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Well Tempered Lab

Price (in Poland): 15 990 PLN



Provided for test by: AUDIO ATELIER


Translation: Marek Dyba

Foto: Wojciech Pacuła

No 213

February 1, 2021

» IDIOSYNCRATIC« - showing distinct, specific, atypical features. From the Greek "idios" - personal, private and "sunkrasis" - temperament, combination. That’s how one can describe turntables from WELL TEMPERED LAB. We are testing AMADEUS Jr. model

OPENING THE WEBSITE of the originally American company Well Tempered Lab, one will immediately find a strong and bold declaration:

New music from your records Unique turntables designed & build with one goal in mind, to give you maximum enjoyment from your analog music collection.
Jaws have been known to drop

But let me tell you something - this is not bragging or exaggerated declarations. As we will see in a moment, the ideas behind the design of this company's turntables,using the AMADEUS Jr. As an example, as well as the sound that they have managed to achieve have no analogies in the analog world. In short: I have not seen anything like this before, nor heard anything like that.


THE MAN BEHIND THE WELL TEMPERED LAB is a designer whose solutions cause heart palpitations for many other manufacturers, Mr. WILLIAM H. FIREBAUGH. He started his career in the 1970s at Ford Aerospace, that is the department related to aircraft. It just so happens that in his work he used FFT analyzers and devices from the Danish company Brüel & Kjaer, specializing in vibration measurements, so he received many related documents, not necessarily referring directly to the projects he was working on.

The research conducted in the field of vibration measurements in turntables, presented at the AES conference in 1977, literally changed his life. The subject interested him and as a result of reflection and trials, a unique WELL TEMPERED ARM was developed, which amazed the world, and which basic technical solutions are used to this day. In 1985, at the CES in Las Vegas, he presented a prototype of his first turntable, the WELL TEMPERED TURNTABLE. His first production units were presented only two years later, and in 1988 Firebaugh quit his job with Ford.

As he said in an interview for the "Stereophile" magazine, when working on the turntable, the most important thing was to find out why the platter does not rotate evenly and to discover that the problem was the shape of a bearing and to obtain the appropriate tension between the motor and platter (more HERE; accessed: 21/12/2021).

Today, Mike Thomson, who is referred to as the "right hand", and "the right hand of the right hand", that is Ken Higinbottom, help him with his work. William H. Firebaugh is 90 years old today and is still designing new turntables and tonearms. The originally American company is now headquartered in New Zealand, and the turntables are manufactured in China by OPERA AUDIO. And Opera Audio is one of the best manufacturers of turntables, CD players and amplifiers in Asia, equipped with specialized, modern machines and tools.


AMADEUS JR. IT IS THE SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM WTL model equipped with a proprietary arm with an effective length of 10.5”. It is a modern version of the Amadeus turntable, the company's first product. It’s design is based on relatively classical assumptions, although it is not so obvious when you study it in details. On the other hand, the arm - wow! this is a completely different matter. First things first.

⸜ DECK I am talking about a light turntable without decoupling - if by that we mean the separation of the main base and the auxiliary base, with platter and tonearm - with an integrated motor, with a string-type drive. Its base is made of Baltic birch plywood, secured at the top and bottom with a thin layer of synthetic material - acrylic.

The portal offers seven reasons why this type of plywood is a unique material. Among them, apart from the great appearance, the most notable features are high mechanical stability over time and resistance to changes in humidity. It is a common knowledge in audio and this material is used to make not only the bases of turntables, but also the loudspeaker cabinets. By the way, it is worth watching a short movie on the aforementioned website, entitled Ultimate Guide to Baltic Birch (accessed: 21/12/2021).

The base of the turntable is placed on four feet. They are not attached in the corners as usual, but in such a way as to evenly distribute the weight of the turntable between them. This type of feet is made of various types of metal, rubber, sorbotane, cork, most often combining various materials. They can be either "rigid" or compliant, for example with a magnetic or spring suspension. However, it can also be done in a way, as in the tested turntable, that is using quite stiff, but still flexible hemispheres.

And now - Bill Firebaugh used for this purpose squash balls cut in half. As he says, they have perfect compliance and are made in an extremely precise and therefore repeatable way. Plus, they cost millions of dollars to develop, so they're technologically perfect. And it would not be the first and not the second time our industry has used basic research that someone else has paid for.

