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Pulling a U-Turn on turntable expense at RMAF 2015

  • rmaf-2015We’ll open Digital Audio Review’s 2015 RMAF coverage with a perverse twist: details of a ‘Murican, entry-level turntable manufacturer.

    Among the three rooms marked off for Affordable Audio by show organiser Marjorie Baumert, U-Turn Audio adopted the $1000 room as their own for a proper Goldilocks moment. Their message: US$500 for a turntable is one helluva slice of coin for the young kid looking to get into vinyl.

    According to U-Turn Audio founders Ben Carter, Bob Hertig and Peter Maltzan, whose collective ages – 27, 26 and 26 – sum to less than that of the even the most senior RMAF attendee, US$250 is a far more achievable goal for youngsters and wallet watchers looking to stay away from the “shitty used ‘tables” they each owned through college.

    With a further eleven employees on staff at their Massachusetts productions facility, U-Turn Audio offer over a hundred permutations of their super affordable Orbit turntable. Prices start at a shade under two hundred bucks and with website’s ‘Turntable Builder’ allowing each customer to pay for exactly what they need and nothing more, including a choice of four cartridges. Even the cue lever is optional. Whatever you specify, your U-Turn is ready to go out of the box.

    [L-R] U-Turn Audio’s Bob Hertig, Peter Maltzan and Ben Carter.

    On demo in the $1000 room in Denver was the Orbit Plus that sports an acrylic platter and the cue lever for a mighty reasonable US$329. To its left, U-Turn’s recently released Pluto phono stage (US$89) firing directly to Audioengine’s A5+ active monitors.

    In a telling moment, Carter says, “Passive speakers are alien to many of our customers. They don’t know what to do with them”. Newcomers are understandably turned off by unnecessary complexity. This room’s second standout quality was simplicity.

    Those wanting to reduce the box count still further are advised that the Pluto phono pre-amplifier is now available as a low noise, in-table option for which U-turn engineers net the advantage of a fixed cable length between cartridge and pre-amplification board and so cable capacitance is known. The on-board Pluto is also fully by-passable should that upgrade itch need scratchin’.

    And if you reckon that a $300 turntable can’t possibly sound any good then consider this: it isn’t for you. The U-Turn Orbit is for your college-bound son or daughter or your neighbour who keeps on at you about wanting to get into vinyl on the cheap.

    There is a catch though, for the time being at least. These American-made ‘tables are sold direct only residents of the USA and Canada. Carter explains that they’re also looking to expand sales into a dealer network that comprises more record stores than audio specialists.

    Well played, chaps. Well played indeed.

    Further information: U-Turn Audio




    RMAF ’15 coverage brought to you by Aurender:


    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. My only issue with a vinyl set up is the need to purchase records constantly. Not a bad thing mind you but simply inconvenient as i frequently move for my job. Streaming on the other hand is literally pocketable.
      I am also a music monkey, perennially jumping from one olive branch to another. My tastes are so varied and so much in flux that i would honestly struggle with deciding what album i would ” invest” in.

    2. The comment about “passive speakers being alien to many of our customers” could also apply to many of today’s equipment manufacturers too! There is kind of a chicken and egg situation currently, do speaker companies get into the amp business or do amp companies get into the speaker business……

    3. correction on my previous post, the reverse is the situation with many of today’s equipment companies, where active speakers are alien to many of them!

    4. Yep they get it… Maybe their venture will stand as a model to those in the industry who can only think bigger, better, more high-tech, more features, and more expensive as the way to differentiate their products.

      These guys should really hold the moniker of THE first successful audiophile crowd-coursers. I believe they were backlogged for well over a year. MBA 101 start-up knowledge is that it is more difficult and riskier to grow too quickly than too slowly and steadily while not making numerous mistakes along the way, and quickly learning from the mistakes; cash flow is king.

      And I applaud them for making domestically at this price point and selling directly rather than through the local audiophile mercantile and from purveyors of fine hi-fi gear. These were terms for these things called “brick-and-mortar” stores of which Hot Topic, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitter seems to be the most well known to younger mall shoppers. No unctuous, condescending, A/V scheisters here. My neighbor had one before upgrading eventually and had an issue with a belt slipping at one point. The expedited him a few key parts for free to took care of him as a customer. They have good customer support too.

      Also, Darko please point out – and consider reviewing – the Pluto phonostage. As a temporary measure I am currently using one with Shindo, a Lundahl SUT, and a VPI TT. It ain’t half bad at all if all you require is MM. It’s through hole and mostly populated with Nichicon Fine Gold (FG) electrolytic caps. I’m considering swapping out some of these with Silmic and replacing a few key low-tolerance resistors with Vishay naked Z-foils. Talk about “hitting above its weight class” and “competing with units 5-10 times its price.” Good stuff.

      Prospective customers of the U-Turn and Pluto should consider eventually adding an entry-level SUT and MC cartridge to really get those most out of this table and they still are well under $800. Thanks for keeping it real Darko. Cheers!

    5. I love this! Made-to-order analogue for real-world money!

      On another note, I must say that Bluetooth is becoming a difficult argument to make when you can get a Chromecast Audio for $35 and feed its optical output into an Audioengine D1 for another $169 plus an optical cable or a Schiit Modi 2 Uber for $150. Still, I’ll bet that system might have been the best that some newbie attendees had ever heard that they could actually own, lighting the fire for great music played well.

    6. Orbit employee: “Yo! Darko’s coming this way down the hallway right now, quick put on that pixies album!” 😉

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