The New Well Tempered Amadeus Turntable
...and Frank turned around and said to me ‘John, sell your Linn’
So a little over four years ago we did. You might be surprised that as long-time Linn owners and dealers, we’re enthused about this new turntable, especially because it is so radically different in design from the Linn. But what makes it different is what makes it better.
I got upgrade fatigue with my Linn. It’s had all the modifications - Lingo, Ekos, arm boards, baseboards, Circkus kits and more - sure everything made an improvement, but the price of the latest Keel and Ekos was just silly. And at the end of the day, no matter how much we dress it up, the basic design has remained unchanged since its inception. There are fundamental problems that no amount of engineering and hype can change.
Bill Firebaugh - the designer behind Well Tempered Labs - is an all round hugely talented guy and brilliant lateral thinker - he’s looked at all the issues involved in vinyl record replay and given us a complete, elegant and affordable solution in the new Amadeus. His expertise has been combined with that of Frank Denson from New Zealand, who is overseeing the production and distribution of this new model. Frank is a bit of a legend in his own right but he's also big enough to just let the Well Tempered’s design and performance take the limelight and quietly work away in the background.
Make no mistake, this is a serious high end turntable - I’ve not heard better and while I have regarded earlier Well Tempered models to verge on quirky, the Amadeus is completely user friendly, a joy to set up and beautifully finished. A class act in every respect. It’s what every vinyl enthusiast and Linn owner has been waiting for - wether they knew it or not!
Vinyl is still a relevant format and you’ll be hard pressed to tell me you have something with better sound, let alone anything that is going to replace more than a 1000 LPs that have tracked my musical taste from snotty little punk rocker. You can still buy new records - and the quality of these is better than any thing we’ve had before. Given I’ve just got an order with new releases from Foo Fighters, Nick Cave, the Breeders, Shellac and REM in you can see that there is plenty out there for all. Anyway, the Well Tempered is for playing records on and I’m certainly going to feed it a steady diet with plenty of fibre.
Let’s look at a few key aspects of the Well Tempered design. Resonance is the enemy in record replay and there are are 3 approaches out there for dealing with it:
You could tackle it with dour scottish determination, machining to ever finer tolerances at higher and higher cost while still maintaining a 30 year old design that while originally a cost effective approach, is out of date with modern thinking and materials. Yeah, it’s a classic but in hindsight it’s also directly derived from earlier 3 point suspension designs. But never forget that Linn made sure that we all know that source quality matters and if you don’t get music off the record in the first place, no amount spent on amps or speakers will bring it back. There is an entire industry in the UK based around the LP12 and variations on it. But that doesn’t mean it's the best way to go.
The second approach is brute force engineering with exotic materials and high mass. Really, really high mass. These behemoths are especially popular in the USA and Japan and command prices reflecting both their size and rarity. Park it next to the Hummer.
Then there is the Well Tempered approach - damping, elimination of tonearm bearings and careful, pragmatic materials and parts selection. The Tonearm is the most visible manifestation of this line of thinking. If you’re used to conventional arms, you’ll look at the WT and simply wonder how it works at all - you have a pencil thin tube, with a shiny black golfball attached at one end, hanging by a thread of monofilament in bath of viscous silicon fluid and a simple counterweight.
The bearing, motor and drive belt all show similar lateral thinking. Only the acrylic platter (generally acknowleged to be near ideal) and plinth are remotely conventional, but given all records are 12 inches and round, there aren’t really that many options there. We have chosen the slightly more racy ‘GT’ variant with the shiny sandwiched arcylic plinth so admit to being shallow and paying a bit more because it looks cool.
Anyway, when the WT Amadeus first arrived, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the quality and completeness of the packaging - it’s always a bit like christmas when something new turns up and to find extras like an electronic stylus pressure gauge and speed checking disc. Now, the Well Tempered is a unique beast and as such to set it up correctly you MUST Read the manual - but anyone who can follow clear instructions and pictures will have no problems. All the required tools and parts are included. That said, less than an hour elapsed between opening the box and music starting to play.
