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How to buy (and sell) a turntable in Australia?

  • The tyranny of distance. I really don’t know how many people choose an new turntable in Australia. This country is big. No, strike that, it’s HUGE. The population is around 23 million people and its two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are separated by 900 kms. That stacks up to a 12 hour drive or a 80 minute flight. Melbourne to Adelaide is a marginally shorter distance. Brisbane is 850 kms north of Sydney. Sydney to Adelaide is a two-day drive. Perth – it’s in WA. Sydney to Perth is 4000 kms, a five hour flight. Little wonder that WA is often jokingly referred to as “wait awhile”.


    Australian audiophiles often fall victims to geography. Some turntable brands get distributed right across the nation. Rega, Pro-ject, Denon, Marantz and Thorens are several names that spring to mind. However, more deluxe, exclusive, fancy-pants ‘tables often (for the most part) only reside in their distributor’s home town. Wanna see/hear a VPI? You gotta get to Sydney? Acoustic Signature? Get yr ass to Melbourne. Kuzma? That’ll be Melbourne too. Funk Firm? Adelaide and Melbourne. Avid? Melbourne.

    I’m simplifying perhaps a little – by all means hit me up in the comments below if you’ve spotted the aformentioned brands in more far flung locations – but the geographical challenges down under remain: it’s far from easy to jump in the car and head to Brisbane for an audition when you live in Melbourne.


    Compounding the problem. Assuming you’re in the right city at the right time there then presents a second issue – auditions. Recently, a mate took the flight down to Melbourne to audition two high end turntables. That meant two different distributors, two different locations on different sides of the city and therefore two different rooms and two different sets of associated electronics. How he properly discerned which sound was the best for him, I’ll never know.

    With so many variables at play, comparisons become a bit of a crap shoot. Rega and Pro-ject are possibly the only two brands I know of that regularly sit side-by-side in the same hi-fi store(s). Anyone entering the world of vinyl playback for the first time will likely want to know how the Debut Carbon compares to the RP1. Do any dealers have those tables ready to run for such a comparison? I’m not so sure they do. Two of the nearest stores to me Sydney each stock both brands but they’re only on static display. Moreover, is there sufficient incentive for a dealer to spend an hour or two with a customer intent on conducting such a turntable standoff when the sale – not guaranteed – will only likely yield a $100 or so in retailer margin? Furthermore, is it possible for the customer to discern differences with only an hour or two’s listening? I’m not so sure on that either.


    If you think I’m being hard on dealers and distributors, you’ve got me all wrong. I’m proposing that the customer buy both RP1 and Debut Carbon without prior audition. Take them both home, live with them for a while and then – later – sell the one he likes the least. He might lose $100 or so but at least he’ll know with 100% certainty which ‘table is best suited to his specific tastes and needs. I’ve owned both the Rega RP1 and Pro-ject Debut Carbon and I’d peg the latter as the better ‘table.

    This buy-try-sell cycle is something I’ve been advocating (for Australians at least) for some time although I’ll concede it’s best suited to the budget end of the market where losses on selling used equipment are considerably smaller.

    I still play this way. After all, there is no audition like a home audition.


    Rinse, wash, repeat. At the end of last year I found myself in the market for a new turntable. My budget? AU$2000-2500. In making my choice I didn’t audition a single ‘table. Not one! Due to the geographical challenges outlined above I had decided to make my choice based upon 1) my desired feature set and 2) web reviews. The selection process became one of elimination. I wanted on-platter, switchable speed control. That immediately ruled out the Avid Ingenium (which requires the user to move the belt). An absence of adjustable VTA ruled out the Rega RP6 (as I didn’t wanna piss about with spacers and shims). Besides, I’d not been able to get decent speed stability from the RP1 or RP3 I’d owned previously. A manual needle drop meant the Well Tempered Simplex was a no go (which is a shame as I’ve heard nothing but good things). Had the Melbourne distributor of Acoustic Signature been able to immediately ship me their entry-level Wow the following day I would’ve bought one there and then, over the phone. Alas, none were in stock at time of calling and the local distributor conceded that I was the first to enquire about this ‘table. It would be at least a 30-day wait to order one from Europe. Sigh.


    Just as I’d given up hope of finding a turntable with all that I wanted [for the price that I wanted to pay] a suggestion came out of left field. Here was a ‘table that appeared on paper to be well suited to a beginner (like me) keen to play with different cartridges (like me). That turntable was the Clearaudio Concept MM (AU$2495) from Germany. It ticked each of the boxes on my shopping list: a) cool/sleek aesthetic, b) adjustable VTA, c) levered needle drop and d) switchable speed control. Positive reviews from Jeff Dorgay (TONEAudio) and Michael Fremer (Stereophile) helped seal the deal. I phoned the local importer-retailer (Sydney’s Audio Connection) and three hours later I had a new turntable sitting in a box on my couch. After installing the belt and platter, levelling the plinth via three screw-adjustable feet and double-checking the tracking weight of the pre-installed Concept MM cart (a cinch), the music began to flow.


