Packed with innovation, The Funk Firm turntable flies in the face of design tradition. Paul Rigby reviews the Gett! and talks to designer and former Pink Triangle founder, Arthur Khoubesserian
Sometimes a name promises much and, frankly, fails to deliver. Inspiration left on a page, as it where. The Funk Firm screams ‘different’. That difference is to be found after a quick glance at any one of the company’s products – turntables and tonearms and more. It confirms that there is a lot going on here. That is what attracted me to investigate this product in more depth.
The company’s Gett! was my first target (I fully intend to look at other designs in the future).
This is The Funk Firm’s two-speed entry level design with a DC motor, external switch-mode power supply and acrylic platter, accompanied by the company’s own Funk’s F7 arm that is adjustable for VTA and azimuth plus a top loading bias adjustment and…well look, in order to seek a more in depth insight into this intriguing design, I decided to chat to its designer, Arthur Khoubesserian. Knowledgeable hi-fi users amongst you will know that name, Khoubesserian was the co-founder and design genius behind the famed Pink Triangle hi-fi brand. Many users, I know, still use Pink Triangle turntables. In fact, one of the record labels I cover on a semi-regular basis within this site, Ace Records, uses a modified Pink Triangle during its excellent remastering process.
So maybe we could start with the name? “It’s a snappy little product with a snappy name,” said Khoubesserian. “Get Funked! As it where. The double ’t’ and exclamation point just draws the attention.”
The arm needs a bit of explanation. It’s an aluminium thread-bearing arm with an acrylic-plastic headshell (to lower resonance and to control any that are there). Thread-bearing arms are not common by any means. Why is it not common? “Because it’s difficult to do,” said Khoubesserian. “This is a second generation example. The first were the F6 and F6.5. We learnt a lot from this arm, letting both of the early designs go, so we just have the one tonearm now. The difficulty is getting a conventionally shaped arm to work with the angle of the thread, the tension of the same so that the bias is correct. Otherwise, you will over bias or the thread will snap. I think they are rare because designers and manufacturers are scared of the unknown and since when have I ever been scared of anything?”
Thread-bearing arms are based upon a swing construction. The arm is the seated part of the swing and is quite stable. You can twist the thread to provide bias.
Once the design difficulties are sorted they are easy and, most importantly, consistent in terms of construction. Conventional arms can be a problem in this area because, “…you’re having to set the ball race tension and it can go wrong quite badly.”
Thread bearing arms produce a relatively sweet sound and a free presentation (that will be modified within the overall turntable design, though). There’s a unipivot-esque sense to the presentation but the thread-bearing also acts like a conventional arm, “I’ve seen the light in terms of thread-bearing and I’m working on a much higher end version of it but it takes a lot of work to get the maximum out of it.
Take a look at the images here and you’ll see the motor positioned on the left front of the plinth instead of the left back, “Left-back is the worst possible place for motor,” said a passionate Khoubesserian. “Pink Triangle was saying that for 40 years. The belt tension is followed from the motor to the record centre line. If you extend that, then it will hit the cartridge. So now you’re wobbling the system across the cartridge where the cartridge is free to move. You end up with a low frequency ‘thrum’. It’s the worst place. It was traditionally done, many years ago, because motors were not shielded, they hummed badly or the cartridges were not shielded from the motor hum. Hence, you needed the cartridge as far away from the cartridge as possible. That’s not a problem now. If you how move the motor to the front, you remove that low frequency bloom.”
The acrylic platter needs another mention. When Khoubesserian was at Pink Triangle, he was the guy who actually invented the acrylic platter. Khoubesserian even had the patent. The platter has a calculated impedance which means a mat is unnecessary. It is also thin mostly because of the turntable’s price point. But not thin enough to flex, of course.
Putting the round belt (chosen because of cost) on this thin platter was a challenge – well, for my inept self at any rate. The company promises to post a video showing you a quick way to apply the belt to prevent it constantly slipping off during the turntable’s platter during installation. My own method was to tape (use low tack white tape) the belt to the platter in four or five places, evenly around the platter. Then stretch a free part around the pulley then (carefully!) remove each piece of tape and you’re done.
