Vertere Acoustics MG-1 MkII Turntable Review
James Michael Hughes takes this beautiful high-end turntable, arm and cartridge combination for a spin…
MG-1 MkII Turntable
AUD $21,995 | NZD $24,995 RRP
MG stands for Magic Groove – conjuring visions of a turntable seducing listeners with a combination of crisply focused dynamics and smooth, easy clarity!
Designed by legendary Roksan founder Touraj Moghaddam, Vertere's MG-1 with SG-PTA tonearm sits above the entry-level DG-1 model, which costs less than a third of this.
Well-healed vinylistas may find it too plain – and look instead to the striking SG-1 at just under twice the price or the flagship RG-1 at a cool $52,995 in Australia. Yet this model is arguably the company's best value in cost/performance terms.
The MG-1 is made from two slabs of 20mm thick clear acrylic, measuring 468x384x155mm, arranged in two tiers with nine decoupling points. While clear acrylic is the standard finish, there's the option of Metallic Black, Metallic Pearlescent White or Metallic Champagne for $2,000 extra. It feels hefty at 14kg but is no Technics SL-1000R in terms of sheer bulk and weight.
The platter is driven by a 24-pole AC synchronous motor, with a crystal-controlled power supply, via a 0.5cm wide flat rubber belt. The PSU has speeds of 33/45rpm, with user-variable fine speed and phase adjustment, which allows motor vibration to be tuned out. It isn't cast but rather precision-cut from a solid billet of aluminium alloy and topped by a 3mm thick acrylic disc interface. However, the deck also comes with Vertere's Techno Mat, made from a cork/polymer composite. Bought separately, this costs $295 in Australia or $345 in New Zealand.
To quote Vertere, the “Techno mat is a two-layer mat comprising a randomly fibrous top layer bonded onto a cork/polymer compound layer. The top layer provides the record with an almost air-like cushioned support. This air cushion keeps the inherent properties and characteristics of the vinyl record unchanged. The lower layer provides the required interface and connection to the platter in an inert manner. The two, in combination, create the most neutral support for the vinyl record possible.”
The upper part of the centre spindle is removable. This avoids vibrations from the main bearing being directly transmitted to the LP. The bearing shaft is precision made from hardened stainless steel and is said to have a high accuracy roundness/concentricity of just 2 microns. The centre-bearing housing is made from high copper content phosphor-bronze with a clearance tolerance of 6.0 microns. Vertere supplies a special red oil to ensure the bearing runs smoothly, with low noise and minimal friction. The deck is designed to be simple and straightforward so as not to need constant adjustment or maintenance. Although no lid is supplied, Vertere can provide one as an optional extra for those interested.
The SG-PTA tonearm provides excellent performance at a relatively affordable AUD $4,495, with an improved HB version of the arm available at $7,995. A key difference between the two models is the headshell. The SG-PTA's rolled carbon fibre tube features an aluminium type, while the HB's version is made of titanium. The SG-PTA HB also has Vertere's Pulse HB internal wiring over the standard wiring used in the SG-PTA. Here's a more detailed explanation of the SG-PTA from David Price.
From an engineering standpoint, the SG-PTA is a very interesting design – but not quite what it seems at first glance. By how the arm's fulcrum moves, you'd probably assume the bearing was a unipivot. However, this is misleading. To quote Vertere…
“At first sight, the SG-PTA tonearm may come across as a unipivot. It is, in fact, anything but. A unipivot bearing will 'skate' on its point of contact, moving side-to-side and up-and-down. This is because there is no such thing as a bearing contact point. While the bearing contact point covers an extremely small area, there is always some unwanted movement at the point of contact. Although this 'skating' or 'chatter' may be fractions of a micron, the low-level information engraved in the vinyl groove is of a similar dimension. To eliminate any loss of information due to unwanted bearing chatter, we have designed a Tri Point Articulated bearing. Three silicon nitride precision balls and a precision machined pivot point provide support and articulation for the arm. Although the SG-PTA appears to behave like a unipivot, it is, however, devoid of bearing 'chatter', and therefore preserves as much of the signal information as possible.”
While the arm's fulcrum has a degree of lateral tilt movement expected from a unipivot, the assembly itself does not wobble or oscillate despite the lack of fluid damping. Speaking as someone who hates the use of messy silicone damping, this is a big plus point.
The arm tube is made from rolled carbon fibre, and the counterweight features a novel through-bolt arrangement that helps level the arm laterally – essential with a bearing of this type. It's a neat, elegant solution, avoiding the need for an eccentric counterweight that easily moves out of position.
Although you're free to consider other makes of pickup cartridge, Vertere's $4,795 Mystic MC is the obvious partner for the SG-PTA. A low-output moving coil design, it features a squared-off solid alloy body, and micro-elliptical stylus and produces an output of 0.5mV. The stylus is bonded to an aluminium cantilever tube attached to copper-wire cross-coils, with powerful Samarium-Cobalt magnets in the generator. The upper part of the cartridge's aluminium body has three little raised points to improve contact with the headshell.
