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An Experience with the Fern & Roby Montrose Turntable

06-27-2019 | By Carol Clark | Issue 104

I grew up listening to records. These days we call then LPs or vinyl, but I will still think of them as records. My first record player was a toy, but eventually I graduated to an all-in-one system that was a receiver with the turntable on top, and speakers attached to the sides. In those days I knew nothing about the gear, but I listened to a lot of records. Eventually, after Dave and I married, we worked our way up through a series of different turntables, and I got to the point where listening to records was just too much of a hassle, so I stopped. With the advent of the Fern & Roby Montrose in our system, I can once again listen to records, and enjoy the experience.

This is not so much a review of the turntable, more a reporting on my experience with it. For an actual review, see Dave's report (HERE). You can also check out Fern & Roby's site (HERE) for technical information.

We first met Christopher Hildebrand, owner of Fern & Roby, at AXPONA in 2018. He was so pleasant, and I was touched when he told us the company was named for his two grandmothers. We were both intrigued with the Montrose, as our enjoyment of our then turntable, the Transrotor Leonardo Doppio 25/25/60, was waning. Over the next year we talked about getting the Montrose in for review, and finally after AXPONA this year it arrived. The review period went well, and the Montrose is now a permanent part of our system.

Although I did not set the table up, I was involved in unpacking and getting it situated in our system. It is just gorgeous. Looking like it was milled from a solid hunk of cast iron, it is genuinely a work of art, the base made from compressed paper in resin. The platter has brass inserts, I'm sure there's a better way to describe that, but it just adds to the overall stunning look. This turntable is one that would genuinely be a centerpiece to any system.


One of the things that held me back from listening to records with our previous turntable was that it was confusing, and to be honest I never felt inspired to figure out how to make the Transrotor work. I'm sure I could have, I just really didn't want to. Additionally, I wasn't inspired by the way it sounded. So, I just let my records sit on the shelf.

With the Montrose, however, not only did I want to learn how to use it, I found it's quite simple to use. To start with I needed to figure out system logistics. I am happy to say; I did this on my own. Preamplifier first, and then amplifier. Easy enough. The turntable has a simple knob you turn, first stop for 33 1/3, the next for 45. There's a light that glows amber at first, then locks in to green when the steady speed is reached. Don't laugh, but the next part is where the logistics comes in. Turning everything on is simple, getting the music to come out of the speakers is another matter. Our BHK Signature preamplifier comes with a remote. I studied that first and found the section labeled "preamp" with a series of inputs. Turns out the turntable was input 2. This was much easier than anticipated.

I selected a stack of records, and sat down to listen.

I decided to start with a record I played over and over again when I first got it, Seventeen Seconds by The Cure. Rather than selecting the old 1980 copy I used to play, I got out the Vinyl Lovers re-issue. An aside, this re-issue has added songs. That's not a bad thing, but it messes with the groove, meaning I like hearing the songs in order, one after the next. The addition of "I'm a Cult Hero" and "I Dig You" is jarring. That aside, listening to this record on this turntable, way better than what I remember. Immediately I was back in the day, connecting to the music, it was magical. I used to make up music videos in my head, particularly with side two. They came surging back listening to "A Forest," "M," and "At Night."

Moving on to my current day obsession I got out Criminal by The Soft Moon, also amazing sound. Every time I think "Burn" is my favorite song on this album I discover other songs, like "Give Something," or "Young." The sound of these songs rattled the windows, literally.


Next, I decided to test the record weight. As you can see above, the top has the design of a record insert for 45s. When we show off the Montrose to friends, we always tell them this, but I wanted to see it in action. I searched through our stack of 45s to find something worth listening to and selected "California Uber Alles" by the Dead Kennedys. It works! Quite an ingenious design.


When listening to any piece of gear, you know you're not just hearing it, but everything in the chain. This listening session was not just the Montrose, but the PS Audio preamplifier and amplifier, the Heed phonostage, the Vandersteen loudspeakers, and all the cables. Having said that though, I can tell you that LP listening was dramatically improved with the Montrose. Everything sounded fuller and more organic.


I'm not able to get this to look the way it does in the afternoon when I'm sitting on my couch. There's a way the light shines off the end of the cartridge, and it glows like a beacon. You can only partly see it in the picture above, I'm not a photographer so I can't quite capture it the way my eyes do. This beacon pulls you in to the wonderful experience of the Fern & Roby Montrose.

At $7500, this is not an inexpensive (the supplied Soundsmith MIMC cartridge adds another $1995), entry level turntable, but if you are in the market for a high-end table, this one is highly recommended. You not only get the gear, but you get the support and expertise of the company behind it. Christopher was available to answer questions, and everything went very smoothly.