⸜ PLATTER The platter of the tested turntable is made of acrylic. This material has a distinct "own" sound, but was chosen by the designer because of the way it works with the bearing he has developed. And the latter is remarkable.

When we look at it from above, with the platter removed, we see not a round hole, but a triangular one. Firebaugh thinks this is the best shape possible because while the platter is spinning the axis meets with bearing at two points rather than one, which gives it exceptional stability. The triangle in question has been cut in a Teflon plate - the bottom of the bearing is made of the same material, on which supports a pointed end of the axis made of hardened steel The axis thus only touches the bearing at three points. This solution is called Zero Clearance.

Manufacturer delivers a cork mat to be placed on the platter and 5 mm of oil that has to be poured into the bearing. In interviews, the designer emphasizes that they could work without the oil, but - just in case - one should use it. I would like to add that the axis is very high, so when using a clamp, we have to choose one that is not closed at the top.

⸜ MOTOR The motor is mounted in the rear left corner, as far away from the cartridge as possible. It is a small DC motor, i.e. asynchronous, decoupled from the base by a ring made of a damping material. We change the rotational speed manually by moving the thread on a spindle mounted on the motor axis. It is controlled by electronics with a servo designed by the owner of Well Tempered Lab and powered by a wall-mounted 12 V DC, impulse power supply. If someone is looking for an upgrade, the manufacturer offers it - an optional DPS-8 power supply can be purchased for the turntable.

I mentioned the thread or fishing line. In the turntables of this company, including the Amadeus Jr. model, the torque from the motor to the platter is transferred via a 0.004 ”thick polyester line. This system is called string drive or thread drive. Almost always, an intermediary element in this type of transmission is rubber - flat, round or square, sometimes a plastic tape - as in AIR FORCE ONE turntables - and sometimes just a cassette tape.

Spring elements provide better damping of vibrations for the motor → platter connection, but do not allow ultimate control of this system. On the other hand, tapes, due to their width, make a lot of noise. The thread/string solves these problems, which is why it was used, for example, by Micro-Seiki, Kondo (Ginga), Melco (3560), SPEC (GMP-8000EX), and above all in the La Platine model of the French company J C Verdier; today we can find it in turntables of the Japanese company CS PORT. The manufacturer of the tested turntable provides a free lifetime supply of strings - a customer only has to pay for shipping.

In company’s material it reads:

The combination of belt, motor, motor drive electronics, and isolation results in low flutter and wow. In fact, the lowest we have ever measured.

Philosophy,; accessed: 21.12.2021.

The problem with drives made in this way is that a thread has to be tied up somewhere. Such a knot is an inequality that affects the stability of rotation. To minimize this problem, the shaft on the motor axis of the Well Tempered Lab turntables has special cutouts that allow the knot - as the manufacturer says - to pass through smoothly.

The signal from the tonearm is sent outside with thin wires terminated with an excellent-looking clamp plug, similar to LEMO plugs. The RCA output sockets and the ground terminal, as well as the power socket and the rotation speed switch are integrated into the base. The latter is placed at the back, so not entirely ergonomic, although it didn’t really bother me in real life.

⸜ TONEARM And this is where the real ride begins. The basic components are classic, but their execution is completely different than usual.

It is a 10.5’’ long arm with a straight, thin tube made of aluminum. It was filled in with "specially selected" sand, as we read, to suppress vibrations. At its end there is a fixed headshell, tilted at an angle of 19 °, to which a cartridge is screwed. We put on a counterweight on the other end, or actually two of these. In order to facilitate the best possible balance of the tonearm, the turntable is delivered with two counterweights that differ in weight. They have to be operated in such a way that the heaviest weight is placed as close to the support point as possible. Two words are key here: "damping" and "support".

Bill Firebaugh, in his description of his design philosophy, refers to a research report, published in 1977 by - in this way we get back to the beginning - the Danish company Bruel and Company, entitled The Audible Effects of Mechanical Resonances in Turntables. Brüel & Kjær (Sound and Vibration Measurement A/S) is known, among other things, for its excellent microphones (also measuring ones). Established in 1942, it specialized for a long time in vibration measurements and this is where many of the most important inventions for this field were developed.

