Oscar Wilde claimed to have the simplest of tastes; he was always satisfied with the best. But, while many of us would no-doubt - like Oscar - be more than happy with the most expensive product in a manufacturer’s range, there is the small matter of cost. Your available budget doesn’t always run to the best…
So, a product that’s keenly priced to begin with and easily upgradeable, has distinct benefits and appeal. It means you can start with the standard model, and then upgrade as funds permit. That’s the big selling point of SRM’s Arezzo turntable. There are three versions: the basic Arezzo; The Arezzo Kinetic; and the Arezzo Ultra.
The Arezzo costs £599 and features a resonance-controlled three part acrylic plinth with thre-point isolation. The AC synchronous motor drives the platter via a ‘Duo Drive’ twin belt system. The Arezzo Kinetic costs £998, and adds a balanced flywheel alongside the motor, with drive using five (yes, FIVE!) belts.
The Arezzo Ultra is similar to the Kinetic, but comes with a high-current power supply, isolation platform, and lift on/off acrylic dust cover. It costs £1498. The various Arezzo upgrades are as follows. The Kinetic Drive costs £399. The high Current PSU costs £399. The isolation platform and dust cover cost £249. The deck can be bought ready-fitted with the Moth (Rega) arm. The basic Moth Mk 1 (RB-250) with SRM Resonance-Controlled Counterweight costs £130. With Incognito wiring, this increases to £245. The Moth Mk 3 (RB- 300) with SRM Resonance Controlled Counterweight costs £165; with Incognito wiring it’s £305.
I was pleased to see a lid supplied. With open ‘skeletal’ decks like this one, I always feel the stylus is exposed to danger – especially with cartridges that do not have a proper stylus guard. If the turntable is not your main source, and something only used every now and then, having a lid helps protect it – and keeps it free from dust. The deck is supplied with a spongy rubber mat, but the makers suggest you listen with and without to see which of the two options you prefer. I felt things sounded better with the LP on the acrylic platter, but also liked the effect produced by the Ringmat. SRM don’t recommend the use of clamps or weights, especially if heavy.
The platter runs at 33rpm and 45rpm, but needs the belts shifting over to achieve speed change. As previously mentioned, fitting the belts and getting them running as intended, can be a bit of a palaver, So, while the deck can be used at 45rpm, you probably wouldn’t want to swap the belts about too often. I began with the ‘Full Monty’ Arezzo Ultra, and later tried ‘downgrading’ to the different options. It’s probably better if you go the other way, as you always get a slightly negative reaction when standards drop. But, while Ultra offers a big improvement over the other versions, even the basic Arezzo is very good. Set-up and installation is fairly straightforward, though correctly fitting the five belt system requires a certain knack. You have to fit each belt so there’s a slight twist, and each ‘twist’ has to go in the same direction so that the belts run with the correct spacing. It proved a bit fiddly, but I soon had things up and running.
First impressions were very favourable. The Arezzo Ultra produced a bright, open, clear and uncomplicated musical presentation. It’s crisp and focused, with excellent fine detail and strongly-profiled dynamics. The sound was open and airy, rather than rich and warm – definitely no false ‘analogue warmth here! The bass is reasonably full, but not overly powerful. The low-end has a tidy, slightly contained quality that sounds tight and controlled, but not especially deep or voluminous. However, it’s likely a different and better arm (I had the Moth Mk 1 with Incognito wiring) would change this. I’m not saying the bass was lacking, or in any way a problem, merely that it didn’t quite have the power and weight you often get with turntables. In this respect, the Arezzo Ultra gave a CD like tonal balance that sounded neutral and balanced. This wasn’t the only thing that reminded me of CD… Something I noticed from the start was how solid and stable the Arezzo Ultra sounded. Not just in terms of image placement and clarity, but pitch. There was almost no pitch waver – something you rarely encounter with LP. It was almost like listening to CD – and I mean that as the highest of compliments. Difficult piano LPs had the sort of pitch stability I’d previously encountered only once or twice – and that was with Oscar territory turntables having ridiculously heavy platters, huge motors, and massive Wildean price tags. Given enough mass and a small engine you should get a stable drive! However, the Arezzo avoids the Brute Strength and Ignorance approach, taking a different path. It has a (comparatively) light acrylic platter and normal-sized motor – albeit a higher torque version than other manufacturer’s use. Yet it achieves outstanding speed stability. How come? It’s secret seems to be its multi-belt drive. Designer Stuart Michell believes the motor is the ‘governor’, and therefore wants it to drive the platter without loss of torque. Thus, there is very little decoupling between motor and platter, and the square section belts are deliberately kept short and tight to minimise springiness.