Frequently asked questions

 

Q:  What is your best turntable model? 

A:  A complex inquiry.  In terms of deciphering the "best" Artisan Fidelity model, presumably one displaying the absolute ideal playback capabilities, this widely debated and contested topic remains something which we ultimately leave to our discerning clients subjective ears and objective minds to decide.  Each individually hand crafted Artisan Fidelity model and it's unique subsequent design possesses certain inherent playback strengths, musical characteristics and a model specific demeanor music aficionados cherish during listening sessions.  Depending upon an individual listeners priorities, system balance and personal playback preferences, a properly implemented idler drive based, direct drive based or belt drive based (insert further drive derivatives here) turntable topology may be arguably preferable over another.  For instance, the inherent strengths of the Garrard 301 Statement model exudes thunderous dynamics, authoritative drive, enormous scope, scale, air and space, deep yet slightly round authoritative bass extension which suits classical, jazz and many contemporary recordings, including vocal singers brilliantly and with aplomb.  Similarly, our most evolved interpretation of the classic Swiss Lenco idler drive, the Achates model, offers much of the same authority plus air, space and similar drive/dynamics of the Garrard transcription based crown jewel, only with slightly tighter, yet extended and taught bass extension.  The Achates SE model adds an increased sense of pure neutrality, tailored precision, solidity, clarity and focus over the attributes of its sibling, decidedly a more modern type of sound, if you will.  Both aforementioned idler drive designs are inherently musical, robust, low maintenance and built to last a lifetime.  The Thorens TD124 Classic model flows with nostalgic pace, airy musicality, rhythm and warmth, just the right set of personality traits for enjoying LP playback covering a multitude of artists and music genres whereas the TD124 Statement model, in conjunction with the inherent musicality of the Classic platform, offers much greater focus, resolution and clarity along with a drastically reduced noise floor.  Conversely, residing on the other side of the architectural fence lies the direct drive designs, for instance our Technics Sp10Mk3 NGS model, designed around the Japanese legacy, a no holds barred design utilizing the world renowned vintage Technics Matsushita Sp10Mk3 motor and supporting controller circuitry as its core.  This echelon model excels at providing extreme focus, precise left/right channel separation, superb pitch stability, superior speed consistency, balanced tonal presentation and sheer neutrality, read: honesty that only a world class direct drive like the Sp10Mk3's powerful dc motor/drive/logic topology is capable of, emitting deep from the depths of a pitch black background from which the music flows and emanates directly from.  During playback, the Sp10Mk3 NGS portrays music with razor sharp focus and channel separation, utter transparency and with life like scope and scale, micro and macro detail literally "jumps" from recordings, bass is extended and pitch perfect, listening to music emerging from its inky black background is immersive, and time just slips away record after record, like a musical time machine.  Furthermore, speed accuracy and fine pitch adjustment capabilities are literally second to none.  The illusion of live music which the Mk3NGS direct drive design is capable of creating within a listening space is simply nothing less than ground breaking, words simply cannot express it.  Bear in mind, this brief introspective paragraph merely scratches the surface of only a few respective models summary descriptions.

 

Q:  Why do your estimated fabrication lead times often vary? 

A:  Naturally, we continue striving to complete client builds within the initial estimated time frames, however, each analog playback instrument fabricated remains individually hand crafted and tailor custom made to order, with few exceptions.  Part of this bespoke process entails certain factors and variables, often unforeseen which are simply out of our immediate control.  We are not a mass production company, and never will be, as I have no desire to encompass any internal practices remotely close to this, as anything resembling this would be an insult to our dedication and craft.  When a person commissions an Artisan Fidelity model, what they are investing in is meant to be an heirloom, in essence a precision musical instrument which will be a source of pleasure for decades and generations to come.  Furthermore, we simply do not guarantee absolute, etched in stone type project completion dates to any client for this very reason, as we are a small, independent group of perfectionists, engineers, machinists, artists and designers who care far more about the lasting integrity, legacy and build quality of our product that rushing for the finish line.  From our end, trust we are every bit as eager and enthusiastic to complete your model as you are to receive it.   To summarize, during this time, while you patiently await completion of your model, all we simply ask that you respect the bespoke, meticulous nature of the process and allow us to concentrate on completing your instrument as expeditiously and as accurately as possible. 

