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Turntable + tonearm



Manufacturer: Kronos Audio Products
Price (when reviewed):
• deck: 105 500 PLN
• tonearm: 34 000 PLN

Contact: 4035, rue Saint-Ambroise, suite 414
Montréal (Québec), H4C 2E | Canada


Provided for test by: RCM

t takes time for new solutions to find supporters, to settle in, so to speak. After some time they confirm their worth, they are simply widely accepted. It is even more difficult if they in any way call into question the current status quo, or even just look differently from what we, customers, are used to. Like to the fact, that turntable features one platter, sometimes a sub-platter too, if necessary. But what if the turntable sports not one, but two platters? Do we actually need two of them? - It's not about listening to two records at the same time, right? (unless one wants to build an analog, turntable-based multi-room system :)).

The first thing that makes the Kronos turntable stand out are two identical platters of a large mass, rotating in opposite directions. We call this solution "dual platter counter-rotating revolution" (a revolution of two platters revolving in different directions).

If that is how a description of the solutions used in his product is begun by an already widely known and respected manufacturer, then it must be an “axis” around which everything else revolves in this particular design. So, while the Sparta model of Canadian company Kronos features also many other equally interesting solutions, techniques and ideas, one, while getting to stand in front of it, still gets hypnotized by the two platters, placed one above the other and rotating in opposite directions. When one places a record clamp on the top platter one's attention shifts to even more mesmerizing logo with two connected rings (the symbol of the main feature of Kronos decks), engraved on the top of it. But at first, what surely attracts attention most are the two platters.

In so called „white papers”, titled: The Limitations of Traditional Turntable Design available on manufacturer's website one reads:

All turntables currently on the market are constructed either with or without a suspension system. Suspended turntables are better isolated from both mechanical and sound vibrations emitted from the speakers. These turntables are often preferred to rigid ones as they deliver a more organic sound and a softer presentation. However, the suspended platter and tone arm present a significant downside – a pronounced blurring of the musical signal. This is caused by TORSIONAL FORCES, a natural tendency of the sub platter frame to rotate in sync with the platter. Although this rotation is controlled by springs, or other elastic parts found in the suspension, at this new point of equilibrium, the slightest vibration coming from the stylus reading the groove is echoed back to the stylus, out of phase. The result: the stereo image produced is blurred and distorted. Critical musical information is permanently lost.

To solve the problem of torsional forces, some manufacturers build a rigid turntable and completely eliminate the suspension. But vibrations produced naturally by mechanical components and the environment are fed back to the platter and tone arm, causing yet another type of blurring and distortion of the music signal. The resulting sound is often described as harsh, aggressive and glassy.

"KRONOS… employs two identical, high-mass platters, one above the other rotating in opposite directions and moving at precisely the same speed. This engineering completely eliminates torsional forces. Since the turntable is protected from mechanical and environmental vibrations, it can therefore be suspended without any negative outcomes."

The Limitations of Traditional Turntable Design, Kronos Audio Products,

Ones of the best non-suspended decks I know are: Air Force One by TechDAS and Transrotor Argos (let me remind you that “suspension” here means decoupling platter and tonearm base from the chassis and motor), and the best suspended ones are: SME 30/12 and Avid Hi-Fi Acutus Reference. Each of them delivered outstanding performance and I could live with any of them a being happy about it. But one can not simply deny Louis Desjardins, the owner and designer of Kronos, when he claims that both types of turntable designs have their own intrinsic sound characteristics that allow listener to recognize one from another easily. The lower the price the easier it is to distinct a suspended deck from non-suspended, but even at the very top of the range one always has to make a choice of either - or.

Using one of these types, while eliminating its drawbacks, seems therefore a great idea. Except it is an unrealistic one. It could be the ultimate goal for a designer, but only one to pursue, not a strictly technical one that actually could be achieved. But when one sees such an interesting idea, and in addition as simple as the one applied in Sparta, also carried out in a precise and consistent way, one might start to think: "maybe it is doable after all?"

Not that the idea of the two platters is unique for Kronos, as there is the Japanese Koma offered by 47 Labs, sold with Tsurube tonearm (12 000 USD + 2,250 USD). In that case the two platters are driven with one belt and one motor. Also this solution is widely used in other industries especially when high speeds are involved.

For example, as pointed out in his Sparta review by Greg Weaver, in 1982 the Soviet Army started to use attack helicopters featuring a contra-rotating coaxial rotor system, employing a pair of rotors mounted one above the other on concentric shafts with the same axis of rotation, but turning in opposite directions (contra-rotation). It was called Kamov Ka-50 „Black Shark”, and later, in 1997, a two-man Ka-52 „Alligator” (Greg Weaver, Kronos Sparta Turntable. A New Concept in Turntables, „The Absolute Sound” Feb. 2016, see HERE [accessed on May 30th 2016]).


