CUSTOMER FEEDBACK ON OUR MODDED ST150 TURNTABLE
First of all I implore anybody with any preconceived audiophile notions to discard them, if only briefly. Read on and perhaps discover one of the best bargains in analog audio: the Stanton ST150. At $500 this table oozes quality, is a tour de force of engineering and, in my opinion, stands alone against what is possible within its price range and way above. I have heard and used far pricier tables from such companies as Oracle, VPI, Linn, Rega, Thorens and most recently Music Hall and none of them had the heft, feel and overall sense of quality the Stanton has. The closest was the fabulous Oracle...but at $3k.
Weighing in at 40+ lbs the ST150 is built like the proverbial brick...um...outhouse. Do be careful when lifting. As I ...ouch...was not. Just wasn't expecting it . You will be shocked and amazed but hopefully not injured. The arm is a breeze to set up, most notably with its wonderful (cue the angelic ahhhhhhhh here) provisions for VTA. Anyone who has ever sweated, had nightmares, yelled at dog, cat, kids ,spouse, friends, or experienced a subconscious nagging that manifested in every aspect of one's life just below the surface because accurate VTA was all but impossible on your arm, rejoice. Why? There is a continuously variable dial that encircles the entire base, complete with measurements, that allows( I'm nearly in tears here) super fine arm height adjustment. When I say super fine I mean small twists lead to important changes in sound vital to maximizing any good pickup.No more loosening tiny hex screws only to have the arm fall to the base. And, if you are gentle ,VTA is adjustable on the fly. This is huge. Even if the table and arm were merely good, this to me is worth the price of admission.
However, the Stanton is excellent. I too was reluctant to embrace a "DJ" table but my experience with the Stanton has proven such biases foolish. OK, so how does it sound? In a word fantastic. Using the Soundsmith SMMC2 into a Musical Fidelity phono stage it has redefined what I thought was possible for 5 bills. Starting at the bottom the bass is phenomenal. The mass of the table pays off here big time. It is full and pitch articulated, not sacrificing speed (with Heavyfeet in place of the spring loaded feet). In fact, my analog rig compares very favorably with my digital in the lower frequencies and in some cases exceeds it. This became shockingly evident after about 5 seconds of Beastie Boys Hello Nasty. The 10 inch woofers on the Gallos were shaking the room. I have never heard analog do bass this well. The attention Stanton paid to minimizing feedback is very clear at high volume. Crank until your ears split: there will be no distortion. This is very liberating. And just plain fun. Voices are very upfront but in a good way. Check out Sinead O'Connors Troy and rest beverages on your upright hair. The highs are composed and organic. Cymbals have an accurate hit, then decay as they recede into the noise floor which is (with the MK1 power cord) admirably dark. Subtle details are very good, if not up to the $3k standards but who cares? There are oodles of detail on tap that allows the rediscovery of familiar recordings.
The bottom line is this is a fantastic, extremely well engineered analog solution that offers amazing balls to the wall macrodynamics, allied with goosebump inducing microdynamics, user friendly setup and the peace of mind knowing that only it and cockroaches will survive a nuclear holocaust. My analog woes have ended. This I can live happily with for the long term. It is so much better and easier to use than the more expensive Music Hall MMF 5 it replaced it is laughable. Thanks to Pierre, I never would have thought it!. - Jack M.
Before the wow factor subsides a little (which it may never do), I wanted to share with you my initial listening experiences with your truly remarkable modded Stanton 150 turntable. As you know, I opted for a mod that was in-between I and II – call it a I.v, I guess – keeping the digital output plug, but including most of the other Stage II modifications...Based on what I've heard so far, however, the unit is SENSATIONAL. Even with the preliminary settings I've made, in an A/B comparison with my $8K or so existing acoustic front-end setup, I'm amazed to say that your Stanton mod beats it – at a small fraction of the cost. Well done.
As I've been very satisfied with my current analog front-end – Linn LP-12, Naim Aro unipivot arm, Lyra Helikon cartridge, Lingo power unit, Gingko Audio platform and Shunyata power cable – I ordered your Modded Stanton primarily as an upgrade replacement for my aging Thorens 180 33/45/78 turntable, which I've used mostly to play 78s and vintage mono 33s (and some 45s). I knew in a nanosecond of listening that your unit laughably blows away the Thorens on 78s and mono 33s (using two new Ortofon styli). The fidelity on 78s played on the modded Stanton, and especially the vastly lower surface noise on these old shellacs, was wonderful (and, for a vintage music fiend like myself, moving)...In the same way, pre-1957 mono LPs (12" and 10") were a revelation through your modded Stanton – far more depth and realism than I'd heard even on my main LP-12 setup, and only partially due to the Ortofon's thicker, dedicated stylus shape which takes the grooves more snugly...The fact that these were all played via the cheapest of cheap ProJect MM phono stages and still sounded superb underscores the excellence of your unit. Thousands more of these will be played in the coming months! (And these moldy oldies will no doubt benefit further from your steam-cleaner and grunge removing solution, also anxiously awaited here).
The real jaw-dropping surprise, though, came when I set up my Transfiguration Temper Supreme cartridge, re-tipped by vandenHul and unplayed since then (replaced by the Lyra Helikon on my Linn setup), on one of the brass-domed headshells you sent. I think I didn't want to believe the modded Stanton could be so good in a direct comparison with my far more expensive Linn/Naim/Lyra rig. But it was. Better, in fact. More clarity in detail, more finely delineated presentation (particularly of transients – OMG), more sweetness, more breathtaking reality and holographic recreation of the event. (Makes me wish I'd saved my $8K!) I started with a Playa album, Harpes Indiennes, with mostly Mexican harp music and harp-backed singing trios and quartets. Holy Toledo! I have NEVER heard each of the beans in the maracas before (and now I understand the truth of that audiophile cliché)... nearly perfect and hugely satisfying in every way, particularly when I remembered what an outrageous bargain this thing is!! I am gobsmacked.
How much of this is the Stanton, and how much of it are your tweaks, I have no way of knowing – though from my prior experiences with your products, I have my very strong suspicions. Mapleshade produces some of the very finest, most innovative audio gear ever, anywhere, and at any price. It's a crime to audiophiles that you aren't reviewed more often in the Big Two (Stereophile and Absolute Sound), and I hope that products like the unhoped-for excellence of your modded Stanton will go far to change this!
Thank you, thank you, and thank you! – Gerry T.