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Dirk Räke
and Transrotor ARTUS FMD
(130,000 EUR)
in Krakow

Räke Hifi/Vertrieb GmbH
Irlenfelder Weg 43 | D-51467 Bergisch Gladbach

tel.: +49 (0) 2202/31046 | +49 (0) 2202/36844


Manufacturer’s website:

Text: Wojciech Pacuła | Photos: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Andrzej Dziadowiec

Published: 3. April 2013, No. 108

How much should luxury cost? As much as someone who wants to wallow in it is able to pay for it. Pricing of this type of products is a bit like an auction of works of art: their real value is usually hard to measure, so it is determined on the basis of the highest selling price of similar items. Luxury product on the one hand is capital investment, on the other it is prestige - and that for many people is a priceless combination.
In the world of audio we deal over and over again with luxury products. And I don’t mean only some astronomically expensive components, speakers or cables, but basically any audio product. Audiophilism is a part of music industry focused on improving only one thing, and an attempt to bring it to perfection: the sound. Like every specialized activity, it costs money. Hence, even an amplifier for three hundred bucks is the pinnacle of luxury for someone who just bought for the same money an entire home theater system with a Blu-ray, a multi-channel receiver, five speakers and an active subwoofer. And you must to take into account that you still need to buy a source for that amplifier, such as a CD player, a pair of speakers and some cables. So now we are talking about a thousand bucks. Spent on audio equipment. That really is a lot of money, no matter how we approach it.
Spending money on luxury products, one might even say excess luxury, is actually a matter of one’s decision, not of capability. Whether we do or do not have the money, as long as we really want that something, our "yes" is determined solely by our attitude. To people not into audio, three thousand bucks spent on an audio system seems a very large, not to say a gigantic amount of money. As I said – they're right. Not entirely, we should add, since as usual it is a matter of proportions. If you happen to read reviews in specialist audio magazines, if you visit audio shows, or at least have friends touched by this sweet madness, you probably already know that we are able to spend just that much on a single cable, an anti-vibration platform, or even on a CD album (Crystal Glass, see HERE). And that IS crazy. But no less fantastic at the same time!
OK, so how about this: 130,000 euro for a turntable. Without a tonearm or a cartridge. That's correct: over 500,000 Polish zlotys for the turntable to which you need to add another tens of thousands! That is the cost of the Artus FMD from Transrotor, without tonearms or cartridges.

Artus FMD

On their website, the Germans dedicate to the turntable only a few lines, listing cardanic (gimbal) suspension, aluminum and acrylic build, Transrotor Free Magnet Drive (FMD), special power supply, and platterweight. Not that much. Modest amount of attached pictures (four) does not help much in figuring out what we're dealing with. Even the basic size and weight information: 55 x 55 x 120 cm and 220 kg accordingly, allows only a superficial familiarity with the matter – all we can conclude is that it is not just another turntable, but rather a really big drive system.

A few simple words
- a mini-interview with Dirk Räke

Wojciech Pacuła: Who and when designed the Artus?
Dirk Räke: The Artus was designed by my father (Jochen) in 2005. The first unit was manufactured a year later.

How many parts does it consist of?
Counting everything - from 180 parts. Many of them, however, are made of even smaller components.

What were its main design objectives?
It was actually the use of the cardanic suspension of the chassis, the large mass and FMD drive, exactly the same elements as in the Argos, which you once reviewed.

How many of these turntables sold out?
17 worldwide, of which three in Europe, including one in Poland.

Who is manufacturing the aluminum and acrylic components for you?
We co-operate with a number of specialists, each in a given area. Some of them cope better with large metal parts, and others with small. We have been working with these companies for more than 10 years and we have been very happy with them. All the Artus components are manufactured within 130 miles from our headquarters.

Any additional word from you? The demonstration in Krakow was very interesting, it was really fun and I had a good talk with audio fans; I had a pleasure to see a great record collection and a nice house!

