Dr.Feickert Volare Turntable – First Impressions and Listening Notes
The first thing that’s likely to strike you on first encounter with the Dr. Feickert Volare is its rather diminutive size. (420 mm x 360 mm x 125 mm) There’s been a progressively downward trend in scale over the last few decks I’ve had in Listening Room One – The rather large VPI TNT, the fairly large Music Hall MMF11 and now, the “It couldn’t get any smaller and still play a record” Dr. Feickert Volare.
The next thing that’s striking about this turntable is the way that it looks. Having seen a few photos of the Volare, I was pretty underwhelmed with its appearance. It reminded me a little of a vintage Decca turntable built into a box with a lid. But when you see this baby in the flesh it’s absolutely gorgeous, it just exudes quality and class and looks as though it means serious business.
The same can be said about its accompanying tonearm, in this case, the exceptional Origin Live MK3A. It has what it needs to perform well, nothing more, nothing less.
The Volare is heavy, relative to its small size. I wasn’t expecting the amount of resistance it gave when trying to lift the thing from its platform – it feels like you’re lifting a slab of marble or slate. The stated weight is 15kg (about 33 LBS) which is without the tonearm and the aluminum platter, which probably adds another 8-10 LBS. It’s rock-solid in both feel and appearance. It’s ergonomically excellent and profoundly appealing aesthetically. It’s a little gem.
The Volare requires very little fuss when setting up. In fairness, I should say that the Volare came pre-assembled and fitted with the excellent Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge, so I had very little to do other than level the turntable, plug it in, and hit the 33 1/3 rpm button.
The Dr. Feickert Volare comes with three speed settings and a pair of +/- trim buttons to lock in the speed (needs a strobe disk or similar). And that’s it. If you pick it up from a dealer as I did, you’ll be spinning tunes inside of 30 minutes.
How Does It Sound?
I set the Mofi Studio Phono for 60 db of gain, 0.3 mv and 200 ohms and fired up the Thor TA 1000 MKII preamp and the big Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 power amp. The Mofi Studio Phono is a great-sounding unit that some might consider a little out of its depth in the company of the Dr. Feickert. However, I wanted to judge the Dr.Feickert against the Music Hall MMF 11 and the TNT, and the Mofi phono is the only unit I have that has been used with all 3 tables. And it really is a nice sounding phono, compatible with the iFi iPhono2 and other phonostages I’ve heard up to and even beyond the $1000 mark.
The turntable/arm/cartridge package needed more break-in time than I was willing to give it without sitting down and having a listen. You can’t put in a disc and leave it on repeat for a week with a vinyl spinner, so it’s hard to be in the same room as music and not sit down for a listen. In fairness, things didn’t change much about the way the rig sounded after the first 50 or so hours of use.
How Does The Dr. Feickert Volare Sound?
First impression out of the box is that it’s warmer, smoother and more full-bodied than the Music Hall MMF 11 (with modified Project Carbon Evolution arm / Oracle Audio Damping Kit and a Goldring G2400 Cartridge)
I have an ‘agony-album’ which always makes an early appearance when I’m evaluating anything new in the analog chain, it’s ‘Tears For Fears – The Seeds of Love’. OK so now I have to quickly try to recover my reputation. I’m not a fan of ‘pop’ music, the vast majority of what I hear on commercial radio royally sucks. But there are a few bands around who make good pop, and a few defunct bands from the 80’s and 90’s who made good music. Tears For Fears are one of those, IMHO.
This album was recorded digitally then remastered / mixed in the analog domain and is available as a Mobile Fidelity release. (There were a few 16/44.1 recordings that stood out from the crowd sonically, Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Ry Cooder’s Bop Till you Drop and TFF’s Seeds of Love among the most memorable).
Digital recording is fine for less complex music, but when there are multiple tracks, multiple instruments, and vocalists all competing for space in the soundscape, it can quickly sound compressed and congested. The Seeds of Love has some sonically sublime moments but equally, it wanders into the fields of congestion and compression where there simply aren’t enough bits and digits to get it done. So unscrambling some of the more complex passages on this album is no mean feat.
Going back in time my ClearAudio Avantgarde Magnum with Benz Wood SL, fed into the excellent SST Ambrosia preamp, did a fairly credible job. After that came the VPI TNT which actually didn’t fair so well when used with a couple of different phono stages. The Music Hall MMF 11 outperformed both decks in its ability to separate complex passages and resolve the detail without everything collapsing into a cacophonic mess. The Dr. Feickert Volare takes this aspect of playback into another league altogether. Not only does it delineate the complex passages with acuity, but it also manages to portray each component in the soundscape with fleshyness and fullness of body.
