Listening to the superbly recorded track “Gone” from Melody Gardot’s first album Worrisome Heart [UJC] on Werner Roeschlau’s new Analog Manufaktur Germany (AMG) Viella 12 (or V12) record player, I had one of those goosebump-raising moments that occasionally make this tired old hobby of ours seem brand-new again. In this case it wasn’t just because Gardot sounded “real,” although she did (and for a good deal more than a moment); it was also because she was sounding real via a turntable/tonearm that (cartridge aside) was virtually the least expensive item in my system. Thanks to the Raidho C 1.1s I’ve gotten used to this sort of thing—well, more used to it—at least when I play highly select LPs back via the $90k Walker Black Diamond Mk III, the $100k+ AAS Gabriel/ Da Vinci ’table newly equipped with Da Vinci’s superb Master’s reference Virtu ’arm, and (the “bargain” of the bunch) the $38k Acoustic Signature Ascona ’table with Kuzma 4Point ’arm that I reviewed in our last issue. But via a $16.5k record player? That has seldom happened before (and over the years I’ve reviewed several such products). Yet... this time it did.
Oh, the bass wasn’t as rich, full-toned, and bloomy as it is through the Walker or Da Vinci (although, frankly, the Ortofon cartridge is probably part of the reason for this, as bass-range fullness and warmth are not its foremost virtues), and maybe the stage wasn’t quite as wall-to-wall wide or deep as it is through those über ’tables (although there’s a bit of ditto in this, as well), and maybe tonal balance was a little on the leaner, “top-down” side overall (triple ditto), but when it comes to that elusive combination of image focus and extremely low-level timbral, textural, dynamic, and performance-related details—coupled, of course, with the absence of hi-fi artifacts like grain, color casts, and resonances—that makes a well-recorded singer like Gardot sound “really there” as opposed to “hi-fi there,” the AMG V12 simply has the magic touch.
As I said in my review of the (much more expensive) Walker Black Diamond Mk III in this issue, audio is a game of inches, and the difference between a presentation that doesn’t quite “fool ya” (even though it may sound great in many hi-fi ways) and one that does (at least on the right cuts) is a step function. Some systems just can’t negotiate that itty-bitty distance between the lip of the next step and its landing. All other things being equal, it takes a great source component (and a truly great source) to give a stereo that final boost up. Judging by what I’ve heard, the Viella 12 has to be considered a great source component.
How this came to pass is anything but a lucky accident. From the age of 14 AMG’s chief cook-and-bottlewasher Werner Roeschlau was trained as a machinist. He subsequently studied mechanical and aeronautical engineering and went to work for the huge German electronics firm Siemens before becoming an airline pilot for Lufthansa—a life experience that comes into play, oddly enough, in the design of his tonearm (see below). Werner indulged his lifelong passion for machining, engineering, and audio by opening his own machine shop north of Munich (for which, see my sidebar), where he uses almost 1 million- euros worth of CNC lathes, mills, and saws he’s purchased to manufacture turntable parts and sub-assemblies (and other precision items) for well-regarded European hi-fi firms. Since retiring from commercial aviation in 2005, it is only relatively recently that he has turned his talents (and his CNC machines) to the production of his own line of ’tables and ’arms, the AMG V12 being his first effort. (There will be others.)
Like the Acoustic Signature Ascona, the V12 uses a beautifully crafted (though not as massive) plinth, CNC-milled from a billet of water-cut aircraft-grade aluminum and fitted with three retractable aluminum feet tipped with steel-copper spikes. Three hex-head bolts and a bubble-level built into the top of the plinth make the precise leveling of these feet a snap. (The plinth can also be had with optional hardwood trim.)
The Viella 12’s 12.5"-wide, twenty-four-pound platter is also CNC machined in-house from aircraft aluminum, with a weighted rim for an enhanced flywheel effect. To provide locomotion for this platter, a precision-made rubber belt runs from the pulley/flywheel of the V12’s two-pulse, brushless 24V DC motor (housed on the plinth but acoustically decoupled via five constrained-layer metal/rubber mounts) to an aluminum subplatter fitted with a hardened 16mm axle-bearing—CNC- machined and lapped in-house. The axle is itself constrained in the bearing well by two sealed, dynamically-lubricated radial bearings and statically-lubricated axial bearings.