Soulines Kubrick DCX Turntable Review
In case you’ve been living under a rock these past couple of years, there’s been a huge comeback in the audio world from one of the relics, a medium publicly marketed as obsolete, technically inferior and user-unfriendly. Vinyl – those big, black discs that your parents, or even grandparents used to dust off and play occasionally; the format that was first challenged by the compact cassette and 8-track tapes, then killed off by the compact disc and digital streaming, is back, and in a big way.
Retro little record stores are popping up everywhere these days, filled with not only those that grew up with vinyl but increasingly more and more young consumers. Recording labels are re-releasing albums on the black stuff and even recording new material on vinyl. Of course, you can’t enjoy music on vinyl without the hardware to spin those discs and trace the grooves, and so a plethora of turntables are hitting the market and Australia is no exception.
Sadly, what boutique Aussie manufacturers we did have seem to have fizzled out at perhaps just the wrong time.
So, as consumers we must rely on the dedicated wholesale importers to make available the brands of the world. Whether it be the mainstays of the analogue world such as Rega, Thorens and Pro-Ject, or the more exotic offerings from VPI, Triangle Art and E.A.T, just to name a few.
Radiance Audio Visual, a Sydney-based importer headed up by Chris Strom, recently scouted an up-and-coming brand out of Serbia, Soulines, founded by Igor Gligorov.
After doing some research on Soulines, I discovered the company uses the same CNC manufacturing company as another of our distributed brands, Karan Acoustics. I’ve always been in awe of their bullet proof construction, so decided to take a chance on another Serbian brand which focuses its design premise on a high standard of engineering, but also music!
For those rusty on their geography, Serbia is landlocked by Hungary to the north, Romania and Bulgaria to the east, Macedonia to the south and Croatia and Bosnia to the west.
With a lifetime dedicated to music, Gligorov attended music school from the age of 5 and graduated at age 13 as a trained cello player. He went on to complete a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, but music was still where Gligorov’s passion was. Later, he would own a small recording studio in Russia, while also enjoying restoring, tweaking and tinkering with turntables.
With civil turmoil erupting in his home country, it was difficult for an audio perfectionist to access and import the new parts necessary, so Gligorov had to recycle or remanufacture as he needed. It was this experience in extracting the best performance from sub-standard, old turntables and parts where Gligorov served his apprenticeship.
A NEW ERA
As the unrest subsided, resources became more readily available. CNC machinery had become more affordable and armed with his knowledge, experience and engineering degree, Gligorov started work designing his own turntable from the ground up. From this blank canvas, Soulines was born.
Only a few short years later, Soulines now exports to nearly every corner of the globe; with awards racking up and four distinct turntable models in the range, Gligorov’s hard work is paying off.
The initial approach was simple and still rings true today:
The idea was to combine musicality and beauty in an electro-mechanical object that plays vinyl records. At the same time, our focus is on ease of use and setup.
The Hermes DCX, Soulines’ first born, came to the world’s attention after being awarded “The Best Sound Award” at the Belgrade Hi-Fi show in 2010. With this break-out accolade, Soulines had ‘officially’ arrived.
Each turntable in the Soulines stable is named according to Gligorov’s love for the arts; the Kubrick DCX is the flagship in the line-up.
The Kubrick DCX turntable is inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was designed as a smooth, musical, space object; a bit like Space Station One, which is described as polished metal surfaces of the slowly revolving, three hundred-yard-diameter disk. The central axis of the Space Station, with its docking arms extended, was now slowly swimming toward them.
The Kubrick DCX draws upon the design of the Hermes DCX, with an inverted main bearing machined from solid brass and stainless steel, a 40mm thick laminated acrylic platter, together with a very rigid, anodised aluminium plinth and sub-plinth. This plinth assembly is built from stacked layers, coupled together and according to Gligorov, is “strategically damped”.
Gligorov’s design isn’t solely based around aesthetics. His extensive experience with SolidWorks design software, along with multiple prototypes of the Kubrick DCX resulted in the final plinth (and sub-plinth) with the dimensions, shape and machined openings employing what’s known as ‘Golden Ratios’ and ‘Fibonacci’ sequences.
(Click the links to learn more about these principles, if you're that way inclined.)
In layman’s terms:
This leads to gaining uniform vibration damping and the reduction of the moment of inertia in all three planes (along all three axes) to the center of mass.
Even though the Kubrick DCX looks asymmetrical or unbalanced, it is in perfect balance, providing smooth platter rotation and steady tracking.
The turntable is supported by three adjustable cones machined from solid aluminium to allow easy levelling and provide optimum coupling to the surface that it sits on. The cones are coupled to the main plinth by rubber-cork washers of different diameters, which Gligorov also says provides better vibration transmitting control.
The solid aluminium arm-board is mounted directly on the sub-plinth which is also decoupled from the main plinth in three points. The Kubrick DCX can be ordered with a tonearm from Japanese manufacturer Jelco. Jelco are known in certain circles as offering truly great performance at very affordable prices. In our case, the SA-750D 9” tonearm was supplied, which can be picked up for just $770.00 in Australia. Three interchangeable arm-boards are supplied for 9” SME, Jelco, and Rega tonearms.
