U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable Review
Mike Perez takes this cute looking budget record deck for a spin…
Orbit Plus Turntable
I am a child of the nineteen-eighties, consumed by the digital era and indoctrinated by Compact Disc. In the nineties, I got into digital music file downloading, and then more recently, streaming. Nowhere was there ever any room in my life for a format that many had forgotten about – vinyl. Until its resurgence began around 2006, that is…
Since then, ever more people have got into black plastic, discovering that they love everything from its smooth, musical sound to the ritual that goes along with playing vinyl discs. U-Turn Audio has aimed its products fairly and squarely at such people and made a business of offering folks a product that’s simple to use, looks good, sounds nice and feels good to own at a reasonable price.
The company is a relatively new startup created by three young entrepreneurs inside a garage of the small town of Woburn, MA, just north of Boston. Their concept is to make analog audio accessible to more people by keeping prices low and quality high. Each turntable is assembled by hand in-house, with parts procured from local suppliers. This is a great practice for many smaller businesses seeking a way to build using quality parts and help other small companies at the same time. It’s a win-win.
The Orbit Plus turntable sits right in the middle of its range, being neither its entry-level product nor its flagship. Some of the features are customizable depending on preference and budget. You can choose up to six different colors on the Plus, as well as whether you want a phono preamplifier built-in or not. It comes fitted as standard with an Ortofon OM5E moving magnet cartridge, a popular budget design that’s great for entry-level hi-fi decks. Measuring 16.75x12.5x4.25” and weighing in at 12.5lb, it’s a neat looking design. The deck has a claimed wow and flutter figure of 0.125% WRMS, which suggests that speed stability is pretty much as good as you’ll get at the price, and it has a good rumble figure of -63dB.
GOING FOR A SPIN
On receiving the Orbit Plus in the mail, I was tingling with anticipation. As I carved a line through the branded packaging tape, I opened the box to find a friendly note on top, handwritten by a company representative. The acrylic platter and felt slip mat sat on top of the rest of the contents inside the box. This is a feature I do enjoy about the Plus in comparison to the Basic – the upgrade to an acrylic platter gives the turntable a better look as well as sounding better due to it being pretty acoustically inert.
After setting the platter and slip mat aside for the moment, I discovered the silicone-damped cue lever – which is sold separately ($40) and comes individually packaged. This is a great way to go if you have a shaky hand or are nervous about damaging your stylus when cueing the record itself. The next item I reached for was the record brush, important to reduce surface noise from dust particles and static. Also supplied was a Ziplock bag containing the drive belt, RCA phono cables, complimentary sticker and setup guide. To the right was the AC adapter. Below the accessories were the branded plastic dust cover, and then finally onto the well-packaged turntable itself…
The deck proved very easy to assemble because it was largely put together already. Not having to level the tonearm took a lot of the hard work out of the process, creating more time for listening than assembling. The acrylic platter fitted well, and the drive belt was a snug fit around the motor pulley. The motor is suspended on rubber dampeners to help stop noise from getting into the plinth. The cueing lever slides right under the tonearm, fitting well and working seamlessly.
Once I fitted the dust cover, plugged in the AC adapter and connected the turntable to U-Turn’s Pluto Phono Preamp ($99) – which I purchased separately – things were looking good. I connected the phono preamp to one of the RCA line inputs on my Parasound P6 preamplifier, which drives a Starke Sound AD4.320 Class D power amplifier and then on to my KLH Model Five loudspeakers, complete with Starke Sound SUB35 12” subwoofer.
I couldn’t wait any longer. I grabbed the brand new album I had just purchased specifically for this project, The Greatest Showman original soundtrack. I lifted the tonearm and gently set it on top of the album. I slowly lowered the cueing lever, only to watch the Ortofon’s elliptical diamond stylus glide sweetly along my new record’s groove. First impressions were great, with a smooth, even sound blessed with delicacy and balance. I heard none of the traditional cheap vinyl nasties – the things that digital lovers always criticize about LP records. Instead, the lack of background noise was astonishing.
The Greatest Showman proved a test of this turntable’s capabilities; the tracks are performed by the actors from the feature film. With the loud and pop-friendly production of the song The Greatest Show, I was able to see how well the U-Turn handled bass and midband frequencies – especially vocals. Also, the soundstage was wide enough to say with confidence that this turntable can deliver an immersive listening experience. I played the album right through, rather than flicking through tracks digital-style, and enjoyed the authentic Broadway feel. Frankly, I hadn’t expected this experience at this price point.
This deck also does power pop really well. Evanescence’s debut album Fallen has vocals with an almost opera-like feel since lead singer Amy Lee’s voice is not only flawless but powerful during certain ballads. Accompanied with heavy guitar riffs and contagious melodies, the Orbit Plus revelled in the drama of the music. My Immortal is a piano power ballad with a slow tempo, and it was carried very convincingly on this little budget vinyl spinner. Vocals, for example, were smooth, warm and distinctive, and I loved the instrumental separation between the piano and backing strings. This is one of the joys of a decent record deck.
ABBA’s Super Trouper album was also loads of fun, and despite being over forty years old – older than me! – the title track sounded fresh as a daisy. I was so excited to experience how they pressed albums a bit before my time; things sounded catchy and fun, and gave my speakers a good workout. Another stand-out track from this LP is The Winner Takes All, which is surely one of Agnetha Fältskog’s greatest vocal performances of her career. The Orbit Plus carried this very well, considering its budget price and delivered her vocals with amazing force. I was particularly impressed with how well the deck’s OA2 tonearm matched up to the OM 5E cartridge, which tracked very well with no signs of distortion on the song’s musical peaks. Of course, you can fit other cartridges to the deck, but most people won’t feel the need.
At one point, it looked like the vinyl scene was about to die out, but now it’s flourishing – and there’s a whole lot of choice out there for prospective purchasers. U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus offers a great do-it-all package for not much money. It’s easy to set up and use and delivers the musical goods. You can do much better if you spend lots more, but for those dipping a first toe in the vinyl water, it makes a lot of sense.
Here’s a turntable with a clean, classy and simple design that will satisfy many people’s thirst for true analog audio – without breaking the bank. It is way better in terms of build and sound than the really cheap decks on sale out there and makes them look like a false economy. The bundled Ortofon OM 5E moving-magnet cartridge is a fine match for the deck, and has an easily and inexpensively replaceable stylus should the worst happen and you damage it. Also, unlike cheaper cartridges with rougher spherical stylii, it won’t recut your record grooves! Overall then, this is a worthy recipient of StereoNET’s coveted Applause Award.
Based in Denver, Colorado, Mike is a writer, photographer and audio enthusiast. Music was a creative conduit for Michael growing up an combining his interests even led to being tour photographer for Bone Thugs n Harmony. Later years saw him merge his passions together to create Audio Arkitekts, a resource for all who wander in the world of audio. Michael now joins StereoNET kicking off the North America team.
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