 

Q:  Why do audiophiles continue to cherish the Technics Sp10Mk3 Direct Drive? 

A:  The global legacy which founder and chief designer Konosuke Matsushita left behind succeeding his reign at the Japanese Technics corporation is nearly unsurpassed, especially within the realm of direct drive based turntables.  In fact, his first direct drive turntable designs, the Technics Sp10Mk1 and Mk2 (manufactured 1970 - 1982) were originally made for professional commercial and transcription use and were developed to exceedingly high technical playback standards seldom seen during those days and published the laboratory analysis results to further prove their engineering merit.  On the tail end of Matsushita's life and career, he announced what would later prove to unquestionable be his greatest work in nearly 75 years of designing, the end all, be all flagship direct drive turntable design, the Technics Sp10Mk3 (circa. 1982-84), which arguably at the time of its limited release and for decades to come, was simultaneously the most powerful, accurate and technologically advanced, dc based servo direct drive turntable design ever produced the world over.  To this day, the technical measured capabilities of this base Sp10Mk3 direct drive platform remain exemplary.  In terms of absolute playback prowess, a well conceived Technics Sp10Mk3 based design is a serious musical force to be reckoned with.

 

Q:  Can you describe the differences between the Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk3 Conventional and Next Generation - NG platforms? 

A:  Comparatively speaking, a vast array of fundamental design differences exist between Artisan Fidelity Next Generation (NG ) and Conventional style Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk3 based model platforms.  To begin, conventional models utilize stock factory Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk3 based designs configured with factory stock enclosure housings equipped with stock Technics platters, heavy rubber Technics platter mat and factory specified Matsushita designed power supplies which are first comprehensively restored, calibrated and oscilloscope bench tested.  Following restoration, stock arrays are firmly fitted and mechanically coupled directly into heavy, mass loaded constrained layer damped Panzerholz plinths utilizing optional proprietary active Quiet Core bearing drain modules developed to aid in further reduction of undesirable mechanical bearing noise.  Residing on the other side of the fence, our Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk3 NG series, pushes the respective models base envelope into another level of playback entirely, as in this guise their dc motors are first meticulously separated and entirely removed from the hollow, resonant stock factory enclosure housings then firmly mounted directly into a dedicated high mass, constrained layer damped Panzerholz plinth possessing four internal substratum layers and damping composites.  In this form, their powerful dc motors are finally able to function completely free from residual housing vibrations and thus no longer directly susceptible to, nor able to contribute further to electrical / mechanical intermodulation based distortions, undesirable stray magnetic EMI field affects and RFI derived anomalies.  Supporting factory Technics electronic drive and logic controller boards encompassing speed phase control, power unit board, Solenoid drive circuitry and corresponding architecture are carefully transplanted into dedicated outboard aluminum enclosures, far away from the powerful dc motor for superior electronic isolation (note: Sp10Mk2/Mk2a derived models only).  Internally, active proprietary Quiet Core bearing modules aid in further reduction of any remaining inherent bearing induced mechanical noise, to ensure the utmost silent, inky black backgrounds during playback.  In addition, the SP10 Mk2/Mk2a NG model features a proprietary, state-of-the-art internally damped precision engineered platter (net ~ 5.4kgs.) consisting of stress relieved aluminum/magnesium alloy and pure Copper based, direct surface play type, which replaces the rudimentary stock Technics cast Aluminum factory (net ~ 2.9kgs) platter and rubber mat interface.  This heavy, cnc machined precision platter further reduces noise floor to unprecedented levels while audibly improving focus, clarity and increasing channel separation.  The Technics Sp10Mk3 NG model retains the superbly designed factory Matsushita designed balanced (net ~ 10kgs.) platter, respectively.

 

Q:  Can you describe the primary contrasts which exist between your Technics Sp10Mk3 NG and Technics Sp10Mk3 NGS model platforms?

