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Manufacturer: HOLBO
Price (when reviewed): 5000 EUR

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Provided for test by: HOLBO


f you take a look at Slovenian company's HOLBO website you will find there only one product but without many details, links to reviews and so on. It's because the company entered the market recently with their so far only product – a turntable. The lack of particular name, apart from a description that reads: „air-bearing turntable system” is another hint that we are dealing with a newcomer. Lt me remind you another company that stated in similar way – Lumin from Hong Kong. When they released their first music player they called it simply Lumïn. Only after they released next one they renamed the first model to A1.

The owner and chief designer of Holbo is Mr Bostjan Holc, which provides an explanation for the name of the company (Holc+Bostjan). He sent me a short email with information about his product followed a month later with the turntable itself:

my name is Bostjan Holc and I'm from Slovenia. I am a new manufacturer of turntables and air-bearing tonearms. I'd like to have my product reviewed by

When I was unpacking this turntable it was a complete novelty, as it was premiered in October 2017 during Hi-Fi Ljubljana 2017 Show, and then a month later presented at another show in Zagreb.

Owner, designer

My name is Bostjan Holc and I am 47 years old. I come from Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia. I built my first turntable 30 ears ago. It sounded better than any CD Player I knew, so I've never came back to any digital source.

My musical interests were always focused on classical music and opera. During last three years I've been listening mostly to Bach (God sent him to Earth to offer his music to the people). To re-create the ambiance of the largest philharmonic and opera halls at home is not an easy task, but when you achieve it, you can forget that you're listening to an audio system. You listen to music with all your senses, ears are not so important at all. The best approach to achieve this is air-bearing turntable with tangential air-bearing tonearm.

I built my first air-bearing turntable and tonearm around 20 years ago. The air bearing I use with this turntable is exactly the same as 20 years ago – it worked excellent all these years, so I only modified the main air bearing. The first turntable was not easy to use, and the production cost was very high. So I simplified the design and in less than three years I developed a turntable that I named Holbo.

The 5kg turntable platter is made of 6082 aluminum alloy, the main air-bearing weights more than 2 kg. The plinth is made of 30 mm thick MDF so that all cables are hidden inside it. It features three adjustable feet made of high quality plastic that end with spikes. The DC motor is made in Japan, the speed is changed electronically (33 and 45 rpm) and cane be fine-tuned for both speeds separately.

The idea was to prepare a plug&play turntable, so there is no need to adjust air pressure and it is very user-friendly. All cartridge adjustments can be performed in a very easy way - azimuth, VTA, SRA and so on. It is VERY IMPORTANT that the cartridge is set properly!!!

The descriptive name I mentioned before brings the most important information about Holbo: it is a turntable featuring platter and tonearm that float on the air cushion; the air is supplied from an external compressor. Let me add that it is a tangential arm, i.e. moving along the radius of the record. The advantages of decoupling the platter with the aircushion are clear – it creates a very solid support of the whole platter, not only in one point, but it creates also a very efficient vibration redution system. In turn, the problem is to match the air pressure and the mass of the platter so that there is no “spring effect”, where the cushion deflects at specific frequencies.

| Tangential

Also, a tangential arm has its advantages, and these are utilized by many best producers of turntables, for example by the German Clearaudio, the Slovenian – you knew it was coming - Kuzma, as well as the American Walker Audio. Long story short, the point is that the varnish from which the matrix is later made that is used to press vinyl records, is cut by the tangentially moving head - tangentially, i.e. moving along the radius of the record (more in the article Introduction to the phono technique, part 3).

Tonearms suspended in one point introduce certain distortions when reading information from the groove, because only in two points along the curve the stylus is parallel to the groove - this are so-called "null points". These distortions are all the lower, the longer the arm, hence the popularity of 12" arms, and 10'' among Japanese music lovers. The longer arm, however, has its own issues too, mainly due to the higher mass and inertia. Let us also add that not all reputable manufacturers are supporters of this solution - let's mention the SME, Graham Engineering, Shröder.

