The Blue is beloved for a reason, and it sounds fabulous, with impressive clarity, stereo spacing, and overall instrumental definition. I was smitten with it playing through my reference 2.1 setup, including a pair of KEF LSX speakers (9/10 WIRED Recommends) and an SVS 3000 Micro sub. You’ll probably only want to upgrade to the Bronze if you’ve got a fairly high-end setup.
The other components are, for the most part, designed to get out of the way of the cartridge and stylus, allowing for pristine sound transference to your system.
The biggest piece of that equation is the new, house-built OA3 Pro tonearm. It’s a single piece molded from magnesium—a material that is known for its strength, light weight, and excellent sound damping, and it’s touted to be 10 times quieter than aluminum. You’ll see magnesium tonearms on plenty of other turntables at this price and much higher. Apart from its sonic properties, the OA3 looks cool and feels luxe when you drop it on a record.
The dual-speed motor is designed for virtually silent operation, with a controller the company claims can adjust the record speed up to 30,000 times per second for accurate playback. Even the aluminum feet are primed for maximum quiet while also making it simple to adjust the plinth for an even ride on multiple surfaces. To test its mettle, I set the table directly on the record stand, rather than my elevated table, and I only noted a couple of skips during playback.
If you don’t have a separate phono preamp and your amp lacks one, you can add U-Turn’s Pluto 2 built-in for an extra $70. That’s a deal, considering you’ll pay $100 for the Pluto 2 as an outboard pre. It’s simple to use with the press of a switch, though it is a bit awkward to reach.
Coming to Life
I started my Orbit Theory audition with a new record I’d yet to pull out of the plastic: Absolute Loser by Fruit Bats. One of the signs of a true audiophile experience is a sensation that extends beyond the ears. By the time the stylus made its way to the title track, I had goosebumps and a big old grin.
I did notice some extra brightness with my Rolls VP29 preamp, and I found a bit more warmth in the Theory’s built-in Pluto 2. I ended up using the latter for the majority of my listening sessions. Neither one is likely to get the very best out of the Theory, and as with any link in this chain, you’ll do better with higher-quality components. If your amp has a built-in pre, you may want to do some sound comparisons to pick your favorite (just don’t use both at once).
Moving through some of my favorite vinyl, from Magical Mystery Tour to American Beauty and Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, I found myself taking copious notes as the music leaped out of the speakers and into my living room with an almost live presence. The Beatles’ Mystery Tour seemed to explode off the disc, cutting double vocals with crystalline precision, melting analog synthesizers in psychedelic flames, and pushing forth warm and crunchy horns and mournful cellos that seemed to vibrate in my chest.