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Wilson Benesch Circle Turntable Reviewed

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Wilson_Benesch_Circle_turntable.gifNo puns about 'squaring the circle', 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken?', 'circle jerks' or any of that stuff: the most-obviously named turntable since the Revolver is exactly the dream Wilson Benesch watchers hoped it would be. Its shape, its simplicity, its performance and, yes, its name say more than any witty header. After tormenting the poor for years with its original, primarily-carbon-fibre turntable and ACT One tonearms and price tags of the mid-to-high four-figure variety, WB has come up with a front-end so populist in its pricing, packaging and presentation that it inspired over 100 visitors to place firm orders at the Hi-Fi Show.

It's that seductive. There have been round-chassis'd turntables before, decks which look 'plinthless' and are therefore so compact and so boldly utilitarian as to exile any thoughts of gilding said lillies. But the Circle has an added extra, and that's Wilson Benesch's track record (yup, two LP-related puns in one phrase...). Admittedly, WB's reputation rests on its high-end achievements, and audio is notorious for fostering the belief that high-end brands can down-size/down-grade with ease. Only to fail. The question begged, then, must be: Is the Circle a proper Wilson-Benesch design?

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As the company states in its pitch, the Circle is "simple, solid and highly functional." Unlike its dearer, suspended sub-chassis sibling, the Circle is designed to be cretin-proof. And as the company is no stranger to alternative materials and the applications thereof, it's no surprise that the user-friendliness and modular construction relate directly to both the physical design and the materials chosen, without compromising either. I'm not kidding about the simplicity: Craig from Wilson Benesch had the package up and running in under 30 minutes, . (Compare that to the three hours required by a couple of Linn employees to set up an LP12.) And when he came to collect it, he just picked it up, separated the top chassis from the lower and stuck it in the footwell of his car.

Another Wilson Benesch is "Just add mains!", which is pretty much all that's required of the end-user. Forget bounce tests, set-up jigs and the like. By avoiding the use of a sprung suspension, the Circle emulates such other elegantly simple dependables as the Rega Planars 2 and 3 in being entirely predictable and generally stable, rarely if ever requiring the need for periodic pain-in-ass tune-ups. But some isolation is necessary, whatever you might be told by certain designers who argue that mere rubber feet are enough...when we know that all they're doing is cutting costs.

In the case of the Circle, a modicum of isolation is achieved by the combination of various materials and a basic structure which requires absolutely no adjusting at all. You simply assemble the various parts, the sub-chassis which contains the bearing, arm-board and everything else resting directly on top of the base-plate which holds the motor and on-off switch. It's that simple, and the company probably isn't exaggerating when it says that - not counting the arm and cartridge - the record set up time for a Circle is in less than five minutes from the time of opening the box. (OK, OK, so a Planar 2 is quicker...) Where you get to play anal audiophile is with your choice of equipment rack or shelf. I used a well-loaded Hi-Fi Newsstand with MDF shelves, and suffered only from the occasional bounce when my son bounded in the room.

Wilson Benesch's knowledge and experience with the original carbon-fibre-laden Turntable and arms have led to decidedly clever use of a mix of metals, polymers and what are described as 'advanced composite uni-directional carbon fibre rods', the latter visible underneath as the struts which locate the aluminium outrigger pillars relative to the central bearing housing. The cylindrical metalwork is precision-machined in-house to a deliriously high standard using CNC equipment, enabling WB to meet tolerances which suggest that a Circle sells for more than it does.

MDF is used for the two large black chassis sections, the material chosen for its stability and low cost. And, frankly, it's one of those materials which, if finished properly, doesn't betray its humble origins. Best of all, as speaker designers looking for cost-effective baffles have learned, MDF is dense and dead and its way of dealing with unwanted energy enables the motor to be isolated from the upper chassis section without the use of springs. In common with the big bucks Wilson Benesch Turntable, the Circle uses tool steel and phosphor bronze for the plain bearing. Cost considerations prevented the use of a mixed-material platter, so the company opted for a decidedly Pink Triangle-like polycarbonate platter which can be used or with the supplied (and recommended) felt mat.

Read more about the Circle turntable on Page 2.

continue to page two
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