|Belt, 33/45 rpm speed settings
|Wow and flutter
|< ±0,12 % (DIN WTD)
||RCA Phono/Line (switchable)
||Aluminium, 297 mm diameter, 667g
||Hardened steel spindle brass bushing (inverted)
||435 x 132 x 373 mm (WxHxD)
SUPPLIED BY Cinema Imports (Pty) Ltd t/a AV Imports 082 571-6568
Vinyl. Invented long ago. Made a comeback in recent years. Now a thing. Lots of hipsters pushing vinyl, scratching through flea markets in search of a fix.
I confess freely that I have never been a fan of the format. I can’t get past the technicalities and it clouds the enjoyment of my music as much as it shouldn’t. Hence, you can imagine my trepidation of this unit, which I was really not looking forward to having to confront. My inner fears and challenges to my assumptions have to be addressed at some point in time however, and before AI kills us all I thought it best get it over and done with.
And so here goes. My first encounter with vinyl in any degree of seriousness. I have of course listened to some pretty high-end stuff on the turntable front (if you justify the high-end being merely equated to a price tag with 7 digits!). I recall at the time that I would have enjoyed listening to my bullet-proof legend of a CD player, my Sony XA50 ES dinosaur (those young enough not to know what a CD player is can Google it), and referencing the two.
And so that’s exactly what I did with the CS329. The romance of changing records, being forced to actually listen to an entire album without being able to skip is approximated in equal terms with the CD player if you remove the batteries from the remote.
Which is exactly what I did.
I need to point out that this is because this turntable is fully automatic. What this means is that you put the record on, press start and the player does the rest. No need to touch anything – it’ll lift up when the record is done and return to rest and turn off. Very CD player-like in other words, but probably more important for the vinylists is that is that if you walk away and forget about it no harm will come to your player.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The old vinyl dog clearly had a few tricks in it back in the day, and whilst the format might be the equivalent of a crocodile in terms of sophistication, one should remember that crocodiles have endured for millennia. Bearing in mind that this CS329 is by today’s turntable standards a few notches above entry-level for a standalone component, and my jaded cynicism notwithstanding, I have to say that I get it.
Yes, I understand the fanatical devotion bordering on hysteria and dedication to the cause that is the turntable segment of the nutters that comprise we audiophiliacs. Everything that they say about vinyl is that the listened experience is easy, engaging, and inherently pleasant. And so it was.
But of course the thing that no one talks about is the gentle snap, crackle and pop of vinyl that sets my teeth on edge. Being forced to endure as I self inflicted endurance listening on my high horse, the annoyance dies down when actually listening to music, and I can understand why a good record in good shape that passes on minimal ‘running interference’ as I like to call it, can deliver a reference quality source. Whilst of course this means different things to different people you need to bear in mind that I am writing this for you – so it is your reference here that I refer to.
For myself, what I can report is that as far as the CS329 goes in respect of the asking price vs. the sonic performance, my basis of reference against other turntables is, shall we say, limited? Ergo my impressions are limited then to what it is that I enjoyed about the unit. Avoiding the stereotypical phrases that vinyl conjures up being traditionally associated with words like ‘lush’, ‘rich’ and ‘full’, and bearing in mind that in turntable terms we are not on the high-end here, it is still difficult to shake the sense of the ease of listening that comes about. Operation of the unit is not complicated – and whilst my adept handling of the record itself is not as dashing in whipping it out of the sleeve single handed whilst flamboyantly pirouetting between my seat and the player as I have seen in my past, I think I managed to avoid significant damage to the CS329, the record itself and of course the extremities of my delicate personage.
The limited exposure to turntables in my past has curtailed my reference points to a more marked level than I would have liked. My entirely subjective impression of how this turntable gave me music and to what extent I enjoyed this delivery as served to me (and forcing myself to be open -minded and extend beyond my prejudices of the format), my statement that, “I get it” holds. I found the experience to be better than anticipated and vinyl delivers music in subtly different ways that is quite hard to put a finger on. Whilst I would need to spend more time measured in many months and a considerably greater number of records measured in hundreds with it, the musicality portrayed by the CS329 cannot be denied. It is convincing to boot because the levels of detail that are articulated are considerable.
Imaging is good with channel separation being less of an issue than anticipated. I cannot fault the unit in terms of frequency response characteristics either. If I start with the low end as I usually do, I found that the deep bass is present and accounted for with an easy transition throughout to the lower mids. The CS329 delivers bass equal to anything on offer from the digital front ends of equivalent standing with perhaps a tonality that borders on the forgiving side of full. Whilst I couldn’t accuse it of being slow, I might be able to say that I thought I picked up a degree of overlay that gave me an impression of a lower end that wasn’t really quite there. It felt deeper than I think it was in other words, but without reference to other turntables it’s hard to ascribe this to the format or the turntable. That said you’ll need to hear it for yourself because the sensation is annoyingly quite pleasant.
My expectation of sibilance as the frequency spectrum climbs into the upper registers proved to be misplaced and any expected hardening of upper range vocals was also mercifully not present. Male voices in particular are strongly represented I thought. The overall impression I have is that the CS329 presents well in the meat of the musical spectrum and that’s where we do all our listening. And there is excellent depth and breadth throughout. The sort of ‘no holes’ is the impression that you get.
Music is presented musically, inherently well and easily. The notes formed and pushed towards one’s ears feel as if they’ve been created with your ear in mind. And I have to admit that listening fatigue, which I have not had in a long time, was not an issue.
So where does this leave me?
I have to be honest – vinyl is still not my cup of tea and I cannot see myself subscribing to the school of vinylism anytime soon. But that doesn’t make the CS329 something that I would take outside and feed into my woodchipper, which I may have had the tendencies to do prior to a Serious Listen with this unit. What it has done is to reinforce, quite emphatically, that there is no wrong and right in the world of audio and that your personal preferences are exactly that.
As far as the CS329 goes then, for your money you’re getting a turntable that in my mind, delivers solidly on the musical front. Getting away from the music briefly, the CS329 is a well constructed, reliable looking unit that mechanically delivers the goods. Tonearm operation is as it should be – simple, easy and effective no fuss plug and play. My impression is that you’re getting the equivalent of a Toyota Corolla.
Good economical value for money!