Launched in 2014 for a whisker under £1,000, the Aurora was the baby in the company’s four-strong range of turntables. Like the original which appeared back in 2003, it’s a high quality skeletal belt drive design hewn from black acrylic with a low-resonance platter. It doesn’t have conventional sprung suspension, relying on the user placing it on a well isolated subtable or wall shelf. The main chassis comes prefitted with an armboard which is drilled for both Origin Live/old-type Rega single-point and modern Rega three-point fixings, so covers a great many bases; other armboard templates are available.
The rest of the deck comprises the platter and the motor. Before the former is fitted, the bearing hub has to be dropped down into the recess on the chassis – the former is said to be a new type designed for faster energy transmission and of lower friction than before. Before the bearing is left, six drops of the supplied “special” oil have to be applied, then the dot on the spindle assembly must be lined up with the dot on the platter, presumably because the latter is balanced. The new, thicker platter itself is made of a visually attractive semi-translucent acrylic material, the exact constituents of which designer Mark Baker will not reveal for reasons of commercial confidentiality. On to this sits the company’s excellent ‘upgrade platter mat’, that’s a fine tweak for other decks too.
Finally, the motor slots into the rear left chassis recess, and the belt is attached. Interestingly, this is a quite a substantial affair and not of the thin and/or thread type which is popular with many other manufacturers. Origin Live says the belt is made from a new material, hand finished for better quality. The motor unit itself is surprisingly large, and the latest Mk3 Aurora is said to benefit from additional damping. Inside is a new ironless DC motor that’s claimed to have no ‘cogging’ effect. This attaches to the offboard power box, again which is said to be improved. Speed control is easily electronically switched between 33rpm and 45 rpm (78rpm is also available on request); juice comes from a low-noise regulated power supply.
Being a non-suspended design, it is always going to be more susceptible to vibrations than a sprung subchassis deck, however, the Aurora proved less prone to the outside world than, say, a Rega. Overall, I was impressed with the build quality of the latest Aurora; the plinth and platter and bearing hub are all particularly well finished and everything slots together nicely. The only caveat is that the motor on-off switch doesn’t feel as swish and modern as one might like. Fully assembled, its vital statistics are 450x380x130mm, and it weighs 10.5kg.
Although the new deck is not unrecognisable compared to the old one, Mark Baker says it isn’t possible to upgrade your Mk1 or 2 Aurora to Mk3 spec, simply because so many parts have been changed. There’s always the option of part-exchanging your old deck for the new one, should you wish, however – either via Origin Live direct or your supplying dealer. Finally, it’s nice to know that the Aurora has a 12″ tonearm mounting option (£260) should you wish to use geometrically correct pick-up arms, and also the option of running dual armboards (£323) instead of just the one. The arm fitted to the test sample was the company’s £450 Onyx.
A fine sounding turntable with the Origin Live house sound, it balances the natural, warm and cosseting ambience of vinyl with a good deal of insight and grip. For this reason, it works nicely with a wide range of programme material, unlike some rival designs which can come ‘on song’ with certain types of music. For example, slip on some cool jazz from Herbie Mann, in the shape of his cover of Summertime, and all that’s good about this deck shines through. The deck managed to scythe through the noise on my ageing LP, and dig deep in to the music. The soundstage was very wide, proving this to be a spacious and enveloping performer.
The Origin Live deck let the recording’s rhythm ebb and flow naturally. Jazz is such a great test of this, achieving so much of its mesmeric effect from the way the musicians hover around the beat. Sadly CD – and lesser turntables – tend to lose this ‘sixth sense’ of the music’s rhythm, but the Aurora did not. Instead, I could hear the beautiful phrasing of Mann’s flute work, shuffling around and delicately accenting the music. It’s this sort of subtlety that sorts out the vinyl spinning wheat from the chaff, and here this turntable did very well. Another pleasing aspect is its tonality; it’s a little more sumptuous sounding than rival decks – not massively so, but enough to make it a better match for often hard sounding budget tonearms.
This natural, well-judged tonality allied to a very organic sense of rhythm makes for a deck that can take on anything. Next I felt the need to get some air moving around the room, so an original nineteen seventies pressing of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy was duly summed. The Rain Song has a lovely, long, slow burning build up, during which time the Aurora showed just how good its detail retrieval was; guitars had an almost tangible quality to them, while the grain of Robert Plant’s voice was eerily realistic. But when the song got into the groove and the levels went up, this deck held on tight; it showed real composure during peaks and held things together in terms of pitch too. Classical music was a pleasure, too. Normally it’s not until you spend £500 or so more than turntables really sing with orchestra music, in my view, but the Aurora was fully able to eke out all the detail from the back of hall.
It’s very hard to think what else you could ask of this £1,000 turntable; its build is excellent at the price, its sonic performance superb, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with its looks. A fine contender in the ‘affordable high end’ vinyl spinning stakes!