In the cited document, Bruel and Kjær analyzed high-end turntables to determine the importance of their resonances. The conclusion states that the arms should have the lowest effective mass possible and should be mechanically damped with a factor (Q) of 0.5 to eliminate side-band distortion) caused by mechanical instability. This publication widely echoed in the audio world and the era of light arms has been going on ever since.

Turntable manufacturers, mainly Japanese, followed the first part of the recommendation - reducing the tonearm's weight - but as Firebaugh says, they forgot about the second, that is damping. At the same time, it is this type of distortion that is the most irritating to human hearing. For this purpose, it was necessary to develop a completely new type of arm support - the designer talks about 50 prototypes. Classic, that is, the "unipivot" or "gimballed" type, did not meet his expectations.

This is how an arm was created, suspended from above on a line, with its wand being fixed to a GOLF BALL and the latter is immersed in viscous oil. The whole thing looks a bit like a swing or a crane. As with the feet, also in this case the designer says that golf balls are the cutting edge development and that they are made with exceptional precision. I must admit that I have seen only once an arm with a slightly similar suspension before - it was a tonearm made by Clearaudio. There it was held by a twisted pair, which fastened it to the base, and its stability and tension was provided by a magnet, which attracted it to the upper part of the clamp.

The Well Tempered Lab arm is different, obviously, mostly because of the strong damping provided by the oil. This makes it quite difficult to set up, at least for the "uninitiated". After a few attempts, we begin to make sense of the whole design, but even then a setup is not an easy procedure. You have to remember to make all the settings, i.e. VTA, azimuth, overhang and VTA BEFORE you pour the oil into the container with the ball. After that, all changes are much more difficult to implement.

The user has influence on how much the ball is damped. The relative height of the oil reservoir in relation to the ball can be adjusted so that it is more or less submerged in the oil. I chose the option with a slightly lower immersion, that is, one in which the tube through which the line was passed extends over the edge of the tank.

The problem for many may be that there is no mechanism for lowering the stylus into the groove, it is done manually, just like 100 years ago. The set includes a finger piece that makes it easier. I know from experience that it worsens the sound a bit and changes the dynamic mechanical properties of the tonearm, so it's better not to screw it on. However, I quickly got used to operating the tonearm this way and soon took it for granted. The turntable is very nice, aesthetically made and looks really good on the shelf.


⸤ HOW WE LISTENED AMADEUS Jr. turntable was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system. It was placed on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition MkII rack, made of carbon fiber. I set the VTF for a cartridge using the REGA ATLAS scale, I also used the DS Audio ST-50, an element for cleaning the stylus.

During the tests I used two cartridges: SHELTER 901 TYPE III and DENON DL-103 and I must say that the combination with the inexpensive Denon was phenomenal. The signal was amplified in the RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phono preamplifier, to which the signal was sent via Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0 Absolute cables, and then using the Crystal Cable Absolute Dream IC to my line preamplifier.

Records used for the test | a selection

⸜ PAUL DESMOND, Sumertime, A&M Records | CTI Records/Speakers Corner Records SP-3015, 180 g LP (1969/2002).
⸜ MILES DAVIS, Miles Davis and The Modern Jazz Giants, Riverside/Analogue Productions AJAZ 1106, „Top 100 Jazz”, 45 RPM Limited Edition #0706, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1956/2005).
⸜ GEORGE MICHAEL, Faith, Epic 460000 1, LP (1987).
⸜ THE CULT, Electric, Beggars Banquet/Sire WJ 25555, LP (1987).
⸜ DEEP PURPLE, Perfect Stranger, Polydor (Japan) 25MM 0401, LP (1984).
⸜ BILL EVANS, Trio 64, Verve Records/UMe B0033123-01, V6-8578, TEST PRESS LP (1964/2021).


MY FIRST THOUGHT AFTER LOWERING THE STYLUS into a groove of the PAUL DESMOND’s album Summertime, the Speakers Corner Records re-release from 2002, was: "my God, where is the treble?". To be honest, what I really thought simply couldn’t be published here… Because this album sounded incredibly warm, dark and sweet. It was so warm and so sweet that for a long moment I thought that I had set the cartridge wrong, wrongly matched its load in the preamplifier or did some other mistake, or all of these at once.

