Hardware Reviews

Origin Live Aurora & Onyx: entry level premium

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm review www.the-ear.net

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm

The Aurora turntable with Onyx arm was my introduction to Origin Live’s products, so I came to it with no preconceptions, but knowing that over the years they have garnered praise from respected fellow reviewers. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an engineer, so was slightly daunted when the Aurora and Onyx arrived in separate boxes with the expectation that from the assorted bags of parts within I would construct a working turntable that would do the combination justice.

Being a world-class procrastinator I therefore put off the task for far too long. However, once I had read all the instructions and very carefully followed them to the best of my ability, I had built what looked like a very handsome record player. I initially installed my Gold Note Machiavelli Red moving coil cartridge, set up the correct anti-skate, double checked the geometry and the tracking weight and felt confident enough to start to use the player.

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm review www.the-ear.net

I should also add that in going through the build process I came to appreciate the quality of finish on both the turntable and the tone arm. Both look magnificently well-made and once set up on the top shelf of my rack, they looked very handsome indeed. There was no sense that as the entry level products Origin Live have somehow skimped on quality in any area.

The key components of the Aurora are the new Mk5 motor power supply, the DC100 motor and the in-house manufactured belt which is made of a material designed to increase grip and reduce stretch. Speed change is achieved by turning a knob on the top of the motor housing, which is an excellent feature to find on an entry level player.

The rest of the system was my Gold Note PH10/PSU phono stage, a Primaluna Evo 400 integrated valve amplifier and Harbeth Compact7ES-XD loudspeakers on HiFi Racks Fortis stands.

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm review www.the-ear.net

Listening to the Aurora and Onyx

I started my listening with this year’s go-to album, Dave Alvin’s Eleven Eleven (Yep Roc Records). The first of the four sides kicks off with the very atmospheric Harlan County Line, which featured in the excellent FX television series Justified ( a new season of which is imminent – hooray). Mr. Alvin has a voice that suggests a lifetime spent in smokey venues nursing a glass of Kentucky’s finest. It is a rich baritone, backed by his own lovely Fender Stratocaster playing and several equally gifted musicians.

Through the Aurora, Onyx and Machiavelli Red it had loads of deep dark corners and a real sense of atmosphere that made me sit up and take notice. Using the lift mechanism on the Onyx is very reassuring process. Like almost everything it is made in house by Origin Live and is another example of the company’s determination not to cut corners even on their least expensive offerings. I so enjoyed the first side of the Dave Alvin album that I played the other three before I surfaced for coffee and a stretch.

By way of contrast, the next record on the Aurora platter was my 1981 copy of The Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood, with the choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford playing highlights from G.F. Handel’s Messiah. I have the full box set version but this single disc offers both solo and choral pieces. The Origin Live system delivered a pitch perfect and deeply engaging listening experience. The choral pieces were goose-bump raising and the arias were delivered by all four soloists in a most affecting way. I know that some people struggle with the tuning of original instruments but I have always enjoyed Hogwood’s approach to the baroque and romantic catalogues, and the quality of recording on the Edition de L’Oiseau-Lyre Floriligeum Series is masterful. This was a full bodied sound, which I found delightful.

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm review www.the-ear.net

After a pause I returned to the record player, this time armed with the first of two records from the Ray Brown Trio’s Soular Energy. This is another fine recording issued by Pure Audiophile Records in 2002, from tapes originally laid down in 1984. Ray Brown was, as I am sure you know, a highly respected jazz bassist, and this trio includes Gene Harris on piano and Gerryck King on drums. The Machiavelli tracked it perfectly in the Onyx arm and Brown’s bass is given plenty of space by his bandmates but by no means dominates proceedings, as both Harris and King have plenty of room to showcase their exceptional talents. The piano sound – notoriously difficult to capture well – is nigh on perfect throughout and Brown’s lowest registers maintain their musical integrity through the Harbeth’s in a most convincing way.


I have been huge fan of the late, great JJ Cale since I heard his first album Naturally being played extensively by ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris on his late evening Radio One back in the day. Bob was hooked, and so was I. JJ Cale’s earliest years were on the A&M label, after which he went to Mercury and then to Silvertone Records. I was not among those who thought he had become somewhat passé by then, so I was delighted when the Dutch reissue specialist Music On Vinyl released JJ Cale The Silvertone Years on a pressing limited to just 1,500 copies this year. It is four sides of wonderful JJ songs and they all came through the Origin Live/Gold Note system sounding absolutely terrific. JJ is often, rather lazily, labelled as laid back, but listening into these recordings one hears his attention to detail, the intricacy of his finger-style guitar playing and that unique voice, often mixed well down in the recording.

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm review www.the-ear.net

This is becoming more about the music than the music making machine, but I think that is the greatest compliment that I can pay to the Aurora and Onyx pairing. It goes about its business without fuss and without ever drawing attention to itself. Admittedly it is significantly more expensive than the entry level players of more widely distributed brands, but I think it would give many more expensive machines a really good run for the money. I played classic rock, I played jazz and blues, I played orchestral and chamber music, music for choirs and for solo voices and all sorts of other wonderful stuff and I felt the Aurora and Onyx were always in total command of the situation.

Feeling brave, before the end of my time with duo I was sufficiently confident in my fine motor skills to switch cartridges and installed what for many is one of the classic moving magnets, the timeless Goldring 1042. I went back to Soular Energy and was very impressed with how the Onyx/Goldring pairing made such an excellent job of it. The tonal richness of the Machiavelli had gone, but not to such an extent that after a couple of sides I was missing it. I suspect many purchasers of the Origin Live duo will find that a moving magnet cartridge fits into their budget better, and I would be confident that a good dealer will guide you to the best choice. We are blessed with an abundance of choice these day too, as the so-called vinyl revival shows little sign of abating.

Origin Live Aurora Mk5 turntable & Onyx Mk4 tonearm review www.the-ear.net


My time with the Origin Live pairing of Aurora and Onyx seemed to pass all too quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed using it, because it was very easy to use, but even more so listening to it, because it is a truly delightful music maker. The fact that so much of it is not only designed but also manufactured in-house gives it the feeling of a premium product. If you are so minded, there are various upgrades which can be retrofitted, but I was more than content with this standard set up.

Good reputations are made the hard way, and Origin Live’s is richly deserved. The United Kingdom is relatively small island, but we are blessed with a vibrant hi-fi industry, whose products are respected and sometimes revered by audiophiles around the music loving world. I think Origin Live has earned the right to a place at the top table – it was a pleasure to use their record player and it is very firmly recommended.


Aurora Mk5
Type: belt-drive turntable with single point cantilever suspension
Speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM.
Supplied tonearm: optional
Drive mechanism: DC100 motor with belt drive
Speed control: electronic
Platter type: 12-inch acrylic
Platter weight: not specified
Main bearing:  ultra low friction
Plinth material: acrylic
Dimensions (HxWxD): 170 x 490 x 3360mm
Weight: 10.3kg
Warranty: 2 years

Onyx Mk4
Type: gimbal bearing pivoting tonearm.
Tonearm length: 9.5inch/239mm
Arm tube: single piece aircraft alloy
Effective mass: 12g
Offset angle: 22 degrees
Arm cable: high grade internal Litz wire, high-grade external copper wire
Weight: 570g
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
Aurora Mk5 £1,590
Onyx Mk4 £480
Manufacturer Details:

Origin Live
T +44 (0) 23 80578877


turntable and arm


Chris Kelly

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