Limited details are available about the turntable motor employed on the Kubrick DCX, other than to say it’s a “high quality DC motor optimized for turntable use.” Fine speed adjustment is possible via two small screws in the assembly. Power is supplied via what Soulines refer to as an “electronically controlled power supply”. It’s a wall wart, no matter what nice term you want to use. Gligorov does say that as the platter is so heavy and the bearing so sophisticated, a dedicated power supply is simply not required. Who are we to argue?
In the box you’ll also find a nice acrylic dust cover, rubber-cork mat and also a protractor / cartridge alignment card.
Setting up the Kubrick DCX couldn’t be easier. From the moment you start unpacking the box, you could be forgiven for wondering if Gligorov was somehow involved in the design of the classic Tetris game.
As the bearing is already mounted, simply place the platter atop the spindle, spin the silicon belt on and mount your chosen armboard via the three Allen screws. Adjust the three feet for levelling and you’re already half-way there. For this review, I then mounted the Jelco tonearm with a Triangle Art Zeus MC cartridge and opted to use the SMARTractor from Acoustical Systems with my preferred Loefgren A geometry, for cartridge alignment.
All that remained was to make the connection to my Dared Audio LP100 phono pre-amplifier, plug in the power supply and flip the conveniently located ‘play’ switch. Simple stuff.
One thing that was clear at this stage was a sense of workmanship and superb engineering. The turntable feels very rigid, everything just fits, and ultimately you are filled with confidence that what now sits before you is a well-designed, robust turntable. At least, that’s what I sure felt.
To start with some familiar, recent material, the opening track “Things Left Unsaid” from Pink Floyd’s Endless River LP is delicate, laid back, with ambient texturing and subtle detail. The Kubrick DCX has no problem allowing the Jelco/Zeus combination to retrieve this detail and with finesse to spare.
In “It’s What We Do”, the organ and percussion joins in, and Gilmour’s meticulously crafted guitar completes the picture. You’re presented with a perfectly timed, multi-layered sound, perfectly reflecting what’s stored in the groove.
The smooth melodies from “Is It a Crime” on Sade’s Promise album are conveyed in perfect time and with precise control as the dynamic range varies throughout the track.
The faster paced “The Sweetest Taboo” contains multiple instruments and while musically complicated at times, the bass line and kick drum are clearly distinct, and even at substantial volume levels present no challenges for the mounted arm and cartridge.
One of my favourite artists of recent times is Vienna Teng, a Taiwanese-American pianist and singer-songwriter. Warm Strangers is sadly her only album available on vinyl and is often difficult to find at that. While I know this pressing intimately, similarly the Zeus cartridge, yet when mounted on the Jelco arm and Kubrick DCX turntable, there is an extra notch of liveliness. It’s not a criticism, as it only adds more to the up-beat tracks and Teng’s sweet voice; quite uplifting and inspirational.
Across a range of musical genres and artists, the Kubrick DCX does what it should; gets out of the way and allows the stylus to retrieve the information completely and accurately.
Any turntable enthusiast living with a timber sub-floor will tell you the fun they’ve had with tracking issues. Most issues are resolved with a wall-mounted shelf for the turntable, but when that is not an option, most have experimented with all sorts of remedies from commercial isolation products through to squash balls cut in half. A good rack certainly helps and on my Solid Tech Hybrid rack, the Kubrick DCX tracks remarkably well. In fact, no other turntable in this room has tracked as well. I no longer have to walk light-footed on the opposite side of the room. Finally! The damping and isolation design that Gligorov spent so much time perfecting is certainly working.
Though this is a turntable review rather than a cartridge or tonearm review, one can only essentially review the turntable as part of the combination. I can only conclude then, that the Kubrick DCX offers a perfect platform to pair with your preferred tonearm and cartridge, in which to turn vinyl at rock solid speed, with no induced noise or vibration that I can detect.
The Soulines Kubrick DCX may not have the high-tech electronics or vacuum suction that the super five-figure giants of the turntable world now offer, but in this reviewer’s opinion, what it does bring to the party works together so coherently, and would easily satisfy the most discerning enthusiasts. Invest in a higher level tonearm, and further improvements would likely be realised.
Fairly priced at $6,200 RRP (without tonearm), it’s perhaps a large investment for a punter’s first turntable. For someone stepping up from an entry level Rega or VPI for example, I think you’d be hard-pressed to match the quality and performance of the Kubrick DCX for under $10,000.
The Soulines Kubrick DCX offers brilliant design based on experience and real-world development, solid engineering and a turntable that will faithfully please any enthusiast for many years to come. I highly recommend the Soulines Kubrick DCX for those seeking an exceptional turntable at an achievable price point.
Soulines is distributed in Australia by Radiance Audio Visual.