Key Information on all our Turntables
Origin Live record players include advanced technology and innovation. This differentiates them from most decks on the market. for example all our turntables now use an advanced method of speed control usually only found in very high end decks. See link below.
Features in all MK4 Turntables
Ultra Low Friction Bearing
The MK4 Bearing made in house improves on the already extremely high grade bearing of the MK3, renowned for it’s low friction. The new bearing has ultra low levels of vibration thanks to further development. The spindle rotates on a Tungsten carbide ball bearing centered on a hardened thrust pad for low friction and long life.
Unlike decks which “float” the platter using air or magnetic bearings, we believe “earthing” the energy out of the platter is essential for sound purity. To this end we employ a single low contact bearing tip which acts as the energy transmission point.
Low bearing friction is essential to avoid vibration but even high end turntable bearings seldom achieve this. The problems we often notice are flawed design, imperfect straightness, eccentricity, tolerances, surface finishes and even the use of grease.
Oil is made to our own specification and upgrades nearly all other brands of deck which use non-inverted full immersion bearings. This is a clear indication of it’s outstanding quality for turntables.
Light Speed Controller
The MK 4 introduces the Light Speed Controller (LSC) on all decks with it’s rock steady speed (better than most direct drives) and improved sonic performance. More on this important feature can be seen below.
All decks use powerfull, smooth running, Swiss motors. These high grade motors demonstrate the exceptional qualities needed in a good turntable motor such as low cogging, low vibration and ironless cores for elimination of eddy currents which detract from speed stability.
Motors are decoupled using a compliant pad and rubber O rings to minimize vibration and reduce audible noise.
All Origin Live Decks use a single point cantilever suspension where the sub-chassis is mounted at a single semi-flexible point to isolate it from vibration.
The unique Origin Live suspension system avoids softening leading edges in music – which is observed in suspended designs and also avoids the hardness noticed in many non-suspended designs. The results are:
- Superior pitch, rythm and timing
- Great musicality which Origin Live products are renowned for (see reviews)
- Rock solid imaging
- Reduced colouration
- Refined presentation of low level information
- Easy to follow separation in the music and vocals
Surprisingly belt material has a significant influence on sound quality. We use a unique material which dramatically improves on widely used neoprene rubber. This is substantiated by reviewers and clients who use our upgrade belt to upgrade many other brands of belt driven turntables.
The belt is manufactured in house using special material which increases grip and reduces stretch under instantaneous loading – benefits include increased dynamics and deeper bass performance.
Instead of the pulley being made from conventional metals and plastics, a well researched special plastic pulley enables maximum belt grip, resulting in increased definition and dynamics over
Adjustable Feet for easy leveling
Choice of Tonearm
We suggest Origin Live tonearms as first choice to partner any Turntable including our own. Although our turntables work well with all arms it’s worth considering that even our entry level arms outperform others at well over 4 times the cost (on any deck). To choose a different brand means a different armboard which can create additional cost later on, should you wish to upgrade the arm to an Origin Live.
We’re often asked which of our arms is the best choice for a certain deck? This question can refer to either compatibility or sensible price point. You need not worry about compatibility, as all the arms match our decks without exception. The amount you may wish to invest is a more difficult question as it depends on viewing your system as a whole. You can be sure that if you have a decent phono stage you will hear the same differences between arms all the way up through the range regardless of which deck they are on.
Guidance on Choosing any item of Hi Fi
If you are new to Hi Fi it may help to familiarize yourself with general guidelines on how to choose Hi Fi.
High Quality Materials
In the same way great singers have better voices, all materials resonate differently and have a “voice” in micro-vibration. This factor is often dismissed by theoreticians who prefer to work conceptually and short cut the laborious process of evaluating the sonic signature of different materials.
High Grade Materials for Turntables & Tonearm
The nature of mechanical playback means that every material chosen plays a role in performance. Specifications and theory can only play a limited role here. If pure measurements were the answer, you could use a computer to judge the talent of singers on shows like the Voice or the X-factor. The problem is that any measurement system can only measure what it’s programmed to. Understanding the physics of what makes one voice more preferable to another would probably take more than a lifetime. For this reason we conduct hundreds of listening tests to determine the best choices.
Origin Live pay obsessive attention to the types of material used throughout the construction of turntables. This is one reason our Platter Mat (offered as an accessory) upgrades 99% of turntables on the market. The same is true for our turntable belts and oil, both of which receive remarkable reviews from satisfied clients. These may seem trivial examples but they indicate a fanatical thoroughness in research that extends to much more important areas in our turntables.
Why the Best Turntables sounds dramatically better
It helps to understand what seperates exceptional decks from the numerous other choices available. The following article explains why turntables make more difference than almost any other component in a system. It also reveals the difficulties in achieving the dramatic performance improvements that vinyl is capable of. Understanding this will help you choose the best possible turntable.
What is the Best Turntable?
With hundreds of turntables to choose from, why is it estimated that only 3% are star performers
How do you find the best turntable with such colossal choice? If you visit a large international Hi-Fi show you will be struck by the vast array of different turntables. Many of which, you will never see in a national Hi-Fi magazine. I counted over of 400 different models at the Munich show alone. As a rough estimate there must be upwards of 1500 different turntable models on the market. This conservative number is increasing weekly.
Even if you see a “turntable of the year award” in the latest magazine, it usually only applies to turntables (or new versions) launched that year. There can be a host of far better performers not considered for the award concerned.
The best turntable may look outwardly similar but sound radically different to others
At first glance, turntables appear very similar to one another. They are surely simple devices to spin a record at a fixed speed? Since the first appearance in 1877, little has fundamentally changed. Admittedly old gramophones were cranked by hand and are now driven by electric motors. But still, essentially all you have is a rotating platter on which you place your records. So where’s the magic?
