Not more than a couple of decades ago, just about everyone involved in the audio biz gave turntables a farewell salute. Sales dropped rapidly and historic names like Micro Seiki, SAEC and Fidelity Research faded into oblivion as everyone was worshiping a new, “silver” god. The silver god with his red bible book was to reign for just a few years as the followers of vinyl realized that the new deity’s promises for a higher fidelity were false promises. Soon the cult of vinyl came back and came back so strong that acolytes pretended new turntables, tonearms, and cartridges of mechanical and acoustical perfection had never been seen in the past.
As a matter of fact, we now have more high-end analog gear than ever before. Some of the old masters have been resurrected from their ashes, and new designers have made it to the scene. Charles Han, the man behind Hanss Acoustics seems truly convinced about vinyl’s capabilities. Sometimes, you can tell if someone is here to stay (or simply jumping on the bandwagon) by their level of investment. Hanss currently produces five turntables, three phono stages, a couple of motor controllers, a record cleaner and some accessories. Looks like a significant investment to me.
The T-30 stands in the middle of the Hanss range of turntables. “Middle” sounds like “entry-level” to many audiophiles, but listen to what you get in the middle before drawing any conclusions. In this middle-case, the T-30 boasts an aluminum, CNC machined, hard coated and black anodized, 9 Kgr platter with magnetic levitation ceramic bearing (EU made), a multilayer aluminum and acrylic chassis with two tonearm dockings, adjustable maglev feet, two external AC motors housed in heavy aluminum pods and driving three silicone belts each. A clamp is also provided, along with an acrylic stroboscope which doubles as protractor. The speed control unit is external, in aesthetically matching housing and is capable of 33.3 and 45 rpm. The T-30 has incorporated a laser tachometer in the chassis, and with the press of a button it will show you the exact speed of your TT down to three decimal places, and yes, you can adjust the platter speed.
Local distributor Aurion Audio brought in the T-30 with the matching tonearm, the Hanss UNV-2, which is built by the TOSY corp. of Japan. The UNV-2 is a no-fuss, static balance, Rega mounting-pattern tonearm, built from aluminum except for the center-block, fulcrum and column, which are made of chrome plated brass. Quality wiring, with 4 and 6 nines copper, is used throughout and, if necessary, a heavier counterweight is available. VTA and azimuth are adjustable, while anti-skate is set through a small rotating knob on the side of the tonearm which pulls on a plastic string in order to create the desired tension. In standard configuration, the second armboard is cut for SME style mounting, and for the fun of it I went on and installed my modified 3009 Series II Improved. Additional armboards can be ordered directly from Hanss for the vast majority of known tonearms. Worst case scenario, a blank armboard can be delivered too.
Turntable and tonearm came well packed in cardboard with complete sets of instructions. Set up was a piece of cake and took less than an hour to adjust both the TT and the tonearm. Personally, when I have a new analog rig to install, I use a cheap cart and when I have it all sorted out I move to the “good” one. The cheapo cart usually is an old Shure 70b, the “good” ones for this piece were the Ikeda 9 TS (review to follow) and ZYX 1000 airy3 in the low output, copper coils version.
Inserting the T-30 in my rig was not so simple. The two motor pods are meant to be placed diametrically opposed in order to counter balance the pulling forces on the spindle, but this necessitates 60cm (approx 24 inches) of rack. This does not include the motor controller which will not fit under the TT itself. My solution was a double-decker custom mini rack in black lacquer with the final result being very pleasing to the eyes.
Can you predict the sound of a turntable?
I think I can. But one could ask, do turntables (and tonearms) have sound of their own? Are they simply a means to an end, or do they actively contribute to the final result? I firmly believe that turntables and tonearms go beyond the typical function of providing an adequate environment for the cartridge to perform, and have an intrinsic musical character which reflects the design principles implemented and the materials used to produce these elements.
So, going back to the prediction of the TT’s sound, and since I am Greek but not an oracle, let’s see what we have.
The T-30 has two motors packing six silicon drive belts, combined. I translate this feature to relatively high torque, not Garrard / EMT level, but higher than most belt drive TT’s. Silicone provides a better grip than, say, silk or other low-friction belts, and having six definitely helps. In my book, this design choice leads to a reasonable expectation of good bass extension.
The T-30 also has a GRS (generate, rotate, synchronize) optical speed counter (the laser tachometer we were talking about earlier), and the double motors with the massive platter. The GRS doesn’t contribute to the actual sound, but helps immensely in achieving the desired accuracy. On the review sample, the speed was drifting between 33.322 and 33.335 rpm. These are phenomenal readings, and not just for this kind of money. The platter’s mass adds inertia and the resulting pitch stability should produce clear, steady tones and low distortion on voices.
