VERTERE DG-1 VS MG-1 SOUND OFF
The Vertere DG-1 turntable was officially unveiled at this year's High End Munich show, but we recently had an opportunity to spend some more quality time with the entry-level Vetere record player.
We managed to carve out some time from our Munich schedule to hear the Vertere DG-1 through some Kudos Titan standmount speakers and, although impressed, we needed to hear more. So, when we received an invitation to Marylebone's high-end hi-fi emporium KJ West One to listen to the DG-1 alongside the MG-1, we were enticed. But, when we heard that Touraj Moghaddam, the man behind these creations, would be there in person to present his record players to a small group, we were definitely going to be there.
For those not familiar with the brand, Vertere Acoustics is best known for its extreme high-end designs such as the Reference RG-1 Turntable and the Reference Tonearm and some of the company's offerings can fetch prices as high as £200k. However, not content with producing exceptional high-end decks and arms, Vertere also manufactures an extensive line of cables, equipment supports and a rather impressive moving magnet / moving coil phono preamplifier, dubbed PHONO-1 (£995). Oh, there's even a Vertere record label!
Yet, Vertere's founder and CEO, Touraj, is nowhere near finished and decided to create an affordable turntable - or record player as he prefers to call them as “the turntable is only a part of the whole vinyl replay unit”. Well, we can't argue with that, can we?
Vertere is very much an engineering-lead company and Touraj's affable and up-front honesty is refreshing in an industry that sometimes has the dubious reputation of one being generously lubricated by reptilian viscous liquids.
Vertere's top-of-the-line deck RG-1 is the 'Reference Groove' with the SG-1 standing for 'Standard Groove' and then the MG-1 has the full moniker of 'Magic Groove'. The latest, and most affordable of them all, the DG-1 is the 'Direct Groove'.
The DG-1 is as close as you're going to get to a 'plug and play' high-performance record player from Vertere - yet it is still packed with innovations.
The new Vertere record player retails at £2850 (including Audio Technica AT-VM520 cartridge) and is more than an exercise in reducing material quality and playing fast and loose with tolerances.
From plinth to arm and its bearings, everything has been redesigned and re-engineered, developing some of the basic principles of a record-playing system while completely rethinking others.
Frankly, all Vertere's record players have a degree of thanks to give to the RG-1 as that's where everything starts. From there, adjustments are made, technology and ideas trickle-down, are refined, perhaps simplified and then appear in the less credit card haemorrhaging models.
Firstly, the DG-1's motor system is the same as found in the flagship RG-1 Reference's Motor Drive and all the way through to the MG-1. However, instead of an external motor drive, Touraj worked on this until he was at a point that he had a version that still performed to his liking but had been stripped back to the essentials. The integrated low voltage 24-pole synchronous design is controlled by a microprocessor PCB while a copper, and stainless steel cover provides shielding.
An aluminium alloy pulley on the motor is connected to the platter by way of a custom silicone rubber drive-belt. The platter itself is machined alloy with a bonded PETG record interface mat. On the underside, is a cork/neoprene/nitrile disk controlling resonance. A nice touch is that the playing side of the mat has markings you can use for a super-speedy cartridge set-up.
The platter fits onto a polished stainless steel spindle riding the main bearing housing on a tungsten carbide ball.
You also get an electronic speed change found at the rear of the plinth with the button also controlling the plinth's mood lighting settings which are either on or off.
The DG-1's plinth is a three-layer sandwich using non-resonant cast acrylic to form the main plinth and the sub-plinth. Additionally, there is silicon rubber isolation between the plinth and the platter assembly. These layers sit on a steel chassis for stability which also houses the motor drive circuit and the motor. All of which is supported by three adjustable feet.
Finally, the nifty flat profile, three-layer, non-resonant tonearm beam is an equally exquisite piece of lateral thinking. A PCB sandwiched into the arm itself replaces cables taking the signal from the cartridge to the output terminals. The arm also features a stainless steel counterweight and tracking adjustment weight. We especially applaud that tracking adjustment weight: simplicity incarnate but a stroke of genius.
Sat beside the DG-1 was the MG-1 in MKI form, we will have more information about the MKII by the end of July, all being well.
The MG-1 (£6,500 with tonearm) shares the same external power supply used by the upper-tier designs and also sports the tonearm found on the SG-1. The arm uses what Vertere calls a Tri-Point Articulated (TPA) bearing, made up of three silicon nitride balls forming an equilateral triangle below the stainless steel pivot point. The bearing pivot is structurally bonded to the aluminium alloy yoke that provides support to the arm tube, the main counterweight and the anti-skate mechanism.
