The Music Hall MMF-7 Turntable
|The Music Hall MMF-7 Turntable|
Musical Magic for Under a Grand
8 July 2002
Outboard 15-16V/50 mA power supply
Speeds: 33 1/3 rpm, manual commutation to 45 rpm
Deviation from nominal speed: +/- 0.5%
Wow and flutter: +/- 0.08%
Signal to noise ratio: -70 dB
Tracking force: 1.7 grams
Tone arm: 9 inch effective length
Overhang: 18 mm
Platter diameter: 11.8 inches
Platter weight: 3.15 pounds
Dimensions: 18.5" W × 14.2" D × 5.3" high with Dust Cover
Weight: 25 pounds
Goldring Eroica H, high output Moving Coil
Response: 10 Hz to 30 kHz
Channel Balance: within 1 dB
Channel Separation: 25 dB
Output: 2.5 mV
Compliance: 18 mm/N Lat., 18 mm/N Vert.
Cartridge Mass: 5.5 g
Tip Moving Mass: 0.60 mG
Shape: Fritz Gyger type II fine line
The Music Hall Tradition
For over 15 years now, when someone mentions affordable audio gear, I think of Roy Hall of Music Hall in Great Neck, New York. The first issue of my short-lived magazine the audio analyst©, which came out back in 1989, featured an in depth look at the Rebel, the then entry level turntable from now defunct turntable manufacturer Revolver, which Roy was importing with great success. In all this time, Roy has been importing products with real world pricing and over-achieving performance. He has done such a good job, that I was pleased to honor both him and the MMF-7 at last January's CES in Las Vegas.
I have previously reviewed the $299 MMF-2 (now badged the 2.1) and the $499 MMF-5, both of which perform head and shoulders above their price points. The introduction of the MMF-7 brings new meaning to what vinyl lovers should be able to expect from so-called budget gear, both in terms of features and performance.
The Music Hall MMF-7 turntable is 2-speed belt-driven turntable using a split-plinth design and an external (not physically attached to the plinth) AC motor, finished in a high gloss, black piano lacquer finish. Like its lower cost siblings, it is assembled in the Czech Republic in the Pro-Ject turntable plant. Roy had the table assembled from the myriad of parts available at that plant, much as a Master Chef might carefully assemble and select from all the ingredients available at the market for his ultimate recipe. Deucedly clever and remarkably efficient, actually!
The plinth is of the split or two-platform variety, separated by four Sorbothane hemispheres that act as a suspension and isolation system. The base has three threaded adjustable spiked feet and include a set of small black discs to be used as receiving point cups to prevent marring of the surface it rests on and to help to insure good coupling. Like the MMF-5, a spirit level is incorporated on the top platform, situated about 2 inches in from the front, between the arm and platter. Rather than a captured phono cord like the other MMF's, the 7 includes a set of phono jacks mounted under the bottom plinth on the back below the tonearm, which allows the use of any interconnect the owner may see fit to apply.
The 12-volt AC motor is in a cylindrical housing, rests on a round rubber footed "anchor" plate, and comes with an external "Wall-Wart" type power supply that snakes into the motor from under the bottom plinth. It is located in the front right corner (diagonal from the arm pivot), and rises up through a round cutout in both platforms, allowing for its complete isolation (with the exception of the square profile drive belt) from the table. A tiny blue LED lets you know whether the rocker switch is open or closed. This is an ingeniously simple, highly effective method for motor isolation. The belt seats in the groove of either of the two top pulley's (depending on whether you wish for 45 or 33 ⅓ RPM playback) and runs around the perimeter of the 3.15-pound acrylic platter. A screw-on record clamp and felt mat compete the platter assemble. The whole table is topped off by a clear plexi dust cover with a "music hall mmf" badge countersunk in its center.
The Pro-Ject Nine tonearm is used, has a head shell and shaft drawn from one piece of aluminum tube and a bearing system comprised of hardened stainless steel points set in sturdy ring cages. Antiskating is effected by a weight threaded through a loop floating in space and the tracking force is set by use of a rotating counterweight with a center of gravity that is level with the stylus tip. It is decoupled from the arm and is said to offer the added benefit of acting as a resonance damper as well. The arm also has adjustable VTA, a damped arm lift and highly flexible internal wiring drawn from high purity copper.
