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Price (in Poland): 36 490 PLN
╢ deck: 12 500 PLN | tonearm: 14 990 PLN ╟

Contact: RÄKE Hifi/VERTRIEB GmbH
Irlenfelder Weg 43 | D-51467
Bergisch Gladbach | DEUTSCHLAND


Provided for test by: NAUTILUS Dystrybucja

Model: Alto TMD
Colour: ALU
Tonearm: TR5012
Cartridge: without
A description on turntable’s packaging

urntables by Transrotor, the oldest German manufacturer of record player, share a specific look: they are massive, solid, heavy and we see them mainly in three shapes: round, triangular and rectangular. You can see that the company peaks from time to time towards other manufacturers’ products, which results in such designs as Argos and Massimo, sometimes it chooses a triangle-shaped forms - see the ZET series, but most often we see turntables such as the one tested this time - ALTO TMD, or "round" turntables.


Alto TMD is the latest model presented by Transrotor in March this years. I am talking about the "round" version, because that’s the shape of its base, that has the same diameter as the platter. The motor housing and the element where the tonearm is mounted on are also round. The design is neat, compact and does not overwhelm with its presence. It is available in only one color - silver. Although it seems to be just a variation on the subject of earlier models, for the first time in Transrotor's history, it uses a solution that will probably migrate to the more expensive models of this manufacturer.

Owner, designer

Jochen Räke in Krakow | 2016

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Could you tell us, what was the inspiration for Alto?
JOCHEN RAEKE: Alto is the newest „incarnation" of the Fat Bob concept. We wanted to have a turntable that has the best tone arm base we can build, it should be easily adjustable for almost every tone arm on the market. The idea came from us traveling around and setting up different tone arms. The proper height adjustment is always the most complicated thing to do, especially with some unipivot arms. With Alto this is done in a few seconds.

So, the main element that makes this model different from others is the new VTA mechanism? 
Yes, it is new for us. You can set the VTA very easily in fine increments. You can even do that while the record is playing. It makes setting up a tone arm very easy, but you can also use it as some kind of „Equalizer" as you can also adjust the sound with the angle of the needle. Also you can perfectly adjust the arm on the fly for thick and slim records, something many people don't think of.

Is the whole turntable made of aluminum or some other metals are also used
The deck and platter are made with hand polished Aluminum.

Are you using a DC motor?
Yes, it’s a DC Motor with a controller developed by us.

The TMD bearing used here is known from, say, Massimo?
Yes, it is the same principle.

I can see that the tonearm base features some damping material - what is it?
It is a sandwich construction with Aluminum and POM, the same material as our model Dark Star.

Deck | Alto TMD is a mass-loader turntable – that’s the only kind Transrotor makes. It weighs a lot, 33 kg, and resembles the FAT BOB and reaching even further in the history, the Eternita model. However, it shares most DNA with a the currently made Max model. Its base is made of hand-polished aluminum, it’s round and 50 mm high; its diameter is slightly larger than that of vinyl record. The outer contour of the base is not smooth, and divided by concentric thickenings, which really looks nice.

At the circumference, every 120º, three pairs of holes are placed, two of which are blinded in the basic version of the turntable. The third pair is used for two short spikes screwed into the holes that are supporting the base of the arm. Like I said, the Alto TMD is similar to the Max model - but not only by a similar solution of the base and platter, but also by the way the tonearm is fixed to the base. Here, however, it is a much more sophisticated solution.

The two pins on which the base of the arm moves is a solution known for years, once used, for example, by Dr. Feickert Analogue in the Twin model (more HERE). However, this is not a perfect way, because such pins are never too rigid - and certainly not ones that are that long. Thanks to shortening them to only a few centimeters, this solution becomes more rigid and more functional. Let me add that the turntable stands on three large feet. Great! - Finally, you do not need to use any washers! The feet are adjustable which allows user to properly level the entire base.

Tonearm base | The base of the arm is in itself a complicated system. The round "basket", which is known from many other Transrotor models, is first screwed to the aforementioned pins, and the proper armboard is screwed onto it from above. This is a boom known from such models as Orfeo and the ZET line. In this case manufacturer increased its rigidness by using two elements, one on top of the other with damping.

