I have a sweet tooth when it comes to turntables, but I’m not stuck on one type of confection. I’m an equal-opportunity fetishist. I love turntables made from solid steel, real wood, MDF painted to look like wood. Piano lacquer, matte paint, or—gasp—clear acrylic.

Now we’re talking. I might love all turntables, but crank one out from a chunk of clear acrylic and you can lure me right in with no impulse control. I’m an easy sell—there’s a chance I’ll wake up in a bathtub of ice, missing a kidney. There’s something magical about acrylic. It polishes up to a near-perfect, transparent finish that’s clearer than glass—seen edge-on, it lacks that greenish underwater hue. It’s a great material for a turntable plinth, which is a total bonus. It’s well damped internally, and machines quite easily.

So, it’s no surprise that manufacturers have been taking advantage of these qualities for decades now, building turntables that share more than a passing resemblance to wedding cakes with built-in waterfalls.

It’s been 20 years since Musical Fidelity released its M1 turntable. I clearly recall reading about it back then and salivating over it. Acrylic! Two layers of it! I never did get a chance to take that ’table for a spin, but I sure did want to.

Well, it turns out lightning has struck the same place twice—Musical Fidelity decided to dust off the plans for the original M1 and release a new version: the M8xTT ($10,499, in USD). Back in 2018, Musical Fidelity was purchased by Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH, parent company of Pro-Ject Audio Systems, which manufactures a wide range of turntables, spanning all price ranges. It’s no surprise, then, that this marriage has resulted in a new, top-of-the-line turntable to complement Musical Fidelity’s already-comprehensive product range. At High End 2023 in Munich, Germany, I had the chance to chat with Heinz Lichtenegger about the M8xTT, and I put in a request for the sample for this review.

Slow and steady wins the race

At first glance, it’s obvious that the M8xTT is directly descended from the M1. The architecture is very similar—a two-part plinth, linked by four cylindrical feet. On closer inspection, though, the differences are legion. Let’s go through the assembly process and examine each part.

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Setup was fairly straightforward. Although it’s possible to assemble the turntable on your own, it does help to have an extra pair of hands. The M8xTT, which weighs a substantial 69 pounds, arrived packed in a sturdy MDF box. Within were multiple layers of Styrofoam, with each layer packed with parts in reverse order of assembly.

So, the first layer contains the accessories you’ll need after assembly is complete. Contents include a decent tonearm cable, two additional counterweights, and a nicely machined record weight. I removed this layer and put it aside. The next layer contains the top plinth, with the arm already attached. You will need the supplied gloves to prevent the acrylic from becoming a smudged mess. Layer two went on the opposite end of the sofa. Next one down has the bottom chassis, so it landed on the coffee table. At the bottom are the parts you’ll need first.

I pulled out the substantial footers from the bottom layer of Styrofoam and placed them on my massive, homemade steel-and-wood equipment rack, next to my VPI Prime Signature. Also in the box is a paper template that shows the correct positioning for the feet. This is extremely handy, as the bottom plinth is a tight pressed fit over the footers and there’s little room for error. And given that the plinth is so perfectly polished and easily scratched, it was really, really nice not to have to guess at the footer placement.

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Next up was the top plinth, with the tonearm attached. This piece simply slips over the parts of the footers that protrude from the top of the lower plinth. Here’s where the extra set of hands comes into play, as you need to insert the DIN plug from the terminal strip into the base of the tonearm, and it’s a short wire with a tight fit—and have I already mentioned that the acrylic plinth is highly polished and easy to scratch? All that remained, then, was to drop in the motor, lower the platter over the bearing housing, and sling the string of the antiskating weight over the post.

The M8xTT’s motor isn’t totally freestanding. It rests on the bottom plinth, isolated by a foam layer, so it’s not touching the top plinth, bearing, or tonearm, but it’s not quite fully decoupled from the rest of the turntable.

Of note, here, is that the four substantial footers are magnetically suspended, and a firm downward push revealed syrupy damping. They’re also beautifully polished in places, and brushed in others, reflecting an overall theme of contrasts between the clear, polished acrylic, the brushed aluminum and steel components, and the soft leather of the platter mat. Overall, these are splendid design choices—visually, the ’table is an aesthetic pleasure.

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At 22 pounds, the platter is a chunky guy. It’s ostensibly a two-piece aluminum platter, but it’s joined together by a bunch of small cylinders, a bit like a Michell GyroDec but with a lower piece added on. Once spinning, it’s a lovely visual effect. Internally, the platter is damped with TPE. The platter rides on an inverted bearing with a ceramic ball.

