Roksan Attessa Turntable Review
- Superb sense of flow and naturalness to the performance
- Decent specification
- Good looks
- Set up is more involved than some rivals
- Does its best work via the internal phono stage
Introduction - What is the Attessa Turntable?
The Roksan Attessa Turntable is a two speed, unsuspended, belt driven record player which is entirely in keeping with the vast majority of the turntables we look at on AVForums. It is more unusual than those basic opening statements might suggest. This is in fact a fairly significant new arrival.
The first reason is that this is a genuinely new turntable. It shares little in common with anything else already all in the market and any and all widening of the gene pool is always welcome. It speaks to the ongoing confidence in the format that companies are prepared to go to the effort of developing a new platform. What’s more, this is not a piece of playing it safe engineering either. There’s some decidedly novel engineering practice at work here.
This is good because this is a turntable with ‘Roksan’ written on it and that’s long been a byword for analogue engineering that frequently took a different line to everyone else. What was important about this was it wasn’t wilful bloody mindedness that drove them to do so, more a belief that issues which many companies felt were a part of life, didn’t have to be that way. A new Roksan turntable is something that should be greeted with a little anticipation; can the Attessa make good on the promise?
Specification and Design
As noted, the Attessa Turntable neither borrows extensively from the existing duo of Roksan turntables nor are there parts in common with the more commonly encountered suppliers. It is a single plinth unsuspended turntable and when I say ‘unsuspended’, this also extends to the use of ‘blobs’ that are present in the Xerxes and Radius models. The plinth is the plinth is the plinth. It contains a 24 pole synchronous motor which acts on a sub platter via a belt.
The first notable part of the Attessa is that this motor runs on a 5V supply. The wall wart PSU that comes with it is the sort of size and design you’d anticipate receiving with a smartphone rather than a turntable. The Attessa manages to spin the motor, power a phono stage and find something left over to light up some orange LEDs which is a fairly impressive piece of energy management. Low power or not, there’s been nothing untoward in terms of pitch stability in the time it has been here. Speed selection is electronic via buttons at the front of the plinth together with a main button that stops the turntable.
The platter that sits on top of the sub platter is a combination of 10mm thick high mass tempered glass with an aluminium edge that is cut inwards toward the lower edge. A felt mat is supplied for the top (more on which in a bit). In the Roksan tradition, the spindle is unthreaded and designed to run without a clamp or weight. The bearing and spindle are steel in a brass housing and this extends underneath the plinth to the extent where it is only a few millimetres from the surface that the Attessa is placed on.
This is all within striking distance of conventional at the price but it is the arm where the Attessa really steps off the beaten path and goes its own way. Roksan has gone for a unipivot design which is something I’m racking my brains as to whether it is encountered anywhere else under £1,000. The pivot itself is stainless steel and the arm might be best described as ‘semi constrained’ in that it can move on and off the pivot but it cannot be lifted off and the wiring routes internally rather than entering the top of the pivot.
Where things start to get novel is the arm tube and the counterweight. The arm is made of a 5052 aluminium upper section with ABS plastic lower. It isn’t flat like the ‘Groove Runner’ on the Vertere DG-1 but it is flatter and wider than the standard circular cross section tubes you find on rivals. At the pivot it widens still further into a circular section before looping round in an arch and returning to wrap around the lower section of the pivot.
This means that the counterweight and its stub is mounted inboard of this metal section. In something of a Roksan tradition, it is mounted lower than the tube to lower the centre of gravity. Because this arrangement cannot easily have the weight moved off axis, the azimuth of the arm is adjusted by a metal bar at the back of the arch which adjusts the balance on the pivot. Anti skate is by a thread and weight arrangement and your irregular reminder that, however crude this might look, it works a charm.
Now, as a fully paid up… enthusiast… something like this holds no fear for me. I have owned a few unipivots and used many more and I would regard this as a fairly benign and well thought out example of the breed. It is only fair to say though that setting the Attessa correctly is more involved than key rivals because of that azimuth adjustment. The manual covers what you need to do in reasonable detail and, because the azimuth adjusts independently of the counterweight, it isn’t a case of correcting two things at once. Nevertheless, it is still more complex than a conventional bearing arm.
At the end of the tonearm is a Roksan Dana cartridge. This is a new arrival alongside the Attessa and, at the time of writing (December 2021), it does not appear to be available separately. The Dana appears to be visually similar to the Corus 2 which is a high specification moving magnet design with a Shibata stylus. It stands to reason (given that the Corus 2 is £510 on its own) that the Dana lacks some of the same niceties of specification but they share a common origin point. The cantilever is aluminium but the stylus type is unspecified. Output voltage is quoted at 3.5mV.
This outputs via a pair of RCA phono connections that have a bypassable moving magnet phono stage in the circuit. Something that is worthy of note is that the Attessa has no ground connection, which is clever considering that the power supply doesn’t appear to be grounded either. However Roksan has done it, it has been silent under test with no unwanted hum, pops or bangs.
In my review of the Attessa streaming amp, I commented that I felt it lacked a little brand identity; that if you removed the Roksan logo, it would be hard to establish immediately who made it. The turntable manages to simultaneously match the styling of the amp but be far more immediately discernible as a Roksan product. The triangular cuts in the mat are pure Roksan and the overall aesthetic has enough elements in common with the other Roksan turntables to give you more of a feel as to where it originates from.
The manner in which the Roksan is bolted together is good if not spectacular. It is well made but it doesn’t feel as solid as a Technics 1500C (few things do in fairness). Some of this is down to how the arm works; it physically cannot be as reassuring to use as a conventional bearing arrangement but the low voltage motor is a little slow to start and the cover (a welcome thing to have in any case) is lift off rather than hinged. Where the Attessa claws back some points is that it comes with a decent (if short) output RCA cable and some genuinely good setup tools. Roksan has been making turntables for nearly forty years and it really shows in elements like this.
