live in an age where the price of entry to audiophile sound can choke a
good-sized bull-moose. As wonderful as $500,000 level two-channel systems can
sound, none of it gets my adrenalin flowing. Why...? 'Cause I can’t
What does kickstart my heart is when established audio
companies with six-figure components release sensibly priced gear where I can
clearly see—and hear—that their cutting-edge technology has trickled down to
more affordable products. When my editor at NOVO asked if I’d like to
review a mid-level Acoustic Solid 'table, I was more excited than a lifer stuck
in a penal colony when the latest sealed issue of High Society magazine
is slid into his cell.
I first heard one of Acoustic Solid’s $100,000+ level TTs at
the 2012 Munich Audio show. The
sound of that rig was as jaw-dropping as the price tag attached to it.
The subject of this article, the Xtended-MPX + Rega WTB-370
tonearm costs $2200; without the cartridge. My review TT featured a 40 mm thick
MDF plinth that was finished in a gorgeous wood veneer. The aluminum platter is
35mm thick. It’s machined from a single billet and “string driven”
by an outboard MC/M1 micro-processor controlled synchronous motor. The 'table
also includes a natural leather mat and a 5mm thick acrylic mat.
The WTB-370 tonearm was anodized black which, offset against
the X-MPX’s wood plinth color, looked stunning. Overall, the TT exuded old
world craftsmanship, cutting-edge engineering, and a luxury aesthetic that would
look right at home in any posh two-channel system.
After trying an entry-level Gold Note Vasari Red M/M cartridge
that was provided to me with the 'table and not liking the sound, for
perspective, I climbed higher up the ladder and tested this 'table with three
other cartridges. These included a Benz-Micro Wood MO-0.9 M/C cartridge; a
Dynavector XV-1s M/C cartridge; and a Sumiko Pearwood Celebration Mk#2 M/C
cartridge. To my ears, the Sumiko sounded the best. One thing was audibly clear:
the better the cartridge, the better the sound.
An incorrectly set-up 'table will compress the soundstage,
choke its dynamics, and smother resolution and detail. Acoustic Solid provided
20 pages of comprehensive instructions for setting-up the X-MPX. A scale to
dial-in cartridge tracking force and a high-quality spindle weight were both
included in the box. To buy these two items separately would add at least $800
to the price.
Overall, initial set-up took about 45 minutes. Acoustic Solid
must be commended for their instruction guide. Even though I’ve set-up
hundreds of TTs, I found their directions extremely helpful. After burning the 'table
in with the Vasari Red M/M cart for a week, all of my serious listening tests
were done using the Sumiko Pearwood Mk#2 M/C cartridge.
The Xtended-MPX is a gorgeous TT. The looks of the 'table
mesmerized me like a Ferrari Modena 360. I spent hours examining its fit and
finish looking for manufacturing flaws. I didn’t find any. Acoustic Solid
built this TT like it mattered: with care... and pride.
Plug the X-MPX + WTB-370 into a decent 2-channel system and
you’ll hear warm and organic sound. This TT makes any music with
energy—Venom, Patricia Barber, Slayer, Melissa Etheridge, Motörhead, Bach,
NIN, Celtic Frost, Sammy Kaye, Rachmaninov, Rammstein... whatever—groove until
the moo cows come home. Within its price range, this 'table is a PRaT [Pace
Rhythm and Timing] champion.
Highs sounded precise without being etched or fatiguing.
Mid-range instruments and vocals were warm without grain or edge. Upper bass and
mid-bass rhythms had timbral accuracy and an addictive groove. Low frequency
extension was decent. Not the best I’ve heard, but palpable; and enjoyable.
Shortcomings...? While the X-MPX + WTB-300 combo is a very musical TT, it doesn’t have the detail retrieval of higher-echelon vinyl rigs.
But ask yourself this: do you prefer pedantic detail recovery
or a 'table that makes you wanna spin your records, enjoy your favourite music,
and swing your hips around the room while deliriously smiling like a pregnant
yak on stilts? If you fall into the later camp, you’ll love the sound of this
TT. With the right M/C cartridge, the Xtended-MPX will swing infectiously like
Bennie Goodman on speed. The 'King of Swing’ would simply adore the
sound of this vinyl rig.
Recorded in 1978 at Rockfield Studios in Wales, today Rush’s
Hemispheres is considered to be a prog-rock masterpiece. With
mind-numbingly complex musical arrangements, staggeringly technical guitar and
percussion work, and an 18 minute long bombastic half-side concept album, Hemispheres
is an album that changed the way modern hard rock sounds.
Listening to Hemispheres on an original 1978 pressing,
I sank deep into the lyrics and musical groove which are so proudly recorded on
every track. In particular, the quieter parts of the 9:35 length instrumental
song 'La Villa Strangiato’ allowed me to hear how musical the X-MPX
The texture of Geddy Lee’s 4001 Rickenbacher bass sounded
solid, accurate, and agile. His bass lines add a magnificent rhythmic foundation
to all of the songs. I could clearly hear, and follow, individual instruments
within a wide and detailed stereo soundstage. Even during complex and thundering
passages that would implode the imaging produced by most entry-level 'tables,
the X-MPX created superb rhythm, impressive dynamics, and exemplary PRaT.
Written by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov in 1906-07, his
Symphony #2 in E-minor Opus #27 is a master-stroke of modern classical music. I
listened to a 2016 recording played by Previn and the LSO. Brooding and
doom-laden, this symphony has an emotionally devastating feel that
induces a quiet internal fear and shivering anxiety like rising floodwaters.
We’re doomed... and you can sense it coming.
The sound created by the X-MPX gave me goose bumps; frightened
Listening to Symphony #2 on the X-MPX, the complex orchestra arrangements sounded dynamic, layered, and accurately reconstructed. More than the sound, though, I could feel the emotional surges of foreboding doom which over-ride every single note of this haunting score. For a turntable-- any turntable-- to so tangibly connect me with the doom-laden emotional vibe of Rachmaninov’s music was a remarkable achievement.
Priced at $2200, Acoustic Solid’s Xtended-MPX + WTB-370
tonearm is a resoundingly musical 'table. It’s also drop-dead gorgeous.
Packaged with a high quality scale and spindle weight, this TT offers incredible
'bang-for-the-buck’ value. The only minor complaint I have is that it
doesn’t come with a dust cover, although it can be easily supplied for a
slight up charge.
Mate this rig with a higher-end M/C cartridge and you’ll get
wonderfully natural and organic sound. It reminds me fondly of a Spanish
Flamenco dancer who’s so into the music that she can barely contain her
passion and joy as she swings her hips around the stage.
Since the X-MPX arrived, I’ve been on a manic “vinyl
binge” that’s had me losing sleep, buying lots of new records, and
happily enjoying music of all genres. Night after night, my listening sessions
have gone later and later. The desire to hear more and more of my favourite
records has gripped me like a narcotic addiction. I’ve been living in a state
of “vinyl delirium” and I don’t want the delirium to end.
At its essence, a high-end turntable should create goosebump
inducing sound that makes an owner want to listen to more music. The Xtended-MPX
+ WTB-370 TT combo does exactly that.
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