Normally, turntables that sound this deep also sound almost ponderous compared to lighter sounding decks. Not so here. This is a deck of rare depth and detail in that depth, but it is not weighed down or anchored by that depth. It sounds as breezy and light as a Rega, but with the bass of a good VPI and the sort of absence of background noise and ‘inner calm’ that still makes Voyd turntables highly valued.
This almost doesn’t need musical examples. What it does, it does universally. Out came some old faves, and some new faces alike: the Pixies Surfer Rosa album on Mo-Fi was especially interesting, the loud-soft trademark Pixies post-punk thrash can easily either descend into an unexciting slow drawl or a light and loud tizz, but here it was eerily dark and brooding, with malevolent snare drum attacks hitting you like a brick and then going away. The four trumpeters taking it in turn on ‘El Gato’ with Duke Ellington at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival concerts (Speakers Corner reissue of the Columbia album) hit you with surprising force, or – in the case of Ray Nance’s muted trumpet – surprising delicacy, and Post To Wire by Richmond Fontaine is rendered with such beauty and honesty, it’s hard not to weep.
There was no desire to fiddle about here. The package works so well, you won’t want to break the spell. The turntable and arm between them make such sense together that breaking up the package seems like transgressing some moral code of audio conduct (before the TA-1, the SA-1 appeared with Schröder Reference and DPS arms, Regas modded and stock, even Naim Aro arms with success… so its place as a neutral platform seems assured, and I dare say the TA-1 will appear on as many different turntables as the Schröder arms turn up on). In truth, I didn’t want to change a thing. Vinyl, for me, got to a special ‘as good as it gets’ place here. I wouldn’t change that for another turntable, whatever its cost.
Finally, a word about the manuals. They are written by a man who knows more about vinyl than practically anyone on the planet, and a person who’s mind works to a logical order. Even if you don’t own – or even ever consider owning – the deck or arm, it’s worth downloading the manuals, because they are a mine of information in their own right. OK, they are geared toward getting the best out of the SA-1 and TA-1, but there are some true turntable gems in there (especially about the relative tightness of different bolts in a turntable system… yes, it goes that deep). If you own the deck and arm, follow the instructions to the letter. Yes, installation will take far longer than you expected and you’ll need some additional tools to complete the job (a blank groove record, a mono recording, a test record, etc), but when completed… wow!
I’d like to say I’m impressed with the Artemis Labs deck and arm, but it goes much deeper than that. I’m blown away by what it can do. OK, so it doesn’t feed the restless audiophile who must adjust every parameter before they can listen and if you want your turntable to look like a glistening chrome aircraft carrier or a recently-cleaned oil-rig, there are other decks to meet your needs. But if you want a stable platform to play your records as they should sound, without all the hassle of fiddling about when set up, but with the sort of performance that has no real upper limit, the Artemis Labs SA-1 and TA-1 might be the only thing this side of Porsche pricing to ring all your bells. Artemis Labs hit the ground running here, by making one of the very best decks around. Highly recommended? Hell, I want one!
Permissible Arm Lengths: 220mm to 260mm
Platter Speeds: 33 1/3 and 45 rpm, trimmable, variable from approx. 25 to 60 rpm.
Size: Motor Controller (WxDxH) 9.5x25.4x11.4cm
Turntable (including feet): 45x35x14cm
Artemis Labs TA-1 Tonearm
Effective length: 239.3 mm
Pivot-to-spindle distance: 222 mm
Offset angle: 23°
Effective mass: 14 gr with Certal mounting plate; 19 gr with brass mounting plate
Manufactured by: Artemis Labs
Distributed by: Cool Gales
Tel: 0800 043 6710 (UK only)