Looking for an easy to use budget turntable that promises top sound quality? Paul Rigby crosses his fingers as he reviews the French-made Elipson Omega 100
Looking at the budget turntable market under £500, I can’t help but see comparisons with this sector of the hi-fi market and the Chicago gangland of the 20s. Not literally, of course. The guys at Pro-Ject and Rega are, no doubt, kind to animals, send a card to their mothers on birthdays and wouldn’t hesitate to offer you their last doughnut.
It’s just that the entire turntable market under that figure is basically owned and divided in amongst the two companies. They control the territory and there is a competitive peace between the two. OK, there might be the odd 3am speakeasy raid and one or two minor bosses might be ‘taken out’ whilst they relax in the barber’s chair during a mid-shave but, you know, ‘dese things happen’ during a working day.
And if you happen to be from ‘out of town’ and are lookin’ for a ‘piece of da action’ then you pay a respectful visit to da boss, capiche? He can supply you with all of the goods to get you going…for a percentage. If you’re Music Hall, you might want to buy a drink over a Pro-Ject’s place. Edwards Audio? Rega, that’s ya man. Even that guy over at Crosley, the one with the C10? I heard he got protection from Pro-Ject.
Elipson? There may be trouble there. French-based Elipson is new in town but not green around the edges. Elipson hasn’t jumped on any analogue bandwagon from a standing start. Elipson has history: in the business since 1938, this established speaker outfit already has a towering reputation and even a dozen patents to its name. Innovative, quirky, slightly eccentric, Elipson knows it stuff. A bunch of wise guys? Les gars sages, more like.
More to the point, The French-made Elipson Omega 100 is pure Elipson, there is no technology borrowed from any other established hi-fi turntable manufacturer brand. The only familiar item on the Omega 100 is the free Ortofon OM10 moving magnet cartridge that hangs off the arm.
Well presented and succinctly designed, the Omega 100 is a basic turntable, there’s no accompanying phono amplifier built in nor are there any added fineries such as Bluetooth. Although, the company does offer Omega turntable variants with these options included, if required: the RIAA and the RIAA BT, respectively.
The Omega 100 sits on a lacquered PMAA plinth, supporting a steel forged platter (fixed to the spindle, unusually) which is powered by a digital frequency generator motor via a flat belt that sits around the platter’s outer rim. The electronic control of the motor is noticeable when you turn the deck on. There is a pause while the motor decides what to do next and then the platter moves. The reason for the selection of this particular motor? Speed stability is one promise while another is actually delivered from the off. That is, the turntable can switch between 33 and 45rpm with the firm switch of a metal toggle. You try doing that with a similarly priced Rega or a Pro-Ject, buddy. This motor also doesn’t mind what voltage it sees, which will surely help future sales of the turntable.
The Orbital Tension Tonearm is carbon-based, a big plus for a turntable at this price point. While the twin bearing arm features a tonearm-mounted, anti-skating wheel that supplies torsion directly above the bearing. This promises to be more efficient but it’s certainly a lot more stylish in visual terms.
There is no damped arm lift support – a ‘good thing’ in terms of sound quality while you are supplied with an integrated lid (remove it entirely while you play your records to reduce possible vibration/noise).
One quick point before we get to the sound tests. If you have the resources, check the down-force figure of the OM10. The arm and cartridge are factory fitted and all variables are pre-set which is great for beginners. That said, the OM10 on my sample, was set at the cartridge’s highest possible figure in the cartridge’s downforce range, 1.75g. A recommended starting point should be 1.5g. You can go up or down a touch from there, of course. Not a major point (and raw beginners shouldn’t worry about it – just play your vinyl and be happy) but one worth attending to for more experienced operators, in terms of fine-tuning your turntable before initial play.
Hence, being a rather smug clever clogs, I set my cartridge at 1.5g for sound testing. That proved to be a bad move, as you will see below.
I began with the beautiful Stevie Wonder track, Love in Need of Love Today from his quite brilliant LP, Songs in the Key of Life. An album so packed with quality material, that he had to spread it over two discs.
To begin, I was impressed by the open and naturalistic presentation from the midrange of the Omega. There seemed to be plenty of space and air around the soundstage which gave both the vocals and the instruments plenty of elbow room.
Trouble was, I was perturbed by the lead vocal, Wonder suffered from a sibilance problem which also affected the treble output on cymbals crashes. After a few moments, I sprang to my feet in a “Eureka!” moment with the word, “Tracking!” The cartridge was mistracking at its ‘ideal’ downforce figure. This should not be happening so maybe there is a measure of incompatibility with the included arm, perhaps? A question that a future upgrade might solve?
Whatever the reason, I returned the downforce to the factory figure of 1.75g the upper limit for this cartridge (so that’s why they did it). Result? Result! All was fixed and the sound tests could proceed. I do scratch my chin about the arm and OM10 combo and wonder if a different and/or better quality cart is called for here and whether Elipson is mistakingly reaching for this cartridge to come in on budget.
The upshot of all of this, for most users is: leave well alone and you won’t have a problem or any audio concerns. Buy the deck and play your records and don’t mess around with downforce unless you wish to upgrade the cartridge. I didn’t try to upgrade the cartridge on this test because I wanted to review a sub-£300 deck package only but I suspect that the Elipson would benefit hugely from such a move. The Ortofon 2M series would be ideal first candidates.
But back to the wonder of Wonder and his genius of a record which was presented here by the Omega 100 with a very grown up and mature midrange. That is, the mids were strong, disciplined, slightly warm but also rich in tone with a lead organ riffs offering a detailed yet smooth flow and the Wonder lead vocal nuances and subtle in its delivery. Because of the open soundstage, Wonder’s voice was allowed room to emote, as it where. That is, he wasn’t crowded by the backing band of backing choir which allowed his voice space to soar and express itself fully.
Bass was vibrant and responsive having a playful bounce and a characterful weight, adding a foundation to the track that drove it along at a steady pace.
Finally, treble-infused cymbals and tinging secondary percussion were tonally realistic, well as much as they could be for the price with relatively extended reverb tails.
Moving to more dynamic fare and Hawkind’s Space Ritual Sundown V.2 and the tracks Space and Orgone Accumulator. Space is chaotic, psychedelic adventure of a track with, for the price, admirable midrange insight and clarity to reveal enough of the conglomerate of frequencies to give the ear enough information to delight and, indeed, amaze before the rocking Orgone saw a sonic guitar and drum attack that showed that, yes, the Elipson could indeed rock with the best of them. The weighty and powerful bass line of the drums not masking the bass guitar. This lack of blooming was a compliment to how the Epsilon structures the music and keeps a wary eye on potential messy and untidy frequencies.
Despite my cartridge tribulations, which eventually proved to be a storm in a teacup, I was mightily impressed with both the design and the sonic output of the Omega 100. Offering, for the price, a tonally accurate presentation that allows music to flow with an ease that adds both swagger to rock and a gentle fragility to balladic songs, the Epsilon should also prove eminently upgradable too, adding value to the initial purchase price.
ELIPSON OMEGA 100 TURNTABLE
Tel: 01628 484968
GOOD: airy soundstage, detailed mids, elegant design
BAD: careful cartridge set-up required, no anti-skate gauge
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