I still have to keep pinching myself that the vinyl LP is alive and kicking – and in the UK and many other Western markets, enjoying a slow but steady uptick in sales.
It's bizarre that a music format introduced shortly after the end of World War 2 is still beguiling people seventy-five years after its launch.
And it's even curiouser that most new turntable sales are either for entry-level decks, for newcomers to the format, or high-end designs for well-heeled vinyl veterans.
The esoteric Origin Live Sovereign S/Agile turntable and tonearm combination that you see here falls into the latter category; it's unlikely to be bought by teenagers to play their 'vinyls' on and highly likely to be an object of desire for fifty-somethings and over who grew up playing LP records.
Approximately the cost of a home extension or a decent-sized new family car, it's the penultimate model in Origin Live's turntable range, and the Agile is penultimate in its tonearm range.
If you go up one more step to the respective flagships, the combined price of the Voyager and Renown is such that you're approaching BMW M3 supercar money
.At this rarefied price level, the product needs to do two things.
Firstly, it must offer an extremely high level of performance; there cannot be any sense that turntable packages at half the price approach it in terms of sound quality.
Second, it has to be superbly built and finished, as befitting a true luxury product and (for many) an object of desire.
The Sovereign S/Agile is both – it's an exquisite performer and a bespoke, artisan-built creation that's simply too expensive for most audiophiles to ever own.
TEST AND TRACE
Origin Live founder Mark Baker's approach to turntable design centres around making a deck that is both properly isolated from the outside world and that can deal with its own cartridge-generated resonances.
His company first made a name for itself as a purveyor of tonearm modifications and DC motor kits for belt drive turntables.
This meant that Mark took large numbers of customers' decks in to be upgraded, and while doing so, was able to comprehensively test numerous high-end turntables. “It gave us the invaluable opportunity to hear what certain designs did well and what they did not”, he tells me.
“For example, decks with heavyweight platters like SMEs usually had great detail and attack on the leading edges of notes but could sound soulless and lacking in textural tonality.
Meanwhile, suspended subchassis designs such as Linn's LP12 were smoother and more organic but slightly blurred, with a softening of high impact notes.”