Argon Audio has long been the house brand of the Scandinavian AV retail chain HiFi Klubben, known for affordable products. With the Argon Audio TT-4 turntable, it aims higher, without suddenly losing sight of the price tag.
There seems to be no end to the vinyl revival, according to record sales figures. A few years ago, many – mostly young people – got into the vinyl story with the purchase of a suitcase turntable. It is now clear that a lot of people have discovered that it can sometimes be too cheap with record players. The minimum requirements that a good turntable must meet mean that it comes with a certain price tag. It is no coincidence that the segment of record players from roughly 400 to 1,000 euros sees so many new product launches. This is the sweet spot for most consumers, where you can find a good product for a price that is still achievable. It is precisely in that segment where the brand new TT-4of Argon Audio belongs. The Danish brand has been making record players for a while – in addition to many other audio products – but this device is a first for them. It is the first time that they are bringing a record player on the market with a slightly higher price of 649 euros. For that amount you get a complete package, including tonearm, cartridge, dust cover and cables. With more expensive models, you often have to pay extra for some of those things, but this consumer-friendly bundle is a complete ready-to-use package.
|cartridge||Ortofon M2 Red|
|Extras||Phono preamp built-in, 33 1/3 – 45 rpm switch|
|Dimensions||42 x 14.2 x 35.5 cm|
The name ‘Argon Audio’ may not sound familiar to you. However, this Danish brand has been around for almost twenty years, and it originated in the lap of HiFi Klubben. Dutch readers will probably know this Scandinavian retail chain founded by the well-known hi-fi entrepreneur Peter Lyngdorf, because it has also been present in that country for a number of years. However, HiFi Klubben is not active in Belgium. Until recently, Argon Audio built products that could only be found in these stores. In 2019, however, it became independent, and it became possible to find their products elsewhere – both online and at other points of sale.
If you take a look at the Argon website, you will discover a very wide range of audio products, from radios to active speakers. Turntables have also been part of it for a while. The first Argon player was the 199 euro TT, followed by the much more sophisticated TT-2 of 349 euro. With these devices, it claims to have grown into one of the largest record player brands in Europe, with 60,000 units sold.
The TT-4 is another big step, because not only is the price tag a bit higher, it is technically a different device. Argon even claims to have developed new technology that they have patented. You often hear such claims with smartphones and streaming audio, but with turntables it is more exceptional. Turntables are therefore relatively simple and have been around for a long time. It’s not easy to be original.
We also see the evolution from budget to middle class in the other product segments where the Danes are present. Argon Audio is rather a brand that likes to be a price champion, but is gradually raising the bar to widen the gap with very cheap budget brands.
650 euros is therefore not a modest sum in the eyes of some vinyl lovers. The Argon Audio TT-4 also positions itself squarely against many well-reputed rivals, such as Pro-ject’s Debut turntables, the NAD C558, Thorens TD 202, Rega Planar 2, and several others. These are all record players that aim a bit higher and are technically more perfect.
As you would expect from a turntable intended for a wide audience, the TT-4 comes in an almost ready-to-use condition. A little assembly work is always necessary, because delivering a turntable ready to play is next to impossible. Transport would disrupt the device, especially the weights on the tonearm. The cartridge with its fragile needle is also best protected during transport from the manufacturer.
However, you don’t have to do too much with the TT-4. Placing the heavy metal turntable is very easy, you just have to put the belt around the bottom of the engine. It doesn’t require that much dexterity. Then you have to click the headshell to which the Ortofon cartridge has already been pre-attached onto the tonearm. The last job is familiar: place the counterweight at the back of the tonearm and balance the arm. The supplied instructions explain it well, if you have a special vinyl scale it is even easier. Argon opted for an integrated anti-skating weight. So you should not mess with a tiny piece of plastic on a thin wire, but you simply set the correct weight via a rotary knob. Finally, in the box you will find a dust cover. You can leave it unused – some vinyl lovers think it’s bad for the sound quality – or put it in quickly. Confirm anyway, it will keep the dust off your vinyl.
Phono amplifier built-in
A smart move is the inclusion of a built-in phono amplifier that you can switch off if you want. That makes the TT-4 suitable for more situations. Thanks to the preamp, you can connect this turntable to audio devices with an input that is not specifically designed for a record player. The aux input on a Sonos Five , for example, or an analog input on a soundbar or a set of active speakers such as the KEF LS50 Wireless II. The latter scenario is probably also in Argon’s head. The Danes have recently released a line of living room-friendly active speakers for people who want better sound without a pile of hi-fi devices. A trend that you also see elsewhere, but connecting a record player is still difficult with many of those active speakers. However, a logical combination.
