Turntable + tonearm
Manufacturer: AS-DISTRIBUTION GMBH
torm Mk2 firmy Acoustic Signature, along with the cheaper Challenger Mk3 and the more expensive Thunder Mk2, belong to the subgroup of the company's turntables, which we call mass-loaders, with a minimalist chassis. Except for the Triple X all cheaper models in the offer feature a classic look, ie they sport a rectangular base, are also relatively light, and all the more expensive ones are rather heavy, but their chassis are extremely elaborate, in the top model Invictus its chassis actually turns into a full size rack. The Storm Mk2 can be equipped with three motors and / or three arms. For an additional armbase one has to pay 880 PLN, and the for the motor 2960 PLN.
The look of the Storm Mk2 turntable is quite distinctive and refers to the iconic turntable by Michell Engineering. Its base is round and has a diameter slightly bigger than the platter. The latter is 50 mm high, the base is 45 mm, hence the Storm Mk2 looks really solid. This impression is emphasized by large feet, which slightly stick out outside this contour. And that was the idea – to minimize vibrations, and at the same time having a large weight. The German turntable weighing 31 kg meets both of these assumptions.
The Acoustic Signature, led by Mr. Gunther Frohnhöfer, develops quietly, without any rush, applying modifications and changes based on their experience with the new models, but also on feedback from their customers. Probably this was an origin of idea for the 2nd version of the Storm deck. The original version we tested in the "High Fidelity" in 2012. The Mk2 version came out a year later and is still on sale.
What's most important
The basic construction element of AS turntables is the main bearing called Tidorfolon. We describe what it stands for in each Acoustic Signature test, but it does not hurt to repeat the basic information. Tidorfolon is relatively soft but extremely abrasion resistant. It is an alloy of vanadium, Teflon and titanium, from which the bad for a hard ball is made. The latter is fitted into a hardened steel axle. The bearing linings are made of sintered bronze which is self-lubricating and therefore maintenance free. These elements work together so well that after they have been fitted together, fifteen minutes is enough for failure-free, precise operation for ten years without interruption.
The second characteristic feature are the so-called "silencers". These are brass rolls mounted near the perimeter of the plate, serving to damp it and give it more weight. We find them in most turntables of this manufacturer, and the more expensive model the more of them it features. There are eight of them in Storm Mk2. The Silencers minimize vibration near 15 kHz by 80 dB, and with them the resonance decay takes less than 20ms, just 1/10th the time of an undampened platter (more HERE). Golden discs, clearly cut off on the top surface of the plate, simply look nice, so it's no wonder that manufacturer decided to cut out holes in the optional leather mat to keep them visible. Additional damping of the platter is provided by a damping material fitted to the bottom.
The Mk2 differs from Mk1 also with a larger platter weight and improved power supply, now in Beta DIG version. The control panel looks very interesting because it seems to be part of the chassis while it actually does not really touch it, preventing the vibration from being transmitted to the turntable. There are two buttons - on / off and change the speed. It is a pity that there is no LED indicating this change, so we do not know at what speed the platter turns. This control panel was used previously in Challenger. The reviewed unit sport a more advanced version of power supply, costing an additional 3060 PLN, Storm PS-1. It's a small, solid box that can be placed somewhere far away from the turntable.
The Storm Mk2 can be used with 9 to 12 inches tonearms. At one time, AS offered their turntables with arms manufactured for them in an OEM system by, among others, Rega and SME, but in October 2014 they introduced their own tonearms: TA-1000 (9, 10 and 12"), followed by the next ever better models: TA-3000, TA-5000 and costing almost 78,000 PLN, TA-9000. The tested unit featured the 9 "(6160 PLN) version of TA-1000. This is a pivoting tonearm with gimbaled bearings and the precise miniature bearing are made by the German company SKF. The arm tube is made of carbon fiber and is extremely durable. It owes it to its specific structure – there is inner and outer tube. There are three connecting elements along the whole length of both tubes. This creates a very rigid tube but still having a high damping and resonance poverty and it is also very light-weight.
