The merits and disadvantages of turntable drive systems is a topic guaranteed to spark fierce debate in audiophile circles. Direct drive turntables were commonplace during the latter two decades of vinyl’s heyday with most Japanese outfits upper product ranges comprising a direct drive turntable or several, favoured for their superior speed stability, low noise, high torque and zero maintenance. Designing a good direct drive system however is costly and more complex than a drive train consisting of a belt or an idler and that, coupled with the increasingly rapid adoption of the compact disc and decline of the vinyl format saw most companies drop their direct drive designs in favour of simpler, cheaper belt drive alternatives. Only a handful of companies kept the direct drive spirit alive. Technics produced consumer direct drive turntables into the mid 90s, and eventually discontinued the 1200 line in 2010, bringing the line back with the re-introduction of the brand in 2016. Chinese outfit Hanpin continue to produce a wide range of direct drive ‘Super OEM’ turntables for various manufacturers (Sony, Audio-Technica and Pioneer to name a few), most of them closely resembling the Technics aesthetic and function and most aimed at the DJ, though few if any able to match Technics’ legendary build quality.
Outside of the club, belt drive designs are of far greater prominence in today’s audiophile market largely owing to a combination of cost, complexity, clever marketing, misinformation and a little snobbery. Many claim that direct drive turntables are noisy and suffer from ‘cogging’ – slight ‘bumps’ felt as the motor poles pass the stayer, and speed irregularities as their servos dynamically adjust to maintain correct speed. In reality the opposite is often true, with a well maintained direct drive turntable being every bit as quiet as a good belt drive design if not more-so, and any speed irregularity being so minor that whether or not it is audible is a matter of debate. Discussing the pros and cons of any drive system is not the subject of this article. Today’s test concerns the Reloop HiFi Turn 5, a new direct drive entrant into the hi-fi market from the HiFi division of Reloop, a german company who has been producing DJ and pro audio equipment since 1996.
Priced at £650 the Turn 5 stands above the DJ-oriented alternatives, though with better attention to build and fit and finish as a result. Its multi-layer 12.8KG plinth carries a metal top plate finished in a deep piano black with a gold anodised platter floating above, a satin black alloy arm tube and further gold anodised detailing throughout. The platter weighs in at 1.8KG including the provided rubber mat, and is additionally rubber damped on its underside to minimise resonance.
Beneath the platter is a three-phase, 16-pol brushless DC motor supporting speeds of 33.3, 45 and 78RPM with quartz speed control and an illuminated strobe. The motor provides 4.3KG/CM of starting torque, spinning its platter up to speed in a Meer 0.2 seconds and braking electronically in the same amount of time.
The tonearm is s-shaped with a removable headshell, adjustable VTA (6 mm), damped cuing and a gimbal bearing with friction of roughly 20MG in both planes. The arm’s effective mass is approximately 20 grams including the supplied headshell, which puts it firmly in medium mass territory. Cables connect to a recessed terminal block at the rear of the turntable, and a quality interconnect and ground lead are provided in the box as is a figure of eight power cable.
Having assembled the Turn 5 on the rack, the first word that sprang to mind was “Technics”. The tried and tested aesthetic is replicated here though with some notable improvements and omissions. The large start button is where one would expect it to be, with a pleasing ‘clunk’ in operation and a wonderfully solid feel. The power switch is shrouded to minimise the chance of accidentally knocking the switch as happens so easily on a Technics; pre M3D at least. There’s no pitch control, which some would see as a missed opportunity given the ability to play 78s, some of which were recorded at anywhere from 60 – 100RPM before the speed was standardised.
I don’t see this as an issue, as I never use the pitch control in normal use and were I to spin a 78 (to digitise it for preservation) I would prefer to correct the pitch in software. There’s no target light or storage recess for a 45 centre adapter either, lending the top panel a very clean, uncluttered appearance. The hinged dust cover is almost an exact replica of a Technics besides differences in the hinge design. Were it not for the different hinges the two would be interchangeable. .
