Inspire Eclipse

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From Hi-Fi World - September 2009 issue


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Total Eclipse


Adam Smith takes a listen to the stylish Eclipse turntable, from new British company, Inspire Hi-Fi...


Despite the resurgence in interest in vinyl going on at present, it is still quite something to see a brand new turntable launched by a brand new company, let alone two in a short space of time! The difference between the two is that the Claro Clarity09, reviewed on page 108, was developed by a company already well versed in engineering, but the Inspire Eclipse seen here marks a completely new departure for the man behind it, Robert Isherwood.


Robert spent thirty years in a career with the Royal Mail before taking early retirement in order to fulfil a long-held dream of making exclusive hi-fi equipment, and the Eclipse turntable is the first fruit of these labours, with the promise of a phono stage to follow in due course. Robert’s approach was a fairly simple and logical one. He explains that, “when I designed the basic prototype of the Eclipse, I had already listened to many turntables costing many thousands of pounds and I understood their limitations, in terms of both sound and looks. I wanted a product that would appeal to not only those reawakening to vinyl, but the younger generation who currently have a high end CD only system - I knew there was a growing market to tap into with the right products, built in the right way, and designed to impress in sound, looks and cost”.


Consequently, Robert did not rush into anything and took time to consult experienced electronic and mechanical engineers who helped him to pull the final design together and finally put his ideas into practice. The end result is a turntable that consists of finely engineered parts, all of which are sourced from the UK, with the exception of the motor, which hails from Holland. Finally, Robert has aimed to price the deck at what he feels is a realistic point, undercutting more expensive decks that he feels the Eclipse is more than capable of tackling head on. So, what does your two and a bit thousand pounds buy you?


Essentially a two-part design, the Eclipse consists of an acrylic base board underneath which are mounted three feet. On top of this sits the main plinth, supported on three cone-shaped metal supports that locate in small cut-outs in the lower base. The cones are more complex than they first appear however, as they incorporate Sorbothane shock absorbers in their centres, for isolation and vibration resistance. The half inch thick metal subplatter is belt driven from an electronically controlled motor, and spins using a bearing and bearing housing that are individually machined to match each other. These items all support a 20mm thick machined aluminium platter with a glorious green tint to it and the boy racer in me can’t help thinking a spot of LED illumination is called for here! Finally, a superbly machined record weight slips snugly over the spindle to hold everything securely once spinning.


The arm is mounted on a superbly machined arm base, and it is here that Robert has definitely thought ‘outside the box’ a little. Resisting the temptation to fit the highly competent but rather ubiquitous Rega RB251/301 variants, he looked further up Rega’s range and, as a consequence, the Eclipse is available with the Inspire Tonearm 700 or Tonearm 1000, based upon, you’ve guessed it, the Rega RB700 and RB1000. The Eclipse can also be supplied with an SME armboard, or without arm, and complete with the armboard of your choice, so there should be something to please pretty much everyone here. Finally, the Eclipse comes with a neat black acrylic dust cover for the platter, and no it shouldn't be used as a turntable mat!


When you are the first reviewer to be lucky enough to have your grubby paws on a brand new design that no-one else has heard, there is always a sense of trepidation – what if it’s no good? How does one break it to a hopeful new manufacturer that actually they need to go back to the drawing board? Fortunately, with an Audio Technica AT-OC9MLII strapped into the Tonearm 1000 of the review sample, I quickly realised that this was not going to be a call I would be making. The Eclipse is a beautifully balanced performer from head to toe, and worked its spell on me very quickly, although I was pleased to hear that, as time went on, the deck simply opened up more and more to become a real dazzler.


Consider for a moment a few of our favourite turntables here at Hi-Fi World; the Michell Orbe and GyroDec with their fabulous soundstage width; the SME 10A with its ‘get up and walk around in’ image depth; the good old Garrards with their bass power that can frighten horses and the high end direct drives with their fleet-footed rhythmicality. Well, the Eclipse is like none of these; it seems to have no intention of trying to topple any of these decks from their respective perches. Instead, it appears happy to sit quietly at the side and simply get on with making music, which is something that it does brilliantly.


