It’s the beast from the East. Well, east of this review location, over in Germany. Paul Rigby reviews the Acoustic Signature Storm Mk.II
My goodness, this is a strong, tough and, above all, heavy turntable, weighing in at 28kg. The company introduces terms such as Teutonic into the design and it’s certainly that. Other words like ‘heft’ pop into your head. You could use the Storm Mk.II as ballast on the bottom of a ship. I’m sure it even produces its own gravity field. Pick it up (if you’re able) and the heat is sucked from your hands into its cold, hard steel. It’s the sort of turntable Darth Vader would use to play martial music from the Empire’s Marching Brass Band.
There’s been plenty of thought into this design with the company’s own Tidorfolon bearing (featuring Vandadium, ferrite Teflon and titanium) supporting the platter.
That meaty platter is manufactured from aluminium and weighs in at 11 kg on its own: more than the weight of many entire turntables. As you can see by the images, though, there is more to the platter than a homogenous materiel. Those little circles that you can see on the top there are known as Silencer modules. They are there to dampen resonances.There’s more, though. The platter is coated underneath with a damping material. So a lot of attention has been paid to this area.
An external motor sits external to the plinth. It is run by Acoustic Signature’s Beta-DIG regenerative power supply, “We believe that the motor system for a turntable should have enough force and inertial energy to obtain proper platter speed but not influence it during rotation,” said the company.
Hence, the motor doesn’t dominate the running of the platter. One by-product of this is the company’s advice not to start the Storm Mk.II at 45rpm but to up the gears, as it where, through 33rpm and then 45rpm. Mainly because the turntable almost refuses to start at 45rpm with that much torque demanded of it. Hence, the induced energy forced into the platter is reduced. A good thing. Why? Because high torque platters tend to store excess energy which then infects the cartridge further down the road.
Putting the Storm Mk.II together is straight-forward but not exactly a breeze. It’s a bit like servicing a large 4×4. Everything is big, heavy, meaty and tough. You need a care and attention with that sort of bulk and weight. You need to take things slow and you need to focus. The plinth and platter fitted together easily, the large motor pod sat outside, connected to the turntable via the supplied belt. There’s no guidelines in terms of positioning this pod so I would invest in a reliable speed app or strobe-type accessory.The separate power supply plugs into a separate control console that slides underneath the front of the turntable (looking at many online images, you might think that this module is part of the plinth but it isn’t). The motor pod also plugs into the same control console. The console holds buttons for power and speed. When turned on, the speed slowly increases to the accompaniment of a flashing red light. When the correct speed is attained this red light glows steadily.
Installing the tonearm and cartridge is the most involved process of the lot. I needed a minute’s thought too because the instructions referred to a different arm fitting style, an SME style, not the arm that was supplied which was a simple round hole type.
Before I installed the arm, I had to hunker down, peer underneath the turntable and pull out the arm board on its runner, which required loosening the large Allen screwed base. This was because supplied arm was a 12” variant, my preferred arm tube length.Before the Acoustic Signature arm was fitted, the tonearm had to be flipped over, a disc screwed underneath the arm had to be unscrewed and removed. That disc had to then be screwed into the turntable’s arm base using the self-same screws. Then the arm and its cables were threaded through the plate’s circular hole and, once in, another Allen key, this time on the arm, was tightened to fix the arm into place.
Once you have sorted the arm height, you then turn to the cartridge. I choose a Soundsmith Paua Mk.II (£3,599). For cartridge installation, Acoustic Signature kindly supply a very useful template. One part slips over the centre spindle of the platter, another part sits neatly in a tiny hole on top of the arm and the third bit of the triangle offers two orientation areas to fine tune cartridge position. This helped to speed along the cartridge position enormously. It also helped installing the arm itself.
If any of this sounds confusing, then that’s my fault, because it isn’t really. Installing this turntable is involved, takes time and care but, apart from the arm fitting instructions (which I wouldn’t expect to be repeated if you actually bought a turntable and a specific tonearm), the installation offered no real hassles.
So what did the Storm Mk.II sound like?
I began with Thirteen from Emmylou Harris and the country ballad, You’re Free to Go. You’re looking at strumming guitars here, mandolin solo, that female vocal with male vocal backing and light percussion. I also neglected to put the supplied clamp on the spindle for now.
What I heard here offered two first impressions. Firstly, a low, low noise presentation which enabled me to add a few notches of gain to the hi-fi chain. That, in itself, enabled my system to dig deeper into the well of available detail. That massy structure certainly paid its way in this area because detail flowed naturally without any need to squeeze the mids.
Secondly, the control over that detail was complete. This is a reliable source which locks onto information absolutely. And that sense of ‘lock’ is exactly the feeling you get when the strumming acoustic guitars began their action. Each and every guitar string sounded like it was being noted, one by one. The sense of precision was stunning for a turntable of this price point. Absolutely stunning. Although you might not hear the extended air and space effects from reverb via the treble area on cymbals, for example, what you do get instead is immense control. I’ve never heard such focus from a turntable before, even from a direct drive. This focus never dominated either, it just picked out particular details to alight upon. The mandolin solo was another area that impressed. The accuracy from this solo was a sight to behold – well, hear.
I then played Ritchie Havens’ track, From the Prison, from the original Verve pressing, Something Else Again. Basically, one man and his guitar but with the signature Havens’ strumming aggression and vocal passion.
Adding the supplied clamp to the Storm Mk.II also added a perceived weight to the upper portions of the frequency spectrum. As if a weight was pressing above, dulling the dynamics slightly. The addition of the clamp did warm the presentation a tad and added yet more control to the upper mids but not in a good way. Control was now excessive and too rigid. I felt that Havens was now singing and playing while stood to attention.
Alternatives are to add the third party HRS ADH stabiliser to add further bottom end power, the much lighter HRS ADL which releases the upper mids but removes a tiny amount of noise emanating from the bearing/spindle area, a common factor in turntables. This effect can be heard as a slight glare during the Havens’ vocal crescendos or, my personal preference (and this area is one of personal preference) I would remove and clamp or stabiliser altogether. Leave the spindle untouched. The tiny amount of glare from that spindle/bearing area is more than offset by the enhanced space and air which the Storm Mk.II needs to balance its overall presentation, adding more life and vigour to the upper mids.
If you swop the supplied platter mat with a cork or, even better, cork/rubber mix then you can keep that essential tonal balance but add enhanced control to the top end.
I then swopped the music to more dynamic fare playing Queen’s Dead on Time from the LP, Jazz.
On this track, the Storm Mk.II showed its low end abilities admirably with bass being an ever present, adding further solidity to the soundstage, producing a massy thrust to bass and a weight to guitars with percussion adding punch but also plenty of tonal variety as each drum type was hit during a mini solo sequence. The energy was palpable. This was a track was threatened to trample over you like a herd of Wildebeest.
As if it had been hewn from the very rock face of a large mountain, the Storm Mk.II is strong, solid, heavy, massy and meaty. As you might expect, it applies those elements to the music it plays, producing control, authority and a dominance over each and every frequency. Detail is honed and exact with a precision that is impressive and a focus that is a standard that others will only dream about.
ACOUSTIC SIGNATURE STORM MK.II TURNTABLE
Tel: 01334 570 666
GOOD: build quality, design, detail, focus, bass authority
BAD: slight reduction of space in midrange
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