Subtitle – The Search For A New Turntable – Origin Live / Dr. Feickert Analog / Technics / Fern & Roby – (to be continued)

A couple of months ago I started with the idea of improving on my vinyl front-end. Running two tables was fun, and useful at some level, but entirely overkill given the ‘not-for-profit’ approach to this review website.

It’s fine for most reviewers to have two, three sometimes even four turntables hanging around, but for me…well, it just ties up cash that needs to be recycled into other gear*

My main turntable rig was an Origin Live Resolution MK IV with all of the upgrades, and the most recent production Origin Live Illustrious tonearm. This was a nice rig which has served me well for almost 18 months, the arm in particular is/was a real bobby dazzler. My second rig was the Dr. Feickert Volare with a Jelco 250ST arm. An absolutely wonderful table at its price-point and one that could hold its own against many more expensive tables, in my limited experience. To give some context, here’s the progression of analog spinning devices that I’ve owned over the years, oldest first –

  • Technics DD (model number long forgotten, this was 42 years ago!
  • Linn Sondek LP 12 / Ittok
  • VPI HW-17 with ET2 air tonearm
  • Clearaudio Avantgarde Magnum with Satisfy Carbon Arm
  • VPI TNT / JMW10
  • Music Hall MMF11.1
  • Dr. Feickert Volare / Origin Live Silver
  • Origin Live Resolution MKIV / Illustrious MK3c
  • Dr. Feickert Volare / Jelco 250ST
The point of the exercise is: where do I go from here (for a real improvement / step-up in SQ)?


My feelings regarding the Origin Live Resolution versus the Dr. Feickert Volare flip-flopped on a regular basis. The Origin Live Resolution is a beautiful and modern machine which, when coupled with a good arm like the Illustrious, can extract a high level of musical detail from the groove. It also pulls out any unwanted information, and could be a little too revealing of poor record condition, particularly when sporting something like the ZYX Ulti 100. The Dr. Feickert Volare was less detail oriented and more about solidity of image and presence, and as such, revealed less of the imperfections on any given disc. Having the luxury of dual MC inputs on the Manley Steelhead, I often selected one table over the other based on musical genre, and, on the surface quality/condition of the actual disc being spun.

So what I basically decided to do was let the marketplace make my choice for me. I listed both tables on the used marketplaces and planned to keep whichever did not sell. I would then use funds from the sale of table A, to upgrade the performance of table B. Clever ehh? Of course both tables sold within a couple hours of each other, leaving me deckless.

And so it began. The search that is.

Truth be told I’d be happy to get either of the two tables back. So my first email was to Mark Baker at Origin Live in the UK, to see what his thoughts were on stepping up the Origin Live Line. Should I go with a new Resolution and a significantly better arm, or a new Voyager and an entry-level arm (budget constraints). I’ve waited patiently, but at the time of writing this post, a couple weeks have passed without a response from Mr. Baker.

In parallel, I sent inquiries to a couple of Dr. Feickert dealers exploring the possibility of picking up a trade-in or demo Dr. Feickert, perhaps a Woodpecker or Blackbird. I emailed Jeff Harris at Reference Analog. He and I had exchanged pleasantries on the Dr. Feickert / Thales group on Facebook and he’d suggested I contact him. Again, a couple weeks have elapsed and nothing.

I also made contact with Upscale Audio. Within a few hours I’d heard back from Upscale’s analog specialist Kat. Kat went away to see what was available and after a few days of back and forth I was considering a new/demo Dr. Feickert Blackbird with a Kuzma arm.  As much as I wanted to make it happen (both my tables have left the building at this point and I’m without vinyl playback), I just couldn’t justify the cost of the Blackbird/Kuzma, given the requisite of having to add maybe $2-4K for a suitable cartridge that would do the combo justice. But Upscale’s Kat was both a pleasure to deal with and seemingly very knowledgable.

As a slight detour, I’ve also spent many hours looking into vintage resto turntables, including the venerable Garrard 301, various Technics tables including the SP10R / SL1000R etc. Everything I looked at would have stretched my budget and I just can’t get giddy about the idea of paying so much for ancient technology. (That should be the subject of a later post, since I know it’s a hot topic on various forums, including on this Audiogon thread, Sell Me Your Women, Your Children, Your Vintage Turntable… which I started.)

I then bumped into an old review of the Fern & Roby Montrose table, with F/R’s own arm. (F/R arm not shown below)

fern-and-roby-montrose-turntable

I met Christopher Hildebrand of Fern & Roby very briefly at Capital Audiofest 2019, and admired his rise from high-end furniture maker to purveyor of fern-and-roby-montrose-turntablethings high-end audio. These things include a couple of loudspeaker designs and three different turntable models with tonearm. I’d also attended an open-house at Fern & Roby pre-pandemic, and admired the aesthetic of the Montrose turntable which was on display and spinning tunes. I had and still have a hard time rationalizing the minimalist approach to Fern and Roby designs. Granted, they’re designed and manufactured around solid engineering principles, but their opportunity for evolution and improvement through the process of natural selection seem to have been relatively short-lived. Looking at the simple uni-pivot design of the F/R arm, compared with something like a Thales, or an SME or even an Origin Live…well clearly the former hasn’t evolved through a series of design iterations, it has simply ‘appeared’ on the scene as a contender, with, as of the time of writing, too few reviews/comments to help place it hierarchically among its peers. Of course there are other viable arm options for the Montrose, not just the F/R, so I emailed Mr. Hildebrand with a couple of introductory questions about armboards and pricing, and I’m sad to say he’s opted to join the ranks of the unresponsive.

Incidentally, his factory is located a little over an hour from where I live, which was certainly a big checkmark in the positives column.

Of course, ya’ll are thinking “Did you follow-up with any of these dudes, harass them a little, perhaps a phone-call or two?”

No, I didn’t and haven’t. I figure when a company is unresponsive pre-sale, they’re not going to set my world alight when I actually need something from them post-sale, are they.

So, the search continues. Updates to follow.

CAH

July 17 2021

 

 

*A reminder for those who do not know – we don’t accept manufacturer ads on our website, nor do we ask for payment for reviews, as some other review websites do. There are several reasons for this, most nobly – it’s impossible to write an impartial and fully truthful review when the manufacturer of the component being reviewed is an advertising partner. Others claim to do it (the impartial thing), and I have some land on the moon for sale. So, pretty much everything you see on this website has been purchased, mostly (not all) on the used market. This actually suits me for several reasons, over and above the moral conflict mentioned above. I don’t have a great deal of time to spend on writing reviews and I detest having the pressure of getting an item unboxed, reviewed, re-boxed and shipped back to a manufacturer. Life’s too short.