A:  A comprehensive, distinct array of structural and design engineering differences exist between the NG / NGS direct drive models, yet both designs share the same fundamental legendary Matsushita Japanese Technics Sp10Mk3 dc motor drive architecture and dynamically balanced, tiered-layered heavy platter.  For a detailed summary of individual model design contrasts, please refer to their respective web pages.  In brief, the NG model incorporates a direct coupled motor design layout in conjunction with a high mass core, multi-tier constrained layer damped Panzerholz composite plinth, integrated active proprietary Quiet Core bearing drain module utilizing Stillpoints isolation technology for residual bearing structural damping and base vibration isolation.  Residing on the other end of the spectrum, the NGS model represents an entirely different animal, painstakingly developed and engineered from the ground up with absolutely zero compromise, beginning again with a direct coupled dc motor topology.  Residing within the plinth cavity, the powerful dc motor is mounted using a concentric proprietary austenitic steel precision motor coupling system, which ensures intimate physical contact to the massive multi layer composite foundation and core.  The fundamental plinth architecture and infrastructure entails proprietary modeling techniques which were developed using both in room listening tests and material resonance contour software analysis.  The core infrastructure consists of a mass loaded composite foundation consisting of layered German Panzerholz and synthetic Copolymers pressure sealed and mechanically coupled into an exoskeleton hull comprised of aged, heat treated aircraft grade aluminum alloy.  What this unique plinth design architecture achieves is a dead silent, stable, inert base which exhibits no unusual or erratic in room resonance characteristics during playback which directly contributes to its transparent, lively and musical demeanor.  Aiding to further reduce any residual dc motor vibration we have employed a physically coupled, massive, proprietary Quiet Core active bearing drain module featuring integrated Stillpoints isolation technology to assist in residual bearing structural damping.  Lastly, a mechanically coupled, heavy pure Copper precision machined record platter mat resides atop the primary platter, replacing the colored, dynamically suppressive factory Technics rubber composite platter mat.  Net instrument weight ranges from 105kgs ~ 232lbs - 118kgs ~ 262lbs.  In summary, the NGS flagship direct drive represents a true no-holds-barred design approach without any compromise, for discerning analog listeners demanding echelon level playback. 

 

Q:  What are the fundamental differences between factory stock Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk2A and Technics Sp10Mk3 direct drive models?

A:  Rather than writing a brief dissertation summarizing the key technical and design differences which exist between the factory base Technics Sp10Mk2 and Technics Sp10Mk3 direct drive models, I will refer readers directly to the following external links below.  The informational links contain comprehensive, helpful summaries of individual design specifications and background history. 

http://www.thevintageknob.org/technics-SP-10MK2.html
http://www.thevintageknob.org/technics-SP-10MK3.html
http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/sp10page.html#MK2

In brief, the rarer, vastly more powerful and sophisticated Technics Sp10Mk3 model remains the quintessential, echelon level direct drive for discerning music aficionados who demand nothing less than the very best in terms of engineering quality, low noise floor, speed/pitch perfect accuracy, dynamics, scale and playback capability.  Conversely, the companies famous predecessor, Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk2A, was the defacto industry standard for commercial transcription, archival and broadcast applications for many years and to this day is capable of providing state-of-the-art speed accuracy and neutrality during playback.  Provided they are correctly serviced and carefully implemented, either legendary Matsushita designed model can easily compete with modern day high end analog turntable designs often times residing at stratospheric price points and unlike many of these "objet de art" pieces, were manufactured as real workhorses, meant to last a lifetime.  Artisan Fidelity offers both factory stock, restored and specifically engineered, tuned optimized versions of the Technics Sp10Mk2/Mk3 based models

 

Q:  Can you describe the different characteristics between Classic series and Statement series plinths?

A:  Artisan Fidelity Statement series plinths exhibit natural tonality in conjunction with superb timbre, coupled with a weighty, rich musical presentation.  In short, the most musical, natural sound we have yet to hear.  The Artisan Fidelity Classic series plinths offer a blend of musical balance throughout the audible bandwidth, the near perfect compromise between neutrality, resolution and clarity.  Lastly, a German Panzerholz wood based, multilaminated synthetic resin core variant is optional, this heavy, dense, stable core provides increased neutrality, focus, lower noise floor and increased resolution but are not quite as tonally full as the other aforementioned types.  Panzerholz based composite plinths, when speaking within the context of certain turntable models, remain a viable and often a listener preferable core material over Slate plinths, which although offer similarly quiet backgrounds, inherently reside on the cooler, darker side of neutral within the musical spectrum. 

