If you click through any high-end publication today, you’re bound to find advertisements for many alluring turntables and tonearms. If you look a bit closer, you may notice that despite looking very different, most turntables and tonearms appear to be exorcizing similar demons: induced vibration and improper stylus alignment.
For the most part, Yamaha’s top-of-the-line GT-5000 turntable and its included tonearm are no different; but if you take a closer look at the latter, there are a few things that might elicit a raised eyebrow. For starters, the tonearm is short and straight, a combination not commonly associated with ideal stylus tracking. Yamaha has also designed this arm without any anti-skating adjustability, which raises the question, how exactly is this stylus going to track?
The KISS principle
Before I look at that, I’ll take a few steps back and unpack the GT-5000 ($7999, all prices USD), literally and figuratively. The GT-5000 arrived well secured in an imposingly large double box. Nestled within the closed-cell foam top plate that secured the GT-5000 was a small accessory box containing the manual, power cord, pulley belt, an Allen key for adjusting the tonearm height, a cable clamp for connecting a phono cable directly to the tonearm, and two items I haven’t seen included with a turntable before: a stroboscopic light and a high-quality alignment disc (more on these later).
The turntable resided beneath the accessory box, protected by a plastic bag and a form-fitting felt cloak. Directly below the turntable were two sleeve-type packages containing both felt and rubber platter mats. Beneath these, contained within yet another closed-cell foam base, I found a high-density foam insert housing the headshell, small and large milled-aluminum counterweights, a 45-rpm adapter, two platter handles, and a dial cover for the platter-speed adjuster. The base layer of the box included yet another closed-cell foam insert containing two boxes: one for the platter and another for the subplatter.
It wasn’t until I got the GT-5000 out of its packaging that I realized just how massive this turntable is: it measures 21 3/8″W × 10 1/8″H × 16 1/8″D and weighs a stout 58.4 pounds. The ’table is so big, in fact, it didn’t fit on the 19″ × 19″shelf on my audio rack, so I set it up atop a thick 24″-square, 3/4″-thick marble slab sitting on my floor.
The GT-5000 is finished the same way Yamaha finishes its world-class pianos, with a primer coat, a black paint coat, and four coats of hand-polished lacquer. Beneath the seemingly mile-deep gloss-black finish is a turntable machined from four layers of laminated, high-density particle board. Machined into the underside of the ’table are four chambers; the largest, located towards the rear left, is dedicated to housing the power supply and discrete crystal sine-wave clocking circuitry for precision speed control of the platter. The power toggle button and 24-pole two-phase AC synchronous motor assembly occupy another chamber towards the ’table’s front left.
In discussions with Paul Bawcutt, Yamaha’s sales and product marketing manager in Canada, I learned that the motor is mounted to the bottom plate instead of the turntable to eliminate any vibrations from being introduced into the ’table. Beneath the GT-5000 and to the right is another three-segment chamber housing the speed adjuster, start/stop toggle button, and 33/45-rpm toggle button. The final chamber, located at the right rear of the ’table, is dedicated to housing a tonearm base specifically designed for the GT-5000’s tonearm. If you want to swap out tonearms, you’ll need to install a different base.
To connect each of the components I just described, Yamaha uses a particular type of oxygen-free copper (OFC) wiring made by Furukawa Electric. Yamaha specified this cable for the GT-5000 because, unlike regular OFC, almost all impurities over 20 microns have been removed using a special fixed-angle continuous-transport forging process unique to Furukawa. Reportedly, this process essentially aligns copper crystals at a specific angle using precise unidirectional pressure, which results in a cable with vastly improved signal purity.
Another innovative feature beneath the GT-5000 is its feet, which Yamaha noted are “very expensive.” This is the first turntable I’ve come across that relies on its substrate to be level instead of having adjustable feet. When I emailed the Japanese engineering team to ask who designed the GT-5000 and why they made this decision, the response was that “the new feet customized by Wind Bell (Tokkyokiki Corp. in Japan) use a unique 3D structure which has excellent attenuation characteristics from low to high frequencies (20-30dB better than standard spiked feet). We prioritized superior attenuation characteristics over the adjustment mechanism for feet.” Under the ’table’s weight, the feet offered noticeable stability simply by lightly nudging the turntable in any direction, and their size and expertly honed finish radiated quality.
