Ever since I bought my first linear tracking turntable off eBay some six years ago (a Technics SL-10, natch), other linear trackers have held a bit of fascination for me, and none more so than the Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond V ($105,000). The best way I can describe this turntable is "crazypants." The Black Diamond looks like nothing so much as a cross between a Singer sewing machine and a turntable all filtered through the Victorian mind of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The massively heavy air bearing platter and plinth are machined from a proprietary low-resonance material that looks and feels indestructible. The clamp and all of the tonearm adjustments are machined from brass. Everything is infinitely adjustable. The motor, encased in a matching crushed marble enclosure, is mounted on vibration-damping feet with a straight-cut drive pulley and a flat silk belt. The belt tension is relatively loose, preventing the belt from pulling the platter off of the air bearing.
When I first learned of the idea of an air bearing turntable, I was pretty dubious about the noise of the air compressor; memories of aquarium air compressors droning into the night haunted me. However, in the Walker room, I wasn't able to detect any noise emanating from the compressor over the sound of the music. In an at-home set up, however, I'm told it's entirely possible to locate the compressor in a closet or another room and run tubing; in fact, it comes with 100 feet of tubing for just this purpose.
With all my excitement over what seems to be God's Own Turntable, it might be easy to overlook the rest of the system.
Fortunately, the Raidho Acoustics Diamond Series D-3 loudspeakers ($71,000 in the pictured walnut burl, $66,000 in basic black) made themselves known in a way that was hard to ignore. Powered by Pass Labs Xs 300 monoblocks ($85,000/pair) and paired with the Walker Reference phono amp and power supply, second edition ($25,000) and the legendary Counterpoint Magnum Opus 1, everything here sounded truly magnificent. “Best soundstaging of the show,” read my notes, and my recollection in hindsight bears this out.
The level of detail on the bluegrass track that was playing (sadly not recorded in my notebook) was truly impressive, almost clinical in the ability to pick out each individual note. The Walker keeps time like an atomic clock, offering rhythmic stability and grip like little else I’ve heard. If I have any complaint, it’s that the overall sound signature in the room was almost a little too precise for my usual tastes. However, this was easily one of the most impressive rooms I experienced at the show, and I am endlessly pleased at finally having seen a Walker turntable in the (pitch black and shiny brass) flesh.