U-Turn Orbit Plus Turntable Overdelivered!
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
In this world we live in, technology is constantly changing, evolving. We live in a world where most tasks can be executed in the palm of your hand, including the essential task of all, listening to your favorite music in a lossless format.
Digital audio is, after all, dynamic, precise, and subjectively perfect.
So why did vinyl record sales increase almost 30% in 2020?
Why is there a subculture dedicated to preserving the once dubbed "king format" of the '60s and '70s?
We are talking about 50 years ago that vinyl was a suitable format being the predecessor to the cassette tape and my favorite, of course, the Compact Disc. Well, the easy answer is that there are still people out there who love the ceremony of listening to a well-pressed Vinyl Record.
Is this resurgence just optimistic consumer nostalgia? Or is there substance to the claims of authentic analog sound being a "warm" experience that has allowed this format to continue to scale and thrive?
I don't have a dog in this fight since I am not the most experienced person with vinyl records, players, or even alive during the time that this format was booming. However, I am curious and resourceful, so I acquired a brand-new turntable or record player; I'm unsure how the purists refer to them. Either way, I was able to attain a U-Turn Orbit Plus. Why did I choose this particular brand and model, you might wonder? Well, several reasons. Let's go with the obvious, the price. The unit itself is only $329 without a phono preamp, which is very competitive in the arena of turntables under $1000. They have a direct sales format and can sell these turntables for a lot less than a retailer because they cut out the middleman—smart move and massive value for the consumers.
When I asked Ben Carter, co-founder of U-Turn, whom he feels is the ideal customer for this turntable, he explained that the Orbit Plus is "for anyone who cares about sound quality!"
Ben continued, "The Orbit Plus "checks" all the audiophile boxes and has very competitive performance specs, but still a simple enough configuration that someone new to the format can easily use and enjoy it. The Plus attracts a wide variety of people at all different stages of their vinyl journeys."
Creating a sophisticated product for a critical audiophile but easy enough for a novice like me to use and understand is brilliant. U-Turn's vision of making analog audio accessible to more people by keeping prices low and quality high is admirable.
According to U-Turn, their turntables are assembled in the United States; however, they use parts from domestic and international suppliers. Most of their components come from US suppliers, but they also import parts from Asia, like the motor and circuit boards and Europe for the cartridges.
The turntable came very well packaged and included everything I needed to start my quest. The handwritten note thanking me for my business was a nice touch as well. What caught my eye the most, though, was that beautiful acrylic platter. It emanates a feeling of luxury and prestige from a product whose price would suggest the opposite.
Since the turntable didn't include a phono preamp, I purchased U-Turn's Pluto for $99, so I have the flexibility of using it on other turntables down the road if this ends up being yet another guilty pleasure of mine.
After the ceremonious unboxing, I plugged it all up since the anticipation of listening to a vinyl record on a brand-new turntable was making me quite anxious.
I had already purchased and acquired a small vinyl collection; isn't it how it always works? I am a hopeless collector at heart.
For this particular ceremony, I selected The Greatest Showman Soundtrack. The reason is, I believe this collection of musical performances matched with impressive melodies, dynamic vocals, and beautifully played instruments would put this turntable's capabilities to the test.
I lifted the tonearm and gently set it on top of the album. I slowly lowered the cueing lever, only to watch the Ortofon's elliptical diamond stylus glide beautifully along my new record's groove.
The first impressions were excellent, with a smooth sound blessed with elegance and balance. I heard none of the traditional cheap vinyl stereotypes – the things those digital disciples constantly criticize about LP records. Instead, the lack of background noise, you know that snap, crackle pop, was astonishing.
The soundstage was very impressive, giving me a fully immersive experience—more than I was anticipating and exceeding expectations in every category. You have the choice of 6 different colors with the Orbit Plus to go along with whatever interior design suits your taste.
Another thing I would like to point out is how quiet the operation turned out. It's practically silent—a colossal nod to its external belt drive.
Overall, this turntable has a clean, classy, and simple design to satisfy many people's thirst for true analog audio – without breaking the bank. It is way better in terms of build and sound than the well, you know, cheaper decks on sale out there.
The bundled Ortofon OM 5E moving-magnet cartridge that natively comes with the Orbit Plus is a good match for the deck and has an easily replaceable stylus should the worst happen and you damage it. Also, unlike cheaper cartridges with rougher spherical styli, it won't recut your record grooves. Win, win, and win.
Now that you know how incredible the Orbit Plus performed in my world, it still doesn't answer the original questions I posed at the beginning of the video. Why vinyl? Why should you uproot your comfortable life of lazy streaming on your couch via Bluetooth on your phone?
I suppose the appropriate question is, how did this resurgence happen in the first place?
The retro appeal and sense of nostalgia are at its core. The same goes for the pleasure of playing a shiny vinyl record, freshly cleaned and ready to spin. However, some people enjoy showing off their collection to impress friends with their musical taste and embarrassment of riches. Some of these rare pieces of vinyl have sold well into the six figures, making it a rich man's drug for Daddy Warbucks. It goes much deeper than that, however. Had those been the only factors for the argument to bring vinyl back and have it scale from year to year, it would have never happened. The real champion here is the Internet.
The Internet was the catalyst that allowed websites like eBay and Discogs to stock rare and sought-after albums, making it easy for collectors to attain these scarce, sometimes locally rooted pieces of vinyl from all over the world. Without an online platform, people would be at the mercy of their local brick-and-mortar offerings, and many cities and towns don't have the luxury of a Mom and Pop record store anymore.
There are, unfortunately, record companies trying to make a quick buck on the vinyl resurgence. Certain record companies are re-releasing albums on vinyl amid this vinyl boom, knowing that vinyl is bullish at the moment and needs to cash in. Regrettably, for the listener, many of them have decided not to remaster them for vinyl and are just cutting compressed digital sound into the vinyl to save on cost and make a quick dollar. They're greedy and don't think the customer will notice a difference, which could be true for some audio enthusiasts who won't hear a difference between compressed and uncompressed music. But for audiophiles and anyone who even has a basic understanding of vinyl sound quality, they're not so easy to deceive. Some artists recognize this and have chosen to make sure their albums back in circulation are properly remastered for vinyl.
Is vinyl for everyone?
No. God, no.
But the experience could surprise you and make you a believer in this old format.
So, did this turntable change my mind?
Will I now concede to the subculture that is exponentially growing within the audio community?
I would say a confident yes.
I think it's essential to experience and appreciate music in as many forms and platforms as possible. It's all about the music; the gear is simply the conduit that gets you to that sweet spot that every audio lover searches for—some for a lifetime.
However, suppose you ARE in the market for a turntable. In that case, I do believe the Orbit Plus by U-Turn is a great starting point for a person dipping their toes into the analog pool or a solid performer for the audiophile wanting a beautiful turntable within their system.