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Audio Valve Solaris DAC
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Acoustic Solid Wood Black turntable with Audio Note Arm III Review
Sitting somewhere around the middle of Acoustic Solid’s bewildering range of turntables is the Wood Black. It is the same design as the Wood and Wood MPX models, but with a very nice piano black finished plinth.
Sensibly, the new distributor BD-Audio has taken the decision to range just a selection of the decks that AS offer. Anyone visiting the European Hi-Fi shows will have seen that they make some quite outlandishly finished kit, obviously destined for markets where money >taste.
As it is, the Wood Black looks especially handsome to my eyes. The piano black resin veneer is impeccably smooth. To further increase buyer choice, AS also give the option of polished or matt finish to the aluminium platter and arm board.
In hindsight I might have plumped for the matt finish, as polished metal is an absolute fingerprint magnet. Who knew?! Still, AS supply a nice pair of ‘snooker referee gloves’ for use when cleaning or handling the platter on to and off the deck. When it is properly polished up it’s certainly something to behold.
Despite their massive range of turntables, they are all built to the same principle – high mass, belt drive. I’m not going to dwell on technicalities here because I don’t have the required knowledge, and Adam Smith (Beobloke) has already done an excellent review of the deck, including measurements, for HiFi News.
The plinth is a curtailed rectangle, and the separate, hefty off-board motor (also in a shiny aluminium casing) sits naturally in the space of the missing bit of plinth. AS describe the belt as a “string drive”, but it’s actually a soft elastic material which just about exerts enough torque to get the 20kg platter spinning. Whilst not quite meeting the criteria for perpetual motion, the platter will spin freely with a gentle push for a mind-boggling amount of time. AS are very proud of the bearing engineering involved.
Prior to purchasing, I had seen and heard two other decks from the range – the ‘Machine Small’ and the baby ‘Solid 111’. All three have incredible speed stability. They are absolutely rock-solid, with no perceptible drift. There is fine control on the motor speed controller and once set, the strobe disc I used did not move a millimetre off 33 or 45 rpm.
I’d decided to partner the deck with an AN Arm III, for a few reasons: it should be great match sonically for the Io, it works well visually with the turntable and the Machine Small I had heard at a bake-off had the same combo, albeit an Arm I. Some may have wanted to investigate choice of arm in much more detail than I did, but as a shoot from the hip kind of chap, I felt brevity should win over disappearing up my own fundament.
Set up was a piece of cake, because Jack did it for me. But joking aside, these are almost as simple as it gets, and they make a mockery of the faff that is needed for some decks. There are three adjustable feet on the bottom, and the plinth just glides straight into the bearing. VTA, antiskate and VTF are adjusted via easily accessible Allen bolts. 10 minute job.
Whilst the design and engineering principles may be simple, the execution is fantastic and I have been delighted with the sound quality since buying the deck. What started as a vanity project to get something that was as much a visual upgrade on the Kuzma as anything, made me quickly realise that I was getting a substantial sonic upgrade too.
Bass and midbass performance is totally authoritative and articulate. There is no overhang, bloom or sloppiness. Is this a function of the deck, arm or cart in isolation? Impossible to say without a line of similar components to test, but as a package it is first class.
Soundstaging and overall togetherness is very convincing, partly I suspect as a function of that speed stability. The full immediacy of the horns is exploited as the deck sounds nimble without artificially spotlighting instruments or frequency areas. On first set up the deck seemed to have quite a pronounced brightness, but this was quickly corrected through VTA adjustment.
In simplistic terms then, the deck and arm are giving the Io an excellent platform to show of its strengths.
This iteration of the deck costs £2350, and the arm is around £1400. At this price range there are certainly some interesting competitors around, especially in the second hand market. However, the combination of sound, looks and remarkable after-sales care from BD land this well into billy bargain territory.
Available from BD Audio
Review by Mark Browell
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