Orbit Plus Review - The Prodigal Deck Arrives

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by Roivas, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Roivas

    Roivas Well-Known Member

    Cleveland, OH
    Before I begin, I will preface this by saying that it is not a scientific review. I do not own the kind of equipment needed to make measurements. I can only tell what I have actually heard and experienced.

    When I received the Orbit in the mail, it was decidedly smaller than I expected. I use an SL-1610 normally, and in comparison this is small and light.

    However, it fits nicely on a shelf. I was surprised when I looked underneath and saw that the Orbit balances on three feet instead of four. This was to be the first of several things that struck me about how this turntable is different.

    My Orbit is not the standard $179 model. This is the Orbit Plus, which is $100 more. I had a strange mixture of expectations because of this. On one hand, the people at U-Turn Audio are aiming for new, budget conscious listeners. They want to create a low-cost turntable that sounds great. They make no claims about taking down pricier gear, but they do want the Orbit to be a device to entice burgeoning audiophiles. Do you compare the Orbit (or Orbit Plus) to the Crosley’s of the world? Or should it be compared to something a bit higher up?

    I decided that what I ought to do first was play the Orbit as most of its intended audience would hear it, without listening to other gear. I plugged it into an ART DJ II preamp and into the AUX input on an old Receiver.

    Setting up the Orbit Plus takes less than 5 minutes. It is an absurdly easy process. Everything is well-packed. Initial impressions are that it feels light. The plinth feels sturdy, but the dust cover is thin. Not so thin that it feels overly weak, but you’d never want to put anything on top of it.

    Hitting power for the first time, there is a slight squeak from the motor spindle that makes me cringe. I suddenly worry that this might be what some detractors have warned about from the beginning. However, the tonearm feels nice in the hand as I pull it off of the rest.

    Before going further, the tonearm rest is really…weird. It’s somewhat flexible, which is not like any turntable I’ve seen. Instead of rigid plastic or metal, it has just enough give that it can flex. This means that there are no moving parts like on many vintage tables, which have an armrest which has a sliding piece to lock the tonearm. This rest does that by itself, and relies on just the right amount of directional force from you to pull the arm free. It’s a strange change, but after using it for a few records it made tremendous sense. There’s a satisfying way in which the arm feels secure when you replace it, and the non-rigid oddness fades away quickly. I’m not sure I would say I prefer this to the old way, though I suspect it is less likely to snap off over time. It certainly isn’t worse than the other way.

    Much has been made about the Orbit’s lack of a cuing lever. I sympathize with those who feel that this is a deal-breaker. However, I will say that the headshell is designed with a long fingerhold that is easy to grab. It naturally allows you to lower the needle into place. If you have a condition that causes shaky hands, this probably isn’t consolation. To everyone else, however, the lack of a lever should not dissuade you.

    I played a few different records to test the Orbit. I used a UK first press of Abbey Road as the first listen, just because I love that record. Then, I used all newer pressings because that's what I suspect will be played on this thing for most people.

    All worries about the motor were erased when the needle touched the record. There was no audible wow & flutter. The Orbit has kept perfect speed for every single part of my listening so far. The way the belt gears tilt when adding the belt was, again, something that was different for me. However, they straighten out once the belt is secure and, after a few minutes of playback, I’d completely forgotten about it. Instead, I was listening to the music.

    I can’t speak for the sound of the regular Orbit, but the Orbit Plus sounds great. There is no heavy coloration or distortion of music. The cart brings out a solid amount of detail. I was worried about the idea of the table being internally grounded, but it was never a problem. There was no hum whatsoever on my unit.

    However, it is not perfect. Pops from surface imperfections, a necessary evil when playing vinyl, are more noticeable on the Orbit Plus. This is not to say that it’s overpowering, but the sound of very high-level clicks were more noticeable here. Also, on the play-through of Abbey Road, the Orbit got caught in a skip-loop halfway through “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” that has never gotten caught on my Technics. I put the record onto the other table to see if the skip was something new (my heart skipped a beat or two) but it played through fine.

    So, my analysis of the Orbit arm is that it is very good at bringing out the sound that’s in the groove, but it is very light and that low-inertia makes it more prone to skipping or picking up surface noise than what I’m used to on vintage decks.

    I used several records, one of which is prone to severe inner groove distortion. The only table that’s ever played it well is a linear tracker, and I personally dub this record as my gauntlet test.