I selected my first Hi-Fi system over 35 years ago. Being new to Hi Fi, my choice of turntable was made with no knowledge of the massive performance differences which exist between different models. It was only later on that I studied the Hi-Fi press, and found that in those days they stated long and hard the priority of a good turntable in System heirarchy. Hi Fi heirarchy asseses the significance of each item of equipment in the Hi Fi chain and lists them in sequential order of importance. I found it difficult to believe that an expensive turntable could be worth what sounded like a high investment. Only when by chance I eavesdropped on a shop demonstration was I instantly convinced.
This compared two decks which looked similar but the sonic difference between them was massive. Listening to the better one, the cohesion, dynamics and ability to follow the music was simply jaw-dropping. I left the shop, wondering how such colossal differences could possibly exist.
Appreciating what the best turntable does differently
The Challenges of Vinyl replay
Appreciating the awesome challenges presented in vinyl replay is the first step to avoid rushing into a decision. 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”.
Firstly, the reason turntables have such an enormous effect on sound quality, is that they generate a super low level signal. This is then instantly magnified beyond imagination. Much more than a specimen magnified by an extremely powerful microscope. As your cartridge tracks the record grooves, minuscule mechanical movements of the stylus convert into electrical signals. These 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.
The incredible resolving power of the best turntables.
If we appreciate the astonishing resolving power of the best turntables we will understand their importance. In the magnification of images the quality of magnification depends on resolution. The same is true for amplifying sound from a signal. The resultant quality is entirely dependent on the resolution capability of your signal meaurement. The most powerful conventional optical microscope resolves images at no more than 100 times magnification. Although they can magnify higher than this, the image just gets bigger but with no increase in quality (resolution). It never becomes more defined due to the wavelength of light which imposes limits. Electron microscopes on the other hand to reach down to levels of 500,000 X magnification with resolution.
Although the magnification of a cartridge signal is 8000 X, the resolution is much much greater. This is so high 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 millionths 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. If it were any more sensitive, we would hear the constant noise of air molecules hitting our ear drums.”
The influence of Vibration
Once these factors are properly appreciated, it’s not difficult to grasp that the slightest vibrational artifact will massively affect the accuracy of the original signal. The turntable is so much more than simply a device to rotate records – it’s actually a super sensitive measuring platform.
Some may question how analogue delivers more information to the ear than digital sources? After all most modern records are produced from digital recordings. This is a good question and one we discuss in an article “Analogue vs Digital” at the bottom of the page.
The Path to a pure signal, free of unwanted vibration
The resolution of electron microscopes can be destroyed by the slightest vibration in their environment. For this reason, incredible measures are taken to ensure total mechanical isolation. Scientists resort to advanced techniques such as air flotation platforms and other sophisticated devices. The expense is astronomic.
The challenge of obtaining high resolution from a turntable is arguably more complex than that of an electron microscope. The behaviours are intensely intricate and conflicting. We would suggest that anyone who thinks otherwise has no conception of what’s 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 how do you absorb with the least amount of flexural movement and resonance?
Internally generated vibration emanates from:
- The motor drive system – electrical effects, motor vibration, pulley eccentricity, belt resonance and slip
- The platter bearing
- Resonant feedback created by the cartridge vibration
- Airborne acoustic energy created by the speakers
- Resonance initiated by ground-borne vibration from traffic, underground pumps etc
The intuitive answers to these problems usually lead to disaster. For example, the pursuit of low flexure might lead one to imagine that a thick, solid granite platter would give fantastic results. The problem with this idea is that the vibration from the record cannot escape through solid granite. So instead it simply bounces back into the record, causing destructive resonance in the vinyl.
Matters are further complicated by the need to absorb all frequencies evenly. If one frequency is absorbed quickly and another slowly, there will be timing issues which affect musicality.
The critical demand for excellent energy absorption and low flexure would seem contradictory and insoluble for many. It is this puzzle which makes turntable design such a fascinating and contradictory subject of debate. However, over many years Origin Live have found little known methods to resolve such paradoxes.
Conclusion – Control of Micro-vibration is what massively differentiates the best turntables from the rest
Every component of a turntable influences micro-vibration in conflicting and complex ways. Origin Live’s experience in upgrading over 30 brands of turntable has resulted in hearing what different design approaches sound like. This puts us in a better position than most, to understand by comparison, the question – what makes a best turntable? Certain traits always result in a certain sound which remains embedded in the musical results, whatever the system it’s played on.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different design aspects is a giant leap towards creating an ultimate design. We look at design in more depth later on, but for now we’ve seen that the best turntable will handle micro-vibration better than others. This must include both wanted vibration from the stylus and unwanted vibration from resonance and reflection.
Monitored Speed Accuracy
Speed control is electronically switched between 33rpm and 45 rpm. A smooth powerfull motor drives the platter at constant speed with no measurable deviation from absolute speed. The remarkable speed accuracy is achieved using advanced speed control. This is not only accurate but avoids introducing the serious motor jitter prevalent in most turntables.
Introducing the Turntable Light Speed Control (LSC)
Conventional Speed Control problems
To explain why the LSC is of such benefit we first need to understand the problems it solves. Speed accuracy on most turntables tends to drift. Encoder motor control is sometimes hailed as the solution but still does not solve certain issues and has other problems. Controlling only the motor speed never overcomes the following issues.
- Belt wear causes belt slippage so even if the motor is turning at the correct speed the belt does not keep up as it did once. Regular speed resets are required.
- Temperature variation causes belts to stretch or shrink slightly which affects belt tension > slippage > speed.
