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Old 12-06-2013, 02:09 AM
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Roivas Roivas is offline
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Orbit Plus Review - The Prodigal Deck Arrives

Before I begin, I will preface this by saying that it is not a scientific review. I do not own the kind of equipment needed to make measurements. I can only tell what I have actually heard and experienced.

When I received the Orbit in the mail, it was decidedly smaller than I expected. I use an SL-1610 normally, and in comparison this is small and light.

However, it fits nicely on a shelf. I was surprised when I looked underneath and saw that the Orbit balances on three feet instead of four. This was to be the first of several things that struck me about how this turntable is different.

My Orbit is not the standard $179 model. This is the Orbit Plus, which is $100 more. I had a strange mixture of expectations because of this. On one hand, the people at U-Turn Audio are aiming for new, budget conscious listeners. They want to create a low-cost turntable that sounds great. They make no claims about taking down pricier gear, but they do want the Orbit to be a device to entice burgeoning audiophiles. Do you compare the Orbit (or Orbit Plus) to the Crosleyís of the world? Or should it be compared to something a bit higher up?

I decided that what I ought to do first was play the Orbit as most of its intended audience would hear it, without listening to other gear. I plugged it into an ART DJ II preamp and into the AUX input on an old Receiver.

Setting up the Orbit Plus takes less than 5 minutes. It is an absurdly easy process. Everything is well-packed. Initial impressions are that it feels light. The plinth feels sturdy, but the dust cover is thin. Not so thin that it feels overly weak, but youíd never want to put anything on top of it.

Hitting power for the first time, there is a slight squeak from the motor spindle that makes me cringe. I suddenly worry that this might be what some detractors have warned about from the beginning. However, the tonearm feels nice in the hand as I pull it off of the rest.

Before going further, the tonearm rest is reallyÖweird. Itís somewhat flexible, which is not like any turntable Iíve seen. Instead of rigid plastic or metal, it has just enough give that it can flex. This means that there are no moving parts like on many vintage tables, which have an armrest which has a sliding piece to lock the tonearm. This rest does that by itself, and relies on just the right amount of directional force from you to pull the arm free. Itís a strange change, but after using it for a few records it made tremendous sense. Thereís a satisfying way in which the arm feels secure when you replace it, and the non-rigid oddness fades away quickly. Iím not sure I would say I prefer this to the old way, though I suspect it is less likely to snap off over time. It certainly isnít worse than the other way.

Much has been made about the Orbitís lack of a cuing lever. I sympathize with those who feel that this is a deal-breaker. However, I will say that the headshell is designed with a long fingerhold that is easy to grab. It naturally allows you to lower the needle into place. If you have a condition that causes shaky hands, this probably isnít consolation. To everyone else, however, the lack of a lever should not dissuade you.

I played a few different records to test the Orbit. I used a UK first press of Abbey Road as the first listen, just because I love that record. Then, I used all newer pressings because that's what I suspect will be played on this thing for most people.

All worries about the motor were erased when the needle touched the record. There was no audible wow & flutter. The Orbit has kept perfect speed for every single part of my listening so far. The way the belt gears tilt when adding the belt was, again, something that was different for me. However, they straighten out once the belt is secure and, after a few minutes of playback, Iíd completely forgotten about it. Instead, I was listening to the music.

I canít speak for the sound of the regular Orbit, but the Orbit Plus sounds great. There is no heavy coloration or distortion of music. The cart brings out a solid amount of detail. I was worried about the idea of the table being internally grounded, but it was never a problem. There was no hum whatsoever on my unit.

However, it is not perfect. Pops from surface imperfections, a necessary evil when playing vinyl, are more noticeable on the Orbit Plus. This is not to say that itís overpowering, but the sound of very high-level clicks were more noticeable here. Also, on the play-through of Abbey Road, the Orbit got caught in a skip-loop halfway through ďI Want You (Sheís So Heavy)Ē that has never gotten caught on my Technics. I put the record onto the other table to see if the skip was something new (my heart skipped a beat or two) but it played through fine.