Now we have to consider magnetic bearing … Here comes the tricky part. When I read “magnetic bearing,” I predict a somewhat less focused imaging, a musical representation less defined than classic “full contact” bearing turntables. The reason for the lesser focus could be the micro movements in the vertical axis or the missing mechanical coupling between platter and TT chassis. The question that naturally follows is, why designers use magnetic levitation if it (even slightly) smears the sound? Well, besides obvious marketing reasons (it sounds fancy!), using magnetic levitation gives the opportunity to implement a higher mass platter without destroying the thrust ball, and higher mass means higher inertia which translates in higher pitch stability. What Mr. Han did was to mount the bearing in a height adjustable well, so it’s up to you to decide how much levitation you will implement in your listening sessions. I used the minimum, meaning the platter was riding almost as low as it can.
The T-30 chassis, as is typical of practically all Hanss models, is made out of an Acrylic-Aluminum sandwich. This type of fabrication is common in modern turntables, including designs by Clearaudio, Transrotor, and Montegiro. Many companies use this design simply because it works; the acoustical properties of the materials used will provide excellent damping.
As for the massive platter, it is intended to be used without a mat, with the record directly placed over the bare aluminum and this is how I ended up spinning my records. The lightweight clamp is a nice addition to the Hanss package, though I could not hear any particular differences with or without it.
The UNV-2 tonearm came with standard “Baerwald” geometry, but I switched for a “Loefgren B” during my listening sessions, as I do prefer the lower distortion presented by the latter (excluded the record limits).
UNV-2 tonearm geometry is typical Baerwald, also known as Loefgren A. Note how the Loefgren B geometry offers a 0.2% lower tracking distortion for the major part of the groove radius while being only slightly more distorted for the rest of the record.
The oracle has spoken
In ancient Greece, oracles never gave a clear prediction. Only vague signs that people ended up interpreting in their own personal way. In our case the signs are clear, the T-30 seems a well-engineered TT, but does all this translate into music?
Wait, is that a record Pythia is offering to the bearded Greek audiophile?
The answer is yes.
It is always nice to find out that some artists manage to work well together, driven not only by commercial interests, but by friendship. Even nicer if the music they create is inspired, creative and unique. Yes, I am talking about the Jarrett-Peacock-DeJohnette trio a.k.a the Standards Trio, born under the auspices of ECM’s founder Manfred Eicher and still on tour after some thirty years. Changes is a record to die for, a combination of stunning improvisation and excellent studio engineering. In “Flying Part 2”, Dejohnette gives a memorable recital and uses all the bells and whistles cymbals before leaving some space for Gary Peacock’s bass which will eventually introduce a singing Jarrett, both by voice and piano. The T-30 translated all this creative energy into music, with excellent rhythm and pace. Moreover it managed to capture the way Dejohnette was playing his cymbals, both in the centre and in the outer layers of each one, creating a whole different set of sounds in every stroke.
Staying on jazz music but on a more spiritual level, I turn to Al Jarreau. Jarreau’s father was a church singer and his mother a church pianist. It would seem Al Jarreau could not avoid musical involvement. After singing in the local church he eventually turned pro but his influences remained unequivocal as a jazz performer. On “She’s Living Home” (All Fly Home WB 56546 also available on MoFi) the Ikeda 9 TS + T30-UNV2 combination provided a delicate, almost palpable reproduction of Jarreau’s movements and expression in front of the microphone.
Moving to one of the most popular piano concertos, Grieg’s opus 16, Clifford Curzon threw a new light on my appreciation of the T-30’s capabilities. Yes, pitch was perfect, every deep piano note (and there are many in the partiture) sounded solid, unaltered in timbre and frequency, just listening to Curzon live (Decca SXL 2173). My Garrard (flush strobe 401 bought NOS, fitted in a 30Kgr CNC machined baltic birch plinth, sitting on top of a solid block of limestone weighting an additional 60 Kgr) started to show its limits. As with many older idlers, pitch stability in the Garrard is probably not the best, especially when compared with direct drives or well-engineered belt drive turntables. Garrard implemented an eddy current brake in order to control the rotation speed, something that belongs to the past, and it was no surprise to me that the T-30 delivered better defined pitch on the piano notes. What amazed me the most was the lack of rumble. Having a maglev bearing the T-30 sports a lower rumble figure, but this was more than easily predictable, it was audible. This Decca record, for example, is one I am deeply familiar with, and my current reference cartridge, the ZYX 1000 Airy 3, got me some wider macro-dynamics than usual. Was I expecting the T-30 to be quieter than my Garrard? Naturally. This quiet? Heck no. And what about the slight smearing in sound found in many suspended TTs? While not being a classic suspended table, the T-30 has magnetic feet and bearing. It also has a heavy platter and by minimizing the depth of the well (thus the floating space for the platter itself), Hanss seems to have eliminated the threat of audible traces of smear or fuzziness.
