As I spent more time listening to the Dark Star, time and time again, it proved its ability to step in-time like a veritable black shoed tap dancer. Yet, this sense of timing did not lean on the crutch of leading edge emphasis; rather, the Dark Star’s clarity and absence of overhang was the key to this impressive delivery. Accurate timing no doubt is tied to the overall delivery of music through the system; however, much of the sense of timing is dependent on the way the lower-midrange and bass are handled. A delay or smearing of the lower midrange through to the lower bass will compromise everything. In this respect, the Dark Star excelled. Despite the table’s visually full-bodied look, it always sounded quick on its feet and controlled, absent of bass bloat or overhang. Listening to The Cure – Greatest Hits and the track “Close to Me” I relished the taught and snappy bass line. This sense of timing carried through on the Talking Heads’, Stop Making Sense album, where drum beats were punchy, impactful with solid weight and energetic attack. Once, again, my perceptions were confirmed with the Cranberries LP, ‘everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?’ where the kick drum was wonderfully tight, resolute and authentic in pitch.
Given the success the Dark Star was having with the Transrotor Uccello MM cartridge, my curiosity grew as to how the table would perform with a considerably more expensive cartridge; enter the Dynavector 20x2H. The Dynavector would be a cartridge more in keeping with the performance capabilities of the Dark Star and it showed. Now, all that goodness I just described was taken to a substantially higher plane. The intrinsic beauty within the recordings immediately became more evident; enriched in delicacy, micro-dynamic variation, clarity and accurate tone and timbre. Listening to Diana Panton’s album, When the Moon Turns Green, and the track “Destination Moon”, the resonating slap of the bass strings across the fret possessed an amazing sense of realism. Bass notes were marvellously textured and articulate, with a natural weight, not overdone or overcooked; to use an Italian expression, perfectly “al dente”. Giving attention to the midrange, Diana’s vocals sounded wonderfully mellifluous, with remarkable presence and compellingly lifelike. These qualities, impressive in their own right, could not be fully appreciated if it were not for one key quality of the Dark Star’s presentation… that being black, a dark black stage from which the elements within could be appreciated. This black stage the Dark Star was able to deliver not only shed greater insight on the elements within the music but also on their interplay and the whole performance. The Dark Star’s proficiency with producing an ensemble of images, while preserving their individuality sets it clearly ahead of lesser tables.
I’m surprised, that until now, I haven’t made a point of calling out the Dark Star’s handling of the upper frequencies. This might be because the Dark Star so well integrates the treble within the whole of the music, absent of any emphasis or highlighting. Delicacy, smoothness and finesse would be the apt terms to apply to the Dark Star’s interpretation of the upper end of the spectrum. The treble range was consistently controlled, pure and extended. With Robbie Robertson’s self-titled album, the shimmer of cymbals, clash of castanets and ring of bells was gracefully and naturally delivered, while preserving the zest that these instruments bring to the composition. On the Cowboy Junkies, Trinity Sessions, the sound of the cymbals was both pristine and poised. I also listened to Art Pepper’s album, Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, where, along with wonderful colour and texture, I was impressed with the vibrant and energetic delivery of percussion and most so the authentic brassy crash of the cymbals. No less beautifully rendered was Art’s saxophone, which exuded a caramel smooth burnished sweetness, along with a genuinely rich tone.
I could easily go on singing praises about the Dark Star, how it preserved string instrument textures and timbres so organically and how its timing seemed to follow the steady beat of a metronome; however, I would rather you seek out a listen for yourself and make your own judgement. For me, I’m going to miss the Dark Star, as it has shed a new light for me on the pleasures to be had from analog. While having a very distinct and strong visual character, when it comes to its sound such boldness is absent, rather, the Dark Star charmingly steps aside and lets the music speak for itself. With the Dark Star, Transrotor lives their own statement, “elegance means for us that your eyes and ears get their money’s worth.”
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Transrotor Dark Star Turntable
Price: $5,545 US [including the power supply, tonearm and platter clamp]; $4,400 US without the tonearm