So, my analysis of the Orbit arm is that it is very good at bringing out the sound thatís in the groove, but it is very light and that low-inertia makes it more prone to skipping or picking up surface noise than what Iím used to on vintage decks.

I used several records, one of which is prone to severe inner groove distortion. The only table thatís ever played it well is a linear tracker, and I personally dub this record as my gauntlet test.

With the Orbit, there was virtually no distortion at all. It was second only to my linear tracker playing back the innermost part of that record. I was impressed & surprised. This was one of the moments where the Orbit really made me smile (there were quite a few).

I played a few ELO records, the new Music on Vinyl reissues that sound simply supurb. These records have a lot of things going on, with dense layers of instruments, vocals, and beats all coming together. That balance that made ELO such a different-sounding band also serve to make them a good test for audio equipment.

Both A New World Record and Eldorado received multiple listens. In both cases, there were no clear flaws in the playback. The Orbit Plus made them sound rich and full, and I found my toe tapping to songs like ďLiving ThingĒ and ďCanít Get You Out of My Head.Ē

One thing to mention: the Orbitís motor has relatively low torque, so the record slowed down when I used my brush on the records. It's not so much a flaw as an observation. Once the brush was gone, the record was back up to speed within a single revolution. However, for someone used to direct drives, it was certainly something I noticed.

Moving on, the audio cables are interchangeable. This is nice if you are the sort of person that has your own high-end cables, but the supplied RCAs are fine. They do what RCA cables are supposed to do.

The wall-wart is large, but it's off-the-shelf. It's easily replaceable. Also, I like seeing the serial number of my Orbit on the bottom, just above the name of the person who approved my table for shipment. Apparently, my table was approved by "SALT," who signed the label for my Orbit, serial #506.

Everything on this table feels as though it has a purpose to it. The legs provide perfect balance. Everything is rigid and squared-way where it needs to be. This does not feel like a device that was cobbled together, nor does it feel homemade. It feels like a professional product. The quality of its construction is clearly superior to the budget tables Iíve seen. The platter is solid and perfectly balanced. It slid onto the spindle effortlessly and there was no wobble or unevenness to playback. It is clearly precisely machined. The coloring of the deck is excellent. I would highly recommend the blue version. It really stands out in a nice way. Again, not a HUGE deal, but itís a detail that shows that a lot of effort and thought was put into this.

So, with all that being said, the Orbit Plus Turntable feels like a good first turntable. It is basic. However, there are enough details that are done right here that I would notice the lack of them on another table without them. The Orbit feels like its own thing, for better or for worse. And in my opinion, that was mostly for the better. Itís not perfect, but it never claims to be.

When comparing it to other turntables, all vintage decks, I immediately felt that this was similar to a perfectly-maintained Technics SL-D2. For many, this is a solid table that served as a reliable workhorse. I doubt that the Orbit could put up with quite as much abuse as that. If someone doesnít care about new vs. vintage, I think these would be equals. The Orbit absolutely sounds better than the SL-D2, but theyíre in the same ballpark. Thatís a good thing, as the D2 remains a great table.

However, I doubt the Orbit is as sturdy as that one is. Of course, few tables ever were as sturdy as the D2, which is why there are still so many of those around. And because the Orbit is new, comes with a warranty, and because vintage gear is undeniably a hit-and-miss, this would be a solid recommendation for someone who wanted the most sound for their money.

Without spending a bit more, youíd be hard-pressed to find a table that sounds this good. It mostly gets out of the way of the music, with just enough engineering to allow it to bring out the best of whatís on the record. Itís not over-designed. The care that went into it is evident. Again, itís not going to dethrone any of the super-high-priced rigs out there. But itís no slouch.

For price and by virtue of the fact that it has none of the pitfalls of vintage gear, I think that the Orbit should absolutely become a go-to recommendation for those trying to put together a system on a budget.

Tomorrow, I'll add a video to augment this. Iíll highlight a few things I didnít post here. If anyone has any questions, post them and Iíll answer as many as I can.

