Roksan Radius 7 Turntable Review
Is the sound as transparent as the appearance?
What is the Roksan Radius 7?The Radius 7 is the ‘entry level’ turntable from British manufacturer Roksan. Replacing the earlier Radius 5, it is designed to build on the strengths of the earlier model while offering some performance and use friendliness improvements. Crucially, the Radius is intended to bring some of the attributes of the flagship Xerxes turntable down to a more affordable price point. The Xerxes has been around since the eighties (albeit in heavily revised and updated form) and as the original Roksan product, it has had a huge amount of influence on the design of other components.
This makes for an interesting set of design requirements. The Radius is intended to be a more visually interesting device than the Xerxes and is made from different materials. To then incorporate design features from a turntable that is almost entirely different is no small undertaking. There’s also no shortage of competition. At a whisker over £2,000 before you start shopping for cartridges, the Roksan faces stiff competition from a number of manufacturers. It’s unquestionably a rather fine looking device but can it deliver the sort of performance that has you falling for its personality as well as its looks?
SpecificationsKey to the Roksan’s design are blobs. In fact, I’m going to use the word ‘blob’ more in the passage of this review than I will have done in my 14-year relationship with AVForums. Fundamental to Roksan’s design philosophy for turntables is the idea of decoupling the playing surface from the wider world. This is hardly a radical notion – almost every turntable we’ve looked at has sought to do this by one means or another. The key difference is how Roksan seeks to do this. Rather than isolating the whole turntable via specialist feet or moving over to a suspension system, the Roksan effectively splits the player in half. This is where the blobs come in.
The lower section of the Radius – the outer ring if you will – is entirely unsuspended and sits on a horizontal surface via three small, hard feet. Unless you place the Roksan on some form of separate isolation the lower section is as rigidly coupled to the surface as any other device – turntable or otherwise. The lower section then has a series of rubber discs – Roksan does genuinely refer to them as ‘blobs’ to which the upper section incorporating the bearing, arm mount and playing surface it placed. The blobs are tiny – about the size of a Smartie – but are sufficient to ensure that no serious vibration reaches the record.
So why the blobs? The reasoning is pretty straightforward and the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. When a turntable uses compliant feet to isolate it, these feet have to ‘aim off’ for uneven weight distribution which is going to affect the level of the unit as a whole – or you can decouple the motor which causes issues of its own. If you use springs, these need to be level and will also be influenced by uneven weight distribution. Setting them up can also be troublesome – the Linn LP12 being a case in point. The blob on the other hand is only slightly compressible so weight distribution will be unaffected. It also can’t really drift out of tune in the way that a few suspended models can suffer from. Effectively, you get most of the benefits of a suspended deck without the downsides.
The upper and lower sections of the Radius are made from Perspex. This is a popular choice for turntable construction – it’s light and strong and easy to make bespoke shapes from. It also offers resonant properties that are not significantly different to that of a vinyl record. The platter is acrylic which offers an even closer resonant match to a record. The result is also pretty aesthetically pleasing which we’ll come to in a bit. The feet are solid metal and these form one of the visual points that break up the deck.
Another one of these is on the motor housing. The motor itself is one of the key differences between the Radius 7 and the proceeding Radius 5. The new unit has been borrowed almost in its entirety from the Xerxes and earns instant brownie points as it offers electronic speed control. This is regulated by a temperature controlled crystal oscillator that should ensure that the Roksan is usefully pitch stable. It’s worth noting though that if you disturb the platter while it is accelerating, the speed control will set it at this speed which is not entirely ideal. Drive is via belt and this acts on the outer edge of the platter which makes it slightly tricky to fit but logical enough to use.
The big carry over from the Radius 5 is the Nima arm which is also available separately. The Nima is a unipivot style design which means it has no bearing assembly and instead balances the arm on a hardened spike. This is something we’ve seen before on the VPI Prime but the Nima is different again to the arm used there. The cable on the Nima heads down and out through the pivot housing in the way it would a ‘normal’ arm which means that the Nima is attached to its mount rather than relying purely on gravity to stay put. This means that in order to prevent the delicate cable tearing itself apart in transit, the Nima is locked into place via a transit screw. Never one to waste a fitting, Roksan then uses this transit screw to secure the counterweight when in use. The Nima feels odd for the first few uses but once you dial into the oddity of it, it works extremely well.
As supplied, the Roksan doesn’t come with a cartridge. The company makes the Corus Silver moving magnet unit which would be ideal for the task but despite its odd appearance, the Nima will handle almost any cartridge without too much issue. The counterweight will offset all but the most dense of designs and it has adjustable VTA (vertical tracking angle) via a collar on the base so the armwand will sit at the right height. Don’t forget to budget for some sort of cartridge when thinking about the Radius 7 though.
DesignThere are a few devices that turn up for review that seem to invite more positive comment than their contemporaries and the Roksan is one of these. Something about the materials, proportions and the detailing seems to attract a lot of good feeling. It has to be said that this is a good looking turntable and the more you look at it, the better it seems to get. For all the prettiness of the overall design, very little of the Radius could be said to be decorative. Everything is there for a reason and everything works well. The levels of build are good and it feels like it is going to last the course.
