Here is another insightful and out of the box review: "The Dark Knight Rises: Artisan Fidelity - Technics SP10 Mk3 NGS" by our Senior Analog Contributing writer Richard H. Mak

If the cloud is darkened, by a fear it cannot name.
If the mind is baffled, when the rules don’t fit the game,
Who will answer? Who will answer? Who will Answer?

Lurking in the shadows, Throughout the dead of night,
Is one who stands for justice, and rises a Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight will Answer. 

(Original Poem by Richard A. Ebinger, and Ed Ames)

Twas the night in Gotham city when not a creature was stirring, amidst a cold rainy night. It was minutes before the twelve hour, when the call came forth. My lips were shivering as I answered his call, in a deep voice with a guttural growl, he said: “This is Batman, and I call upon your duty as a citizen of Gotham”.

“ Sir, do you have a sore throat”, my entire complexion quivered as I answered him.
“For the sake of the people of Gotham, find me a turntable”, said Batman
“But Sir, shouldn’t Alfred Pennyworth be at the task?” I answered.
“Have it ready by the next full moon, when I will call upon your name again.” 

There was a thick “thud” and “click” to the sound as the line dropped. He gave no explanation, and if he did he wouldn’t be the Dark Knight. It was as if the angels broke open the sixth seal, and the dark sky became black as sackcloth, and the moon became like blood. The music of Hans Zimmer suddenly played itself in the background. The weight of Gotham City’s future now rest upon my shoulders. A turntable fit for the Dark Knight, I must find!

I dug up as many back issues of Stereophile Magazine as I could find, and went through all their Class A components since 1999. But it suddenly dawned on me, would a man of Bruce Wayne’s stature be satisfied with such generic offerings for the common man? The Dark Knight’s arsenal of machinery is beyond extraordinary. From the Anton Furst custom designed rotary turbine-powered Batmobile, to the more modern “Tumbler” which crosses the line between a Lamborghini and a tank, they not only define his personality but also transforms him into Batman. A turntable for the Dark Knight therefore must be something extraordinary, unique, elegant and most certainly it must be an overkill. It must have a commanding presence which captures the attention of every living creature within Gotham City. 

One turntable immediately came to mind: Behold the Artisan Fidelity Technics SP10 Mk3 NGS.

Christopher Thornton, the founder of Artisan Fidelity, has been designing highly customized turntables since 2007 and his track record is on high. The quality and the workmanship of his customized design portfolio speaks for itself, cosmetically they are unlike anything else on the market, with a fit and finishing which is second to none. 

Thornton began as an Artisan and expert in reengineering vintage based turntables most notably well respected Thorens, Garrard, Technics and Lenco based legacy models. But unlike most common vintage restorers who simply engage in re-boxing vintage drive mechanisms, Thornton engages in redesigning and rebuilding of these tables and drive mechanisms from the ground up. His masterpieces are created through a collaborative effort between himself, material, hydrodynamics and tribology consultants from Purdue University’s Department of Engineering, a 3rd generation specialty woodshop, professional custom painter and certified highly skilled electronic technicians. Machining is done in Certified ISO 9001 Aerospace CNC machine shops with Certified ISO 9100 Robotics, as well as semiconductor and research defense qualified CNC machinists - in short, the team is likely capable of redesigning the next Batmobile. 

The AF NGS is beast of a table weighing a whopping 245 lbs, which makes it nearly two times the weight of my 2000W McIntosh MC2KW Power Modules. The table comes nestled in heavy duty, ISPM-15 stamped certified solid reinforced wooden crates, with a shipping weight of over 450 lbs. Installing a table is a two to three person task, and each will be sporting in excess of 122 plus pounds.

The massive plinth of the AF NGS entails a proprietary facility which houses the Technics SP10 Mk3 direct drive mechanism with room to accommodate a pair of nine to twelve-inch length tonearms. Internally, a constrained layer damped Panzerholz core, permanently sealed by design, resides around a proprietary, sandwiched machined austenitic stainless steel motor coupling bridge, which ensures precise mechanical integrity. The multi-tiered, inert voidless plinth core is painstakingly machined and constructed using a blend of special materials and nestled within a heat treated Aluminum Magnesium alloy exoskeleton. The dimensionally stable engineered wood composite, metal alloys, and copolymer based thermoplastic combination provide the necessary dissimilar base properties to break up undesirable resonant frequencies. For fine leveling adjustments, a set of Stillpoints Ultra 5 isolation devices are seated below the plinth which provides additional passive mechanical damping. 

