The Best HiFi Turntable (The Gyrodec)
The Michell Gyrodec - The Best HiFi Turntable?
This article is about HiFi turntables and playing vinyl records, but mostly a review of the Michell Gyrodec, possibly the best HiFi turntable (record deck) currently available.
The Michell Gyrodec was designed several decades ago and is as much a design icon as it is a masterpiece in mechanical engineering. It still looks futuristic now, and yet a similar turntable featured in Kubrick's 1971 film, "A Clockwork Orange" Over the years it has been improved continuously although always retaining that iconic look, but with ever better sonic qualities. Many of the improvements can be retro fitted either in the factory or at home and the modular design means there is huge scope for customisation and upgrades.
The Michell Gyrodec: What is it?
A Review of the Michell Gyrodec: The Best Record Deck
The Gyrodec is a belt-driven turntable, with a separate free-standing DC motor. The beautifully machined chassis is suspended on three pointed feet and supports the platter on a high quality bearing and an arm mounting plate onto which a huge variety of tone arms can be attached. Polished brass weights hang from the bottom of the platter and catch the light as the record rotates. The cheaper SE version, which costs about Â£1,400 without an arm, comes without any dust cover or case, whereas the standard model comes with an acrylic case and lid. An inexpensive plastic cover can also be purchased for the SE version to keep the dust off the platter. Some people find the cheaper version more attractive because of its simple uncluttered lines.
The standard kit
A typical starter package consists of the Michell Gyrodec, a cheap plastic power-supply for the motor and a Rega RB300 arm, and your choice of cartridge. This could all cost less than Â£2,000, but most modern amplifiers also require a separate phono amplifier. This is what I purchased almost 15 years ago, with a Denon low output moving coil cartridge, and I also bought the small transparent Michell phono amplifier, which John Michell, the designer himself, customised for me to exactly match the gain required for my cartridge (that's the kind of service you get from this small company). This is plugged into an Italian valve amp with Ukrainian valves protruding out of its huge wood and metal case and a pair of six foot high electrostatic hybrid speakers. John Michell unfortunately died a few years ago, but the company still provides wonderful customer service and continuous innovation of this and their other products.
When I bought my Gyrodec it had an AC motor and cheap power-supply, so after a year or two I upgraded the power-supply to the "QC" costing about Â£800. This is a stunning piece of kit weighing in at several kilos and looking like a half scale metal top hat on three spiked feet. It added detail and subtlety to the music due to the smoother and more stable motor rotation. A similar upgrade for the new DC motor is still available, but unfortunately doesn't look as good. It is just a small rectangular box. It does however, apparently sound even better.
The possible upgrades are almost endless and can run to thousands of pounds. A significant improvement on the standard arm could cost in excess of Â£1000, but even that can be upgraded with a more expensive cartridge costing hundreds or even thousands of pounds. I instead opted for a having the standard arm rewired with silver wires which improved detail a lot.
Michell Gyrodec Sound Quality
I worked on the designs of the silicon chips inside many CD and DVD players (low end main-stream stuff) while working as a design consultant, and while, these days the resulting sound quality from a CD can be very good, from a high quality player with an off-chip DAC, they still are not as good as a good record player, nor as visually interesting or as tactile. Maybe I'm biased and rather bored after years of staring at the inner workings of CD players.
The Gyrodec is actually very neutral, so it doesn't suit just one type of music. You really can play anything from heavy metal to classical. The bass is deep and controlled and yet the treble extremely well defined allowing the development of an accurate pin-sharp soundstage. The sound can also be tailored by changing the cartridge, arm or phono amplifier to suit your taste or system.
Books on the subject
Why Vinyl? (What's wrong with CDs, MP3s...)?
Is Vinyl still better than CD, MP3 and other digital sources?
The act of putting on a record is very enjoyable, handling the cardboard sleeve and vinyl, cleaning the dust from the record and carefully controlling the delicate mechanism of the arm. Shame you have to do it every few minutes. There are a surprising number of manufacturers still making good record players, and even a few new ones on the market. Vinyl records are still being manufactured although hard to find on the high street, but can be found on the Internet or of course bought second hand.
Records are the best way to enjoy music albums and the accompanying artwork and the Gyrodec is probably the best record player currently available.
Summary: Better than any CD player
My Perfect Vinyl Playing HiFi
I have my Michel Gyrodeck partnered with a Michell AC motor power-supply, a Denon low output moving coil cartridge on a modified, rewired Rega RB300 arm, a Michell Phono-stage pre-amplifier with a custom-built (by John Michell himself) power-supply to match my cartridge, a Unison Simply Four Valve (i.e. Tube) Amplifier and a pair of Martin Logan Aeon Electrostaic Hybrid Speakers