The ominous looking and aptly named Dark Star turntable is manufactured by Transrotor of Germany. If you haven’t heard of Transrotor, you might be surprised to know that the company has been around for over 45 years, founded in Germany by Jochen Räke, in 1973. To this day, Jochen Räke continues to lead the company, the ‘JR’ on the company’s name badge paying tribute to his past and ongoing leadership. Transrotor produces a wide range of turntable products, all of them designed for visual beauty, precision, performance and value, which holds true to the company’s slogan: “elegance means for us that your eyes and ears get their money’s worth.” The company’s turntables range in price from the relatively modest and affordable, through to the super-exotic. At the upper-end is the company’s flagship model, the Transrotor Artus magnetic drive, Candanic suspension turntable, which weighs-in at 220 kg and is in excess of $150,000 U.S. – in the top 10 most expensive production turntables available today! Surely, Transrotor knows a thing or two about building turntables.
In relation to its siblings, the Dark Star, sits in the modestly priced camp of Transrotor turntables; however, given its appearance and feature set doesn’t seem to fall too short of Transrotor’s up-market offerings. The table is a suspension-less, moderate mass, belt-drive design, with an outboard motor. Keeping to its name, the Dark Star is available in just one finish… black, more precisely, matte black. With a thick 60 mm PYTC platter and 30 mm PYTC plinth chassis surrounded by four massive looking column structures, the Dark Star has a gothic, almost ominous character. In fact, the Dark Star’s look and name had me thinking that it would be just the turntable I could see Darth Vader playing the Imperial Death March to, within his meditation chamber. Sorry, couldn’t help dropping a Star Wars reference. Though the Dark Star appears to sit on four colossal columns, it is actually supported by just three, the two front columns and a hidden rear-centre foot, all of which are level adjustable. The motor column is a fully separate structure and the tonearm base column is actually suspended, allowing a DIN tonearm cable to be attached to the DIN connector on the underside of the column.
For this evaluation, I was provided with a Dark Star that included the Konstant Eins 33/45 fine adjustable power supply upgrade, along with a TR 800-S tonearm (made by Jelco based on the SA-250). Pricing of this Transrotor Dark Star turntable setup would be $5,545 U.S. including the power supply, tonearm and platter clamp; or without the tonearm, $4,400 U.S. I used two cartridges for my evaluation of the Dark Star, the Transrotor Uccello MM cartridge (made by Goldring) and a Dynavector 20x2H high-output MC.
The Dark Star platter and plinth chassis are made of a synthetic polymer, referred to as POM (Polyoxymethylen). Materials similar to POM would include Derlin, which is used in many other high-end audio products. POM is a choice material for the Dark Star given its desirable inherent characteristics that include strength, hardness, rigidity and anti-resonance. The Dark Star’s matte finish and colour comes from the POM material, no added complexity or cost of a paint job for the Dark Star. Like other Transrotor turntables, the Dark Star relies on its structure, construction materials and its mass to isolate it from external vibrations and tame its own resonances. The main bearing used in the Dark Star is a conventional design that is comprised of a steel main shaft, into a bronze sleeve, with a ceramic ball bearing. The 60 mm POM platter features concentric grooves on its underside, again for resonance control, and a narrow groove on its outside edge serves to seat the drive belt that encircles the platter and motor drive pulley. With the mammoth and glorious chromed Kontant Eins speed controller, speed changes are easily done between 33 and 45, with the solid feel of shifting gears. The TR 800-S tonearm is a 9”, S-shape design with a light-weight feel. This tonearm will accommodate a wide variety of cartridges and makes swaps easy by way of its removable headshell. Since the Dark Star uses a SME tonearm mount, there is an easy upgrade path, for those so inclined. I found the overall fit-and-finish of the Dark Star to be well executed and no doubt, it will supply great pride of ownership.
In practice, I found the table very easy to use, quiet and reliable. For my evaluation, I employed a granite slab and Audio Physic VCF III feet to provide the table improved resistance to mechanical vibrations.
I used the Dark Star turntable with my beloved Goldnote PH-10 / PSU-10 phonostage that offers a plethora of adjustment options and easily accommodated both the Transrotor Uccello MM and Dynavector 20x2H cartridges. Amplification was via my Bryston BP-173 / 4B3 combo, playing through my Dynaudio Confidence C2 Signature towers. Cables came from the Nordost Heimdall 2 and Tyr 2 series.
My listening began with the Transrotor Uccello MM cartridge. The cartridge was sufficiently resolving for me to get a very good understanding of the nature of the Dark Star. Listening to Jennifer Warnes’ album, Shot Through the Heart and the track “You Remember Me”, I was impressed with the natural, rich midrange, and the sense of glow in the reverb around her voice. The treble was silky smooth without undue accentuation, lending to holographic imaging. There was no doubt that the Dark Star could deliver imaging, front-to-back layering as well as solid left to right placement. In contrast, my VPI Scout with Dynavector 10×5, though sharper edged in its imaging did not deliver the smoothness and roundness of the Dark Star, something I might attribute to a slight treble eccentricity with the VPI setup, as opposed to the greater balance and evenness with the Dark Star. The Dark Star was able to present detail in a manner that conveyed greater realism and authenticity, combined with that often elusive midrange magic.