Tuesday, 22 March 2016 07:27

REVIEW: Onkyo CP-1050 - turntable with a personal style

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A year ago Onkyo launched a totally new turntable based on ancient traditions. I've tested it.

 

Onkyo is no novice in the production of turntables. But it is not something they have been doing in the modern times. In recent decades, it`s primarily electronics we have seen from Onkyo. Not least AV-receivers where they have been among the leaders when exercise launch of innovations have been on the agenda.

But in the good old times Onkyo was a major producer of turntables. They have many different models on their conscience, and the vast majority have model names starting with "CP". So also our test object, launched at the very beginning of 2015. We wrote about this in January 2015, and I immediately got this little indescribable "must-test" vibration. I was reminded of this when I shaked hands With CP-1050 for the first time at the IFA in Berlin this autumn.

Onkyo CP-1050 has a design that makes it stand out from the crowd. And I'm not thinking only of the large amount of players with Rega and Pro-Ject spearheaded that has a distinctly flatbread design, at least if you ascribe flatbread a variable thickness parameter. But I think also in relation to other more classically inspired turntables that have emerged in the past, that a variable degree reminiscent of ancient Japanese players. Not least about Technics` legendary SL-1200/1210.

No, Onkyo CP-1050 have completely different design influences, and it is natural to look to Switzerland. And maybe even towards Scotland? Swiss Thorens was a giant in turntable manufacturing in the old days, and is a key player still. And one of the most prevalent classics Thorens TD160 was a widespread model, a version in black has incidentally been next door to CP-1050 on turntable bench during the test period. And the similarity in design philosophy is striking. And the same goes actually for the black editions of Linn's legendary LP12.

 

Direct drive

But the similarities are at the outside. For where both Thorens and Linn have suspension and belt drive, Onkyo's model has rigid chassis and direct operation. Direct operation got in a certain period a reputation for not being very audiophile - it was claimed that it could color sound in undue degree. But direct operation still had a loyal fan base, something classics Technics SL1200 / 1210 have been accomplices to.

Personally I am very happy that Onkyo chose direct drive for this player. One of the reasons is that I always think it's welcome when someone helps to brush the dust off a very competent construction principle, perhaps departed far too early because of what largely was a fashion issue. And the other reason I appreciate direct drive in CP-1050 is the performance. This turntable has a very stable walking. I tested the speed of rotation of CP-1050, and it was ticked in at 0% deviation, with a result of 33.34 rpm. The same exercise on my Thorens TD160B MkII gave a performance far beyond 34 rpm,  and could cause a dismissal. Well, I asume this could be aligned in some way with the belt, possibly replacing it. But this will not have to worry about with Onkyo CP-1050.

As a pure bonus, you also have an approximate flying start with Onkyo. Maybe this also means that a DJ could use the CP-1050, but for us with a more audiophile attitude, this implies a few other nice options. You can, for example. put the needle in the groove before the engine starts, and still avoid getting this "world wake up" sound that a conventional turntable provides in that full operating speed is reached after some seconds of music. With Onkyo CP-1050 we are up to cruising speed before the music sings. This is even more useful if you want to play a track in the middle of the album. And so I must mention that it is not only instant start, but also virtually sudden stop when you press the stop button. Also this comes around a bit handy if you are in a hurry to take off the album, in order to play a new one. This engine brake is however not activated when you press the power button, then roll it out in the usual way.

 

Detachable cables.

Another thing I immediately appreciate is that there are RCA terminals on the player. Instead of the usual solution with fixed RCA cables plus separate grounding cable as most players have, there are replaceable cables on the Onkyo. And why I appreciate this is twofold. Firstly you have the opportunity to upgrade the signal cables. And if there should be a place of importance with good interconnects that should give less cause for skepticism for us with a somewhat restrained connection with the cables, it must be on the weak signals coming from a MC pickup.

But there is also another reason why I appreciate this. It has happened several times that I in my relations with older turntables have had problem With poor contact in the signal cables. And for us who have all ten thumbs in good condition, it is much more convenient to replace the cable than having to resort to a soldering iron. I once had a Philips E212 which ended his days in this way.

 

 

Tonearm.

The tonearm at the CP1050 resembles so much on the arm of a SL-1210 that the word clone emerges as an understatement. It is produced by Hanpin, a supplier that delivers turntable parts for many manufacturers. This is an S-shaped arm with detachable headshell, one of the parameters that made me want to check out this player. The headshell mount is compatible with Ortofon`s original construction, later perhaps something improper has been called for SME-mount.