The M8xTT’s 10″ tonearm exudes solidity and competence. It’s fully adjustable for VTA and azimuth, and easy to set up. I was particularly smitten with the bearing superstructure—the crystalline acrylic contrasted nicely with the mirror-polished bearing, tonearm rest, and cueing apparatus. The substantial, conical arm tube itself is fashioned from polished aluminum.

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The power supply for the motor is a small wall-wart transformer. It’s an underwhelming device, given the scope and overall solidity of the turntable. That said, it’s obvious that the motor is closely related to that of the Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon (which I owned for some years), which came with a similar power supply but was an impeccable performer. The DC power it provides is transformed within the AC motor, and I had faith that the motor would spin at an accurate and consistent speed.

That said, I was disheartened to discover that, once up and spinning for a few days to get the whole thing broken in, the consistency of speed was not what I expected from a turntable of this pedigree. Using the Android RPM Speed & Wow app, verified across two devices and referenced to my VPI Prime Signature, I measured the 2-sigma wow at 0.40%. That number is significantly higher than the 0.07% of my VPI and the 0.08% of its predecessor, the Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon. I removed the platter and discovered that the white grease that originally coated the bearing axle was now black. So, I flushed out the bearing with isopropyl alcohol, gave it a good rogering with paper towel wrapped around the end of a disposable chopstick, and polished up the axle nice and clean.

I re-lubricated the bearing with the supplied grease, put it back together, and let it spin. A day later, the M8xTT had settled down to a nice, even 0.10%, which is right on the money. I suspect some debris had been left in the bearing well from the machining process. Anyway, it was an easy enough fix.

In this wacky analog world of basically zero standards, I discovered that only two of the four cartridges I had on hand would fit the M8xTT’s arm without extra help. The DS Audio DS 003 cartridge that I’ve been using for the past year is a little less than 14mm tall. The X-quisite Voro (review forthcoming) is 15mm tall. The M8xTT’s tonearm is quite thick, and the headshell-to-record height is even higher. With either of those two cartridges set to a reasonable VTA, the heel of the headshell hit vinyl before the stylus made touchdown. I could get these cartridges to work, but I had to raise the pivot point of the arm so high that VTA was an outrageous 20 degrees or so off horizontal.

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That said, the Ortofon Quintet Blue (18.5mm tall) and the EAT Jo N°8 (18.7mm) fit perfectly, so I used the EAT for the first part of my listening. In the meantime, I got my audiophile-curious neighbor Rob to spin me up a couple of spacers out of some 6mm composite material he had lying around. With a 6mm spacer, the DS Audio cartridge fit just perfectly.

Long story short: if your cartridge is less than about 17mm tall, you’ll probably need to add spacers to use it with the M8xTT’s arm. I did some investigation, and it seems that Pro-Ject manufactures headshell spacers that would be perfect for this application. I also discovered that there’s a thriving cottage industry out there that makes spacers out of all kinds of exotic materials. Who knew?

Around back, the terminal block accommodates both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR connections. As I’ve mentioned before, the output from a moving-coil cartridge is a balanced signal—positive and negative rather than positive and ground. The ground connection is still available via the connection to the tonearm, and there’s a ground connector on the terminal block.

My Aqvox Phono 2 CI preamp accepts a fully balanced signal via XLR into its current-amplified circuit. I had a set of RCA-to-XLR cables custom-made for this phono stage as few companies make turntables with balanced XLR outputs, although the trend seems to be catching on. During my time with the overachieving EAT moving-coil cartridge mounted on the M8xTT, I tried both the RCA output using my Nordost RCA-to-XLR cables, and the XLR output using Nordost Tyr 2 balanced cables. Swapping these cables around did not change the sound quality, which makes sense given their similar provenance.

For the DS Audio optical cartridge, I used the EMM Labs DS-EQ1 optical phono stage. Optical phono stages don’t accept XLR inputs, and the output of optical cartridges is not balanced, so I used the M8xTT’s RCA outputs into the RCA inputs of the DS-EQ1.

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In use, the M8xTT is a pleasure. The leather platter mat is delightful—it doesn’t seem affected by static, and the moment of touchdown on the LP surface is soft and forgiving. Push the motor’s single button once and the platter starts up at 33⅓ rpm. It takes a while to get up to speed—perhaps a bit longer than is ideal—but a quick manual spin of the platter before startup (always a good idea for belt longevity) helps it along nicely. Push the button again and the motor spools up to 45 rpm. A long push turns the motor off.

