Edwards Audio TT1

This review by Malcolm Steward first appeared in Hi-Fi Choice (UK) in February 2011.

edwards-audio-tt1 The £375 Edwards Audio TT1, complete with the £60  Edwards Zephyr cartridge, built by Goldring, is an outstanding entry-level turntable designed to satisfy those buyers who want to enjoy their record collection while avoiding bankruptcy. It is based upon the rightly popular combination of the long-standing Rega P 2 turntable and RB250 OEM tone-arm. The Edwards turntable ,though, is moderately tweaked and features a naked acrylic platter. There is no mat, and the designer, Kevin Edwards of Talk Electronics’ fame,  recommends that you do not fit one – “unless you really want to mess up the performance. We tried all sorts of mats and they all made the player sound worse. The core design of the P2 has been fine-tuned over twenty five years or more, and it is hard to improve it now without measures that push the retail price through the roof. Conversely, it is easy to tip the balance and ruin its performance with ill-considered modifications. We thought about modifying the bearing to use ruby, which we know makes a worthwhile improvement, but that costs far too much at this price level. Maybe we will offer it as an after-market upgrade some day. For now we simply use an enhanced grade of oil, which produces a clearly audible improvement in the sound. We will be releasing a power supply upgrade for the TT1, which will also benefit standard Rega turntables and those using the same motor.

Similarly, many modifiers spend vast sums of money tweaking their RB tone-arms. On an entry-level turntable this makes little sense: it is like bolting a Formula 1 specification engine into a Toyota Yaris. Having the arm rewired and a discrete earth connection made (about £65 from Audio Origami), and maybe replacing the counterweight and stub (around £30 from Moth Marketing) might be sensible limits here. Anything beyond this  seems way over the top in this instance unless you have money to burn and an enormous passion for tweakery. The TT1 is a delightfully simple design, which virtually guarantees its build integrity: there is so little to go awry. The platform on which it is based, the Rega P2, or Planar 2 as it was known in its early years, was always the de facto and totally consistent sound quality benchmark by which other turntables were judged. Many turntables, even today, still fail to come near reaching the reassuringly high standards of the Planar 2. It might not be the most explicitly revealing performer on the planet but it has a wonderful overall balance of attributes that make it exceptionally easy to enjoy and appreciate. In short, it communicates music’s fundamentals and more with great conviction and ease. The Edwards Audio modifications help it climb a rung or two further up the performance ladder.

The TT1 starts well: it tracks securely and does not make a meal of surface noise. It appears unusually quiet even with my older, frequently played albums – some of which date back to the 1950s. It surprises by producing a stable, solid sound stage with a respectable representation of front to back depth on suitably recorded albums.

It exhibits a very acceptable, close-to-neutral tonal balance that is fully exploited by the bass, drums, guitars and vocals on Rockin’ Jimmy Byfield’s album “Rockin Jimmy’ and the Brothers of the Night”. First off, the bass plays clear tunes with notes that are distinct and precisely pitched, all perfectly in harmony with the lead and rhythm guitars and not muddied or obscured by the kick drum or any euphonic warmth. Cymbals cut distinctly through the mix and they, the rest of Chuck DeWalt’s kit, and Gary Cundiff’s heartily driven bass, urge every track along with true determination and a kind of positive but relaxed, almost laid-back, dynamic… if that makes sense! The groove is gently insistent in an easy-going way that is typical of Byfield and his bar-room rhythm ‘n’ blues cohorts.

On other albums, the piano is portrayed with impressively solid intonation and there is no wateriness or wavering about its presentation. That is a rare and welcome quality in any turntable; especially one with a budget price-tag like that on the TT1.

The 180g pressing of Gwynneth Herbert’s “All the Ghosts” further demonstrates how the bass is tight, tuneful, fast and weighty. Her voice has all the quirky character and expressiveness I heard when I saw her perform live some weeks ago. The TT1 conveys the emotion and humour of her performance with alacrity and never reduces her – or any other vocalist – to sounding like a Karaoke performer. Equally, it renders the relationship between the singer’s phrasing and the band’s playing with true lucidity and precision.

The TT1 sounds characteristically Rega Planar-like, as one would expect, but exhibits a shade more bite and ‘edge’ – in a positive sense – that gives music an enhanced vigour and rhythmic urgency. Overall, the TT1 has all the positive qualities of the Rega P2 and the Goldring Elektra is a highly complementary choice of cartridge. The combination succeeds in conveying all the attributes necessary to make music engaging: it has dynamism, conveys rhythm and timing fluidly, and is secure in its portrayal of pitch information. It is well balanced tonally and has a pleasing openness about its sound: it lets you listen beyond the first layer of a mix and enjoy, say, the backing vocalists’ contributions to a song. It is also pleasingly detailed. At this low price it is a tough proposition to beat.

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