Earlier the oracle predicted something about the torque. Double motors, each equipped with 3 silicon belts. In the user manual Hanss suggests that a single belt is enough and it truly is. Why then use all six belts, with the risk of elevating the vibrations transmitted from the motors to the platter? Because records like Beethoven’s fifth symphony conducted by Carlos Kleiber exist. You cannot possibly believe that such a record can be played on any low-torque, flimsy turntable and provide the same impact as a high-torque one. Not sure if it’s a result of Kleiber playing the timpani as a youngster, if it’s the genes transmitted by his father, Erich, a well-regarded director himself or the Vienna orchestra performing one of their classics, but this is the most impressive, rhythmic, strong interpretation of the Fifth in my collection. The T-30 performed excellently, falling only slightly short of the Garrard 401 in terms of drama and dynamism, and trust me, this is a great compliment.
There is one last point I need to emphasize, the difference between the recently launched Ikeda 9 TS cartridge and my ZYX 1000. For those not familiar with the Mr. Nakatsukas design philosophy, let me do the introductions. His creations are among the most modern moving coils with no audible ringing, ultra fast slamming bass, and CD-like channel separation. IT Industries, on the other hand (owners of the Ikeda brand name), made a new “entry level” cartridge, the 9 TS. This cartridge is a medium-output moving coil that follows the Ikeda heritage, pursuing musicality over speed, and flow over low-frequency control. I am writing all this, not only to tease you for the upcoming Ikeda 9 TS review but also to point out how the Hanss T-30 managed to extrapolate the different character of these cartridges.
Over the last month and a half, the Hanss T-30 equipped with the UNV-2 tonearm kept me company, and it was a true joy to listen and to look at. Definitely a well-engineered turntable and a high value for money.
- US Importer: The Lotus Group
- US $5,900
- Review sample provided by Aurion Image and Sound
- EU SRP 5.900€
- Type : Rigid Turnable Standalone Motor
- Platter : 70mm CNC Alumium 9 kgs hardcoat Anodized
- Bearing: Magnetic Suspension Low Friction Precision European Ceramic Shaft with Stainless Steel Ball
- Chassis : CNC precision cut aluminum Acrylic sandwich
- Color : Brush aluminum Silver
- Aluminum and Acrylic layer thickness: 10/20/4/20/10mm
- Magnetic Suspension adjustable feet
- Motor : Dual Synchronized European AC Motor,
- Housing : Aluminum,
- Speed : 33.3rpm/45rpm GRS system
- Pulley : Acrylic
- Belt : 6PC silicon
- Additional Features : SC-30 Speed Controller,
- VTA : 20-25mm Range
- Tonearm Base: Suitable for SME Tonearms / Rega / Others Available
- Total Weight : 37.8 Kgs
- Dimension : 635mm x 435mm x 222mm
- Record Clamp
- Acrylic Stroboscope
- Level Meter
Hanss UNV2 tonearm
- Length: 305mm
- Length between the turntable spindle center and the arm stand center: 212mm
- Length between the stylus and the arm stand center: 228mm
- Overhang: 16mm
- Internal wire: 6N-OFC combined with 4N-OFC
- Cartridge Weight applied: 19g- 28g (including headshell)
- Functional inside-force-canceller
- Arm lift preinstalled
- Headshell (made of aluminum)
- Detachable 5 pin din phono cable
Associated equipment for this review
- Garrard 401 turntable/ SAEC 308 L tonearm
- ZYX 1000 airy3 copper coils low output MC cartridge
- ATC SCM 40 speakers
- ASR Emitter I HD amplifier with external Akku
- ASR Basis HD phono stage with external Akku
- Van Damme UP-LCOFC speaker cables, Nordost Spellbinder IC , Jelco 506 balanced tonearm cable
About the Author
Born and raised in Athens, Dr. Panagiotis Karavitis is an ex-radio DJ turned pediatric ophthalmologist, and has a self-described healthy appetite for vinyl.
You can read more about Dr. Karavitis over on our Contributors page, and find him on Facebook.