For over 20 years Reloop have been one of the biggest names in the DJ market, offering an extensive range of DJ controllers, mixers, analogue turntables, headphones, monitors and other accessories. They were one of the first manufacturers to cater for the vinyl DJ when Panasonic discontinued its legendary Technics 1200 series in 2010, and they’ve continued to innovate since with a range of analogue turntables, many of them customised super OEM decks based on a range of models by Chinese outfit Hanpin.
More recently Reloop have applied some of their expertise to the domestic hi-fi market. The first product to be launched under the Reloop Hi-Fi brand is the £350 Turn 3, a semi-automatic hi-fi turntable designed to offer a convenient and high quality vinyl replay system in an aesthetically pleasing, cost-effective package.
The Turn 3 is a traditional belt drive turntable, based around a substantial MDF plinth standing upon 4 isolating feet, designed to eliminate airborne vibrations and feedback. A rubber damped aluminium platter is spun by a DC motor with an integral speed control circuit offering electronic switching between 33, 45 and 78RPM via a dial on the top of the plinth.
The Turn 3 features switchable semi-automatic operation, whereby the platter will begin rotating automatically when the arm is moved to the beginning of the record, and stop when the outer groove of the record is reached. In practice the auto stop is not instantaneous, but can take up to 15 seconds to kick in as the stylus rides along in the runout groove. This unusual behaviour led to me incorrectly assuming that my sample had a fault, though further testing revealed that it was actually functioning perfectly and that the only issue was my lack of patience.
Unlike many of the traditional DJ decks for which Reloop are known, the Turn 3 uses a straight tonearm though with a traditional plug-in headshell and gimbal bearing, whereby both the horizontal and vertical rotation axes intersect at a central point. The Turn 3 is supplied with the £89 Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet phono cartridge pre-mounted to the included headshell. The 2M Red features an elliptical stylus and tracks at a gentle 1.8 grams, which combined with the gimbal bearing tonearm means that the Turn 3 will be far kinder to your vinyl than some decks at this price. Users wishing to play 78s will require a cartridge with a suitable stylus, Ortofon’s 2M 78 being the obvious choice.
The 2M red features a user replaceable stylus, which can be switched for the upgraded nude elliptical stylus found on the 2M blue if desired as the 2 cartridges share an identical body. I particularly like the way the front of the cartridge aligns perfectly with the front of the headshell when correctly aligned, which makes for a very neat installation. My only gripe with Ortofon’s 2M series is the truly awful stylus guard, which is extremely fiddly and attaches to the cartridge via a tiny clip that is prone to breaking. Replacement stylus guards are readily available, though at £3 (shipping not included) for a tiny piece of plastic they’re priced way out of proportion.
The Turn 3 features a switchable inbuilt phono stage and both RCA and USB outputs, allowing it to be directly connected to a computer to capture vinyl recordings at sampling rates of up to 16 bit, 48kHz. The phono stage can be disabled, at which point an external unit can be used to potentially improve the sound quality. The internal phono stage is independent of the USB output, meaning that the USB output can still be used even if you choose to upgrade the phono stage linking the Turn 3 to your amplifier.
The Turn 3 comes well packaged and, as you would expect, partially disassembled with the headshell, counterweight, dust cover and platter removed for safe transit. Setup is not at all difficult however, and there’s a handy video posted to Reloop’s youtube channel to assist you if you’re new to setting up a turntable
The plinth is a dual layer construction, with the phono stage, motor and tonearm electronics concealed within. On the top you’ll find the speed dial and the motor itself, along with the central bearing and the tonearm. The motor is mounted on rubber vibration absorbers to prevent any vibration being transferred into the plinth and thus into the stylus as it tracks the record.
The platter is driven by a rim on its underside, and the rubber damping extends only to the platter’s mid section meaning that it isn’t totally inert. Even when topped by the included felt mat it does ring when tapped on its edge.
the Tonearm looks very much like that of the Technics 1200 and its various clones, albeit with a straight arm tube and the absence of a rear auxiliary weight. Even the base which, despite being constructed from plastic and lacking the ability to adjust the vertical tracking angle of the arm, is the same shape. The gimbal bearing design is also very similar which is no bad thing, though no bearing specifications are published for the Turn 3’s arm. The arm feels solid in use, though sadly the same cannot be said for the arm lifter which, while well damped, wobbles from side-to-side and doesn’t feel as well constructed as the rest of the deck. It is however extremely smooth in operation, lowering the stylus gently to the record when dropped, and there’s no movement in the lift lever itself.
On the back you’ll find an input for the DC power supply along with both USB type B and RCA outputs. Switches allow you to enable or disable the onboard phono stage, as well as the semi-automatic operation. The rear also hosts a master power switch. When semi-automatic mode is disabled, the motor is powered whenever this switch is engaged. Personally I would’ve removed this switch altogether, instead adding a fourth option to the speed dial to switch the power on and off. The deck is internally grounded, hence the omission of an earth connector or cable.
