U-Turn Orbit Special turntable review: revamped and out of this world

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The U-Turn Orbit Special turntable arena a record.

U-Turn Orbit Special (Gen 2)

MSRP $549.00

“The 2nd-gen U-Turn Orbit Special's upgrades accomplish it a abreast absolute midrange turntable.”

Pros

  • Excellent sound
  • Dynamic Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
  • New acceleration alternative dial
  • Solid acrylic platter
  • Optional complete preamp
  • Seven finishes

Cons

  • No auto stop feature

I’ve consistently been afflicted with U-Turn Audio’s calendar of affordable Orbit turntables that it started authoritative in 2012. Over the afterward decade, the Orbit becoming a acceptability for actuality a common almanac amateur that looks good, is simple to operate, and is fabricated with acceptable apparatus — you could alike mix and bout them to clothing your needs and budget, which fabricated the band ambrosial to a advanced ambit of vinyl enthusiasts, including myself.

So, back U-Turn launched its 2nd-gen Orbit lineup aftermost abatement — the aboriginal above advancement in the company’s history — I was aflame to get my easily on one. That time has come. The absolute Orbit range, which includes the Orbit Basic, Plus, and Special, has been revamped. U-Turn has furnished me with both ends of the range, the Basic and Special, but this analysis will focus on the latter.

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Taking added than a few pointers from its premium-range Orbit Theory turntable that U-Turn auspiciously launched in backward 2022, the upgrades to the 2nd-gen Orbit Special accept fabricated it a abreast absolute midrange turntable that is a joy to use. With a redesigned tonearm, upgraded motor and spindle, new acclimatized acrylic platter, some beginning new accomplishment options, and (gasp!) an cyberbanking acceleration ascendancy dial, every affair I anytime had with the first-gen Orbit Special (one of my circadian drivers back 2018) has been obliterated. Ranging in amount from $549 to $749, depending on how you configure it, the Orbit Special charcoal a abundant value. The revamped Orbit appropriate takes an accomplished turntable and makes it alike better. Here’s how.

The U-Turn Orbit Special turntable with a chicken racord on the platter.Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

U-Turn Orbit Special: setup

Like abounding avant-garde turntables account buying, the U-Turn Orbit Special comes able-bodied arranged and protected, with alone a few key genitalia that accept to be accumulated and set up. It’s all appealing easy, though, and it comes with all the instructions you need, whether you’re new to it or a pro.

In the box, you’ll acquisition the capital plinth with the tonearm already army and its armament (the superb Ortofon 2M Red) already installed and prealigned. All you accept to do is chase the instructions for ascent and acclimation the turntable’s balance (it’s easy), abode the acrylic bowl on the spindle, and blanket the silicone-rubber belt alternating its new machined canal and about the motor. It should all booty about 10 minutes, and it’s kinda fun.

The Orbit Special is a near-perfect midrange turntable that is a joy to use.

The ability adapter and RCA cables are included, and depending on whether you sprung for the complete phono preamp (more on that later) or not, you aloof accept to affix up to your receiver/amplifier or a set of powered speakers and you’re off. Oh, and it comes with a solid dust awning that installs on two artificial hinges at the aback of the plinth. It works well, too, and doesn’t abatement bankrupt beneath its own weight, like others I’ve tried.

U-Turn Orbit Special: appearance and operation

I meant it back I said no nonsense. My digital-loving colleague, Simon Cohen, brand to rib us with the chat “antiquated” back anecdotic turntables and their associated polyvinyl media, but I anticipate there’s a adorableness in their simplicity. The U-Turn Orbit Special (or any affiliate of the Orbit line, for that matter) isn’t big and bulky, with the plinth barometer aloof three-quarters of an inch thick. It’s fabricated of either MDF, solid walnut, or, like my analysis unit, a admirable and accustomed oak, not veneer.

All models appear with U-Turn’s anti-resonant acrylic platter, which acme the turntable’s weight out at about 15 pounds. It fits in accurately with best decors, and unless you opt for one of the bolder colors like green, red, or blue, it won’t be an eyesore.

The new AO3 tonearm accumulation on the U-Turn Orbit Special.The new OA3 tonearm accumulation on the U-Turn Orbit Special. Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

Orbit two point oh!

With the upgrades to the range, the Orbit gets a new, single-piece molded magnesium tonearm that is a adaptation of the OA3 Pro “precision” tonearm that the aggregation put on its  $1,000-plus Theory turntable (minus the “Pro” designation). It’s sleeker and lighter than the aluminum adaptation of the first-gen Orbit, and the single-piece architecture accumulation the headshell, armtube, and axis apartment translates to abundantly bargain resonance and beating alteration that would accept been accident amid the accumulation credibility of the old model’s parts. Plus it’s atramentous and aloof looks way slicker.

The 2nd-gen Orbit Special didn’t get the Theory’s numbered balance bite or adjustable anti-skate admitting (it’s centralized on the Special), but if I’m honest, I’ve never absolutely had the use for either afterwards bureaucracy and it operates flawlessly. The first-gen Orbit didn’t accept this either, and alike afterwards switching cartridges several times, recalibrating the balance and tracking force is a little trickier, but still easy.

But easily bottomward my two admired updates to the Orbit Special are the new acclimatized platter, which keeps the belt anchored and in place, and the accession of the acceleration ascendancy bite that lets you calmly about-face amid 45 and 33 1/3 RMP acceleration selections with a about-face of a bulge army on the advanced larboard of the plinth, replacing the old on/off switch.

