Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, nine years after Patek Philippe created its first wristwatch. And while every turntable will play you a record just as any watch will tell the time, the distinction between the merely functional and the truly fantastic is huge for both. Similar to purchasing a timepiece, you can now spend as much on the audio component as you can a modern supercar. Precision machines of meticulous craftsmanship, the following ’tables turn simple vinyl playback into something sublime.
From Denmark-based Bergmann, the Galder air-bearing turntable accommodates up to four tonearms and floats its platter on an air cushion to reduce friction and eliminate noise. Vacuum hold-down keeps LPs tight to the 26-pound aluminum platter or the optional 88-pound copper version; the separate motor base and belt drive achieve maximum isolation from external vibration. Equipped with Bergmann’s linear-tracking Odin tonearm, the Galder costs $37,000 in black velvet/silver finish or $50,000 when plated in 24-karat gold.
Woodsong Audio Thorens TD124
Rare vintage machines from both Thorens and Garrard drive the platter with an idler wheel, giving music a force and foundation that are hard to match by belt and direct-drive units. Woodsong’s Chris Harban completely rebuilds each for speed, stability and silent operation, with bearings blueprinted to precision tolerances. Custom automotive finishes and plinths in a variety of rare woods elevate turntables like the Thorens TD124 (starting at $7,000) into works of visual and sonic art.
TechDAS Air Force Zero
During the 1980s, Hideaki Nishikawa’s turntable designs for Micro Seiki handily outperformed the digital technology of the era. In 2010, he founded TechDAS to raise the bar once again, and the new 726-pound Air Force Zero is the most ambitious record player ever made. The belt-drive behemoth employs vacuum-suction to hold an LP to a stack of five platters that levitates on a sheet of air. Priced at $450,000 (with a Graham tonearm), it’s the ultimate turntable, without question.
Pro-Ject Signature 12
The Signature 12 is Austrian manufacturer Pro-Ject’s finest ’table. The $12,000 model features a dense rectangular base—finished in piano black or mahogany—and an aluminum subframe engineered to negate disturbance. A flywheel belt-drive system employs two motors to rotate the polished aluminum platter, operated via touch-screen controls. And with the $2,000 Superpack Upgrade, the single-pivot 12-inch tonearm is fitted with Sumiko’s flagship Palos Santos Presentation moving-coil cartridge, worth $4,500 separately.