A pair of hinges for the included dust cover come preinstalled to the rear of the plinth. The dust cover proved quite a challenge to install, as the plastic clamps that hold the cover in place refused to open to the point where they could be slid into the receptacles on the cover. Careful use of a screwdriver to ease them open resolved that issue. I have never encountered a cover that was even remotely challenging to install, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything.
The Turn 3 is powered by a switch-mode power supply which includes outlet adapters for the UK, EU and US. The power supply is extremely light and the locking mechanism for the outlet adapters doesn’t feel at all robust. Though it has yet to fail, it is not a device that inspires confidence, and a deck at this price deserves better. Its switching transistor also emitted a high-frequency switching sound which became a constant annoyance in a quiet room, though it was of course inaudible with music playing.
Setup is as simple as placing the platter over the spindle, and hooking the belt over the single pulley of the motor. Once done, the tracking force of the arm can be set. The Turn 3 uses the familiar counterweight assembly found on many a turntable over the years. The tracking force is set by moving the counterweight forward and backwards along its shaft at the rear of the arm until the arm floats horizontally when released from the rest. This applies zero force, at which point the small numerical dial on the counterweight can be rotated to align the 0 with the mark on the tonearm. Rotating the entire counterweight clockwise until the dial reads 1.8 sets the appropriate vertical tracking force for the 2M Red cartridge. Anti-skate can then be applied by rotating the anti-skate wheel to the same setting as the tracking force.
In practice, setting the counterweight as above yielded a tracking force of 1.6G on my sample, verified by a calibrated digital scale. It is possible that the numerical dial had shifted as the counterweight was rotated, and of course the above method requires that the arm be floating perfectly to achieve the correct downforce. The method above will get you close enough, but given that a digital scale can be purchased for less than £10 these days, I’d recommend you pick one up as it’s an invaluable tool to optimise your setup. I also found the anti-skate to be particularly strong on the Turn 3, and settled for a setting around the 1.6 mark.
The Turn 3 was connected to my reference system so as to test both the internal phono stage, and to assess any effect that the internal phono stage may have when it is disabled and an external phono stage is used. The USB output of the Turn 3 was connected to a spare USB input of my MacBook Pro using a 3M USB cable. I initially connected the Turn 3 to a spare input on an Anker USB hub, however this resulted in excessive distortion during playback and recording. The USB input offers no software or hardware gain control. When directly connected to the Mac the Turn 3 produced a perfectly clean signal from its USB output, so I can only conclude that this had to do with the power supply of the hub itself , or a hardware conflict with one of the devices also connected to it.
The most fitting word to describe the character of the Turn 3’s sound would have to be “pleasant”. It’s neither warm nor bright, though a slightly relaxed mid range would suggest that it’s not entirely neutral either. There’s a reasonable depth to the stereo image, and a good sense of air to recordings making both natural and artificial room reverberation and echo easily discernible.
The speed consistency is very good, as is the residual noise. With the stylus resting on a stationary record, the noise of the motor was only audible at extremely high volume levels, far beyond any level I’d listen at. My sample did run a little fast; 0.9% at 33.3RPM averaging 33.64RPM, and 1.2% at 45RPM, averaging 45.43RPM. This isn’t really enough to be noticeable, and if anything only serves to make the presentation a little more lively.
Surface noise is low, as is the end of side distortion though some of the latter is certainly present on louder pressings. I’d attribute this to the 2M red cartridge rather than the turntable itself, as I’ve never had much luck getting a 2M red to track a record without having to make some distortion compromises. I was surprised at how well it did track on the Turn 3 given my less than stellar experience with it on other decks.
The internal phono stage is a very good one, and comparable to any internal phono stage in an average budget amplifier. I didn’t notice any colouration of the sound with the internal phono stage disabled, so an external phono stage should certainly offer a worthwhile upgrade. I was pleased to note that The Turn 3 produced very little hum with the amps approaching maximum volume and an external phono stage in use, and even less when I switched to the internal phono stage.
In summary, the Turn 3 is a great effort and is certainly a contender at the price. It’s one of the better looking decks in the £350 price bracket but it’s let down by a poor power supply, flimsy arm lifter, slow auto stop function and a rather insubstantial platter. The choice of cartridge doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm either, though to give credit where it’s due the 2M red does track very well when supported by the arm of the Turn 3.
The internal phono stage is a nice addition, as is the USB output. Aside from the minor points mentioned above, the Turn 3 feels well put together and offers the aesthetic elegance of a higher end deck with a few welcome convenience features and respectable sound quality. Definitely worth an audition.