And so Sparta is a suspended turntable with two concentrically arranged platters and two motors, rotating in opposite directions. The motors are fully synchronized with a precise, discrete, linear power supply, operating in class A. The aluminum, CNC machined sub-chassis features two levels instead of one, and each of them holds a platter and a motor. The sub-chassis represents a so called "skeletal" design, known, for example, from the latest Rega models.

The whole design is suspended on high pillars and decoupled from them with rubber rings - four are applied on each pillar. It's a very similar solution to the one of SME decks, but British manufacturer uses much longer rings and there are more of them. In Sparta, due to the fact that it has two motors placed on the opposite sides of the platters, one has no need for additional pull that is necessary for SME. Note that Avid's turntables are decoupled in a different way, in a horizontal plane, and using even thicker rings.

The deck looks fantastic. It is a tall, substantial piece of equipment, but it has a "light" structure and one doesn't get overwhelmed by it. Every detail has been thought out five times and perfectly made – I believe it is sets a make&finish bar really high at the moment for the whole industry. All components are made in North America.


Equally interesting, as the deck itself, is the accompanying tonearm. During the shows Louis Desjardins offers 5000$ to anyone who using his bare hands could break the arm's tube. As far as I know, the money still hasn't change the owner.

The arm is in fact quite particular. Designed by the artist more than an engineer (one, of course, does not exclude the other), who lives in Montreal, André Theriault, has a length of 10.5" and it features a damped carbon fiber tube. The tube sports three layers - fiber, wood and fiber, and it is tapering towards the integrated, carbon fiber head-shell. An interesting fact - the arm features no anti-skating. And the second one – tonearm is delivered with a protractor but Wojciech Hrabia, who works for Kronos distributor, RCM, suggested using a more accurate version, which from now one will be delivered with all Helena arms.

The arm is also noteworthy - nominally it's a uni-pivot design, ie. with a support in a single point. To reduce the swinging of an arm instead of a pin and the bed they used a large diameter ball, gliding in oil with ceramic nano-balls filling a cup. The fit is very accurate, so to make sure their surfaces do not attract each other too much, the bed has a specially prepared surface, resembling that of a golf ball.

The tonearm is mounted on a retractable arm base, so one can also use tonearms with lengths ranging from 9 to 10.5''. However, it seems that only ones offered by Kronos - the tonearm wiring is terminated with a small connector that has to be plugged into the back of the deck. Next to it there is a pair of RCA jacks used to connect the deck, using a phono cable, with a phonostage.

During the test, the turntable was fitted with the Shelter Accord cartridge and delivered signal to one of two phono preamps – the one I've been using for the past 7 years - RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC and also to the recently reviewed Audio Tekne TEA-2000. The signal from the turntable to the phono was delivered using Argento Audio Flow IC, and than Siltech Triple Crown. The turntable was placed on Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack.

Records used for the test (a selection)

  • Acoustic Room 47. Limited Black Edition, Proa Records, 180 g LP (2015)
  • Chet Baker Quartet, Chet Baker Quartet feat. Dick Twardick, Barclay Disques/Sam Records, „Limited Edition", 180 g LP (1955/2011)
  • Czerwone Gitary, Na fujarce, Polskie Nagrania „Muza” SX 0599 [Mono], LP (1970)
  • Depeche Mode, Playing The Angel, Mute Records/Sony Music | Music On Vinyl MOVLP950, 2 x 180 g LP (2005/2014)
  • Jerzy Milian, Milianalia, OBUH Records V27, „Limitowana edycja 329/350”, 180 g LP (2005)
  • Kraftwerk, Radioactivity, King Klang Produkt/EMI, STUMM 304, „Kling Klang Digital Master“, 180 g LP (1975/2009);
  • Max Richter, From Sleep, Deutsche Grammophon 4795259, 2 x 180 g LP (2015)
  • Miles Davis & Milt Jackson, Miles Davis All Star Sextet/Quintet, Prestige/Victor Musical Industries SMJ-6530, LP (1956/1976)
  • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Misty, Three Blind Mice/Cisco Music TBM-30-45, „Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Limited Edition | No. 0080/1000”, 45 RPM, 2 x 180 g LP (1974/2004)
  • Young Power, Young Power, Polskie Nagrania „Muza” SX 2525, „Polish Jazz vol. 72”, LP (1987)
Japanese issues available at

It took me a while before I knew how to start this review. It was clear to me what I wanted to say, I had a certain sound "image" of this turntable ready in my head, but encountered difficulties with a choice of a feature, which would characterize this design best, which I should lead with. The first impression is the key, right? To paraphrase Wislawa Szymborska, first sentence, as they say, is the most difficult one, so now it should be a piece of cake ... ("Apparently, in every speech, the first, opening sentence is always the hardest. It's good I'm passed it now ..." - speech delivered on December 7th 1996 at the Swedish Academy, quote from „Tygodnik Powszechny”, [accessed: June 1st 2016]).

