Magnat MTT 990 Review: Versatile turntable that leaves a pleasant impression

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Magnat MTT 990 is the first turntable in the history of the company. In its creation, the experience and knowledge accumulated by the company’s specialists over 45 years of development of analog audio equipment of the Hi-Fi class came in handy. The company’s standards are so high that the first Magnat turntable to play vinyl records simply had to be built using direct drive.

The goal of the development was to combine the reliability of turntables for studios and DJs with audiophile-level acoustic performance.

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The device uses a direct drive with quartz stabilization and a 10-inch S-shaped tonearm with an SME connector. The table is made of MDF, which effectively absorbs resonances, and is covered with varnish, and a special polymer is used for the manufacture of the disc, with properties similar to those of vinyl. The manufacturer emphasizes that thanks to this solution, “the disc of the player and the record are combined into one whole.”

At the first acquaintance, the Magnat MTT 990 turntable leaves a pleasant impression. Laconic classical shape, good piano lacquer and everything is in black – body, tonearm, disc, controls (except for the transparent cover). And even there is no indication. How many times have I scolded too bright and especially caustic blue indication everywhere and everywhere, but here I was missing at least one tiny LED. The player works completely silently, and the black disc against the background of the black case is almost invisible, it is not even always clear whether it is spinning or not. Nevertheless, I like the tendency to remove unnecessary backlighting by itself.

The assembly and quality of parts at first glance (and subsequent ones too) did not cause any complaints. The device’s drive is quiet, and the casing damping is at least good. It can be seen that a lot of third-party parts are used. But there is nothing reprehensible in this – to make a turntable completely on your own, you would have to do too many details, and this approach pays for itself only in a very expensive segment, and even then, if you are lucky. This device is conceived to be inexpensive and to become widespread.

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The engineers at Magnat MTT 990 approached the development in a non-standard way: they took a direct drive and some kind of a Technics tonearm, put it all in the case, removed the unnecessary (necessary for DJ use), added their own disc and vibration isolating legs. It reminded me of popular recipes for fine-tuning Technics turntables to audiophile levels. Another analogy can be drawn with some modern Denons for the domestic Japanese market – a similar combination is used there.

Get the player out of the box, assemble and run – all this, even for a beginner, will take about ten minutes. The device is almost assembled. You just need to put it on the stand, install the disc, screw the counterweight onto the shank of the tonearm, fasten the shell with the head preinstalled at the factory, hang the tonearm “to zero” and finally set the clamp to 2 grams. All this can be done without additional tools and with acceptable accuracy.

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However, the choice of the head upset me – the standard version of the 95th Audio-Technica with a regular elliptical sharpening (and not even a custom one with an advanced needle). Looks rustic for a player like this. The result is yet to be heard, but I would immediately choose a turntable without a complete head or consider it as something to “play around” for a couple of months, and then replace it with something more serious.

By the way, the tonearm allows quick readjustment and change of the head together with the shell, so I advise you to leave the base AT95e for running records in an unknown or poor condition. But for a permanent configuration, it is better to take the head with a higher class. I will return to the heads and settings later, but for now I will make a remark to the manufacturer, and here’s why: there is no tuning template in the kit, there is no instruction on how to install the head on the shell and adjust its position. And there is only a phrase that for details, refer to the data sheet of your cartridge.

Has anyone seen a tuning template applied to a cartridge? This does not happen, because the geometry of the kit depends on the tonearm. It is clear that the problem is solved by third-party templates, since the arm mount does not provide for changing the distance from the player’s axis – we know the approach, then it’s a matter of technology. True, a trivial task for an understanding one can be difficult for a beginner, so I will hope that at least the simplest template will appear in the kit.

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The body of the player is made of MDF and covered with black lacquer. No other colors available. Everything is assembled firmly and well damped. The device rests on the stand with four adjustable legs with damping rubber inserts on the supporting surfaces. Level adjustment is possible, although the adjustment stroke is small. However, in terms of the combination of qualities, this player does not need a particularly precise installation.

The direct drive motor is quite massive and powerful. In terms of starting torque of 2.2 kg / cm, it is comparable to the power of the motors of some Technics claiming the same figure. The mounting of the motor in the housing cannot be seen in detail, but the drive is quiet. A disc is mounted on the motor pulley, equipped at the landing point with a specially fitted bronze bushing. The disc is made of acrylic or black derlin. The upper and lower surfaces of the disc are not smooth, but completely covered with circular grooves resembling an increased depth of the groove of the plate. This finish will at least reduce the chance of mat slipping. By the way, there is also a mat in the kit – felt and thick. It is not very clear why he is here like that, because no one will spin records using DJ methods on this turntable.

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Motor control is provided by a single rotary four-position handle: “stop” and three speeds. There is no speed adjustment, the usual pitch is also not provided – the whole system works on the basis of quartz stabilization. According to the stroboscope, the motor showed full visible stability at all speeds. The tonearm of the turntable is S-shaped, 10-inch, statically balanced. All the necessary settings are available: quick height adjustment, convenient tracking force adjustment on the scale and anti-skating and azimuth adjustments. Shell is removable, standard type, if desired, you can easily pick up one or more replacement options and use several heads. The manufacture and assembly of the tonearm did not cause any comments.