Between the "basket" and the first aluminum layer, as well as between the second layer and the boom there is a layer of POM - Polioxymethylene, poly (methylene oxide) - in this case serving as damping material. It’s the first time I saw this solution in any Transrotor turntable. It’s not the only one - I do not know all the models by this company, but among those I’ve tested never before have I encountered such a good, easy-to-use way to adjust the height of the arm (VTA).

VTA is usually adjusted by a simple system of screws that secure the column of the tonearm. If the manufacturer thought about a more user-friendly mechanism - most often it is a part of a tonearm - it can be executed by a knob mounted on the top of the arm column. Here it is different - it is a large disc placed below, under the "basket". In the middle, it features a thick stem, which is screwed into a solid brass element, which is a part of the "basket". It really works and works really well. The curved shape of the boom allows it to be adjusted to any arm, but not longer than 12 ". Three screws hidden under the mask with the company logo are used for adjustment.

Main bearing and platter | The platter is 55 mm high and was made of polished aluminum. From the bottom it features milled coaxial "ribs" that increase its rigidness and give the platter more inertia. From the top it was covered with a layer of processed, hardened vinyl. Transrotor believes that it is a good mechanical interface between the platter and a record. ALTO TMD features also a rather light aluminum record clamp.

A wide hole was milled into the bottom side of the platter, where a large TMD (Transrotor Magnet Drive) bearing fits. Jochen Räke once talked about development of this bearing in an interview that he gave our magazine. It is a bearing with a magnetic clutch, consisting of three main parts - a spindle with a base, a low pulley to which torque is transferred from the motor and the upper, high part, which is actually a sub-platter. Around the spindle with a ceramic ball there is a milled space for oil.

The upper part of the bearing consists of two parts, separated from each other by a magnetic field generated by many small neodymium magnets. The idea is to separate these two elements from each other, and thus to reduce the vibrations transmitted by the drive belt from the motor. The belt is placed over the lower part and the platter rests on the top one.

Motor | Alto TMD is a design with a separate motor, placed next to the turntable. One can use such solution only in mass-loaders. Therefore, the motor features a solid, heavy cylinder housing. A small, aluminum spindle is mounted on the motor axis, and puts a rubber drive belt over it. The motor is placed on the side - Transrotor suggests placing it on the left side, but I would suggest to start your test by placing it on the line connecting the motor column and the platter’s axis.

The roller on the ax has the same diameter along its entire length, because the speed is changed electronically in the external power supply. The basic version of this turntable features the Konstant Studio, PS, a small aluminum box with a black knob that switches the drive on and allows user to change the speed (33 1/3 or 45 r.p.m.). The motor connects with power supply with a long, shielded cable terminated with a screwed-on DIN connector.

Tonearm | Transrotor hasn’t and still does not make its own arms. Historically, they used Rega, Jelco and SME arms, but they modified them in their own way. At some point the gave up cooperation with the first of these companies because of too large a percentage of units that did not meet the requirements. However, they still do work with SME and with Jelco.

The tested turntable can therefore be equipped with one of the SME or Jelco arms, 9 or 12 "long. The turntable has the best proportions with a shorter arm, but many music lovers think that "size matters", which is why the test unit came with a 12" arm. This is the Transrotor TR5012, that is an OEM version of the SME312 arm. From the bottom, an interconnect terminated with a DIN plug is inserted into it. In this test, instead of the standard Van den Hul cable, supplied with SME's arms, I used the Vovox Textura DIN-RCA IC phono cable with Bullet Plugs.

Upgrade | I’ve mentioned the „tested version” several times. This is because the Alto TMD, similarly to other Transrotor turntables, can upgraded. The holes in the base, blinded in this version, can be used for that. The simplest upgrade concerns a stand for record clamp - yes, a stand. It has a form of a large, front-wound cylinder with a small axis. Probably it slightly changes the sound, after all it's an additional element, but it's actually about the user's convenience.

Two additional arms may be considered real upgrades - they utilize the same bases as the first arm delivered with the deck. If we add one tonearm, the stand for the clamp remains in place, but with two additional arms, the stand must be placed next to the turntable. But you can start with power supply, for example by replacing the standard power supply with a more advanced one. And then you can go even further and equip the turntable with two additional motor. The top version would feature even three arms and three motors with a more advanced power supply.

