The Amadeus GT truly is a wonderful machine to behold: a record player whose design elegantly combines genuine innovation and extreme pragmatism… and a complete absence of BS. Its designer, William Firebaugh has worked for many years at the cutting edges of technology and engineering but you won’t find his turntables littered inappropriately with hi-tech go-faster stripes, carbon fibre or titanium. The Amadeus is purely and simply, utterly pure and simple. Its wholesomeness and lack of chromium-plated clutter make a refreshing change from others in the high-end vinyl arena where unnecessary and prodigious over-engineering are so often the order of the day.
Take, for instance, the Amadeus’ unipivot tone-arm, whose ‘bearing’ arrangement is constructed using fine thread suspending a golf ball that is partially immersed in high viscosity silicone fluid because Firebaugh’s experimentation, which involved no less than around fifty prototypes, demonstrated that this outwardly unsophisticated approach delivered music far more coherently than others. The design does away with the problems inherent in tone-arms that use ball- or needle-bearings, which need an – admittedly miniscule – amount of free play in order to operate: free play that is not so tiny when compared to the microscopic deviations in a record groove that the stylus is attempting to trace.
As well as the Amadeus GT under test there is also a non-GT version, which sells for around £500 less. I asked the UK importer what differentiated the two models and he told me, with remarkable forthrightness, that the performance of the two turntables was identical as far as he could discern but that the GT had a classier-looking finish. Such candour is exceedingly welcome in these times when so many manufacturers are so desperate to sell customers up.
The turntable, as I’ve already observed, is incredibly simple yet elegant. One could almost describe it as the Heidi Klum version of the Rega Planar. It’s not at all blousy or brash: instead it exudes class subtly. The design’s cleverness will shine most brightly in the eyes of the turntable aficionado who will be able to appreciate the ingenious lateral thinking behind this device.
One element of the Amadeus that is virtually guaranteed to raise eyebrows is the power supply, which is a wall-wart of the type you’d normally expect to find charging mobile phones. However, this is not powering a regular turntable motor but a compact, proprietary, servo controlled DC design that drives an acrylic platter with sufficient inertia to provide virtually immeasurable wow and flutter though a unique, near friction-free, round-spindle-in-a-square-hole bearing. The belt comes as even more of a surprise being just a length of 0.004-inch diameter polyester filament, which is knotted to make it belt-shaped. The motor pulley has been specifically designed to accommodate this departure from the norm. If you lose or damage the belt just sending an SAE to your dealer will get you a replacement under Well Tempered’s Belt-for-Life policy.
The only drawback I found with the power supply, however, was that even having the unit connected to the mains was sufficient to dull and smear the sound of the rest of my system. Both my CD and HD players sounded bloated and lacklustre with the supply plugged into the mains. Thankfully, the offending item can be replaced for little expense: you can pick up a linear multi-voltage 1.2A regulated power supply, such as the one I used, for under £20 that does not degrade the performance of the turntable nor the rest of the system. If you replace this item, though, do make sure that you avoid switched-mode or poorly regulated devices at all costs.
The Well Tempered’s dual layer MDF plinth is as equally minimalist as the rest of the design but it nonetheless provided sufficient isolation atop my Quadraspire Sunoko Vent stand from both footfall and airborne vibration. And I was not playing music at the sort of sound pressure levels that neighbours, if I had any, would appreciate.
The Amadeus is not a design that is different from the mainstream purely for the sake of being different. It is far removed from being a cynical marketing ploy and can trace its origins back to a seminal 1977 paper published by Bruel and Kjaer called ‘The Audible Effects of Mechanical Resonances in Turntables’. This concluded that a high fidelity tone-arm should have a low effective mass and be mechanically damped to a Q of 0.5 to eliminate the side-band distortion – that is particularly objectionable to human hearing – caused by mechanical instability. As a result of this conclusion, many companies developed light weight arms but ignored the damping issue because of the difficulties involved in implementing it successfully.