Review: Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 Turntable

Review: Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 Turntable - The Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 turntable challenges convention with its unique design, promising exceptional sound quality and an immersive vinyl experience.

Setting Up the Simplex: A Journey Worth Taking Setting up the Simplex may initially seem daunting due to its unconventional design. It’s highly advisable to seek assistance from an experienced dealer or installer for the initial setup. However, it’s worth noting that most users will quickly adapt to the absence of a tonearm lift after a few spins. The Simplex’s ease of use improves with time and familiarity.

Versatile Compatibility with Cartridges One of the standout features of the Simplex is its remarkable compatibility with a wide range of cartridges. Thanks to its high and adjustable damping, it can securely accommodate soft and delicate cartridges and heavy and robust ones without requiring extensive adjustments. This versatility is a testament to the thoughtful engineering behind the tonearm.

Design Excellence: A Unique Approach

The design of the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 turntable is nothing short of unique and unconventional. It challenges the established norms of analog audio playback with a distinctive approach that sets it apart from the crowd. At first glance, the most striking feature is the absence of a traditional tonearm bearing, a hallmark of most turntable designs. Instead, the Simplex employs a radical “golf ball” approach to tonearm support.

The tonearm is ingeniously attached to a spherical structure resembling a golf ball. This spherical body, drilled at the top to accommodate the slim aluminum arm tube filled with fine sand, floats within a bath of highly viscous silicone oil. This innovative “bearing” system effectively eliminates the need for conventional tonearm bearings that can introduce play or noise. Instead, the arm effortlessly glides through the silicone oil, providing stability and precision without the usual mechanical constraints.

This unconventional design approach is a testament to the ingenuity of Well Tempered founder William Firebaugh. It takes the principles of audio engineering and applies them in a manner that challenges traditional thinking. While it may appear unconventional, every detail of this design is carefully considered and executed to deliver exceptional audio performance. The golf ball-like structure is not just for aesthetics; it is functional in maintaining stability and damping vibrations during playback.

Build Quality: Precision and Craftsmanship

Regarding build quality, the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 does not disappoint. The turntable’s plinth is made of high-quality acrylic, a material chosen for its density, stability, ease of machining, and aesthetic appeal. Unlike the black acrylic often seen in turntable illustrations, Well Tempered opts for colorless acrylic, which enhances the turntable’s visual appeal. When the morning sun shines through a window onto the spinning acrylic platter, it creates a captivating and almost magical visual effect, further complementing the turntable’s unique character.

The platter features a steel axle at its center, extending downward as a polished bearing shaft with a pointed end and upward as a plate mandrel with excess length. While the purpose of the unusually long spindle may not be immediately apparent, it adds to the turntable’s versatility. It allows for easier vinyl placement since the record can be threaded safely above the platter and gently lowered onto a cork-rubber mat provided by Well Tempered. This thoughtful addition simplifies the process of playing records.

The turntable’s bearing system, a simplified version of Well Tempered’s patented “zero tolerance” bearing, is a testament to precision engineering. It utilizes the tension of the belt to guide the axle at specific points, eliminating any play and ensuring stability. While the original design featured five support points, the Simplex bearing reduces this to three, simplifying the design without compromising performance. The top of the axle features a Teflon disc with a triangular cutout, creating two upper contact points with the axle, while the third side serves as a protective guide. The belt’s tension is enough to maintain secure contact between the axle and the bearing surfaces during operation.

In terms of motor control, the Simplex employs a DC motor with in-house servo control and an aluminum pulley that provides two different radii for switching between 33 and 45 revolutions per minute. Despite its high-speed operation, the motor operates quietly, thanks to its elastic and dampening mounting.

In turntable design and build quality, the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 is a testament to innovation and precision craftsmanship. Its unique golf ball-inspired tonearm support system challenges traditional norms and redefines what’s possible in analog audio playback. The use of high-quality acrylic for the plinth, precision-engineered bearing systems, and thoughtful design details all contribute to a turntable that looks distinctive and delivers exceptional audio performance. While its design may require a degree of adventurousness from users, the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 is a triumph in design and build quality, offering a unique listening experience.