 

Q:  What is the difference between Artisan Fidelity Statement series and Classic series turntable models?

A:  Vast differences exist between Artisan Fidelity Classic series and Statement series turntable models.  For comprehensive details, please refer to their individual Model pages.  Essentially, the Classic series employ stock turntable models, first treated with careful and meticulous frame off restorations, professionally colored using automotive based paint and rebuilt using brand new original equipment manufactured based and specific renovated vintage English, Swiss and German parts then brought back to factory manufacturer specifications.  The Classic series composite plinths consist of a proprietary blend of imported, select layered multilaminate stabilized hardwood and hand picked tonewood based cores wrapped using sumptuous exotic and domestic hardwood veneer, or premium automotive paint, sealed, professionally spray clear coated, baked and lastly hand buffed to a mirror shine.  Matte, Flat, Satin and Semi-gloss, micro suede soft touch plinth and chassis finishes may be specified by the client.  By contrast, Artisan Fidelity Statement series models constitute an entirely different story, as aside from sharing the base design architecture and remaining factory parts restoration procedures, this platform employs proprietary, resonant tuned by ear premium, hand selected tonewood and layered hardwood composite based high mass plinths in conjunction with a vast, comprehensive array of proprietary, state-of-the-art computerized numerical control machined precision critical high tolerance parts and PCOCC internal wiring which represent a phenomenal upgrade in playback capabilities, which include a vastly lower noise floor, increased resolution, focus, timbre and tone with superior technical quality and integrity over stock, vintage factory components.  Integrated Stillpoints isolation devices are employed in Statement models for further resonance control and for management of undesirable system based acoustic feedback and environmental based airborne vibrations including equipment related intermodulation distortion.     

 

Q:  What discernible, audible differences exist between idler drive, direct drive and belt drive based turntable models during playback?

A:  This remains a controversial, yet valid question provoking varied and often times emotional responses within the context of high end audio forums thus remaining a sensitive and widely debatable topic.  In my personal opinion, provided the specific inherent drive type is well executed, respectively, during playback any aforementioned drive type can deliver a musically satisfying, immersive playback experience.  With that being said however, each drive type and model does possess a unique set of hallmark characteristics thereby imparting a signature inevitably to be revealed to one degree or another during playback.  In a purely introspective nutshell, if dynamics, rhythmic drive, air and space in conjunction with authoritative bass are cherished, we strongly recommend idler drive based design.  Conversely, if sheer neutrality and refinement combined with uber speed pitch, stability and inky black backgrounds top the priority lists, then a direct drive based model may well be your ideal analog based listening platform.  If gratifying snap, pace and flowing musicality combined with a more relaxing flow is your ticket, then perhaps a belt drive design is key to your musical nirvana.  Bear in mind, from a more comprehensive perspective and scope, the better conceived echelon level design platforms typically share more inherent similarities than differences across the playing landscape, irrespective of drive type.    

 

Q:  Do you offer stand alone Garrard, Lenco, Thorens and Technics based plinths as well as complete turntable models?

A:  Yes, additionally we maintain the necessary in house capability to measure, voice and design bespoke plinth's tailored for various turntable models not mentioned.  These models include, but are not limited to, the following:  EMT 927, EMT 950, EMT 948, EMT 928, Commonwealth 12D3, Linn LP12, Thorens TD125 I / II, Gates CB series, Russco Studio Pro and QRK transcription record players.  

 

Q:  I require assistance with setup, can you recommend any local professionals to assist with analog installation and calibration related services?

A:  Yes, over the course of the past 7 + years, we have aligned ourselves with several well respected industry professionals domestically and abroad who offer on site installation, setup and phonograph cartridge alignment and calibration services.  Additionally, in many cases, schedule permitting I will personally fly out for on site installation, setup and calibration as an add on service option.

 

Q:  How do your vintage based designs compare against modern high end turntable offerings? 

