The turntable used today is the AE-2008, an Empire 208 table refurbished and enhanced with a solid 3/4" thick aluminum top plate by Mike Paschetto of Analog Engineering. Kudos to Mike. This is a wonderful sounding table. I first heard this table in Jeff Day's listening room, and thought it was excellent. Today's listening session has reinforced the earlier observation, and taken the Paschetto version of the Empire table even higher in my esteem. You may read Jeff Day's review of the Paschetto AE-2008 table at the following link:
OK. Let's cut to the chase. The Analog Engineering table and the 14 inch Woody have taken the sound in the Pete Riggle Engineering and Audio listening room (known locally as the Garden of Earthly Delights) to a new reference level. This is somewhat surprising to me, because I have been exceedingly happy lately with the musicality of the current system and room. Credit for the improvement seems to be attributable to the Analog Engineering table outperforming the resident Thorens TD124.
Iíve spent the last 3 months captivated by my AE-2008. I was looking for another table and mentioned to a good friend of mine, who happens to be a highly experienced audiophile and technician in the business, about my disappointment with the PR&T of my other rig: a VPI TNT circa 1986 with an freshly cleaned and oiled motor, upgraded classic platter and synchronous drive system speed control assist. He suggested that I look at the Analog Engineering website and consider an AE-2008.
I decided to go for it and have not been disappointed. Mike was fantastic to work with giving personalized attention uncommon in the industry. Example: I planned to use my Graham 1.5T on the table. He asked me to send the arm to him for a fitting. Turns out, a spacer was required beneath the SME base. The standard ones available were not tall enough. Mike spun one to use out of his 3-D printer while we waited for the metal one to be fabricated. Iím still using the red 3-D version because it looks so damn good against the black powder-coated plinth.
The fit and finish of the AE-2008 is exquisite. Meticulously packed and about ready to go out of the box: mount the platter, mount your arm and cartridge, fire her up and hold on. All the PR&T shortcomings of the VPI Ö gone. It reminds me of my first bite of chocolate ice cream and my first ride in a 125 cc shifter kart Ö delicious and thrilling. The smile hasnít left my face and the joy of listening to one of the most musical presentations of any analog set up Iíve heard hasnít faded.
The AE -2008 with the Graham 1.5T and Ortofon Quintet Black compared to the VPI TNT with the Kuzma 4-point and Proteus (at easily twice the price) has more drive and rhythm, more warmth and tonal purity, more coherency and density, all without loss of micro-dynamics or imaging and all presented in a realistic sound stage. It sounds right, it sounds like youíre there, and itís addictive.
Shut up and get one. You wonít be disappointed. If you donít love it, call me. Iím thinking of getting another.
Mike....per your request about the AE-2008 Sonics:
Simply, the TT sounds great. It has excellent PRaT - the kind that was
missing from the Scoutmaster. But not the false kind you get with a speeded
up Rega, where everything sounds fast. I think what brings this out is
that the micro-dynamics are addressed extremely well with the 208 (are
you renaming it the "Analog Engineering 2008?”) - the interplay
between instruments, subtle inflections (like changes in high-hat hits
in a drum kit are made explicit instead of splashy) of instruments, fingering
on guitars, rhythm of strumming, etc. Definitely a toe tapper but also
has the excellent detail of the best TT's. I had a group of audio buddies
over about 10 days ago and all were struck by the workmanship on the TT
(some of them are excellent DIY types). Tony Ho was over and enthused
about how "elegant" and "clean" it sounded - he is
a very good listener and can easily point
out flaws, but he seemed to be very much grooving on the system.
Overall, I think it's a great TT and am enjoying it a great deal.
Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you but it took me longer than I expected to get an SME V. I managed to get a brand new one -- fresh and sealed in the box -- from a guy in Hungry for $3200. What a deal. Also, the AE 2008 arrived in perfect condition.
So I finally got the arm Friday and spent many hours Sat. setting it up. I mounted a brand new 103 and everything fit together like it was made by the same manufacturer.
So now I have had a chance to listen to it. It sounds as good as any table I have ever heard. It fits in perfectly with my system. It blows away my Thorens tables. You really did a great job on this table. I love it! What more can I say.
