Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT Turntable Review

Elipson's bespoke vinyl platform is back for more

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

1

Recommended
Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT Turntable Review
SRP: £429.00

Introduction - what is the Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT?

The Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT is an unsuspended, belt driven turntable. Yep, another one of those. Pour over the basic specification of the Elipson and there’s not a lot that differentiates it from the numerous rivals at this price level. Plinth, platter, arm, motor, belt. Bosh. Done.

Except… that sells what Elipson did with its first generation of turntables very, very short. For the most part, affordable turntables come from a fixed number of locations. Even when the manufacturer name of the turntable is different, the turntable itself is partly or wholly from a recognised origin point. After all, turntables are very specific engineering and it makes sense to call on the expertise of companies that do that as their main line of business.

Elipson didn’t do that. Instead of indulging in a spot of light OEM, they went and built a range of turntables completely from scratch. With the exception of the cartridge (because, even grand gestures need at least one nod to logical business practise), no part of Elipson’s turntables was shared with anyone else. This left them free to pursue engineering solutions that they wanted rather than going with the parts they ordered in. Most importantly, it worked. The Omega 100 I looked at four years ago was a genuinely lovely sounding thing. Now Elipson has tweaked the recipe for the second generation. Does the updated model still deliver the goods? Time to find out.

Specification and Design 

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
The Elipson is clean and modern in appearance (judged by the standards of turntables)

The Chroma 200 RIAA BT is the most sophisticated variant of the lower tier of Elipson turntables. It can be had as a basic, bare bones design that needs an external phono stage, a model that has its own phono stage built in and the model you see here which has both the on board phono stage and the ability to transmit its output via Bluetooth, up to and including aptX HD. There is then the Chroma 400 range which has the same specification progression but in a turntable that has greater use of carbon parts and a higher level of overall finish.

Having gone to the effort of building a bespoke turntable platform, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to find that the Elipson has kept the basic ingredients of the Chroma very similar to the preceding Alpha/Omega models. The motor is software controlled and has electronic speed adjustment. The software control retains the same quirk as the originals in that if you select the speed you want, there is a pause that is just long enough for you to wonder if there is something wrong with it. The counter to this is that the Elipson is very pitch stable indeed and the speed selection system itself is more logical than a number of rivals.

This motor now acts on a platter that is mounted above a sub platter assembly rather than directly to the bearing. This is not the same as the Pro-Ject T1 that appeared here recently where the belt acts on the sub platter. The sub platter here is simply helping to isolate the playing surface more effectively from the bearing. The belt acts directly on the platter as before which makes fitting it a little more complex than is the case on the T1.

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
The unique arm is retained for a second generation 

The other area of very distinct design is the tonearm and here the design is similar in execution to what was the case before but has some detail differences that are principally focused on making it a little more user friendly. It is still designed around the OTT (Orbital Torsion Tonearm) principle of the original, where the horizontal and vertical bearings are combined into a single knuckle that has the antiskate pass straight through it. All of this has been retained but there is now an armlift; a feature that appeared on flagship version of the Omega that was released after the rest of the range. The armlift is a little in the crude side; it really does drop the arm with a fair amount of speed onto the record itself. Nevertheless, it adds a layer of user friendliness that wasn’t there before (and is present on rivals). The Ortofon OM10 cartridge that was present on the first generation of Elipson turntables is retained which is no surprise because it’s ideal for the task.  

This arm and cartridge combination outputs to an on board phono stage. This outputs to a pair of RCA outputs and incorporates grounding so no external ground is needed. The most interesting feature of this phono stage is that it comes set for moving magnet cartridges but also has a moving coil setting. This is a unique fitment on a turntable at the price and combined with an arm that has both adjustable antiskate and tracking force (not vertical alignment though) and you have a turntable that actually encourages the idea of changing a cartridge. You cannot switch the phono stage out of the circuit though although, as there is the option to buy without the phono stage, this is not the end of the world.

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
The connections are under a lip at the rear of the turntable

Then, there’s the Bluetooth. I have no idea who will use it, whether there are customers heading back to their houses with shiny new turntables that will never be physically wired to other devices and that this is a zeitgeist I’m busy missing but the Elipson is equipped for this even if I’m mentally not. It’s a decent Bluetooth fitment too with aptX HD (and, for the avoidance of all doubt, that’s realistically sufficient to handle the bandwidth on offer here) although no AAC is present for devices taking the other path of Bluetooth. As with the phono stage, if you can’t see the point, you can order a version without, you are not being forced to have random wireless connectivity against your will.

Even in the more basic of the two specifications, there is a lot to like about the Elipson. That same pleasing feeling of difference, of it being more than another lightly dressed piece of somebody else’s engineering is still very present and it’s a good feeling because it doesn’t come at the expense of the Chroma 200 being hard to use. The Elipson behaves like a turntable, furthermore, it behaves like a well sorted turntable that’s easy to setup too. Against Pro-Ject’s charm offensive from the T1, the Elipson isn’t quite as clean in its appearance (although I suspect picking either the white or red finish would go a long way to evening this out) but it is still well made and feels commensurate with the asking price (which includes the Bluetooth fitment you don’t necessarily need to have).