There are of course a lot of stereo amps without a dedicated phono input, so this option is just as useful. However, if you do have an integrated amplifier with its own phono input or if you prefer to work with a separate phono amplifier, you can switch off the built-in amplifier via a switch on the back.
The TT-4 makes a particularly good first impression. The aluminum platter or turntable is heavy duty, which is usually a good thing. It weighs 1.4 kg, that counts. The plinth or base made of MDF is also thick and solid, which generally makes the record player less sensitive to vibrations. The whole also stands on feet that are a bit more complex in terms of composition. The feet spring a little, so that they dampen vibrations from the outside. Always handy if you have a house with a wooden floor that gives something, for example. It would have been nice if the feet were adjustable. It is important to place a record player completely level, which is easier to achieve with height-adjustable feet.
It is a player that makes the controls easy. There is one large rotary knob, and with that you switch to 33 1/3 or 45 rpm. Or you put it in the middle position to switch off the Argon Audio TT-4 . If we look at the device in its entirety, we are certainly satisfied with the build quality and finish. This 7.5 kg device can certainly compete with the best in its price segment.
Argon offers the TT-4 in a surprising number of colors. Not the striking shades of the Pro-ject Debut Evo, of which you can also buy a yellow or green version, but four finishes that are a bit more classic. We received the white TT-4, which is a matt finish that lies seamlessly over the plinth. Also with the black version, Argon opts for a matt paint layer, which is positive because the dust then shows less. The other two TT-4 versions have a walnut or mahogany veneer. We can’t comment on the other versions, but the white TT-4 certainly looks chic and sleek.
Ortofon 2M Red
However heavy the Argon Audio TT-4 turntable as a whole may be, the straight tone arm is very lightweight. It is constructed of carbon fiber and aluminum, with a precisely arranged opening at the bottom that prevents resonance. It is this last intervention that Argon has labeled and patented as innovative. According to the designers, the tonearm therefore has little to deal with resonance around 450-500 Hz, a typical problem with tonearms that causes distortion.
An Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is fitted from the factory. It is an MM element that is widely used and highly regarded. To give you an idea: if you buy it separately, you pay about 100-110 euros for about 2M Red. So a significant part of the price goes to this crucial part. In the long run, you can of course replace the cartridge with a new or higher model. That is possible from the 2M line, but also something from, say, Audio-Technica or Denon.
Voices come into their own
To get a really good look at the performance of the Argon Audio TT-4 combination with its phono preamp, we hook up the Argon player to our Hegel H590 with the Canton Reference 7 Ks. That is a very expensive high-end amplifier that, however, comes out very transparent. We play the blue special edition 2LP version of ‘Songs of Experience’ by U2 and ‘To Believe’ by The Cinematic Orchestra. It may sound a bit light in terms of the deepest bass, but for the rest it is very good. The voice of U2 dives deep in ‘Book of Your Heart’, and in ‘Landlady’ that expansiveness that is typical for the Irish band is very present and the minimalist guitar playing of the Edge comes apart well from the vocals. We hear a lot to like: a nice midrange, sufficient detail and an airy rendering. The combination of turntable with Ortofon cartridge is fine for this type of music.
In order to build a music system that is more cost-effective, we exchange the Hegel for the Primare i15 with its excellent built-in MM module. This small Swedish class D amplifier is very interior-friendly and fits well with a sleek record player like the Argon. We play ‘Sketches of Spain’, the famous Miles Davis album that we’ve been listening to since our teens. Apart from the special atmosphere that surrounds this album as a result of that clash between jazz and flamenco influences, it is natural that Davis’s trumpet playing remains fascinating. The Argon TT-4 turns it into something beautiful, right from the first notes of ‘Concierto De Aranjuez’. The highest tones, which are also blown extra hard to create an accent, have a lot of impact and sound clean. Not too shrill, this system flattens the highest frequencies a bit. That is ear-friendly. ‘Our Pathetic Age’ on DJ Shadow’s album of the same name is one of the best tracks of last year, thanks to the great voice of Samuel T. Herring. The sense of tempo is right here, and just like with a number of electronic tracks from The Cinematic Orchestra, we don’t hear any major wow or flutter problems here. A quick check with a meter shows no major speed variations, great!
Conclusion – Argon Audio TT-4
The Argon TT-4 is a very complete turntable that can certainly rival the main competitors at this price point. The finish is of a high standard and the heavy construction guarantees a good reproduction of your vinyl collection. The presence of a better quality built-in phono amplifier also makes the TT-4 a versatile turntable that you can connect to the auxiliary input of a wireless speaker or soundbar. Vinylistas with a classic hi-fi system can simply bypass that front amp part for pure and immersive playback.
- (Disableable) built-in phono amplifier
- Complete ready-to-use package
- Good cartridge choice
- Solid and well built
- Cushioned feet
- Rotation speed not tweakable