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U-Turn Audio Orbit Basic Turntable Review


Fun fact: 2014 is the first year since 1996 that over a million vinyl albums were sold.

We aren’t going to argue the merits for vinyl over digital or vice-versa (future blog post, perhaps), but we know a lot of people who purchase Klipsch speakers have a great affinity for listening to music “the old way.”

With this mini-revolution in sales, companies across the world have been quick to pedal products to support this revitalized medium. Of course, that means a lot of these products (we won’t name names) are not quite up to snuff and we wouldn’t recommend them with our speakers.

Peter Maltzan, Bob Hertig and Ben Carter founded U-Turn Audio as a Kickstarter project in 2014 “to make great vinyl listening simple and more affordable.”

Starting with a modest goal of $60,000, the three “vinyl lovers” saw a remarkable demand, almost quadrupling their target by finishing their Kickstarter with $233,940.

So, does U-Turn Audio live up to its mission AND deliver on quality? Read on…

U-Turn Orbit White Turntable

FEATURES

U-Turn has two options in its turntable lineup. At $179, there is the Orbit Basic and for $299, there is the Orbit Plus.

Both turntables are belt-driven and employ moving magnet (MM) cartridges with the Orbit Plus utilizing a higher-end cartridge from Grado Labs. More expensive turntables may use moving coil cartridges and may require a more expensive phono pre-amp, but MM cartridges are standard for recreational use.

One of the other key differences between the two models is that the Orbit Plus has an acrylic platter while the Orbit Basic uses a MDF one. The former will have better speed consistency and tighter bass according to U-Turn.

There are a couple features missing that you may find in more expensive turntables such as automation and programming but the company isn’t pretending to take on that market quite yet.

For the rest of this review we will be focusing on the Orbit Basic model, as it is the one we have put through the paces at Klipsch HQ.

Full lists of specifications and features for both versions are below.

Orbit Basic

Features Specs In the box
Unipivot tonearm Dimensions: 5 x 17 x 13" Orbit turntable
MM cartridge (Audio-Technica CN5625AL) Weight: 11 lbs Dust cover
Fully manual belt-drive W&F: 0.175% (WTD) Drive belt
Two speed pulley (33/45) S/N ratio:  -79 dBA Felt mat
24V Synchronous motor Rumble: -63 dBA AC adapter
Machined MDF plinth Power supply 115V/60Hz Shielded RCA cables
Vibration damping feet 24V synchronous motor Setup guide

Orbit Plus

Features Specs In the box
Unipivot tonearm Dimensions: 5 x 17 x 13" Orbit turntable
MM cartridge (Grado Black1) Weight: 12.5 lbs Dust cover
Fully manual belt-drive W&F: 0.125% (WTD) Drive belt
Two speed pulley (33/45) S/N ratio:  -79 dBA Felt mat
Machined MDF plinth Rumble: -63 dBA AC adapter
Precision acrylic platter Power supply 115V/60Hz Shielded RCA cables
Vibration damping feet 24V synchronous motor Setup guide

SETUP

Setting up a turntable (like speakers) can sometimes feel daunting but U-Turn Audio has really made it a cinch with the Orbit Basic.
Place the platter over the spindle, plug in the power cord, slide the plastic shield on, and then attach the belt by wrapping it around the pulley and then the platter. After that, plug the included cable into your receiver or phono pre-amp (which we attached to our Klipsch Reference II Bookshelf Speakers) and you’re good to go!

Simple enough, right? This is about as easy as it comes.

The tracking force does not need to be calibrated as the Orbit Basic (and the Orbit Plus) comes optimized for its included cartridge. You do have the option to upgrade your cartridge

If this sound confusing to you, U-Turn includes helpful instructions with videos on its website.

U-Turn Orbit Basic Turntable Black


DESIGN

The Orbit Basic is quite beautiful in a minimalistic sense. There are no unnecessary materials or “gee whiz” design flourishes that detract from its design. It really is something we would place anywhere in the home or office and it wouldn’t look out of place. Perhaps the greatest compliment we can give it is that it looks way more expensive than it really is.

Both the Orbit Basic and Orbit Plus come in black, white, green or blue. We went with the black version because we are Klipsch after all. (How cool would it be to have a black and copper version?!)

One of our favorite parts of U-Turn’s offerings is that the speakers are assembled by hand in the United States, much like our own Heritage Speakers. Assembly occurs in their Woburn, Massachusetts workshop, just a few miles away from Boston. The majority of parts also come from within the country as the acrylic platters are turned in Ohio and plinths find their way from Minnesota.

Combined with U-Turn’s one year warranty, we really feel like these turntables are something you will use (and love) for quite some time.

SOUND QUALITY

So far, we’ve concluded that the Orbit Basic is affordable, easy to setup and boasts a quality build, but how does it sound?

Pretty darn good.

We tested out the turntable with a variety of albums from Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around to a more recent album like Sam Smith’s You’re Not the Only One.

The Orbit Basic really helped deliver a sound experience that we enjoyed and complimented our entire product range. It boasts a beautiful, warm analog sound with crisp highs and good definition.

We played the albums through a variety of speakers including the Klipsch Reference R-15M bookshelf speakers, Reference RB-61 II bookshelf speakers, Reference RF-7 II floorstanding speakers as well as the Klipsch La Scala II speakers from the Heritage Series.

Now, we hear a lot of people asking, “Which one of your speakers is best for vinyl playback?” There really is no right answer. All of our speakers are going to sound great through the Orbit Basic turntable. Klipsch Heritage speakers are a classic pairing with a vinyl setup as they were designed for the format. That being said, you will still get quite a lot of joy with the R-15M speakers, which we used, at the Music City Food + Wine Festival in Nashville.


U-Turn Orbit Basic with Klipsch Speakers

RECOMMENDATION

We won’t mince words here – U-Turn Audio definitely has our recommendation. In fact, we like them so much that we’re bringing a bunch of their turntables to Las Vegas to use in our booth at CES 2015.

Between its design, made in America roots and extraordinary value, the U-Turn turntable is definitely a great pick up for someone looking to get back into their vinyl collection or someone just testing the water with this once-forgotten medium.

The “old way” never sounded so good…especially for $179.

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