A:  Indeed, a valid question.  Over the years, especially during initial trial model design and testing phases, we found it helpful to directly compare various existing modern high end audio and transcription, professional and archival vintage based high end turntable platforms consisting of numerous drive types as a base line for comparison during listening sessions. For example, currently my personal listening room enjoys the company of a Kuzma XL DC turntable, Kuzma 4Point tonearm and Basis 2800 Signature, vacuum platter and Vector 4 tonearm, platforms which employ a belt drive type architecture.  In the past, other well respected contemporary designs have resided in my listening environment for extended periods of time including, SME 30/12, Brinkmann, VPI, Linn LP12 and Feickert belt driven models to name a few.  After many months and years of listening, my conclusions, in a nutshell, are that each respective drive type read: belt, tape, idler, rim, direct drive employing either ac induction, synchronous, asynchronous or dc based permanent magnet motors incorporating brush-less designs in conjunction with their corresponding design platform, provided they are well executed, embodies its own set of individual strengths, weaknesses and intrinsic personality traits which are conveyed to one degree or another during record playback. Needless to say, the topic is diverse, intricate and entails a multitude of mechanical, physical and electrical engineering variables and parameters which may be pondered and debated for an eternity.  Today, a myriad of exceedingly high quality, well engineered and fundamentally musical analog playback devices exist both of modern and vintage origin.  Simply the age, or "vintage" if you will, of the turntable in and of itself does not necessarily dictate the resulting playback integrity, or rather just because something is "new" or "old" does not automatically make it better by default, what is far more important in my opinion and direct experience is the instruments fundamental design implementation, reliability, engineering quality, stability and lastly displaying the ability to completely immerse the listener during long playback sessions.  In so far as model selection is concerned, the Artisan Fidelity Classic series are for music enthusiasts who cherish the stock vintage, warm nostalgic character of each original manufacturers design, respectively. Whereas the Statement series and NG/NGS/SE models while sharing fundamental vintage based architecture and platform, were strictly optimized and engineered without compromise, developed, voiced and designed strictly for ultra high quality, precision analog based playback in modern, revealing listening environments and thus highly competitive alternatives to many current production, contemporary offerings.  At first glance, the fundamental turntable design premise, especially certain vintage based examples may seem rudimentary, however, under the skin many of these electromechanical devices were originally engineered for professional broadcast, transcription, archival as well as commercial duty and remain quite complex,  presenting a real design challenge when it comes to careful and specific retro reengineering.

 

Q:  Your nostalgic designs are beautiful, but how do they sound? 

A:  Since conception, Artisan Fidelity turntables were never designed, manufactured for, nor intended to be static museum art gallery pieces, they are bespoke hand and machine crafted, precision instruments made to playback cherished recordings and sing like songbirds.  After our inception, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested towards research and development, including coordinate measuring machine documentation, bespoke tooling, dies, fixtures, jigs, cad/cam programming, 3D modeling, computerized numerical control machining, spray finishing equipment, tribology and hydrodynamic engineering consultation, prototyping and physical in-room listening trials.  Pure playback enjoyment, musicality and a sense of realism remains the primary goal from my perspective, as a bespoke designer of analog based instruments. 

 

Q:  In addition to your Gallery finishes shown, are others available? 

A:  In a word, yes.  Literally any oem factory or custom mix automotive paint, micro suede ultra coatings, domestic hardwood, exotic hardwood, high gloss, flat, matte, semi gloss, satin and hand rubbed oil finishes remain optional.  Bespoke professional finishes remain a house specialty of ours. 

 

Q:  My tonearm manufacturer recommends different physical mounting material besides Panzerholz and Exotic Hardwood, are different armboard materials available?

A:  Yes, in addition to the aforementioned materials, as a premium option we offer pure Copper, Bronze, Austenitic Stainless Steel, Marine Brass, Aircraft Aluminum, Magnesium alloy, Titanium, Acetal Copolymer based and pure Acrylic armboards.  

 

Q:  The genuine hardwood veneers used to wrap Artisan Fidelity plinths, approximately how thick are they?

A:  Refer to Philosophy page.

 

Q:  Are your Classic series models, such as the Garrard 301, Garrard 401 and Thorens TD124 upgradeable?