The pivot point and the counterweight centre of gravity are vertically positioned to be as low as possible, retaining the tonearm in its most stable position. An underslung counterweight on an aluminium outrigger de-coupled by three machined Acetal retainers also provides the necessary grip for location and the required isolation of the counterweight.
The carbon-fibre wrap armtube ends in a bonded machined aluminium alloy headshell. Along the length of the armtube is a fine-tuning weight adjustment that also doubles as resonance control.
The motor system is also nabbed from the MG-1's larger siblings. Here you have an assembly floating in a rigid mount. The upshot is that you get constant and consistent belt tension, which means it the platter is driven at a constant speed as the motor compensating frequency is below 1Hz.
StereoNET has to give extra points for the metallic orange feet on the MG-1, as well.
Naturally, we need a phono preamplifier. Enter PHONO-1. This one-input, single output, solid-state MM/MC stage is designed to have maximum flexibility in cartridge loading. PHONO-1 MkII has two switch banks, as did the original model. However, instead of having to lift the lid to make adjustments, the DIP switches are now easily accessible from the underside of the unit. The switches allow 15 resistance and nine capacitance settings for left and right channels.
Another switch bank, also easily accessible from the underside of the unit, offers no less than ten gain settings providing the best level matching within the gain range provided.
At the rear of the unit, there is also a three-way ground switch allowing for 'hard ground', 'ground lift' and 'soft ground' - basically, select the one that gives you the least hum.
Finally, the PHONO-1 is available in black, silver, orange (our favourite) or a triple acrylic as it was here to match the DG-1.
The assemblies for power supply and phono stage both use gold-plated PCBs, as with everything Veretere, chosen for best performance. Furthermore, the two sections are physically separated and partially shielded from one another in the case itself.
In the interest of fairness, both the DG-1 and MG-1 were equipped with Vertere's £2,000 Stylus-1. A move that meant the differences we would be hearing come from the record players' mechanics rather than the pick-up.
Touraj started the listening session with the MG-1. He worked his way through tracks by Vanessa Fernadez, Chet Baker and ending up on a cut from Ahmad Jamal's Crystal album.
The dynamic range presented by the MG-1 is quite something, especially evident though on the Jamal piece.
Moving over to the DG-1 and we instantly notice that the music (the same tracks were being played) had suddenly gone on a diet. There was a distinct lack of weight on the DG-1 when compared with its more potent sibling.
However, the group had a chat while Boris Blank and Malia's Convergence was being slipped from its sleeve, and when the DG-1 was set spinning again, it certainly didn't shame itself. We have heard several record players at twice the price of the DG-1 that would start nervously shuffling in their seats as the Direct Groove put on a show.
Detail and timing were in abundance and, considering the MG-1 is more than twice the price of the DG-1, all present agreed that the DG-1 is fantastically enjoyable for under £3k.
However, turning back to the MG-1 and the looks and knowing nods from everyone as Elles Spring's album Reveal was set playing (from Veretere's own label, no less) we all knew which record player we'd try to sneak out first if we thought we'd get away with it.
The MG-1's soundstage is impressive, and there's so much more personality, and expression revealed. Dropping the Stylus-1 loaded SG-1 on Yello's Touch and the realisation hits of where else the MG-1 scores highly - enthusiasm and excitement.
It's all well and good having detail, clarity and precision but they are all for nought if your music fails to move you. The MG-1 is a thoroughbred grin-giver. Yes, timing is tighter than the DG-1 but, with the MG-1, it's as though the artist is leaning out of the speakers, beckoning you to join them.
We are looking forward to finding out what the MG-1 MkII brings as the original is a superb performer and certainly sets a high benchmark not only for decks in its price range but, full stop.
Final Thoughts About the DG-1
However, the reason why we were here in the first place, the DG-1 is an excellent bit of kit. Not only do you get to own a Vertere deck for less than three-grand, but you are handed a fantastic analogue front-end that does not require you to be an engineer to set it up. Moreover, the Direct Groove record player looks super cool with its integrated mood lighting, but it is that impressive performance that will have you putting on records until the wee hours.
If you haven't heard the Vertere DG-1 for yourself yet, you really ought to put that right.
For more information, head to Vertere Acoustics.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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