If you’re in the market for a quartz-controlled direct-drive turntable, check out Paul Rigby’s latest review subject, the Reloop Turn 5
When you move up the price point ladder from sub-budget (less than £200), turntables and better quality budget (£200-£350 or so) to the ‘super budget’ level, if I can put it that way, you’ll notice changes. With turntables, especially around this price point, you’re going to get two things. Firstly, there will be a much better sense of quality in terms of individual component parts, how they’re put together and the final performance of the same but, above all, you won’t find perfection. What you’ll get is a compromise but, because you are within a high budget level, a more acceptable compromise.
The reason is that no turntable at this price point can do everything. Hence, you need to decide upon priorities. Some turntables actually do try to do everything, understandably fail at that but produce a decent sound nevertheless without excelling in any one area, others focus around a great suite of midrange and upper mid dynamics while giving you a decent bass response, some focus on the bass to provide a firm foundation while providing an admirable array of upper frequencies and so on.
So what of the Reloop Turn 5? Before we get to that sound, let’s look at the product itself in more depth.
This brushless DC direct drive turntable certainly has that Technics SL1200 ‘look’ from the strobe-surrounded platter to the controls on the front left of the plinth. That said, experienced Technic users will notice a feature that is notable by its absence. There is no sliding pitch control on the right of the plinth. This one point indicates that this deck is less DJ-centric and more concerned with audiophile matters.
Offering quartz-controlled accuracy, if you turn the platter over, you’ll see some rubber damping while, on the upper part of the plinth, the company has supplied a rubber mat.
The turntable offers three speeds (including 78rpm), which are selected by the three rectangular buttons on the upper plinth, the S-shaped arm features a removable, SME-style headshell so any specialist cartridges can easily be hot-swopped for immediate use.
There are controls for both anti-skate but also VTA available to the rear of the tonearm that sits adjacent to the hydraulic arm lift. Hanging off the front of the tonearm is an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, itself valued around the £90 mark.
Noticeable as soon as you pick the Turn 5 up is the heavy, metal plinth weighing in at a meaty 12.8kg, supported by isolation feet. The rear features sockets for phono cables and a grounding screw for an appropriate grounding cable.
The aesthetics are very nice indeed, the Turn 5 exhibits an black finish with anodised gold highlights.
A simple phono cable is provided but I, instead, used the Pro-Ject Connect-IT E phono cables (£45).
I began with vinyl and the country ballad, You’re Free to Go via Emmylou Harris from the album, Thirteen.
Highlights to look out for are Harris’ throaty, sometimes dry and raspy delivery, a pair of lazy acoustic guitar strums, a mandolin solo during the middle eight, occasional but rather subtle piano chords and shy cymbal taps with reverb tails.
To begin, I wanted to see what you’re paying for. What’s in that £650? So I dragged out my reference, sub-budget turntable, the well regarded Lenco L-3808 (£200), another direct drive design. Just to see what the extra Reloop cash provided.
The comparison was fascinating because I could hear the, as it where, family resemblance. That sense of timing and pace supported by the direct drive motor. Both were swift and sprightly in their underlying rhythms.
What the Turn 5 had was a superior sense of that bass. The lower frequencies were firmer, massy and with a greater degree of substance. I point that finger directly at the plinth. The Lenco’s being plastic and lightweight and the Turn 5’s metal-based plinth being heavy and sturdy. The Turn 5 provided a greater degree of balance in the mix, therefore, because the lower frequencies were more prevalent, retaining a significant part of the overall soundstage.
Speaking of the soundstage, the Turn 5 created a larger and more spacious arena to hold the music. A lower sense of noise also provided an airy feel to the midrange which was packed with detail. The mandolin solo, mid-song, held extra transparency with the player clearly sorting his strings out before the strumming began, something that the Lenco could only hint at.
Treble, because of the enhanced clarity, offered a new level of complexity around cymbal hits on the Turn 5, which are nothing if not restrained on this track.
All of which is reassuring and allows you to breath a sigh of relief. The extra cash has been, as it where, well invested. So what if I compared the Turn 5 to a more powerful competitor? In this case, I brought in the similarly priced Pro-Ject RPM 3 to see how the Turn 5 coped.
This rarified atmosphere was more of a challenge for the Turn 5. Although there was not quite the same focus, midrange insight, tonal realism, delicacy or subtlety from the Turn 5 it was not enough to damn this turntable because it held enough of all of those factors to make a brave fist of its musical presentation. All of these deficits were not major, the RPM 3 edged each and every one but the Turn 5 was never embarrassed.
In terms of the lower frequencies, the direct drive system arguably provided a greater and stronger foundation for the track with more confidence in and around the bass so, while there might have been a slight roll off in terms of dynamic reach around the upper mids of the mandolin solo, the Turn 5 could be said to have provided a much improved overall balance to the song with that bass infusion adding more substance and a stronger heart to the music.
I then I turned to Queen with their dynamically rich track, Dead on Time from the album, Jazz.
As you might expect, this is where the Turn 5 really scored because bass is such a dominant aspect of the presentation. Subtlety is secondary in most rock music which means that, as this track also showed, the drive and power from the lower end was magnificently displayed. The drums were big, bold and positively sexy while the screaming guitar and accompanying bass were enriched with energy, propelling your forward and demanding instant foot tapping.
This sense of urgency, muscle and authority was also of great benefit during electronica and beats-related LPs (i.e. Kraftwerk and a selection of vinyl LPs from the Ninja Tune label) as it provided clout and control over a genre of music that, without such control, can become unwieldy and bloomy in the bass. Not here, the Turn 5 was able to retain discipline at all times.
If I would highlight a priority in terms of an immediate upgrade, it’s the rubber mat which does the turntable no favours whatsoever. If you buy a Turn 5 change the mat immediately if not sooner and grab a cork mat or, even better, a butyl rubber/cork mix mat which will reduce noise, tighten the percussion, enhance guitar strums plus cymbal work and add new textures to the lead vocal. On my reference system, the change was a significant upgrade in sound and the final review rating reflects the Turn 5 plus a new mat.
Solid and meaty in terms of construction with an element of aesthetic finesse that is pleasing on the eye, the Turn 5 provides an admirable array of detail in and around the midrange and treble with a secure and assured suite of lower frequencies that provide a welcome poise to the soundstage. More importantly, it’s a little different from the competition and provides a bone fide and welcome sonic choice at this important price point.
RELOOP TURN 5 TURNTABLE
Tel: 01235 511166
GOOD: commanding bass, aesthetics, easy to use, overall sonic balance
BAD: extreme dynamic reach, platter mat
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