Both are acceptable appearance additionally adopted from the Theory, and it’s about time. All of U-Turn’s almanac players are belt driven, and manually switching speeds by physically affective the belt from one allotment of the motor to addition is a affliction — the belt avalanche off and can be bad-tempered to get aback on. It additionally gets continued out and I’ve had to alter them over the years.

The acceleration bite works excellently, the new motor has added torque and gets the almanac up to acceleration abundant faster than before, and back I run my antistatic besom around, the burden no best stops the record. Too bad they didn’t aloof put it on the absolute Orbit band — the Basic and Plus models are out of luck.

To pre or not to pre

The Orbit Special starts at $549 in the bristles basal colors of black, white, red, blue, and blooming (add $170 for oak or walnut), and after the complete phono preamp, which is accomplished if you already accept a receiver or amplifier with a phono ascribe or an alien phono preamp (aka a phono stage) of your own. For $80 you can add U-Turn’s complete phono stage, an centralized adaptation of its capable Pluto 2 preamp that runs $109 if you get it on its own. I’ll get into the achievement of the preamp below.

U-Turn Orbit Special: Sound and performance

The Ortofon 2M Red armament on the U-Turn Orbit Special turntable.The Ortofon 2M Red Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

I’ll alpha by adage that the Orbit Special’s ablaze weight and complete preamp fabricated it accessible to move about and affix to the array of audio setups I accept about the house, including an old Marantz 2230 with almost-as-old Mission 727 speakers, a avant-garde Cambridge CXA81 chip amp with Wharfedale bookshelf speakers, and again anon to a set of abundant Edifier powered speakers.

Overall, the complete of the revamped Orbit Special is gorgeous. It’s bright and appalling quiet back arena low-key, affected advance from acts like Boygenius and Elliot Smith; it ramps up with affluence with a detail and ample soundstage back spinning mid-volume advance from Miles Davis or Peoria Jazzband; and again aloof fills the allowance with complete back I threw on a candied 180-gram beat acute of The Strokes’ Is This It that the association from Vinyl Me Please were nice abundant to accelerate me.

With this next-gen Orbit Special, U-Turn has addition hit on its hands.

The Ortofon 2M Red does its job nicely, carrying bland and controlled bass (it loves it some Thundercat), befuddled and tidy mids (it ate up The Breeders’ 30th celebration copy of Last Splash), and bright highs (Portishead’s awful Humming gave it a workout). Honestly, put up abutting to the U-Turn Orbit Theory, they’re so abutting that I’d catechism that added $300 if it weren’t for the added detail and clarification of the latter’s Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, which you could advancement to on the Orbit Special for $159; all you’d charge is the stylus as it’s interchangeable. It’s article to anticipate about.

I additionally activated the Orbit Special by comparing the complete preamp to a affection alien Schiit Mani phono pre, as able-bodied as through the phono ascribe of the Marantz receiver. I can address that I absolutely adopted the complete over my admired Marantz as it added a bit of a akin addition and some action and accuracy to the mids and highs. I begin it appealing commensurable to the Mani, though, so that added $80 for the complete is able-bodied account the money.

Switching to and from 33 and 45 RMP was a contentment with the acceleration dial, and operationally, the Orbit Special is a lot of fun to comedy annal on. The aboriginal Orbit Special was an accomplished turntable, but with this next-gen Orbit Special, U-Turn has addition hit on its hands.

The U-Turn Orbit Special turntable with a red vinyl almanac on it.Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

U-Turn Orbit Special: Bottom line

I’ve spent absolutely a cardinal of hours with the Orbit Special, and all I can say is that U-Turn has done it again. The upgrades accept animated its account to sit about on par with its exceptional offering, the Orbit Theory, and for hundreds of dollars less. Its low-noise operation can abundantly be attributed to the new OA3 and tonearm, quiet belt-driven motor, and anti-resonant acrylic platter, while the Ortofon 2M Red handles all that alive and abundant sound. And as I talked about above, the Ortofon armament it comes with allows you to advancement the stylus to Ortofon’s next-up Silver ($120) or the Blue ($159) at the top of its range.

Key upgrades like the accession of cyberbanking acceleration ascendancy and acclimatized bowl bend for befitting the belt absolutely in abode accept fabricated the Orbit Special that abundant easier and added fun to comedy annal on. U-Turn additionally has accomplished chump service, which goes a continued way should annihilation go wrong.

The Orbit Special’s assortment and $549 starting amount accomplish it a acceptable best for beginners, but those those who’ve been at it for a while or accept added pockets will additionally acknowledge the added finishes and alternative complete preamp that top the amount out at $749, an advance that will aftermost you for years.

A top-down angel of the U-Turn Orbit Special turntable with a chicken almanac on it.Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

If you’re still in the analysis phase, abutting competitors to the Orbit Special accommodate the $600 Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO or the outstanding $595 Rega Planar 1. The Pro-Ject appearance the solid-performing Sumiko Rainier cartridge, while the Rega is, well, Rega, and its Carbon armament is awful rated. But both abridgement centralized preamp options and the Rega alone comes in three finishes. Both accept amazing pedigree, though, and it’s nice to see U-Turn activity toe-to-toe with these big players.

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