The line-topping Acutus is a visual knockout, and appears to be a real engineering tour-de-force. Boasting a 22 pound aluminum platter, a highly effective three-point sprung suspension (which seems to allow virtually no movement in the horizontal plane), an inverted bearing with a ruby thrust plate, and an external power supply designed by Guy Adams (of Voyd fame), the Acutus seems destined for super-table status. All of this engineering comes at a price, however: $10,000 with nary an arm in sight. A less expensive alternative is the Volvere which incorporates much of the technology developed for the Acutus at a more palatable $3200 price point ($4000 with the Rega RB900 tonearm).

Looking more like a statue smuggled out of the MOMA than a high-end turntable, Judy Spotheim's La Luce CS Centoventi left me breathless. The sheer size of the turntable is as staggering as its peerless beauty. According to importer George Cardas, the Centoventi is not simply a minor revision of its predecessor, the La Luce, but is "basically a whole new table". The Centoventi's solid acrylic platter is fourteen inches in diameter, rather than the typical twelve. This allows the platter's embedded stainless steel weights to be moved to a larger radial distance, "greatly increasing inertial stabilization". The whole table is scaled up proportionately to match the new platter. As in the La Luce, the Centoventi makes heavy use of acrylic and stainless steel to allow "the stylus induced resonance to pass smoothly into the mass of the platter and platform". According to Cardas, the arm is unchanged from that of the La Luce. Unfortunately, the 'table was on silent display. Equally unfortunate is the fact that, at $19,500, it costs nearly as much as my car. Cardas had other news of interest: he's added a new cartridge to his line called the Myrtle ($2700), whose name denotes the fact that its body is machined from myrtlewood (claimed to be an excellent vibration damper). The Myrtle boasts a solid boron cantilever, a nude line-contact diamond stylus (doesn't it get cold?), and a healthy 0.38mV output.

Long-time German turntable manufacturer, Thorens, has re-focused on the high-end market with its introduction of the fully-manual Ambiance. With its rounded, beveled cherrywood plinth, acrylic platter, reflex clamp, three-point floating sub-chassis, and beefy external power supply, the Ambiance certainly looks the part. Both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM replay are supported via an electronic speed control, so there's no need to futz with the belt every time you want to change speeds. Unfortunately, pricing information was unavailable at press time.

The irrepressible John Curl, designer of the renowned Vendetta Research SCP-2 and Audible Illusions gold moving-coil phono stages, has partnered with Carl Thompson and Bob Crump to create CTC Builders, an Austin, Texas-based audio electronics company. The company's first product is the Blowtorch preamplifier (hey, I don't name them, I just report on them), a built-to-order product that can be purchased in a variety of configurations, including one which incorporates the latest version of the Vendetta phono stage. The basic unit is a single-ended linestage for $8750. Options include balanced operation (add $1500), tape or output buffers (add $1500), a phase switch (add $500), and the phono stage (add $5000). The Blowtorch is a two box affair (the first for the control circuits, the second for the pre-regulators, all on Teflon coated circuit boards), constructed from "two billets of grain-sanded aluminum, anodized any color the buyer wishes." Parts and construction are of the highest quality. Future products include the Belchfire power amplifier (no, I'm not kidding), and the Generation II Vendetta standalone phono stage. If you've been lusting after the Vendetta since Curl's stash of parts went up in smoke a few years back, your prayers have been answered.

Immedia, the U.S. distributor of Lyra phono cartridges, announced that it will be discontinuing the Clavis D.C. in favor of the new, limited- production Clavis Evolve '99 ($2000).

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