Mag-Lev Turntable

Mag-Lev-Turntable

I’m not a vinyl guy. Yes, I still have a collection of LPs, mostly bought in the 1970s, and I even have a turntable, but they’re all in storage—I haven’t used them in three decades. In my view, vinyl is simply too much hassle, the inevitable clicks and pops are highly distracting, and the sound quality is not as good as high-quality digital sources—at least, not for the amount of money I’m willing to spend. However, when I heard about the Mag-Lev turntable from Mag-Lev Audio, I was intrigued, to say the least.

In conventional turntables, the platter is driven directly by mounting it on the spindle of a motor or by a belt connected to a motor off to the side. Either way, mechanical vibrations from the motor can cause low-frequency noise called rumble, and turntable designers go to great lengths to minimize it with massively heavy platters and bases, various suspension schemes, and low-frequency filters.

The Mag-Lev turntable solves this problem ingeniously. As the name implies, when playing a record, the platter floats above the base on nothing more than a magnetic field—that is, it uses magnetic levitation—with no belt, no direct-drive motor, and thus no rumble. In fact, the platter’s rotating motion is completely decoupled from the base and almost frictionless. (Of course, it’s not entirely frictionless; there’s no such thing except in superfluids at temperatures near absolute zero.)

The other main bugaboo of turntables is called “wow and flutter,” which arises from slight variations in the speed of rotation. Mag-Lev Audio claims that the speed of its turntable is precisely controlled, which should greatly reduce wow and flutter.

So where can you buy one? Nowhere, at least not yet. Mag-Lev Audio has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough capital to go into production; the goal of $300,000 has been exceeded already, and the campaign has 15 days to go as of this writing. Once that’s over, the company will finish development and go into production, with shipping anticipated by August 2017.

For more about the Mag-Lev turntable—and to contribute if you care to—click here. I doubt that it will lead me back to vinyl, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

Check out the promo video:

This video shows how the Mag-Lev turntable works in a more matter-of-fact manner: