Review of S5, by Ben Anderson
Hello I’ve had this turntable for nearly a year now and feel I’ve
started to get it to sing so thought I might write a little something
about it. This is a high mass suspended turntable with a unipivot arm
and glass enclosure built on a Italian slate plinth.
When I first recieved it I was surprised to find it covered in dust and fitted with a tatty and frayed phono lead also the belt was crumbling and the record weight was missing. However not being one to let appearances put me off I started by cleaning away all the rubber stuck to the motor pully and dusting the whole thing. The first impressions sonically were not really what I expected, not that I knew what to expect of course. This was and is my first proper turntable.
I got in touch with Simon Yorke over the internet and asked him quite a few questions with regards set up and about aquiring a new belt and what to do about the missing record weight. He is a very friendly and generous man from what I can tell about someone from conversing by email. He said he did not make the S5 record weight anymore but could modify one from the current top model the S10, he also was able to supply me with a new belt made from Pyrothane (non slip clear type) and as I requested a new ball for the bearing. After a mistake on my part concerning postage for the above items it was suggested to me by Simon that I send him a record to add to his collection as payment for the postage which I forgot to add to his payment, I of course agreed and started to think what I should get him, more of this later.
Now then, she had a new belt, a cleaned motor pully and as instructed all metal parts of the table and arm had been rubbed with furniture wax which the excess was then polished off, this protects the metals’ finish and provides just the right amount of damping to the surface according to her maker. I removed the bearing which was quite dry and fitted the new ball with clear silicone into the cup, renewing the oil with 3-in-1 oil.
Some days later after chatting on a forum I realised that the previous owner had attached the bias thread to the wrong part of the tonearm so that it was in fact having the exact opposite affect it should have had. Unsurprisingly correcting this brought about a pleasurable improvement to the listening. Curiosity had me open up the power supply box and I took the opportunity to clean the fuse and fuseholder.
Over the following months I have fiddled with the bias and other aspects of cartridge setup, she has been treated to a nice new phono cable and I think I’m listening to how she should sound. The record clamp is a perfect fit both physically and aesthetically being almost completely identical to the original. The previous owner must have bought the latest model arm at some point as she sports the S7 unipivot, I don’t know what the original model arm sounded like so cannot comment but see no reason to think that this is anything other than an improvement.
The turntable is serial number sixty seven and the arm is number thirty something, this probably makes the table built around 1990ish as a guess. The arm I don’t know.
To review it I suppose I should tell you lots of matter of fact things to do with my stereo and what I have known before or heard at shows but alas as I said before this is my first proper turntable so really have little to refer to. The best I can do is to try and explain how it is to listen to for me. Since getting her into fine fettle the sound she makes with my Grado is a window into a space and feeling, so much of the ambiance of the venue exists in my listening room, now my bedroom, that this has as much affect upon me as the music itself. Like the set of a play, no, like the places of memories. How much of the feeling of a memory is the place in whch the event occured? So much. The venue is not part of the music but a major part of the recording I’ll go as far to say the most important part, the year, the season, the period of the building the hard floor the height of the ceiling the size of the windows and even the mood of the audience are human things that not only define the listening at the time the piece was played and recorded but tie me tightly to this thing, to them, when they were there as if I was there and they could not see me.
I listen now in my bedroom so that as I lay in bed, either at night before I sleep or as I doze after I have woken, I am in the right place with my speakers aligned toward the pillows. No better way to bring in the day than a light snooze with Rossini playing or to conjure unfathomable dreams by playing Bachs’ Cello Concertos before closing my eyes. I can choose where and when I go through this window though other factors intervene meaning my destination can be different each time, sometimes a record ‘sounds’ different each time to me, I can only conclude this is a sign of the emotional conversation between the music and I, that the same piece can sound unfamiliar each time, that I am not listening to the music as such at all but the mood is taking me off to somewhere along a path chosen in agreement by my subconscious and the composer, with the musician as a guide. For me to be able to sneak into a performance that was held before I was born or in a country I have not been to or played by a musician long gone is literally magical to me. To become a passenger in someone elses memories is what it is. To review the recordplayer is really to review the music or more accurately the mood that the music brings about in me.
He told me he liked modern classical and modern jazz and funky electro ninja shit (his words). Having only come to vinyl and resurected my love of hifi a couple of years ago what could I give Simon in the way of music? Several weeks of looking and almost ordering records, frustration resulted in a Google search entitled ‘weird music on vinyl’ which produced a website called Trunkrecords and on this site I found a record called ‘The Tommorow People’. This was a television series from the seventies for children which used music created by the BBC Stereophonic Workshop. The actual record is what’s known as a Library record and had not been released before containing sounds made by the BBC when they were experimenting with the first elctronic music. Such noises as you might have heard on Doctor Who. Not music as such and I appologised to him for that but a record of something not heard much and rather odd. In his words ‘interesting and strange, I like’.
All the best, Ben Anderson.