The Transrotor Alto TMD was placed on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack. I used three different cartridges with it: Denon L-103, Shelter Model 901 Type III and Miyajima Laboratory Madake. Signal from them was amplified using (interchangeably) two phonostages – RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC and Grandinote Celio Mk IV. Records used was the test were cleaned using the Audiodesksysteme Gläss Vinyl Cleaner.

TRANSROTOR in “High Fidelity”
  • COLUMN: DIRK RÄKE and Transrotor ARTUS FMD (for 130 000 EUR) in Krakow, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Transrotor MASSIMO TMD (two motors) | turntable
  • REVIEW: Transrotor JUPITER | turntable
  • REVIEW: Transrotor ZET 3 INFINITY (system) – turntable
  • REVIEW: Transrotor DARK STAR SILVER SHADOW – turntable, see HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Transrotor ZET 3 (New Version) – turntable (twin motor version), see HERE
  • REVIEW: Transrotor ZET 1 MATT WHITE – turntable, see HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Transrotor ARGOS – turntable, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Transrotor SUPER SEVEN LAROCCIA – turntable, see HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Transrotor FAT BOB S – turntable, see HERE

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)/span>

    • Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet, Go Right, Polskie Nagrania „Muza”/Warner Music Poland 4 6488087, „Polish Jazz vol. 0”, 180 g LP (1963/2016);
    • Bill Evans, You Must Believe in Spring, Warner Bros. Records/Music n Vinyl MOVLP1145, 180 g LP (1981/2014)
    • Brendan Perry, Ark, Cooking Vinyl/Vinyl 180 VIN180LP040, 2 x 180 g (2011)
    • Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else, Blue Note/Analogue Productions, AP-81595, „The Blue Note Reissues | 45 RPM Special Edition #2468”, 45 rpm, 2 x 180 g LP (1958/2008)
    • Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Great Guitars/Straight Tracks, Concord Jazz CDJ-1002, „Direct-To-Disc Recording | Limited Edition”, LP (1978)
    • Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, [PIAS] Recordings PIASR311DLP, 2 x 180 g Green Wax LP (2016)
    • Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter Song Book, Verve/Speakers Corner Records MGV 4001-2, 2 x 180 g LP (1956/2000)
    • Jun Fukumachi, Jun Fukumachi at Steinway, Toshiba Records LF-95001, „Pro-Use Direct Cutting Series”, 180 g LP
    • Kraftwerk, Tour De France. Soundtracks, EMI Records 591 708 1, 2 x 180 g LP (2003)
    • Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly Trio, Smokin’ At The Half Note, Verve/Universal Music K.K. [Japan] UCJU-9083, 200 g LP (1965/2007)

    If we use similar technologies, similar solutions, and we have well-established rules of operation, the results are usually similar. This is one of the principles of the audio world. The second principle says, however, that "every element matters" and each, even a minor modification introduces changes to the sound. An accumulation of such changes, even minor ones, shifts the center of gravity to one side or the other. However, we are still moving within certain limits set by solutions and technologies.

    It is no different with Transrotor turntables. The most important elements in turntable’s design such as: bearing, motor with controlling circuit, material and shape of a deck and platter, as well as the tonearm, are similar or the same in many models of this manufacturer, and the particular combination used in the Alto TMD has already been known from, for example, the above mentioned Fat Bob and Massimo.

    And yet it is not the same sound, it is not the same performance. It turns out that the seemingly minor adjustments that I have talked about, bring new variables to the equation that allow this model to jump "a change threshold" within a lineup of the given company. In this case, these would be: a slightly different basis for the turntable, a new base for a tonearm, and also probably, even if only to the smallest extend, new feet.

    I can conclude the long listening sessions that I have devoted to this turntable in one sentence: it delivers a soft, rich, yet open and very accurate performance. It is never bright or harsh. You see, these are qualities often attributed to suspended record players. They could be derived from different designs, as, for example, the top of the band would be similar to one presented by Linn's turntables with spring suspension and the bottom of the band to the new Thorens and Pro-Ject models, in which the deck, tonearm base and platter are decoupled with elastomers. Transrotor folds it in a slightly different way, but this is generally the direction.