The similarities continue as we move onto the arm which sits atop the plinth on a helicoidal VTA adjuster. The arm feels pleasingly solid and its controls are smooth and precise. I didn’t find any play in the arm bearing; a tiny, barely perceptible amount of free play is desirable in a gimbal bearing when correctly adjusted, and the Turn 5’s arm is excellent in this regard. The counterweight dial calibration isn’t spot on producing consistent readings of roughly 0.2 grams too light, but a digital scale costs next to nothing and should be considered an essential tool to correctly setup a turntable at this price. Anti-skate is via a calibrated dial at the base of the arm with an adjustment range of up to 3 grams. Here the calibration is accurate, with the dial set to match the tracking force resulting in the correct amount of bias applied. Azimuth appeared perfectly set so I didn’t mess with it, though I did spot a screw at the rear of the arm tube which would provide a degree of adjustment greater than the play in the headshell connector if required.
In operation the turntable spins up to speed almost instantaneously and runs with no audible motor noise, and only a slight noise emitted as the starting torque is applied. Speed change is handled at the press of a button and braking is electronic, with the platter coming to an abrupt yet controlled standstill with no overshoot. Stall torque emulates the performance of a Technics 1200 MKII requiring slightly greater pressure on the platter of the Turn 5 to bring it to a stop. It’s a little more ‘torquey’ than the classic 1200 and less ‘torquey’ than the newer generation, but it is ‘torquey’ enough to account for stylus drag and to impart the energy and enthusiasm for which direct drive turntables are renowned.
Measurements and Specs
Reloop quote a wow and flutter specification of 0.01%. In practice I measured values of 0.0927 RMS and 0.1817 peak, average of readings taken over 10 seconds using a 3kHz test tone. The Turn 5 comfortably bests the quoted 60dB DIN-B signal to noise ratio figure, achieving a through-groove reading of 73dB. The plinth is heavy and well damped, though does produce a slight ring when tapped with a stylus on the record. This isn’t an issue at this price, especially as the feet do a very fine job of isolating the plinth from external vibrations.
The Turn 5 is supplied with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge pre-aligned in a 9.5G headshell to the standard alignment for this type of arm, parallel with a 15 mm overhang. This results in theoretical maximum and RMS distortion figures of 0.761% and 0.5% respectively and a tracking error angle of 2.31 degrees assuming the offset in the S-Shaped arm is calculated correctly. Though a lofgren A (Bearwald) alignment to IEC standard null points of 66 and 120.9 mm gives better figures – 0.64% peak and 0.417% RMS, with a tracking error angle of 1.86 degrees, I have always preferred the standard alignment. It not only looks better aesthetically, but aligns the cantilever with the arm’s pivot point and allows the arm to perform at its best. Theoretical specifications aren’t everything.
The combination of the Turn 5 arm and 2M Red cartridge yields a resonant frequency of approximately 6.7Hz, taking into account an approximate fastener mass of 0.5 grams. This is lower than ideal, with an ideal range falling somewhere between 8 and 15Hz. At resonance, the cartridge and arm combination produces a rise in output which can cause problems if it appears in the range of recorded music (above 20Hz) or in the region where record warps and rumble are common (sub 5Hz). Thankfully the combination of the Turn 5 arm and the 2M red falls just outside the problem area and no ill effects were encountered, though were I to replace the cartridge I would consider something of lower compliance and likely a moving coil.
The Turn 5 offers much of the impeccable speed stability, timing, drive and rhythmic adeptness usually associated with a direct drive. It’s lively with boundless energy, fast-paced and exciting. It does flatten dynamics somewhat; a product perhaps of the mismatch between cartridge and arm causing some high frequency damping, and some harmonic resonances in the arm below 200Hz. Imaging is somewhat vague too, though there is plenty of detail to get stuck in to and the Turn 5 follows complex musical passages with ease. Low bass passages are articulate and well defined with none of the unfocused blur of some similarly priced belt drive rivals.