Only a few moments later, after a few more powerful orchestral fragments, it turned out that it was a full-range, extremely dynamic sound, in which, however, there is nothing that is common with many, even the most expensive turntables that I know, i.e. aspirations to sound like a CD. And this is a mistake, these are two different media and each of them has its own characteristics that people value them for. The New Zealand turntable sounded complete, but it was completely different from "neutral" turntables, it sounded exactly like an "analog" could be imagined, and an extremely sophisticated "analog" device at that.

The fact that actually there is a lot of treble in this sound I found out immediately after listening to the Miles Davis and The Modern Jazz Giants, released in 2005 on two 45 rpm discs by Analogue Productions. I started the listening session from the B side, i.e. with the Round Midnight piece, from 1956, from sessions that gave us the Relaxin' album. It’s a slow-tempo track beginning with the leader's trumpet using a muffler, and there is no Milt Jackson's vibraphone in it - in a word, we get a warm sound.

And yet it was immediately obvious that Amadeus Jr. Offers a very resolving and selective sound. It showed the trumpet a bit further away, the Coltrane's saxophone, stronger and closer, but most of all it placed the elements of this monophonic recording in a wonderful perspective - both in relation to the listener and each other. And when all the instrumentalists came in with a strong attack, when the trumpet played without a muffler, I got a lot of sound - powerful and with a large volume.

The fact, that the sound seems very warm, although it has a great attack and clear, distinct treble is not the only interesting thing about it. It is also interesting because although the presentation seems full, almost tangible, the turntable does not enlarge anything, it does not bring the perspective closer to us. Because when I played Faith, the album of my beloved pop music performer GEORGE MICHAEL, released in 1987, I heard a slightly dry recording, quite distant perspective and not completely filled in bass. So I heard the uncolored truth.

But it was liberating, not destructive truth. The Well Tempered Lab showed on this album "the truth of time", but also the huge money that was spent on this debut and Michael's extraordinary compositional, arranging and vocal talent, it almost showed how good, warm man this artist was. The perspective of the album focused on the listening axis, with slight stereo flavors, but still - on the axis. The timbres were a bit dry, but rich internally, as if I heard more "music in music" than usual, even than with much more expensive designs.

| Our albums

Cicha noc

AC Records ACR 022 (2021)

&"CHRISTMAS" ALBUMS ARE A TRADITION known for several decades. A fantastic book by Michael Mulligan called The Official Christmas No. 1 Singles Book which collects information on all Christmas number 1s on UK charts since 1952, has just been released. You can find an interview with the author HERE; accessed: 29/12/2021.

Also, jazz reinterpretations of Christmas songs and carols are not uncommon. And yet, while listening to the latest album prepared by ADAM CZERWIŃSKI, I had the rare pleasure of listening to music for its own sake, and not for the sake of Christmas. That was also the case, but it was a bonus. I think it happened thanks to the musicians and arrangements, and the sound does not interfere with that.

The album features: Marcin Wądołowski, Artur Jurek, Piotr Lemańczyk, Irek Wojtczak, Adam Czerwiński and, as a guest, Patrycja Gola, whose vocal can be heard in carols Nie było miejsca dla Ciebie and Cicha noc. The album was released in 250 copies and only on colored vinyl. The recordings were made in May 2021 at the Custom 34 Studio in Gdańsk, which is apparently Adam's "home", on an analog Studer A 827 multi-track tape recorder and were mixed in analogue domain using a Neve Custom mixer to a Studer A 80 stereo tape recorder. The producer was Piotr Łukaszewski, who worked also with Kuba Karłowski.

The DMM copper disc was cut by Hendrik Pauler, head of Stockfish Records. The album was pressed in the new place for the AC Records, namely the XDISC pressing plant, based in Warsaw. The album is a bit noisy and in the intervals between tracks it creaks slightly, even well washed, but it is not annoying. It is important that the sound is incredibly "analog" in the sense that it is fluid, soft and even dark. There is no sharp attack of cymbals here, Marcin Wądołowski's guitars have a warm character, and more "wood" than metal was extracted from Piotr Lemańczyk's saxophone. Maybe there is no ultimate resolution here, but you can't have everything :)

It is a very pleasant album to listen to, all year round. It is also extremely pleasant to see - once again graphics and photos were prepared by Kuba Karłowski. It’s a "Christmas" album, but a gift for any time of the year.

