The Roksan Radius 5 Record Player
turntable Renaissance that began nearly twenty years ago is as strong
as ever. In fact, there are so many companies and models now fulfilling
high-end sound, the analogue market may just about be at saturation point.
This problem permeates much of the music business, especially the classical
orchestral scene. So many great players, so few positions. But as the
great Julius Baker once said, ‘there is always room for a great
player’. I feel the same way about turntables. So does Touraj Moghaddam,
head of the English company, Roksan.
first heard Roksan turntables at a Toronto audio show some years past.
They looked well made, and, even in show conditions, sounded really fine.
The star of each Roksan room was the Xerxes, the mainstay and flagship
model. Typically, the player had an Artemiz arm and the top of the line
Shiraz cartridge. If set up correctly, this combo always made great music.
Now over twenty years old, the Xerxes has been upgraded and is selling
as well as ever. The TMS turntable held the middle ground of Roksan’s
range, but they needed an ‘entry-level’ model to complete
the cycle. Thus, the Radius 5 was born.
When I first saw the 'table,
I’ll admit to a little smile. It seems that every analogue company
now designs a circular table. Plinth/chassis matching the platter. This
style player has become the norm for inexpensive players ever since Wilson
was introduced almost ten years ago. Most look good, Roksan’s looks
stunning. A postmodern, acrylic beauty with curves in all the right places.
One of the problems with the circular
design, however, is getting a stable platform for the motor and arm assembly.
Some do not get this right. Roksan’s solution is to add ‘ears’
to the lower plinth’s ‘face’. It sets a very stable
platform for the motor and arms to do their respective jobs. The player
does not use any suspension
The best turntables always
separate the motor from the sub chassis/plinth. Even the quietest and
smoothest of motors can add minute amounts of vibration that cloud the
sound or muddy the bass. With the improvement of motors, designers can
attach the motor housing to the sub chassis/plinth and get amazing results.
Twas so for the Radius 5. Roksan incorporates an AC synchronous motor,
using the left ‘ear’ for its home. The motor’s spindle
floats unencumbered from the base through a precision-drilled hole –
it accepts the rubber belt, and with but a small wobble at startup, whirs
quickly up to 33 (45 is maintained by lowering the belt to a larger notch
on the spindle -- the start toggle switch is on top of the motor). The
subchassis is supported by three adjustable, spiked feet.
The sub chassis and plinth are both manufactured from acrylic (Roksan offers the sub chassis in two wood finishes, too. I’d go for the acrylic). Every listener that dropped by stared at the Radius 5 and raved about it’s looks.
The arm that comes with
the player is Roksan’s new Nima. It is a unipivot, medium mass design.
It matches the acrylic of the turntable and looks very happy on top the
Radius 5. The Nima is a perfect addition to the setup. It follows form
and is a knockout performer, especially at its price. It took all manner
of cartridges, from entry-level magnets to quality coils. Roksan's site
describes it as "Combining solid aluminium alloy tubing, stainless
steel alloy and polished acrylic this remarkable arm is made of no less
than ten individual precision machined components meticulously hand assembled.
Nima does not have standard internal wiring, therefore to transmit the
signal from the cartridge the same flat printed circuit board cable developed
for our top of the range Artemiz arm is employed. The unique design of
the transit locking mechanism of the bearing assembly not only provides
a safe transportation method but also avoids damage if the arm is accidentally
lifted off its bearing. The counterweight is decoupled and designed to
mount off-centre thus allowing easy Azimuth correction. Vertical Tracking
Angle (VTA) adjustment provides optimum alignment for almost any cartridge.
The combination of polished acrylic headshell, silver anodised aluminium
tubing and mirror chromed counterweight enhances Nima's looks and conveys
the true lightness and neutrality of this very special arm." Special?
Setting up the turntable
is a breeze (documentation is quite good) and adding a cartridge to the
arm is handled easily – I just reverted to Audiophilia’s easy
setup. I was up and running within an hour of delivery.
I began the auditioning
with Roksan’s own Corus cartridge. It’s a journeyman Moving
Magnet and has sound commensurate with its inexpensive price. However,
what the Corus did deliver, in concert with the Nima and Radius, was outstanding
dynamics, good soundstage depth and fairly good imaging. Sound was superior
to the Rega 3, even the Rega 25, if truth be told. I spent quite some
time with the Corus and enjoyed the musical way it presented performances
of many genres.
