About this project
We love listening to music on vinyl, and we believe that everyone should have access to a quality vinyl experience. But we found that capable turntables were prohibitively expensive. That’s why we designed the Orbit – a remarkably simple turntable that cuts the cost of high-performance playback in half.
Meet the Orbit
It’s up to your turntable to unlock vinyl’s potential, and not all turntables are built equal. The Orbit has been designed to deliver sound that does justice to your records. To make this possible at an attainable price, we re-engineered essential audiophile components, simplified wherever possible, and used only high-quality materials. The result is turntable engineering and playback quality never before seen at the entry-level. Don’t be surprised if you start listening to music more than ever before.
Less is more
A turntable should be reliable, easy to use, but most importantly it should sound great. Most entry-level models offer gimmicks like built-in speakers, retro-looks, and USB connectivity. These turntables try to do too much, and consequently sound quality gets marginalized. USB is used by few and is neither necessary nor preferable for digitizing vinyl records. By omitting USB and other superfluous features, we are able prioritize the turntable’s music-making components.
The tonearm is the crucial link between your record and your speakers. Ours features a unipivot-style bearing, which is known to produce a more natural sound than standard gimbal bearings. Up until now, this technology was found exclusively on audiophile turntables; but through smart engineering, we radically reduced manufacturing costs without compromising performance. This innovative bearing works in harmony with the arm’s low center of mass to ensure accurate tracking of your record’s grooves.
The tonearm is pre-fitted with an Ortofon moving magnet (MM) cartridge. Inexpensive turntables typically rely on ceramic cartridges, which wear records quickly and suffer from high levels of distortion and noise. The Orbit’s internally damped armtube reduces unwanted resonances, and its silver-plated wiring ensures faithful signal transfer from the cartridge.
The Orbit’s platter is driven by a low-voltage AC synchronous motor, which provides better speed consistency than more common DC motors. For the listener, this means less audible pitch variation (i.e. less "wow & flutter"). An exposed belt allows users to manually change between 33 ⅓ and 45 RPM. In order to suppress motor noise and vibration, we have decoupled the motor from the plinth with a unique rubber suspension system.
The platter rides upon a precision inverted main bearing - yet another audiophile staple - that has been optimized for the platter’s center of gravity. Our adaptation of the inverted bearing lowers the cost of superior stability and low-rumble (i.e. bearing noise), which translates into cleaner sound for you.
Build quality matters. That’s why the Orbit’s plinth is CNC machined out of medium density fiberboard (MDF), a material we selected for its low-resonance properties. The plinth is supported by specially designed SBR rubber feet, which prevent external vibrations from seeping into the sound. Using high quality materials where it counts the most not only boosts performance, but also makes for a reliable, long-lasting product.
- Unipivot tonearm
- Ortofon MM cartridge
- Fully manual belt-drive
- Two speed pulley (33/45 RPM)
- Inverted main bearing
- 24V synchronous motor
- Machined MDF plinth
- Vibration damping feet
- Easy setup
- 16.5" x 12.5" x 4"
- 15 lbs
- Power supply: 120V/60Hz
- Wall transformer included
- Dustcover included
The Orbit has been in development since October 2011, and we have finalized the design after multiple prototype iterations. The funds raised through this campaign will cover tooling, equipment, and other initial production costs. We have recently finished a pre-production run of the Orbit, using 3D-printed prototype parts and components we machined ourselves. We are extremely pleased with the results.
In addition to performing extensive listening tests, we have tested the Orbit per CEA-11R2009 turntable measurement standards. The turntable has performed well in rumble (i.e. bearing noise), signal-to-noise ratio, and high-frequency response testing. The motor is designed for continuous use in precision instruments, and we've verified its consistency over time through a series of longevity tests. We have also performed finite element analysis on all structural components to ensure integrity.
Specs & Testing Update (January 8)
Wow & Flutter
*Results are weighted as per DIN standards.
Note: The results from rumble tests can be misleading as many manufactures use different measurement methods and weighting curves. To best present our results, we tested two other turntables for comparison.
Test description: Measurements were taken using the octave band analyzer and sound level meter in Signal Scope Pro. Phono pre-amp, RIAA equalization and A2D conversion performed by a Rega Fono mini A2D. Rumble measurements taken while tracking an un-modulated groove on a test record (HFS69). Noise measurements taken with stylus raised 2.5 mm above the rotating platter. Signal levels referenced to 1000 Hz at 10 cm/sec = 0 dBFS and are A-weighted as per DIN standards.
Keep in mind that a lower value (more negative) means less rumble.
Note: When properly implemented, an anti-skate mechanism will offset the force applied to the stylus by the record groove. But to get the benefits of anti-skate, you need to correctly set the bias force using a test record (and ideally an oscilloscope). Otherwise, an anti-skate mechanism can actually do more harm than good. We decided to leave out anti-skate because channel imbalance and distortion were not significant in the Orbit’s tonearm. Check out the test below for more details!