I’m not sure if you recall that, but we have already reviewed in "High Fidelity" a product of a similar class, also from Transrotor, the Argos (see HERE). The cost was similar: 600,000 Polish zlotys. Also, the basic design concepts were similar: drive integrated with the base, leveled with cardan suspension and a heavy weight, with magnetic coupling between the sub-platter which is driven by the motor and the platter spinning the vinyl record; with no direct contact between the motor and the record. For many, however, the problem was its modern look, reminiscent of Art Nouveau, geometric household products and furniture. The Artus, which is the subject of the current review, looks much more "classic" in comparison. It has six legs, its outline resembles a truncated ellipse, and the platter is fully visible.
The turntable came to Krakow for a presentation at Tomek’s house, who is member of the Krakow Sonic Society. But it was not another KSS meeting - when I was leaving around midnight, there were still new guests arriving. It is not very often that you get a chance to see this type of turntable for yourself - there are 17 of them all over the world, with vast majority located in Asia. What made the meeting even more attractive was the fact that the Artus was assembled right in front of our eyes, personally by Dirk Räke, the son of Jochen, the owner of Räke Hifi/Vertrieb GmbH, the company carrying the Transrotor brand.
Jochen Räke’s adventure with turntables began in 1971: for the first four years he was the sole importer to Germany of the British Transcriptor turntables. At one point, inspired by their original design, he decided to design something similar yourself. The result was the first Transrotor AC turntable. Manufactured in J.A. Mitchell factory, ten years later it fell the victim of the expansion of the CD format. Mr Räke had to start his own factory in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. It was there that the Artus FMD was built.

A German in Poland

Jokes about the Poles in Germany are a plenty. While we are a little guilty ourselves, it is also a result of an innate aversion to strangers, present in every nation, and probably some other factors as well. Similarly, there are loads of Polish jokes about the Germans, especially popular during the People's Republic of Poland era. But I have not heard a single joke about a German working for a Pole. And actually it looked like a film made on such joke script: Dirk, a fantastic guy who I’ve known for years, was working for five hours in a Polish home to assemble the turntable for us. He did everything by himself, because he did not want any of the components misplaced or gone missing. Not because he dealt with the Poles (another joke), but because the sheer complexity of the product design, although seemingly simple, is unbelievable.

The unit arrives in seven solid boxes, weighing together half a ton. They need to be unpacked in turn, the components spread on a large, flat surface and only then can one proceed with the assembly. We looked at this and admired the build quality and precision, but also the incredible technology that makes the Artus FMD a unique product. And even if under the skull there was still the nagging thought that we are talking about one hundred and thirty thousand euro after all, which would beg for improbable things, seeing everything it was easier to get used to the thought that a product of such class simply has to cost that much. As Dirk said, the material cost alone, all those special varieties of aluminum, is several thousand euro. Thousands more to machine it and make it fit. Dirk was working, we were helping ourselves to wine and generally sort of "having a party", watching the progress from time to time. Everything was going perfectly almost to the very end. It was when mounting the 12" SME V-12 tonearms and then the cartridges, with everybody bending over Dirk, that material fatigue finally happened - at some point a stylus from the 18,200 PLN Dynavector DRT XV-1s cartridge disappeared. Literally. Then I remembered the most important message delivered by Wally Malevich during his lecture at the Audio Show 2012 (see HERE): the most important thing when aligning the cartridge is peace and calm. If it’s not there, it is better to let go and come back to it at another time. Dirk did not have that luxury, and the stylus went missing; it hasn’t been found to this day. The cartridge was sent to Japan for a repair, which will cost not much less than the cartridge. Indeed, audio is an expensive occupation.
The installation of the second cartridge, the Phasemation P-1000, went without any problems and around 22.00 we could finally sit down and start listening to records. The cartridge was coupled to the Phasemation EA-1II phono preamp, and that in turn to the Accuphase C-2820 linear preamplifier. The output stage consisted of two amplifiers, configured as monoblocks, the class A A-45 from Accuphase, driving the Dynaudio Confidence II C4 Signature floorstanding speakers. The cabling, including phono cable, was Siltech Double Crown (see HERE).