The triangular cuts in the mat are pure Roksan and the overall aesthetic has enough elements in common with the other Roksan turntables to give you more of a feel as to where it originates from.
How was the Attessa Turntable tested?
The Roksan has been placed on a Quadraspire QAVX rack and powered from an IsoTek Evo3 Corvus mains block. It has been tested with the internal phono stage bypassed into a Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage, Chord CPM 2800MkII amp and Kudos Titan 505 speakers. It has then had the phono stage engaged and been connected to the Chord amp directly. Testing has then moved to the Roksan Attessa using and bypassing the external phono stage and with the NAD C 700 with the phono stage engaged. Speakers used at this phase have been the Fyne Audio F500SP and the Acoustic Energy AE1. Material used has been vinyl.
Over the course of listening, the Roksan manages to do something of fundamental importance in that I feel it makes a case for you; a person of calm, reasoned intelligence, looking to get a decent return on your hard earned cash, to consider it alongside the category killer products you can buy at the same price. In part, this is because Roksan is not a plucky underdog when it comes to turntables. The Radius and Xerxes do not exist for sentimental purposes. The Attessa is cut from the same cloth.
This is not to say that there isn’t a bump or two in the road. The first concerns the set up. The Attessa ships with the counterweight in place and the cartridge fitted. This does not mean that the tracking force is correct (it must be checked and set) and I would argue that the alignment of the cartridge as fitted is not perfect either (in the interests of fairness, I also felt this was the case when I reviewed the Technics 1500C either but for reasons unknown to 2021 me, 2019 me didn’t put that in the review). Getting the Attessa set to the point where the constituent parts are doing what they are supposed to be doing is not a matter of plonk and play.
Put 30 minutes in though and the Roksan does give you a return on that investment. Running into the reference equipment, it demonstrates in microcosm, some of the attributes of the bigger decks. This is a composed and fundamentally neutral performer that doesn’t seek to be the story, merely the means of telling it. This means that having a sentimental blast through Connected by the Stereo MC’s, the Attessa is neither as effortlessly rhythmic as a Rega Planar 3 nor as deep in the low end as the Technics 1500C. The bass in particular is very much a reflection of the unipivot design principle in that it never hits the chest in the same way a more conventional bearing arm does.
The trade off though is that the Attessa is a wonderfully fluid performer. It trades off that last ounce of drive to flow through material that isn’t necessarily going to benefit from the same relentless urgency. Enjoying the magnificent Cowboy Bebop soundtrack on the Attessa is sublimely easy because it is extremely natural. The word that crops up in the listening notes (and usually misspelled) is ‘coherence.’ The Roksan puts very little of itself into the mix but what it does, it tends to get right.
Tonally, the Roksan is pretty convincing too. Voices and instruments sound consistently convincing and there’s little sign of harshness or aggression even on poor pressings. With very busy material, the congestion can build up and the Roksan can struggle to sound as open or expansive as I know the records can do (albeit, usually on more expensive hardware). The performance that results is consistently listenable though and something that works across a wide selection of content. That content benefits from being clean and in relatively good condition though; the Dana cartridge is quite unforgiving of imperfections.
The most significant aspect of the Attessa’s performance for me though is that it seems to do its best work through the internal phono stage. Even when used with the Cyrus (a device that on its own costs getting on for twice that of the Attessa), there isn’t the jump in performance that I was realistically expecting. Into the partnering Attessa Streaming Amp - which has a perfectly respectable phono stage when tested with the resident AVID Ingenium - I still found myself preferring the internal one on the turntable. It falls outside the scope of what can be tested here to determine whether the phono stage switches off rather than out when the bypass is selected or if it is simply designed to work with the Dana and does so better than the ‘best fit’ of the external stages - either of which might explain this phenomenon. If the internal phono stage wasn’t a good one, this would be an issue but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.
And it’s this general enjoyment that elevates the Attessa TT. This is not a turntable that gives you everything it does in the first side of an LP. Instead, over the course of a day, it begins to win you over with a little of that imperious ability to get out of the path of the music its bigger brothers have that means it’s the music that does the talking. It forgoes ‘warmth’ and other stereotypical traits to be a properly talented source.
The highest compliment I can pay it is that the Attessa has had to sit next to the Vertere MG-1 - the best turntable I’ve ever spent any meaningful time with - for the duration of testing and it has never been a disappointment even in this incredibly exalted company. It holds its own against that well sorted streaming module in the amp, even when viewed entirely unromantically. It’s a thoroughly modern piece of audio equipment that just happens to play a very old school format.
It trades off that last ounce of drive to flow through material that isn’t necessarily going to benefit from the same relentless urgency
Roksan Attessa Turntable Review
Those of you who enjoy the search for subtext in reviews may well have already decided that I have minimised the set up quirks of the Attessa because I’m too deep into the record player rabbit hole. There’s no escaping you need to be more conversant with the business of getting analogue up and running with the Attessa than you do with the Technics or the Planar 3 (even when adding the external speed control and phono stage that would take the latter to the same price as the Roksan. I personally feel Roksan provides enough tools and instructions to make it work, but that’s a subjective position and that’s all it ever can be.
What’s less subjective is that this is a handsome, well specified and deeply capable bit of kit that takes on the big names at the price and keeps them honest. It has sonic characteristics that, if they gel with your own preferences, are very hard to find elsewhere at the price. It also, in part because it is a little quirky, feels more like a Roksan than its amp relative. The Attessa Turntable is not perfect but it’s a well realised and thoroughly entertaining bit of kit that comes enthusiastically Recommended.
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