Test description: For this test we used the bias setting tracks on the Hi-Fi News test record. There are 4 tracks with a 300 Hz test tone at increasing magnitudes. Shown below is graph of the left and right channels of the Orbit on the third most intense track (L + R) +16 dB.
Bias issues would manifest as clipping on one of the channels or an imbalance in magnitudes. As this graph shows the channels are balanced and there is little distortion.
**Turntable prices do not include shipping.**
Please add $25 for shipping to US and $35 to Canada. Sorry, turntables are available in North America only.
$5 – “I U-TURN VINYL” Sticker
$30 – U-Turn T-Shirt
$75 - "VINYL FOREVER" Wood Block Print
Show your love for vinyl with this limited edition poster, created by our good friend and talented artist Abby Kaiser.
$150 - The Orbit Turntable
Features the revolutionary U-Turn unipivot tonearm, low-resonance MDF platter, and AC synchronous motor. Also includes removable dustcover and pre-mounted Ortofon Omega MM cartridge.
$250 - The Orbit Kickstarter Limited Edition
This limited edition Orbit features a Kickstarter green or black powdercoat finish, as well as an upgraded zero-resonance acrylic platter and Ortofon OM-5e MM cartridge.
$500 - The Orbit Renaissance Edition
This beautiful turntable has been hand-painted by resident artist Abby Kaiser and comes with an upgraded acrylic platter and Ortofon OM-5e MM cartridge.
$1,000 - The Orbit CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
We will work with you and our resident artist to create a truly one-of-kind (and fully-upgraded) turntable for you or a loved one. Your imagination is the only limit!
The U-Turn Team
We are a three member team with a passion for engineering, product development, marketing, and music. Our vinyl journeys began years ago, and the medium has forever changed how we enjoy and interact with music. We are strong supporters of the vinyl revival, and believe that analog music is entering a second golden age.
Thanks to Jon Hyatt - Photography and Video Production
Risks and challenges
Our pre-production Orbits have been thoroughly tested (see “Testing” above), and have met all performance goals. However, these units use a number of low-volume, prototype parts in places where the final product will use injection molded and production-quality machined parts. Consequently, we have not yet been able to carry out testing on production units, and it is impossible for us to be certain of their final build quality and performance. Since the production Orbit will use higher-quality, mass-produced parts, we expect that final build quality and performance will only improve. We require that all units pass our range of performance tests prior to shipping.
We have comprehensive plans to scale up, but taking our project from prototype to production is a formidable task. We will need to set up a full-scale manufacturing facility and install equipment, including a CNC router. And then the real challenge begins. We have built numerous prototypes and pre-production units, but have never built the Orbit at quantity. Full-scale production will require a huge amount of time, effort, trial, and error. We know the product inside and out, and the Orbit has been designed for simple manufacture and assembly; nevertheless, we are likely to confront production challenges throughout our first full run. Then there is the task of packing, storing, and shipping our units. We have done our best to prepare for logistic challenges, having already secured fulfillment space and begun work with a packaging company to ensure successful delivery of your Orbit.
We face all the common risks and challenges associated with manufacturing a physical product. Since we are working with contract manufacturers and third-party suppliers, we are at risk of dealing with production delays as well as quality control issues and unexpected costs. We have performed due diligence to minimize these risks - carefully analyzing component and materials costs, factoring a generous flex budget into our goal, and having backup suppliers on call in case something goes wrong. Since U-Turn Audio is a startup with limited financial resources, the scope of these risks is larger.
Regardless of how this project unfolds, we will run it with complete transparency and accountability.
The U-Turn TeamLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
You’ll need a few things, some of which you probably have already.
(1) AMPLIFIED SPEAKERS. This includes any speaker setup you can plug an audio source like an iPod into (e.g. computer speakers, home stereo systems, desktop radios).
(2) PHONO PREAMP. Because phono signals are output at a lower voltage than other audio sources, the signal needs an extra boost before it reaches your amplified speakers or sound system. Basic phono preamps start at around $15, while high-performance units can cost $100 or more. If your receiver has a dedicated “phono” input, then you do not need a phono preamp.
(3) THE RIGHT CABLES. The Orbit has RCA jacks and comes with a set of RCA cables (which plug into the phono preamp). If you plan on plugging your phono preamp into an ⅛” audio-in (i.e. headphone) jack, then you will need a Y-cable to connect the two. These are inexpensive and can be found at any electronics retailer.
(4) RECORDS. We recommend supporting your local record store or looking for used lots on eBay or Craigslist.
At this time, we cannot ship overseas. The Orbit is only compatible with North American power supply (the Orbit’s current motor system has been optimized for 115v/60hz instead of 230v/50hz). Getting the Orbit to the rest of the world is on the top of our wish list, but is logistically impossible right now. That being said, we are trying to work something out due to high demand, so stay tuned for updates!
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