    With the Orbit, there was virtually no distortion at all. It was second only to my linear tracker playing back the innermost part of that record. I was impressed & surprised. This was one of the moments where the Orbit really made me smile (there were quite a few).

    I played a few ELO records, the new Music on Vinyl reissues that sound simply supurb. These records have a lot of things going on, with dense layers of instruments, vocals, and beats all coming together. That balance that made ELO such a different-sounding band also serve to make them a good test for audio equipment.

    Both A New World Record and Eldorado received multiple listens. In both cases, there were no clear flaws in the playback. The Orbit Plus made them sound rich and full, and I found my toe tapping to songs like “Living Thing” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”

    One thing to mention: the Orbit’s motor has relatively low torque, so the record slowed down when I used my brush on the records. It's not so much a flaw as an observation. Once the brush was gone, the record was back up to speed within a single revolution. However, for someone used to direct drives, it was certainly something I noticed.

    Moving on, the audio cables are interchangeable. This is nice if you are the sort of person that has your own high-end cables, but the supplied RCAs are fine. They do what RCA cables are supposed to do.

    The wall-wart is large, but it's off-the-shelf. It's easily replaceable. Also, I like seeing the serial number of my Orbit on the bottom, just above the name of the person who approved my table for shipment. Apparently, my table was approved by "SALT," who signed the label for my Orbit, serial #506.

    Everything on this table feels as though it has a purpose to it. The legs provide perfect balance. Everything is rigid and squared-way where it needs to be. This does not feel like a device that was cobbled together, nor does it feel homemade. It feels like a professional product. The quality of its construction is clearly superior to the budget tables I’ve seen. The platter is solid and perfectly balanced. It slid onto the spindle effortlessly and there was no wobble or unevenness to playback. It is clearly precisely machined. The coloring of the deck is excellent. I would highly recommend the blue version. It really stands out in a nice way. Again, not a HUGE deal, but it’s a detail that shows that a lot of effort and thought was put into this.

    So, with all that being said, the Orbit Plus Turntable feels like a good first turntable. It is basic. However, there are enough details that are done right here that I would notice the lack of them on another table without them. The Orbit feels like its own thing, for better or for worse. And in my opinion, that was mostly for the better. It’s not perfect, but it never claims to be.

    When comparing it to other turntables, all vintage decks, I immediately felt that this was similar to a perfectly-maintained Technics SL-D2. For many, this is a solid table that served as a reliable workhorse. I doubt that the Orbit could put up with quite as much abuse as that. If someone doesn’t care about new vs. vintage, I think these would be equals. The Orbit absolutely sounds better than the SL-D2, but they’re in the same ballpark. That’s a good thing, as the D2 remains a great table.

    However, I doubt the Orbit is as sturdy as that one is. Of course, few tables ever were as sturdy as the D2, which is why there are still so many of those around. And because the Orbit is new, comes with a warranty, and because vintage gear is undeniably a hit-and-miss, this would be a solid recommendation for someone who wanted the most sound for their money.

    Without spending a bit more, you’d be hard-pressed to find a table that sounds this good. It mostly gets out of the way of the music, with just enough engineering to allow it to bring out the best of what’s on the record. It’s not over-designed. The care that went into it is evident. Again, it’s not going to dethrone any of the super-high-priced rigs out there. But it’s no slouch.

    For price and by virtue of the fact that it has none of the pitfalls of vintage gear, I think that the Orbit should absolutely become a go-to recommendation for those trying to put together a system on a budget.

    Tomorrow, I'll add a video to augment this. I’ll highlight a few things I didn’t post here. If anyone has any questions, post them and I’ll answer as many as I can.

    If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. I hope this was enjoyable and/or helpful.

    Attached Files:

  2. wushuliu

    wushuliu Well-Known Member

    Outstanding review. Which cart is on this again?
  3. Roivas

    Roivas Well-Known Member

    Cleveland, OH

    Mine came with the Ortofon OM 5E. I think that's what everyone who ordered the Orbit Plus through Kickstarter are getting, and then they're switching to the AT cart. Not sure what the reason for the change is, though that is a very respected cartridge from my understanding.
  4. Montycat

    Montycat AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Great! Thanks for the review. :)

    It sounds like they have hit a triple if not a home run with this and I am glad to hear it. I do have a few comments on some of the topics you address.

