Origin Live’s Sovereign Mk3 turntable reviewed

Had enough of upgrading and want to go straight to the top? Paul Rigby reviews a truly high-end design, the Origin Live Sovereign Mk3…

Turntable with 12″ mounting
Price £6,090
Web www.originlive.com
Call 02380 578877

The most notable aspect of this high-end turntable from UK manufacturer Origin Live is the price ratio of the individual components. Most companies commit around 80% of the fixed price to the turntable and around 20% to the arm. Origin differs, portioning that out in roughly 50/50 terms: “The Enterprise arm is at such a level that you don’t need a £10,000 turntable,” says MD Mark Baker. “The question is, in today’s terms, with turntable quality already so high, how much more improvement do you really get by spending £13,000 rather than £3,000 on a deck? Probably, not a lot. The room for improvement, the current place where great strides are being made, is in the arm sector.”

The 450x380x160mm turntable weighs in at a meaty 34kg (including the platter). The mass is present in the three chromed, steel pods and the slice of steel alloy situated between the two acrylic sandwich slices on the plinth. The platter is made from a carefully constructed acrylic with low internal stresses. Most acrylic platters are made in Mexico and attention to detail from this sector is not always high. It took Origin 15 years to find an acrylic-platter maker that reached its high standards.
A bespoke motor and bearing consisting of a hardened steel ball running on a tungsten-carbide plate is included. The Enterprise C uses a dual-pivot design with a carbon-fibre tube forming a base for four extra layers, which include ebony. The headshell is constructed from a different material, to disperse vibration. The arm also includes steel bearings, into tungsten-steel cups.
Playing vocal jazz, the turntable/arm combo exuded tremendous focus and the stereo image was rock solid, while the soundstage was wide and high: a real ‘stage’ performance, in fact. The entire backing orchestra was also tight and very ‘together’ as a unit. They were perky and alert in their task. The Origin pairing produced a quite stunning degree of clarity, spawning deeply emotional vocals, at times. Similarly, instrumental separation was quite startling, as the treble from a simple triangle offered a warm, gentle yet quite incisive presentation.
The 3D soundstage held swing-based vocal performances in place without a problem. Meanwhile, the percussion was precise, while the double-bass output was tight and characterful.

Carry that weight

Turning to rock, the low noise allowed the treble to become expressive, with well-formed cymbals being pulled from the mélange, while once blurry lyrics were now easily distinguishable. Synth-based organs had an airy, light presentation and midrange that never neglected subtle detail. Bass avoided bloom and artefacts, being punchy and direct but revealing, with impressive transients and tonal information.

One final note: I would recommend the addition of Harmonic Resolution Systems’ VDH platter weight accessory (£490; available in the UK from retailers such as The Audio Consultants at http://www.audioconsultants.co.uk), which sits on the spindle. The VDH is based upon polymer but surrounded by a heavy stainless-steel compound; in place, music exhibits an even more confident bass which was darker and stronger, with great midrange presence and swagger.
If you’re lucky enough to already own a Sovereign turntable, then get in touch with the company as a matter of priority and talk to them about a suite of recent upgrades for the deck. Others will find the combination of the Sovereign and the Enterprise, in its 12″ incarnation, a quite startling experience that will impress you in terms of tonal realism, but also in how characterful the instruments feel in the spacious yet lucid soundstage. The combination of treble delicacy and fragility and the bass heft and punch is an experience to savour.
As one of the best turntables that you can buy anywhere in the world, it could be argued that this is superb value for money: the Sovereign/Enterprise C combo is a worthy classic.