When I review analogue components,
I always like to ‘max’ out the arm with the best cartridge
(while not being stupid about it – no Clearaudio Insider on a Rega!).
I was lucky to have a Koetsu Rosewood Signature on hand. It was used for
the bulk of the listening period (the Radius 5 had an extensive stay courtesy
of Roksan's Canadian distributor). When
this well-worn cartridge was added to the mix, the sound was elevated
significantly. Bass was deeper and much richer (but not bloated), midrange
was cleared up, soundstage was very deep and wide, imaging was significantly
improved, and the vocal and instrumental timbres promoted into a different
league. Flutes were harmonically rich, strings had sheen, percussion shimmered
rather than jarred, pianos had weight and solid hammer attacks, and chords
were blended beautifully. As such, the midpriced Roksan was in no way
embarrassed by expensive add ons.
The great LSC 2285 recording
of Walton’s Facade
demonstrated the essence of the Radius’ sound. The upper strings
on this LP can sound a little shrill on budget/midprice setups, but here
sounded smooth and delineated. The bass drum emphasizes climaxes throughout
the piece, and sometimes very quietly. I always heard the instrument in
its own space, and separated from the rest of the orchestra. The same
experience was heard from the castanets (not a good set -- not enough
body), triangle and cymbals. The struck instruments were not ‘splashy’,
but under excellent control by the Nima arm and the Radius 5.
This sound was typical on
all the fine recordings. The lesser LPs (lots of run-of-the-mill CBS and
reissues) could sound good, too. The low noise floor and retrieval excellence
of the setup helped in getting the most out of the vinyl.
What amazed me about the Radius 5 and the Nima was the low noise floor attained from such an inexpensive setup. Only when compared to far more expensive rigs (like a full blown VPI Aries), did the Roksan seem a little overawed – it did not quite plumb the depths of the VPI. I always use a beaten up Deutsche Gramophone LP of Rostropovich playing the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations to hear if a low noise floor has been achieved. During the piece’s introduction, Gerd Seifert’s horn is a hair sharp, the notes articulated very cleanly, and the ambient space is a little murky (Berlin’s Jesus Christ Church). The pitch and tonguing as heard on Regas, Michells, Kuzmas, Projects, etc., ranges from overly blended to fairly clear. The Radius/Nima combo bettered many of the budget and mid priced analogue setups I have reviewed in house. Only the mighty Aries, with it’s outboard Synchronous Drive System, superb JMW Memorial arm and with a Frog attached, got deeper into the horn, music and soundstage. Of course, it is four times Roksan’s price.
A little gripe. I like an
arm lock. I am also a record clamp kind of guy. The arm lock does not
alter the sound a jot, but a dedicated record clamp may improve the sound
even more. I chose not to listen with a record weight of any kind. From
the Roksan web site, it looks like a clampless universe, just like English
compatriot Rega. I'll try and get the goods as to why they eschew clamps
from Mr. Moghaddam.
did have a chat with Moghaddam at this year’s CES. What a pleasant
fellow. He was very enthusiastic about his products and we discussed the
Radius 5 in detail. He is aware of the limitations of price points in
relation to manufacturing, but has hit a home run with the Radius and
Nima. He will be offering an upgrade to the phono cable, which he says
results in an even lower noise floor, better dynamics and instrumental
timbre. I’m hoping to hear this Radius upgrade in the near future
and report my findings to you.
In the meantime, for those of you interested in purchasing your first analogue setup, a listen to the Roksan is a must. There are other fine midprice turntables and arms out there, but few with the premier sound of the Radius 5 and Nima. That it looks like a masterpiece, is a cool plus. The combination that Moghaddam has produced will also fare favorably against many more expensive combos. Analog is my preference, so I want each setup I review/listen to dig into the music as far as my prospective dollars will allow. With the Radius 5, both my wallet and soul would be very happy. Very highly recommended.
is with great pleasure that we award The
Audiophilia Star Component Award to Roksan's Radius 5 Record Player.
Congratulations! - Ed]
Price: US1895.00 (with Nima arm and Corus cartridge)
|Copyright ©2006 AUDIOPHILIA|