- As motors age they tend to run slower (not true of encoder types).
- Oil viscosity varies with temperature so bearing drag changes and affects belt slippage.
- Motor position affects speed as it changes belt tension.
- Belt grip varies with the 4 different ways it can be put on the deck
These are some reasons most decks achieve an absolute speed accuracy of around 0.2% to 0.6%. In fairness this is not bad although people sensitive to pitch like professional musicians will notice it. It’s also worth mentioning that absolute speed accuracy is nowhere near as important as motor vibration (micro jitter caused by cogging and electrical aberations).
The solution for Perfect Speed Control
The ideal way to overcome speed drift is to control the speed of the platter itself rather than the motor. Direct drive decks are renowned for their consistent speed. However the Origin Live LSC achieves the same result with unerring accuracy. Measurable drift is below 0.0001% (over 100 times more accurate than most decks). Wow and Flutter has been recorded at a mere 0.04% which betters many direct drive decks.
The high degree of accuracy derives from a high quality motor with superb low noise circuit design. This includes analogue instanteneous load compenstion whilst absolute speed stability is achieved through super accurate measurement of actual platter speed (LSC).
Consistent accuracy is guaranteed regardless of belt wear, motor age, pod position and temperature. This makes for an extremely user friendly experience as you don’t worry about the aforementioned factors that bedevil conventional decks.
The most significant advantage of the LSC is that it achieves a significant reduction of motor jitter (which is also present on direct drive decks). This is not wow and flutter but tiny micro changes in motor speed that create vibration – not something that is ever measured due to technical challenges but is by far the most significant factor affecting sound quality. Encoders create this problem in spades which is why we never use them.
It’s noteworthy that the LSC received major design input from an expert electronics / software consultant designer working in the fighter aircraft industry. This evidences itself in reliability and meticulous performance .
Specifications & Compare features
If you wish to see details such as size measurements, weights and a breakdown of features please use link below.
|High Performance Armboard||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
||DC200||DC300||DC300||DC300||DC300 x 2|
|Balanced Upgrade Transformer
|Sub-Chassis Inertia Disc||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Maximum Decouping on Main Bearing
|Dimensions of Support Surface (cm)||45 x 38 x 17||45 x 38 x 18||45 x 38 x 18||45 x 38 x 20||–|
|Overall Size (cm) (cm) (Width x Depth x Height)||52 x 42 x 17||52 x 42 x 17||52 x 42 x 17||52 x 42 x 17||–|
|Shipping Dimensions (cm) (Width x Depth x Height)
||60 x 45 x 16||60 x 45 x 16||60 x 45 x 16||60 x 50 x 30||–|
|Weight Packaged (kg) (Width x Depth x Height)
Fit & Forget
Nothing to go out of tune so you save the cost of yearly servicing.
Simple to set up for beginners.
Proven reliability from time tested design.
Simple to run using a single switch.
Upgradable with Tonearm and motor drive options.
Easy Set up
The deck is simple to set up for beginners. The instructions are written assuming you’ve never had a turntable before. From the box arriving and after reading the instructions, set up takes between 5 and 15 minutes. This incudes fitting the arm (not the cartridge).
In contrast, many Suspended turntable designs can take well over 2 hours to assemble due to complex spring assemblies, levelling and other issues.
All our decks are easy to level with adjustable feet.
Arm fitting and VTA adjustment is convenient, with open access to the underside of the armboard.
Near Zero Maintenance, high reliability & low Running Costs
Nothing requires tuning thanks to non-suspended design which means you save the cost of yearly servicing.
Speed will not vary into the future (see Light Speed Controller LSC). In contrast, the speed of most turntables changes over time unless they are serviced by a dealer. Even then the accuracy may be no better than 0.5% not to mention inconvenience and cost.
Level of reliability is proven by time tested design.
Easy to Upgrade
Various turntable upgrades are available depending on the deck model. These can be seen as options on order pages or on the turntable upgrade pages
Upgrading the Tonearm is especially easy due to the simple fit.
Simple to Run
Our decks arer simple to run using a single switch.
Options and Extras
- The performance of the deck can be significantly upgraded with the “Fully balanced Upgrade Transformer”. This option is applicable to all turntables below the Sovereign.
- 12 inch Armboard option is a change in armboard which allows you to fit one of our 12 inch arms.
- Twin armboard option allows you to fit two 9.5 inch arms to the deck.
- The Multilayer platter is an option available for the Calypso and Resolution decks.
Turntable Options & Additions
Fully Balanced Upgrade Transformer
If you want to significantly upgrade your deck with increased dynamics, better definition, clarity and sense of power then the purpose built upgrade transformer represents high value.
With its advanced design and high power specification this transformer has a dramatic effect due to:
- Low resistance for quicker response and ability to deliver high current instantaneously for motor transient peaks
- Fully balanced design to vastly reduce noise levels which interfere with smooth running in any motor
- Advanced isolation from mains corruption
- Low noise
The specially designed Upgrade Transformer is compatible with all Origin Live turntables. This means it’s a straightforward replacement for the small transformer normaly supplied. The upgrade transformer is housed in an outboard enclosure. Installation could not be easier, all you do is plug it in.
You can order this option on the turntable ordering page but if you already have a turntable and are upgrading, go to Turntable Spares and Upgrades
12″ Arm Mounting
The 12″ sub-chassis enables you to fit all Origin Live 12″ inch arms. If you are considering this option, then it is easier and less costly to specify the 12″ sub-chassis with the deck at time of order rather than considering it as an option for the future.
