Back in the mid nineteen seventies, the Revox name was considered by many to be the best of the best. The company was regarded as being a purveyor of ultra high end hi-fi equipment, head and shoulders above even the top US brands. Evidence of this, as if it were needed, was the A77 tape recorder, which was used in recording studios and top end hi-fi systems alike. The subsequent B77 consolidated this, and became a badge of pride for any well heeled, self respecting audiophile with a thousand pounds (or two) to spend…
The company also made other hi-fi separates too, including some superb amplifiers and tuners, and even a range of turntables. Being Revox, these had to be special, and expensive, and engineered and built like absolutely nothing else. They were also expected to have superlative performance and reliability second to none. Not to put too fine a point on it, Revox set out to swat the emerging (and meticulously made) high end Japanese competition like a fly. By the look of their products of this era, you could say that they largely succeeded.
Retailing for £400 in 1978 (when a new Linn LP12 would have set you back £230), the B795 was an extremely expensive device. This was reflected in both the design and build, which was (at the time) utterly state-of-the-art. The 449x142x395mm deck was finished in exactly the same style as the B77 tape recorder, being a mix of grey Nextel finished steel and aluminium (weighing 11kg). It sported a quartz-referenced, direct drive motor (giving a claimed 0.05% wow and flutter), and a parallel tracking 40mm ceramic tonearm that was the subject of no less than three patents, weighing 40g and with an effective mass of just 3g. The deck sports an independently sprung subchassis – a rare feature for any direct drive, and a desirable one too. The turntable motor is silent, as you’d expect, and gets up to speed within around 0.9 of a second.
In keeping with the company’s pro credentials, the B795 does not offer a welter of facilities. Features are confined to stop-start and cueing; the three buttons (up/down, arm left, arm right) being a model of ergonomic excellence. Still, such ergonomic excellence concealed engineering sophistication; the arm has servo-electronics to control its movement and LED optical sensing to detect the end of side, along with automatic muting for all cueing activities. Put a record on, swing the arm across into position and be amazed with the precision with which is ‘clicks’ into place. Then press the lower button, which itself has the exact feel of something only found in the best laboratory measuring instruments, watch the cueing ‘courtesy light’ switch off and hear the ‘whirr’ of the arm electronics-activated lift-lower motor. In use, the general feel of the deck is sublime. It feels like only a Revox can; this is the sort of crazily over-the-top build that the likes of classic EMT and Garrard turntables exude.
The B795 sounds like it feels, which is like a rock – it has tremendous power. If ever there was a turntable with ‘steam roller’ like sonic characteristics, this is it. Having that fine quartz-locked direct driven motor, a massy platter and superb isolation, you can expect it be tight and taut. Bass is prodigious, with a sense of unflappability that you simply don’t hear from belt drives. It’s dynamic like few others, and blessed with remarkably low rumble or any other extraneous noises.
Love them or loathe them, the Revox’s parallel tracking arm is very well implemented. It is smooth, quiet and gives that distinctive sound you get from parallel trackers, with an expansive soundstage, vast from left-to-right, and fine dimensionality. There’s also no sense of an arm moving across a groove (with the concomitant changes in treble response as the stylus heads ever closer to the run-out groove), making for a very neutral, even sound right across the frequency range (and indeed across the radius of the disc). It’s a clean, incisive and self effacing sound; it isn’t charismatic or romantic (as per Linn LP12), but is never less than neutral and in control. It seems to ‘just play music’, rather akin to a high quality open reel tape recorder, indeed…
These days, the Revox B795 is a rare beast on the secondhand market, but its build means that whilst many Japanese and British superdecks have either failed or gone out of tune, the Revoxes tend to continue to give sterling service. A surprisingly large number of 795s (and 790s, which were basically the same but with variable pitch and a digital speed readout) were sold, but you’ll have to look to Germany to find them in decent quantities on the secondhand market. Still, an top example is easily worth £500 of anybody’s money; and parts and service manuals are still in reasonable supply. Not every audiophile’s cup of tea perhaps, but those wanting a superb semi-auto analogue disc spinner with a legendary name on the front should start searching.