The tonearm gives a somewhat medium quality impressions on arrival, primarily because it was not optimally adjusted. There was some slack in the bearings, which makes it appear as a bit imprecise. But this gives no reason to despair - both horizontal and vertical storage can be easily adjusted. Here you need to just have a screwdriver size XS, and after some careful tightening the slack disappears, but without compromising mobility. Maybe a good idea to ease the grip a tad, after tight connection achieved, writer colleague Rudi suggested.

Once this is in place, the quality impression is lifted a solid notch. What one still could miss, is the adjustment possibility of VTA and azimuth. VTA is not easy to adjust, at least not if you need to lift the arm base. If it is in the opposite direction, one can of course use a form of shim between headshell and pickup. On another hand, Onkyo is in good company here - other dominant turntable manufacturers ommit as a matter of principle VTA adjustment. Azimuth however you can smoothly take dominion over by using a headshell with azimuth adjustment.

Otherwise the the great gain with detachable head Shell is of course that you very quickly may switch pickup, by having a collection of headshell that equals your pickup collection. And it is also far more comfortable to mount a pickup in a loose head shell than on a fixed arm. The downside is that a loose head shell conflict with some manufacturers` keep-it-simple philosophy. Looking at Rega, it appears a bit unthinkable for this manufacturer to create a player with fixed head shell. The philosophy is that the arm should be a molded part, to minimize the risk of resonance. For the same reason they have no VTA adjustment of their arms. So here it is your possible need for frequent changes of pickup that should have a decisive say in the matter.

Adjusting both needle pressure and anti skating is in the easy department. And as a bonus, you also have a certain height adjustment of the legs, so if you have a spirit level at hand, half the job is done.

 

 

Pickup.

Onkyo has chosen to put little money in the pickup on CP-1050 - very little money. We can see this from two sides. My immediate reaction when I was made aware of this in advance of the test was that it was a little pity - for the PU is a very important part of the record player. Personally, I think it is perhaps the most important part. But on the other hand, probably the vast majority of owners will exchange pickup anyway. At least eventually. So then it is a good thingthat it's not in the pickup Onkyo has put the big Money. The pick-up is a cheap model produced by Audio-Technica, and it has a recommended needle pressure of 3.5 grams. And antiskating stops at 3.0 grams ... This is not the part where you get the most extreme audiophile vibrations. But by all means - Audio Technica make some very excellent pickups. Only - this is not one of them. But we get to hear how it performs before close  judgment. The proof of the pudding is by playing vinyl!

 

 

Let`s play music.

First a description of the rest of the test setup. In the test period there was mainly Linn Kolektor with built RIAA which was used as preamplifier, and two pieces of LK100 used as passive biamping a pair XTZ Master M2. But for a Shorter period I also played on a Rega Brio-R ( read the review here ), and finally two pieces of Nad`s classic 3020 set up in biamping of the same speakers (in-depth article about 3020 coming soon)

 

Audio Technica

Initial training was with the included pickup and I started playing reasonably familiar records. Over en by made by Kari Bremnes surprised. It sounded homogeneous, and the pickup was tracking well (does it really have any choice at 3.5 grams ...?) and had a pleasant timbre balance. On the other hand it was not impressively detailed, and had quite pronounced rounded top. Meanwhile surprisingly good and solid bass, while I noted that I was unsure if it was PU or arm / tuntable. Or maybe a combination?

Next record is a classic, which I partly played when I was testing out a pair of ESS Tempest LS8 with Heil Air Motion tweeters, and had a visit from a Young- and at that time not as famous Geir Tømmervik, back in the autumn of `78 in his Trondheim-based precursor to OHC, controlled from his student flat at Moholt. I ended up buying those speakers, but it is not certain that I had done so if this pickup had been responsible for directing. We are talking about Joni Mitchell's perhaps best album, Don Juans Reckless Daughter , where Overture has a pretty impressive bass by Jaco Pastorius, coming in after a short minute. And the bass is great and distinct here as well, and the tracking is still good. But the absence of details makes the overall impression is not top notch. But anyway - the bass is good, and for the first time in this session the term "tunefull bass" pops up in my mind. This is not a term I have invented myself,  but it suits insolent good here.

Ken Lyon's In Concert is another classic which I often bring up in good company, and it plays well with the same bass and otherwise fine timbre.

 

Ortofon 2M Bronze

A scene change to Ortofon 2M Bronze leads us to a completely different world. We start with Terje Rypdal`s  album of the 70s - What Comes After , which had a magical rendition with fantastic perspective and detailing. The somewhat bright timbre is recognizable from mounting in Thorens and Rega RP1. In return, the timbre with the Audio Technica is far more accurate, but lacks detail and the almost floating impression. A round of Stanley Clarke's album with the same name on 2M Bronze reveals an insane holography, and lots of details. And still a bright timbre. Billy Cobham's debut album Spectrum provides a perspective that goes far beyond the speakers.

