Touraj Moghaddam has been creating extraordinary hi-fi equipment for decades but is undoubtedly best known for his work on turntable design, initially at Roksan with such legendary products as the Xerxes and TMS3 to his credit and latterly at his most recent venture, Vertere Acoustics. I have had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and he is a genuinely delightful man, engaging and clearly totally committed to his restless quest to produce the best sounding vinyl replay systems that he can devise. He is also a music lover, and reputedly has an amazing record collection at home. Thus it was with real excitement that I welcomed the Vertere Magic Groove 1 with its SG1 tonearm to my system, where it replaced my own modified Linn Sondek LP12 on the top of a Quadraspire XL rack.
The MG-1 was delivered with an Audio Technica ART7 moving coil cartridge installed – Touraj apparently rates the Audio Technica range very highly. I decided to leave the ART7 in place for the whole review, as I quickly came to enjoy its sound very much. Set up was relatively straightforward, with the power and speed control installed on the shelf below the turntable. The first thing to say about the MG-1 is that it is a big beast. It fitted on my XL shelf fine, but just check that your own chosen location can accommodate its footprint.
Visually, the model that I had was absolutely stunning. Constructed in some sort of clear Perspex and standing on burnt orange feet, this handsome beast looks amazing, at least to my eyes. Other finishes are also available. It is a sandwich construction, with the top plate very well isolated from the bottom half. The platter is a high gloss affair. I tried it with a couple of different platter mats but quickly discarded them. I guess if Touraj thought a mat would improve things he would include one. I also tried it with a StillPoints record weight which I have from a few years back. It didn’t stay on long either. This turntable will not benefit from any such after-market tweaks.
The SG1 arm is a unipivot design and was easy to use, although I feel the arm lift lever is bit spindly and not particularly easy to grip, at least with my less than non-dextrous digits. The power supply is rather more mundane, but works perfectly well. The integral Redline arm cable is a recent addition to the Vertere range and very nicely terminated with the company’s gold-plated connectors.
The replay system consisted of a Gold Note PH10 phono stage with dedicated power supply, Audioquest Fire RCA interconnects, and for most of the review, a Naim Supernait 3 integrated amplifier, although I did also play through my own Yamaha A-S3000 integrated. I used three different pairs of loudspeakers: my own Harbeth P3ESRs and SuperHL5+ 40th Anniversary Editions, and a visiting pair of Chario Constellation 2 Delphinus. Speaker cable was the excellent Tellurium Q Ultra Black 2. Mains power came through a Shunyata Venom mains block and Shunyata Venom NR cables (which I shall review shortly).
Having allowed the components to warm up for a day, I created a pile of albums to work through. This included Meddleand Dark Side of the Moonfrom Pink Floyd, Manassasthe Yes Album, half a dozen Mobile Fidelity titles including Forever Changesby Love, Dylans Blood on the Tracks, Brothers in Armsby Dire Straits, Simple Dreamsby Linda Ronstadt and Keb Mo, JJ Cale’s 5and Okie, some Beatles and Stones as well as some classical by the Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood.
That took care of the first three days, which went by in a flash. When I first got my LP12, something very similar happened – I just could not stop playing records. I very quickly realised that the Magic Groove is a perfect name for this Vertere combination. Whatever I played through it emerged from the loudspeakers with pace, energy, rhythm, deep bass and sparkling treble. It was an immersive musical experience in every way.
I have owned several different turntables in recent years, all of them had many excellent characteristics. However, one thing that I often felt was missing was the emotional connection that I seek with music. I know we are now moving into extremely subjective territory, where any kind of scientific measurement is impossible, so please don’t shoot me down in flames. Whenever I heard a well set up LP12, that ‘soul’ seemed to miraculously reappear, which is why in the summer of 2018 I acquired a pre-loved example and had it rebuilt by an expert using modern components but retaining that musical magic. The Vertere MG-1 gives me that same ‘goose bumps’ musical experience but without the faff that goes with an LP12. I doubt there will ever be an after-market for ‘upgrades’ to a Vertere record deck, nor will Vertere fettlers develop cult followings on the interweb. Your dealer should be entrusted with the initial set up but thereafter there need be no anguish over which upgrade to do next. Very liberating I reckon. Would I swap my unique LP12 for one of these? Actually, no, but only for personal rather than audio reasons.
But let us return to the listening experience. The SG-1/ART7 combination managed to find an amazing amount of micro-detail in the grooves of the albums I played, but not at the expense of pace and timing, or overall musical drive. Bass was powerful but not overwhelming, and the midrange was simply exquisite. When I had the big Harbeths paired with the Naim Supernait 3 in particular, I found myself at one with the music and totally believing what I was hearing. Surface noise was inaudible. Classical and jazz piano, which is notoriously difficult to recreate, sounded excellent. If the MG-1/SG-1 has any weaknesses I really failed to find them.
I played hundreds of records while this machine was here, including some I bought as a teenager in the 1960s like Axis: Bold As Lovethrough to modern pop like George Ezra’s Staying at Tamara’s, and stuff from every intervening decade. The Vertere reproduced them all magnificently.
A quick word about the Audio Technica ART7 cartridge before we close this piece. I believe it retails for just under £1,000 and in my opinion that is an absolute bargain. Ultimately, however good your turntable and arm may be, their job is to provide the best possible platform for that tiny diamond stylus to trace the grooves in the record. The ART7 is a wonderful music making device and will certainly be on my short list when the time comes to renew my own cartridge.
Let’s be honest, at over £7,000 for this record player and a decent cartridge, this turntable is not going to suit every music lover’s budget. There are plenty of very fine players available at considerably less cost. But let’s turn that the other way around. If you are in the market for a high end record player, and are considering models in the £10,000+ range, the Vertere MG-1 is actually fantastic value for money. Buy one, fit your cartridge of choice and spend what you save on records.
Is it perfect? No, of course not. I would want to get a good third party dust cover for it. I mentioned the arm lift mechanism earlier, but that is hardly a showstopper. Similarly, given the visual impact of the turntable and arm and their sheer rack presence, the power supply does feel and look rather utilitarian. But knowing how Touraj is constantly looking to refine and improve his designs, it is quite possible that by the time you read this he may already have made changes.
I thoroughly enjoyed my weeks with the Vertere. It makes listening to music the joy it should be. This is an analogue replay system conceived, developed and delivered by a man who has a quality that has become devalued by overuse of its name – passion. Passion for music and for producing the best sounding system for reproducing it.