The Audiophiliac's appetite for vinyl gets whetted by Onkyo's stunning new CP-1050 turntable!
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Onkyo must have noticed vinyl's continuing upward sales numbers, the highest since 1997, so the company's started selling turntables. Voila, we now have the direct-drive Onkyo CP-1050, and it's a honey!
First things first, I love the understated design; the CP-1050 isn't retro or trying to look like a British record player. Build quality is solid, and setup is straightforward, thanks in large part to the fact that the CP-1050 comes with an Audio-Technica phono cartridge premounted on the tone arm's removable head shell. Other setup chores are minimal; you need to put the included counterweight on the tone arm, and dial in the recommended tracking force, a rather high 3.5 grams.
There's also an anti-skate control; the owner's manual does a good job explaining setup details. I didn't have any concerns about the included cartridge's higher-than-average 3.5-gram tracking force and played my rarest LPs and didn't notice any increased wear, but you can always swap out the cartridge with a lighter tracking cartridge.
The CP-1050's Audio-Technica moving-magnet phono cartridge sounded a lot better than the Shure M44-7 cartridge I tried. One of the nice things about turntables is you can change their sound by changing cartridges. For audiophiles I'd recommend upgrading to an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge.
The CP-1050 was highly resistant to external knocks and vibrations. When I tapped on the shelf holding the CP-1050, the taps didn't make the stylus skip and I heard no noises over my headphones. Of course, if you place it on a wobbly table or you have springy wood flooring the stylus will skip if you dance nearby. All turntables should be placed on sturdy shelves or furniture.
I was slightly concerned about the amount of play in the tone arm's bearings, but play isn't uncommon for turntables in the CP-1050's price class, and there were no audible effects of the loose bearings.
The CP-1050 has a die-cast aluminum platter with a thick rubber mat, and an S-shaped tone arm with a detachable head shell. The CP-1050 measures 17.6x6.25x14.5 inches (450x158x367.5mm), and weighs 19 pounds (8.6kg). The rear panel has stereo RCA connectors.
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The CP-1050 sounded crisp, clear and dynamic. The soundstage was wide and bass definition was excellent. Even with the standard phono cartridge, the CP-1050 sounded better than my Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player spinning CDs. LPs keep me focused on the music; when I play CDs I usually read, work, talk and so on. The CP-1050 plays 33.3rpm and 45rpm records.
If you have a receiver or integrated amplifier, check and see if it has a "phono" (turntable) input. If not, purchase a phono preamp, and hook it up between the CP-1050 and the receiver. I used a Schiit Mani preamp for all of my listening tests.