Inspire Eclipse - SOUND QUALITY

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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.



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