Edwards Audio TT4 Carbon Turntable Review

Posted on 9th May, 2023

Edwards Audio TT4 Carbon Turntable Review

David Price is pleasantly surprised by this cleverly designed and built British budget turntable…

Edwards Audio

TT4 Carbon

£649.95

When it looked like all was lost for vinyl at the beginning of the nineteen nineties, Rega stuck to its guns and kept making its accessible, high-performance budget turntables. Sensing perhaps that the company couldn't meet the latent demand for black disc spinners, Pro-Ject launched in the early nineteen nineties to offer another option for vinyl-starved analogue addicts.

For decades, these two companies kept the analogue flag flying as CD rose to conquer everything – or so it seemed. By the year 2000, the little silver frisbee was the UK's favourite format, and the USA gave it the same accolade around the same time. Then came SACD, DVD-Audio, downloads and, latterly, hi-res streaming to maintain digital audio's domination of the music-buying market. Yet still, LP records persevered and, of late, have begun to rise in sales – to the astonishment of those who predicted the format's demise forty or so years ago.

Edwards Audio started for the same reason, to cater for the relative shortage of new budget turntables. Although not as early to the party as Rega or Pro-Ject, it has been selling to value-conscious vinyl fans for a good many years now. Indeed, things have gone so well that proprietor Kevin Edwards' other brand – Talk Electronics – has just opened a new manufacturing facility in Wiltshire. He makes quirky but clever turntables with an emphasis on performance and value.

The TT4 Carbon is but the latest example. You wouldn't know that it's a sub-£1,000 design when you see it in the flesh and survey the build quality of its component parts. It's a non-suspended subchassis design, as per Rega orthodoxy, and weighs a surprisingly hefty (for a turntable of its price) 5.2kg; it's on the slightly large side of normal at 465x113x370mm [WxHxD].

Its plinth – or base, to be more accurate – comes in a range of colours, including black, grey, red, white, blue and green, which is a nice touch. The finish is very good for the price, and the deck feels surprisingly inert when you rap it with your knuckles. This is thanks to its constrained layer damping, which is basically a layer of rubber-type material sandwiched between two layers of MDF. It's a very effective way of removing resonance without spending vast sums on materials and is increasingly being used in speaker cabinets. A non-hinged, 'drop-on' clear dust cover is supplied.

As is the case with almost all budget turntables these days, the TT4 Carbon sports a belt drive system – an AC synchronous motor with an aluminium pulley spins a plastic inner platter and bearing spindle assembly via a rubber belt. The 17mm platter is made of machined acrylic – which is more expensive than standard Mazak or particleboard platters you see on budget turntables, so it is a pleasant surprise. Once the preserve of high-end decks back in the nineteen eighties, it's nice to see it on a modestly priced design nowadays.

The design of the deck's Talk A4 tonearm is also not entirely conventional, being a unipivot with a carbon-fibre armtube, with various ancillary parts like the lift/lower platform made from acrylic. Normally on turntables of this price, cheap plastic is used in these applications, so this neat design touch adds a sense of quality to the package. The lift/lower control itself seems to come from the Rega parts bin, which is no bad thing as it's made of aluminium. The 'sliding weight and rod' Edwards Audio-designed bias compensator assembly is bespoke, and better than spring-applied bias because the latter tends to resonate. Overall, the arm is a quality item given the price of the turntable it's fitted to.

Before we get to the sound quality, a brief word about positioning. Turntables are, in essence, specialised analogue vibration measuring instruments; being very sensitive to tiny record groove modulation means they're invariably sensitive to other forms of physical vibrations. Like its Rega and Pro-Ject rivals, the TT4 Carbon has nothing for suspension except isolation feet; this is why it needs to be kept away from ground-borne and airborne mechanical vibrations as much as possible. Ideally, users should employ a specialist vinyl sub-table or light and right coffee table if the former isn't possible for the best sonic results.

THE LISTENING

The Edwards Audio TT4 Carbon turns out to be a big hitter at its price point. Despite facing super-stiff market competition, this deck rises to the challenge with a clean, detailed and musical sound that's far better than people have a right to expect from vinyl spinners at this price. Of course, it's not the last word in vinyl reproduction, but it still punches above its weight in a crowded market with several long-established stars.

