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October 2013
Superior Audio Equipment Review

World Premiere!
Music Hall MMF-11.1 Turntable With Pro-ject '9cc Evolution Tonearm
The best turntable Music Hall has ever produced!

Review By Ron Nagle

 

Music Hall MMF-11.1 Turntable And Tonearm  Excelsior, in Latin means "Ever Up Ward". The phrase could refer to Music Hall and the rising plinth phenomena. Count them ladies and Gents, the first Music Hall turntable had one, then two, then three, now four stacked plinths, Ah Ha! The MMF-11.1 turntable ($4500)  under consideration is a unique design made by the Pro-Ject company according to the specifications of Mr. Roy Hall the owner and founder of the Music Hall Company.

Music Hall started selling their line of turntables in 1998. There is an interesting back story delineating the origins of this turntable. Pro-ject Audio Systems is actually a division of Audio Tuning Vertrieebs GMBH located in Vienna, Austria. For over fifty years Pro-Ject made record players at Pro-Ject's manufacturing facility in Litovel in the Czech Republic. Litovel is situated just to the east of the capitol of Prague. Now Audiopals, about that piling up the plinths thing. If you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense if its inert mass and isolation you're after. And of course concerning turntables you's can't get enough of that funky stuff. Seriously the only vibration you should hear is that retrieved from the valleys of the spinning vinyl spiral.

Music Hall MMF-11.1 Turntable & TonearmThe very first static appearance of the new MMF-11.1 turntable was at the Munich Germany Hi-Fi Show. However the musical debut actually happened at the 2013 CES in Las Vegas. Too head off what might be confusing you may read about two different model designations. The now discontinued MMF-11 was the predecessor to the MMF-11.1 we are now evaluating. For this review I used a $900 Goldring Elite cartridge. However the turntable does not come equipped with a cartridge. Consider this very interesting Elite cartridge; it incorporates a precision Gyger line contact stylus. Optimum damping on both channels is achieved by symmetrically winding on a low mass armature. Silver wire is used for the coils enabling higher sensitivity/definition.

The Goldring Elite cartridge is one down from the top-of-the-line model and produces 0.5 mV. When optimized, it should elicit a smooth and extended frequency response. Incidentally this Goldring cartridge turned out to be a very good match up with the Pro-ject 9cc Evolution tonearm.

 

The Way Of Things
This is a very manly way to design a turntable. It comes to you packed in a sturdy wooden shipping crate. The turntable measures 21.3" x 13.8" x 7.8" (WxDxH) and it weighs in at 40 pounds. It is constructed with quadruple stacked Piano Black MDF plinths. Each of the four plinths is separated by compliant disks made of shock absorbing Sorbothane. Add in 40 pounds of mass and I would call that a very sound idea. There is a name for this type of construction; it is a variation of Constrained Layer Isolation. Nothing new, it has been done before but, it is not the parts, but the sum of the parts that makes a tasty cake. Success comes with attention to every small detail in the mix.

Music Hall MMF-11.1 Turntable And Tonearm Feet

From the bottom up the MMF-11.1 is magnetically suspended on four rubber feet containing opposing "Maglev" magnets. And thank you Roy Hall for those four float'y feet because they are height adjustable and necessary just to keep this fiddly reviewer happy. The platter drive motor housing sits on the bottom plinth adding mass but isolated from the three upper plinth sections. The motor housing contains two microprocessor controlled drive motors. Yes there are two, count them! Both of these motors run at the European 50 Hz line frequency. The idea is that the 50 Hz speed is more silent in comparison to our 60 Hz frequency. Those two motors drive separate aluminum pulleys that are linked together by a round silicon belt driving a third idler pulley as seen below. The aluminum idler pulley has two grooves the top groove carries the platter drive belt. The two drive motors share a 15 Volt 1.6 watt Class 2 (wall wart) digital power supply.