The most important feature of this presentation is this incredible ease in establishing kind of "communion" with the listener - "communion" in the original sense of the word, ie. 'Emotional identification with the collective, with the environment "(Polish language dictionary, ed. W. Doroszewski " This turntable delivers particularly "analog" and almost warm performance. I deliberately use these stereotypes, because it will help me to direct your attention.

The “analogousness” of this sound comes from its wholeness, continuity and smoothness. We listen to the whole event, which obviously includes details, in which the main purpose, however, is something laying under the music. Typically, this is referred to as emotions enchanted in the notes and that is a good description. However, since you're reading an audiophile magazine i.e. designed for people who care not only about music (notes + performance), but also about how it is reproduced (recording + reproduction), I'd say that there's more to it: it's about the emotion of both the music itself, but also of how well, tangibly, dense, deep it is played.

There is perhaps no greater contrast between the sound of two turntables than between Air Force Three and Sparta, even though they both represent a similar, equally high level of performance. The former focuses on precision, control, control over the played material. Only based on these qualities others follow, such as resolution, and therefore smoothness and the "completeness" of the sound. Kronos does it differently. It focuses on liquidity, resolution, and "completeness" and these are followed by: control and precision. On paper (computer screen) these words look the same, but they speak of different approaches.

The reviewed turntable is all about coherence and richness. Compared to any TechDAS turntable, or Mr. Sikora's Reference, Kuzma Stabi XL and Reference, but also after the top SME deck it may, temporarily, seem to lack selectivity. One could even assign a lack of internal coherence and somewhat extinguished dynamics to it. That would be a huge mistake! If we issued a verdict based on this first impression we would make a mistake.

It's a sound that one needs to discover gradually, it's not delivered right away. One follows the music, noticing how nicely this or that sounds. This is a turntable that does not evaluate, it leaves that job to us. Differentiation is very good, but it is not discriminatory. One will enjoy equally an analog tube recordings from OBUH Records and digital remaster (24/88.4) of Go Right by Kurylewicz Quintet. Sparta will distinguish the way particular material was recorded, as well as different issues, but it won't throw this information in our face.

It rather makes suggestions – OBUH records sound incredibly dynamic and vivid, with lots of information about the musicians, the way of playing, technique. Reissues of Polish Jazz are really good, and the best of them, such as Kurylewicz, are simply fantastic. But one can not hide the fact that the PJ master tapes are 50 years old, some even more, as well as the fact, that this is a digital re-issue. It manifests itself with a limited information about the percussion cymbals, with them being separated from each other, instead of playing like one instrument, and they are surely not as dynamic as they should.

Analog recordings and editions are incredibly vibrant when played by Sparta, but they don't sound bright at all. That's what I heard with a reference issue of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio's Misty. Sound of this album was velvety, instruments were shown on a soft, black background, their sound was really deep and at the same time amazingly dynamic and vibrant.

With both types of records one gets high dynamics and an excellent bass. This is what's usually most difficult to achieve for a suspended turntable. It is, almost always, accompanied with a blurred leading edge and treble losing its “glare” - I'll get back to that in a moment. Even Avid Acutus Reference, that I really like, is affected by that. Only SME designs are mostly free of these issues, but at the cost of "stiffening" attack. Sparta does it in a better way, because it does not sacrifices richness nor its specific softness of the sound, that make listening late at night so comfortable and pleasant.

And what about cracks and pops and and background noise level? These are much fewer and lower than with the Air Force Two and Three, the J. Sikora Reference, and less expensive SME models. And yet these are not completely separated from the music, as they are with AF One. This is, of course, a completely different price level, but the fact is the fact. So let's clean our records before listening sessions. Having said that I need to be clear – neither the noise nor cracks and pops actually interfere with listening impressions or pleasure. Even more so that there is as much treble as you need and it does not seem to be too warm. Just as bass is at first is perceived as soft, also treble proves to be precise and very "musical", ie. being anchored in music.