Any turntable at this price has a struggle on its hands because, by its very nature, it has to use pretty inexpensive materials; profit margins are low, and production costs as a percentage of the total purchase price are high – especially when it's made in the UK like the Edwards Audio. That's why I find that sub £500 designs tend to be less about celebrating the great sound of vinyl than they are about trying to get around its pitfalls. All sorts of issues like rumble and wow and flutter can manifest themselves.

The TT4 Carbon pretty much manages to avoid all these problems. Although it is an inexpensive deck, it just doesn't sound like a cheap one. Generally, noise is very low, and the speed is satisfyingly stable. The deck is sensitive to where it is placed – ideally, it should be on a wall-mounted turntable shelf or spiked turntable table – but it isn't as bad as many of its price rivals that I've tried of late. This means that when properly set-up and with a decent cartridge installed, it can turn in a really classy sound.

As far as the latter goes, I started by mounting an Audio-Technica AT-VM95E moving magnet (£49.95), which is pretty much a universal recommendation for a starter hi-fi cartridge these days. Being a fairly close relation to the much-loved AT-95E, it naturally has a feisty, rhythmically engaging sound but is smoother and more well-behaved than its price suggests. The TT4 Carbon tracked it very well, and despite its unipivot tonearm being a little fiddly to hand-cue, the whole user experience was most satisfying.

For me, the most striking thing about the TT4 Carbon is its general musicality, allied to consummate good manners. It's not a headbanger of a turntable, with a harsh and shrill presentation – nor does it sound sat-upon and emotionally stilted. Instead, this deck seems to make a strong stab and playing and enjoying any long player that it is asked to spin. Swing Out Sister's Twilight World was a case in point. It's not a great recording by modern standards, but there's more detail to be found inside it than perhaps you'd expect. The Edwards Audio deck seemed to do two things here; first, it ferreted around for as much information as it could find, and second, it strung it all together in an upbeat and engaging way.

I found its midband performance especially nice. I suspect its unipivot tonearm was helping here; in my experience, tonearms of this type sound sub-optimal at both frequency extremes but have a lovely, lilting and fluid presentation in the presence region. That's certainly what happened with Randy Crawford's You Might Need Somebody; this is a nicely recorded early jazz/soul classic that showcases this singer's belting voice. She has a very personal, upfront and vibrant vocal quality that makes every song come alive when sung by her. Vinyl LP seems to do her vocals better justice than digital of any resolution, but only when it's played on a decent disc spinner. The TT4 Carbon really made this special; the vocals were dynamic and expressive, and I loved the way the deck carried her phrasing in a most natural way. The same went for the backing instruments, especially percussion.

The TT4 Carbon isn't the most assured performer in the bass; it's not quite as tight and taut as a similarly priced Rega Planar 3, for example. Yet it still sounds good; bass guitar notes on Nick Lowe's So It Goes were a little too rounded, yet still bouncy and tuneful. The overall effect was great, as the bottom end powered the song along and gave a structure to the great guitar work and thrashy post-punk style percussion. Again, I found myself luxuriating in the emotion of the song, getting into the groove, you might say. This was even more striking when I upped the quality of the cartridge to an Ortofon 2M Black I had to hand, which showed the deck's fine information retrieval and sweet, delicate treble.

A considerably more expensive turntable, such as the Technics SL-1200G, for example, has a deeper stereo soundstage, and one that snaps into focus better – plus a tauter and stronger bass. Yet despite being a lot cheaper, the Edwards Audio gave a very enjoyable rendition of every record I played on it. That's quite some doing, considering that it costs less than many manufacturers' RCA phono interconnects!

THE VERDICT

The TT4 Carbon is a credit to Edwards Audio, as it performs well in excess of what you'd expect at this price point – and does so in an attractive and solidly built package that's simply better engineered than is normal in this market sector. If you're considering a budget turntable that's just a notch or two more expensive than the super-cheap, entry-level stuff, this is an essential audition.

Visit Edwards Audio for more information

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    David Price's avatar

    David Price

    David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Applause Awards 2023 Turntables
    Tags: edwards audio  talk electronics 

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