After a somewhat arbitrary testing with various pick-ups is thus the properties of the AT-pickup is confirmed. And it also confirmed that Ortofon 2M Bronze is a wonderful partner for CP-1050. And while there is such a significant price gap between these two pickups, I decide to find out if it is NOK 3300 it takes to get CP-1050 to really sing, or if something in between also can do the trick. So I rig the scene for a small systematic group test with four different pickups on Onkyo. In addition to the supplied Audio Technica and 2M Bronze I find an archived Ortofon Super OM10 and Grado Prestige Blue. In addition I choose some handpicked LPs on which all four pickups will have a test round .

 

 

Too Darn Hot.

No, I'm not talking about the timbre of the AT-pickup, but on a vinyl album by Claire Martin, released on Linn Records. A little soft jazz album with a very talented singer.

AT revisit this with the heat staying, revealing for the first time a somewhat fuzzy bass. It plays nicely, but we get very little insight into the details.

OM10 reproduces music far more detailed than AT, and with a more precise bass. Quite balanced sound and good micro dynamics in the opening of Black Coffe.

Grado plays a more prominent bass than OM10, while the bass is far more precise than with AT. Details are about as good as OM10. And also here, I find this remarkable "tunefull bass", confirming that this is not about the AT pickup, but most likely on the precise direct drive. And while it must be held that Black Coffe rendered far less dynamic on Grado than the OM10, but still with "tunefull bass."

2M Bronze provides a huge difference, also from OM10 and Grado Prestige Blue. Dynamics and perspective is at another level. The sound is somewhat reminiscent to OM10, but it plays much more detailed. And surprisingly, the sound also somewhat more balanced than the OM10. The song Black Coffe are also more dynamic. But importantly, the stomach in the vocals come forward for the first time.

We also include a little comparison with Sonus Blue Gold , mounted on Thorens player. This is a PU which hardly fits the arm of CP-1050, by virtue of having an extremely high compliance that requires an equally extreme light arm. Here we get a more soft reproduction, while allowing detail is taken care of. But it's still not quite as detailed as the 2M Bronze / Onkyo. Black Coffe rendered with bass. Deep, while details are well in place. But it's not quite the same magic in vocals at 2M / Onkyo.

 

It`s ok two listen to the Grey Voice.

This album by Jan Garbarek from 1985 and is one of my favorite albums by this musician.

AT plays nicely, while surprisingly detailed. We get a distinctly musical reproduction.

OM10 plays much leaner, and far more detailed. Timbral balance is obviously too light, while the dynamics are good.

Grado plays Garbarek clearly the best so far, with a great balanced sound. Details are good but could have been even better.

2M Bronze is again an obvious winner, with an almost magical tunefull bass. But not perfect timbre - it is obviously too light. The dynamics are simply enormous.

Sonus Blue Gold on Thorens plays with great bass. Garbarek's sax is decidedly best with this combination. But some of the details of 2m Bronze / Onkyo CP-1050 are missing, though.

 

Miles Davis - Some day my prince will come.

A great studio album from the period near the end of the collaboration with John Coltrane.

AT. Works well, and with a warm timbre that suits the recording. Usable with details, but no more. Hank Mobley does not sound so good, while Coltrane sounds better. Miles has warm and beautiful sound. Great sound of the trumpet at Old Folks.

OM10. The disc springs to life. Harder timbre of the piano, but also far more detailed. Miles sounds a little brighter, while we will hear more nuances. Hank Mobley still does not sound quite good, but much better than with the AT. Wynton Kelly's piano tunes still sound hard. Coltrane sounds good. It should take no more than a OM10 to to sound magical at Old Folks. The same goes to Mobley

Grado. Slightly warmer than OM10. Jimmy Cobb catches my attention for the first time in this sequence. Hank Mobley neither here quite fit. Coltrane sounds good, but was actually almost just as good on OM10. OLD Folks, a little less nerve than with OM10, although the sound is just as good. Same comment applies to Hank Mobley.

2M Bronze. A quantum leap in dynamics and detail. The nerve of Miles Davis` trumpet surpasses the rendition from OM10 abundantly. Jimmy Cobb`s drumming sound clear. And Hank Mobley comes for the first time into his own. This is also by far the best rendition of Wynton Kelly. Coltrane goes right into my heart with his tenor saxophone, which constantly tries to cover up a deep despair. Magical timbre of Miles Davis on OLD Folks.

Sonus / Thorens. Better balanced than 2M / Onkyo. A tad less detailed, but still good in the exercise. Hank Mobley good here too. Jimmy Cobb surprising the one that impresses most here. Coltrane is a bit restrained.

What pickup?