When it’s turned right side up, everything about the GT-5000 drips with luxury as well. All the switchgear is made of aluminum, except for the speed-adjustment cover, which is plastic—but Yamaha nailed the finish of the plastic in terms of color and texture, so I can’t ding them for this. The 16-gram motor pulley that protrudes through the ’table is milled aluminum, and by way of a belt, it turns a beautifully milled 4.4-pound solid-brass subplatter.
The subplatter fits seamlessly over the bearing, as does the 11.5-pound milled-aluminum outer platter that rests on it. The fit is so precise that Yamaha provides a pair of platter handles that screw into the heavy platter to ease installation and removal of the platter from the bearing. Around back, located directly beneath the tonearm, is a panel with one pair of XLR outputs, one pair of RCA outputs, and a ground terminal. Towards the left is another large panel containing a 3.5mm jack for the stroboscopic light and an IEC input. Near the upper rear corners is a pair of heavy-duty solid-brass mounting screws for the optional dust cover ($899).
As mentioned above, the GT-5000’s tonearm construction is unique. The shaft, not including the headshell, is only 6″ long. Its cross-sectional construction starts with an aluminum tube that’s plated in copper inside and out. The outside is then wrapped in a single sheet of 3k-tow (which describes the fiber count per 0.125″) carbon fiber, three sheets of glass fiber, and a final sheet of silver-plated carbon fiber, which then gets clear coated.
At the rear of the tonearm, the lift mechanism and shaft are machined from small blocks of brass, while the base and accompanying parts are all machined from similar blocks of aluminum. The cabling inside the tonearm from the headshell mount to the rear terminals is the same as that used in the components under the turntable. The headshell, milled from yet another small block of aluminum, adds another 2 1/8″ to the tonearm, bringing the total length to 8 1/8″.
I used a Sumiko Starling moving-coil cartridge for this review. I connected Kimber Kable Select KS-1116 balanced interconnects from the GT-5000 to a Musical Fidelity M6x Vinyl phono stage, then another of the same to an Audio Research Reference 6SE preamp, and finally another set to a pair of Classé Audio Delta Mono amplifiers. After amplification, I used Kimber Kable KS-6036 speaker cables to feed a pair of Paradigm Persona 7F loudspeakers. Power cables used throughout the system were all Shunyata Research Alpha v2 NR, and I used Shunyata Research’s Sigma v2 XC between a dedicated 20A wall outlet and a Shunyata Denali 6000/S v2 power conditioner.
With the power cable disconnected, I was ready to set up the tonearm—a process that turned out to be simpler than I had anticipated. The first step was installing my Sumiko Starling cartridge into the headshell. Right off the bat, this was a much easier process than I’ve become accustomed to with the Pro-Ject Evo tonearm that came with my RPM 10 Carbon turntable. Next up, I installed the headshell by screwing it onto the tonearm, then I installed the lighter of the two counterweights included with the GT-5000 to balance the tonearm. After spending less than a minute balancing the tonearm, it was time to set the vertical tracking force (VTF). With Yamaha’s thoughtfully included rubber platter mat installed, I used a Pro-Ject Measure it S2 digital scale to set the VTF at 2 grams, the Starling’s median recommended setting.
Setting the vertical tracking angle (VTA) was a bit of a clunky process as I had to use a supplied Allen key to loosen and manually raise the tonearm to the correct height. After a few tries, I was ready to set the cartridge overhang, which Yamaha specifies as 17mm. To simplify the process, Yamaha thoughtfully provides alignment lines and a small dot on their stroboscopic disc (installed over the spindle) so you can adjust the overhang perfectly. If you lose your stroboscopic disc, it’s no problem, since you can just install your cartridge so that it’s straight within the headshell (with no offset angle) and measure 52mm from the stylus point to the headshell connection point.
