Not all turntables are born equal

Turntables may look outwardly similar but sound radically different

If you ever visit large international Hi Fi shows you would be struck by the vast array of different turntables, many of which you never even see in national Hi Fi magazines. There are literally hundreds of different models on the market and the number is increasing.

At first glance, turntables can appear very similar to one another. After all, they are surely simple devices to spin a record at a fixed speed? Since the first appearance in 1877, little has fundamentally changed. Admittedly the old gramophones were cranked by hand and now they are driven by electric motors – but essentially you still have a rotating platter on which you place your records - so where is the magic?

I have to confess that when I sought out my first Hi Fi system over 35 years ago, I was completely oblivious to any significant differences in turntables. Later on, studying the Hi Fi press, I had great difficulty believing that an expensive turntable could possibly be worth the investment. It was only by walking into a shop demonstration one day, and hearing a direct comparison between two similar looking decks, that the penny dropped. The difference in musical cohesion, dynamics and the ability to follow the music effortlessly was simply jaw dropping. I went away wondering how such colossal differences could possibly exist, when to all outward appearances things were the same.

Why such a difference between turntables

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference between turntables?

Appreciating the awesome challenges presented in vinyl replay is the first step to avoid just rushing into the acquisition of a new deck. Most analogue reviewers consider their turntable to be THE single most important component in their entire system. To achieve great results from any system, the signal at the beginning of the chain must be of the highest quality or you simply experience “rubbish in, rubbish out”

The purpose of this article is to give you the knowledge you need, to understand what makes turntables perform differently, so that you can make better informed choices.

Firstly, the reason turntables have such an enormous effect on sound quality, is that they generate a super low level signal, which is then instantly magnified beyond imagination. This is similar to the way a specimen is magnified by an extremely powerful microscope. As your cartridge tracks the record grooves, minuscule mechanical movements of the stylus are converted into electrical signals which are then amplified a colossal 8000 times before they reach your speakers. This is just the magnification, but the resolving power is even more impressive.

To understand the astonishing levels of resolution that a good record deck is capable of, is to understand why analogue sources are superior to Digital. To illustrate this best, we must look at the concepts used in magnification of things like the atom. The most powerful conventional optical microscope can resolve images at no more than 100 times magnification. Although they can magnify higher than this, the image just gets bigger but no more defined due to the limitations of the wavelength of light. It takes electron microscopes to get down to levels of 500,000 X magnification with resolution.


Although the magnification of a cartridge signal is 8000 X, the resolution goes much much higher. This is so high that you could ask the question whether the ear is capable of differentiating such levels. An article written by H.E.A.R organisation states " The ear drum moves only a thousand millionth of a centimeter (less than the diameter- of a hydrogen atom) in response to the minimal sound you can hear at 1,000 Hz. It's sensitivity is greater than any microphone possible. If it were any more sensitive, we would hear the constant noise of air molecules hitting our ear drums. When you realize how delicate a structure we're dealing with, it's amazing that all of us don't constantly hear the blood as it's pumped through the tiny arteries in and around the ear drum, or thousands of other similar noises".

Once these factors are properly appreciated, it is not difficult to grasp that the slightest additional vibration will cause massive repercussions to the accuracy of the original signal. The perception that a turntable is simply a device to rotate a record changes. You realise that it is actually a super sensitive measuring platform.

Some may question how analogue delivers more information to the ear than digital sources, when modern records are produced from digital recordings – we will discuss this later in an article “why analogue is better”.

The Path to producing a pure signal, free from unwanted vibration

The Power of electron microscopes can be wrecked by the slightest vibration in their environment. For this reason they go to incredible lengths to ensure total isolation from their surroundings using advanced techniques such as air flotation platforms and other highly sophisticated devices. All of which adds up to astronomic expense.

The challenges of obtaining high levels of resolution from a turntable are arguably more complex than those of an electron microscope. The behaviours are intensely intricate and conflicting - we would suggest that anyone who thinks otherwise has no conception of what is going on. Some years ago, Origin Live was approached by microscope companies who were interested in our award winning turntable isolation platforms. The ensuing conversations highlighted some of the additional complexity that turntables experience over powerful microscopes, namely that the primary vibration problems are generated internally. It's not just a matter of stopping vibration getting into the deck but also how to absorb it as fast as possible with the least amount of flexural movement and resonance.