Part of the key to this feat of de-obfuscation is the Volare’s ability to open up the soundscape with excellent depth and layering. Oddly enough the soundstage width seems a little truncated when compared with the Music Hall MMF 11, which is excellent in that regard, but it could be down to inadequate break-in of the deck or cartridge.
At the frequency extremes, the Dr. Feickert Volare performs very well. It doesn’t quite have the same shimmer and ability to resolve information in the highest frequencies as the Music Hall MMF 11, but it makes up for that very minor shortfall with a more rock-solid and extended bass.
The midrange frequencies are where most components either score or lose the most brownie points and that is where this table excels. It’s almost as if a couple of extra tubes have been added into the circuit, such is the warmth and richness that the Volare exudes.
Firing through some old and faithful recordings including Ellington ‘Indigos’ on the Columbia label, the Volare never missed a beat and never missed an opportunity to show off its warmth and musicality. It’s rare to have both warmth in the sense of flesh-on-bones and at the same time detail and resolving power, but the Dr. Feickert turntable has it all.
Throwing on a well-worn copy of Sergio Mendez & Brasil 77’s ‘Primal Roots’, the bass is room-shakingly deep yet remains taught enough not to mask mid-bass information and clarity through the lower midrange. I’ve heard track #1 ‘Promise of A Fisherman’ on several more expensive rigs and the low bass has washed-out some of the percussion that shimmers deep into the layered soundstage.
Moving to Nick Drake’s 3rd and final studio album, ‘Pink Moon’, the title track puts Drake right there in the room, an uncannily palpable image, more lifelike than either the Music Hall MMF 11 and VPI TNT tables were ever able to produce. The smallest inflection in Drake’s voice and the rawness and frailty of his vocal manifest with an eerily tactile presence between the speakers. The leading edges of notes from Drake’s plucked guitar strings on the track ‘Horn’ are rendered with a sense of vibrancy that I haven’t heard before to this extent; while the trailing edge of notes wash into the room in an almost ethereal way.
There was one rather disconcerting element to the sound of the Volare, and that was an apparent issue with acoustic feedback. This issue may well be resolvable by moving things around, and trying different isolation devices, but it has never been an issue with other turntables set up in exactly the same spot. The table grabs hold of the low-frequency output from the pair of subwoofers and forms a feedback loop, amplifying the low bass and creating a low-frequency rumbling sensation. If played loud enough using source material with lots of low bass information, a rather scary acceleration of volume occurs, as the Volare gets into a loop with the subwoofers.
I tried the rumble filter on the Mofi Phono with no change in the effect. I could have tried to shake out the issue by moving the subs around, but they’ve been carefully set for smooth bass response and again, there’s never been an issue before. The Volare was placed on the Live Edge component rack, a solid and seemingly ‘unshakable’ high-mass unit that has performed flawlessly with all other components.
I contacted the manufacturer directly via email and a day later received a response back from Chris Feickert. Chris was in no way surprised at our findings and suggested we use a rubber shim of some type between the stock feet and the platform. He said that he does the same thing on his deck and that’s it’s a simple consequence of having a design that’s non-suspended.
I messed with a few different materials and each had an impact on the sound and each had an impact on the level of ‘pickup’. I settled on three small rubber feet that were designed to stick on the underside of a component chassis such as a CD player. These rubber feet are about 1-inch square and a half-inch high and I simply set the spiked foot down on the rubber foot.
Worked fine. Not perfect, so I finally got around to moving the subs away from the rack, which of course solved the issue and removed the concern, mostly.
The Dr. Feickert Volare is perhaps one of the most musical turntables I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. It manages to strap both warmth and detail together giving a full and fleshy sound without obfuscation of air and detail. I don’t know what hidden mojo Dr. Feickert has at his disposal, but when you compare the crazy design eccentricity of many competing turntables on the market with the minimalist utility of the Feickert design, you just have to wonder what some of the other high-end turntable designers are smoking….or not, as the case may be.
EQUIPMENT USED IN THIS REVIEW INCLUDED:
- Music Hall MMF 11 Turntable
- Thor TA1000 MKII preamp
- Conrad Johnson Evolution 2000 Power Amp
- Mobile Fidelity Studio Phono
- Dunlavy III Speakers
- HSU V2 and V3 Subwoofers
- Cables included Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway III RCA, Bogdan Audio Toto RCA’s, Tara Labs Master Speaker Cables, Anti-Cables 2.1 speaker cables, various isolation accessories etc etc.