Music Hall MMF-11.1 Turntable And TonearmJust way cool, the motor speed controller has three lighted push buttons on the top of the drive motor housing. The center button is the power control, on/off. The power button is illuminated with a green LED whenever power is present. Just to the left of this is the 33.3 rpm speed select button and directly opposite on the right is the 45 rpm select button. Both of these speed select buttons when activated are illuminated with blue LED's. The speed select blue LED's blink when first activated. Then the LEDs remain on when the platter speed is at the correct setting. I double checked the Motor speeds with a Laser Strobe, both speed settings were spot on. The platter rotates on a inverted ceramic main bearing. The 1.5" thick acrylic platter is partially recessed into the top plinth. The platter bearing housing is isolated from the top plinth and sits on the third level plinth. Music Hall calls this, a "Lower Plinth, Mass Loaded Sink". Let us take a look at the Pro-ject 9cc Evolution carbon fiber gimbaled tone arm.

The tonearm, like the turntable, are made in the Czech Republic by Pro-ject. During the time Roy Hall was at the Litovel factory he specified their top-of-the-line '9cc Evolution' Carbon Fiber tone arm. The 9" arm is in one piece with a non-removable head shell. The Pro-ject 9cc arm pivots use high-quality Swiss ABEC-7 bearings. The arm wiring is specified as high purity cooper. At the back of the turntable mounted on the third plinth the arm wiring terminates in a pair of RCA connectors and a grounding post. You will get a set of RCA cables supplied with the table. The Pro-ject 9cc arm has an adjustable counter weight that is situated on the same plane as the cartridge. The Turntable is shipped with three different size counter weights. All of the geometric cartridge alignment settings are user adjustable and locked in place with Allen set screws.

All the cartridge alignment settings were double checked. And at the last I used my Fozgometer to tweak the cartridge Vertical Azimuth position. The set screw for this adjustment was a bit hard to see. I ultimately had to call the company to locate it. The MMF-11.1 passed my Stethoscope Noise Test. It works like this. The turntable platter was spinning without a record. The drive motor pulley housing had a low level noise but of course it is isolated. At the top plinth the platter and platter bearing were not merely dead but most sincerely dead silent.

And last but certainly not least Music Hall provides a very heavy and substantial clear plastic cover that encloses the whole table. Upon this sturdy cover my twelve pound cat will likely find a new bed.

 

The Sound
First a comment, No matter what recording I placed on the turntable it told the truth and nothing but the truth. Let's us get a little technical. The job of the cartridge we know is to turn a mechanical force into a decipherable electrical signal. In theory that device must be totally transparent. It must add nothing and leave nothing behind. The theory is one thing the actual doing is a crazy idea. Dragging a diamond around a plastic groove to recreate an atmospheric disturbance is nuts. But if you spend one hundred years or so ironing out the kinks amazing things can happen, and they do.

Lucky, I had the EAR / Yoshino 868 preamplifier in house when the MMF 11.1 arrived. The excellent 868 preamplifier has a world class phono stage. My notes refer to a two dollar flea market acquisition, Sting The Dream of the Blue Turtles Vinyl [A&M SP-3750]. The very first cut, If you love someone set them free. From the very first uttered phrase there is something people call the "jump factor" and that is present beyond any doubt. From somewhere deep in the center stage the backup voices chant, "Free, Free set them free" this chant reverberates off the rear wall. The air is charged with exciting transient dynamic energy. The sound has a subtle and yet familiar quality and you have heard it somewhere before, and then it dawns on you. The sound is amazingly clean and clear with an ineffable quality very much like a reel to reel tape recording.

Digging through my stack of vinyl I found a vinyl version of my long time CD reference, Basia, Time and Tide. But this time it was Time And Tide in analog [Epic Stereo FE 40767-1]. Again the first cut on side one is, Promises, The opening line is, Promises we forget about our promises. This first phrase seems buried deep center. Like a zoom lens the image slides forward and fills the space between the speakers. The transient sound was no aberration. Once again the excitement is there with a driving rhythm and articulate speed. You can hear details and power in the bass lines that is not all there on my CD. One of my Flea Market acquisitions include Janis Joplin In Concert [Columbia C2X31160]. A 1972 recording in great condition was one that inspired great expectations. But it turned out to be an unmitigated bomb. Note: The Sting and Basia vinyl recordings are a duplication of two very well-known and familiar CDs in my collection. I don't think I need to tell you what sounds better. The vinyl recordings just contain more subtle details. Bottom line, the moral of the story is GI=GO, meaning garbage in and garbage out.