- If you would like to learn about the advantages of 12 inch arms over 9″ arms, you can read our helpful article
- The method commonly employed by other brands, for fitting 12 inch arms is to change the armboard. This is not possible for Origin Live armboards because they are integrated into the structure of the sub-chassis.
- Only 12 inch Origin Live tonearms will normally fit this option – other 12 inch arm brands can be quoted on a case by case basis.
To include the 12 inch sub-chassis when you order your deck – select it in the options list that appears when you order your deck.
If you already have a standard Origin Live deck and wish to change to a 12 inch arm mount, the only solution is to swap over the entire sub-chassis assembly. This is only possible on MK3 decks and also involves more expense than including the 12 inch arm mount in the first place. To order a 12 inch sub-chassis in this instance please go look at our upgrades page. You will need to return your current sub-chassis for this option. We will send you a guide on how to carry out this operation which is straightforward to do yourself.
Dual Arm Mounting
The dual armboard allows 2 Origin Live or Rega arms to be fitted to the deck. Reasons for this are as below:
- If you have dirty or damaged records you can play them through a cheap cartridge without needing to keep changing cartridge
- You may have 2 cartridges for particular applications such as a mono cartridge for mono records
- If you set up the arms for different record thicknesses it avoids needing to keep adjusting the VTA
- Dealers use them to enable quick comparisons of different tonearms with the same cartridge
If you are considering this option, then it is easier and saves money to order the dual armboard sub-chassis with the deck and not at a later date.
If you already have a standard Origin Live deck and wish to change to a dual armboard, the only solution is to swap over the entire sub-chassis assembly. This option is only possible on MK3 decks and also involves considerably more expense than ordering the deck with dual armboard included.
Please note that the dual armboard for the Aurora and Calypso is different and more economical than that of the one for the Resolution and Sovereign decks.
You can order this option on the turntable ordering page.
The multi-layer platter is difficult to produce but the performance improvements are worth it. Noteable are increased dynamics, ultra fast transients, deeper bass and improved definition throughout the range. However all aspects of the music benefit when you install this platter.
The Multi-layer platter uses advanced energy dissipation techniques to both support the record with minimum resonance whilst at the same time allowing energy to escape. This item solves complex issues that plague sonic purity and derives from massive research and development. The closer structures get to the actual record the more they have to be right.
This option is included as standard on the Sovereign deck and above. However it may be added as an optional extra to the Calypso & Resolution. If coupled with the upgrade transformer this brings the performance of the Resolution to almost the same level as the Sovereign Turntable.
Further Information & FAQs
Digital vs Analogue Sound Quality
Observation and comments on the difference between Analogue (vinyl) and digital formats.
It is easy to be carried away with the marvels and speed of advance of digital mediums. It therefore surprises some that highly respected audio experts will say a top flight record player far surpasses the sound quality of all digital sources. They passionately own vinyl as their first choice in sound quality and will tell you this will remain so into the forseeable future. They see it as the pinnacle of sound quality because of it’s more natural, smoother, more coherent, and a more musical presentation than digital. In comparison digital can often sound harsh, disjointed and a musical mess which the ear finds unattractive.
In spite of this digital has advantages and the discussion regarding format superiority has many aspects which make it a controversial area. For example at the very budget end of the market, price for price, digital has better sound quality, convenience and availability than vinyl. However once you get beyond £500 for a good record player, this state of affairs is reversed in terms of sound quality.
At the extreme high end, Germany’s largest Hi Fi magazine (Audio) declared that a top turntable outperformed their reference Digital player comprehensively on EVERY aspect of music.
Technically, both Digital and Viny face challenges and neither can claim superiority on this basis. For this reason judgements should be based on observation rather than dogma. It’s interesting that in photography, digital has still not claimed supremacy in the high end. The highest resolution cameras for producing Imax cinema film are analogue not digital (although they use digital for lower quality productions).
Limits of this article
Time will not permit this dicussion to look at all aspects of Digital vs Analogue so we will confine ourselves to the single aspect of sound quality. This leaves out the more well known and conflicting aspects of cost, convenience, speed of access, mobility, wear, longevity, tangibility, nostalgia, retro, availability of older recordings in digital etc. There are important advantages and disadvantages in both formats and your preference will vary from others. If sound quality is important to you then the following discussion should be relevant.
Reasons for the perception of digital sound superiority
CDs first started the transition away from vinyl LPs back in 1985 promising “pure, perfect sound forever” – “no more crackles, pops and hiss”. Vanishingly low distortion was quoted at 0.001% at 1kHz. What wasn’t there to love?
The proof of digital sound superiority was simple – Compare it to an average record player. Of course most people found CD sounded better.
The world domination of digital vs analogue became overwhelming – pockets of analogue resistance held out. Strangely those who loved the analogue sound were viewed to have a mild form of benign insanity. This was eventually to prove an infectious disorder. So much so, that there was a steady growth of those reverting to the medium and this continues to this day.
The disorder gets so bad that we regularly receive letters like “your turntable has rendered my CD player unlistenable”.
To hear that vinyl is not just subjectively preferable but also technically superior still comes as a shock to the vast majority of people whose main exposure to formats is moulded by a huge industry marketing machine.
The purpose of this article is to shed fresh light on why so many top reviewers, and music lovers still prefer vinyl and will continue to do so.
Mistakes of the past
To save repeating the mistakes of the past it’s worth understanding why many turntables hugely under-perform to the extent that many never hear what analogue is capable of. The main culprit was probably the low quality electronics used for turntable amplification. These were often inadequate to resolve and properly amplify the very low signal levels of a turntable (over 200 times lower than CD output). As if this was not enough, the design and build of an average non-specialist turntable was not capable of high sound quality.
Why Analogue for best sound ?