Most importantly, the Turn 5 is quite simply great fun to listen to. Agile bass makes for a lively and energetic low end. In the highs its sonic signature is more relaxed than bright; some would say ‘warm’. But it is extremely musical and rich in the midband, making vocals and acoustic instruments in particular a delight. And while it isn’t the most dynamic sound going, it is at least cohesive in the way it presents layers of musical information to the listener and has enough ‘get up and go’ to remain interesting during extended listening sessions.
The Reloop HiFi Turn 5 is a well built, well specified and keenly priced alternative to the norm at this price. It’s a great looking deck with a wonderfully musical sound. It offers an upgrade path too; swap the cartridge for one better suited to the arm and it gets a whole lot better. Though it won’t match the performance of a Technics (arguably the direct drive king), it’ll get you most of the way there for significantly less money. Highly recommended.
Hi Ashley, Thank you for such detailed and thoughtful review. How would you compare this TURN5 model with the Reloop 7000 Mk2? For some reason that DJ model is sold a way cheaper. Does the TURN5 model have any significant advantages in it’s design and/or a sound quality that justify that price difference?
Thanks for your kind words on the review. The two turntables are actually very similar in terms of the drive system. Where they differ I believe is in the plinth design and possibly in the tolerances of the arm. The Turn 5 will have been optimised for listening whereas the DJ model is primarily optimised for feedback reduction and durability rather than outright sound quality. I personally would go with a turn 5, if anything because I think it is a nicer physical design and is extremely well built. I haven’t had the two side-by-side to compare however.
Thank you, Ashley. The RP-7000 mk2 is in fact somewhat lighter – 11.7 kg vs 12.8 for the TURN5, and possibly has a lighter platter 1.5 kg vs 1.8 kg (with a rubber mat). But it also claims a lighter tonearm -12.8 g of effective mass (with a headshell) which I guess is a good thing. And it has an adjustable motor torque settings. Could a lower torque setting for a direct drive be better (in terms of speed stability and noise) for a Hi-Fi application? Latest Technics SL-1500C (for some reason) has just 1.8 kg/cm of torque for the 2 kg platter.
The 12G effective mass is better for higher compliance cartridges, and is essentially the same as the Technics arms. The torque setting has more to do with use in a DJ scenario. The torque is adjustable to achieve the desired feel when the DJ holds the platter stationary or flicks it back during scratching. Higher torque is actually better for sound quality, as the motor will maintain stability through factors such as stylus drag. The reason the new Technics has a lower torque rating is probably due to it using a smaller motor or smaller power supply to keep costs down, and given that it has a lighter platter it doesn’t need as much torque as, say, a 1200G to get it spinning and keep it going at the right speed with no cogging.
Thanks for the review. I use Reloop Turn 5 for about a week.
To be honest, I was very disappointed with the 2M Red cartridge on my Reloop Turn 5. Did somebody just wrapped my speakers in a plastic foil? My other TT, Rega Queen with Elys2 is much nicer experience in the same audio setup.
I have replaced phono cables, mat and installed older Ortofon MC cartridge. Oh boy, what a change. Bye, bye 2M Red, we seriously disagree in sound department.
I was surprised to see 30 g stated as effective tonearm mass in specifications. I think this is rather total mass, which narrows the cartridge selection to low/moderate compliance.
I’ve usually found the opposite to be true of the 2M Red, it’s usually too bright and I’ve had instances where it suffered from an incurable sibilance. That said the arm mismatch could cause damping of the high frequencies which would explain the sound you describe, which I would agree with. I certainly think the turntable is worthy of a better cartridge. Regarding the effective mass, I’m not sure where their stated 30G figure comes from. My own measurement came in at approximately 20G, as did the lab report from Hi-Fi News and I also questioned this with Henley Audio (the UK distributor) who stated an approximate 20G figure so I’d go with that for arm matching, which puts it in moderate mass territory.
30 g as the total tonearm system mass (effective tonearm mass + headshell mass + cartridge mass) makes sense.
My MC cartridge, with 15 µm/mN of compliance, sounds much better.