The rear panel of the case is extremely simple in content. The RCA output connectors, the grounding lug and the power cord connector are located here. The power supply is located inside the case, and there is even a 115/230 V voltage switch. Fortunately, there is no built-in phono stage.

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During the test, I decided to first listen a little how the turntable sounds with the complete head, and then change it. From the available “more serious” I chose Audio-Technica AT33Sa for the main test. As an additional experiment, I tried to figure out how much this turntable generally needs a mat, and if so, what type of mat is preferable. Obviously, with such a drive, if necessary, you can take a clamp, and when changing the head to a low-frequency MC, you can change the standard nameless phono cable for something better.

But first – the basic version of the sound in the basic configuration. The only thing I did was check the standard head settings and found them to be reasonably accurate. Put on the Jim Hall “Concierto” record. The dynamics are very good, expectations are in line with the type of drive and design, and even slightly better – there is no forced rhythm and obvious rigidity. But in general, the sound is simple, formal drawing is noticeable in the lower middle. It seems that there is a little bit of brightness, but not much, although the top is quite present in the proper amount. But they are simple too. There is air, the scene turns out to be wide, but screen-like, without proper elaboration in depth. In principle, adjusted for the head, everything is clear – this is what we hear. I can’t say that the head’s own handwriting is very prominent or completely bad, but in a decent tract and especially in contrast, the difference is obvious.

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I did the rest of the test with an Audio-Technica AT33Sa cartridge. The sound has grown dramatically in detail, and this is the first thing that became noticeable. There is no longer any question of any veil here. But what is interesting – with excellent dynamics, the sound did not become sharp and bright. Knowing the installed head, I didn’t really expect this, but some mixture of soft and bright could come out in some cases. But no, the presentation is moderately soft, dynamic, very dense, but not heavy, with even elaboration in bass, in the middle, and in the top.

After changing and running the head, I decided to deal with the mat and the output wire. Without a regular mat at all (only the tone arm height had to be reconfigured, which is done, taking into account the design, is elementary), the sound turned out to be a little more transparent and harsher. The bass has become slightly less, and the top, on the contrary, is more. It turns out that the tract, in combination with a decent head, clearly reacts to such a change. But the result was not perfect and I tried other mats. As a result, I settled on a dense mat of cork and rubber crumb mixed. I won’t say that the regular felt should definitely be changed, but since there is an opportunity to tinker with these details, I advise you to tinker.

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The stock phono cable should obviously also be replaced. For a start, and for transmitting a signal from a budgetary MM-head, it will come off, but in the case of moving up the head models, and even more so in the case of using low-one MS – there is something to do here. I put in the Ortofon 6NX TSW-1010 and found it quite suitable for the level. By the way, if you remember that at the output of the turntable there are ordinary RCA connectors and a ground terminal, then you can use shielded interconnects that are suitable for the task, adding a ground connection to them.

After the sound was tuned up and the experiments were finished, I listened to the result. To start with, I put on a good edition of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. The sound is large-scale, dense, there is no excess air in it, but physicality is present. Quiet sounds and decay are well worked out, although the main emphasis is not on them, but on the basis of sound, so to speak. The specific channel-by-channel layout of the recording is audible, nothing is smeared or masked. On complex fragments, the turntable plays harmoniously, without porridge. The detail is good. Not prohibitively high, but confident, and the decline is observed where not everyone will notice it. It turned out better than I expected: the sound has its own character, but without pretentious specifics, all its components are balanced.

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Another record is Brian Eno’s “Discreet Music”. The volume is drawn well, in terms of subtle transitions, the character of the sound is rather straightforward, but not to the degree of extreme stubbornness. The slightest oversimplification is balanced by honesty and lack of color. In terms of emotional transmission, the music is perceived slimmer and stricter, but not harsher or harsher. The scale is also not bad – there is no intimacy, depth and width are sufficient, there is a moderate feeling of airiness, the sounds do not stick together.

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But the sound of the promo-press of the disc “Boulez Conducts Debussy” surprised me: the good dynamics was already predictable, but in general the sound turned out to be more lively and slender than expected. The orchestra was fully accommodated in the space, the strings and winds played cleaner and more naturally than expected. It can be more accurate and more detailed, but, firstly, I expect such a sound from older players, and secondly, and what happens is very good even for my picky taste. Separately, here you can hear how much the sound benefits from the absence of obvious rigidity and coloration. So the presentation turns out to be more natural and without obsession.

The last record in the test and also a pleasant surprise was the old recording of Bach’s “Passion according to St. Matthew”. The recording was made in mono, the disc is also in mono, the press of the same years. The player showed good construction of monoscene in depth and good detail. The sound did not look either intimate, or old and boring, rustic. The age of the recording is audible, but the scale, the honest sounding of the instrumental accompaniment and the good reproduction of the vocals all together is more than I expected to hear.

Conclusion

I would call the Magnat MTT 990 a very pragmatic turntable. From how it was designed and built – they didn’t try to reinvent the bicycle – to the sound. Genrely universal, slightly straightforward, but without coloring and without strange behavior. And the device is also convenient to use. Everything reasonable that can be done with it in terms of an upgrade, I described, then the question of particulars, depending on personal taste and the choice of the head. And I repeat – the head should be put here a class higher than the standard one. The device is able to reveal more serious models.

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