Well Tempered Simplex 2

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The new Well tempered Simplex 2

Since we introduced you to the Well Tempered Amadeus turntable – it sounded so good that I had no problems in changing from my long serving Linn LP12 turntable – there hasn’t been a day since then that I’ve ever felt it wasn’t one of the best changes I’ve ever made. The Well Tempered was, in Linn’s own words, simply better.

Unarguably superior in every way – better sounding, more detailed, pitch accurate, better isolated, easier to use, compatible with more varied systems and cartridges and a fraction of the price of the full blown Linn.

The Well Tempered range has continually expanded since then – with higher end versions such as the Versalex, Amadeus GTA and the awesome Royale 400. And more accessible products such as the Simplex turntable, TLC cartridge and RIAA phono stage. There have been numerous detail and finish improvements made to all models.

At the same time the sound quality from digital sources and systems has improved dramatically. And other turntable designers have also been busy. So what better time to make a splash with the new Well Tempered Simplex 2?

Finland Birch plywood is what makes every pair of the cult Shahinian speakers unique and the Well Tempered Versalex the object of audiophile desire. It’s sonic signature is pure analogue.

Compared to the composite board used in the original Simplex and many other turntables and speakers, birch ply is mechanically stronger and heavier, with optimal self damping properties. And it looks cool. It’s also a lot more costly and can be difficult to work with. But Well Tempered is all about pushing boundaries and expectations, so now their entry level turntable shares the same plinth material as their very best models and is all the better for it.

Cute isn’t a word we’d often associate with turntables, but, when used in a positive sense, it’s the best immediate descriptor for the Simplex 2. It’s compact, the corners are curved and the thick exposed ply plinth gives an immediate visual distinction from the earlier model.

The original basic black plinth finish is replaced by either a fresh ply/white or snappy ply/black option with the trademark golf ball on the tonearm either red or black. I hate dusting so immediately  chose the white version and having it now in my living room I’m even more enamoured with this option. The black accents of the platter, tonearm and motor make it look both contemporary and sharp.

Over time, the good people at Opera Audio in Beijing have improved every aspect of the finish of the Well Tempered turntables that they build under licence – the latest Simplex 2 is a beautiful piece of work, carefully made, packed and ready to make music in your home.

Outside of the look, the performance of the Simplex 2 is appreciably better than the original. The ply plinth is one reason – improved rigidity, mass and self damping combined with the positive sonic signature. But just as important and perhaps less obvious are the detail and finish changes made to the bearing, motor, platter and tonearm. Each change is incremental but together they add to a significant whole, then when combined with the new plinth, you have what is in effect a new turntable.

This is as good a time as any to take  you  through Well Tempered’s unique bundle of design and technology. The Simplex 2 distills the elements to something approaching minimalist perfection.

The golf ball, literally skewered by the thin tonearm tube, sits in a sticky silicon fluid bath, suspended by only a thin thread of mono-filament. With no bearings and infinitely variable damping, this tonearm arrangement makes the most of almost any phono cartridge. Two counterweights are provided to be used either separately or in combination. So matching cartridge weight and setting downforce is a breeze. The provided stylus pressure scale is simple and accurate. Anti-skate is taken care of by the twist in the mono-filament supporting the golf ball and despite what every other designer might tell you, no special or expert alignment is required.

The platter bearing is a complete departure from convention – rather than a sleeve machined to match the spindle which must always be less than perfect (otherwise it wouldn’t turn) the WTL design relies on 3 points of contact held in place by the pull from the belt. These 3 points are teflon which the lightly oiled spindle can turn against for a lifetime with no drop in performance.

And yes – the belt is the same extremely thin (but surprisingly strong) mono filament. A spare belt is included as everyone manages to loose a belt at some stage and I’ve got plenty more in stock. The platter is heavy acrylic – this has beneficial sonic properties for vinyl records and the mat enhances this.

The motor is a high quality Japanese 12v DC unit, well damped and driven by a choice of external power supplies.

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WTL Simplex 2 – rear panel detail, black finish option.

4 intentionally selected squash balls nest in hemispherical cavities under the plinth to both support and isolate the Simplex 2.

Set up is a breeze and the manual has been written with first time turntable owners in mind. While I’m at the point of being able to assemble and set up these turntables in under 20 minutes, you may want to take a slightly more measured approach. But as long as you end up with it looking like you can see in the pictures here, you’ll be very close to optimal set up and it won’t take too much longer to get that last 5%. And I’m here to help you with that.

When listening to the first Simplex I suggested that the reduction in physical size and mass reduced resonance – allowing the bevy of dampening strategies to perform to an even higher standard than the larger models. With improvements since made and models added to the upper range, this anomaly was addressed. The new Simplex 2 also benefits directly from many of these improvements.

Much of what I originally wrote of the Simplex still applies…

‘If you haven’t actually seen or heard a Well Tempered turntable in action, you could be forgiven for questioning how it could actually work at all. For many aspects of its design fly against the conventional accumulated logic of how turntables should be – over engineered to ever shrinking tolerances, unyieldingly rigid, spiked, massive and costly. With setup being a black art restricted to the anointed. But once you take a little time to understand the thinking behind the design, then look at the elegant and economic implementation combined with a few aspects of straight rat-cunning you’ll be on the road to conversion.

But all this takes a back seat to the sound quality. The Well Tempered Simplex makes records sound better than new – no matter how well you think you know a recording, we guarantee the Simplex will reveal layers you have never heard before. The background noise, pops and clicks you have lived with fade into the distance. All the audio boxes are ticked – sound-staging, dynamics, solid bass, sparkling treble and more. The isolation from audio feedback and tracking ability due to the unique damping schemes are exceptional.’

Having now listened to the new Simplex 2 I’m taken by how much better it has got. The sound is smoother and more relaxed. Subtle detail is improved and the background is even quieter. Articulate is the word that springs to mind.

You get to choose the cartridge and interconnecting leads you want to use and how good these are determines how good the end sound is. On one hand the Simplex 2 makes the most of an entry level cartridge like the Nagaoka MP110. Yet it also makes the benefits of such stellar options as the better Dynavector moving coil cartridges blindingly obvious. I’ll suggest that the money saved on the Simplex 2 relative to more costly turntables would be well spent on such a cartridge – the tonearm is more than up for this and the whole idea of analogue is to get better sound. Why not indulge yourself?

Rather than captive cables, the Simplex 2 features rear mounted RCA sockets allowing you to either use existing interconnects or select a new set. We have plenty of suitable options and I’d encourage you to try a couple of different versions once your Simplex 2 is run in and you’re happy with the set up.

There is  vast scope for fine tuning – while we can do the usuals like arm height adjustment and tracking weight, the permutations of damping via the golf ball and silicon bath allow you to make the most of any cartridge and system. And you can even do this while playing a record (with care). That said, once set, the performance is completely stable. There will be a lifetime of musical rewards. Ultimately, it’s the Well Tempered Simplex 2 which we think will deliver the best musical performance of any turntable in this price territory.

Well Tempered Simplex 2 Turntable – complete with tone arm & power supply – NZ$3000 including GST and delivery.

Whichever model of Well Tempered holds the most appeal for you, we can assure you that you’ll enjoy it for many years to come. We contend that the analogue record is still the best quality musical source. And with the advent of such high quality and affordable turntable options, it’s possible for almost anyone to experience sound quality that would have only been the preserve of obsessive audiophiles.

Ngā Mihi, John Ransley

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