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Price: deck + tonearm 15.000 PLN

Distribution: Emporium HiFi

Tel.: 00447516375386


WWW: The Funk Firm

Country of origin: Great Britain

Text: Marek Dyba
Photographs: Marcin Olszewski

The Funk Firm is one of these analogue brands that never made it to Polish market before, even though they were well respected in their own homelands. It is not the only one – just to mention another British one - Townshend Audio, or a famous German one that finally acquired Polish distributor some months ago - Scheu Analog. There are surely many more brands that are not present on our market but most of them are non-European ones which makes it less surprising. These above mentioned companies manufacture some range of different audio devices but they are known mostly by their turntables. During the last AudioShow I met a distributor called Emporium coming straight from UK who brought to our market couple of brands and among them there was Funk Firm. As a consumer I have to be happy about it give me, a potential buyer, more options – what's not to like about it?

Last month I described my close encounter with one of the biggest or maybe even THE biggest analogue legend – Linn LP12, Majik version to be precise. I think there is no analogue fan in the world who doesn't know Linn brandname, and LP12 model in particular. Much less of them would know that this worldwide famous company had a very serious competitor in the 80ties in their own homeland – company called Pink Triangle. If you want to learn about this company you need to talk to British audiophiles who remember these days. They would tell you that “competition” isn't exactly the best word to describe relation between fans of the two brands at the time – it was more of a war of different approaches to the sound presentation. Linn was all about rhythm, timing and pitch accuracy and the top model from Pink Triangle called Anniversary favored the master-tape-style neutrality paradigm. In 1991 Pink Triangle shocked the analogue world offering … a modification for Sondek – Pink Link. The sole purpose of this modification was (according to PT of course) simple – to improve sound of LP12 by making it sound more like Anniversary. For many Linn fans it was kind of a sacrilege, but the others used the opportunity hoping that it would effect in combining strengths of both designs.
What does it have to do with this test? Well, the guy behind this “sacrilegious” Linn mode and the boss of Pink Triangle was Arthur Khoubessarian (co-founder of PT company too), who now runs … yup, you guessed right - The Funk Firm.

Arthur Khoubessarian was directly inspired to design Saffire II turntable by legendary Pink Triangle Anniversary. It might seem a bit odd as these two devices are quite different – PTA was a sprung, suspended design with wooden plinth, Saffire is based upon a solid acrylic platform, with acrylic feet. Reviewed turntable features Funk’s patented K-Drive belt-drive system, which employs one-motor, one belt and three-pulleys. The K-drive system is supposed to prevent the drive belt tugging at the platter and causing it to oscillate around the main bearing. Additionally, the K-Drive system uses asymmetric slave pulleys that by rotating at different speeds ensure that the drive does not generate any resonance. Funk also benefits from a refined iteration of the Anniversary’s famous inverted main bearing configuration supporting the acrylic platter. The turntable is made mostly of a transparent acrylic and with its shape it reminds me a … UFO, or a spaceship from Star Trek. Yup – that's even better – Enterprise in “flash and blood”, especially if you turn on its LED back-light Couple of years ago such a back-light was (at least for me) a characteristic feature of cheap Chinese devices that were supposed to stand out somehow and such back-light was their mean to achieve this goal. But the times have changed and now also British companies started to use LEDs – I guess it's what customers want. First I saw some amplifiers by Tom Willis from ArtAudio (a serious man, in my opinion not very likely to get infected with such “novelties”), and now British turntable – just turn the lights on and … lift-off, off you go Enterprise! (no smoke and noise fortunately). It's probably just me – I find it hard to accept such novelties, but most customers must disagree with me and thus more and more products that look like Christmas tree. I must admit the Funk guys leave the final choice to the Customer – you might or might not turn on these LEDs – if you don't like them just never touch the on switch. A power supply is located in a very nice silver disc, that should be placed somewhere near-by the deck (you're limited only by the length of power cable). There is a small silver wheel on a top which in fact is on/off switch for turntable plus it allows also to chose the speed (33 or 45 r.p.m. And there are colored LEDs indicating present choice). At the side of power supply's enclosure there is a power inlet, a socket to plug deck in and the on/off switch for a back-light I have to say that it is probably the best looking power supply I've ever seen.
Just shortly about a tonearm – Funk called it FXR II and even though it's „only” a modified by them Rega 301 they claim that it might be the best tonearm in the world, or at least that's what comes from comparing resonance curves of different arms. To try to confirm I would have to get couple of Saffires II and couple of different arm – unfortunately it didn't happen for obvious reasons.