Silent Precision: Unparalleled Stability

The Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 distinguishes itself with its extraordinary stability and precision. Whether the turntable is in use or at rest, it operates with minimal noise and vibrations. Even when tapping the arm tube lightly while the needle is on the record and the platter is spinning, the sound is a subdued “thud” without a discernible pitch, starkly contrasting to the resonances and disturbances often encountered with other, more traditional tonearms.

Listening Test: A Feast for the Ears

Now, let’s dive into the most important aspect of any turntable: its sound quality. The Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 lives up to its reputation with a sound that is exceptionally clean and low in distortion. This lack of distortion contributes to a slightly warmer and more rounded tonal character, especially in the treble frequencies. While cartridges may offer even higher resolution, the Simplex maintains a balanced and pleasing treble response that avoids any harshness or sibilance.

The Magic of Uncomplicated Sound The key to the Simplex’s impressive performance is its ability to create a tranquil and stress-free environment for the cartridge. It effectively shields external interferences and effectively dampens the vibrations generated during playback. This level of damping is noticeably superior to many other turntables, which can struggle to maintain control and composure during challenging musical passages.

Captivating Soundstage The soundstage delivered by the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 is a testament to its tranquility and stability. The Simplex delivers poise and precision, whether the music calls for expansive and finely detailed spatial cues or intimate and impactful moments. The arm’s damping characteristics enhance the listening experience, making it easy to immerse in the music.

The Well Tempered Advantage: Reliability and Maintenance While setting up the Simplex may require adjusting its unique features, it’s a turntable that offers long-term stability and reliability once properly configured. Maintenance is minimal, thanks to the absence of traditional bearings and the use of high-quality components.

Sound Test: Unveiling the Sonic Prowess of the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2

The true measure of any turntable lies in its ability to faithfully reproduce music, revealing the nuances, details, and emotions embedded within each vinyl record groove. In this sound test of the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2, we delve into its sonic performance and explore how its unconventional design influences the listening experience.

1. Remarkable Clarity and Transparency

Upon placing the needle onto the vinyl, the first notable characteristic of the Simplex Mk2’s sound is its clarity and transparency. It offers a pristine window into the music, allowing the listener to discern even the subtlest details within the recordings. Each instrument and vocal is rendered precisely, making it feel like the performers are in the room.

2. Immersive Soundstage

The turntable’s ability to create an expansive and immersive soundstage is particularly impressive. It can reproduce the three-dimensional space in which the music was originally recorded. As a result, listeners are treated to a more immersive and lifelike musical experience. Whether it’s a jazz ensemble in a dimly lit club or a symphony orchestra in a grand hall, the Simplex Mk2 transports you to the heart of the performance.

3. Low Noise and Minimal Distortion

One of the standout qualities of the Simplex Mk2 is its low-noise floor. The turntable effectively isolates the cartridge from external vibrations and disturbances thanks to the unconventional tonearm design and the absence of traditional bearings. This creates a black background, allowing even the softest musical passages to emerge with pristine clarity. There is minimal distortion, ensuring the original recording’s dynamics and subtleties are faithfully preserved.

4. Balanced and Natural Tonal Character

The turntable’s tonal character can be described as balanced and natural. It does not exhibit any artificial coloration or emphasis on specific frequency ranges. The midrange is particularly noteworthy, with vocals and instruments having an authentic and engaging presence. High frequencies are extended and smooth, avoiding harshness or sibilance, while the bass response is articulate and controlled.

5. Handling of Dynamic Tracks

The Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 excels in handling dynamic tracks. The turntable maintains composure even when faced with demanding music passages, such as thundering drum solos or crescendos in orchestral compositions. There is no sense of strain or compression in the sound, and it effortlessly conveys the full scale and impact of the music.

6. Versatility with Different Cartridges

One of the strengths of the Simplex Mk2 is its versatility when it comes to cartridge compatibility. It accommodates various cartridges, from high-output moving magnet (MM) to low-output moving coil (MC) designs. This flexibility allows users to tailor the turntable’s sound to their preferences, making it accessible to a diverse audience of vinyl enthusiasts.

