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Positive Feedback ISSUE 61
may/june 2012


The following submissions are for the 'Readers Who Want to be Writers' Contest. The authors are not Staff members of Positive Feedback.

Nottingham Analog Space Deck
by Agustin A. Isip


Analog is dead, long live analog! I feel compelled to write this review about the Nottingham Analog Space Deck. Vinyl is approaching extinction and I feel morally obligated to do my share of spreading the analog gospel to delay its impending doom. When CD was introduced, I was one of the very first ones to jump on the bandwagon. Dumped my turntable and bought the most expensive CD player I could afford. After a few weeks, the grim reality started to sink in - the sound sucked! The industry lied. The CD medium was not perfect as it was purported to be. It was seriously flawed. I realized this upon hearing the first CD I played, Morning Dance by Spiro Gyra. The soundstage shrunk, imaging collapsed and Beckenstein's sax lost its impact and metallic luster. The shimmer and ethereal quality of the cymbals on "Rasul", cut 3, side 1, turned into slush and grit. The musicians lost their souls to the digital incubus! Off the bandwagon I went and back to analog! Whew! Bought a used Rega Planar 3, a new Monster Cable Alpha 2 and I was back in business and never looked back. Pardon me for getting side-tracked; now back to the subject of this review, the Space Deck!

I've been bitten by the upgrade bug a number of times and have gone through a number of superb turntables; Well Tempered, SOTA, VPI and Clearaudio to name a few. In my humble opinion and experience, none of these well-regarded disk spinners hold a candle to the Space Deck when it comes to overall musical satisfaction. First a disclaimer: I haven't heard the multi-kilobuck candidates, such as the top-of-the-line Basis, Walker Audio, Clearaudio, or VPI. The Space Deck is the first reasonably priced turntable that fooled me, even only for a few precious seconds, that I was back in Carnegie Hall, cavorting and applauding with the rest of the audience, cheering good ol' Harry Belafonte. On his Live at Carnegie Hall double album, side 3, first cut, "Mama Look a Boo Boo", when the orchestra and horns go full tilt, watch out!!! The soundstage was so wide and holographic, it enveloped me; the trumpet blasts in the middle of the song was so powerful and frighteningly real, it scared me shitless! None of the aforementioned tables, save the Space Deck, have reproduced this cut in such a realistic manner. Another prime example is Gene Ammons' Boss Tenor, side 1, first cut, "Hittin' the Jug". When Gene enters after a few bars, the smoothness and jaw-dropping sonority of his sax will mesmerize and leave you breathless. The Space Deck's noise floor is so low, you can hear every inflection and subtle cue. Heck, you can even hear his lips moving around the sax's doggoned mouthpiece! Again, I have never heard this effect before with the other tables. Reproduction of the middle frequencies is also world-class and supremely natural. Listen to Allison Krauss crooning New Favorite, if you don't get a stiffy, then you're either a comatose or your last name is Bobbit!

To extract the last iota of performance from your Space Deck, you must do the following:

a. Replace the stock mat with Boston Audio's Mat 1 - this graphite composite mat significantly improved the table's transparency. It also elevated the deck's performance closer to its much more expensive sibling, the HYPERSPACE.

b. Go to your nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond Store and get the 2 1/2" chopping board, made of Canadian maple. Replace the stock base with the chopping board. This tweak will solidify the bass and extend frequency response. If you want, you can have the chopping block repainted to enhance visual appeal. I had mine refinished and painted "PIANO BLACK". Wow!

c. Do not skimp on the tonearm and cartridge. You can't use Big Moe's Mark IV Bamboo Shoot tonearm and expect sonic bliss. I am presently using a modified Silver 250 from Origin Live and a Shelter 901. Tonearm was modified by installing the HIFI Stabilzer Mod by the venerable Mr. Tom Lyons. That's "TWL" to you Audiogoners! This mod, in my opinion, catapulted the Silver 250's performance to the superarms level. It removed a significant amount of sonic muck and really let the Shelter strut its stuff! No need for me to further expound on the virtues of the Shelter. You all know it's an exemplary performer.

d. You must find a way to tighten the screws on the adjustable feet. Find some nuts that will fit the screws and tighten them against the base after leveling the table. Doing this will eliminate the microscopic wobbling that muddies up the sound. Now you are ready to play!

I love the contemporary looks of the Nottingham. It may not have the Swiss quality craftsmanship of an SME, but hey, it costs a lot less and its performance is competitive with the best. If you decide to get this table, make sure you are getting the latest version - the one with the thicker platter. The pictures you see in most their ads are those of the older version. You can distinguish the older version by checking the platter. The older version has a thinner platter with only one rubber ring around the edge. The platter of the latest version is thicker with 2 rubber rings.

Now is the best time to get into analog. Most treasured recordings from the Golden Age of analog are now being remastered using the best vinyl formulations and the finest mastering equipment. I'm glad I'm still here to enjoy it at its zenith!

So there you go, my premier equipment review. Hope I made a few converts. English is not my native language, so please excuse the misspellings and grammatical errors.

Associated Equipment:

Audio Synthesis Pro-Passion
Sonic Frontiers Phono One
Cary Audio Design CAD 280SA "V12"
Dynaudio Contour 1.3SE

Records Used during Evaluation:

Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, RCA Victor, LSO-6006, Reissued by Classic Records (200 Gram, Quiex SV-P)
Boss Tenor, Gene Ammons, Prestige 7180, Reissued by Analog Productions, 45 RPM, 180 Gram Vinyl.
New Favorite, Alison Krauss + Union Station, Diverse Records, DIV 001LP, German Pressing