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Funk Firm Little Super Deck
p2 Sound Quality
P3 Conclusion
p4 Measured Performance
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FUNK FIRM LITTLE SUPER DECK REVIEW, HI-FI WORLD, MAY 2013 ISSUE

 

 

SUPER SPINNER

 



Tony Bolton gets himself in a spin with Funk Firm's new entry level turntable.

In the last couple of years a lot of media space has been devoted to the vinyl revival that is taking place. As a testament to this there are a steadily increasing number of new turntables coming onto the market. Newhaven based turntable specialists, the Funk Firm, have recently joined this throng by introducing the Little Super Deck.
    This example is priced at £1164 including the new F5 arm. It offers a more traditionally styled machine than some of Funk’s more modernist creations. The combination of an oiled walnut veneer over the MDF plinth, and the gloss black acrylic top plate, give it a retro appearance, rooted in the 1970s, but done in a 21st Century manner. Black or white versions are available for £1100, with other colours available to special order and costing the same as this wood finished variant.
    Lifting the glass platter reveals a sub platter which is driven by a belt that loops around three pulleys. This is the Vector drive system to be found on all Funk Firm turntables. The brass pulley is attached to the DC motor, while the two black ones are unpowered idlers, serving to position the belt so that the drive is evenly distributed around the platter. A switch at front left selects 33 or 45 rpm. The layout is unusual in having the lower speed to the right-hand side.
    Both of these speed settings can be fine tuned by moving the deck to the edge of a shelf and using a screwdriver to access the two trim pots found underneath. The left foot is thoughtfully placed behind this area so that the deck can remain secure on the shelf while this takes place. The three feet are adjustable for leveling the deck.

 

The three pulleys of the Vector drive system can be seen with the platter mat removed.


    The platter is topped by a quite thick felt mat, although the Funk Firm’s Achromat is available as an upgrade, costing £57.60 for the 3mm thick model. A bright blue example was supplied with this review model, and after a brief comparison I did all of my listening using the Achromat. The bearing assembly sits in a brass housing that contains a hardened steel ball resting against the burnished and hardened steel shaft of the inner platter.
    The F5 arm (retailing at £600 if bought separately) is made of aircraft grade aluminium and has a few unusual features. Notably, the anti-skate weight is adjusted by moving a rod in and out of the bearing housing, instead of moving the anti-skate weight thread along a rod. This is far less fiddly than the conventional system and made fine-tuning the bias setting very easy. The arm bearings are housed in an aluminium housing, run in a seven-ball race.
    

The unusual antiskate arrangement. The rod inserted through the top of the bearing housing is moved forward or backwards to apply bias.

 

Setting up is fairly straightforward, although some assembly is required. The instructions are quite comprehensive and easy to follow. The arm requires the headshell to be fitted. This is also aluminium and is secured by a hex-bolt that fits into the top of the arm tube. I am advised that current production models differ from this in having the cartridge alignment slots in the conventional position, instead of the adjustment being carried out by moving the entire headshell along a slot, as in this example. This alteration makes changing headshell an easy operation should you be running, for example, a mono and stereo cartridge, mounted on separate headshells.
    Once the cartridge is fitted (I used my Benz Micro Ace L) the arm is balanced using the large rear counterweight. Once the arm is floating level, down-force is applied by sliding a circular weight forward along the arm, in manner that reminded me of the 1970s Mayware Formula 4 unipivot arm. There are calibration markings along the arm tube, that proved pretty accurate when compared with my Roksan Digital Stylus Balance.
    Apart from the Achromat, there is an optional upgrade to the power supply, the XL PSU (£360) and the deck can be mounted on the Kinetic Kradle isolation platform (£450). Since the deck is unsuspended, it will be sensitive to footfalls when the equipment stand is resting on a bouncy floor, so this may well answer a few potential problems. Purchasers may also specify one of the FXR range of arms, priced from £1350.
    I set the deck up in the upstairs system in the place vacated by the Sondek, sitting on a Voodoo Airtek air suspension support on a Target wall stand. Houseproud owners will be pleased to note that the clear acrylic lid is a standard fitment. It slides off its hinges easily and I did all listening with this removed.


SOUND QUALITY
First up was a 1961 LP by American songstress Della Reese. Hailing from Detroit, she was discovered by Mahalia Jackson and by the late ’50s was building a very successful career as a jazz singer. This 1961 LP opens with her doing a laid back and somewhat sassy version of the old standard ‘Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home’. The backing by Duke Ellington’s son, Mercer, swings along nicely and Della presents the vocals with a bit of a casual “yeah, right” attitude to her voice. The Little Super Deck got into the groove immediately, with some of the most precise timing that I have heard from a belt drive turntable. Della’s somewhat throaty vocals emerged from a point right in front of me and were presented in a very solid, nearly three dimensional way. The sound felt very focused and grounded, with the band forming a semi circle behind her.
    Apart from the strong imaging, the thing that really drew my attention was the snap to the beat. Most belt drives at this price point tend to ever so slightly slur the leading edges of notes. This one had more of the definition that I would expect to hear from a direct drive, or higher-end belt drive.
    Apart from the tighter timing that this gives, the stability of the drive train had another useful effect in producing less disturbance to the stylus in the groove. The slightest variation in rotational speed can cause the stylus to be shaken a little in its tracking of the groove, and this often comes across as a crack or crackle, usually (incorrectly) perceived as surface noise due to wear and tear. The smoothness of rotation of the platter had the effect of making records sound cleaner than they do on other, less speed stable decks.
    Testing this out, I put on a very beaten up copy of Johnny Cash singing Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’. I do have a better copy, but this one serves a useful purpose in testing the behavioral limits of vinyl replay components. The Little Super Deck rose to the challenge well. Surface noise was within tolerable limits and the F5 arm rode a couple of moderate warps effortlessly. At the same time it managed to provide a solid image of 'The Man In Black’ growling away in his characteristic bass-baritone drawl.
    