Apparently the belt does benefit from being powdered to prevent it slipping through your fingers. This will not effect sound because the powder will disperse. I didn’t get to use this method in time but it’s worth bearing in mind.
Finally, the plinth is made from MDF while the feet are rubber.
Beginning with a high energy pop outing, I began the sound tests with Fun Boy Three’s Our Lips Are Sealed, on a shortlist for one of the greatest pop songs of the 80s.
Have you ever seen those old Napoleonic war-games? Those using lead metal soldiers, brightly painted, full of detail, gold braiding, leather work, muskets et al? These soldiers tend to be structured as a rank. Say 10 across and 10 back, in neat rows. In many ways that is what the Gett! gives you. You’re initially made aware of the wide open soundstage. There is a lot of air and space in front of you. Then, the ear picks up a lot of information of different types and roaming various frequencies. More than that, though, there is this layering I mentioned above. A real staging effect where various members of the band and their instruments take their part and their position. This gives the soundstage a complexity but also the ear finds it fascinating because it tends to go searching for aural nuggets. I had to play this track three times just to absorb what the Gett! was doing here.
The album mix of this song features a deep bass effect at the beginning but I never realised how pulsating the effect was until the Gett! told me otherwise. Staying with the bass, I was impressed by the snappy punch and the weight that fell behind it to give the lower frequencies real heft.
While all this was going on, I never felt that the Gett! masked or veiled detail in the midrange. That is, within the layers, detail remained clear and insightful, allowing the ear to access the ear it it wanted to. Vocals offered light, shade and refinement while secondary percussion accessed its own reverb style which was noticeably different from the rhythm guitar. The subtle aspects of the music were never hidden by the Gett!
I then moved to the jazz funk vibes of Shakatak and the title track of the 1982 album, Invitations. This track provides a piano as the lead instrument. A dangerous chaotic instrument which any hi-fi chain finds tough to control and to realistically convey. Yet the Gett! kept a firm grip of what was going on, allowing the piano the freedom of movement but making sure it produced firm key strikes that sounded focused with a deliciously open and airy reverb tail tagged onto each note.
The double tracked vocals were enjoyable too. Firstly because they provided a subtle yet noticeable texture that provided harmonic detail but also because the Gett! provided enough information to tell the ear that this was not a homogenous lump but two voices singing together.
I ended on a purer jazz track but with rhythm to burn, Joe Jackson and his album, Jumpin’ Jive and the track Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid.
Here, I was terribly impressed with the pure cymbal strikes which offered both clarity and precision in terms of the strike but also provided information on the strength of the strike itself, adding a humanistic element to this secondary percussion.
The brass section, including saxes were both textural and reedy in their presentation while the notable resonance from the trumpets exuded passion. The upright bass was also firm, rhythmically meaty but it never intruded upon the midrange territory. keeping itself to itself and providing a firm foundation to the overall track.
Throughout the track I was enthralled by the amount of space and air that never left the song. This added a sense of calm and feeling, especially from the lead vocal. Because of this, the band sounded like they were having a whale of a time, really enjoying themselves which, in itself, dragged the ear further into the music, adding to the involving nature of the piece.
It’s a quirky design and takes care to set up but, once you play music through it, you shout out, “Oh I seeeee. Thats why!” Everything makes sense. The sound quality of the Gett!, for any price point, is quite superb. For this price point, though, its absolutely brilliant. An amazing turntable and one that is highly recommended.
THE FUNK FIRM GETT!
Price: £607 (without cartridge)
Tel: 07846 798367
GOOD: open soundstage, focused mids, startling clarity, powerful bass, overall sonic balance
BAD: careful set-up required
Rega Planar 3
Ortofon 2M Red MM cartridge
Trichord Dino phono amplifier
Rega Brio-R integrated amplifier
Spendor S3/5R2 speakers
Acoustic Energy Radiance 1 speakers
Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components
All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner