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Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Digital Source: Musical Fidelity A5 CD, Esoteric SA60 [in for review]
Amplifier: Musical Fidelity A5, McIntosh MA2275
Speakers: Nomad Audio RPDs, FJ OMs, Rogers LS 3/5a
Headphone: Musical Fidelity Xcanv3, AKG K701
Cables: Zu Libtec, Slinkylinks RCA, Zu Varial
Power Cords: Cobalt Ultimate, Zu Bok & Mother
Powerline conditioning: Monster Power HTS5100mkII
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics, Standesign stand
Room size: 15' x 30' opening to 3 other rooms. Short wall setup
Review component retail: $2200 for table, Rega RB250 arm and Ortofon 520mkII; Rega RB300 upgrade adds $170 to cost of package; Solid Weight $175; AS stylus force gauge $275.
We all make mistakes. When I moved from France to the USA five years ago, one of mine was to get rid of my Revox turntable and almost the entire vinyl collection. My logic? This suspended turntable would not survive the duress of six to eight weeks in a sea container and after all, in 2002 and with the arrival of SACD, vinyl was as good as dead, wasn't it? As I said, we all make mistakes.

My only excuse was that back then, I was not writing reviews, just reading them; if necessary, a good reminder to take most if not all claims of absolutism and finality with a goodly dose of skepticism. It's a healthy practice not just with audio reviews. All this by way of impressing upon you that you should not consider the following a typical review but more a personal chronicle from the perspective of someone who owned a reference turntable for years, got out for all the wrong reasons and now considered getting back into vinyl. There won't be any head-to-head comparisons with other tables in the same price range because I don't own any (although like any consumer considering a purchase, I did visit retailers to listen to other solutions priced in the same range as the Acoustic Solid Classic Wood for some level of comparisons but since those were not conducted in my system, I won't use them as benchmarks in this report). I won't compare tone arms or cartridges either but instead report on what this package has to offer a music lover. Because I was lucky enough to have the Esoteric SA60 around for more than half of the review period, it will make an appearance or two for some meaningful comparisons when I happened to own a recording in two or three different formats.

Acoustic Solid is not a new company. They have been around for over 10 years. Although they do not yet enjoy the notoriety they deserve in the US, they have accumulated a considerable amount of praise across Europe for the quality and value of their turntables. Kevin Wirth, owner and founder of Acoustic Solid, is an industrial engineer with many years of experience in the field of medical instrument fabrication and later as production manager in the motor vehicle industry. The story goes that in his spare time, Kevin Wirth began designing and working on his own mass-loaded record player which quickly became a hit with friends and then local retailers in Germany before winning national and international distributors, ruining once and for all Kevin Wirth's dream of retiring to Spain at an early age. Instead he is making turntables - solid, beautifully crafted yet affordable musical instruments. From his personal metal shop, the company has grow to produce hundreds of table per year but what has not changed is their meticulous attention to detail to be detected even in the entry-level Classic Wood turntable as the object of today's review.

From the Classic Wood to the imposing Solid Royal, all Acoustic Solid tables share certain basic design principles. First and foremost, they are all mass-loaded designs without suspension. As you move up in the Acoustic Solid line, weights increase and the designs exhibit progressively more complex solutions of draining vibrations from platter and arm but the fundamentals remain mostly unchanged.

A second design constant across the whole line is an original bearing featuring a tight-tolerance lining cast on the axle with high damping factor for lateral guidance and jerk-free rotation mostly free from wow and flutter. The Teflon disc at the base of the bearing on which the ceramic ball of the axle runs is likewise characterized by high acoustic damping and a low friction coefficient.

The third and last constant is the use of solid aluminum platters machined from single blocks and measuring from 35mm (Solid Classic Wood and Solid Transparent) up to 70mm (Solid Royal). Since this alone guarantees no perfect resonance control, Acoustic Solid adds a felt or leather mat and in some models as the Solid Wood, an additional 5mm clear acrylic platter cover sits atop the mat (strongly advised in the very informative manual although putting the mat atop the acrylic cover is another option). The result is a 3-layer platter that although mostly made of metal, will not ring no matter how hard you hit it in an attempt to generate a sound.

I was truly impressed by how inert this table's platter is. Philosophically and conceptually, this table could not have been farther apart from my fully suspended, direct-drive Revox with its light platter and tangential arm but unquestionably, it produces an impression of, you guessed it, solidity and engineering excellence unmatched by any of the tables I looked at in the same price range. Some did play music just as compellingly but none showed the same uncompromised execution.

Going back to the attention to details that characterize Acoustic Solid, I was also impressed to find in the box a small pouch containing all the necessary tools to assemble the table, a nice touch which ensures that messy me won't go looking for the wrench for an hour next time he needs to adjust the arm after a cartridge swap. Even rarer, the pouch also contained a pair of gloves to avoid marking the wood veneer while the table is being put together.

Clicking on this image opens it in a new window at 2400 x 1464 and 205KB

Assembly was a breeze and far easier than anticipated. I have two left hands mostly made of thumbs and the family usually takes cover when I threaten to change a light bulb (although they did laugh when I announced how I was going to build my own amplifier, a project I have yet to initiate). When I say it was an easy task to arrive at a perfectly functional turntable within an hour of opening the carton, it tells you that for most people putting together the Classic Wood will not present any challenge.

Another sign of attention given to every detail is how snuggly everything fit in this carton, with each individual piece wrapped in shock-absorbing material and each box tightly sitting in its designated spot. The only thing that could possibly go wrong during shipment would be a sharp instrument piercing the single layer carton. From that perspective, double boxing would provide additional safety.

Putting the Classic Wood together does not require anything more than unwrapping the wooden plinth made of 39mm MDF with your choice of Cherry or Walnut veneer, platter and arm. Before gently lowering the axle into the bearing, it is necessary to add about nine drops of the supplied lubricating oil which obviously requires that you remove the rubber plug protecting the bearing from dust intrusion during shipment. Acoustic Solid and its US distributor placed particular emphasis on the exact amount of oil to use as too little could potentially lead to damage, too much to a spill and stain on the plinth.

The standard arm packaged with the Solid Wood is the well-known Rega RB250 but a $170 surcharge upgrades to a RB300. I did not compare both to comment but the fact that Art Dudley uses an RB300 as one of his reference arms was enough of an endorsement for me so I asked the distributor to upgrade the review table accordingly. In either case, assembling the arm will be similar as both arrive with a captive cable that needs to pull through the mounting shaft and emerge underneath the table. The plinth arrives standard with a Rega mounting plate (which also accommodates Acoustic Solid's own arms) but mounting plates are available for just about any arm you could desire to fit to this table.

Traditionally, elevation of a Rega arm is set with disc spacers which many folks complain about, especially cartridge reviewers who need to change arm height and vertical tracking angle regularly. Kevin Wirth introduces an elegantly simple solution to this lack of convenience. A metallic cylinder screws to the bottom of the arm to be lowered in the hole of the mounting plate which incorporates a lateral set screw to be accessed with one of the supplied Allen keys. VTA adjustment becomes an affair of seconds - insert the wrench in the hole, hold up the arm so that it does not brutally drop when the screw is loosened, release screw, move the arm up or down as needed, tighten the screw to recouple arm and plinth and you're done. Brilliant.