Records used during listening sessions:

  • Albeniz, Suite Espanola, The Super Analogue Disc London, KIJC 9144, 180 g LP.
  • Arne Domnerus, Jazz at the Pawnshop, Proprius, ATR 003, LP.
  • Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard ,Gladiator, ORG 050, 180 g LP.
  • Kate Bush, The sensual world, Audio Fidelity, AFZLP 082, 180 g LP.
  • Patricia Barber, Companion, MFSL 2-45003, 180 g LP.
  • Peter Gabriel, So,Toshiba EMI, 28VB-1088, LP.
  • The Oscar Peterson Trio, Night train; VERVE/ORG, ORG 029, 180 g LP.
  • The Ray Brown Trio, Soular energy, Pure Audiophile, PA-002 (2), LP.

Let's be honest – looking at Saffire II we see a fancy yet not very “serious” looking turntable. Don't get me wrong – I'm not saying it looks like some windy design. What I mean is that by its shape, by what it's made of it looks bit avant-garde and youth oriented (although there are probably not too many fans of Star Trek among youngsters). It might look bit more like a toy than a making of a respected brand. But as it often happens you can't judge book by its cover and Funk's turntable is the best prove that there is no direct correlation between a good sound and e.g. 20+ kg mass, or some NASA technologies (well – maybe not the best example considering Saffire looking like most famous space ship - Enterprise). Obviously it is possible to make a really good sounding turntable with a good look, though quite small and light.

But let's leave the matter of deck's look behind – let's start dealing with the sound offered by it – this should be our main interest. My own Audio Technica 33PTG made quite a nice match with FXR II tonearm. The very first impression I got during first piece played on Funk was incredibly black background. Yup, that caught my attention first – black as a black hole – making all the sounds more distinct. This black background is a feature of sound that is really hard to describe – most people get the idea only when they hear it with their own ears, but when they finally do they would recognize its lack within second of auditioning some new device. Tone of each instrument becomes more clear, richer, soundstage seems deeper, the overall presentation more transparent – even if all that is not objectively true it doesn't really matter if it cheats our ears well enough to enjoy music even better.

Funk prefers controlled, stable and precise presentation, with lots of energy in it but unlike Linn it explodes with this energy mostly in midrange. I think this is more natural way of presentation as our ears are most sensitive in this range and most of music occur also in the midrange. Surely cartridge had its contribution to the final sound – I tested Linn with MM called Adikt, and now I used not too expensive but extremely good (at its price) AT 33PTG, which is a Moving Coil type. Reviewed setup doesn't offer such a spectacular bass as Sondek with Adikt did. It has the proper mass, power but it's not as fast nor tight as the one of Scottish deck but there is no this slight domination over midrange as it happened with Majik. My favorite recording of The Ray Brown Trio proved beyond any doubt that all other aspects of low range are simply very good. Bass was very colorful and well differentiated – not so many turntables I heard were able to present so convincingly performance of this great maestro of double bass, which by the way was extremely well captured in „Soular energy” recording. A very special feature of this sound was a strong presence of “wood” in the sound of double bass – basing on this impression I could swear that during this recording session they must have put a microphone damn close to the instrument. Sound had a proper body, muscle, and it was delightfully vibrant – pure pleasure for double bass fans like myself.

Treble, on the other hand, might be even more spectacular than the one presented by Linn but it's also spectacular in a different way. There is a perfect balance between midrange and treble, sound is very open and, if only particular recording allows that, soundstage is really impressive both front to back and right to left (which is not limited to the space between speakers). Phantom images allocation is really impressive which is also obviously enhanced with this incredible black background. Back to the treble for one more second – percussion instruments on Patricia Barber's recording, cymbals on Oscar Peterson's and Ray Brown's – all these were vibrant, sparkling and offered with extraordinary clarity. Probably this last feature combined with general stability of presentation made me sit tight and admire these recordings like never before. OK – to be honest these percussion instruments on Patricia's record attracted my attention many times before, but I never realized how well were cymbals recorded on the other two above mentioned records – it felt almost like discovering them for the first time.