Setting up a cartridge on the WT arm is easier than with any other turntable I’ve met - you can do it with the arm in place (no bearings remember) and the alignment is taken care of by the design - you might find this hard to swallow but the reality is that this really is a fiddle free design. The electronic stylus pressure gauge is wonderful and far more accurate than any other system. I’ve often found the set up of expensive cartridges to be a nerve-wracking exercise with shaky fingers and delicate cantilevers but the WT takes a lot of the worry out of this operation. There is a strong indication that Dynavector cartridges are the prefered option to make the most of the Well Tempered’s abilities, and I see no reason to question this - in fact the Dynavector range spans a considerable distance in terms of both price, individual cartridge character and absolute performance. That said I can see no reason why any other cartridge you have a particular fondness for won’t also perform to it’s best potential.
The Well tempered is also a very practical beast and considerably more robust than initial appearances suggest. My pet peeve with many turntables is their sensitivity to both footfall and acoustic feedback in less than ideal situations. The extensive use of damping, especially that of the tonearm virtually eliminates these problems - tracking is rock steady and the lack of feedback leads to a huge improvement in clarity and reduction in background noise. As much as I try to care for my records, a few still have warps that are more like launching ramps for a stylus - part of the magic of the WT arm design is the way it just cruises over these. And off centre holes plague a few of my favorite LPs - this drives the Linn nuts but somehow the WT makes them scarcely an issue, even on the innermost tracks I almost feel like you could tip the WT upside down and it would still keep playing.
Speed change is the simple movement of the drive ‘belt’ up or down a step on the pulley. Again the belt isn’t like any you have come across before - it’s a thin thread of filament knotted at one point. But it drives the whole circumference of the platter and has no problems bringing everything up to speed. You get a spare belt with the WT and they have a cool belts for life program - any WT owner can send us or the distributor a self addressed envelope and we’ll send it back with a replacement belt for free. Remember I mentioned that the WT comes with a speed checking disc? You can easily check and adjust the speed of the turntable via a small rear mounted screw while it’s turning - not that I needed to as it arrived from the factory perfectly calibrated.
In keeping with the lack of compromise, the Amadeus doesn’t have a hinged dust cover to rattle about - you can get one if required to keep inquisitive little fingers away from delicate cantilevers but for the moment I prefer to have it ready to play at any time. Taking a cue from Sonus faber, we just use a cloth cover.
So in these digital days, I think there is still room for innovation and progress in vinyl replay. The Well Tempered Amadeus delivers this and I challenge anyone to show me better at any price - I think it is an absolute bargain for the performance it offers and is real value for money in terms of materials, technology and design. Everything I see points to it being a product with an inordinately long lifespan. If you’ve got an old Linn LP12 or similar turntable and have been thinking it’s time to rediscover your records, the WT is the answer. If you haven’t yet heard a serious high end turntable then, boy, are you in for a surprise. It ’s ironic that we're at the point where CD is almost an obsolete format and despite all the work that has gone into CD, vinyl has proved to be longer lasting and superior - if you want convenience, an iPod is it. If you want absolute quality and have a record collection, you have it covered with the new Well Tempered Amadeus.
Since the introduction of the Amadeus the Well Tempered range has expanded and the development of the Amadeus hasn't stopped - the bearing, power supply, feet and arm have all been upgraded - so we now officially have the Amadeus Mk2. The GT version we own has been taken even further - the new GTA has a heavier aluminium/acrylic sandwich plinth and the original tone arm is now replaced by the latest LTD/Symmetrex version. So while the original difference was largely cosmetic, there is now a significant performance advantage with the GTA.
Well Tempered Amadeus MK2 including new Symmetrex arm and accessories NZ$4000
Amadeus GTA - featuring a Aluminium/Acrylic sandwich layer plinth & LTD/Symmetrex tonearm - $7000
Well Tempered DPS Power supply - $650
Can't quite stretch to the Amadeus? Why not consider the new Well Tempered Simplex - at just NZ$3000. There's already a great review up at WitchDoctor
Totally Wired Limited
The Terrace Houses
217 Stuart Street
NZ Toll Free