This is a complex and controversial area where not much is what it seems at face value. For example the low distortion figures of CD are fantastic at 1kHz but far from fantastic at lower frequencies where vinyl does far better. To save getting bogged down in technical aspects where even the experts disagree, we will look at observations, principles and leading arguments.
Firstly analogue has infinite resolution (theoreticaly) which digital is always attempting to reproduce using limited and finite resolution. The Universe functions on infinite analogue resolution as seen in light waves, sound waves, water waves, atomic vibration and on it goes. The ear loves infinite resolution. Of course it is realized that resolution is not quite infinite because of finite aspects and there are limitations such as the size of atoms ultimately.
The ear identifies digital as fake analogue
The ear is incredibly discriminating at a sub-concious level and prefers pure analogue without the artifacts introduced by digital conversion.
The complexity of converting digital back to analogue
To play music, all digital sources must converted a digital signal back into an analogue one. The conversion process is fraught with issues beyond the comprehension of even the experts in this area. In fact it took years before it was acknowledged by some that CD players sounded different to one another. It took many more years before anyone was able to prove the reasons why. Then people started noticing that digital cables sounded different. This is still incomprehensible and denied by many digital experts. However there are a few brave souls who talk about phase problems causing this phenomenon.
Some digital to analogue convertors (DACs) are much better than others but all depend on complex mathematical algorithms which are flawed in one respect or another. We highly respect and applaud those who manage to achieve acceptable results in this area as it’s incredibly challenging.
Compression losses in recording and transmission
The results of recording a high quality record player onto a digital recorder using a good digital convertor are surprising. The results can be very close to the original sound heard on the record player. The only stand out area is the bass where digital never seems to quite get it (figures show 30% more distortion in the bass of CD players than turntables).
This seems contradictory at first so why is it an exception. Or to put it another way, why is the normal experience of digital not this good?
Firstly many CDs and digital sources are compressed to the extent that over 60% of the original information is lost. This enables faster production and download speeds but wrecks sound quality whatever the claims to the contrary. The compression process is inevitably flawed as is the decompression and conversion back to analogue.
Converting your Analogue to Digital
It’s possible to create genuinely high quality digital recordings from Vinyl records that will far surpass the CD versions of the same records. Of course it’s a complete disaster to expect a low cost record player and phono stage to carry out this task as it’s simply “rubbish in, rubbish out”. This is where it’s essential to invest in a very high grade turntable and phono stage plus a decent analogue to digital convertor.
The major advantage of doing this is that it will save your records from wearing when you only want to listen to your collection as background music. An added benefit is that you can listen to much higher quality music if you take it with you on the move.
What “high resolution & lossless” can really be
In an honest world the words high resolution and lossless would be good news. The problem is that the whole truth is often not being told which is why these formats still sound terrible. You can take a low resolution recording in a format such as MP3 and upsample it into a high resolution format then call it high resolution. Problem solved? Far from it! This is like taking a blurred photograph and putting it through sharpening filters. The result will never come close to an authentic high quality image taken in focus.
Why analogue recordings from digital sources sound better than the original digital?
It’s a source of amazement to some, that many analogue vinyl records are made from digital recordings. How can they possibly sound better? The answer to this is almost certainly that the process of converting digital onto a vinyl record is mechanical. This has the effect of “upsampling” the original digital signal from limited resolution into infinite resolution. The ear finds this more acceptable as it’s free of the digital artefacts which plague algorithm driven conversion.
Michael Fremmer made an interesting remark that quite a number of turntable designers come from Silicon Valley and worked on designing chips for DACS (which convert digital to analogue). These individuals are fully aware of the flaws in chip designs and prefer turntables.
Published Magazine Article on Digital vs Analogue
Back in February 2004, Hi Fi World asked me along with a number of others to contribute answers to a series of questions. I have republished my answers below as they have as much relevance now as they did then:
 THEORETICALLY, WHICH IS BETTER – DIGITAL OR ANALOGUE?
Theoretically each format could claim superiority if the technology behaved perfectly. However the discussion ultimately boils down to the fact that both mediums have technical issues to overcome. Which is better depends on the limitations of existing technology and knowledge. When CD was first launched, people sited the technical superiority of the medium over vinyl – better dynamic range, lower distortion etc. The same old rhetoric is being repeated for the new digital formats – In the effort to claim technical superiority and the advance of technology, the issue of subjective sound quality appears to have become merely incidental.
In spite of the claims for the new formats, it is plain that much is still not understood about the exact nature of digital. Things that look perfect on paper turn out to be far from perfect in practice. CD’s were eventually discovered to have up to 30% distortion in the bass which is nowhere near as good as vinyl. This is just one example but there is also a raft of other misconceptions – were the designers not aware of these problems?
The unknown difficulties
At face value it may seem straightforward to translate a digital code into analogue, so where does it go wrong? is it sampling rates? Even with the new high sampling rate formats, the translation from digital to analogue is bound to degrade the signal significantly. This is due to the limitations of the devices that read information on the discs – not all the information is read perfectly and disc reading errors occur continuously. The electronics required to compensate for the ensuing mess has a host of side effects that are most unpleasant. Severe and complex problems lie in the multitude of activities that the electronics must perform. The outcome is that the new digital formats are severely flawed as far as the human ear is concerned.
According to a number of expert opinions outside the digital marketing departments, there are specific technical problems with the new formats which mean that they will never outclass vinyl in terms of sound quality. One easily understood issue is the “watermark” that is put on an increasing number of digital discs to prevent copying. This alone is known to cause significant sound degradation with no solution on the horizon. Yet another issue is the need to rectify disc reading errors – can a DTA converter really take an educated guess to fill in missing information with accuracy – it doesn’t appear so. A crude analogy of the problem is that of cutting up a prime fillet steak into tiny chunks – no matter how finely you cut it and try to put it back together, you still end up with a hamburger not fillet steak.