The arm offers all the classic adjustment, including VTA and azimuth. The latter is implemented in a precise way. Just near the bearings, where the arm is mounted to the aluminum element, one has to unscrew three screws and turn the arm within the +/- 5º range. In turn, adjusting VTA is very simple: unscrew the clamping bolt in which the column of the arm moves and move it up or down. After finding the correct height, screw the screw back. The downside is that this operation is that it can not be performed "on the fly", only with the raised arm, and since there is no scale it is difficult to set precise setting.
The arm is wired with the 1877 Phono cable that runs from pin inserts to the solid nextGen WBT plugs. Together with the arm we receive tools helping in setting up the tonearm and cartridge. With them the pickup calibration is quite simple.
The Storm Mk2 was reviewed with Miyajima Laboratory Madake cartridge and RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phonostage. I used exactly the same components a few days before when reviewing Kronos Pro Ltd. (in Polish) with additional power supply, although Kronos was placed on the Franc Audio Accessories Modular (in Polish) rack while Acoustic Signature on Finite Elemente Pagode Edition, in exactly the same spot as the three-motor Thunder Mk2 (in Polish) one did.
The deck rests on three massive, adjustable feet. Since the top shelf of Finite Elemente rack is made of a soft wood I decided to use Acoustic Revive SPU-4 under the feet and CP-4 under SPU-4.
I used Storm Mk2 also in my reviews of: Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC and Hana SL cartridges.
Usually when reviewing turntable I decide to use one of the Pathe Wings clamps, that differ with the material they are made of and thus their weight. This time I preferred the sound without any clamp. It was faster, more open and focused. The clamp added some more weight to the sound and reduced the width of the soundstage. You should try it yourself as your preferences might be different than mine.
Records used for the test (a selection)
Japanese issues available at
Those of you who had the opportunity to see me in the Premium Sound showroom in Gdansk did not quite get what I promised them. The meeting called “Touched by High Fidelity”, part of Tour de Pologne, on the one hand, was an opportunity to present the Emerald HF speakers, including my sound preferences, on the other an opportunity to discuss speaker placement, the best ways to set up and connect components, and so on.
However, it so happened that I got carried away and spoke mostly about music, how it is being recorded and released and thus what one should look out for during the listening sessions. I apologize to everyone I failed, but it was probably inevitable – after all, this whole hobby is about music. And probably this is the best way to popularize your views and opinions, not just dry data and facts. It does not mean that this time I shall skip the methodology that I have worked out, but only that I will shed a bit of light on it.
The test methodology is governed by its laws. One needs to determine all the basic sound elements of a given product, then project it on the performance of other similarly priced products and finally evaluate it. The tests you read in "High Fidelity" are actually a form of notes, reflections, conclusions. Their "raw" version includes the perception of specific albums and tracks. So I suggest this time, to break the routine, something similar to the "first version" of the test, which only later is synthesized the final text.
I would like to take a look at four records I bought within two weeks before Storm Mk2 arrived, and it so happened these were all Polish ones. Then we shall move to a short review of the discs I usually use during turntables' reviews, and finally to the summary. I'm talking about individual discs, because it's only when we know where the recording came from, how it was prepared, we can better understand the music itself, and why the record sounds one way or the other. And at the very end one can try to evaluate the sound of the device used to play this particular music.
The Stanisław Soyka album Acoustic was released in 1991 by the Zig-Zac label. Recorded in August 1990 by Peter Sedlaczek in Krakow's studio STU (also first few Maanam's recording were made there) and in Szczecin Polish Radio's studios, were mixed in Warsaw in the Polish Radio S-4 Studio with Leszek Kamiński, who was soon to become the most important Polish sound producer. It was an analog recording and so was the mix. The vinyl version, however, is a rarity, and the recordings are known primarily from the 2002 CD (Pomaton EMI) reissue. An interesting fact - the Wikipedia.pl informs that the recordings were made in Wisla Studio, and the Internet Catalog of Polish Gramophone Records claims that it was Joanna Sedlaczek who produced this record. Where do these discrepancies come from? I do not know.
The LP version sounds “light”, you can even say that too lightly. The Storm Mk2 presented the voice closely while the rather light sounding and slightly colored piano was placed in the back. Still, the sound was not dry or too bright (it's obviously relative, but I'm talking about my impressions). AS did not seem to make sound brighter or dry. And when in I Never Felt This Before came the bass and drums, sound got deeper, more slummy. After a while I realized that bass was rather monotonous. But that's how it sounded on the records and the turntable only presented it accurately without making it softer. So the low range, despite the fact it was quite tight was not tiring, I accepted it as it was. The top end was soft, without particular selectivity and resolution. Nevertheless, the “spirit” of the event was there, rising above all, making sense of the whole performance. In turn, the relations between instruments were conveyed perfectly.