In any case - the answer to these problems are tonearms like the one featured in the reviewed Holbo. Not the only one, because more and more often one meets other solutions, such as Thales'. Historically, they could also be found in relatively inexpensive constructions starting from the 1950s, for example in the B&O, Marantz, Lenco, etc. Another relatively inexpensive proposal was the Polish turntable Pre-audio BT-1301, which we tested in February 2014 (No. 118). However, these were all passive solutions and only the introduction of the airbearing to the equation changed the rules of the game.

The biggest problem with such arms is the highest precision they must be made with - the higher the precision of arm's travel, the better the sonic result. The best arms must therefore travel on the air cushion. It's still not enough though. There has been a dispute over a long time as to what air pressure from the compressor (pump) is the right one to use. It all depends, of course, on the specific design, but it is more often high, as in the mentioned Kuzma arms, than low, as in the Bergmann Audio Sindre that we once tested.

| Holbo

Holbo is a non-suspended turntable with an aluminum platter weighing 5 kg sitting on air cushion, featuring a compressor supplied by an external manufactorer delivering not very high air pressure. The compressor is quite loud, so it is not surprising that the set included a long tube which allows user to place the deck even in the next room. The same compressor, through the same pipe via connector placed on the back of the deck, supplies air to the tangential arm, which also moves on the air cushion. Let's add it is rare for this type of tonearm to offer its user so many adjustments including: SRA (Stylus Rake Angle), VTA in "fly" in the range of +/- 7 mm, azimuth and of course VTF.

The effective length of the arm, made of aluminum alloy and carbon fiber, is 163 mm. At one end, the counterweight is placed with a brass weight and a screw that allows user to attach it to the arm's tube. The weight of the arm is 31.6 g, and the affective mass vertically is 7.5 g. A simple template allows user to set a proper distance between stylus and the tube that tonearm travels along; the stylus is to move exactly on the radius of the record, parallel to this tube.

The whole design is extremely sleek. The base is not much bigger than the classic Rega or Pro-Ject, maybe a bit deeper. But its height is surprisingly small. It stands on three aluminum feet that allow user to adjust level. The feet are spaced at the same distance from the center of gravity of the turntable - usually it means in the base corners. They feature small, sharp spikes - I placed them on Acoustic Revive brass washers. However, you can try also the excellent Franc Audio Accessories feet. They offer a version designed to be used under spikes.

The turntable operation is simple, but not entirely comfortable, because the rotational speed, regulated electronically, can be changed using a switch, placed on the rear of the deck. One has to switch the pump separately by pulling the plug from the socket. On the plus side, one can precisely set the speed using two small potentiometers on the back panel. The DC motor is placed at the back, in the left corner, and the belt with a round cross-section is placed on the perimeter of the platter (there is no subplatter).

The turntable looks very professional and nice. The workmanship is very good, as ell as the finish. And, first and foremost, the design is very neat, which can not be said about other turntables featuring an air cushion - maybe apart from the above mentioned Bergmann Audio.

| Setup

The turntable actually comes (almost) ready to use, meaning that the base and arm are in one piece and one does not have to set anything up. One has to set up the pump and connect the pipe with the air to it on one end and to the turntable on the other, connect the external turntable power supply to the turntable and install the belt on the pulley on the motor axis and the platter. And then come cartridge setup which is a bit tricky ...

The Holbo's arm is attached with a single bolt to the trolley travelling along the record. Which means that in one place user adjusts both the azimuth - that is, the parallel placement of the cartridge in relation to the surface of the records – as well as the tangentiality - that is, making sure that the stylus travells exactly following record's radius. Both of these settings also affect the VTF. I have a lot of experience setting up turntables, but in this case it took me a lot of time. After getting some practice, it will be easier, I'm sure, but I suggest that the cartridge setup in this deck is performed by someone with experience - it requires multiple approximations and corrections of each of these three parameters.

The long hose from the turntable's pump suggests alrady that it should be placed as far from the turntable as possible. Which is true – the pump is simply quite loud when operating. But it can be remedied to a certain extent by putting a high stack of books on it. You will still hear it but less.

| How did I listen to it?

