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SEPTEMBER 2017

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MoFi Turns Back The Clock

ULTRADECK TURNTABLE

REVIEW / MOBILE FIDELITY ELECTRONICS / ULTRADECK + TURNTABLE


MOBILE FIDELITY ELECTRONICS

ULTRADECK TURNTABLE Distributor: Synergy Audio Visual $3,099 RRP with UltraTracker Cartridge

“V-Twin dual-magnet generator that mirrors the layout of the cutting head that originally made a record’s grooves”

MoFi’s new Ultradeck turntable

So in 2017, the arrival of the

Motown allusion and marvel at

got me dreaming recently.

UltraDeck is something of a more

the simplicity and funk of the

contemporary audiophile dream.

new moniker. Technically, there’s

Dreaming it was 1961 again

two distinct divisions, one for

and the record labels were

One in which an audio company

pressing new vinyl albums by the

steeped in pressing vinyl and

millions, and millions of turntables

manufacturing CDs and SACDs,

continued to turn.

turns its experienced corporate

As well as continuing to issue first-

headlights on turntables, phono

rate reissues of classic albums on

stages and audio accessories

vinyl culled from front rank artists

as well.

the calibre of Ray Charles, Bob

Dreaming of a time, when a slightly acrid fragrance wafting in a living room was simply coming from a quartet of new Mullard

In a past life, that company

EL34 valves in a spanking new

was simply called Mobile

Radford STA25 valve amplifier as

Fidelity Sound Lab. An outfit

it warmed up.

whose mastering and recording

And a time, when the sounds of low visibility pop groups called The Beach Boys, The Beatles

software, and the other for the new range of electronics.

Dylan, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Janis Joplin and James Taylor on Vinyl, CD and SACD, MoFi now ranges two turntables.

production values set new

The entry-level model is called

industry benchmarks in vinyl and

the StudioDeck ($1599 RRP),

digital formats.

while the UltraDeck ($2799

and The Strangers on AM radio,

These days, now under

were beginning to ignite a cultural

new ownership and with an

revolution in the young and

reinvigorated mission, it’s

the restless.

called MoFi. You gotta love the

RRP without cartridge) serves as MoFi’s flagship vinyl spinner. Both are belt driven, and both eschew a sprung suspended plinth or sub-chassis.


The pair was unveiled at the Las

MoFi makes a link between these

with abundant detail, superior

Vegas Consumer Electronics

cartridges and its vinyl and lathe

soundstage and imaging, and

Show last year. Mofi spent another

cutting expertise as it’s entitled to

commendable transparency.

twelve months refining the designs

do, saying the cartridges have a:

before it was satisfied they were

Album after album, the UltraDeck

“V-Twin dual-magnet generator

was a sheer delight to enjoy and

that mirrors the layout of the

savour and it has to be said, gave

The turntables were designed

cutting head that originally made

me very little reason to harbour

by Allen Perkins and Mike Latvis,

a record’s grooves.”

a wish for something better so

ready for the marketplace.

Harmonic Resolution Systems’ vibration control guru. Perkins is known for his work with Sota, RPM and SpiralGroove.

What I can confirm is the UltradDeck fitted with the

complete and accomplished was its performance.

UltraTracker cartridge and 10-

While it’s always difficult to

inch Ultra tonearm exhibited

assign a component’s many

The two solid-state phono stages

an uncannily low surface noise

technical features to a part in its

are called the StudioPhono

quality playing back a bundle of

overall performance, it’s foolish to

($499 RRP) and the UltraPhono

vinyl, some new, some very old

even commence trying with the

($799 RRP). MoFi Tim De

and worn but not worn out.

UltraDeck.

So low, it qualifies as something

This is a vinyl spinner conceived

of a benchmark in turntable,

by its designers to comprise

tonearm and cartridge design.

nothing less than a complete

Paravcini (EAR) assisted with their circuitry that is said to have the wide bandwidth transparency demanded by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s mastering engineers. The cartridges comprise the MasterTracker ($1099 RRP), UltraTracker ($799 RRP) and the StudioTracker ($299 RRP). A sucker for just about any cartridge, I couldn’t wait to hear the UltraDeck prefitted with the UltraTracker cartridge that is priced as a $3099 RRP package, saving $450.