SKALDOWIE, Rezerwat miłości
I have two copies of this album. I bought this one because for 25 PLN I got a mint version (unfortunately without an insert). The downsides are quite high numbering of the matrix - A-2 / B-3. Well, but it contains such evergreens as Wierniejsza od marzenia and Dopóki jesteś. From my point of view more interesting are other tracks, though - those with Wladyslaw Komendarek on synthesizers. At the time he was a member of the Exodus band. Wikipedia.pl wrongly ignores his participation in the Nie widzę ciebie w swych marzeniach, mentioning only that Stanislaw Wenglorz guest starred in it.
The material on this disc is recorded in various ways, i.e. the idea for a sound differs from a track to track. There are also some common elements, such as a narrow soundstage and rolled off both range extremes. Vocals sounds very distinctly because they are limited only to a middle of the range. If, however, we know what we are listening to, we can easily find a "testimony" of the times in this album – similarly to Soyka record - and then these defects become traits, and these turn into a particular story. All the more so because there are excellent fragments here, like Jerzy Tarsinski's guitar solos in the Jasny dzień przynosisz and passages with Komendarek's synthesizers.
The reviewed turntable showed these elements clearly, but without unduly emphasizing the defects. The difference between this record and the previously listened to, Soyka's one was huge, their musical and sonic aesthetics were clear. They both shared a kind of "fidelity" to the spirit of music, ie if the Acoustic was to be bright and light, it was so, and if the Rezerwat... was supposed to be rather warm and dense, it was. The turntable worked well with these records as a "relay" that was trying to stay in the shadows. Which does not mean it was clinically cold, far from it!
POLISH JAZZ. Modern Jazz From Poland 1963-1975
The international popularity of Polish jazz from the 1960s and 1970s is due in part to the activity of our musicians at that time in the West and on the other to the discovery of this music by DJs. In Poland, it was primarily performed by the Skalpel duo, and behind our western border it was a group of Berlin's DJs and Jazzanowa producers. Not only did he use samples like Skalpel, but he also released two LPs from PJ: Polish Jazz. Modern Jazz From Poland 1963-1975, with Kurylewicz, Wroblewski and Milian music, as well as recordings of NOVI Singers vocal group.
On the cover of the first one one reads that the recordings obtained a legal license and that the material was remastered from the "original master tapes". It is not clear, however, whether Jazzanova actually was given access to the original tapes, or the material was copied from Polish tapes and delivered to Germany in a digital form. I would bet the latter.
Mainly because the tracks on this disc are quite dark, and they are not particularly refined in terms of imaging. The 2016 digital remaster of Polish Jazz records, including Go Right , from which we have the song Naymaland here, sounds much better. But there is some of this raw intensity of jazz music, of its wildness, not quite defined status, on this album which I know from the original edition. The 2016 remaster is a bit polished and nice sounding. Here the sound is not as resolving and yet exceptionally reliable.
I can not explain it otherwise than by the way the German gramophone showed the soundstage. Its layers are differentiated by a different acoustics of each instrument, and by how their volume (size) changes - when the saxophone, in the above mentioned track, plays far in the back, it has a different tone and is smaller than the instruments from the foreground.
Once again, one can hear a precise, accurate bass, which is a bit muffled again – it so happens that all the so far pressed records sound this way. Differences in the way the low notes are presented are clear between them, but probably the whole concept is what is most important. Bo Kondren, responsible for the remastering of this material, made sure that all the songs sound as coherent as possible, even though they'd come from different sessions and from different years. So he cut a low bass and rolled off the treble. The cymbals are massive and heavy, but they are not really extended toward the top and so they are not as realistic as on the new remasters.
