Consonance’s Die Walküre is the biggest record player I’ve encountered at this price point. A rounded triangle shape that, when coupled with its aluminium subchassis, will accommodate up to three tonearms.
Starting at the bottom there are three aluminium feet of the adjustable variety, these have cups for squash balls at the top and these form the primary suspension or isolation system for the turntable. When the whole thing is assembled, there appears to be very little compliance in this suspension, so it’s likely to be support sensitive as a result, but which turntable isn’t?
The wood is however very thick, 90mm in total, and this will soak up higher frequency vibration quite effectively. Variations in its density will also break up standing waves, something that the shape should also help to disperse. Atop the woodwork is a cast aluminium subchassis that sits on three brass feet, and provides mounting points for arms. The armbase supplied for Consonance’s T988 tonearm has a single fixing to the subchassis and can be rotated to accommodate different length tonearms (there is a 12inch T1288 for instance that sits on the same base). You can also use the rotation to adjust cartridge overhang, and, as the slots in the Consonance arms are quite short, this is sometimes a necessity. The hole in the base will also take an old style Rega arm with a nut on the bottom, and any other arm that will fit the 20mm hole with a height fixing grub screw in it.
Drive is courtesy of a DC motor that sits at the rear, in between two points of the triangle, and spins the platter with a rubber belt. Most Consonance turntables have used thread drives, and for that matter separate notches on the drive pulley to change speed. This one has a single pulley and speed change is via the separate power supply. This, however, does not have settings for 33 and 45rpm, but a safe cracker’s dial with a locking device. So, if you should want to spin a 45rpm disc, you need to fish out the strobe disc (supplied) and a suitable light to set the speed.
The platter is a 55mm thick slab of acrylic that sits on a short inverted bearing. The instructions suggest you “Fill the bearing with lubrication oil supplied to a level of approx 1mm above the bottom bearing”, although quite how you are supposed to gauge this is unclear. The T988 tonearm is a variation on the unipivot theme that doesn’t have a spike in a cup but a chamfered brass stud in a small bearing race, Consonance supplies silicone fluid to put in this interface and the idea is that you tune the sound with quantity of damping fluid. Which is all well and good but when the cartridge is upright above the record the arm bearing is at angle and, while it works, it looks wrong. It’s not however as frustrating as trying to get azimuth correct with the bell shaped counterweight. The underslung nature of the weight gives lots of scope for adjusting the angle of the stylus in the groove, but it’s difficult to change this by small enough increments for it not to go from leaning one way to leaning the other. There must be a knack to it, at least I hope there is.
The arm wire attaches to a terminal block that fixes to the arm base. Arm wands can therefore be swapped with relatively little faff and the £195 price of them encourages the enthusiast to have at least a nine and 12-inch option available, as complete arms are £795 for either the T988 or T1288. The arm itself is a slim carbon fibre rod with an attractively machined single piece headshell, this being fixed by a single bolt but its not intended to be adjusted for tracking angle.
It took a while to get this turntable dialled in and not just because of the azimuth issue. I started off with the nine inch arm and my cartridge of choice the van den Hul Condor. This has a high compliance and thus a low downforce of 1.4 –1.5 grams, so should suit the low mass nature of the Consonance arm yet did not quite live up to expectations. It produced good results nonetheless, Paul Messenger revived my interest in Laurie Anderson’s Strange Angels recently, this is an excellent record in many respects and the dynamics and imaging it can deliver make it good fun whatever the turntable. These factors were clearly apparent with Die Walküre, the timbre of big drum sounds developing nicely in a deep soundstage and the energy of the music coming across with ease. Timing didn’t seem all that hot however so the strobe disc was given a quick spin, this revealed that the speed had drifted somewhat. Remedying this didn’t completely cure the overall timing issue but it did bring solidity to the sound that made it more rewarding. I greatly enjoyed Leo Kottke’s Big Mob on the Hill, which was not short on vibrancy and had a fluidity that made up for the temporal imprecision. The unipivot brings this quality to everything you play it has to be said, that and a sense of refinement that you don’t get with most relatively affordable turntables.
The bass doesn’t quite have the power that one expects of a substantial turntable; it’s well defined and delivers plenty of detail, but lacks that combination of shape and pace that the best turntables deliver. It has weight however and the ability to reveal just how compressed a recording is, especially if that record is The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. I love the riff on ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’’ and this turntable gives you its girth if not all of the immediacy. But I was pleasantly surprised not to hear how worn the vinyl is.
The distributor suggested I try dispensing with the thread and weight anti-skate, and taking it off did bring benefits, primarily in an opening up of the sound. Now there was more sparkle in the highs and the percussion came into its own, the bass also got more nimble but at the expense of power. I also tried adding a bit more silicone fluid to the arm bearing to see what that would do and found that it made the music more interesting, partly because the guitar strings on the Kottke had more zing but also because the mid delivered greater textural detail. Ian Large at AA Acoustics had said that Consonance is the Chinese distributor for Dynavector and that they use these cartridges for R&D, so I pressed a DV-20X2L into service.
After a bit more tweaking this proved a better match to the arm, it didn’t cure the issues I’d encountered entirely but made better tonal sense and improved the bottom end. The turntable’s strong sense of ease and flow was increased and this made it eminently listenable. It’s still not the most immediate of vinyl spinners but does a fine job with female voice. Rickie Lee Jones still sounds a little nasal on Flying Cowboys but she doesn’t shriek. I also took the bull by the horns and switched to the 12-inch arm wand, this made a bigger difference than usual, particularly in the bass which got more powerful in exchange for a reduction in articulacy. It does make the Die Walküre beautifully relaxed however and with orchestral material I can see this being the option to go for. Those into music with a stronger percussive aspect would be best advised to start with the shorter arm.
Die Walküre is a mixed bag, but perhaps the operatic name is an indicator of the sort of music it’s designed for, so it may just be a case of taste. It’s a lot of attractive turntable for the money and there’s no denying the appeal of easy arm changing or the ability to have up to three at the same time.
Platter: 55mm acrylic
Separate power supply with speed adjustment
Speeds: 33 & 45rpm
Dimesnions WxHxD: 500 x 250 x 500 mm
Weight: 18 kg
Arm tube: carbon fibre
Anti-skate: thread & weight
Length: 9 inch or 12 inch
Price: £2,695 inc 9inch arm
Separate 9 inch or 12 inch arm wands: £195
Manufacturer: The Opera Audio Co.
Distributor: AA Acoustics
Tel: +44(0)1273 608332
http://www.opera-consonance.com/review%20pic/WALKURE/LP_Germany/WALKURE_2012.5.pdf review in German.