I would love to find the alternative counterweight (lighter), the minimum weight of headshell + cartridge declared as 13 g is not precise. I was not able to set the right VTF for a light cartridge, I was not able to move the counterweight that close to the pivot point.
An easy solution to the counterweight problem would be to add mass to the headshell, either by screwing weight plates between the headshell and cartridge and adjusting the VTA to suit, or by using one of the DJ headshells with screw-in weights. Adding mass in this way could negatively affect the relationship between tonearm and cartridge, but it would depend on the level of adjustment needed. If you only needed to add a gram or two I wouldn’t think it would be significant enough to cause a problem.
I have used a heavier headshell (still within the acceptable range). This specific Ortofon cartridge was unusually light (only 4 g), but cartridge + headshell weight was within limits declared by Reloop, hence my surprise.
Turning the counterweight might help somehow but I swapped the couterweight for a 17USD new Technics counterweight, still available. This counterweight is lighter, so I could use any other cartridge without having to add any weight to it. I fitted the Ortofon DJ-E/Arkiv OM and this is a wonderfull combination. I also tried the Ortofon Gold “DJ” cartridge. Looks nice 😉
Hi, Ashley. I still enjoy your writings and the reviewed gear is often tempting. But… I’m an old guy, pretty conservative and somewhat old-fashioned, so, as long as my equipment is fully functional and gives pleasant results to my ears, I resist pulling the trigger…
My amp (Technics SU-7300) and turntable (Technics SL-D2) are both “entry level” devices I purchased nearly 40 years ago but I remember that the price I paid wasn’t on the cheap side for the student I was back then (I got the money from some holiday jobs). The turntable, particularly, isn’t great, but it does the job for so many years I’m always reluctant giving it the retirement (I only swapped the cartridge for an OM-10, many years ago). My speakers are younger (Klipsch RB-81Mk2) and sound great with the Technics, particularly for jazz and “classic” rock.
I’ve been tempted going “digital” with another amp (Yamaha MusicCast style) or streaming player, but I’ve not yet chosen the way to do this. As connecting a laptop to my amp using the headphones output gives poor results, I’ve got this amazing little box (Behringer U-Control UCA222) you already mentioned in some of your answers to your readers, and it’s great value for money. As this device works both ways, I’ve used it to save old (and rare) recordings from my cassette tape deck via Audacity.
I thank you for sharing your experiences and for your kind answers to your readers.
Cheers from Belgium.
Thank you for your comment and kind words on the site. The Technics equipment you have is actually very good and if it sounds good to you, that is all that matters regardless of how much it cost or how ‘good’ others perceive it to be. The SL-D2 really isn’t bad at all, providing you replace the stylus when it wears (every thousand hours or so) it should have many more years left in it yet. I am particularly fond of Technics equipment having grown up with it myself from a young age, and having owned or worked on most models I have a real appreciation for the design and engineering that went into them. They are really excellent.
Back then, gear was built to last. It could be repaired, too. Nowadays, entry to mid-level devices are cheaper to replace than to repair.
About the turntable, I think its main weakness is its light weight. But the direct drive system is good, as is the arm and the 270C cartridge. IMO, it has a “fuller” sound than the OM-10, which is slightly brighter and more detailed.
The new AudioTechnica VM95 line looks tempting. The body is the same (bare for the colour) across the range, the differences coming from the stylus (Ortofon did this with the OM-10, 20, 30…), so one can upgrade without changing the whole cartridge. Comparisons with the old AT95 should be interesting…
Modern low-end Japanese gear is still very good and well made, looking at the likes of Marantz and Yamaha etc. There is certainly a lot more poorly build hi-fi made today than there was in hi-fi’s heyday, and back then there were better low end options for sure. But there is still great hi-fi to be had for little money (in hi-fi terms) and the sound is better than ever.