I'm not sure how it is possible but I haven't said almost anything about the midrange yet. I mean, I told you about it without calling it by its name. Speaking of "black", "deep", "density" I described mostly everything that is happening below 5 kHz and above 600 Hz. How incredibly well sounded the Max Richter From Sleep album, filled with slow sounds sounding as if they were coming from under water, particularly intense in a lower midrange. And so it has been presented which did not lead to "nasality" of the sound. It's not a coloration, it's not a "tube-like" sound, and yet it seems to be warm.

And last but not least – a few words about spacing. I left it for the very end of this review because it is something that only the AF One does in a better way sounding even more similar to the analog tape. It is hard to talk about the soundstage layers and imaging of particular phantom images, there is no so-called "holography". The Kronos delivers a particularly homogeneous, saturated half sphere, that does not attract listener's attention to these aspects. It is rather "imaging" and not creating of a "soundstage". I admit that this way of presenting instruments in space appeals to me much more, although it is a much less "hi-fi" way.


In an article devoted to the 60th anniversary of the "Hi-Fi News & RR" magazine its chief editor, Paul Miller speaks about the pictures opening reviews, taken at "heroic angles" (John Atkinson, Steve Harris, Paul Miller, Diamonds life. "Hi- Fi News "at 60 ," Hi-Fi News & RR "June 2016, vol.16, No.06, p. 33). Sparta looks in such a heroic way, no matter from which side one looks at it. It presents its true character also in the field of sound, that is full, warm, dense and differentiating. Perfect make&finish and beautiful sound, that one can fall in love with - and it really doesn't matter how many rotating platters are involved.

The Canadian company Kronos product range includes today three turntables: the most expensive, limited Pro model with four engines and a titanium frame, Sparta and Sparta 0.5, the latter using one platter. "The half" can be upgraded later to become a “full” Sparta. Range also includes tonearms – the 10,5'' Helena and 12'' Black Beauty.

Sparta is a suspended turntable with a belt drive. The chassis and the auxiliary chassis are “skeletal” designs, ie. a great care was taken to leave them with as little material as possible - the more material is used, the bigger vibrations that have to be damped, and thus the higher the price. Bolted to the base are four tall pillars, one slips two auxiliary bases onto them. They are identical and are screwed together. Sub-chassis is suspended by means of rubber rings - four on each pillar.

For each sub-chassis hosts a platter made of polymer and aluminum. The upper one has an additional thin layer of carbon fiber, and a record is placed directly on top of it. Platters - each weighing 12 kg - are individually balanced. The axis on which we put the record has a slightly smaller diameter than standard ones. On one hand it's an advantage, because if the axis is thicker it's difficult to place some records over it, but on the other hand it's more difficult to perfectly center them. One put a a screw clamp on top of a record.

The bearings have been developed in-house in Kronos. They are based on a steel ball working in an inverted-bearing. The ball and a steel, hardened spindle are lubricated with oil poured into a bowl underneath. Inside the large diameter sleeve where the stem with a ball is put into, there are milled grooves, that supply oil to the top of the bearing, which is an opposite solution to the one usually used.

Motors are mounted inside metal cylinders of different heights. These are DC motors made by Swiss company Maxon. The tubes are made of aluminum, and the "plugs" with motors and shafts of Derlin. Inside the tubes with motors there is a Hall sensor, which allows to synchronize motors with each other. This is done with the power supply placed in a separate controller, with toggle switches, eg. to change the speed (33 1/3, 45 rpm). We can also precisely set the speed – in order to do that one has to connect a cable with a light source to the controller. It works with stripes marked on the platter. It operates at a frequency of 120 Hz. There are two cables connecting controller with the turntable. One plugs them into the back of the chassis. Pro models features controller and a display integrated into the base of the turntable, same solution is used in J. Sikora Reference.

At the top of the sub-chassis an arm-base is screwed, that can slide forward and backward. For Sparta one can use arms of 9 to 10'5" length. At the bottom of the sub-chassis so called “dog tag” is placed with the model name and serial number. Owner receives also a second dog tag that can be worn around the neck. Precise, beautiful work, and it offers user a sense of communion with a luxury product.

Specifications (according to manufacturer)

Dimensions (S x G x W): 510 x 360 x 280 mm
Weight: 32 kg
Platter weight: 12 each
Power supply: dual channel pure class A linear DC
Lubricant: variable viscosity synthetic oil
Speed: 33 1/3, 45 rpm
Tonearm length: 9”-10,5” (229 mm - 267 mm)



- 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
- Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
- 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
System I
- 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
System II
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

System I
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: fuse – power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) – wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
System II
- 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