There are some downsides though – one which is pretty obvious from the outset and one of which is slightly more long term. The immediate one is that the Radius has no dust protection. Like most semi skeletal designs it has no lid or cover but additionally, the motor housing isn’t under the plinth as it is in some rivals so this will pick up dust and debris too. It goes without saying that the materials that the Roksan is made from also show up the build-up of dust fairly enthusiastically too.
The other limitation of the Radius is more an observation and one that might not matter to you. The amount of stretch and upgrade potential in the Radius is smaller than some rivals at the price. It really only wants to work with Roksan arms, there is no form of PSU upgrades and there’s little aftermarket interest in it. This is not a device that can be changed one piece at a time into something else.
Effectively, you get most of the benefits of a suspended deck without the downsides
How was the Radius 7 tested?The Roksan has been used with a selection of equipment but the bulk of critical listening has been undertaken into a Cyrus Phono Signature Phono stage, Chord 2800MkII integrated amplifier and ATC SCM40 loudspeakers. To better judge performance, cartridges at a few levels have been employed – a Clearaudio Performer V2, Nagaoka MP150, Goldring Legacy and Van den Hul DDTII Special have all been employed at various points. The test material has been vinyl.
Sound QualitySometimes the physical appearance of a piece of equipment shapes how we think it is going to sound. In some lighting, the Roksan is an almost ephemeral presence and combined with the Nima arm you might assume that the sound it will produce will be as lightweight. This is not the case though. The Roksan is an impressively muscular sounding piece of audio equipment and demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that there is no reason why unipivot arms can’t demonstrate impressive bass extension. Listening to the newly arrived and stunningly mastered Kraftwerk 3D Catalogue, the low note that the Roksan finds in Aerodynamic is properly seismic and usefully taught and well defined. It might look delicate but the Radius can pack a hefty punch.
Perhaps more in keeping with a design of this nature, the Roksan has a wonderful sense of flow. Listening to Ode to the Big Sea by the Cinematic Orchestra, there is a fluency and grooviness to the Roksan that is something people associate with vinyl but is more about equipment that is fundamentally able to deliver the timing signature of the music without any sluggishness creeping in. The Roksan is wonderfully fleet of foot and regardless of the cartridge you choose, these fundamentals remain intact.
You will need to pay some attention to your cartridge choice though. Judged as a platform for a cartridge, the balance of the Radius 7 is very slightly forward and if you place a cartridge that has similar properties on it, the results can be impressively intense but somewhat fatiguing after a while. This is the result obtained with the Clearaudio Performer V2 – a fine cartridge but one that also has that same forward presentation to it. Switch the Nagaoka and the results are much happier – still punchy, still exciting but much more forgiving with sharper and brighter material.
In the time it has been here it has become clear though that the Radius is entirely good enough to work with cartridges from the level above this. Switch to a Goldring Legacy and the extra body and refinement it possesses is something that moves the Roksan on further. A brief stint with a Van den Hul DDTII Special on the Roksan – a cartridge that costs almost half as much as the Roksan does has been hugely impressive and tremendously enjoyable. While there isn’t much stretch in physical updates you can do the Radius 7 itself, it will certainly allow for some stretch in cartridge terms.
The likelihood is though that you’ll be content to keep the Roksan in place with whatever you happen to have on the end of the Nima for a long time. Provided you don’t push that fractionally bright balance too far, what the Radius 7 does is manage to deliver the punch and rhythm of music with enough space on top of this for even the vastest of presentations to sound usefully open and three dimensional. While vinyl is an inherently flawed medium, it is capable of compelling realism when used with decent hardware. What the Radius 7 does is balance this accuracy with enough pace, impact and basic joy to be something that is a bit more than a simple piece of audio equipment.
It might look delicate but the Radius can pack a hefty punch
- Open and immediate sound
- Easy to use
- Extremely pretty
- Can be slightly bright
- No dust protection
- Limited upgrade potential
Roksan Radius 7 Turntable ReviewMaking a final call on the Roksan Radius 7 requires a little perspective and will need you as a would-be consumer to make some decisions about what level you see yourself taking this faintly ridiculous pastime to. By the time you stick a Goldring Legacy or Van den Hul DDTII on the Radius 7, it costs pretty much as much as the Clearaudio Performance V2 or Linn Majik LP12. Now, critically the performance of the Roksan in this configuration is slightly better than either of those two turntables in theirs. Crucially though, this is pretty much all the Roksan has to give while the other two models have an upgrade path from their basic configuration. Perhaps just as importantly, there are turntables at the same price as the Roksan that also have more stretch in their basic design.
This should not distract from the important point that the Radius 7 is seriously good. It’s well made, achingly pretty and sublimely musical device that handles a vast selection of music with fabulous and compelling musicality. This is a piece of equipment that looks fantastic and manages to sound even better and for these reasons, the Roksan warrants enthusiastic recommendation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,050.00
Ease of Use8
Value for Money8
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