The MMF-7 comes with a Goldring Eroica H, a high output moving coil cartridge (MSRP is $400 US), already mounted in the Nine's headshell. The Eroica H has a low mass, high rigidity, non-resonant Pocan body and it's motor is constructed of rare earth Neodymium. The stylus is of the Gyger II line contact style (0.47W × 0.19D × 4.72H mils).
To sum up, Roy has incorporated a group of sensible and useful features rarely found on the same table, especially in this price range: a split plinth (Revolver), isolated motor (Pink Triangle), acrylic platter (Rega), and a solid, one-piece tone arm (Pro-Ject). To top it off, he has included a similarly overachieving cartridge, providing the vinylphile with as close to plug-and-play turntable operation as could ever be expected.
The MMF-7 easily expands on the exceptional performance of the MMF-5. With "L'Daddy" from the age-old standard James Newton Howard and Friends [Sheffield Lab 23], the attack and punch of the snare drum are explosive and fast, almost leaving a welt on your chest from its visceral wallop. Microdynamic variations were handled astonishingly well for this price point as well.
With "Witness" and "Black & White" from Sarah MacLaughlin'sSurfacing [Classic Records RTH-18970], percussion instruments are well defined and detailed, if ever so slightly softened. Sarah's luscious voice is right on, with the upper midrange performance easily approaching that of my reference turntable. The bow across the strings of the upright bass on "Last Dance" gives a proper balance to the bloom of the wooden body, the "rasp" of the bow hairs and the excitation of the strings, leaving me with that chill running down the back of my neck.
Staging was wide, deep and tall, without being exaggerated, and the table had no trouble retrieving spatial information. With Supertramp's "Dreamer" from Crime of the Century [MFQR 1-005], the voices questioning "Can you do something…" that bounce back and forth from stage left to stage right over and over, are realized outside the left and right physical location of the speakers and they are rock solid. The children's laughter at the end of the intro to "School" is placed well behind my back wall, and each one is recreated with a spectacular specificity.
Moving to the title cut from Steely Dan's Aja [MFSL 1-033], a, the studio acoustic was recreated wall to wall in my listening room. Queuing up "Black Cow" and the title track, one easily denotes the shimmer and detail of the cymbals. You are readily able to discern the individuality of each drumstick hit. As Paul Humphrey works over the kit, you are presented with the subtle differences noted as slightly harder and softer strikes are laid down, and you can differentiate the slightly different timbre of blows nearer and farther from the rim, even stick angle changes. This is a combination of good arm and cartridge (compliance) matching and excellent speed stability. The resultant excellent trackibility allows for a very high degree of detail retrieval - not a foregone conclusion at this, or even in some higher, price points.
It is extremely quiet, much more so than either of its lower priced siblings, no wonder given the split plinth and the isolated motor. This quietness translates into a lower noise floor and really lets this little guy excavate subtle microdynamic changes and retrieve inner detail with a surprising degree of accuracy. To say I was completely taken with this little guy's ability to liberate the message in the groove doesn't really convey how good it is. But, telling you that, with the MMF-7 in place, I felt no urgency to put my Oracle/Magnepan/ClearAudio rig back in place should.
The only real weaknesses I noted in my time with the 7 were both a slight loss of extension at both frequency extremes and a slight homogenization of upper bass/lower mid bass in comparison to my reference. With "Too Late," from Alan Parson's Gaudi [Arista AL-8448], the bass line was homogenized slightly, subjectively in the 100-120 Hz region. The rise of the notes seemed blurred slightly which resulted in just the slightest loss of pitch definition.
Wrap One Up And Take It Home
This is one FINE little turntable, folks. A no-frills design that is practical and shrewd, features that make sense, deft bass, delicious midrange, airy treble, wonderful retrieval of detail, very fast and articulate dynamics and an octave to octave balance that is only slightly tilted to the darker side of neutral. And, you don't need to be or hire a turntable specialist to set it up. Open the box, and in 10 minutes, you're playing vinyl. All this for under a grand! What's not to like?
Looking back on my notes, I find repeated reference to the 7's sheer ability to accurately and routinely present the complex hues of any source material I fed it. Form Metallica to Mozart, this little 'table got down to the music and boogied
Is it a giant-killer? Not exactly. But it offers a level of performance so close to the very best that even if you've heard and appreciate a mega-buck analog set up, you'll be able to accept the compromises, they are that slight. And, you can put the cash you saved into rebuilding that record collection!
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