Turntable-Sovereign-Tonearm-Illustrious-frontThe sources of unwanted vibration emenate from

  • The motor, drive system

  • The platter bearing

  • Internal resonance created by the cartridge

  • Airborne acoustic energy created by the speakers

  • Ground borne vibration from traffic, underground pumps etc

The intuitive answers to these problems usually lead to disaster. For example, in the pursuit of low flexure one might imagine that a thick, solid granite platter would give fantastic results. The problem with this approach is that the vibration from the record cannot be transmitted away through solid granite and instead simply bounces back into the record causing resonance in the vinyl.

Matters are further complicated by the need to absorb ALL frequencies evenly – if one frequency band is absorbed quickly and another slowly then there will be tonal imbalances AND timing issues which affect musicality.

The critical requirements of excellent energy absorption AND low flexure need diametrically opposite solutions. It is this fact that makes turntable design such a fascinating and contradictory subject of debate.

Origin Live's extensive experience from upgrading over 30 different brands of turntable has resulted in seeing very different design approaches and hearing what they sound like. This puts us in a better position than most, to understand what makes turntables sound the way they do. Certain traits always result in a certain sound that remains embedded in the musical results, regardless of what system is played. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different design approaches is however only the first step.

Audiophiles vote for Origin Live when it comes to sound quality

The new generation of turntables from Origin Live are the result of continuous development that have pushed back the boundaries on sound quality by significant leaps and bounds. Dealers now tell us that these new decks simply run rings around the competition. At the prestigious and well attended KlangBilder show in Vienna, those attending the show were asked to vote which exhibit sounded the best. We are delighted to report that the room demonstrating the Origin Live Resolution turntable and Encounter tonearm won the "best sound at the show award". This judgments was made using the voting forms handed out by show organisers to the public entering the show. Against stiff competition such as Linn, JM labs, Kronos, Audio Physics etc this vote says a great deal.

On introduction, the Aurora MK1 was awarded "group test winner" in a magazine comparison test of turntables. The Aurora Gold was awarded one of the coveted "Most wanted component of the year" award by Stereo Times magazine. This confirms opinion among a growing number of reviewers who state that Origin Live products are simply the best in their class.

However we believe that ultimately it's your opinion that matters and invite you to arrange for a home dem or audition at your nearest Origin Live dealer. Many people make the mistake of purchasing well known decks simply on looks or reputation without realising the huge gulf that exists in the sound quality of most of these decks compared to Origin Live decks. For this reason we encourage good dealers to demonstrate our products in a relaxed environment so that you can appreciate just what is available from vinyl. We believe, as do many experts that vinyl records still represent the ultimate format for sound quality and will continue to do so for many years in spite of all the new "super" formats. The ultimate format deserves the ultimate player and this is what we have dedicated ourselves to achieve at very modest sums. Not only is vinyl the best format available but you may have a decent collection of priceless records that you wish to appreciate to their full. These are a few of the reasons for the enormous investment that has been made in producing these decks. We trust that you will be surprised in the best possible way once you hear them.

Turntable-12-Calypso-Encounter-Tonearm-FrontHigh value engineering for a leading edge turntable

Origin Live developed breakthrough after breakthrough to produce a turntable with a truly awesome performance. This involves very high levels of investment and engineering excellence.

The need to produce everything in house:- To make advanced designs available to you now instead of in 10 years time, means accelerating the production and testing of many innovative ideas. To properly explore innovation involves a great many prototypes before the final product. To rapidly develop these innumerable design variants, we avoid the long lead times of using sub-contractors by manufacturing everything ourselves. Acquiring CNC machines is costly but the benefits in terms of a high value turntable are incalculable.

The need for extraordinary precision:- Our bearings are machined to produce an optimal low friction oil film and are extremely precise. Most turntable bearings are made using an economic drill and ream process. Ours are produced the slow way, using a specialist boring bar with spring cuts to ensure a dead straight hole, without the slightest degree of wander. Our bearings are then honed by hand to remove the microscopic surface edges caused by machining processes. All this takes about 40 times as long as doing it the quick way, however the results are very clearly audible in terms of increased clarity, sense of freedom in the music. In fact the quality of bearings used in our decks exceed those used on many at well over 6 times the price.

