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Audio Note UK TT3 turntable system Review

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Vinyl is alive in 2020 and records have made a strong comeback over the last several years. Unlike CD, SACD, or computer audio, I have always felt that turntables require a certain level of mechanical quality to play them back properly.  While on audio forums I would often read that vinyl was better than digital but my experience never mirrored the lore when I would audition budget LP spinners. Indeed, my experience was generally a mixed bag of sonic performance. Due to the nature of turntables it seemed to me that they rely on so many things to be correct or there is a good chance the sound will often be charitably called so-so.

The problem for those of us who largely grew up on the CD format we would read all these vinyl-phile exaltations, largely on forums, exclaiming that every $400 turntable would trounce CD players at 10 times the price. It wasn’t the case in my experience. Back in the late 1980s I went with CD and dumped my vinyl collection. The $400ish turntables from the usual suspects did very little to sway me back especially considering the numerous issues associated with vinyl replay such as noisy tables with some speed issues, bad pressings, surface noise and compressed phono stages and of course the difficulty to set the things up to avoid excessive inner groove distortion or channel imbalance.  And when you got all of these things correct – you would often not get performance that beat a good CD player.

More than a decade later, circa 2001, I had a transformative experience listening to vinyl. This time, however, it was on a world class turntable, the Voyd Reference. The Voyd Reference was Terry Crabbe’s personal turntable, owner of Soundhounds located in Victoria British Columbia and when I met him he reminded me of a man who never left the 1960s hippie generation. His shop was unlike any other high end dealer I had seen. Firstly, they allowed dogs.  Secondly, they never pushed you into making quick decisions. Stay, listen for hours and go home and have a think about it. Come back and try something else but the store always had a big selection of vinyl to play.

Terry demonstrated vinyl on the Voyd Reference (which would later become the Audio Note’s first version of the TT3).  He was not trying to sell me on it because it was well beyond my means. However, the demonstration was an eye opener to what was possible with the oversized black coasters. Terry’s turntable was vastly superior to the other tables by no small margin. That is saying something as the store carried some well known players. However, it was the Voyd that was “special.”  The problem of course was trying to get the sound of the 5 figure turntable for 3 or low 4 figures.

With my university beer budget I dabbled with second hand Duals, Rega’s and even my dad’s Fisher.  But none of these were providing me the “promise of vinyl.” The NAD 533 (Rega P2 Clone) with Rega’s 250 arm and Shure M97xE cartridge wasn’t sounding better than my modest Cambridge Audio CD 6.  I would hear hints of what the Voyd Reference was doing – but only hints.  It merely teased at what could be. My record collection had grown to a little over 500 and with the middling performance I had once again contemplated chucking it all. I was not likely to be able to afford something as nice as the Voyd Reference and I was not hearing the “magic” with such players. Furthermore, I was not hearing that magic from players in the $2,000 range either.

On a subsequent to Soundhounds they demonstrated the Audio Note UK TT2 – I was impressed.  This had the tactile speed and lightness of touch of the Voyd – it had the nimble bounce and energy of the Voyd – well – almost. The TT2 sounded more transparent and “locked in” in terms of pace. It had energy and pizzazz where some of the store’s high mass turntables sounded bloodless and overly polite to me in comparison.  I was drawn to the sound of the TT2 over some dearer turntables from Linn, Clearaudio, and Oracle.

Audio Note UK TT-2 Deluxe

I bought the TT2 turntable. The TT2 stands for TurnTable 2 and the 2 means that it has two motors. Audio Note makes an entry level model called; you guessed it, the TT1. And yes it has one motor. Both tables are based on the famed suspended SystemDek IIx. The TT2 is a rather big improvement on the original SystemDek IIx and it was able to get me back into my vinyl collection. As good as the TT2 is it still wasn’t transformative like the Voyd Reference.

Enter the new Audio Note UK TT3 with the PSU1 (Power Supply Unit 1), accompanied by Audio Note UK’s Arm 3/II tone arm and IQ3 moving-magnet cartridge.

I mentioned earlier that the first Audio Note UK TT3 was based on the Voyd Reference. Well the more things change the more they stay the same. The new TT3 looks wildly different. It looks modern and solid. Nevertheless, it shares the bloodlines, heart and soul of that amazing Voyd Reference. It is still a three motor turntable with an external power supply. The table is still a suspended turntable design. Thus, you will need to ensure it sits on a rock steady stand or have it wall-mounted so that foot falls do not have the arm bounce around while it plays.

Audio Note UK PSU-1

The power supply keeps the turntable speed constant and adjusts for 33 and 45 records. Audio Note UK claims that this high torque platter has the equivalent mass of a 50kg platter. Audio Note’s design is a different approach to most other turntable manufacturers and this alone makes it worthy of an audition to perhaps unsettle some preconceived expectations.

So what is it about the TT3 that makes it special? Well it helps to have an owner of a company who is a vinyl fanatic with tens of thousands of albums as a baseline for the listening.  It is also helpful to hire engineers who clearly know what they are doing.  Obviously this is critical if you are going to design and try to sell a premium priced turntable against some big name turntable brands on the market. Designing and manufacturing your own tone arms, cartridges and turntables when you know the market is filled with well established products from the likes of VPI, Rega, Clearaudio, Linn, Thorens, and Michell etc.

There are currently three colour options for the turntable: matte black, white, gloss white and a gloss black.  The power supply unit comes in a standard black and tone arms come in silver or black.

The power supply unit 1 is a large box – it is housed in an Audio Note M2 preamp case. This unit comes with an umbilical cord that connects to the back of the turntable.  There is a power switch on the back. The power supply has universal voltage so it will work in both the East and West. On the front, there are two knobs, one is to start and stop the table and the other is to control for 33/45 rpm.

As with most things Audio Note there are multiple options with the power supply. Audio Note currently has three PSUs and a PSU4 is coming. The TT3 turntable itself remains the same. I can’t speak to the difference or improvements that can be achieved with upgraded power supplies. I am told by ears I trust that these power supplies offer striking levels of improvement.  If I receive an upgraded unit in the future I will circle back to this review to provide additional thoughts.

3 Responses to Audio Note UK TT3 turntable system Review

  1. Fred Crowder says:

    What can one say after reading a review like this except that I personally enjoy reviews that tell a story and that convey the enthusiasm of the reviewer for the product reviewed. There are so many choices nowadays, but so few that offer something special. I am a real fan of Audio Note and respect that even their less expensive products are always true to the music, even if they do not give one everything which their Level 5/6 products do.

  2. Dominicus says:

    It is really astonishing.
    Have an audionote level3 system with the tt3,psu2, arm 3, iq3’ an/e,hé/spe,sig speakers with anvx/Isis interlinks/ speaker cables.
    Vera Nice sound

  3. Marc Dozier says:

    Worth exploring at my nearest New York Audio Note dealer.

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