Hardware Reviews

Vertere DG-1S: magic vinyl sound

Vertere DG-1S review

Vertere DG-1S, Sabre & Phono-1 record player

Where would we be without turntables like the Vertere DG-1S? Think of all those tons of historical vinyl pressings that would be useless if we were unable to access what’s stored in those tiny grooves. As a result, many people have taken very innovative and different approaches to retrieving that stored information. So we have a plethora of different platter drive systems, arm geometries, pivot arrangements, counterweight systems, coupling or decoupling arms, cartridges etc, and then there’s a range of different cartridge topologies. Is there nothing new under the sun?

Well, perhaps there’s a nice rather elegant and visually striking alternative to the standard fare. Enter the Vertere DG-1S. Now, if you look at the marketplace there are rather a lot of turntables around the same price point as the Vertere, and relatively-speaking they’re all fairly similar (accepting they have revolving platter, arm and cartridge) but in terms of styling they tend to fall into broadly two camps; those with a plinth and those without.

Vertere DG-1S review

The Vertere is in the former camp, but its plinth is decidedly different. A stylish high-gloss three-layer acrylic affair, the plinth and associated sub-plinth sport six discrete silicone rubber suspensions which effectively isolate the layers from one other, and to quote Vertere “distance the bearing and platter assembly from the main plinth”. In real terms, the whole affair is pretty immune to any vibrational input (footfall, acoustic feedback or being inadvertently clouted). The main plinth itself is supported by a steel chassis (which houses the motor and its electronic control circuitry) and the whole lot sits on three adjustable ‘isolating’ feet.

The Vertere DG-1S has a rather unusual tonearm. Rather than opting for the traditional tubular construction Vertere have headed for a double-bonded five-layer beam. This construction avoids the majority of the resonant modes present in tubular construction and also offers the ability to tune any unwanted artifacts out of the performance by judiciously shaping the different elements of the beam layers, which are not all the same shape or thickness.

A little care is needed when fitting a cartridge as the internal cabling is carried on a PCB sandwiched within the arm structure (actually forming one of the layers) so arm rewiring would be something of a challenge (as might replacing a cartridge pin clip if ever you managed to break one off).

Vertere DG-1S review

Set up for azimuth, tracking weight etc is relatively conventional using stainless steel weights, counterweight and an adjustment screw. You might also notice the lack of a traditional knife-edge or gimbal bearing for the arm pivot. Here a tried-and-tested system using three threads under tension provides a virtual bearing which effectively holds the pivot point in place with no stiction or bearing noise. One is tempted to ask – what could be simpler?

The other surprise is the weight of the platter. While many manufacturers have opted for a heavyweight platter (with better performance seemingly being the province of greater weight) the Vertere DG-1S heads for a lighter path to success, with a precision-machined aluminium disc sandwiched between a PETG record interface mat on top, and cork/neoprene/nitrile on the underside. All in all a lightweight and sonically inert combination.

The bits that are slightly more conventional are the low voltage precision synchronous motor (digitally controlled using two bridged-balanced amplifiers) and the main platter bearing which is a highly polished precision-ground and hardened stainless steel shaft running in a high tolerance casing on a tungsten carbide ball, and lubricated for life. The last bit of the jigsaw is the Challenger power supply.

Vertere DG-1S review

Of course, no turntable package is any good without a decent cartridge to retrieve those miniscule groove excursions and turn them into something an amplifier can usefully use. In this instance a Sabre moving magnet cartridge was supplied, along with the Phono-1 MkII L phono stage.

Vertere DG-1S wow factor

As luck would have it, I had Freya Ridings’ recent LP to hand when this combo arrived, so it was first on the platter. I should add that setting up the cartridge in the arm was a real breeze with all the tools, stylus pressure gauge, azimuth device supplied. With the tracking weight set firmly in the middle of the quoted range off we went.

Wow. First impressions were of an authoritative sure-footed performer. Ridings’ voice was exceptionally well focussed, with the accompanying orchestration filling in the inky background. The bottom end was particularly well assured and despite some sometimes hectic goings-on in the upper regions, was never either upset or upsetting. Occasionally when there is a lot of activity at the frequency extremes on an LP the top can upset the bottom, and vice versa, but here everything stayed firmly in place. Not with a vice-like grip (as that can be perceived as restrictive) but easily so.

Vertere DG-1S review

OK, I thought; let’s have a bit of fun. So I popped Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein onto the Vertere DG-1S and, goodness me, the Maxell ‘Break the sound barrier’ advert came to mind (from the 1980s). The impact and forcefulness of the track really hit home. No blurring, no slurring; just a fine clean rendition with articulate bass, clean lead guitar and in-the-room percussion. Yes, though I hate to say it, it really did set my feet tapping. Of course, it’s all very well being able to go loud, but dynamic range(s) is also important otherwise everything can blend into a monotonous mush.

The obvious candidate for dynamics must be the Telarc recording of the 1812. The soundstage is recorded spectacularly well here, with the orchestra laid out for everything to be heard really clearly. As such, there are passages so quiet you should be able to hear a pin drop – and then there are those cannon shots near the end.

I needn’t have worried. The quiet passages were supremely-well handled. The stylus appears to be able to retrieve really small signals from the groove without including any unwanted noise. While I know my pressing is a good one it was reassuring to hear the fine details coming through without being marred by any groove noise, hiss, hum or, or anything in fact. This is also testament to the Phono-1’s ability to resolve small signals. Then there are those cannon shots. Even though I knew they were coming they were still a surprise, and the cat jumped too (I wasn’t being very kind with the volume control).