I leveled the turntable on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack. This shelf is additionally supported using four Tablette feet by Franc Audio Accessories, which make it similar to the Heavy Duty version of this rack. The signal from RCA outputs was sent to RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, or (interchangeably) to Grandinote Celio Mk IV, that were both place on Acoustic Revive RAF-48H placed on lower shelf of the same rack, plus I used also the passive EMI/RFI filter Verictum X Block. The phonostages were powered using Acoustic Revive Power Reference Triple-C.

During the test I used the Miyajima Laboratory Madake cartridge; for setting the VTF I used the fantastic Rega Atlas.

Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

  • Depeche Mode, Going Backwards [Remixes], Columbia Records 47746, 12” maxi-single 45 rpm, 2 x 180 g LP (2017)
  • Duke Jordan Trio, So Nice Duke, Three Blind Mice/Master Music MSA-001, „Harmonix Master Sound”, 180 g LP (2017)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach, Suites per Violoncello Solo BXV 1011-1012, wyk. Rocco Filippini, “Club of the 496 | Limited Edition No. 086”, Fonè (2016)
  • Oscar Peterson, Exclusively For My Friends, MPS/Edel Germany 59094784, „Triple A Reisue Series”, 6 x 180 g LP (1992/2014)
  • Zbigniew Namysłowski, Winobranie, Polskie Nagrania „Muza” SXL 0925, Polish Jazz | vol. 33, LP (1973)
  • Zeitkratzer & She She Pop, The Ocean Is Closed, Karlrecords KR056, 7” SP (2017)

Japanese issues available at

I recently told Witek Kamiński, our columnist, the owner of the WK Audio that when looking at the device I am going to test I see the recordings I should start my listening sessions with. Sometimes I modify this list later, but usually I stick to the direction already set at the beginning. I used this method before and described the device basing on specific recordings. This time I will do it again.

| Oscar Peterson – Vol. 1, Action

Tangential tonearms can may not solve all the problems of reading information from vinyl groove, but they all have a common undenyable feature - they disappear from the equation to a much bigger extend than the classical pivoted ones. They often disappear "too much", if something like that is even possible, "disappearing" some music too. These high quality ones, however, do not go to the dark side but rather fantasticly dissappear behind the music. The Slovenian system gets really close to them.

I do not consider Holbo's arm and deck separately, but credit for what I'm talking about goes largely to the arm. The first Oscar Peterson record from the box Exclusively for my friend sounded light, nice and effortless. It was full-blooded sound, because the turntable presented a strong, fleshy bottom, but the sense of "freedom" dominated presentation, I could not hear the mechanics behind the sound.

The sound was focused, very, very fast and spacious. It was a joint space, without a clear division into instruments, and therefore very natural. As in the materials attached to the box, Dirk Sommer, our friend from wrote, it was a fully analogue remastering, in which he tried, along with Christoph Stickel, to achieve similar sound to that of the original edition, slightly improving the elements that should have been corrected - among other things, the "presence" of the bass and the expressiveness of the piano. I think it worked out great and this release is a pinacle of the Triple-A series (A | A | A) from Edel, of which Dirk was an executive producer.

In any case, the point is that the Slovenian gramophone lets us into the world of music stored mechanically on vinyl forced effort, without trying to prove anything. The Peterson recording was not particularly resolving, but I did not expect it, the recordings were made in the Hans-Georg Brunner-Schwer private studio, and not in a big, professional studio. Nevertheless, or maybe because of that, with Holbo I had a medium-sized room in front of me, I heard that the microphones were placed close to the instruments, that the audience (absent in the SACD version) is small and that it was really a private session.

| Duke Jordan Trio, So Nice Duke

The So Nice Duke album is in many respects similar to the previous one, because it is also recorded live with audience – in this case in a club - and it is not particularly resolving. It is not really about the resolution in it, however, but about the naturalness of the sound. And this one is shown by the reviewed turntable really well. It was again a caherent, smooth presentation with rich low midrange, without any sharpness or harshness. The clicks are slightly audible, it is not a design that would somehow push them into the background or separate them from the music. But they are really small and do not interfere with the reception of music.

