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REVIEW: Walker Audio Proscenium Gold Signature Turntables

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Model: Proscenium Gold Signature
Category: Turntables
Suggested Retail Price: $24,600
Description: Turntable with Integral Airbearing Arm
Manufacturer URL: Walker Audio
Manufacturer URL: Walker Audio

Review by jrus ( A ) on December 28, 2002 at 16:45:42
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for the Proscenium Gold Signature

I've been listening to my system much more than usual as a result of the holidays and I just had to pass this along. About a year ago, I decided it was time to upgrade my system. I did it backwards (long story) starting with the speakers and finishing with the turntable. My previous turntable was a Micro Seki RX1500 vacuum/SAEC WE-407/23 arm - the best I'd ever heard when I bought it - and I'd been happy with it for about 15 years. From listening to a bunch of turntables while upgrading the other stuff, I could see that they'd evolved a HUGE amount since I bought the Micro. That started me looking for a new turntable. {Insert long long boring story here (I won't waste your time)}, and finally I got on a plane and went to NY where Lloyd Walker was demonstrating the Proscenium at the Stereophile Consumer Show. Doing that provided the opportunity to listen to some other really great turntables as well. I met Lloyd and Fred (Law) and heard the turntable. It was being played through a system, lets say, very different than mine but I could still tell it was simply remarkable. Its hard to explain how one can hear that in a so-so room through a bunch of equipment that's not familiar, but I could, at least in the case of this turntable. {Insert another long boring story} and I ordered the turntable (Walker Proscenium Gold Signature, with air suspension system and upgraded motor controller) through Elliot Midwood at Acoustic Image (818 762 1501 - gotta plug him, he's been a GREAT dealer). Ok, here's the meat: it arrived extremely well packed, completely undamaged, in three boxes. Turntable base in a wooden crate, 83.5lb platter (!) in another wooden crate, the rest in a very large box with LOTS of smaller boxes inside. Nothing was missing. It was VERY carefully labeled and packed. Anything and everything Lloyd and Fred can think of that you might need is in there somewhere. It took me the better part of a day to set it up but I went very slowly. If I did it again, I could do it in two hours or less. There's nothing tricky about it, but the first time, everything is unfamiliar which slows things down. Even though its not hard you should be at least somewhat mechanically minded to do it. You should have a helper at two points to help lift the base, and then the platter - HEAVY!! Now here's one of the important things I want to pass along. Lloyd called ME (!) about the time it arrived to see if it arrived safely, if everything was Ok, to see if I needed any help, and if he'd been in the neighborhood, he probably would have offered to walk my dog if I had one, while I was setting it up. I can not possibly over emphasize how cordial, sincere and pleasant this guy is. He and Fred had just spent about 6 weeks lovingly hand making this thing from essentially scratch and you can tell that he is personally attached to it. It MEANS something to him. He's deeply proud of it (without a trace of being a jerk about it) and he's dedicated to it "doing its thing" in your listening room as a matter of pride. He called me later in the day to check on me, again that night, again the next day and again the next weekend. I have to tell you that at this point I consider this guy a personal friend and I'd gladly offer to walk HIS dog if he had one and I was in his neighborhood. So, point one is, I received a perfect example of what Lloyd and Fred claimed to produce (and then some) for my money; it arrived when they said it would (give or take a week or so); and Walker Audio is absolutely committed to making sure you're totally happy with what they sold you. This went so far that at one point I noticed that the clear coat on the brass face plate on my motor controller was pealing a little and Lloyd didn't happen to have any others in stock. The morning after I talked to him about it, he got up early, took the one off HIS PERSONAL turntable, polished it up for me, and sent it to me!! I'm not kidding. And I sure didn't ask him to do that! In fact, I told him it was no big deal and not to worry about it. But its simply that important to him that you're a satisfied customer. Stated plainly, my experience is that you're totally safe buying from Walker Audio. By the way, the turntable is extremely well finished and is really physically beautiful.

Ok, the other thing is the sound. I really don't know how to communicate this. I've been interested in audio for a little less than 35 years. I've listened to a LOT of stuff. I've developed into a confirmed tube/vinyl/planer-speaker guy. I've known that turntables were an important part of the sound of a good system of course but I had NO IDEA that it could possibly make this much difference. Its not subtle, you don't need to explain it to anybody, your ten year old daughter who only listens to Brittany Spears (not that there's anything wrong with that by the way) could hear it from her bedroom!! Its simply astounding. I'm going to leave the details up to the recent TAS review (#139, Dec 02/Jan 03) because JV gets it pretty right in there. "Sonic vacuum cleaner" and all of that. But, you really have to hear it yourself to get it. I wouldn't believe it unless I heard it and you probably wouldn't either. EVERYTHING you can think of that's important is hugely better. The details are described in the TAS review and in another AA review, but more than that, there's this "rightness" to what you hear. Its the same feeling you get when someone FINALLY plays your favorite piece of music the way you think it should be played, except with respect to the sound itself. If you listen to a lot of live music like I do (or try to), you hear this "correctness" or "realness" in the sound from the Walker - more so, of course, the better the recording. For me, it started off sounding good when I had first set it up, real good, and I was happy at that. Then I started tuning it in (using Lloyd's always available advice and instructions - great manual by the way) and it got better and better and better. There's also breaking in going on. I would think I was hearing the best sound I could possibly get and that I'd ever heard, then I'd re-adjust something (and there are lots of things to adjust on this guy!) and it would get better still. Remember, I'd already replaced everything else in my system (to the best stuff I could find for my tastes) so I was specifically hearing turntable contributions. I've had it for several months now and since, have added the Prologue rack and top shelf. This made another large improvement in sound - primarily in focus and tightness in the bass. It also widened the sound stage significantly. I have no idea whatsoever why. The table itself is so heavy and well isolated (air bearing platter, air suspended table, air bearing arm) its hard to believe further effort in isolation/mounting could help but it does. It also is extremely, beautiful and well made.

So, its a lot of money, but I look at it this way. In terms of quality of sound per unit dollar, believe it or not, its actually a bargain. Amazing.

Product Weakness: Can't think of one
Product Strengths: Sound, Design and Quality Construction, Sound, Customer Support, Sound

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: VTL Ref 750, modified
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Aesthetix MkII Line and Phono
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Walker Proscenium/Koetsu Plat Onyx
Speakers: Magneplaner MG20.1, modified
Cables/Interconnects: Supernal
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, Jazz, Pop
Room Size (LxWxH): 21 x 12 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: Echo Busters
Time Period/Length of Audition: 6 months
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Walker Audio Proscenium Gold Signature Turntables - jrus 16:45:42 12/28/02 ( 16)