During the initial design phases, with the goal of achieving the most silent operation possible, Artisan Fidelity developed a proprietary "Quiet Core" active bearing drain system, featuring patented Stillpoints isolation technology to work in conjunction with a modified Technics bearing assembly which uses a high tech, self lubricated copolymer based replacement thrust pad with ultra-low coefficient of friction and superior physically dimensional load stability. 

The surface of the plinth is finished with a Mercedes Obsidian Black Micro Suede, which is the same type of luxury material found on Lamborghini dashboards. It looks and feels almost like Batman’s body armor, soft, supple, and rubbery to the touch. 

The AF NGS table has some of the best fit and finish of any turntable I have seen. The CNC machined parts adhere to tight form tolerances held between .001”-.002”. The spinning platter has a custom-made pure Copper top layer which is 6.5mm thick, and is machined with an extremely flatness tolerance range of ~ .0004" - .0006". The ebony veneered Panzerholz arm board snugly fit onto the plinth with absolutely zero wiggle room. 

Hidden beneath the platter of the AF NGS, is the Artisan Fidelity modified Technics SP10 Mk3 direct drive mechanism. Rumor has it that this was the same mechanism which Lieutenant Ripley activated, and caused Weyland Enterprise’s USCSS Nostromo star-freighter to self-destruct with the Xenomorph onboard (Aliens, 1979). The Matsushita Technics SP10 Mk3 was released in 1982 and in essence was the company’s crown jewel, a culmination of engineering knowledge gathered from 14 years of SP10 direct drive manufacturing and evolution. In fact, it was the last of the upper tier direct drive designs to be released at a time when compact disc was quickly overtaking the consumer market. To this date, the technical bench specification of these legacy direct drive mechanisms remains by and large state-of-the-art, with very few exceptions. The SP10 Mk3 remains the top of the line model of its era, and to use the word “Overkill” to describe it would be an understatement.

At the heart of the design, lies a drive mechanism exceedingly powerful and over-engineered, coupled to the company’s heaviest balanced multi-tiered production main platter, enormous hydrodynamic oil bearing, powerful, ultra-low cogging brushless DC-based motor, linear type power supply and advanced logic/drive controller facilities ever made for consumer use at this point in the company’s history. Historical aficionados are keen to note, the SP10 Mk3’s internal drive architecture is based directly on the legendary, professional Technics SP-02M cutting lathe, a dominant player for the recording industry for studio transcriptions, archival and broadcast use. 

The AF NGS comes with a separate Quartz synthesized logic controller and linear power supply which has been comprehensively restored and fully bench tested. On the AnalogMagik software, it registered a Wow & Flutter reading of only 0.13 % which is a very good reading given the human hearing is unlikely to be able to detect any pitch variations below a W&F reading of 0.2%. The Matsushita SP10 Mk3 does have a small weakness, a small but critical part which has been known to fail occasionally on the Mk3's is the IC 6042 integrated chip module. Fortunately, all AF NGS are retrofitted with a higher quality Fidelis Analog made replacement chipset by default. In the unlikely event that the chip is to fail again, rest assured that the NGS is backed by a 2-year warranty, and they have plenty of replacement chip in stock. Bear in mind, most factory chipsets are still functioning properly, even well over 30 years after initial production.

(Speed controller and power supply)

With all the bells and whistles of the technical description, it is time to ask the most important question, how does it sound?

The AF NGS possesses strong sonic characteristics which are in line with the various direct drive tables I have owned in the past. I found myself won over by the unrelenting prowess of the sound which carries a high level of dynamic contrast and weight to instruments. It draws me to recordings with lots of explosive dynamics and makes me want to keep turning the volume higher and higher. 

There is no music better to demo the AF NGS than Batman’s own music, or should I say Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's original soundtrack “The Dark Knight Rises”, the bass notes on track Underground Army is not just chest pounding, but earth shattering! It reminds me of the sound of the thumper which the Fremens use to summon the Sandworm on the planet of Arrakis (a scene in David Lynch’s 1984 movie DUNE). It is the deepest “thumping” which I have heard from any turntable, including my personal reference TW Raven AC, and the VPI Titan which I recently review. It literally shakes the foundation of my listening room with solid deep bass “thumping”.

