German brand Reloop has been making pro audio equipment since 1996, and duly formed a specialist hi-fi division two years ago. The £650 Turn5 is the top model in the company’s turntable range, and is – to all intents and purposes – an SL-1200 clone but without the variable speed control, and with a different paint job…
It is not as good as the Technics, but is still worth looking at because it’s closer to the Japanese classic than you’d think considering its very affordable price. Indeed if you’ve only ever used similarly priced Regas or Pro-Jects, you might be very impressed indeed, as it’s an awful lot of record player for the money.
The 458x162x368mm deck’s plinth is finished in satin dark charcoal, and weighs a solid 12.8kg. The full size 332mm platter is gold anodised, has substantial rubber damping underneath and weighs 1.8kg. The motor is a brushless, 16-pole, 3-phase, directly driven DC affair which spins the platter at 33, 45 and 78RPM. The strobe on its outer rim – complete with bright white LED – attests to the fact that it’s reasonably torquey. For example, if you apply a record brush while the platter is spinning, you need to push down reasonably hard to see it slow. The original Technics is better in this respect of course, but still it’s far superior to your average belt drive. The claimed 0.01% wow and flutter figure is on another level even to today’s top high end belt drives.
The statically balanced S-shape tonearm isn’t up to the quality of the Japanese original, which itself was hardly brilliant, yet it’s on another level to most Technics clones. Indeed it feels like a slick, precision product with its satin black finished aluminium armtube with gold detailing on some minor parts. With the supplied headshell it tracks cartridges weighing between 3.5 and 8.5g and comes with a very respectable Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge, which would otherwise cost you £95 to buy separately. It is pre-fitted and aligned in the headshell, although my review sample had the VTA set a little low. It was no problem to adjust this; indeed all the arm’s adjustments were easy to make.
Although the base isn’t as sturdy as any SL-1200, at least the AC mains socket isn’t hidden away like the Technics original. The gold-plated RCA phono outputs are quality items, as is the supplied connecting lead. The feet aren’t great but don’t feel too cheap, and the lid isn’t an embarrassment either – although I would recommend you using it with this off, for better sound. There are various mods that an owner could make to this deck – from better isolation feel to a superior platter mat, armlead and headshell. That’s the joy of vinyl – it’s highly tweakable. Setting it up is easier than any equivalently priced belt drive, thanks to not having to fiddle around with a belt.
The fast, clean and detailed sound is the sort of thing you would expect from a decent direct drive. It has a tight, controlled and grippy sound, one that plays records in a very ‘matter of fact’ way. At all times, it seems authoritative and mature, which is no mean feat at the price. Spin up The Police’s Wrapped Around Your Finger and you’re suddenly in an expansive soundscape with Steward Copeland’s drumming completely dominating the song. The Reloop Turn5 sounds grippy and sinewy, keeping hold of the drum, bass guitar and rhythm tracks with real precision. It’s so crisp that you can really appreciate his firecracker snare and rim shot fills, and the bass drum is like being thumped in the chest when you’re playing it loud. It’s hard to believe that you’re listen to a turntable of this price, such is its overall control.
It’s good at stereo imaging too, although here things get a little more qualified. The Reloop’s midband is very clear and controlled, but it doesn’t quite have the width of the best belt drives I’ve heard at this price. Instead, the metronomic precision of this turntable draws the attention away from a slightly curtailed stereo spread. It falls back fairly well, showing this is more than just a two-dimensional performer. The spacious jazz rock of Pat Metheny’s This is Not America confirmed this, letting me pinpoint all the various strands of the mix with real accuracy, while David Bowie’s vocals hoovered above everything in a ghostly way.
Tonally the turntable is pretty neutral, with a slightly weightier bass than many price rivals, and a highly detailed midband allied to a lively treble. There’s absolutely no sense of this deck sounding strident or rough, as some cheap direct drives can be. Instead it fires lots of detail at you, and lets you enjoy different strands of the mix as they play along with one another. By contrast, many of its rubber-band powered price rivals are reduced to an amorphous blob of music. The deck’s solid plinth and super-stable drive system at least partially explain its thick low bass, which gave great weight to piano cadences. At the same time, the ride cymbal work up top is well etched and smooth without being harsh.
Reloop’s Turn5 offers a bouncier, tighter and more animated performance than its belt-drive rivals, with a touch more focus too. This is the key to its appeal, not the fact that it’s a Technics lookalike for wannabe DJs. It turns out to be way better than most such clones, so is well worth serious consideration if you can’t afford the latest Technics SL-1200GR, or don’t want to go down the belt-drive route.