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.
The 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.
Way Of Things
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.
Just 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
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.
Very Bottom Line
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,
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,
Analog Tools: Cartalign Research protractor, Musical
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
Power Cords, By Kaplan Cables
Project '9cc Evolution Tonearm
Dimensions: 21.3" x 13.8" x 7.8" (WxDxH)
Voice: (516) 487-3663