CZESŁAW NIEMEN, Niemen – vol. 1 (Marionetki)
This is a special album. Niemen invited the, at the time amateur, Silesian Bluses Band (SBB) to play with him. The group debuted on December 22nd, 1971, and a year later, along with Helmut Nadolski, they presented the songs that were later included on a two-disc album known as Marionetki. The Polish Recordings (Warner) have just released their re-release in the form of a two-disc album using a digital remaster prepared by Eleonora Atalay, Niemen's daughter (Jacek Gawłowski converted analogue material to the digital version).
I have several copies of this album, and I bought this one because it was in a very good condition and was signed by Skrzek, Apostolis and Piotrowski, ie SBB members. Unfortunately, it was pressed using very high numbers matrix: A-3 and B-6, so it is not a perfect copy. In addition, it was quite a late re-release, because the “L” from the original sign of “SXL” disappeared, leaving only the “SX”. One can also easily hear the difference. This is another, after the Skaldowie, dark recording, so characteristic of the 1970s and 1980s in Polish Recordings. There were more pops and cracks than on of the previously listened to records and actually it was the first one that, when listening to, made me fully aware that music was played from vinyl. Previously it was not that obvious, because the German turntable suppresses the pops and cracks very well, giving the listener a comfort of listening to the music itself. Equally low is the background noise.
Marionetki sounded, as already mentioned, in a dark way, without a clear treble. All layers of the soundstage were presented pretty close to listener, unlike on the original (blue and red) editions. That's how they should sound like, and they do on this release. On the copies pressed using matrices with lower numbers there is bit more treble and it is more accurate but it does not change a general character of this presentation. The Storm Mk2 presented accurate tones, colors and managed to keep me on my toes while waiting for what was coming next. Pace&rhythm are one of the key feature of this turntable. Here, however, the ability to keep everything on a high level all the time was especially important and it translated into a particularly pleasant listening experience.
It so happened that all the records I received during this test were discs with Polish music (apart from already mentioned ones there was also an album called Omni by a group of the same name). This turntable dealt with their weaknesses perfectly. It was a deep, distinctive performance, the differentiation was above average, and the dynamics was impressive. All of them also shared some features that I verified later with some modern AAA pressings.
With them the treble opened and the bass was much better extended. It was a full-band presentation with a great focus. It was incredibly refined. There were also some things confirmed that I had heard before, but I was not sure whether it they came from records or the turntable. Like the mid-bass that was slightly emphasized and not so well differentiated as with the more expensive Thunder Mk2 model of the same company, nor is it was as rich as with the cheaper Triple X. Here we get a better focus and greater dynamics. But this part of the range averaged.
In turn, the treble, especially its upper part, is a bit darker than, for example, delivered by the Transrotor and SME decks. This can be corrected with a more open sounding cartridge, but I do not know if it is worth it. I would not trade it for these almost inaudible pops and cracks, and this amazing coherence with the midrange. But the choice is not mine – it's yours if you decide to purchase this deck.
I hope you did not get bored reading about particular records. To tell you the truth, that's how my job as a reviewer looks like. The fact that you usually receive the synthesis and extraction from it is inevitable, otherwise each test would have to be two or even three times longer, and no one would be able to stand it. And I would have to write half the texts. But I think that even this one time will help you better understand the sound of this turntable and to let you confront it with your expectations.
It offers a dark, dense, very mature performance. The differentiation is above average, giving an insight into every disc that speaks with its "own" voice. At the same time, however, there is emphasis on the attack phase despite the high dynamics, which stops the differentiation in the right spot for the sound not to become too analytic. Analyzing the sound is our job not turntable's. Pops and cracks are almost inaudible, as it the background noise, and the presentations is refined – that's what we get with any record, whether it is Julie is her name - vol. II by Julie London (by the way, the recordings were made in a all-solid-state studio in 1958!) or the one-sided 45-rpm records from the Basie / Bennet set.
The turntable emphasizes part of a mid-bass and delivers a slightly dark treble. I think it's a low price to pay for so many other advantages this turntable has to offer.
Most of the details of the Storm Mk2 design are identical to what we wrote about the more expensive Thunder Mk2. The following description was therefore modified only where it was required.
Chassis + platter
The Storm Mk2 is a mass-loader that is not decoupled in any way, ie it features neither a decoupled sub-chassis nor any soft element in any other place. The turntable is made of aluminum - 50 mm platter weighing 11 kg and 45 mm chassis. The whole device weighs 31 kg. The feet are very solid and have small adjustable elements that allow user to level the deck. It can be equipped with three tonearms and three motors.
