A new belt-drive turntable from Thailand, Paul Rigby checks out this new budget design, aimed at beginners
I have to say that I’d never heard of Gadhouse before it got in touch with me, offering its new turntable up for review. Based in Bangkok, this is a music and lifestyle brand and, I have to say, the front end of the company is impressive.
In fact, allow me to waffle on about the company for a moment because I think, in the grand scheme of things, it matters to the product and its potential customer base and, when it comes right down to it, this review.
The website is pretty slick. I was surprised to see a range of multi-camera beginner’s tutorials on there. For example, there’s a five and a half minute tutorial video on there for this very turntable, which is nice to see. Not every specialist turntable manufacturer – even many high-end brands – supplies similar footage. There’s other product tutorials on the Gadhouse site too.
There are non-product tutorials available, aimed at younger vinyl users which is great to see. They’re presented by a young chap, a guy named Karn who presents the videos in Thai but none-Thai speakers do receive English subtitles, which is fine.
As for the content? There’s a broad introduction to vinyl, a second looking at varied commercial vinyl format sizes (i.e. 7”, 10” and 12”), the different speeds they run at and so on. There’s also a vinyl sleeve tutorial on there which is certainly different and one I’ve never seen from a turntable manufacturer. This piece looks at the difference between single record sleeves and gatefolds, serial numbers, first pressings and reissues, a Discogs guide and more.
All of this is ideal for young beginners.
The website also has a shop which sells a host of items from, how shall I put this, ‘record players’ of a Crosley-esque lifestyle flavour to more audiophile level turntables, record storage racks and containers, vinyl-oriented furniture and shelving, platter mats packed with encouraging messages, vinyl cleaning kits, stylus cleaning brushes, tracking force gauges, tote bags, stickers with vinyl iconography all over them, actual vinyl records, T-shirts and more.
So why am I harping on about the Gadhouse front end? Because I like the company’s attitude. I like the fact that they love vinyl.
I like the fact that they appear to be ‘all in’ in vinyl terms and are spending energy reaching out to young people especially and I like the fact that they appear to be eager to educate those young people about the joys of wax.
More than that, as one of the tutorial videos urges, Gadhouse want young people to actually play the things instead of buying vinyl and sticking it to their walls to serve as nothing but an ornament.
So yes. I like what the company is doing on a broad level and that attitude should be praised.
THE BOX & INSIDE
When you buy a Mathis, you buy direct from the company so you’re looking for good delivery service with good packaging.
Now yes, of course, the company is supplying me, a potential reviewer so you could get cynical about it and say that they will try extra hard to do things right but I’ve found that – in general terms – if a company has issues, I find that those issues tend to poke through, no matter who you are. They just can’t help themselves.
I didn’t see a hint of any issues here, though. On that basis, I was impressed by the delivery speed. I didn’t time it, I have to say, but it turned up in good time. What, a week to two weeks ish?
The box and packaging was both solid and arranged well. No floaty parts threatened damage here. Everything was buttoned down and survived in A1 condition while with box itself presented itself in perfect shape. The box itself was also surrounded by further bubble wrap to provide additional protection.
So, thumbs up there.
Once inside the box, I was happy to see that positive attitude continue. I had to smile at the inclusion of a door-knob hangar of the type you see in hotels. You know those Do Not Disturb card door hangers you get in hotels? The one I received in the box said, Do Not Disturb – I’m Playing Vinyl. I might actually use that.
I loved the low-key, one-sided, single sheet, illustrated A4 Set Up Guide which is a simple, easy-to-use affair. Again, if you need more, there’s that video I mentioned above. You also receive a small-format, 20-page paper manual which is nice to see. Too many lifestyle-oriented companies tend to give you a website link and no more.
Then there’s the turntable itself, of course.
So what of the Mathis turntable itself? First impression? Well yes, it looks like a cheap turntable. But, in that particular category, quite a decent cheap turntable.
The tonearm, with its fishing wire-based anti-skate, looks like an off-the-shelf Chinese affair but, from that off-the-shelf world, its not that bad. The cartridge is another matter. It’s an Audio-Technica VM95E. That’s a surprise. I was expecting a cheaper 3600 from a turntable priced at under £300 but the VM95E is certainly welcome.
The near left shows a speed select switch in which you can select 33.33rpm to 45rpm via a metal toggle switch. I almost like toggle switches more than VU meters, I must add so I approve of that.
On the rear is a rocker power switch and RCA sockets to connect to your HiFi.
The Mathis arrives with a built-in phono amplifier so you get the option to work with that or an external model. Further, there is a built-in USB port if you want to ‘rip’ your vinyl to a digital file. Finally, you also receive a built-in Bluetooth module so you can send your vinyl sound to a Bluetooth speaker.
While not the best news in terms of sonic purity, the addition of these extras – especially the Bluetooth features especially – screams lifestyle and strengthens the focus towards the young beginner in vinyl terms.