A:  Absolutely, yes.  Each Classic series model was designed to be retro upgradable and user ready to incorporate Statement series precision components at a later date.  This includes primary Sapphire bearings, inverted Copper platters, active isolation devices and ancillary components such as precision Artisan Fidelity replacement cnc idler wheels, Marine Brass motor pulleys and bespoke eddy current brake discs.  Swiss Lenco L75/L78 DCHM models and Technics Sp10Mk2 and Technics Sp10Mk3 conventional designs additionally share upgrade paths, unique to their individual platforms, respectively. 

 

Q:  I am nervous about safe transit, how well do you pack your turntables for shipping overseas and domestically?

A:  Worldwide safe delivery remains a high priority of ours, thus prior to dispatch each hand crafted Artisan Fidelity model is first securely nestled in plank foam and sealed inside a proper, heavy duty solid wood, certified ISPM-15 stamped parasite free international rated shipping crate.  For international orders, affiliated services provided by FedEx International Air Express are highly recommended. 

 

Q:  Concerning the Garrard 301 and Garrard 401, which model is best?

A:  A valid inquiry, analog music aficionados often ask this question which remains a highly debatable forum topic with Garrard idler drive enthusiasts worldwide.  In my personal experience, aesthetics notwithstanding, the sibling English made transcription designs share far more intrinsic character similarities than differences during playback.  The typical consensus, often relayed by forum gossip, is that the Garrard 301 early Schedule I Grease and Schedule II Oil types circa 1954 - 1965 maintained slightly superior manufacturing consistency throughout their respective production years and were primarily meant for Mono playback, since Stereo LP record pressings were first commercially released circa late 1957 - early 1958, this last part seems logical by deduction.  Subsequently, after a long successful production period, the enormously accomplished Garrard 301 officially retired, immediately thereafter, the Garrard 401 model circa 1965 - 1976 was announced as its replacement.  Official documents and rumors indicate that the Garrard 401 featured minor enhancements over its predecessor, namely a slightly more "robust" ac induction motor with refined tolerances.  As historical folklore goes, Garrard Engineering Company initially suffered from minor 401 model factory quality control inconsistencies which were effectively ironed out by later production years.  From solely an objective hands on perspective, my personal sentiment today after servicing hundreds of units retains both Garrard 301 and Garrard 401 sibling models are proven reliable and easily capable of delivering an immensely, musical and satisfying listening experience.  Provided they are properly serviced, calibrated and maintained, the pair of English idler drives remain inherently brawny and suited to a multitude of music genres, shining with both Mono and Stereo recordings.      

 

Q:  Can you describe your sales model?

A:  First and foremost, allow me to briefly explain the bespoke direct-to-consumer manufacturing and sale format and how it differs from the vast majority of high end audio companies.  Aside from a hand selected group of authorized showroom dealers, we operate unlike a typical retail high end audio establishment, as every analog instrument displayed throughout the Artisan Fidelity catalogue, fabricated for a given client, truly begins from scratch with few exceptions.  During the model selection phase the client becomes a co-creator of sorts, having direct input about the specific hardwood finish type, automotive paint color, key engineering upgrades and armboard types, finishes, et cetera.  Offering a catalogue of tailor custom made to order analog playback instruments, on a direct-to-client sale structure basis, allows clientele a tremendous value proposition over purchasing through a traditional dealer network.  For instance, to put things into perspective, if we were selling strictly through a traditional brick and mortar dealer network, end pricing as a retail consumer in most circumstances would hover at an estimated 25% - 30% additional minimum per model as otherwise, we would not be able to sustain ourselves as a small, artisan hand crafted, bespoke manufacturing business which by default operates at extremely modest margins, especially by today's industry standards.  For these reasons, with rare exception, we do not discount our precision hand crafted products.  As a small group of passionate designers, engineers, woodworkers and artists, we are neither wealthy nor aristocratic, although from my perspective without question it is a privilege to be apart of something this special as a collective team, creating musical heirlooms which will provide a lifetime of enjoyment for their discerning owners.  After 8 years providing bespoke turntable restoration, modifications and tailored manufacturing combined with ~ 23 years of personal and high end audio industry experience, we rely solely on word of mouth reputation.  Private consultation focussed expressively on an individual listener's basis furnishes a real, integrity based foundation providing potential clients the necessary vital information required to feel confident prior to commissioning a build.

 

 

 

 

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