The platter is dampened in two ways – with brass, gold-plated "silencers", ie inserts placed inside platter close to its perimeter. As declared by the manufacturer, they are most effective in the 400-6000 Hz range. Underneath there is another vibration damping element. A leather mat is applied to the top – an element characteristic for this manufacturer. In order not to lose sight of the golden "silencers" there are cut-outs in the mat.
The Storm Mk2 features a bearing that uses a material called Tidorfolon. This is an alloy of vanadium, Teflon and titanium which is relatively soft, yet extremely resistant to abrasion. It creates a bed for an extremely hard tungsten carbide ball, combined with the axis passing through the plate. The axis is made of hardened, polished steel. The bearing linings are made of aged sinter bronze, which is self-lubricating material and therefore maintenance free.
These elements work together so well that after they have been fitted together, fifteen minutes of work are enough to the bearing to work seamlessly with utmost precision for ten years. In each subsequent version the parameters are improved for both abrasion and the fit. The company is confident enough to offer a 10-year guarantee on the bearing.
Power supply + motor
The power supply is provided by an electronic system called BetaDIG, which works with a synchronous AC motor. The controller is a separate component, but it slides in front of the turntable, from the bottom, so it looks like it was permanently attached. Its core is DSP chip and quartz clock. The motor voltage is output from the rear of the housing, using a multi-pin gold-plated RS-232 socket. In fact, apart from the RJ-45 (Ethernet) socket for the external power supply, there are three RS-232 jacks. This power supply is adapted for special arrangement with three motors - the one we tested once with the Thunder Mk3 model. This controller features two buttons. One turns the power on and the other one selects the speed. The former is accompanied by a red LED and the latter sports no indicator.
The synchronous motor, is made by - as the manufacturer says - "one of European companies". It is sealed in a large, solid milled aluminum housing that is filled with vibration damping material. It is stands on several rubber cones - it is the only decoupling element in this turntable. The axle is fitted with a large aluminum pulley with a belt cut. The belt is made of rubber. It is seamless with a square cross section. It is placed around the platter.
The tested version of the turntable received a higher quality power supply than the standard one. The Storm PS-1 is a pretty box with aluminum front and blue LED.
The chassis for Storm Mk2, Challenger Mk3, and Thunder mk2 are designed is such a way that the chassis itself and an armbase are two separate elements, joined by a thick flat bar that can be moved to adjust the distance for 9, 10 or 12" tonearms. We tested a 9'' version of the Acoustic Signature TA-1000.
This is a pivoting tonearm with gimbaled bearings and these precise miniature bearings are made by the German company SKF. The arm tube is made of carbon fiber and features the same diameter along its whole length. In fact there are two tubes, one inside the other with three connecting elements along the whole length of both tubes. This creates a very rigid tube but still having a high damping and resonance poverty which is also very light-weight. Hence no additional damping elements were needed. The wiring runs in the inner-tube. It's made of 6N copper placed in Teflon. There are two options – the one in the reviewed unit included seamless wire that runs from pin inserts to the solid nextGen WBT plugs. The cable is made by 1877 Phono. Deck features a plastic tonearm holder – not a very elegant solution but it works fine.
The TA-1000 does not have a classic headshell. Instead, there is a flat element screwed to the aluminum tip with a single screw. I've seen it a couple of times before, for example in the Clearaudio Verify and Unify tonearms. The cartridge is screwed to a metal plate and it moves forward and backward while changing the azimuth at the same time. This is a bit more difficult to handle than with more popular solutions, but it can be mastered. Especially that user receives also a cartridge calibration tool with the tonearm - a metal plate with a small auxiliary element that sets the arm's distance.
The counterweight is made of brass - turning it, one moves it forward or backward. The thread is fine so one can adjust the VTF for a cartridge accurately. After selecting the right value, one fixes the counterweight with three small screws. VTA adjustment is not so easy to operate because it's a classic buckle clamping the column of the arm without the scale. The anti-skating system looks nice, although it's a classic John Crabble, once the chief of Hi-Fi News, solution. It's just a string and a weight. The weight moves inside an aluminum housing, which prevents the weight from swinging too much.
Specifications (according the manufacturer)
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One