    - 3 feet is a good thing as it makes it easier to level than 4. The 2 Regas I have had used 3 feet and I felt it worked well

    - Also my Rega were low torque as is my AR. An observation as well but not a complaint.

    - The enhanced surface noise may simply be the different "voicing" in the cartridge design compared to what you are used to. If you were to have the same cartridge with similar mileage on both old and new tables that would be more telling.

    - The one piece tonearm rest design also can be compared with some venerable designs like AR and Thorens, and that's not bad company. They were not without their flaws but they kept it simple.

    Once again, thanks for the well done description of the Orbit. :)
  5. beatcomber

    beatcomber AK Member

    Lexington, Massachusetts
    Thanks so much for the detailed review!

    This is not uncommon for a belt drive with a low-torque motor.

    Hmmm, this is not good. Did you verify that the VTF setting was correct?
  6. Naptown Rob

    Naptown Rob Ponographer

    Annapolis, MD
    Thanks for a very well written review. I'm one of many here who has been curious.
  7. datafone

    datafone Super Member

    Bris', Australia
    Nice review :thmbsp:

    Over all It's looking good for an entry level deck.
  8. iLUVanalog

    iLUVanalog AK Subscriber Subscriber

  9. MRL_Audio

    MRL_Audio AK Subscriber Subscriber

    St. Chuck, MO
    Thanks for the great reviews. Comments like this increase my patience as I wait for my Orbit+ to arrive. Kickstart backer but made my contribution on the second to last day so I assume I near the end of the shipping list. Looking forward to the video.
  10. KOWHeigel

    KOWHeigel High Gear of Your Soul

    Liverpool, NY
    Excellent review. I would echo beatcomber's sentiments that VTF should be double checked when the unit is received.
  11. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Thanks for the review - it is nice to see a new company building a good entrance TT.
  12. jkilla

    jkilla Out of Touch

    Great review, not going to lie, I want this to do well, so I'm ecstatic to hear you enjoy yours much!

    The tonearm rest on my Denon turntable also has that kind of construction, it is quite robust so that's a good thing!

    Sent from my SGH-T999V using Tapatalk
  13. kermit z

    kermit z Loud Music saves Lives!! Subscriber

    Denver CO
    Thanks for the review :) Sounds like a nice entry level table worthy of a recommendation.
  14. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Great review. Thanks! It does sound like the acrylic platter version is worth the extra money if one can afford it. The quality comparison to a SL-D2 is a useful one as many have either owned or heard one. If U-Turn has made a better-sounding table for the selling price then it is a real achievement, especially given that the current price of used D2s is starting to creep up into the range of the base table new.
  15. grottyash

    grottyash Super Member

    That could also be the tonearm, not all of which track equally.
  16. fiddlefye

    fiddlefye AK Subscriber Subscriber

    On the other hand in a couple of other reviews the arm was noted to track easily some horribly warped LPs that had been known to through some other arms for a loop, so maybe worth checking anyway.
  17. drknstrmyknight

    drknstrmyknight AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Mount Clemens, MI
    Thank you for the excellent review. I am relieved that comments on these decks are coming from people who actually have one now! Regarding setup, skip-looping and surface noise, I would have liked to have seen the geometry and VTF verified, and wonder if the surface noise issue will abate somewhat with break-in of the cartridge and perhaps trying other tracking force setting in the OM's range. There doesn't look to be any anti-skate settings?
  18. telemike

    telemike Super Member

    Greensboro, NC
    U-turn has posted an explanation about no anti-skating needed with the uni-pivot tonearm. Not sure where the link is...
  19. ScaleAutoArt

    ScaleAutoArt Super Member

    West Coast Florida
    From Ben at U Turn

    I sent Ben a link to this review and found his response helpful....

    Thanks for sending this to us. We really appreciate backers going out of their way to put together such comprehensive reviews of the product. The skip loop that occurred on Abbey Road is a nuisance - this could just be a fluke or perhaps the pre-set VTF was slightly altered during shipping. I also wonder how much of the surface noise is due to the weight of the tone arm vs. the fact that the cart is new. Either way, a great review!
  20. adubbz

    adubbz New Member

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this! It was very well done.

    I have my Orbit+ on order. I ordered from their website after the kickstarter has ended. I can't wait to get it, and this just made me even more excited.

    It will be my first turntable and will look beautiful in my living room with the black finish.

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