The clincher though is that the switch to actually spin the platter is not resident on the plinth itself. That is, unlike say a turntable from Audio-Technica, you can’t spin the platter via a plinth-held switch. To spin the platter, you swing the tonearm toward the platter. Then the platter moves. So the switch is connected internally to the tonearm action.
This action completely foxed me to begin with because I had failed to read the manual carefully enough. I actually thought the turntable was broken for a while until I realised it was my brain that was broken, so beware of that one. That turntable feature, not my brain. Well…
This form of platter operation reminds me of how turntables worked back in the 60s and 70s. It’s old fashioned yes, it’s a further strike against it in potential sonic terms because of the extra high-frequency noise from the internal switching sure but it’s an aid to ease of use for the beginner. It removes a step. It dumps a switch that has to be thrown. It speeds up the task of listening to the disc itself.
On that basis alone, not only do I understand but I approve.
As for the plinth and platter? The former is made from a slab of sturdy MDF. You get a sub platter that shares the belt with a separate pulley. A top platter fits on top. That platter looks, at first glance, as if its made from damped steel but it isn’t. It actually rings like a bell and hence would sonically benefit from a damping session by Soundeck. If you do buy this turntable then that service will be a useful early upgrade. A felt mat sits atop the platter.
To test the Gadhouse Mathis, I didn’t think it fair on this turntable to go too high end so I tried to maintain a like-for-like comparison and stick with its contemporaries. I brought in a Fluance RT81 which also uses a VM95E cartridge but is a tad more expensive at around £275. I feel that the Fluance is basically aimed at the same type of vinyl user so thought that this comparison would be a valid one. I also wanted to contrast the Mathis with a different technology approach so compared it with a Lenco L-3909 direct drive model at £229.
I grabbed Elton John’s Madman Across the Water LP, played the track, Tiny Dancer and had a listen.
Vs FLUANCE RT81
First impression? I’ve heard worse. Much worse in fact, sometimes from big names in the HiFi industry. The Mathis turntable sounds good. Not great but very nice indeed.
What you don’t get, in comparison to the Fluance, is the same level of bass response. The RT81 gives you impact from the percussion, an organic bounce to the drum skins that adds weight to the lower frequencies.
That’s not to say there’s no bass at all from the Mathis. Far from it. The bass is a noted feature from the RT81. Bass from the Mathis remains good with enough character to provide a suitable foundation for the song. There is more than enough power here to drive the music forwards. It’s also disciplined in that bass from the Mathis never encroaches onto the midrange. It never swamps the finer details so it knows its place.
And on that subject, the mids provide a generally balanced output. Not completely, I would say. During guitar crescendos, there was a slight midrange spike, a slight edge where the mids lost control. Nevertheless, this slight loss of control is not a major issue. It happens now and again but it never controls the music. On the whole, the midrange does the sort of job you’d hope to hear from a turntable at this price range and it does it well.
Similarly, treble from the likes of cymbal taps are fine without being stunning in their dynamic reach. Treble never wows on the Mathis but it does the basics well.
vs LENCO L-3809
The Lenco offered a better transient performance. Both mids and treble sounded clean in their presentation. Notes started and stopped with precision and that was down to the direct drive motor. It’s also a point to emphasis when you run across low cost turntables on the market.
I love belt drive turntables. The best turntable in my collection, a high end model, is a belt drive. But low-end designs struggle to get the best from belt-drive technology because they’re dependant both on parts quality and high tolerances. Direct drive motors on low-end turntables appear to be able to cope or rather any technological deficiencies are better masked by direct drive motors.
The L-3809 is not especially superior in bass terms to the Mathis but there is a better focus in the upper frequencies.
Which doesn’t mean that I dislike the upper frequencies on the Mathis. The Mathis provides a softer, slightly warmer delivery of both mids and treble. There’s a bit of an upper frequency glow from the Mathis that remains appealing and highly listenable. So what you might lose out in accuracy, you gain in atmosphere.
For the price – and price has to be at the front of your mind if you’re considering grabbing a Mathis – this turntable has a lot going for it. It’s part of a vinyl-loving ecosystem and that, in itself, is a good thing.
It comes from a good place. The packaging and the design of the turntable itself has a lot going for it. Sure, the final sound is not perfect but for the target audience, that doesn’t really matter. It’s good enough to get you going from a standing start. That’s the important thing.
It’s a good turntable for a beginner, to get them up and running in this oddly PVC-packed world of ours.
Put it this way, I would urge all beginners to take a close look at the Gadhouse Mathis rather than ‘making do’ with a Crosley-style record player. The Mathis will lay the ground work for good practice. It will be a solid first step for a vinyl future and more than anything else, a future for vinyl as a living and breathing physical format is what we all want.
GADHOUSE MATHIS TURNTABLE
GOOD: easy to use, packaging, installation support, feature rich
BAD: general sound quality is decent but no more than that
TURNTABLE RATING: 7
COMPANY RATING (because I think the company’s efforts deserve recognition): 8
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