Vinyl analogue replay on the other hand has the following advantages
a) No sampling rate unless you call infinity a sampling rate.
b) The conversion of an analogue mechanical signal into the final analogue electrical signal is much simpler than a digital to analogue conversion.
c) The minimal errors of a cartridge do not need “correction”. Although distortion may be higher it does not have the “nasty” nature of digital distortion that is thoroughly offensive to the ear.
 WHICH SYSTEM DO YOU PERSONALLY PREFER – AND WHY?
Not surprisingly I prefer Analogue! It has a fluid sound quality as opposed to digital which can be distinctly edgy at times. There are numerous other subjective differences particularly in the bass region which is where analogue scores so heavily over digital. Analogue portrays an effortless and authoritative bass which forms the foundation of music. Digital sources seldom have this quality – partly because the digital recording itself has been rolled off early and no player can play music which has simply been removed. However in addition to this the players seem unable to convey the warmth and subtleties present in bass areas of the music. As for midrange, treble, and musicality you only have to listen, and the superiority of vinyl is obvious to most people. There will be people who prefer digital but it may depend to some extent on the way they process music in their brain – some people prefer an electronic keyboard over real piano.
WHAT ARE THE RELATIVE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF ANALOGUE?
1) Analogue is now perceived as “the new high end format” by those who have listened to modern turntables and phono stages . For out and out sound quality there is nothing to touch it and this state of affairs will continue due to the inherent problems of digital formats.
2) Many of the recordings on vinyl have not been wrecked by digital re mastering and this alone is often highly significant. The phrase “digitally re mastered” fills most analogue lovers with horror because they have heard the results – How some of the marketing men involved with the digital format get away with the total nonsense they deliver to an unsuspecting public is beyond me. It is also partly responsible in my view for the long term decline in cd sales. By this I mean that although short term sales may seem to increase due to people believing false claims about superior sound quality, in the long run many people wonder why they are finding their new “digitally re mastered” recordings are not really touching them at an emotional level.
The disadvantages of analogue is the availability of records although this situation is steadily changing for the better as more and more recordings are repressed and made available through specialist internet mail order companies.
The cost of hardware for analogue is much less than digital (outside the budget end of the market) – in other words a £1000 record deck will outperform a £12,000 CD player.
Turntables are wonderful looking pieces of kit – some of them resemble a work of art. This lends a certain romance to them that CD players don’t possess.
Turntables are upgradable with better tonearms, cartridges and power supplies. The upgrade path far surpasses digital as an investment because the performance ceiling is so much higher.
There are vast quanitites of cheap 2nd hand vinyl around.
a) Digital is a very convenient medium and easy to record. It is a good successor to audio tape as it has better sound quality and does not suffer degradation with age unless badly treated.
b) CD’s can be played on portable ghetto blasters and car audio.
c) Convenience and flexibility – CD’s are small and portable, people can skip tracks using a remote control and the players are more fuss free than record players.
Sound quality is hard, edgy, lacks timing, bass warmth and subtlety compared to analogue.
The lasers of CD players have a limited life. After 3 years your laser may easily breakdown and it is impossible to find a replacement due to the short lifespan of most players.
 WHY DO YOU THINK THE MUSIC AND AUDIO INDUSTRY MOVED TO DIGITAL IN THE
The Industry moved to digital because of the following opportunities.
a) The incredibly poor quality of most record players of the day meant that CD would be perceived as a leap forward in sound quality. Hence there would be a big market for CD’s and the required hardware to play them. The claim of perfect sound quality on an indestructible disc would be highly attractive and perceived as true by the vast mass of people.
b) On a commercial basis, CD’s were cheaper to produce than vinyl records.
c) Digital had a wider market as CD’s were playable on portable ghetto blasters and car audio.
 WHY DO YOU THINK THERE WAS A VINYL REVIVAL IN THE NINETIES?
The revival was partly due to discerning listeners with decent record players – these individuals recognized that CD was actually a backward step in terms of a high quality format The problem with vinyl had not really been a format issue but the low quality of most turntables. These individuals realized that pursuing better and better CD players was never going to make up for the fact that the medium itself was fatally flawed. By way of contrast, Vinyl players were making huge advances. We have now reached the current state of affairs in which the new Goldring turntable at £140 will outperform most CD players.
The DJ influence on the Analogue vs Digital debate
The other factor was that DJ’s still used vinyl. This partly explains why it is cool for youngsters to have a turntable in their room. DJ’s have an amazing following and are influential in their own right. The great bass quality of analogue is of course a key aspect for dance floors and apart from scratching this is another reason why it is the favoured medium of DJ’s. Night clubs are becoming more aware of the potential of analogue and have started fitting our arms to their technics decks with astounding results. Currently one of the clubs in New York which use our arms have been shortlisted in the top 5 best sounding clubs in the world.
 DO THE NEW HIGH RES DIGITAL FORMATS (SACD, DVD-A) HAVE A FUTURE?
The average person does care about sound quality – if they didn’t, CD’s would never have caught on in the first place. People want to have the best but are easily misled. The accountants and PR people obviously realize this – everything is touted as having “high sound quality”. Many people are starting to get disillusioned with format change and the uncertainty of format wars. The new formats are still fataly flawed according to most experts who give an honest opinion in the magazines. Dilution of the market place will lead to less profitability and higher prices – the music industry is doing itself damage through this pursuit. The hope is that the new formats will revive sales because everyone is going to rush out and want the best sound quality available. However there are problems with this perception:
a) The improvements are not great and will never surpass vinyl replay.
b) The formats can be pirated – if some form of encryption is put on the format then sound quality is severely degraded and the purpose of the change is lost.
c) The hardware necessary to play all the different formats will mean either several players or a universal player. More players gets expensive and space consuming. Universal players mean degradation in sound quality and additional expense.