There’s no need for an alignment protractor or a level to set rotational alignment, and there’s no anti-skating control to fiddle with either. When I asked how this is possible, Yamaha explained that it’s due to the way the short, straight tonearm is leveled and configured on the turntable. Without going into too much detail, anti-skating essentially involves a small counterforce being applied to a tonearm to neutralize its tendency to move inward, toward the center of the record. The short tonearm’s need for anti-skating is negated here because the inside force imposed by the arm on the stylus is at 0 when the stylus is at the midpoint of the record. As the stylus travels from the outer edges, the tracking force approaches its maximum of just 0.1 gram. A 0.1-gram tracking force spec equates to distortion of just 10 degrees, so even with 10 degrees of tracking error, there’s still very little phase shift between the right and left channels (Yamaha states 2.1mm) by the time the sound reaches the listener.
With the tonearm and my Sumiko Starling cartridge configured on the GT-5000, the only thing left to do was ensure that the platter was spinning at the perfect rotational speed. To accomplish this, I simply plugged in the stroboscopic light, and with the disc still on the platter, pressed the speed button (in my case 33 1/3 rpm), hit the button to start, and adjusted the pitch-adjust dial so that the lines on the disc (according to the speed selected) didn’t move visually as the disc spun. Each adjustment step on the dial changes the speed +/-0.1% over a range of +/-1.5%, so there’s plenty of adjustment room to provide the perfect speed.
Into the groove
When I’m listening to review equipment for the first time, I usually have one question on my mind: how’s this going to sound? That wasn’t the main question on my mind when I lowered the needle on Yamaha’s GT-5000 for the first time. Instead, I reflected on the confidence I felt in relation to the simplicity of the turntable’s setup, its tonearm, and the installed cartridge. I need to convey how gratifying that was because other ’tables of this kind can be a pain in the ass to set up.
Relaxed and content, I let my focus shift to the spell of raindrops that defines the boundaries of the soundstage in “Riders on the Storm,” from The Doors’ Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine (LP, Elektra 8122796058). Right from the start, I could hear the contrast in character of the GT-5000 compared to my reference Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon ($5499 without cartridge). The raindrops were not quite as holographic through the GT-5000, but what they gave up in dimension, they gained in body. Ray Manzarek’s Fender Rhodes electric piano sounded rich in tonal color and dynamic yet gritty in texture. Morrison’s singing voice was locked center stage, consistently layered in a convincing way above all other instruments throughout the track. Images were crisp, microlevel details, such as the echo and decay of Morrison’s voice, were easy to discern, and I appreciated the well-articulated character of the thunder as it rolled across the deep recesses of the soundstage. I also enjoyed the balanced sound of John Densmore’s drums against Manzarek’s electronic piano. On my RPM 10 Carbon, Densmore’s drums can sound a bit wispy or lacking in body, and this often results in a slight lack of dynamic drive. But not through the GT-5000—each thwack of the skins was communicated with resounding body and weight, helping to illustrate the emotional intent behind each strike.
With a growing sense of what to expect, I pulled the sleeve from Fleetwood Mac’s tenth studio album, Fleetwood Mac, and queued up “Landslide” (LP, Reprise MS-2225). The GT-5000 immediately allowed me to appreciate the texture and tonality of Stevie Nicks’s voice, yet it never shone a spotlight on either of these attributes. Nicks was chiseled center stage, and the juxtaposition of her voice against the snappy plucks of Lindsey Buckingham’s Rick Turner Model 1 acoustic guitar was quite inviting. There was an apparent balance at play here because I wasn’t drawn to just one aspect of the stage; I felt free to let myself drift and focus on each instrument without losing track of the big picture.
A while back, I picked up a copy of Norah Jones’s Pick Me Up Off the Floor (LP, Blue Note Records B003179801), released in 2020, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t torn the wrapper off until a few weeks ago. One of the tracks I now quite enjoy is “Hurts to Be Alone.” When I listened to it with the GT-5000, the overall presentation was warm and weighty but not devoid of detail or microlevel nuances. The richness of Christopher Thomas’s upright bass stood out in spades, nicely complementing the depth and fortitude of each pluck of the strings. Listening to this track on my RPM 10 Carbon, I could hear more textural information being presented while also appreciating the reverb from each note, but not to the extent that I was left wanting when I moved back to the GT-5000. Likewise, focusing on Brian Blade’s taps of the brass, I found the GT-5000 produced well-articulated impacts rife with shimmer. Still, the RPM 10 Carbon injected a few more lumens of light, enabling impacts to stand out a touch more vibrantly from the background. This resulted in the GT-5000 sounding a hint bass-forward rather than tonally balanced, prompting me to focus more on Jones’s vocals. However, despite sounding a bit on the warmer side of neutral, Jones’s piano remained lush and inviting while lacking nothing in dynamic fervor.