The only question I have is can I get a couple of replacement belts. Or can you tell me where you source them. I have a feeling I will have this thing baby for a while. Do I need to do anything to maintain it?
I want to let you know the Empire is a jewel. You did really good and so many friends of mine wonder how I could get such a fine turntable. I was wondering if for the time being using the Infinity Black Widow tonearm could be a good idea. In fact I have no idea of the sonic qualities of this vintage arm, but it seems to me fitting the SME cutout, doesn't it? Of course it won't be as good as a SME but for the time being would it be ok? The Scheu will get sent back to Ulla Scheu since I would like to have it upgraded to the newest release.
Again thanks for your patience and good work.
Sorry for the delay in writing to you -- I just got back from an extended business trip and only had a chance to unpack the turntable tonight. It is absolutely a work of art, and according to my handy Merrill strobe light and disc, both the 33 and 45 speeds are dead accurate and rock steady. I won't be able to mount an arm on it until tomorrow night, but it is clear already that the restoration is outstanding. Thanks so much.
I'm just idly curious -- Ever thought about expanding to do 698s, as well? I know some folks don't like the 698's suspended design, but it has its defenders, and the two-piece platter is legendary for its balance and stability -- I have the impression that it may be one of the best-balanced platters ever made for a belt-drive table. I understand that the motor is pretty much bullet-proof, as well. But on most of the surviving examples I've encountered the Empire arm is screwed up one way or another -- Seems to me (admittedly a non-engineer) that a 698 could be converted to a great manual table, refinished complete with that beautiful glass and wood cover -- and they have a devoted following...
Just a random thought from a very satisfied customer who wishes you well. ;)
It is always something of a leap of faith to send someone you don't know $2500.00 for something they haven't done yet -- thanks also for proving there are still good, trustworthy folks out there.
Sorry for the delay, but in keeping with your request, I thought I'd write briefly about my reaction to the turntable. In short, I've been absolutely delighted.
I love the fact that this is the least "fidgety" turntable I've owned in years (I currently own a Linn Sondek LP12 and two Empire 698s, only one of which is fully functional. I have also owned a Rega P-5 and a Music Hall MMF-7 in the recent past -- all required constant care and feeding). The simplicity of the design is great, and the "fixed" suspension seems to isolate the table just fine.
I started out putting my SME M2-9 tonearm on the table, which sounded fine, but really didn't do justice to the table's elegant appearance. It is a "busy" looking tonearm, in silver, and sort of clashed with the turntable's simplicity and the black aluminum top plinth. So I found a used black Oracle SME 345 online at Audiogon and purchased it. I mounted it last night, and it fits the table's "look" much better, and contributes to the sound, as well. I currently have a ClearAudio Talismann cartridge -- one of my personal favorites -- mounted on the arm.
The most impressive part of the sound is how quiet the records seem -- background noise is very minimal -- and the absolute absence of any detectable wow and flutter. Even on the Linn, I could hear flutter in sustained high notes -- this table has amazing speed consistency. And if there is any feedback from vibration, I can't hear it.
All in all, I love the way it looks, and the way it sounds -- Thanks so much for doing such a great job with the restoration.
I contacted you a couple of months ago and have finally had the time
to properly set up the AE-2008...The only experience in my home hi-fi
set up that comes close to this revelation was when I added my Jeff Rowland
preamp...I was bowled over by the size and timbral integrity of this set
up...My VPI Scout/Sumiko BB rig is cowering in the corner. Kudos to you
for a fine engineering achievement that is so evident here.
PS: If you ever find yourself in NYC please feel free to let me know and have a visit listening to the table in my current set-up.
Pretty damn good right out of the box. I'm coming from the very warm and musical Merrill Heirloom/Grado Reference Master, so in comparison it sounds just a touch cold and analytical in comparison. But I have read that the 103r takes some time to properly break in. On the plus it's an extremely full and lively sound, already it pulls me into the music in different ways than the Merrill did. All in all I'm very happy, and I look forward to listening to some music!
Thanks for your work, it's much appreciated,
177 reimers road monson, ma 01057 • phone: 413.599.0169