My honest opinion is that the new formats may have limited success but are unlikely to last for any significant length of time due to the rate of change in the technology of digital storage. Soon there will be further advances in sampling rates and increased storage capacity. However in spite of a number of possibilities the fundamental technical problems associated with digital to analogue conversion are likely to remain unsolved.
The case for promoting analogue
If the accountants and PR people made a smart analysis, there is a great argument for promoting Vinyl records as the “new high end format”. The reasons are obvious.
a) Vinyl outperforms the new mediums even on inexpensive modern turntables like the Pro-Ject Debut II. Higher Grade turntables simply run rings round all digital players which is one reason why our turntable was voted by the pubic as “best sound at the show” recently in Vienna.
b) Vinyl cannot be pirated without the loss of sound quality associated with CD’s etc. People cannot produce another vinyl record whereas a digital recording can be perfectly copied.
c) In the long term vinyl will give far more musical satisfaction than digital formats which will mean increased sales of music.
 WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION, ARE THEIR RESPECTIVE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
The new formats are not quite as edgy as CD and have a better bass with no disadvantages in comparison.
 (HOW) CAN WE IMPROVE:
[a] ANALOGUE VINYL?
Besides improving turntables, one of the most neglected areas of vinyl replay is the phono stage. Listening to the GSP gram amp 2 SE at a mere £179 was a revelation to me a few years ago. This moving magnet phono stage caused me to realize how many people have never appreciated the quality of vinyl simply because of the dire quality of integrated amplifier phono inputs. Phono stage design has advanced tremendously over latter years and inexpensive but excellent phono stages like the Gram amp 1 at £85 could be much better promoted.
[b] DIGITAL AUDIO?
The transports and mechanisms to read the discs need such massive improvement that I suspect an entirely new technology of reading information is required. At present the need for DTA converters to carry out oversampling and then take educated guesses to fill in the information missed by the laser is a cause of untold sound degradation. At the end of the day the information needs to be read perfectly and fully without the need for electronics to fill in the gaps and make up it’s own version of the music. Sound quality must not yet again become victim to technical arrogance and false claims to superiority.
 WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE:
[a] ANALOGUE PRODUCT (i.e. turntable, tape deck) The Origin Live Sovereign turntable with Conqueror tonearm
[b] DIGITAL PRODUCT (i.e. CD, DVD-A player) The Shanling CD player
I like the Origin Live Sovereign turntable with Conqueror tonearm because it’s the closest thing I’ve heard to live music. It also looks eye catching with an engineering quality that begs to be listened to.
The Shanling CD player looks absolutely superb and is overall one of the best sounding in my opinion although it is rather on the euphonic side and does not have the best bass quality.
Answers by Mark Baker
Best Record Player Design Philosophy
Introduction to Best Record Player design
Most experts agree the best record player will provide the most satisfying music. The record player still reigns supreme in terms of performance and quality. Unlike CD there seems to be no limitation on the musical information it can extract. In recent years, advances in the best record player designs have caused the gulf between CD performance and vinyl to widen even further. Origin Live draws together many long-established principles of high end turntable design, along with advanced innovations, to reveal just how much the vinyl medium is capable of.
The recreation of an original musical performance involves capturing many factors. High among priorities are dynamics, transient speed, definition and tonal accuracy. Definition and tonal accuracy are especially important for great imaging capability. This rare ability is one of the key factors that separate high performance decks from the mediocre.
Concepts in Design
Analysis of the Best Record Player Mechanism
We cover the incredible levels of sensitivity and magnification of a record deck in the article “what makes a better turntable” so if you have not seen this yet, then please do so now as it lays the foundation for design architecture.
One of the points covered is that the slightest source of unwanted resonance in a turntable is amplified around 8000 thousand times, impacting the musical performance with coloration and distortion. It is the successful elimination of this unwanted vibration that produces the huge differences between mediocre decks and star performers.
Overcoming the Challenges
However a good design does not just eliminate resonance – it also holds the cartridge rock steady allowing the cantilever to generate a pure signal. Vibration is a highly complex area – the most important parameters being:
Speed of energy transmission
Speed of energy absorption – resonance absorbs energy slowly whereas damping tends to be faster
Resonant frequency of the material (how does behave within the audio band?)
In summary, our turntables overcome many of the problems arising from unwanted vibration in the following ways:
- To reduce resonance, all components are carefully selected and optimised by using materials and profiles that are optimised to achieve this.
- They reduce vibrational “noise” created by the motor through the use of a low cogging AC motor or DC motor (optional).
- They exclude environmental vibration. This can be anything from originliker feedback (ground-borne and airborne) to underground pumps and road traffic. For example, the platter is decoupled from the sub-platter and the bearing house is decoupled from the plinth or sub-chassis.
Design of Components
What is the secret of the superb performance lurking within Origin Live decks? The answer lies in countless hours of research and development into the main variables governing sonic performance. Every design detail contributes to the sonic character of a deck. Meticulous attention has been paid to every design choice on our turntables. The key variables are:
- Types of material used at each point in the structure.
- Choice of which materials to interface together.
- Dimensioning of materials.
- Shape and form of components – solid, hollow, plate, flanged, tube, etc.
- Method of attachment – bolting, gluing, welding, screwing, etc.
- Decoupling methods – springs, spikes, elastic bands, rubber, foam, air cushion, etc.