Clearly, the UltraDeck and its cheaper sibling, the StudioDeck have been conceived as total vinyl playback systems with

synergistic record playing platform, and one that is audibly so much more than the sum of its parts.

the turntables, tonearms and

But to satiate the “exact’’

cartridges creating a synergistic

members of the audiophile

loop that in the case of the

fraternity who revel in an Empiricist

UltraDeck, yields very little

approach to audio, what follows

surface noise.

with apologies to Leibniz, Spinoza

During the review, music emerged from a black velvety background

and Descartes is an interpretation of some of this model’s major technical features.


Features and Functions As much as we can believe any audio brand’s

noise transmission to the platter or via the

The UltraTracker’s body is said to be well

hyperbole, MoFi’s desire to give music

sub chassis was zilch thanks to the exotic

dampened and made from billet aluminium.

lovers the buzz of hearing an Original Master

dampening materials used to decouple the

The stylus is a nude elliptical. Overall weight is

Recording at home, has to be respected.

motor from the rest of the turntable.

9.7 grams. The UltraTracker’s output voltage

So, given the company’s revered history

Harmonic Resolution Systems designed

it’s no surprise the UltraDeck, tonearm and

the UltraDeck’s sophisticated anti-vibration

cartridge were designed with each other in

isolation feet and these are really effective

mind. The 10-inch aluminium tonearm is a

especially when the UltraDeck was moved

custom designed model made in the USA, as

from a wall mounted shelf to an equipment

is the turntable.

rack for the purposes of the review.

The Ultra tonearm uses Cardas wiring

Specifications provided by MoFi show wow

internally and throughout its lead. It also

and flutter of 0.17-0.025 per cent and a

carries high-quality bearings that exhibited no

signal to noise ratio of 74dB. The UltraDeck’s

friction in the vertical or horizontal plane.

power supply will handle 120V 60Hz, 220-

The UltraDeck’s platter weighing 6.8lbs is

The UltraDeck weighs 23.1lbs and is 19.69”

crystalline structure chosen for its impedance

wide, 6” high and 14.25” deep. Build quality

match to vinyl records. The platter is highly

is admirable and so is the styling that is

inert and easily passed the platter tap test

minimalist, fresh and attractive.

a few notches.

1.8-2.2 grams but 1.8 grams was applied for the review. Capacitance measures 100pF, impedance is 47kOhms and the frequency response is 20-25,000Hz.

230V 50Hz and 100V 50Hz.

made from 1.3” Delrin, a material with a high

while the system’s volume level was turned up

is high at 3.5mV. Tracking force range is

Handmade in Japan, the UltraTracker moving magnet cartridge has a V-twin dual-magnet

A substantially sized round belt drives the

generator said to mirror the layout of the

outside circumference of this platter driven by

cutting head used to make a record’s groove.

the very large, stepped Delrin motor pulley.

It uses two low mass, powerful magnets

Speed change between 33 1/3 RPM and 45

positioned in a V formation parallel with the

RPM simply requires the belt to be moved to

record groove.

the second step on the pulley. This motor is an isolated AC synchronous model that was pitch perfect and timed beautifully throughout the review. Motor

“it’s no surprise the UltraDeck, tonearm and cartridge were designed with each other in mind”


“The detail and transparency reproduced by the UltraDeck was deeply satisfying”