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
That most underrated of accessories- a lid- is supplied as standard 
 

Even in the more basic of the two specifications, there is a lot to like about the Elipson

How was the Chroma 200 RIAA BT tested?

The Elipson did its wired testing connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Aquarius for mains and running into a Chord Electronics CPM 2800 MkII integrated amp and a pair of Kudos Titan 505 speakers. In order to extract maximum bang for Bluetooth buck, it was tested into a Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated (also using the Kudos) amp which is aptX HD equipped (as opposed to the Chord which slums it with aptX). A Naim Mu So Qb2 was used to establish what happens when you use SBC and to determine range. Test material has been vinyl.

Performance

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
The double sided badge is a really nice touch

Setting the Elipson up is, with the possible exception of fitting the belt, utterly straightforward. It won’t present any challenge to someone either prepared to read the manual (yes, I know what I’ve just typed but nevertheless, Elipson has provided decent documentation and videos to this effect should you overcome your towering masculinity and elect to read/view it) or with some prior experience of installing a turntable.

Once you are up and running, the first point of note is the phono stage. The Chroma 200 RIAA BT combines low noise (to the extent of there being almost none) with a level of gain that should be entirely effective in most systems. As a purist, I’d always prefer to choose my phono stage (even at affordable price points they differ dramatically) but if you aren’t, the circuit the Elipson has built into the Chroma is very good indeed.

Importantly, it allows the basic character of the turntable to come through effectively. This is an unusually articulate turntable for the asking price. It handles the serpentine rhythms of Talking Heads’ Houses in Motion with genuine talent, engaging the listener rather than simply giving you a run through. Any turntable that’s sold as a complete unit is hard to break down into its constituent parts but I do genuinely think that Elipson is onto something with their tonearm. It has an ability to resolve complex passages of music in a way that hints at the Roksan Radius or VPI Prime in terms of the flow and cohesion.

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
Electronic speed control is fitted as standard

It is not perfect - few things are. Both Pro-Ject and Rega have managed to extract a little more heft from their turntables at this sort of price point and the Elipson never feels as convincingly punchy. Apparat’s Holdon is dynamic but even with £14,000 of amp and speaker backing the Elipson to the hilt, it doesn’t have the punch that I know is on this record. As ever, there is a degree of tradeoff to this because some of the Elipson’s perceived speed and fluidity is partially achieved on the back of this.

The news at the top end is much better. The Chroma is like its predecessor in that even digging out something decidedly ‘hot’ like Sting’s ...Nothing Like the Sun which was pressed on a piece of vinyl you can read through, the Chroma is a good listen. It manages to take the positives of the Ortofon OM10; a fundamentally energetic and compelling listen, and avoid it tipping over into the edginess that can sometimes manifest itself on turntables that use it. Without ever heading into the hinterland of being ‘warm’ or ‘bloomy’, the Elipson is consistently involving.

And, for what it’s worth, the Bluetooth is effective too. To be clear, paring two devices that can’t communicate via any means other than a flashing LED is not something you do for fun but it didn’t take too long. Connected to the Edge A (an effective connection distance of 45 centimetres), the Elipson achieves what has to be the ‘endgame’ of this connection, in that, if you walked into my listening room with it playing in this manner having not heard the system running wired, you would probably not twig that a wireless connection is involved. If that sounds like damning with faint praise it probably is but, it’s a not unreasonable achievement. Shorn of aptX HD though, things are not so rosy. Sending SBC to the MuSo QB2 in the kitchen works and is commendably stable but all you’ve really achieved is to send a compressed format to a device that could have accessed the same songs via Qobuz and not need you to wander off and change the side every twenty minutes.

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT
Magnifique
 

This is an unusually articulate turntable for the asking price

Verdict

Pros

  • Sounds lively, rhythmic and spacious
  • Looks cool
  • Useful specification

Cons

  • A little pricier than some key rivals
  • Bass extension slightly limited
  • Black finish a little subdued

Elipson Chroma 200 RIAA BT Turntable Review

Ultimately, the main reason I was enthused about the original Elipson Omega was that Elipson’s design and engineering approach yielded results when playing records. The Omega was able to give a decent account of itself across different calibres of pressings, various genres and with different levels of partnering equipment. The good news is that the Chroma hasn’t lost this fundamental rightness. This is still a turntable that has a pleasing character of its own.

It also shows some useful steps forward in performance and shows that Elipson is no less accomplished at making phono stages and Bluetooth sections too. For the avoidance of all doubt, I think that the non BT version of the Chroma 200 at a useful £79 saving is likely to be the sweetspot of these models but I can’t argue that Elipson has made a thoroughly modern and thoroughly talented turntable that earns our enthusiastic Recommendation.

Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
9

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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