- Motor positioning and method of mounting.
These critical areas and many others have all been exhaustively tested to produce the outstanding performance of the Origin Live turntable range. The results are well documented in the many excellent reports we consistently receive from owners and reviewers.
Supporting the platter and arm
A Record Player should fulfil three ideals in supporting the platter and arm:
- It provides a stable platform for platter and stylus to ‘kick’ against under force.
- It ‘earths’ any unwanted vibration created by the stylus/record interface.
- It isolates the platter and arm from environmental vibration and motor noise.
A sub-chassis has been found to be beneficial to performance, as it provides additional isolation of the arm and platter from external vibration. This feature is included on our record player.
Theory of Energy Management
In principle a Record Player is one of the simplest items of Hi-Fi equipment. However, as you now know, understanding the principles governing performance is much more involved than first meets the eye.
These critical areas and many others, have all been tested extremely thoroughly and result in the outstanding performance of our record player models.
Hear For Yourself
These notes provide an introduction to the subject of a best record player design. Why not discover for yourself the astonishing potential of the world’s highest performing medium for the reproduction of music?
Mk1 to MK2
It is not possible to upgrade MK1 or MK2 decks to MK3 or MK4 specification as so many parts changed. However trade in for part exchange is always an option with ourselves or a dealer. Any quote for this is best assessed by the parties concerned as many factors come into play.
MK1 Differences to later models
On Mk1 decks the belt runs on a sub-platter
Power supplies are not as advanced
Motor pods are much smaller and electronics are housed in a seperate box
The Aurora and Aurora Gold (renamed Calypso) used metal plates for the plinth
No platter mat existed
Neoprene Belts were used
Bearings are not as advanced in terms of low friction or sound quality
Motor Pulley was metal
Features of MK3 over previous MK2 models are:
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 represented a significant increase in performance and value to an already superb sound. Music was 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
Specific Specification changes
- Changed from spring supsension to unique, centre-point support cantilever suspension
- New type of Acrylic platter material with reduced internal stresses
- Increased thickness of platter due to changes in overall design
- Lower friction bearing along with lower vibration design
- 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
Introduced substantially more powerfull and smooth running motors along with improved electronics and temperature compensation.
All Origin Live tonearms fit our decks without need for adaptors or any other device.
All older Style Rega arms (RB250, RB300 – ones with threaded bases and a large clamping nut) fit our decks with the aid of our threaded VTA adjuster.
Rega arms with the later 3 point mounting ( RB251, RB301, etc.) can be fitted to the Aurora and Calypso with no requirement for additional items.
SME and Linn mount arms can be fitted to the Aurora MK3 and Calypso MK3 at special request as a different sub-chassis is required by special order and will be an additional £280.
Other arms cannot easily be accommodated at this stage without a one off sub-chassis being made.
Due to carrying out a great deal of listening to vinyl replay, we have had the luxury of listening to a vast array of equipment. The following information is intended to offer some help and advice on the many options and choices available with regard to upgrading priorities and allocating your hard earned budget.
We are constantly asked questions about upgrade paths along the lines of:
– “How much should I spend on my cartridge?”
– “Is it worth having my arm rewired for a budget turntable?”
– “Should I upgrade to the advanced DC motor kit or upgrade the tonearm or turntable?”
– “What level of performance does the DC motor kit add to my deck?”
Assessing priorities to upgrade your system is not always easy and so we are providing some guidance from the experience that we have acquired over the years. Much depends on your the level of performance you aspire to, coupled with your future plans (if any) and budget. For this reason the following guidelines are a matter of opinion and judgement.
Depending on the deck, the DC motor kit will add approximately £700 worth of performance to most turntables relative to the cost and performance of turntables. This makes it a very worthwhile investment, especially as increasing the performance of a turntable is vastly more effective than cartridge upgrades.
The motor upgrade is usually as effective as upgrading to a Silver tonearm but this depends on the quality of your current turntable motor drive.
The upgrades below are scored in terms of performance relative to one another.
Our Opinion on Component Significance
Origin Live Turntable Rating
Origin Live Tonearm Rating
Origin Live DC Motor Rating
|DC Motor Kit
Our Approach To Turntable Development & Production
Origin Live developed breakthrough after breakthrough to produce turntables with a truly magnificent sound. This involved very high levels of investment and engineering excellence.
The Beauty of Manufacuring in-House
To create advanced designs in the shortest possible time, we needed to accelerate production and testing of many innovative ideas. Normaly only a limited number of prototypes can be produced due to time and cost constraints. We quickly recognized that avoiding sub-contractor’s long lead times meant manufacturing everything ourselves. Acquiring CNC machines was costly but enabled us to produce hundreds of prototypes in a tiny fraction of the time taken normaly.
Most turntable bearings are made using an economic drill and ream process. Ours are produced the slow way, using specialist boring techniques to ensure a dead-straight hole, without the slightest degree of taper or eccentricity. 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. The results are very audible in terms of increased clarity and 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 cause sonic degradation. This is just one example of where two deck materials seem identical but are actually very different.
Expertise and Design Talent
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. We are fortunate to have association with brilliant and talented innovators who share confidential ideas freely with us.
Highest Standards of Workmanship Beginning With Parts Production Through to Final Assembly
Manufacturing parts in-house has the advantage of guaranteed quality. 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 Sound Attributes
How do you want your music to sound?
If you have never heard an Origin Live deck it’s hard to imagine the potential benefits to your system. As already stated there are major sonic differences between decks for good technical reasons. The way Origin Live turntables render music is foremostly musical and realistic. If you want music of unrivalled transient speed, musicality and dynamics which 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 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 will offer a full refund.
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.
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.