Kicking things up a notch, I grabbed Supertramp’s Breakfast in America (LP, A&M 7502137081) and listened to “Child of Vision.” The GT-5000 was impressive from the get-go, injecting notably more punch into Bob Siebenberg’s drums than I’m accustomed to hearing with my Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon. The difference was so noticeable that, while listening to the latter, I was inspired to bump up the VTF on my Sumiko Starling to 2.2 grams (the max recommended) to see if I could squeeze a bit more punch from my RPM 10 Carbon. However, this move met with little success; the experiment yielded only marginal improvements in weight and slam compared to what the GT-5000 put forth. I listened to the rest of the track, then switched back to the GT-5000 and discovered a few other noticeable deviations.
With the RPM 10 Carbon in the loop, low frequencies from Dougie Thompson’s bass were illustrated with better definition, but they weren’t quite as present in the mix as they had been through the GT-5000. John Helliwell’s saxophone, on the other hand, was rendered with a silky smooth yet brightly lit golden persona that melted into the background just when it needed to. Moving back to the GT-5000, Helliwell’s sax was equally as smooth but denser and less vividly recreated. Consequently, it lacked some of the microlevel textures required for the sax to really come alive. Thompson’s taps of the brass weren’t quite as lithe sounding either, nor were the depressions of Roger Hodgson’s piano keys, though the hint of added warmth and body imbued upon each resulted in a more relaxed interpretation. In this comparison, neither turntable was better; each was differentiated by subtleties that some may find more pleasing than others.
I ping-ponged a fair bit between the GT-5000 and my reference Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon. I enjoyed the consistent balance, warmth, body, fluidity, and deep, punchy bass of the GT-5000 but found my reference RPM 10 Carbon slightly better in terms of detail and holographic imaging, as well as pace, rhythm, and timing.
My time reviewing Yamaha’s GT-5000 turntable was an experience I will not soon forget, not only because it’s a fantastic-sounding turntable with a warm, fulsome presentation, but also because it’s a true pleasure to set up and use. Because some assembly is required out of the box, I could see that Yamaha has intelligently focused resources in the areas that matter. Decoupling the motor from a fully compartmentalized CNC-honed table; utilizing a heavy solid brass subplatter; precisely engineering a high-performance tonearm; and installing some of the most trick high-quality isolation feet I’ve seen are just a few examples of how Yamaha spared no expense in ensuring the utmost quality and performance. Moreover, the GT-5000 is an ergonomic juggernaut with its push-button controls and easy-to-set-up tonearm. Ultimately, the GT-5000 was an immensely enjoyable turntable to use and listen to, and I will miss it when it leaves.
. . . Aron Garrecht
- Speakers: Paradigm Persona 7F.
- Subwoofers: JL Audio Fathom f112 (2).
- Amplifiers: Classé Audio Delta Mono monoblocks (2).
- Preamplifiers: Audio Research Reference 6SE, Musical Fidelity M6x Vinyl phono stage.
- Digital-to-analog converter: Meitner Audio MA3 DAC-preamplifier.
- Sources: Intel NUC computer running Windows 10, Roon; Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon turntable with Sumiko Starling cartridge.
- Interconnects: Analysis Plus (digital), Kimber Kable Select KS-1116 (analog).
- Speaker cables: Kimber Kable KS-6063.
- Power cords: Shunyata Research Alpha v2 NR and Sigma v2 XC.
- Power conditioner: Shunyata Denali 6000/S v2 and Hydra Delta D6.
Yamaha GT-5000 Turntable
Warranty: Two years, parts and labor.
Yamaha Corporation of Japan
Yamaha Corporation of America
6600 Orangethorpe Avenue
Buena Park, CA 90620
Yamaha Canada Music Ltd.
135 Milner Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M1S 3R1