Digital this, digital that. It’s easy to see that everything around us has gone or is in the process of going digital. For the most part that’s great. Digital devices have many advantages over analogue equipment. But when it comes to audio, we are losing something in the translation. You see, sound waves are purely analogue in their true form. They have smooth curves that flow from frequency to frequency, and change amplitude smoothly. Music recorded on vinyl captures these sound waves exactly as they were recorded. The compact disc, on the other hand, doesn’t capture sound as waves at all. Instead it samples the analogue sound wave and produces a close approximation of it. Some sounds with quick transitions, such as trumpet or drums, change too quickly for the sampling rate and may sound distorted. The sound from a compact disc is simply not as rich as the original analogue recording with many fine details absent. Audiophiles know this and that’s why they prefer their music on vinyl. But you don’t have to be an audiophile to appreciate the warm sound of vinyl. While there are many turntables that can cost you an arm and a leg, there are also some very affordable ones.

Goldring’s GR1.2 is a perfect example of an affordable turntable. The simplicity of its style together with its gray and black finish gives it the elegant look of much higher priced turntables. As with most turntables, you won’t find any fancy displays or lights on the GR1.2. On top of the particle-board plinth (base) sits an aluminum tonearm, a felt-matted MDF platter, and a power switch. Three large vibration-absorbing rubber feet lift the turntable off the ground. A hinged plastic cover protects it from dust.

Made in the United Kingdom, the GR1.2 is a successor to the Goldring’s GR1. It is a manual, two-speed, belt-driven turntable. To change the speed from 33 (default) to 45, you have to remove the platter and reposition the rubber belt manually. Unlike most turntables today that come without cartridges, this one comes ready to play straight out of the box. It comes fitted and aligned with a Goldring Elektra moving-magnet phono cartridge. The GR1.2′s tonearm features a close tolerance, double ball-race bearing assembly. Together, the tone arm and the cartridge give the GR1.2 that more upscale look and feel.

Silver RCA audio outputs and the power cable are wired directly to the tonearm and motor, respectively, and come out from underneath the turntable.

The brief, two-page manual explains how to perform the initial setup clearly. I had the turntable ready to play in less than 10 minutes. Inexperienced turntable users will appreciate the factory aligned cartridge. Essentially all I had to do was place the platter on the base and adjust the balance weight on the tonearm.

As I was setting up the GR1.2 with the rest of my equipment, I took time to look at the overall build-quality of the unit and was impressed at how everything fit together with great precision. Everything from the tonearm to the power switch had the feel of good quality components – no flimsy parts here. My only concern was the design of the plastic hinges on the dust cover. The back and forth bending of the plastic made me question how long these hinges would last.

During my listening tests, the GR1.2 was connected to the phono section of my Onkyo TX-SR701 receiver and Sinclair Audio Brighton Series speakers.

I can’t think of a better excuse to go record shopping than getting a turntable to review. And that’s exactly what I did. I visited a local record shop, and two hours later I was equipped with seven new records to play on the GR1.2.

The first record I put on was Creedence Gold, a collection of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic hits. Right from the start, I was presented with the warm vinyl sound that is simply not there in the CD format. Songs including “Bad Moon Rising”, “Down on the Corner” and “Proud Mary” came through with the details only analog recordings contain.

Next, I listened to a few classics from The Monkees Greatest Hits including “Daydream Believer”, “I’m a Believer” and “I Wanna Be Free”. The detail of cymbals and the picking of guitar strings sounded fantastic.

Fast forwarding a few decades, I put on the Fine Young Cannibals The Raw & The Cooked album. It was easy to see how much better the quality of these recordings was compared to the previous two albums I listened to. These cleaner songs revealed even more detail then I expected. The combination of electric and bass guitars, piano, keyboards, drums, and drum kits come through the speakers in a very lively fashion in “She Drives Me Crazy”, “Good Thing” and “I’m not the man I used to be” among other songs.

Next, I put on Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. record. The GR1.2 brought the stringed instruments to my ears with great detail without ever overdoing it. Guitar picking and strumming was as real as someone playing guitar right in front of me. I was impressed with what realism slightly muted and softly picked strings came through in songs like “I’m On Fire”.

Kicking it up a notch, I placed Michael Jackson’s Thriller album on the platter and turned the volume up a few decibels. Again every song I listened to from this album came through in a new light. For comparison, I also popped the SACD version of this album in my DVD player. Every song I listened to on the GR1.2 brought out details barely audible in the SACD version. Many songs also played subtle sounds not even present on the SACD. The up-beat “Billie Jean” song transformed my room into a good-sized sound stage, filling it with the warmth of analogue music. But the warmth and fullness of the vinyl sound was clearly present in every song from Thriller.

Throughout my listening tests, I was impressed with just how good the Goldring GR1.2 sounded carrying the small price tag of $499. The entry-level turntable performed very well with a wide variety of music. Whether you’re working with a smaller budget or would like to taste what vinyl has to offer, the GR1.2 is definitely worth a listen. Buy a few records and bring them to a store so you can listen to them on the GR1.2. You just may never want to go back to CDs.

(distributed by Justice Audio in Canada) 905-265-7379

$499.99 (Canadian)

Goldring GR1.2 Turntable
• Goldring tone arm
• Cartridge: High performance moving magnet type (Goldring Elektra)
• Belt-drive, two speed
• 12mm Main bearing
• Motor: 12-pole synchronous type
• Platter: Low resonance, high density particle board
• Finish: Grey/black with clear hinged cover

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