What can one then conclude regard Pickup on Onkyo CP-1050? There are two things that are quite easily done to ascertain.

Firstly, it is obvious that the AT supplied with Onkyo CP-1050 does not do justice the qualities of the turntable in any way. It plays nicely, and with good bass on most recordings. And it is pretty forgiving if you have a little shrill recordings. But it also Plays pretty boring in many contexts, so this is not the pickup up to the task of wakening any vinyl enthusiasm. But the good news here is that you hardly have paid many coins for it either.

The other obvious conclusion is that the among the pickups I've tried on the Onkyo, 2M Bronze is unparalleled the very best.  On the other hand, any other result would be unfair, because with a price tag of over three thousand NOK, some might argue that it naturally belongs with players in a higher division. I myself am not of this opinion, and I believe that CP-1050 will make a brilliant couple evenwith a 2M Black, if onlynot the missing VTA adjustment becomes an obstacle. And I intend to find out. For 2M Bronze was singing slightly better With Onkyo CP-1050, than with both Thorens TD160B MkII and the Rega RP1. And I suspect it is the drive that has the credit for this. So yes, it is definitely worth the cost of a pickup to at the price off 2M Bronze, and even higher with this player.

But not everyone wants to do this, at least not in as a starter. And the "group test" with pickups clearly showed that there is also very much to be gained from upgrading to a pickup to around one thousand NOK or a little more. And of the two in the test panel, I would slightly prefere the Grado, but it is on another side a little a matter of taste. But at this price I would maybe not og for any of the two, but considered highly a 2M Red, which is a more modern design than OM10. I have not heard it on the Onkyo, but it has played surprisingly well on a Swissonor-upgraded TD160 as we heard it in Horten fair in 2014. And that Arve tested shortly thereafter. Or 2M Blue, that alos may come as a Red upgradeable by replacing the stylus. And then you're also up in price of a very interesting Denon DL-103. I've lately succsessfully played a DL-103d on the CP-1050, and that is an old time variation of current models DL-103 and DL-103R. Also read Arve`s immersion article about the different DL-103 models .

 

Competitors.

Onkyo CP-1050 is a very interesting player, who deserves to have a distinct place in the market in its price bracket. This is no HighEnd player, neither does it present itself as such. With a price tag of NOK 4.995, - there are not very many serious competitors. For Onkyo rises clearly above the more frivolous suggestions, tryoing to surf on a new renaissance of vinyl, and where you would get an onboard USB connection to enable getting MP3-converted those annoying LPs once and for all ...

Rega RP1 is definitely one of the serious competitors, and a RP1 PP (Performance Pack), you are in about the same price as a CP-1050. Personally I am not a moment of doubt, I prefer CP-1050. And for two reasons - it has a number of qualities that I appreciate and that you do not get with RP1, Performance Pack or not. And besides, I got the CP-1050to play a notch better with the same pickup with my former RP1.

More doubtful is I of course when it comes to the outgoing model by Rega,  RP3, as of the time of writing is priced down to NOK 5.995, -. This is a rock-solid classic that offers great value, but I have not been able to compare directly with the CP-1050. It would not surprise me if it might have a small notch better sound (?), But still, you getdon`t get the benefits of detached head shell as I and many other apreciate, but that is unimportant to others.

By the way I look forward to comparing CP-1050 with the upcoming Planar 3, that we made an agreement on testing when it arrives the kingdom late in April. This is a vastly improved player in relation to outgoing RP3. And in addition, the seast is extremely handsom, looking more like a RP6.

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit DC is also a pretty nearby competitor. And Pioneer's PLX-1000 is an interesting variation, which also has direct operations and S-arm with detached head shell. This is in the que to being tested at a later occation. 

 

Conclusion.

Onkyo CP-1050 is a turntable that you absolutely should include in Your short-list if you are looking for a turntable at this prive range. Whether it's the one to choose, or you should og for one of its competitors, will depend on whether you are just as happy with the capabilities that come with direct drive and S-arm with removable head shell as I am.

Many have given positive comments on the obvious European-style retro design, making the Onkyo into something unique in today's market. But this is nevertheless pure bonus for CP-1050 is worth every penny considered turntable and arm, out of sound characteristics.

And then I looked away from the enclosed pickup, which you can play on for a little while. But you should set aside a least a small amount for upgrade to a pickup which is near to justify the properties of CP-1050. And maybe even a lot more too, for every penny you spend on with properly chosen pickup withi reasonable limits, you will gain the form of clearly better sound and joy of playing.

Onkyo CP-1050 is currently my clear favorite turntable in this price range!

 

Onkyo is imported to Norway by Mono AS.

Read 55784 times Last modified on Tuesday, 22 March 2016 10:59
Karl Erik Sylthe

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