Transrotor is a brain child of Jochen Räke, a member of a family that specialized in constructing machines, mainly needed by the agricultural sector. However agriculture was not appealing for Jochen, as he devoted his talents and acquired engineering education in the area of mechanics to the needs of the world of sound.
The company sends us their brief history, which is worth of recalling:
As it can be easily counted, Transrotor is 34 years old. It is even easier for me as it’s also my year of birth. So I feel in some way related to it… Not so long ago I tested the more expensive model of that company, the ZET 3, for Audio, so when I received the cheaper Fat Bob, I was a bit surprised. As it seems every turntable of that company can be equipped with any tonearm and cartridge the customer wants. The ZET 3 was equipped with the RB-250 Rega tonearm with exchanged cabling and Goldring cartridge with exchanged needle. So my surprise was the bigger when I unpacked the Fat Bob, costing 2000zł less, and saw the splendid tonearm RB-700, with exchanged horizontal bearing, new cabling (van den Hul with splendid NextGen WBT plugs) and a much better MC cartridge, looking like the Elite model with a much better needle. As I had the opportunity to talk to Mr Räke during the High End 2007 show in Munich, I asked what is being exchanged in the tonearms, and this is the reason I have so precise information regarding this. As it seems, not the exchange of the bearing to a more precise one is most important, but the initial selection. As he told me, at least one on three tonearms is being rejected, mostly due to the inaccuracy of manufacturing. And the tonearms are being tested also by hitting them like a tuning-fork, and listening to their sound… The tonearm in Fat Bob is the expensive model RB-700 with exchanged counterweight and cabling.
The inspection did not end the list of surprises. Undeniably, indisputably the Fat Bob with this tonearm and this cartridge sounds much better than the Zet 3 I tested... Like I mentioned in the test of the more expensive model, the problem is the tonearm and the cartridge. Because as Mr Räke has a much more rigid, more solid and just plain better chassis. So it is worth to fight for a better tonearm and a much better cartridge. Really, it is worth it. The Fat Bob, on the other hand, plays like a dream just taken out of the box. We can play around with the cartridge, but we will change the character of the sound, and not the quality of it. The fatso is characterized by an incredibly full, a bit warm, truly analog, but in the good meaning of the word, sound. Putting this device in our home we will forget about the will to change it to anything else for a long time. It is not, that the Fat Bob does not have any flaws, as it has, as every other product of the human hands. The thing is that the shortcomings are not bothersome, they do not annoy us. Maybe because they are not as “hi-fic” as usual.
I started the listening session not with the best disc I have, and that due to the fact, that I listen to it often due to its musical contents – from the Pickwick Series issue of the Frank Sinatra disc Cole Porter (Capitol, SPC-3463, LP). I bought it six years ago, during the High End show, still in Frankfurt and it was quite used at that time. It did not cost much, and I wanted to have it. As it can be expected the disc has significant noise and some crackles. Surprisingly, in the basic frequency range – from mid-bass to upper treble, the Fat Bob did not warm anything. Having the words of the company owner fresh in my memory, I expected a syrup like, dense sound. And here – it was different. There was precision, coherence, quite deep stage. The upper midrange was strong, but due to being served precisely, it did not annoy. The only thing that could be observed, was the slight rounding of the midrange and treble. Wanting to stay on the same, high musical level, I took the disc Just One Of Those Things of Nat “King” Cole, beautifully issued by S&P Records (Capitol/S&P Records, S&P-508, 180 g LP). I remember well how this disc sounded with the DPS 2 turntable and the Manley Steelhead preamplifier. With Fat Bob and the many times cheaper R20 from Primare (test next month) the sound was not as precise, not that dynamic, but the beautiful fullness of this album was kept, the velvet voice of the leader had a large volume and was distinctive. He on the first plane, the band behind him, visibly subdued to the vocal, but well audible and strong. And only here, with such a noble pressing, I heard a slight warming of the upper bass. It was nice, significantly large, but did not have that good control like the Zet 3. The depth of the stage was comparable, and the treble wasn't anyway near dark, something that could be felt in the sound of the tested by me for Audio the Acoustic Signature Challenger.