Low mass in a turntable isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it is the basis of Rega’s design principle for one. The main issue in plastic plinth Technics turntables is resonance control, but this can be solved relatively easily by damping the plinth internally with rubber sheeting and applying mods such as Sorbothane feet for better isolation. The new VM95 certainly does look interesting, especially with the option of a Microline stylus which in my opinion is a bargain at £129. I do hope to review the VM line in due course.
I’ve seen your tutorial with the Sorbothane. It’s used for insoles, so, it should be a good damping material.
It is excellent.
Thank you both for mentioning that Sorbothane, I was looking around how to improve my AT-LP5 and I was thinking to buy an Achromat as well…
Thank you for your excellent articles as well, Ashley, foloowing your advice I bought a Yamaha MusicCast CD-NT670D and I am really happy with it
I’m not really a fan of the Achromat, I think it’s hugely expensive for what it is. Have a look at the acrylic and silicone mats from SRM/Tech, they would add some much-needed platter damping to the Alloy platter of the LP5. They also sell an extra thick version of the silicone mat which would I’m sure be even better. The Audio Files have upgraded the LP5 with a better arm, but also platter resonance control. It may be worth reaching out to them to see if they’d sell you the platter (or the platter damping material) on its own.
Thank you again for your excellent advice!
Do you mean the one below with “They also sell an extra thick version of the silicone mat”?
That’s the one
Oh well, It looks really similar to my Audio-Technica AT-LP5 🙂
In terms of quoted specifications is it similar, but the two are quite different in design. The Reloop motor is entirely different, much more similar to the Technics 1200 series where the LP5 is closer to that of Technics’ lower end consumer turntables. The drive electronics, plinth and arm are also quite different and the Turn 5 omits the USB phono stage.
Thanks for your clarification, do you plan to review the AT-LP5 at some point?
I do plan to review the AT-LP5, along with an LP5 with upgraded arm and some other tweaks.
Very nice review. Id be interested in a comparison between the Turn 5 and the Reloop 7000. My understanding is they are all made by Hanpin based on the Super OEM Chassis. I think my problem is with the pricing of these products. The Turn 5 cost £699 inc cart so lets say £600 without when a similar speced SynQ XTRM1 can be had for £300/ Eagletone One Two £250 and the Mixars STA/LTA £230. All Super OEMs and all made by Hanpin..same motor/ same tonearm just different cases and some have an inbuilt phono and some dont. Whats puts me off is at £600 you are very close to Technics 1200 Mk7 money…
I can speak from experience here because I own all of these along with a Denon VL12, Gold Note 425 Plus, Inspire Quest and an Inspire Eclipse SE
I agree. When the Turn 5 came out the MK7 wasn’t on the market. It is important to note that in some cases the extra cost also brings better quality over the ‘standard’ parts, I.E tighter tolerances in manufacture depending on what the manufacturer specifies to Hanpin. There are also 2 HanPin ‘core’ decks, the primary difference being the motor. The more expensive models (Turn 5, AT-LP1240, RP7000 etc) use a far better motor. Whether that is the same for the models you list I don’t know, but I will be looking into this with a view to doing some comparisons.
I have never heard of the AT LP1240. Though the AT-LP140 does NOT use the same motor as the Turn 5 and RP7000 !
Hi Ashley, the Mixars, Synq and Eagle tone are all based on the higher end Hanpin DJ5500 turntable same as the Reloop Turn 5. The Synq and Eagletone having metal plinths whereas the Mixars is plastic.
Hi Ashley, to continue, out of the Hanpin Super OEM Tables I own the best for Hifi is the EagleTone. Its the same as the highly regarded LP1240 but without the inbuilt phono and USB. Second is the SynQ and third would be the Mixars as there is a slight hum from the in built phono stage (similar issues have been reported with the Reloop RP7000) but there is a simple mod to remedy this and the hollow sounding plastic plinth. IMO these Super OEMs are ripe for modding especially if someone was to produce a tone arm adaptor plate as per the Technics 1200.
It would also like to see a comparison between the Audio Technica LP5 as the LP5 is based on the standard Hanpin OEM chassis vs the Super OEMs listed above.