The album comes from the relatively late PAP series of the Japanese label Three Blind Mice, has a new cover, and it was remastered by Mr. Tohru Kotetsu (JVC Mastering Center) in cooperation with Shizuo Nomiyama. And it is, let me add, very pleasant, almost intimate in reception. And that's what probably caused Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi from Combak Corporation to choose it for his first Long Play in the new Master Music series. The resolution is not a simple matter. As long as the piano plays, it seems similar to Peterson's. When a double bass enters, however, it turns out that it is more natural, deeper and yet more selective. Same as cymbals, here much denser, sweeter, stronger and yet more delicate. It is a very pleasant, high quality re-issue.

| Depeche Mode, Going Backwards [Remixes]

In the cases of both of the above mentioned records, Holbo found space, resolution and depth. But above all, strong bass and low midrange. What is often missing in the music being played but other turntables, here is offered from the start. The double basses are lively, natural in their size and density. Their selectivity is not very good, but probably it is not about it. It's about naturalness. And with this turntable you can find it not only in sophisticated reeditions, prepared by highest class specialists such as Dirk Sommer and Kazuo Kiuchi - but also in the releases from the other side of the "rainbow", at least if we think about the type of music, how it is recorded and released.

More than once I have already realized that I'm happy to listen to Depeche Mode remixes from the Where's The Revolution, which seems to me to be a weak album, boring, and, in addition, poorly recorded. The songs processed by other musicians and producers gain freshness, and even - I do not understand why - they sound better. Holbo in this case delivered the pulse of music in particularly enjoyable way, the bass base, not allowing the high treble to be over-emphasized. I would even say that it was a bit dark in this case, a bit withdrawn. Which served these recordings very well - they were focused, compact and dense.

In my opinion, this is the immanent feature of this turntable. The Miyajima Laboratory Madake cartridge, with which I conducted most of the auditions by itself sounds quite warm, but not with “added warmth”, but extracted from recordings. And it delivers an amazing bass. Inconspicuous design from Slovenia has the ability to penetrate deeper layers of such details, while it does not seem detailed at all. It rather connects and "settles" music internally than it distributes it into prime factors.

However, this is the first layer. Underneath there is high resolution and detail but presented without a hint of aggressiveness. Listening to Depeche Mode remixes I knew perfectly well that this recording had little to do with sophisticated electronics from the 1970s, but not because of sharp edges - beware of devices that do that! - and through less differentiated sound, instruments and layers presented in a less precise - the latter are the first victim of modern techniques of cutting records from digital files.

| Johann Sebastian Bach, Suites per Violoncello Solo BWV 1011-1012

With the reviewed turntable I enjoyed listening to any recordings - of course within my own musical preferences. Holbo makes it easy, because it is very "nice" for them, i.e. it reaches deeper than only to the surface, shows their special features, it does not emphasize their shortcomings discouraging listener.

This naturalness of sound, because it all comes down to it, in the end it directs us towards analog recordings and releases. And with them, we will appreciate the excellent differentiation this design has to offer. Seemingly, this is yet another turntable, very even sounding, but because the distance it keeps from the presented musical event, it can even be uninteresting. But if we have any experience with high-end sound, we will quickly realize that there is much more under this layer and that other turntables are too expressive, too “forward coming".

Listening to the Bach's Cello suits performed by Rocco Filippini, released under 'Club 496' series by the Italian company Fonè, we know that they sound as if they were not mastered at all, it is an extremely “raw” sound, i.e. untouched by mastering engineer - for better and worse. I'm not saying that there was no mastering process, but that Mr. Giulio Cesare Ricci, the owner of the record label and the chief sound engineer, designed this release this way. The cello is presented primarily via midrange, it sounds almost like there is no reverberation. With Holbo it is perfectly legible.

| Zbigniew Namysłowski, Winobranie

But beside the rich midrange, also fleshiness of the sound is noteworthy. Sincee this term appears again, lets make it clear that this is one of the main features of this turntable. It is not a “showy” kind of presentattion surprising us with sparking cymbals and emphasized vocals. The sound is presented starting from the line connecting the speakers and from there its depth is built. The soundstage is not particulalry wide but it seems extremely natural.

This is useful with well-recorded, but poorly pressed records, such as one of the most important titles in the Polish Jazz series, bearing the number 33 - Zbigniew Namysłowski's Vintage. Adding some weight/fleshiness to the sound was particularly important because the original PJ pressings, which is what I am talking about, usually sounded too thin, they had a rather limited bass extension. With Holbo everything went back to normal. So you can say that with the Holbo tonal balance is slightly lowered.