Staying in the same mood, but with contemporary recorded music, I switched to the disc Careless Love of Madeleine Peyroux (Rounder/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-284, Special Limited Edition [promo copy], 180 g LP). In contrast to the regular CD version of this disc, the MoFi version has an open, strong sound, not as warmed as the digital version. On the Fat Bob it could be best heard listening to the percussion, that had an open and strong character. The voice was a bit to the back, and the bass sounded strong, confirming what I heard earlier, namely that the system has strong, saturated low frequencies. The placement of the musicians on the stage was natural, but without clear creation of three dimensional holograms. In this aspect, the Zet 3 and more expensive turntables have more to say. It wasn't bad anyway, it was the level of the mentioned DPS 2. It could also be heard that this is a studio recording, because by longer, analytical listening, it was clear, that the acoustics is a bit “dead”, meaning without the vibration of natural reverb. And this testifies of the gramophone's analytical capabilities. Trying to verify this, I put on the brilliant pressing Midnight Sugar - Yamamoto, Tsuyoshi Trio (Three Blind Mice/Cisco, TBM-23-45, 45 rpm, 180 g 3xLP, #0080/1000). This disc is a “hundred on hundred” recording, with many microphones, but with a clear studio acoustics. With this disc the Fat Bob sounded very dynamic, wit a large energy of the treble, but in some way the slight warming of the midrange and the treble was repeated.
The Transrotor turntable is a mix of precision and slight softening. The balance is however chosen perfectly. With good records we will not really look at that, as the energy of all frequency ranges, as well as their dynamics, are very good, with lesser recordings we will praise that, because all crackles and noise are reproduced in an incredibly sparse way and are a bit laid back, as is the whole upper treble. This is a compromise, I know, but like in the case of the DPS 2 it is completely acceptable, by many even wanted. At the end I listened to the worst case – the dirty, highly used disc Five Miles Out - Mike Odlfield (Virgin, V2222, LP), and especially the title piece. Because this is the last piece on the side, the line speed is lowest there, and the tonearm and cartridge geometry errors are biggest. This was not the same as the Cisco re-edition, not even close in terms of precision and timbre. And still it could be listened to with ease, only for the music, without the feeling that the times of the analog have ended. And maybe this is all about that, about music...
Fat Bob of the company Transrotor has a “heavy” construction, without a decoupled sub-chassis. It’s form is known from turntables like Michel Engineering, SME 10, Roksan or Pro-Ject, meaning that the chassis has the form and size of the platter. The base is formed by three regulated cone shaped feet, with ball shaped endings (interestingly, Transrotor prefers that shape to spikes) placed on small disc. The tonearm is mounted on a special swallow wing shaped platform that is screwed to the chassis. To this platform the “tower” is mounted, quite similar to that used by Acoustic Solid, Acoustic Signature and other German companies, to which the tonearm is mounted. In this case the splendid RB-700 from Rega, with exchanged horizontal bearing (it can be seen as the characteristic, sticking out on the sides “beakers”), new counterweight and new cabling. The latter comes from van den Hul and is terminated with silver plated NextGen plugs by WBT. The platter is not directly placed on the bearing, but on a subplatter – a solid, lathed piece of polished aluminum, with the shaft screwed to it with many screws. On the platter a layer of vinyl is placed, with the aim of harmonizing with the vibrations of the disc. The synchronous motor in a heavy block of metal is placed to the side, and the torque is passed by means of a rubber belt with a round cross-section. The change of speed is done by placing the belt on another shaft mounted on the motor axis. As I have quite a few of 45rpm discs, it did annoy me a bit, as one could expect at least some functionality at this price level. I think, that it is worth to consider electronic rpm control, that will also improve the stability of the revolutions. Such a box can be purchased together with the turntable. On the disc a heavy clamp from polished aluminum is placed. The whole is shiny and silvery, as usual in German turntables, but this makes the dust be more visible. So a dust cover should also be considered from the very beginning.
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