    A certain sector of audiophiles might decry this method of buying hi-fi equipment sight-unseen but auditioning turntables reflects the (often not insignificant) time required to properly set up each one. Same room comparisons between similarly-priced rivals are as rare as hens teeth. My Melbourne-bound buddy took a unknowing punt so why not just take a knowing punt? With the number of high street stores slowly-but-surely falling away, with Australia being so darn large and with many brands being only available in one state, I’d say we’re likely to see more of this way of purchasing gear.


    Why? Because the internet. The internet allows potential customers to be fully up on a given piece’s specifications and feature set long before he sets foot in the store or makes the call to a distributor in another state. Many Australian audiophiles know all too well that a product’s listing on a hi-fi store’s website is rarely a reliable indicator of right-here-right-now availability. Not every potential customer wants in-store advice, they already know what they want and they require answers to only two questions: ‘In stock?’ and ‘How much?’. Dealers and distributors that can answer these questions with surety and confidence, over the phone and on their website, stand a much better chance of long-term survival.

    There’ll be more to come on the Clearaudio Concept’s sound in a follow up piece but know that it’ll arrive with a twist. After all, this is Digital Audio Review.

    Further information: Clearaudio | Audio Connection

    Do you live in a remote location? How do you buy hi-fi gear? Do you always demand an in-store audition before ponying up the cash? Let us know in the comments.

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Sounds like a masochists’ game, then? The buy-2-keep-1 tactic means a 25% minimum ‘turntablist tax’ on the already widely criticised aussie pricing for most such products. Assuming they were even value in their home markets, which is highly debatable, they are certainly not delivering results to match the poor buyers’ bills in aussie.

      The aussie turntable lover is a generally deluded individual in any case (you should see the stuff they write in forums), so, seriously, who cares if they keep doing what they have been doing for years: believe plainly silly reviews written by reviewers who *genuinely* don’t know good sound from bad, listen to something at a mates place, fork out silly money, fall in deluded love and be part of the cycle that recommends said product to other TT lovers at any price, or find something they don’t like about it or it doesn’t ‘do for me’, and sell it on in wacky overpriced enthusiast forums — especially if you only buy ‘legend status brands’, this is all too easy to do.

    2. John,
      It sounds like someone needs to open up a mail order store for analogue products like we have here in the States. We have at least 4 big ones that sell tables, arms, cartridges, and accessories. Most important they all offer a 30 day return policy if you’re not happy. These types of businesses are thriving here. Perhaps because we also have a similar problem in auditioning different tables at stores as you do there in OZ. There are just less and less 2 channel audio stores around these days.

    3. Good article, I am doing the same with headphones, since there is no cool Japanese headphone store in my area where I can try them. LOL

    4. Congratulations on your latest audio equipment acquisition, John. Many hours of blissful analogue playback lie ahead. BTW I enjoy two excellent analogue rigs: Clearaudio Performance (Zu DL103, custom JLTI phono pre-amp) and Roksan Radius (Lyra Argo, Primare R32).

      As to analogue gear by mail order, I’m not so sure. The risk of transit damage and/or shock are unacceptably high. When was the last time you entrusted your valuables to an Aussie freight company or AustraliaPost?

      Furthermore how many alleged tonearm/cartridge set-up experts are there? In my professional capacity I’ve discovered some appalling errors in tonearm/cartridge geometry, tracking mass and anti-skating force. Worst on uni-pivot arms. And this is the rub. If the setting-up is not painstakingly precise, you may as well listen to a 3-in-1. Word.

      Appropriate MC phono cartridge loading is essential. This can only be done by ear, in situ with the domestic sound system. And turntables require occasional maintenance, e.g., pivot bearing lube, drive belt, gentle stylus cleaning etc. Analogue is a labour of love!

      • Because I just went through the process of buying one, as outlined in the article. I shall be returning to a digital (vinyl) setup shortly…

        • Now, John, being as objective as you can, what does vinyl offer that is significantly better than good ol’ digital?
          I have a stack of vinyl all over the place (I particularly miss my old 12″ singles from Dub Vendor on Ladbroke Grove) but needles and balancing and scratches and dust and little ‘tooth-brushes’ for your needles and velvet ‘blackboard dusters’ for your discs and…

          • I don’t think I can answer that question in general terms. Which vinyl setup are we talking about? Which digital? They’re all different.

    5. Good luck with the Concept MM. I’ve had great results from my Concept MC . These days it is chained to my Mac Pro via a Metric Halo LIO-8 through Pure Vinyl. And, yes, I bought it sans audition.

    6. G’day JD,

      That’s the way I buy my second hand gear. Though if the opportunity is there, I would always prefer to have a listen before buying.

      Funk Firm are available at Sydney HiFi Castle Hill.
      I have heard the FUNK LSD over there. After hearing both, I would pick the Clearaudio over the Funk myself.


      • Me Too – sometimes you just have to use your gut instinct. It would have been no Audion amp for me had i insisted on an audition and that would have been a mistake.

        I would not have ruled out the Simplex on the non levered needle drop though, it’s not like other drops much slower and easier to handle. However I may have to pony up with your method to actually get a simplex and a clearaudio side by side, in the house I’d like to see that shoot out!

        cheers Damo

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