But it does not bother me at all, on the contrary - just as I observed it with the Kronos Pro it allows a comfortable listening to any record. It was not as resolving and multi-layer presentation, as in the case of the first two albums of this test, and yet it sounded great! Let me add that the differences between the first pressing of Winobranie and its re-edition with the catalog number SX 0952 were unequivocal and clearly indicated that the original sounded much better.


The Holbo turntable is difficult to set up and all other elements of the system have to be carefully selected – it plays like much more expensive turntables and does not tolerate lack of attention to detail. There is also a problematic noisy pump, which one has to find a way to deal with. Despite everything, it's worth considering, because Mr. Bostjan's record player copes well with communicating emotions contained in music. Its sound can be described as warm, but only if we understand it as natural. It offers excellent resolution, great differentiation, although at first glance, its sound is calm and unobtrusive.

Let's listen to it longer, and we'll appreciate the beautiful, meaty bass and sweet, pretty treble. There is speed and dynamics here, which are never emphasized. What you will not get are expressive vocals, they are not shown in the front, as with many other constructions of similar tonality. You should get a good record clamp for it, and you will have a professional turntable with clearly “shaped” sound - an "analog" sound. Even with digital recordings released on the single, such as Zeitkratzer & She She Pop, The Ocean Is Closed by Karlrecords. The bonus will be an extremely compact form of the turntable.

Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

Motor: DC, electronically controlled
Platter: aluminum, 5 kg
Bearing: 2,16 kg
Dimensions (W x H x D): 430 x 400 x 150 mm
Weight: 12 kg

Tangential, air-bearing
Material: aluminum alloy, carbon fiber
Effective length: 163 mm
Effective vertical mass: 7,5 g
Effective mass: 31,6 g
Wiring: silver/copper Litz
Power supply: 110 V-240 V/50 Hz-60 Hz, 2 W

Power consumption: 9 W
Noise: 30 dB (A)
Dimensions (W x H x D):: 176 x 138 x 94 mm
Weight:1,2 kg


Fusion 470

Record clamp

The Pathe Wings brand should be well-known to the readers of "High Fidelity". Operatin in Berlin, lead by our countryman it offers so-called turntable accessories, such as mats, anti-vibration feet, cleaning agents for records and styluses, but also record clamps. We have several types, and we use them in most turntable tests.

The clamps in Pathe Wings lineup are available in several versions: "Stainless Steel", "DuraWings" and "Fusion". The latter features the main body made of a special plywood pressed under very high pressure, called PanzerWood. On the top of this layer there is a disc of material looking like POM, and at the very top there is another element, made of stainless steel. Such a sandwich is designed to suppress vibrations in a wide spectrum of frequencies.

We received for a review the Fusion 470 – the number indicates its weight (470 g).

The impact of this "hybrid" clamp on the sound is quite obvious. Tested together with the Holbo turntable, which features a polymer, not steel, axis showed a better definition of sounds and a much nicer bass presence. Without the clamp, the tonal balance is shifted slightly up and the presentation is not so much "gutty" as before. Pathe Wings' clamp makes the sound more colorful, nicer.

A comparison of the hybrid and titanium clamps of similar mass on the same turntable turned out to be an extremely interesting experience. In general terms, it must be said that the titanium version sounded in a more expressive way, the attack of sound was better defined. Which can be of use to Holbo users if they missed this aspect of the sound. However, if our turntable puts too much emphasis on the attack, delivers too strong treble, the hybrid clamp will regulate it. Some details will disappear, the clarity will drop slightly, but - as usual – you get something at the expense of something else. And the titanium version is much more expensive.

It is important, however, that without clamp the turntable sounded simply worse. With clamp, sound was more colorful, richer and digital recordings sounded as creamy as I mentioned. With the titanium version the attack was little ephasized - which is a positive feature - but with digital recordings it can have a negative effect. The "hybrid" clamp does a better job in such situation.

Manufacturer: PATHE WINGS
Sales: HiFi Arte
Price: 99 EUR



- 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
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: 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