If youíve gotten this far, thanks for reading. I hope this was enjoyable and/or helpful.
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:14 AM
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wushuliu wushuliu is offline
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Outstanding review. Which cart is on this again?
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:18 AM
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Roivas Roivas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wushuliu View Post
Outstanding review. Which cart is on this again?
Thanks!

Mine came with the Ortofon OM 5E. I think that's what everyone who ordered the Orbit Plus through Kickstarter are getting, and then they're switching to the AT cart. Not sure what the reason for the change is, though that is a very respected cartridge from my understanding.
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:47 AM
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Montycat Montycat is offline
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Great! Thanks for the review.

It sounds like they have hit a triple if not a home run with this and I am glad to hear it. I do have a few comments on some of the topics you address.

- 3 feet is a good thing as it makes it easier to level than 4. The 2 Regas I have had used 3 feet and I felt it worked well

- Also my Rega were low torque as is my AR. An observation as well but not a complaint.

- The enhanced surface noise may simply be the different "voicing" in the cartridge design compared to what you are used to. If you were to have the same cartridge with similar mileage on both old and new tables that would be more telling.

- The one piece tonearm rest design also can be compared with some venerable designs like AR and Thorens, and that's not bad company. They were not without their flaws but they kept it simple.

Once again, thanks for the well done description of the Orbit.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:18 AM
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Thanks so much for the detailed review!

Quote:
Hitting power for the first time, there is a slight squeak from the motor spindle that makes me cringe. I suddenly worry that this might be what some detractors have warned about from the beginning.
This is not uncommon for a belt drive with a low-torque motor.

Quote:
Also, on the play-through of Abbey Road, the Orbit got caught in a skip-loop halfway through “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” that has never gotten caught on my Technics. I put the record onto the other table to see if the skip was something new (my heart skipped a beat or two) but it played through fine.
Hmmm, this is not good. Did you verify that the VTF setting was correct?
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:37 AM
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Naptown Rob Naptown Rob is offline
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Thanks for a very well written review. I'm one of many here who has been curious.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:50 AM
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Nice review

Over all It's looking good for an entry level deck.
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Old 12-06-2013, 07:05 AM
iLUVanalog iLUVanalog is offline
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[QUOTE=Montycat;7342889]Great! Thanks for the review.

- The one piece tonearm rest design also can be compared with some venerable designs like AR and Thorens, and that's not bad company. They were not without their flaws but they kept it simple.





Not to worry about the tonearm rest. I had a similar situation with my AudioQuest PT6 tonearm...an arm that by itself cost more than the complete Orbit table. It too had a "soft" tonearm rest and I never had a problem.
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Old 12-06-2013, 07:46 AM
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Thanks for the great reviews. Comments like this increase my patience as I wait for my Orbit+ to arrive. Kickstart backer but made my contribution on the second to last day so I assume I near the end of the shipping list. Looking forward to the video.
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Old 12-06-2013, 08:52 AM
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Excellent review. I would echo beatcomber's sentiments that VTF should be double checked when the unit is received.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:00 AM
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Thanks for the review - it is nice to see a new company building a good entrance TT.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:08 AM
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Great review, not going to lie, I want this to do well, so I'm ecstatic to hear you enjoy yours much!

The tonearm rest on my Denon turntable also has that kind of construction, it is quite robust so that's a good thing!

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Old 12-06-2013, 09:32 AM
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Thanks for the review Sounds like a nice entry level table worthy of a recommendation.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:35 AM
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Great review. Thanks! It does sound like the acrylic platter version is worth the extra money if one can afford it. The quality comparison to a SL-D2 is a useful one as many have either owned or heard one. If U-Turn has made a better-sounding table for the selling price then it is a real achievement, especially given that the current price of used D2s is starting to creep up into the range of the base table new.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beatcomber View Post
Hmmm, this is not good. Did you verify that the VTF setting was correct?
That could also be the tonearm, not all of which track equally.
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