The MG-1 is reasonably simple and straightforward to set up and use. As with all turntables, care taken over adjustment and alignment (especially the arm and cartridge) will ensure the best sound quality. Once you've set 33/45rpm speeds, the turntable runs very consistently and doesn't seem to drift. Being able to adjust the phase angle individually at both speeds means you can minimise noise and vibration from the motor to maximise its efficiency. The tonearm is nice to work too, but its flat finger lift on the headshell does not have sufficient space for your finger to go underneath.
Transmitted noise from the motor and main bearing rumble is virtually non-existent – this is one very quiet record player! The MG-1's suspension gives effective decoupling and does an excellent job of filtering out structure-borne vibration and footfall. The suspension itself is not floppy or inclined to oscillate when touched, so the deck feels stable during usage. A lovely touch of theatre is the provision of a light situated at the back of the deck, near the motor, which internally illuminates the acrylic plinth. This can be switched on or off according to taste.
My first impressions were of a smooth, open and focused presentation that was solid and full-bodied. The sound was clean and precise, but at the same time nicely relaxed and very effortless. Subjectively, the result was musically communicative, not merely a demonstration of technical exactitude.
As you pay more for a turntable, you expect to achieve a sound of greater focus, precision, and fine detail. Obviously, this is a good thing, but there's always a risk that this extra focus and precision comes at the expense of a certain relaxed ease and effortlessness. It depends on your priorities. Some listeners seek a turntable that makes LPs sound like CDs in terms of focus and accuracy. But while the MG-1 has ample precision and detail, it retains all the smooth liquid charm and relaxed warmth of good analogue.
The MG-1 has a solid, purposeful bass performance. With pop or rock albums having a strong kick drum, the sound cuts through clearly. Other turntables, which feature high-mass and damping, often deliver a tighter, leaner sort of bass that suppresses bass drum beats. Not so the MG-1. Playing Joe Sample's Rainbow Seeker, from the album of the same name, the bass guitar and bass drum featured prominently in the mix. This album can sound a bit bright and excessively 'toppy' on some turntables, but the MG-1 ensured the lower frequencies came through clearly and solidly.
Another disc that came over really well was a nineteen-eighties compilation LP of Phil Spector hits. The recordings themselves are mono and hardly audiophile standard; nevertheless, the MG-1 produced a full bottom end with a robust and solid bass line, delivering a great end result.
Likewise, Vertere's Mystic MC-1 moving coil cartridge sounds warm and full rather than bright and lean. At the same time, the tonal balance is detailed and clear. The 'warmth' (if that's the right word) comes from that full bottom end and a lack of brightness/thinness up top. It plays at a downforce of just over 2g and tracks very well. It produces a clear open sound that is detailed and dynamic. With a voltage of 0.5mV, its output is pretty typical for a low output MC cartridge but not low enough to be a challenge in preamp matching.
In terms of speed stability, the MG-1 sounded super solid and stable. Vertere quotes around 0.1% wow, so the pitch is secure and unwavering. If you hear any speed fluctuation or wow, it's likely to be on the original recording or due to the disc being pressed off-centre. Because the upper part of the centre spindle is removable, it's possible (with some practice and luck!) to 'centre' an LP that's been pressed eccentrically. On the left side of the plinth, there's a magnetic parking place for the removable spindle when it's not in use – nice touch!
Rumble is claimed to be -85dB and, in practice, is entirely inaudible. However, many LPs (and CDs!) have varying degrees of recorded rumble – perhaps from air conditioning or distant traffic. Putting the stylus in contact with the plinth, there's virtually no transmitted motor or bearing noise.
Although highly detailed and clear, the MG-1's reproduction of vinyl does not provoke an intellectual or analytical response from the listener. Instead, it invites you to relax and enjoy the music. Such effortless precision and clarity are qualities quickly taken for granted. The music just seems to be 'there' – laid out right in front of you in a manner that's relaxed yet effortlessly dynamic and often surprisingly holographic. Timing is very good, partly because the MG-1 reproduces bass lines so well. As a result, you always get a proper underpinning of the music.
The stereo soundstage is wide and stable, with voices and instruments solidly located in space. The wide/flat underbelly of the Mystic MC-1 can sometimes cause badly warped LPs to touch the body of the cartridge, but there's usually sufficient clearance (approx. 2mm) for this not to be an issue. LP surface noise is very low, about as good as it gets. This is partly because the Mystic MC-1's stylus tip seems to find the 'quiet' part of the groove, and also down to the purposeful, dynamic nature of the reproduction, which ensures the music is projected strongly and dynamically.
In summing up, Vertere's MG-1 turntable, SG-PTA tonearm and Mystic MC-1 cartridge form a formidable combination capable of reproducing vinyl LPs with effortless clarity and detail, allied to impressive ease and refinement. There's no doubt in my mind that it is among the very best vinyl spinners at or near the price.
An avid audiophile for many decades, Jimmy has been writing about hi-fi since 1980 in a host of British magazines, from What Hi-Fi to Hi-Fi Choice. Based in London, England, he’s one of the UK’s most prolific record and CD collectors – no streaming service can yet match his amazing music collection!