 

The Very Bottom Line
Music Hall MMF-11.1 Turntable And Tonearm RearThe Music Hall MMF-11.1 with Pro-ject '9cc Evolution tonearm is by far the best turntable Music Hall has ever produced. At $4500 it is also the most expensive. In this relatively affordable high fidelity audio market slot there is a lot of competition. I have seen almost all and listened to many knowing full well it is a very mixed bag/proposition. What if that $3000 tone arm isn't a good match for your expensive vinyl rotator? Or that $6000 cartridge doesn't really go with your low mass tonearm. Worse yet you might spend part of your 401K and the whole schmear still sucks. If you buy a set up like this the MMF-11.1 makes perfect sense.

If you consider each part separately, the carbon fiber tone arm the processor controlled dual motor drive system the heavy duty 1.5" thick acrylic platter the amazingly heavy cat's bed cover. And throw in more stuff like the four plinths and those magnetically float'y feet, you will get such' a deal. I'm seriously thinking of buying it. It is not the world's best turntable, yet may be the best at four and a half thousand dollars.

Undoubtedly the MMF-11.1 is the complete package and well worth the money. I can't find anything that would limit the performance of the very best cartridge or of the best recordings. And for that matter anything at all that might detract from the vinyl state of the art. Well Audiopals if you think you can hear some kind of bad, than you likely screwed something up. And don't forget about, GI=GO.

As always, enjoy the music and from me, Semper-HiFi.

 

Associated Equipment
Speakers:  Onix Rocket Strata Mini four-way speakers and Aurum Cantus Leisure 2 SE two-way monitors on 24" stands, separate tweeters Mark and Daniel Omni Harmonizers

Reference Amplifiers: EAR / Yoshino 868 Tube Preamplifier With Phonostage, Prima Luna Prologue 2, Roger Sanders ESL Power Amplifier, Rogue Sphinx Integrated Amplifier

Analog Source: SOTA Sapphire Turntable, SOTA flywheel power supply, Grado Signature tone arm. Cartridges, Shure V15 V-MR, Denon DL 103, Haniwa HCTR01.

Analog Tools: Cartalign Research protractor, Musical surroundings Fozgometer,

Roksan Digital stylus balance, Digital Laser Tachometer, Analogue Productions Ultimate Test LP.

Digital Source: Marantz CD player DV8400, Music Hall DAC 24.3 D/A Converter, Sangean HDT-1 AM FM Digital tuner. 

Speaker Cables: Kimber 12 TC

Interconnect Cables
Monster Reference 2 pairs, 1 meter and 1.5 meters
Nordost Red Dawn, 1 meter
Audio Research Litzlink 2 pairs, 1.5 meter
Chord Silver Siren, 1 meter
Audiobhan 0.5-meter digital

Power Cords, By Kaplan Cables

Line Conditioners:
Richard Gray 20 Ampere Isolation Transformer, APC S15 Power Control Center.

 

Specifications
Type: Turntable for vinyl LP playback
Speed Selection: 33.3 or 45 rpm electronically controlled
Deviation speed: < 0.1%
Variance speed: < 0.08%
Mechanical Distance: > -45dB
Electrical Distance: > - 65dB
Plinth Material: MDF
Drive: Silicone belt over pulley
Motor: Two synchronous motors controlled via microprocessor
Platter: Acrylic: 11.8"
Platter Weight: (7.4 lbs.

Project '9cc Evolution Tonearm

Dimensions: 21.3" x 13.8" x 7.8" (WxDxH)
Weight: 39.5 lbs.
Price: $4500

 

Company Information
Music Hall
108 Station Road
Great Neck, NY 11023

Voice: (516) 487-3663
Fax: (516) 773-3891
Website: www.MusicHallAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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