    The accuracy of this presentation means, for example, that there is a good differentiation and high resolution. These are the elements that make the sound of various records, pressings, releases different, it is not a monotonous sound. If we play some sort of fancy analogue re-edition, for example Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin 'Else or Ella Fitzgerald’s Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter Song Book, we'll get an open, dynamic and saturated sound. You can also hear the differences between the different styles of Blue Note and Verve releases - with the former being more direct, but also deeper, and the latter presenting a slightly emphasized upper midrange.

    You can also play some new reissues cut from digital files, but good ones, for example from Music On Vinyl label, let it be Bill Evans' You Must Believe in Spring, originally released by Warner Bros., and you will immediately understand why fans prefer his albums from the Riverside period. It's about the smaller depth of his later recordings, as well as the inferior three-dimensionality - and it's the lesser 3D effect, I believe, that is the most important factor here. The album in question, however, sounded really nice, good, it’s great music. And though Waltz for Debby, Everybody Digs Bill Evans are masterpieces that sound great, You Must Believe in Spring charms with the mood.

    The Alto TMD turntable allowed for such contemplation, because on the one hand it presented the differences mentioned above nicely, and on the other hand it did not emphasize them,, I had an impression that it "tried" to convey the musical truth as best it could. And there is a lot of it in this album, because in addition to great compositions, an excellent leader, it is also important that it was produced by Tommy Lipuma, which most audiophiles know from as producer of Diana Krall's albums, and mastering was done by Doug Sax in The Mastering Lab, the owner of the Sheffield Labs. record label, that I wrote about in the article on direct-to-discs releases.

    And, since I’ve just mentioned these albums - the Transrotor turntable is quite a dynamic device, there is nothing lacking in this field, but it is not its main feature. It plays the material in a gentle, slightly soft way. It results in nice colors and allows you to play any record without getting nervous about its quality, but it also slightly calms the presentation down. Therefore, one should be more meticulous when choosing a cartridge for this record player. It is not about its performance or quality, although that’s an important factor too, but about its character.

    Because all the aforementioned records sounded faster and more powerful with a relatively inexpensive Denon DL-103 cartridge, and not with the sophisticated Madake from the Miyajima Laboratory. With Denon the sound had "drive", power, which with Miyajima were somewhat tamed. That is why direct-to-disc recordings, for example Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel Great Guitars / Straight Tracks and Jun Fukumachi’s Jun Fukumachi at Steinway with the DL-103 sounded in a more expressive and - ultimately - more interesting way.

    With a well-chosen cartridge, the turntable delivers nicely extended bass with proper control in this range. But it's still a nice, soft, ‘friendly’ bass. The images are generated on the line connecting the speakers, the second layer of the stage is also nicely shown, with good caustics distinguishing them from what was closer to me. Thus, the differences in the way of imaging between Ella Fitzgerald's vocal and orchestra shown exactly behind it, but much further away - this is a mono recording - were so clearly audible.

    What should you expect from the Alto TMD? It will not offer a strong attack and ultrahigh dynamics. It is not this type of turntable. It does not really lack anything in this respect, but - as always - it offers a certain set of features; You can not have it all at once. It does offer a nice insight into the depth of the stage, but there are no distant layers, more important is what is in front of a listener. The foreground is not pushed forward in front of speakers, so you can listen to music comfortably, but what's closer to us is bigger, more solid, and everything further away is smaller. Well, Alto TMD is not a master when it comes to suppressing pops&cracks. And again - it did not bother me at all when I listened to the music.


    Small changes, shifting accents, and we received a completely different sound than from other Transrotor turntables, even those with a very similar mechanical design. It delivers a warm, soft sound with a large volume and very good differentiation. Digital recordings and productions sound really well with it, nice, we get the best from them. Analog releases shine with better dynamics and better three-dimensionality. It's a sophisticated, multicolored sound, which does not often happen with mass-loader turntables.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    Chassis: 52mm thick chromed brass block
    Platter: 55mm thick aluminum weighing 12 kg
    Standard setup: TR 5009 tonearm (SME 309), aluminum record clamp, Konstant Studio Power Supply
    Dimensions (W x D x H): 540 x 380 x 210 (with single motor)
    Weight: around 33 kg


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