Music Hall MMF-7.3

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by WobblySam, Aug 10, 2017.

  1. WobblySam

    WobblySam Active Member

    Messages:
    320
    Location:
    Middle of NC
    In the last couple of months I found myself needing a new turntable. I had two highly defined criteria for my selection - I wanted a TT that was "decent" quality and sounded "good". I decided on yet another arbitrary selection criteria - my budget. I soon found that my budget idea was quite naive. How I came to select the MMF 7.3 and a cartridge would make a nice short story. Being in the "high mass" camp of TT enthusiasts, it became clear that things aren't like they used to be (I know, what is?). Not having bought a new TT since 1998, I came to the understanding that I really knew very little about today's TTs and cartridges. Luckily, I had a couple friends from waaay back who are still active in the hobby and I had a chance to actually listen to a number of newer TTs and cartridges - something that has become almost impossible due to the complete lack of local dealers.

    The MMF 7.3 is the newest version of the 7 series TT. Not knowing diddly about the previous versions, I understand the use of a DC motor is new along with some other ad copy type jargon. It is a belt-driven TT with electronic speed control meaning you can select 45 rpm without changing the motor pulley/ belt location. It is relatively compact at 18.25 inches wide and 13.25 inches deep. It comes with a hinged dust cover. Also included is a felt platter mat which I left in the box. I don't much care for those types of mats. If you like them, that's OK.

    I want to talk about the mass considerations. As I noted earlier, I'm squarely in the more mass is better camp. If you feel differently about it, that's fine too. We all have opinions on what is better. Personally, I prefer a good old 10 to 12 pound chassis sitting in a 10 to 12 pound base, topped off with a 20 pound platter. That's just me. What I learned was that to get close to that, I would have to increase my budget by almost 2X. I had already done that once when I learned how naive I was about the price of these puppies today. So, where does the 7.3 stand in my massively oriented brain? Not all that great. There is a review at Stereophile that says the platter weighs 22.6 OUNCES. Not sure where that came from. The manual included with the TT and the PDF you can download state that the platter weighs 6 pounds. Both are WRONG. My platter weighs 3.5 pounds. I guess it's possible the TT has shipped with three different platters, but it seems unlikely. The base or "plinth" (I had to look that up - now I know it means a TT made from a cutting board) weighs in an ounce shy of 12 pounds. At least half of it's there. The motor and motor base weigh a total of 3.25 pounds. Overall, not bad it seems for the money, but not great either.

    The motor sits in a hole cut out in the front left corner. Why it couldn't be in the rear left corner, I guess is some sort of "design" issue. I like that front corner open to put my record clamp when I change records. And now is a good time to mention, it does come with a decent one-piece record clamp. It's threaded (like most VPIs) and does a respectable job. The motor illuminates a blue LED when it's running - either at 33 or 45. It also illuminates a green LED when it's doing nothing. Right, who knows why. It is very quiet though - no complaints whatsoever. Motor speed accuracy was checked multiple times over the break-in period. I really don't know if a DC motor "settles" in like I've observed on AC synchronous motors. I used the KAB strobe and disc. I've found it to be accurate and have had the chance to verify it with a laser photo tachometer that had a very pricey pedigree. The manual states a speed accuracy of +/-0.1%. My measurements and calculations result in a value +0.07%. I have no real reliable and accurate method for measuring wow and flutter. I know some folks are using a phone app and some test record to measure this. Having some background in instrumentation, measurement and calibration, I'm not sure how accurate those measurements are. Without the test record itself being certified to some standard - NAB, DIN, whatever - and not knowing how the software itself is calibrated, it would seem any test results garnered would simply be relative numbers. I could certainly be wrong as I have not used the app. It just seems a little shaky from my perspective. I basically checked for wow and flutter deficiencies by listening. I took the output of the phono preamp into my headphone amp and listened. It pays to have some well recorded, well pressed classical lps for this. I did not detect any objectionable wow or flutter with the 7.3.

    The tonearm included with the 7.3 "seems" to be a standard Project 9cc carbon. The instructions for set up in the 7.3 manual mirror those in the standalone manual for the 9cc. It's also important to note that this tonearm can use the additional counterweights like the standard 9cc. This is important if your cartridge falls outside of the "standard" weight range like mine did. Several of these newer tonearms seem a little flimsy - compared to something like an SME. Here again, that's just my opinion - like yours, it's neither right nor wrong, it just is. I'm still finding the little dangling weight for anti-skate amusing. I don't know - I'm sure it's just me - but nothing screams "cheap ass" like that little dangling weight. It does appear to be a trend though and who can argue with that. The tonearm does allow adjustment of most of the critical settings and despite how it looks, it performs well. See, what the hell do I know. I would like a little more dampening in the cue lever though.

    The cartridge I selected is a Grado Reference Sonata V2. It has an effective mass of 10 grams and that fell right out of the standard counterweight range. A slightly heavier counterweight was required. Why this cartridge? I can tell you it's not because Grado was at the top of my list. I've never had a Grado cartridge before. I've never necessarily disliked Grado cartridges. It's one of those biases developed from hearing dozens of different systems in the 70s. Grados always seemed rather blah to me back then. I had all kinds of stuff I didn't like back then - any system made up of Yamaha or Sansui separates, Klipsch speakers (God, how I hated those damn horns) and Technics TTs. So, things change and we do too as time marches on. I will tell you that this TT is part of system that has a pair of Heresy IIIs. See, what the hell did I know? Back to the cartridge. I picked the Grado because I liked the way it sounded. Amazing, huh? Do know, however, from my perspective, this cartridge sounded bad right out of the box. Brittle, stiff, whatever appropriate whimsical audiophile term you want to use. Luckily, the one I auditioned had a little more than 40 hours on it and it does make a difference - a big difference, not a little bitty, entsy teentsy difference, but a whopper.

    The main purpose of this TT was to fill a gap in my second system in the den. That system is made up of the oft derided as not a real Dynaco, Dynaco Pas-4 preamp, a Musical Paradise MP-501 tube amp into the aforementioned Heresy IIIs. I use a Michael Yee Phonomena II preamp with the TT. We just listen to music on that system. Actually the furniture is arranged such that there is no "sweet" spot. I don't G.A.S. about macro/micro minutae or any other audiophile what-nots of any kind. The only criteria is that the music sound good wherever you are in the room. And I can say that the MMF 7.3 and the Grado do just that. It simply does what I wanted despite my overwhelming disappointment in what your TT dollars will buy you. Such is my 70s mentality. And please, no vintage vs new slugfest.

    On a different note, I've now got a chubby for a SOTA Jewel.
     
  2. frankbooth

    frankbooth AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,342
    Location:
    Quakertown PA
    Don't you love it when something just "works"?
    Glad you're enjoying the table
     
  3. WobblySam

    WobblySam Active Member

    Messages:
    320
    Location:
    Middle of NC
    Hi Frank
    Thanks. It was an educational and enlightening experience. If it hadn't been for some old listening friends, I don't know what I would have ended up with. It's tough nowadays trying to buy audio equipment. There's almost no place to go and listen to what you're interested in. Reviews in magazines and on the internet are pretty much useless. No one has my exact system, room, hearing, or listening preferences, so it makes little sense to attribute much value to what somebody else thinks.
    Anyway, thanks for reading the review - I was hoping it might contain some information that might be helpful to a prospective buyer on the MMF 7.3.
     

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