I saved one, brand new, record for the last. This music is somehow special for me – I can't really explain it as this surely isn't world's music masterpiece that will last forever, but I love it, period!First copy I had was bought just in some online Polish shop. Than, as I wasn't quite happy with the sound quality, I bought another copy – this time American edition (much better by the way). I'm also an analogue junky so when they released it on 180g, 45 r.p.m. vinyl slab I had to buy it too. What is this record? – it's a soundtrack from Gladiator. Don't ask me why I'm so crazy about it, but it stuck in my head couple of years ago and it seems to plan to stay till the end of ma days. So I keep looking for a perfect issue (which doesn't and never will exist). So package arrived, I could finally gently unwrap it, take the disc out of gatefold and place it on Funk's platter. Wow! It looks like I'm not the only one addicted to this piece of music – somebody much more influential must be an addict too and he/she must be responsible for making vinyl edition happen. Sound is clearly better than from any of CDs in my possession. OK, enough about the record – let's get back to Saffire II. If you are familiar with Gladiator soundtrack you know that it contains quite diverse music. Most of it is quite demanding for home audio system – there is a big symphonic orchestra involved, plus choirs, plus electronic music on top of that. The most difficult challenge for a system is to maintain order of the presentation, and the second one is to reproduce the overwhelming power and dynamics. Funk seemed to handle it with no sweat – it delivered transparent, steady and firm presentation. When it came to presenting a thunderous bass – so it did, quit, slow melody – no problemo. Saffire II dealt with it all totally effortlessly. I was really impressed with this particular edition of my favorite OST and the way of its presentation by Funk – I think I found the ultimate version as I can't really expect they will issue another one. I can't wait for my Koetsu Black to come back from a “re-tip”, setting it up on my own deck and checking if I like Gladiator as much much as I did with Saffire II.


In spite of its quite avant-garde look Funk Saffire II is a “heavy weight” contender, that is capable of creating involving and enjoyable spectacles when playing our favorite records plus it might surprise you exposing some details you never heard before. The whole range is well balanced although there is no doubt midrange is treated somehow special (but without overexposing). Bass and treble integrate with midrange really nicely offering same high quality. Low range is tuneful and well differentiated, treble is vibrant, sparkling airy and offering fabulous spacing (although always depending on the played recording, not created artificially). Saffire II dealt well with each music genre, even most dense and intense pieces are played effortlessly, with great detail, in orderly way. If only recording delivers turntable will offer nice transparency, each detail, color, timbre will sound more distinct on Funk's incredible black background allowing you to discover some of your records again.


The appearance of Saffire II is quite unique – maybe it's just me but it looks like Enterprise from Star Trek. It's sculpted from solid acrylic. It's solid acrylic platform stands on three also acrylic feet with some metal, nickel finished parts. The separate power supply called Solus, takes form of silver disc/cylinder with a small wheel on the top that serves as on/off switch and allows to change the speed. The motor placed in acrylic bases is connected with power supply with single cable with DIN plug. Subchasiss includes couple of pink LEDs that can be switch on or off via switch placed on power supply's enclosure. Reviewed turntable features original Funk’s proprietary K-Drive belt-drive system, which employs one-motor, one belt and three-pulleys. The K-drive system is supposed to prevent the drive belt tugging at the platter and causing it to oscillate around the main bearing. Additionally, the K-Drive system uses asymmetric slave pulleys that by rotating at different speeds ensure that the drive does not generate any resonance. It also benefits from a refined iteration of the Anniversary’s famous inverted main bearing configuration supporting the acrylic platter. Funk's designers claim that FXR II tonearm transmits more energy than any other arm in the world and the arm mounting plate is the only part of the system that has been designed to lose energy. The point where the tonearm meets the turntable plinth is to dissipate the extraneous energy that cartridges produce – hence the carbon-fibre/acrylic sandwich construction of the tiny arm-board. Arm is heavily modified Rega 301 – after this modification arm measures better then any reference arm in the history, designers claim. There are following adjustments available at FXR II: tracking force, magnetic anti-skating, and VTA. There is no classic headshell but original Funk mounting of a cartridge that makes it easy to change one for another quickly . Tonearm is equipped with full cabling with interconnect terminated with RCA plugs.

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