the detail but also giving the ear a sense of force and conviction. Above all, the music here was suitably melodic. You couldn’t help but move the head, feet, arms and anything else that came to hand. Oh yes, hands too.
That the Attessa could cover the rock bases, while also allowing delicate cymbal taps to be clearly heard while big bass drums were hit and guitar wailed, was a testament to the instrumental separation from the Attessa.
But what of that phono amplifier? I have to say, I quite liked the built-in phono amplifier. For a built-in phono amplifier, that is… It doesn’t and will not best an external model. Saying that, you could easily live with the internal model. It’s is basically neutral in presentation, offers decent focus around the bass and enough midrange information to allow you to relax and enjoy your music.
To make the most of the turntable though and, lets face it, you’re paying all of that cash on this turntable so why wouldn’t you want to maximise your heard-earned money, eh? On that basis, an external phono amplifier should be your first upgrade move here. Even so, if cash is tight, the internal model is certainly usable and will provide a good start on your Attessa sonic journey.
Offering a relatively compact, attractively designed chassis (it’s even a little futuristic in aesthetic terms), the Roksan Attessa is easy to set up, its easy to use and it offers a superb suite of sonic sweetmeats.
Bottom line? This is a quality product. It’s the sort of turntable that will have you nodding your head in knowledgable approval with bunched eyebrows a-plenty.
ROKSAN ATTESA TURNTABLE
GOOD: transparency, midrange insight, confident bass, aesthetics
BAD: phono amplifier switch, no tonearm cradle latch
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