Dropping the stylus into the opening bars of Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon’ showed that the Eclipse shines at sorting out the finer details of music and bringing them right out of the loudspeakers. Bryan Ferry’s vocals were rich, intimate and emotive, with the superbly tight rhythm section backing him laid out immaculately. Even better was ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ from the Eagles’ ‘Hell Freezes Over’ double LP, which apparently had Timothy B. Schmidt knelt in front of me on the floor singing for me – impressive if slightly disturbing. At all times, the Eclipse excelled at simply laying out the performance in a way that made me feel I was hearing the band exactly as they intended.



All this comes about as a result of the Inspire’s fine sense of uniformity and evenness across the midrange and treble. This flows together so well that the overall effect is to imbue music with a lush expanse of detail and ebullient warmth, but with a delicious sprinkling of light top end delicacy as a garnish. Acoustic instruments stand out as natural and full-bodied, whilst the Eclipse also easily captures the grittier style of electronic instruments and never leaves you in any doubt as to what is playing. An amusing example of this was a recent car boot sale seven inch single purchase of the Rah Band’s eighties-tastic classic ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ where the Eclipse pumped out the synth bass line with vigour, yet added a delightful tremor to Liz Hewson’s vocals and melded the two perfectly.


At the low end, the Inspire is a solid and musically adept performer. True, it doesn’t dig as deep as my 301 but at the same time it never feels soft, or half-hearted at the bottom end, offering superbly layered detail and a fine dense of punch and timing. One slight caveat here, however, was that this good low end activity only really appeared after I fitted a slightly tighter belt to the deck – the one supplied seemed a little loose and, on occasion, I could sense it slipping very slightly. Fortunately, the Smith vinyl odds and ends box is positively overflowing with suitable candidates and substituting one of these made a big difference. I trust the manufacturer will take note, and keep a keen eye on belt sample variations...


A final honourable mention must go to Robert’s choice of arm – as regular readers will know I admire the Rega RB251/301 and believe them to be affordable marvels, but have long felt that perhaps they are not quite the best partners for some of the exotica upon which they sometimes find themselves perched. This is my first encounter with an RB1000, however, and I have to say it may look similar to the RB301 but it’s quite a different beast. The RB1000 has real depth, scale, insight and emotion and suits the Eclipse down to the ground. I have no doubt that an SME-equipped deck would be a wonder to behold but the RB1000 seems incredibly at home on the Eclipse – they make a formidable pairing.



Having determined that the Eclipse is not out to steal the respective crowns of the turntables mentioned earlier, I have to say that it reminds me in many ways of the Roksan Xerxes.20 Plus, which is to say it appears to have no desire to astound in any one area but to merely to affect an easy air of thorough competence in all of them!


Richard Isherwood took a gamble on his new baby, and I would say it has paid off handsomely, as the Eclipse/Tonearm 1000 combo is a capable vinyl spinner. It does what it does without recourse to any special tricks or eyebrow raising engineering innovations, but is simply superbly designed and built. Offering a fine mix of across-the-board musical ease in a well built and very stylish package, this turntable deserves a premium position on your audition list.


Garrard 301 turntable

Alphason HR-100S arm (Cardas wired)

Audio Technica AT-OC9MLII cartridge

Anatek MC1 phono stage

Naim Supernait amplifier

Ferrograph S1 loudspeakers (modded)


With the Rega RB1000 arm the structural resonances of the RB300, such as they were, have been comprehensively suppressed, possibly by the use of internal damping, to yield a vibrational signature that is all but free of basic arm tube ‘bending’ modes. Also missing is the high frequency clutter that afflicts most arms, as it did the RB300, and this is something of a mystery to us, as it seemed likely to be a headshell phenomenon but the RB301 headshell is unaltered and laser interferometry shows it is in the tube, I am told. Whatever, the RB1000, like the recent RB301, is an even better arm than the basic RB300/250 variants, giving a fantastic measured performance by current standards.


The Inspire Eclipse turntable proved very speed-stable, unweighted wow measuring 0.135% and IEC weighted wow just 0.058% - both very low values. Absolute speed was +03% fast on our sample, an amount that is too small to be perceptible. The Eclipse measured well all round and should give fine results. NK




verdict five globes

Superb build and finish allied to an effortlessly musical sound, makes the Inspire Eclipse a highly impressive debut.


Inspire Hi-Fi

+44(0)1246 568770


- balanced performer

- effortlessly musical

- design, build, finish

- elegant arm choice


- belt slackness on this sample



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