Moving and Grooving No matter how pedigree the equipment, nothing equals the emotional experience of hearing Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones or Beach Boys played on a portable valve gramophone on the floor of my teenage bedroom. A lifetime removed from the review system comprising Wilson Audio Sasha and mid 90’s Rogers LS35/A speakers, driven by an Elektra valve preamplifier and transistor amplifier and wired with Inakustik cabling throughout. To some extent, I’ve pursued this musical ghost down the blind alley ways of my equipment search throughout the intervening decades. But strange to relay playing Dylan’s She Belongs To Me on the UltraDeck and all the tracks that followed, brought back memories of that youthful experience. The elements of this track are fairly basic comprising bass, guitar, harmonica and Dylan’s nasally challenged vocals. All are carried by the unrelenting beat of the bass, the instrument that keeps the song’s elements together. The detail and transparency reproduced by the UltraDeck was deeply satisfying. This detail was laid out across a soundstage so wide and deep it extended well behind my speakers. And it had plenty of height as well. The UltraDeck’s sonic envelope is slightly truncated at the uppermost and lowest frequencies. It also trades outright attack for tonal rightness and a lack of distortion including surface noise, that’s almost spooky. As the ears adjust to this lack of noise, a deep sense of ease settles in as the UltraDeck’s perfect pitch and foot-tapping sense of timing takes over. The sound is so-o-o-o enjoyable I found myself playing whole album sides rather than the tracks I’d earmarked as review tools. After a half dozen album sides, the penny dropped: the emotional link I’d made between my adolescent gramophone and the UltraDeck was the feeling of low anxiety both induced in the listening experience. There was no stress hearing my gramophone by virtue of my audiophile virginity. I didn’t know any better at the time. And frankly wouldn’t have given a toss for imaging, sound staging and timing, audiophile qualities I now demand from my equipment.


Out

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“some components have a sonic rightness that defies analysis in audiophile terms�


I simply involved myself in the music and became totally absorbed. The UltraDeck engenders something of the kind. In a nutshell, some

g n i d n a tst nce 2017

a m r o f r

components have a sonic rightness that defies analysis in audiophile terms, so should just be enjoyed for what it is. The UltraDeck’s reproduction has many strands, not all of them good. But damn, it just sounds like it ought to be playing a vinyl LP. Moving on to the Beach Boy’s God Only Knows, a song described as perfect by George Harrison and Sinatra, this sense of rightness grew as keyboards, vocals, and infectious guitar were arrayed in my room with performers and instruments achieving life-like status. Individual strands of the music were crystal clear, but the track never lost its harmonious cohesiveness. The listening experience is one where the ears can head for subtle, individual notes and riffs while still hearing the whole of the presentation. And yes, again I was compelled to enjoy the whole side of this album. To keep things lighter, I played The Beatle’s Norwegian Wood before I let the stylus linger on all the tracks that followed. The constant beat of the guitars, the delirious vocals and the track’s good if bemused message left me upbeat. The UltraDeck reached deep into the track’s production values revealing a good deal of macro and some micro dynamics. A micro dynamic king, the UltraDeck is not. And neither are most turntables that come to my listening room. I don’t do jazz because I don’t get it. But the UltraDeck’s lucidity and tonal addictiveness made me want to go and buy a copy of Mile’s Davis’ Sketches Of Spain. Almost. I reached instead for my copy of Tom Rush’s The Circle Game and lowered the UltraTracker’s stylus on No Regrets, the final song on the album. The hero instruments on this track are Rush’s guitar and percussion. The latter providing a canvas for the guitars deceptively simple chords and individual notes. While these command the centre of the soundstage, guitars to the right and a clarinet enter and exit on cue flawlessly if your vinyl spinner’s pitch and timing are spot on. Both provide not a second of concern via the UltraDeck. The only departure you’ll hear on this deck will come from an album pressed off centre. I have several and these behave like a swaying drunk who’s on the deck of a boat during a swell. I used the UltraDeck long after I stopped taking review notes. Record after record was played on its Delrin platter totally for enjoyment, not enlightenment. I suspect fortunate buyers astute to this model’s sonic prowess will do the same and I can’t fathom a better reason to own an UltraDeck.

WORDS: Peter Familari

StereoNET: MoFi UltraDeck Turntable Review  

MoFi’s new Ultradeck turntable got me dreaming recently. Dreaming it was 1961 again and the record labels were pressing new vinyl albums by...

StereoNET: MoFi UltraDeck Turntable Review  

MoFi’s new Ultradeck turntable got me dreaming recently. Dreaming it was 1961 again and the record labels were pressing new vinyl albums by...

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