Conclusion: An Audiophile’s Delight

In conclusion, the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 is a true audiophile’s delight. Exceptional clarity, an immersive soundstage, low noise, and a natural tonal character characterize its sound performance. It effortlessly handles the nuances of recordings, bringing out the best in the music and the vinyl medium. Whether you’re a jazz fan, a classical music connoisseur, or a rock enthusiast, this turntable has the versatility and sonic prowess to satisfy even the most discerning listeners. The unconventional design elements, such as the golf ball-inspired tonearm support, contribute to its unique sonic signature, making the Simplex Mk2 standout in analog audio playback.

Conclusion: Well Tempered Simplex Mk2

In summary, the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 is a turntable that demands a degree of fearlessness from its users due to its unconventional design. However, those who embrace its unique features will be rewarded with a listening experience that is both captivating and reliable. Its remarkable compatibility with a wide range of cartridges, unmatched stability, and low distortion make it a standout choice in its price range. While it may not be the most user-friendly option for beginners, it’s a turntable that can elevate the performance of virtually any cartridge, transforming ordinary vinyl into an audiophile’s delight. Suppose you’re willing to venture outside traditional turntables. In that case, the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 is an excellent choice offering sonic rewards that will satisfy even the most discerning ears.

Advantages of the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2:

  1. Unconventional and Effective Design: The most distinctive advantage of the Simplex Mk2 is its unconventional yet highly effective design. The absence of traditional bearings in the tonearm, replaced by a silicone oil bath and a golf ball-inspired support, results in remarkably low friction and excellent isolation from external vibrations.
  2. Outstanding Sound Quality: This turntable excels in sound quality, offering exceptional clarity, transparency, and a balanced tonal character. It faithfully reproduces music, highlighting subtle details and providing an immersive listening experience.
  3. Low Noise and Distortion: Thanks to its innovative design, the Simplex Mk2 maintains a low noise floor and minimal distortion, preserving the dynamics and subtleties of the original recordings. It ensures a clean and distortion-free sound even during demanding musical passages.
  4. Versatile Cartridge Compatibility: The Simplex Mk2’s versatility in accommodating a wide range of cartridges, from moving magnet (MM) to moving coil (MC) types, allows users to tailor the turntable’s sound to their preferences. This flexibility makes it accessible to a broad audience of vinyl enthusiasts.
  5. Stable and Reliable Performance: The Simplex Mk2 offers stable and reliable performance once properly set up and adjusted. Its long-term stability and maintenance-free operation make it a practical choice for those seeking a hassle-free vinyl playback experience.

Disadvantages of the Well Tempered Simplex Mk2:

  1. Unconventional Setup: Setting up the Simplex Mk2 may initially pose a challenge for users accustomed to traditional turntable designs. Its lack of a tonearm lift and unique tonearm support system require careful handling during setup.
  2. Limited Ergonomics: The absence of a tonearm lift means that users must manually place and lift the tonearm onto and off the vinyl record. While some may adapt to this approach, others may find it less user-friendly, especially for beginners.
  3. Specialized Accessories: The turntable’s unconventional design may limit the use of certain accessories, such as tonearm clamps and pucks, which may not fit as easily on the elongated tonearm support.
  4. Price Point: The Well Tempered Simplex Mk2 occupies a specific price point in the turntable market, which may be considered relatively high for those on a budget. While it offers exceptional sound quality, potential buyers should be prepared for the investment.
  5. Niche Appeal: The Simplex Mk2 may have a niche appeal due to its unique design and characteristics. Audiophiles seeking a more traditional turntable experience may opt for other models with familiar features.

In summary, the Well-Tempered Simplex Mk2 offers outstanding sound quality and innovative design, but it may require users to adapt to its unconventional setup and handling. Its versatility with cartridges and long-term stability makes it a compelling choice for dedicated vinyl enthusiasts, but its specialized appeal may not suit everyone’s preferences or budget.