(Dune, 1984. Paul Aterides calling Sandworms with the Thumper)

The same explosive dynamics is carried onto The Battle on Ice in Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with Thomas Schippers directing the NY Philharmonic (Columbia Masterworks MS-6306), on a lesser table, the recording can easily be turned into a garbled up mess, combined with ear-piercing edginess on the highs. The sound remained composed, with clear instrument separation and solid holographic projections. The weightiness of the instruments makes the presentation more forward, immediate, yet the acoustic space remains layered and three dimensional. It throws musical elements in all directions, creating an ever-expanding soundstage with vivid colors, and high contrast. 

Most who play Alexander Nevsky tend to focus on 5-minute snippets of the epic battle scenes to show off a system’s capabilities, yet the often omitted segment happens to be one the most beautiful contralto ever recorded, is found towards the end of the album. Lili Chookasian sings “The Field of Dead”, a lamentation of a girl mourning over her lost lover as well kissing the eyelids of all those who fell in the battle. Chookasian’s performance is immensely passionate and moving, so much that it filled my eyes with tears every time when I play it. The AF NGS projects her voice with a notable mid-range fullness that is rich and colorful. Fullness, however, is not to be confused with bloatedness, the former does not sacrifice clarity and definition whereas the latter usually suggest a sound that is blurry and fat sounding. 

This mid-range fullness is also carried forward to piano recordings which can certainly benefit from the weightiness of the sound which makes a piano more life-sized and lifelike. The AF NGS demonstrated this remarkably with the little known Kirkelig Kulturverksted album (KKV FXLP64) by Jørn Simen Øverli & Zbigniew Łapiński, called Den Røde Bussen en sangreise gjennom Polen (A Red Bus - A Singing through Poland). The reverberation of voices and harmonic resonance of the decay on the piano came through with unmitigated realism, you can almost feel the amount weight he is applying on the piano keys. At the risk of abusing audiophile jargons, the presentation is one of the most “analog sounding” playback I have ever heard, without an ounce of sibilance or glare.

The remarkably solid and weighty plinth of the AF NGS does, however, come at a price. For those seeking the very last word on frequency extension and delicate finesse on fine details, this crown goes to suspension based tables such as the Oracle V or the magnetically levitated La Platine Verdier Vintage. For that matter, in my experience, nearly all solid high mass tables which dampen vibration and resonance by way of mass tend to lose a bit of the “airiness”, finesse and transparency. On very edgy recordings such as Ricci’s Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (DECCA SXL 2279 ED3) or Bizet’s Carmen Fantaisie (DECCA SXL 2197 ED3), the AF NGS artificially rounds out some of the sibilances which make ear-piercing notes a little easier on the listener. Yet on more balanced recordings such as RCA’s famous “The Royal Ballet” (LSC6065), the plucking of the strings on the harp is rendered with ever so slightly less air and ambiance than a suspension table. The same can be said of the mass strings in RCA’s famous “Clair de Lune” (LSC-2326) recording, the strings sound larger than real life. The dancing of the bow across the strings of violins does not carry as much fine inner details than those of suspension tables. But by the same token, the very strength of suspension tables is also its Achilles’ heel, they do not come with the solid low-frequency response, and high dynamic contrast which you will find on high mass tables - so pick your poison!

The Artisan Fidelity Technics SP10 Mk3 NGS occupies a space in the market segment reserved for those who are looking for something exquisite, custom made and one of a kind. It posses strong characteristics which certainly sets itself apart from the market’s generic offerings. Like all equipment, it does not do everything, but neither can a Lamborghini or a Bugatti be driven in the Sahara desert. The AF NGS’ remarkably strong personality makes it a unique and special product reserved for those who are truly after the very best. Luckily you do not have to be Batman to own the Artisan Fidelity Technics SP10 Mk3 NGS, all you need is $38,995 of Uncle Sam’s dollar. Now is the time give Artisan Fidelity a call, and call before the next full moon, otherwise ye shall answer to the Dark Knight!


Cartridge: ZYX Universe Optimum 1 Ohm Special Edition
Tonearm: DaVinci Master Reference Virtu
Cartridge No. 2: ZYX Universe Premium
Tonearm No. 2: ZYX Universe Optimum 1 Ohm Special Edition
Phono Stage: CH Precision P1/X1 4 box edition
Preamp: McIntosh C1000T/C
Power Amp: McIntosh MC3500 x 4, McIntosh MC2KW
Speaker: Peak Consult Dragon Legend
Cables: Purist Audio Design Aqueous 
Speaker Cable: Purist Audio Design Venustas
Power Cords: Furutech FP-Alpha 3


Artisan Fidelity Christopher Thornton
Tel: 219.933.8115