STAYING IN THE 1980's I picked up my next favorite, the American band THE CULT, from the Electric album released in the same year as Faith. I like this music! It was recorded in such a way that the vocal is placed quite far in the mix, similar to the previous album, Faith, but with widely spread guitars and nice stereo base. The most important thing, however, is energy and the tested turntable showed it flawlessly. Similarly to the Japanese version of DEEP PURPLE’s Perfect Stranger, which was I cued in right after that. In both cases, I heard a complex presentation, composed of a lot of information, but constituting a dense whole.

The three previous albums are the first releases of these titles, in very good condition, washed in the AUDIO DESK VINYL CLEANER PRO ultrasonic cleaner, so with a very few cracks. They sounded ultra-smooth. Light "pops" appeared very rarely, usually between songs, and were perfectly damped there too. But even with the Test Press discs, which generally sound more noisy than the final vinyl, and also crackle more, I had no problem with these elements, as if I stepped back one generation of copies, as if I were closer to the analog master tape.

The more so as the dynamics - let me repeat it - is incredible with this turntable. I mentioned the test pressings for a reason. I have just received the newest, analog re-edition of the BILL EVANS’ Trio 64, in the form of Test Press. Even unwashed in the machine, it sounded incredibly "quiet", that is with low noise and crackling. The latter, even if they appeared, were placed somewhere "next to" the music, or even "behind it", they were never annoying or even attracted any attention to themselves.

With all the records, I noticed a certain manner of the tested turntable, i.e. the bass attack was smoothed out, it was energetic, clear, and yet smoothed. This produces a sound similar to a double bass, ie with a lot of "body" and less "string" content. So we have low, dense, well-extended sounds that do not blend together and are not prolonged, but at the same time are never dry or shallow, even if the recording is like that. It is a deviation from neutrality, but also a move towards naturalness.

But let's get back to the dynamics - the Amadeus Jr. it is perfect in this regard. Already with the George Michael’s album, which I talked about, it sounded incredibly confident and authoritative, which was later confirmed on rock albums, and which was clearly audible also with the Evans album. The important thing is that it does this without brightening the sound and without hardening the attack. As I said, its sound seems to be very warm, and yet we have all the details, all information, and all this presented in a coherent way.

And this is what seems most important to me in this review - the Bill Firebaugh turntable does not divide the presentation into separate "events". It shows various reverbs, effects, the place of instruments on the stage, but it does it incidentally, by the way. As if it knew what it could do and didn't have to prove anything. This is why its sound is so amazingly, truly, incredibly calm and well-organized internally.

⸜ POWER SUPPLY Last but not least, shortly about an external, optional power supply. The changes it introduces to the sound consist in even greater smoothing of the attack, a slight withdrawal of the treble and filling the middle bass. The presentation is still very dynamic, although it seems a bit less clear. Perhaps it is not about lower selectivity, but about greater smoothness, which makes the instruments more embedded in the mix.

With time, I started to appreciate what the power supply brings to this system, although initially my feelings were not unequivocally positive. It is not, however, that it is "to be or not to be" - Amadeus Jr. copes perfectly well without it. However, if we want to push its sound towards even stronger saturation and "analogousness", it will be a good direction.


I COULD NOT refuse myself a pleasure of ending this test with listening to the side B of Paul Desmond's album which I started it with. Released by CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated), founded in 1967 by Creed Taylor, it has a brilliant cover, excellent music and it was perfectly produced. And no wonder, because all CTI titles are a showcase of the possibilities of the LP format, each one was carefully produced and each cost the label a lot, and perhaps that is why this company did not last too long ...

Anyway, I heard warmth and density again - similar to the A side. But now, having learned from experience, I sat down calmly, relaxed, not listening to the details unnecessarily and not looking for a any issues in the sound. I would even say, that the Amadeus Jr. distracts listeners from such a nervous "audiophilosis". Like a good psychologist, like a friend, like a warm and loving family. It is completely different than the designs of turntables we are used to, and you need to get used to it. When it all finally clicks, you'll be home. Perhaps even in your last home ever.


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Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
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Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


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Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC