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Reviewer: Edward Barker
Financial Interests: click here
Turntables: Kuzma Stabi with separate power supply and Kondo Mains lead, 2 x Garrard 301, 2 x Garrard 401, Systemdek Transcription, Thorens TD320, Thorens TD160
Arms: Kondo-wired SME V, Cartridge Man Conductor, Hadcock 242 SE, Ortofon 212, Mission 774, ET2, Rega 300, Scheu 12-inch.
Cartridges: Kondo Io-M, Cartridge Man Music Maker 2 & 3, Koetsu Urushi, Madrigal MC1, Empire MC1000, Shure V15
Phono amplification: Kondo M7, Garrard Missing Link II, Gram Era Gold V
Digital: Sony DVD
Tuner: Rotel
Preamp: Kondo M77 with phono
Power amps: Kondo Gakuoh PP
Speakers: Living Voice OBX-RW
Ancillaries: Kondo KSL LP and Kondo KSL VZ interconnects; Kondo SPC speaker cable and Kondo KSL ACz power cords; Clearlight Audio NFT cabling; Silver Arrow cabling and mains leads; Audiomagic Mini Stealth conditioner, Incognito wiring on Conductor and Hadcock 242, Living Voice Mystic Matt, Boston Audio Graphite Mat, Kyrna isolators, Cartridge Man Isolators and setup tools, Dr. Feickert protractor. 2 x separate 30 amp mains wiring spurs.
Room: 16.40' x 14.75' x 11.12'
Review component retail: starting at €4900, €600 for DFA-1o5 arm

There's an interesting piece on the renovation of London's Royal Festival Hall. The pre-renovation hall had been accused by many of being acoustically dry and lifeless. It depended on the musical program of course but in general, I found it less than ideal. The writer of the article, David Cairns, makes the good point that in fact the ear adjusts quickly to most acoustics. This is also true of our own personal rooms and the systems we use. We get used to their qualities and limitations and work around them to get the effects we are looking for. He also quotes the magnificent Berlioz (whose Memoirs are a must read for any music lover) who says "one must vibrate with the instruments in order to experience genuine musical sensations". I agree completely. And, as Cairns points out, the new Festival Hall has much greater impact. You sense the instruments bodily on you to a greater extent so you're more involved rather than a detached spectator. From the large-scale symphonies of Mahler and Sibelius to Eva-Pekka Salonen's timbrally rich and percussive chamber pieces or even a memorable Syd Barrett memorial concert, each time I've been recently, the Hall had much more life to it. Which is of course what we also want at home and why we are trying to get the best out of our sound systems. The visceral impact is a vital part of whatever it is that allows us to connect emotionally with the music.

Reviewers -- that is people who are required to think and write about the music or sound they are hearing -- are familiar with the conflicting demands that go with the process. At times we are simply 'in the moment' experiencing the music out of time and with our critical mental processes switched off. At these times, we are far more likely to be able to lift off and get emotionally and spiritually affected by the music. I guess we are using that side of the brain that experiences sensations directly, unmediated by narrative and analysis (though the left/right divide is a bit of a simplification).

On the other hand, when we are analyzing or thinking about the sound, and more so when trying to write about it, the experience is completely different. We are alert and noticing fine details, straining to perceive delicate nuances, recognize them and give them names. It's really hard to get emotionally involved during this process - as though the pathways of the brain that connect to our emotional centers were cut off then.

When we are noticing and dissecting different aspects of the sound field or sound experience (the part we as reviewers report to you), its almost impossible to bring the different parts we are hearing back into a cohesive whole. So while we might be really excited by the unprecedented sense of detail or the gargantuan bass, the reality is that these aspects of the performance might not work the same way in your room or even help you get closer or more involved in the music you like.

How does one get around these inherent limitations in the reviewing process? The only way I know is to spend a lot of time with a piece of equipment so that you experience it both analytically and then simply as one element in the system one uses to play music. You get both the analytical and the experiential and in multiple contexts. Over time, you get to know it and get a reasonable sense of how it's contributing to one's ability to appreciate the music itself.

The Feickert Twin is a handsome beast in a dark Germanic way, with a seriousness and sense of single-minded purpose about it. It is also elegant and I find something compelling in the combination of matt blacks and bright chrome work that is characteristic of the design.

It comes well and thoroughly boxed but is extremely heavy so I suggest you get a friend to help when unpacking and lifting it up to its supporting shelf. My shelf takes 160 kilos (330 pounds), but actually I was still a little concerned about all that mass. I could see the shelf brackets holding but would the wall itself? This is the heaviest turntable I've had at home and the only one I've moved that was heavier is the Kuzma XL.

Starting from the bottom, the Twin sports three flat-bottomed felt covered adjustable feet. Flat-bottomed is an interesting one. Most audio equipment opts for cone feet. I usually put cone feet on my Garrard plinths. But these are flat as can be. It's an inkling that things aren't quite going to be as straightforward as might be thought at first glance.

The feet are adjustable and screwed in to the sub-chassis plinth, which is basically a vestigial piece of thermally treated lacquered MDF or ply with a hole in it to pass the arm lead cable. It's also a convenient repository for brushes, stylus cleaners and other ancillaries but really, it looks to me more like an attempt to give the whole an overall rectangular footprint.

Above the plinth sits the turntable chassis itself. This is one of the keys to the design, a double sandwich of stainless steel cylinders which sit above and below another set of cylinders made of lacquer-coated ply. These latter have two channels bored through them, into which two removable heavy stainless steel bars are placed. The bars stick out on one side and they hold the arm board which can be moved along the bars to accommodate arms up to 12 inches in length.

The chassis contains the bulk of the weight of the turntable. It weighs around 40 kilos and it is here that one can see the thinking in the design. The construction is in constrained layers to dissipate resonances, while the weight provides additional stability to the platter. The platter itself is made of matte-coated acrylic (with a further upgrade choice in matte black poly-oxy at an extra 450 Euro) and its circumference is the same as the chassis. It is under 40 cm in height and this makes it quite light. So: very heavy chassis, light platter. Hmm, food for thought here.

The bearing is also unusual. It's an inverted type without the usual bearing ball, instead sporting a gentle dome configuration. Part-way through the review period, I received an upgraded bearing which was easy to replace as it simply screwed onto the captive bearing shaft. The bearing is made of precision stainless steel. In quite a radical departure, the bearing uses grease rather than oil as a lubricant. The grease of course provides damping properties but is nevertheless quite an unusual choice.

The motor is one of the more extreme aspects of the turntable. It begins as a specially specified Papst DC unit with an interface acting as PLL along with a proprietary electronic controller developed by Dr. Feickert. The controller runs on an ultra-low jitter reference clock with quite remarkable properties, including that it has less than 1Hz deviation in 16,9344MHz per day. The low-frequency PLL signal shares the same minimal error. Voltage regulation for the motor is a proprietary design with claimed signal-to-noise ratio beyond the performance of any known battery power supply.

The latest version of the design uses a Kevlar string to turn the platter and the Wow & Flutter figures of the Twin are quite extraordinary for a belt drive (my understanding is that it starts out at ±0.09% with a new bearing and moves to ±0.04%.when the bearing wears in). The motor is housed in an elegant stainless steel pod, which fits close to the plinth itself. Finding the correct degree of tension on the string is a bit of an art. Arm boards can be cut for any arm using a CNC process and a second board can be mounted by using longer arm shafts extending the turntable along the front left corner.