High grade materials:– To ensure high grade sound quality requires careful selection of materials. These are often expensive and hard to manufacture. For example the grade of Acrylic we use is higher than most. Cheaper acrylics cut corners in production, by being allowed to cool faster. This lowers costs, but results in high internal stresses, which then cause sonic degradation. This is just one example of where two deck materials may look identical but actually be very different.

Expertise and design time – The time taken to conduct ground breaking research by the right people is often overlooked – this is the untold story of many great products born from years of immersion in a specialist field.

Highest standards of workmanship beginning with parts production through to final assembly Manufacturing parts in house has the advantage of engineering excellence and stringent quality control. Highly experienced craftsmen ensure the correct materials and manufacturing techniques are used throughout the production process. This delivers you a consistent level of excellence that does not just look the part, but is the genuine article.

Turntable-12-Calypso-Encounter-TonearmHow do you want your music to sound?

If you have never heard an Origin Live deck it is impossible to imagine the potential benefits to your system. We have spoken up to this time of the sonic differences between decks and the reasons why they occur. The way in which Origin Live turntables render music is unmistakable. If you want music that has unrivalled transient speed, musicality and dynamics that could easily be mistaken for real instruments and voices, then Origin Live is for you. If you want music with effortless power, natural rhythm, great tonal shading and balance then the Origin Live is for you. Reviewers understanding these qualities are quick to point out the sheer speed and musicality of our decks.

This may not be for everyone – you can read countless opinions on the Internet and there are some who clearly prefer a slowed down version of events where bass notes are slightly slow and overhung, where instruments are clear but lack tonal richness. Where percussion notes stop short without natural decay. It is fair to say that such systems are often made up from a mix of components that are not exactly neutral. This means that when a neutral component is added, the system becomes bass light or bass heavy.

Music is very individual and not everyone has similar tastes. On balance we would say that at least 80% of people really want music to sound like real instruments and real voices. Professional musicians love our decks, which is an excellent indicator on how they prefer the portrayal of reality.

It is good to be clear on how you listen to music. Some people like to hear things analytically, where they maybe just concentrate on bass notes or treble clarity – the variations are endless but essentially these folk like a predominantly cerebral experience. Others speak of emotional involvement, the cohesiveness and organic nature of the presentation, the ability to connect properly with the performers. This is a bit like discussions on photography, where you have technical photographers who understand all the technicalities but do not take artistic photographs.

If you like your music as close the the real thing as possible, we invite you to open a door that will allow you to enjoy a richer experience than ever before.

When you place an order with us, you have a full 2 week trial period to see if our claims are true. If you are not completely delighted, we give you a full refund and will still be friends.

You have much to gain from this trial, judging by the many comments from delighted owners who say that they simply cannot envisage how anything could be better. These are not minor improvements, but system transformation.

P.S Remember, your turntable is absolutely foundational for a good front end. You can have everything else right, but if the deck is below par, your equipment cannot perform at anything like it's real potential. We suggest you don't miss this opportunity and get one of our decks in your system for a trial. We trust this will give you the results you are looking for.


These advance on the excellent performance already established by their predecessors. The latest decks are built around a new extremely high grade bearing, precision bored, honed and polished. This enables the bearing to rotate in a pure film of special oil with no surface to surface contact except the load bearing tip. Many bearings do not achieve this ideal due to imperfect tolerances and surface finishes. The load bearing tip acts as a single energy transmission point, essential for sound purity.
The decks are non suspended but support a sub-chassis on a single point to isolate it from vibration. Further performance is gained from the large motor pod that imparts great stability to the high grade dc motor.

The MK2 decks ran for over 5 years with few updates or price increases. After making a number of new discoveries, the time came for these to be included in what we named the MK3 turntable versions. The new decks represent a significant increase in performance and value to an already superb sound. Music is replayed with particular improvements in

  • Rock solid imaging

  • Reduced colouration,

  • Refined presentation of low level information.

  • Easy to follow separation of individual stands in the music and vocals

Improved features over previous MK2 models are

  • New type of Acrylic platter material with reduced internal stresses.

  • Increased thickness of platter due to changes in overall design

  • New Bearing hub designed for faster energy transmission out of the platter

  • Lower friction bearing

  • Increased size of plinth

  • Improved power supply

  • Improved belt – hand made from start to finish – surprisingly the belt material makes a big difference to sound quality

  • Quieter motor from additional pod damping

View Our Latest Brochure

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Origin Live Ltd. Unit 5, 362B Spring Road Sholing, Southampton SO19 2PB, UK