Once the arm is balanced, tracking force is set by moving the circular weight forward along the arm. Calibration marks are provided.

 

Returning to less crackly climes, I played an early 60’s pressing of Gervase De Peyer performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the LSO. At the time he played principle clarinet in the orchestra and this Decca/London stereo recording shows him in good form. The presentation was very good, with this deck’s strong imaging capabilities creating the picture of the orchestra in front of me. The arm seemed to be particularly well behaved when coping with orchestral crescendos. The sound remained uncluttered and I was able to follow individual strands of the orchestration with little effort. I felt that the tonality of the various instruments was about right, with no trace of coloration from the arm trying to enhance the higher clarinet notes or the string sound.

    I finished off my listening with some pounding trance tracks from the LP ‘Electric Roundabout’. This is mostly 140bpm plus trance, and I was impressed with the definition given to the shape of the hard hitting bass notes. I have played this on a lot of decks and the unforgiving pounding beat can upset some arm and cartridge combinations so that, after a short while, the sound loses some of its shape and pace. The F5 and Benz Micro Ace combination sailed through this with aplomb, leaving me able to focus on the electronically generated midrange noises swooping across the soundstage in front of me.
    I have taken quite a liking to the Little Super Deck. It seems to provide a very grounded and unenhanced rendition of the contents of the record grooves. There was plenty of detailed bass output, whether it be electronically created near subsonic growls, or conventional cellos and double bases. I was able to follow the lines of their tunes easily, yet, at the same time, move my attention to the projection of a vocalist in front of me or the shimmer of a high-hat tapping out a counter beat as Della Reese made sultry noises into a microphone.

 


CONCLUSION
At this price point it offers excellent value both sonically and, to my eyes, aesthetically. The only thing this deck does not seem to provide is a romantic, rose-tinted-lens view of the music. It seems quite honest in its sonic behaviour. It will let you know that a record is past its best, but doesn’t make it the centre of the listener’s attention. The focus is always on the musical content of the grooves. Throughout my listening I felt involved in the music, rather than just listening to it, which is surely the whole point of the exercise. Recommended.


The Funk Firm Little Super Deck,  from £1100.00


New entry level deck with a good sound and affordable upgrade path.

FOR
- precise timing
- expansive soundstage
- pleasing aesthetics

AGAINST
- nothing at the price

The Funk Firm
+44 (0) 1273 585042

www.thefunkfirm.co.uk

System used:
Luxman E200 phonostage.
Townshend Allegri pre-amp.
2 x Quad 303 power amps.
Kelly KT3 loudspeakers.

Music used:
Mozart ‘Clarinet Concerto in A major.’ Gervase De Peyer. London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Maag. London Records. CS.6178. circa 1961.

Miss Della Reese. ‘Special Delivery’ RCA VIctor Records. SF-5112. 1961.

Johnny Cash. ‘Orange Blossom Special’ CBS Records. BPG 62501. 1965.

Human Blue. ‘Electric Roundabout’. Spiral Trax Records. SPIT LP 010. 2002.

 


MEASURED PERFORMANCE
The turntable ran +1.6% fast as delivered to us, which would be heard as raised pitch by some, but speed is adjustable. The twin outrigger pulleys showed what they could do, in conjunction with a good motor. Speed stability was superb for a belt drive, basic speed hardly wandering at all. As a result, there was little wow or flutter, a DIN weighted total Wow & Flutter figure of 0.06% being measured. That’s a trifle worse than a Direct Drive (0.04%) and better than most belt drives (0.12%). Our speed stability analysis reveals just one low 0.55Hz component (33rpm) and little else in the way of higher frequency wow or flutter components.
    The F5 arm was awkward to set up, needing careful adjustment for proper alignment. Our vibrational analysis, made with a Bruel & Kjaer accelerometer shows a well damped structure. The first bending mode lies at 180Hz and a second order mode at 360Hz, but both are low amplitude.
    Measurement showed a belt drive turntable of unusual stability that will have rock steady tone, with an arm that is well damped and vibrationally inert – a good performance all round. NK

Wow     0.1%
Flutter    0.04%
W&F wtd    0.06%
Speed    +1.6% fast

 

 

 

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