Vertere DG-1 S review

Magic moments with the Vertere DG-1S

So it does loud and soft’ well. What about air and space’? I reached for Jacques Loussier Trio’s In Concert at the Royal Festival Hall. It’s a bit schmalzy but tremendously-well recorded and with a real sense of the venue. You are immediately aware of the huge environment and the audience even though they’re quiet most of the time. The Sabre and the Vertere DG-1S managed to present the event as a live happening, so much so that the hairs stood up on the back of my neck in anticipation. You really were fully aware of the atmosphere and if you closed your eyes to listen not only could you perceive the communication between the members of the trio, but you could feel the audience sharing the musical journey with them. A huge space, but an essentially intimate coming-together of performers and listeners. Magical.

Having played Schumann’s Piano Quintet I know the work inside-out, so I was keen to hear whether the Vertere DG-1S would present all the inner workings as clearly as I’d expect to hear them if I was at the keyboard. I need not have worried. The performance here is a particularly vibrant one and the Alberni Quartet really do get stuck in in a delightfully musical way. Crescendi are well handled, moments of pathos given just tendresse and tutti passages played with gusto.

Vertere DG-1S review

Again, both from a musical perspective, and an emotionally connected one the Alberni Quartet DG1S with Sabre and Phono-1 combination never failed to elicit a smile. My only wish was that I was actually playing rather than listening. However, the combo managed to take me on that oh-so-enjoyable musical journey which, for me, is the fundamental key to whether a replay system is doing its job.

As I didn’t feel wanting in the turntable department I never got round to swapping out the Sabre for something else. After all, as a combination it worked so well, so why upset things. It’s obviously a very-well-matched system. The Phono-1 with its fully adjustable settings for both MM and MC was something I might have a little more fun with though.

I pressed it into use with my very low output Kondo Io MC cartridge. Again it performed flawlessly, and remained poised and musical. Even the Organ Fireworks (Hyperion A66121) with the huge power of the organ at Westminster Abbey and its two ranks of 32 pedal pipes failed to fluster it, and the weight of those low notes came through with almost alarming realism.

Vertere DG-1S review

Swapping out to a more modest Ortofon OM40 MM presented the Phono-1 (above) with no problem either If anything there was a little less air and space than with the Io, but then there’s rather a large price difference, but the important thing to note is that the Phono-1 was capable of amazingly good low-level detail retrieval and presentation. At no time did it ever feel veiled or lacking. Rather, it reflected the capabilities of the signal and the cartridge feeding it.

As a last-ditch attempt I ran the Sabre straight into my own preamp. Well, I have to confess to being rather surprised, it simply seemed to gel and reinforced its performance as a thoroughly musical cartridge.

Vinyl masochism

I dragged the Sabre through A Faust Travesty (Victrola VL89678); a collection of performances by Florence Foster Jenkins. If anything’s going to test a turntable / cartridge front end this is the disc to do it. Sadly the horrendous rendition of the aria from Queen of the Night was too realistic to bear. I shudder to think what her audiences actually thought when she gave a rendition like this. The Sabre revealed the horror in all its glory – if you don’t believe me, there are a number of sources where you can hear it online. However, the Sabre did reveal the shrillness of her voice, her strident out-of-key singing, I think the best parts are where she’s silent. Anyway, there’s absolutely no criticism of the Sabre in any shape or form.

Vertere DG-1S review

Vertere DG-1S conclusion

The Vertere DG1S and Sabre combination works exceptionally well. At the sharp end the Sabre is a more than competent performer, it gives huge insight into the emotional content of musical performances, their recorded space and dynamic range. The arm and turntable themselves are also superb; the only slight criticism I have of the turntable is the proximity of the on/off/33/45 button to the drive belt, but aside from that it does rather more than simply what it says on the tin.

I should also point out that the turntable also comes with a clear acrylic cover. I could discern no performance difference with it either fixed, up, down or removed so have concluded that as it appears to be a benign item, using the turntable with it in place won’t detract from your listening pleasure, and when not in use will protect the arm and stylus from prying fingers (or even cat paws).

The Phono-1 is worthy of particular mention. It’s transparent, musical, dynamic and beguiling. When tried with other arm/cartridge combinations it made rather more than just musical noises, and had an uncanny ability to draw the listener into the material being played. All in all, a thoroughly excellent piece of kit.


Vertere DG-1S
Type: belt-drive turntable and arm
Speeds: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM.
Supplied tonearm: 5-ply Groove Runner S
Drive mechanism: 24 pole synchronous motor with belt drive
Speed control: microprocessor
Platter type: aluminium with bonded PETG surface, cork/neoprene/nitrile mat
Platter weight: not specified
Main bearing: non-magnetic stainless steel
Plinth material: multi-layer acrylic with 6 point silicone isolation
Dimensions (HxWxD): 130 x 469 x 384mm
Weight: 8kg
Warranty: 5 years with registration

Vertere Groove Runner S
Type: Fixed axis bearing pivoting tonearm.
Tonearm length: 240mm
Arm tube: bonded double five-layer flat beam
Effective mass: variable
Offset angle: 22.9 degrees
Arm cable: Vertere Redline
Weight: 310g
Warranty: 5 years with registration

Vertere Sabre
Type: moving magnet cartridge
Body: aluminium
Cantilever: aluminium alloy tube
Stylus: elliptical diamond
Tracking Pressure: 2g
Input load impedance: 47kOhms
Recommended load: 100 – 200pF
Nominal output voltage: 4mV
Channel separation : minimum 22dB
Mass: 10.3gm
Warranty: 3 years with registration

Price when tested:
Vertere DG-1S Sabre MM cartridge package £4,950
Manufacturer Details:

Vertere Ltd
T+44 (0)203 176 4888



turntable arm & cartridge


Chris Beeching

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