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AMG Viella V12 Turntable Review

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In reviewing the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable I said, “Isn’t it amazing how much difference the quality of the silence of music varies from one audio component to the other? .I was simply amazed by the quality of its silence.”

In my review of the Shindo 301 I said, “Garrard 301s are known for their solidity, body, power, dynamics, and drive. The Shindo does all this and at the same time something fundamentally different from any other record player I have ever heard. With the right amplification and speakers, this vinyl system really sounds real.”

In reviewing the Merrill-Scillia MS21 Turntable I said, “It’s hard to put into words, it’s more relaxed and more detailed at the same time, and I’m sure it sounds more like real music.”

The reason for sharing these quotes is that all of these tables have an influence on how I think vinyl should sound when played in my system. Of the four turntables I mentioned, two cost $10,000 without a tonearm, one cost $25,000 with a tonearm and cartridge, and one cost $24,000 without a tonearm. So, I think it is fair to compare them with the AMG V12. The V12 has many if not most of the strength of all these tables. It is the most organic sounding of the bunch, and maybe a tie with the Shindo.

The AMG V12 lets you hear inner detail in a very revealing and oh-so-natural way. You hear nuances, and layers of the music but in a strikingly alive and organic way. Plucked strings, fingering work, as well as bowed strings all came through with weight, speed and micro-dynamics that I have not heard matched. The V12 had good control over sibilants in voices, yet it always let you hear the nuances of the singer’s voice as well as the air around their voices if such was present in the recording.

Even as I sit here writing and listening to the Rob Wasserman’s album Duets, I amazed at how the music sounds so lifelike and how easy it is to hear the difference from cut to cut as he performs with different artist. This is a quality that is very difficult to put into words. It’s about how music flows effortlessly, how natural it sounds, and how wonderful his bass sounds in my room. The sound is very direct, very right there in the room with you. While it may be hard to describe, it’s not hard to hear.

The dynamics and palpability are simply incredible! I never once thought any table could come close to the dynamics of my Shindo 301, but the V12 surpassed it. In fact, the dynamics were so incredible, sometimes they were simply explosive. The micro-dynamics were equally good. These traits: dynamics, micro-dynamics, detail, and direct palpability allow the AMG V12 to reveal the differences from recording to recording better than any other turntable I’ve had in my system. It manages to reveal these small nuances from different recordings and pressings without disrupting or taking any attention away from the music itself.

Tonally, the AMG V12 falls somewhere between the Clearaudio tables I have owned and my Shindo 301. The amazing thing to me was that it did this and was still every bit as transparent as the Clearaudio tables with their magnetic bearings. In the case of both the 301 and the V12, they have a very special capacity of invoking in the listener a very emotional experience with the music, as one might experience when hearing a live concert. I don’t know if these tables are as neutral as the Clearaudio tables, but they both bring me a little closer to live music.

The sound of the AMG V12 is superior to my 301 in a couple of ways. First, the sound comes out of this incredible quiet background that lets you more easily hear detail even at lower levels, but also does not get noisier at live rock levels. The detail at low levels was just incredible with both the London Decca and the Benz Ebony TR cartridges.

This same quietness combined with its great way with detail may account for the other way it betters my Shindo table: the soundstage. The soundstage is slightly more palpable, wider, and deeper. The AMG V12 produces a really huge soundstage if it’s on the recording. This is not such a big deal to me, but I know it is to many of you. What is important to me is that it has as much scale as any table I have ever heard.

Bass with this table sounds very alive. The speed and tightness of the bass varied a lot from cartridge to cartridge; I think this says something for how little sound of its own this table and arm have. From recoding to recording it gives you beautiful tones, real dynamics, unbelievable transparency, and a great sound stage, depending of course on the recording. Unlike the DaVinci Audio Labs UniSon turntable, the AMG V12’s sound doesn’t dominate the recording.

Conclusion

The AMG Viella V12 with its 12-inch tonearm is an exceptional vinyl playing system. At this point I can’t say it’s the best turntable I’ve ever used, but it is one of my two favorites. While it’s not nearly as closed a system as the Shindo 301 playback system, it still falls into small group of analog systems which one can pretty much set them up and leave them. Unlike the Shindo that allows you to change the tonearm, cartridge, and even the tonearm cable, the AMG is pretty much a system to just set up and enjoy the music with. Like the Shindo, the music from the AMG grabs you by your emotion and pulls you into the music. It does this while being more transparent, more revealing with more detail.

I’ll end this review with a parenthetical note. At the 2012 California Audio Show, the AMG Viella “V12” was used with the $15,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement cartridge in the Bay Area dealership Music Lovers Audio’s Plaza Ballroom III. The total cost of this system was over $500,000, so they didn’t choose the table because of its price. There are lots of tables that folks at MLA could’ve chosen that cost many times what this table costs, but I can see why they chose it. There simply aren’t any turntables I have heard that are going to be much better than the AMG Viella “V12.” (Click here for Review of the Harmonic Resolution Systems M3X-1921-AMG V12 platform.)

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