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Funk Firm Little Super Deck
p2 Sound Quality
P3 Conclusion
p4 Measured Performance
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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.

 



 

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