I feel uncomfortable trying to describe the sound. It was not the sound I remembered from my home system when I had the Argos. Any attempt at an evaluation based on an audition made straight after unpacking and assembling the turntable, without the time needed by all the components to properly run in, without breaking in the cartridge or the preamplifier (they were new), in a new listening room, borders on stupidity. On top of all the above, imagine a dozen people present in the room, with some going in and out, and finally a fatigue. We were really exhausted just looking at how Dirk labored. I have no idea how he managed to keep standing after finally aligning the cartridge and not fell to the side like a tree, which is what I would have probably done. Dirk, however, additionally answered endless questions, swapped the records, commented on them. He acted as if he rested all the time while someone else was working – there is power in this man!
In any case, the sound was not quite as it should be. Such complex designs need to keep spinning and playing for a few weeks in one place, and only after that time can you try, ever so cautiously, to set about optimizing their sound – be that adjusting the cartridge, maybe replacing it, or adjusting the turntable itself. Here, the first vinyl was spinning on the platter about 5 minutes after Dirk said "finished". His other comment came after some time, when he simply added that he had never listened to such music on the Transrotor - it was Vader with a cover designed by Tomek's friend.

A few things, however, were already evident. The first concerned the scale of sound. I've never heard such a volume of instruments. They had real dimensions, without being compressed to the size of the "window" between the speakers. The soundstage was not limited by the room size. But not because the speakers "disappeared", but because the created soundstage had the kind of expansion, not normally present in home audio systems. The instruments were not specifically separated and lacked depth, but it exactly the characteristic that gets "run in" in the course of time. The size of the presentation was incredible, regardless of whether we listened to Verdi’s Choruses from the original LP, or Hugh Masekela from a Hope reissue.
The second issue was the dynamics. As I have repeatedly stated, the dynamics of recordings played at home does not have much to do with the dynamics of live music. It is due to the limitations of recording techniques, the speakers and the listening room. These cannot be jumped over. But what I heard at Tomek’s was unique in its naturalness. Still not quite the equivalent of music live, but a very successful attempt to emulate it, nevertheless. The dynamics was powerful, there was breath and there seemed to be no limits, no sound compression. After a careful listen, of course, one would find elements indicating its presence, but the transition from any other, even the most successful system, to this, based on the large floorstanders from Dynaudio and the Artus FMD turntable, will be truly shocking. Dirk repeated several times that in their experience it is only the big and heavy turntables that are capable of such momentum; it can be simulated to some extent in lighter designs, but will never be true DYNAMICS, such as that we have heard. And that's why they tried to combine functionality and exterior design in their turntable, keeping as much weight as possible. Finding a match between all these elements was what took them most of the time and ate up most money - the finished product was preceded by several prototypes and dozens of hours of, often minor, adjustments.


Our friends and colleagues – “audio laymen” - often ask why audio devices are so expensive. The simplest answer would be: "just because". Luxury is always expensive. That answer actually hits the nail on the head. However, most people perceive audio not as a luxury but some kind of aberration, usurped by snake oil types and crazy freaks. That says more about themselves, about their consciousness and knowledge, rather than the audio, but what is important is that this answer does not satisfy them, either. Then I reach for a comparison with the art: when you buy a graphics, a photography, or a painting – anything really, you don’t ask why it costs so much; instead, you just ask yourself if you can afford it or not and whether you want it or not. The answer to that is usually of the type "but audio is consumer products, not the art itself." And that's also true. Then I need to start a long story, describing the situation of an audio manufacturer and saying that if the product was manufactured in China in hundreds and thousands of units, its price could be a fraction of what it is with production output of a few dozen units. And adding that it would no longer be the same product; that what counts first of all is not so much what the device is made of, but the end result, and that the price is often a reflection of how the device sounds and how it compares to competing products. Last but not least, that the final refinement of a product to the level that we hear is usually the fruit of many years of hard work and that we pay not only for the cost of manufacturing but also for the time spent on the project. And, I must admit, the latter explanation usually works best.
High-end, and extreme high-end in particular, is yet another thing: it's a combination of all the above. It is hard work on the design, the cost of component, labor, and maintenance; it is a piece of applied art, an object of luxury. Separately, they all cost a lot of money, and taken together they cost a fortune. Like, for example, 130,000 euro. And that’s it.

Distribution in Poland
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30-646 Kraków | ul. Malborska 24 | Polska
tel./fax: 12 655 75 43