The cueing lever is well damped, and it’s safe just to flick it down once you get the arm to the right position. At the end of play, the arm slips back into the arm rest with the assistance of a small magnet. As you move the arm near the arm rest, the magnet sucks it in the rest of the way. It’s a small thing, but in action, it’s a joy.

Watching that platter spin, with the split in the middle and the pillars that join it flashing by in an almost-blurred chronophotographic manner, was mesmerizing. That motion, combined with the clear acrylic and the bright polished-steel accents, caught the light just so, making it seem like a science-fiction superstructure. I found myself kneeling in front of the M8xTT so that I could view the ’table with my eyes peering through the acrylic—I wanted to walk around in there, a miniature Jason striding around inside a crystalline city. Yeah—I really love how this turntable looks.

Those substantial magnetic feet worked extremely well at keeping the outside out. With the needle in the groove and the platter stationary, a solid whomp on my rack yielded total silence. With the platter spinning, I could detect no noise from the motor. It’s clear that Musical Fidelity has carefully built out this design. The silence, the isolation from both its own internal moving parts and outside environmental influences, is notable.

Methods of Dance

The two cartridges I used for evaluation—the EAT and the DS Audio—sound so different from each other that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re reading different records. As I’ve mentioned in my editorial about this topic, the DS Audio optical cartridge, running through the EMM Labs DS-EQ1 phono stage, can be difficult to differentiate from a similar digital stream played via the magnificent Meitner Audio MA3 streaming DAC. This is something I’ve written about at length when covering optical cartridges—they sound wildly different from their magnetic distant cousins.

That said, with both of these cartridges, the general personality of the M8xTT shone through. However, most of my listening was with the DS 003 / DS-EQ1 combination.

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The M8xTT is a muscular-sounding turntable. Despite its airy, ethereal appearance, the M8xTT exhibited a solid grip on the music, especially through the bass and into the lower midrange. In the midrange, the M8xTT presented as utterly coherent, with an uncanny ability to untangle complex music.

Supertramp’s Even in the Quietest Moments . . . is so heavily biased toward the midrange that it tends to dissolve into a gelatinous mess, given half a chance. Even the cymbals seem to descend into the midrange. I have a half-speed-mastered version (A&M Records SPJ 4634), but even that has generally left me cold. But the music is magnificent! “From Now On” has a regal sense of majesty that’s musical genius. The M8xTT actively decoded this mess. I could hear the rhythm guitar as a discrete instrument, whereas it’s normally buried beneath heaping dollops of piano.

Flipping over to side 1, “Give a Little Bit” starts off with an emo-style 12-string guitar that threads right through the whole track. It’s finely detailed in the opening, and it gets progressively harder to keep it distinct once the other instruments start to crowd it out. The M8xTT did right by that guitar.

No record in my collection showcased the M8xTT’s grip on the bass and its transition to a clear, open midrange better than St. Vincent’s MassEducation (Loma Vista LVR00448). SoundStage! founder and publisher Doug Schneider turned me on to this album. It’s entirely acoustic, mostly with an enormous piano riding under St. Vincent’s rich, evocative voice. With both the piano and voice sharing the same acoustic plane, the M8xTT concocted a vast soundstage; one that benefited hugely from a lack of noise, combined with a feeling of latent power in the lower registers.

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The giant lower-key strikes on “Savior” leaped out with huge power, launching a solid wave of pressure into the room. There are a few of those low notes that just jump right out, among others that sound like pianist Thomas Bartlett is banging away on the actual strings, resulting in a twangy, hollow sound. The combination of these three elements—St. Vincent’s voice, the low-register piano notes, and the percussive effects—was magnificent through the M8xTT. The result was perfect image definition, combined with realistic placement and substantial depth.

“Los Ageless” is the standout track on this album, which is, I might add, a fantastic pressing and one you really need to hear. The M8xTT, with its utter silence, impressed me even more on this song—throwing up a massive acoustic in which piano and voice floated without any sense of artifice or mechanism.

For some reason, the M8xTT kept pulling me back into the ’80s, guiding me toward records I hadn’t listened to in quite some time. It was the M8xTT’s clarity through the midrange that made rock records sound so much more detailed than they really are, I think. The actual vinyl of Joe Jackson’s Body and Soul (A&M Records SP-5000) lives free-range in my record rack, dressed only in a singlet, while the sleeve is framed and hung on the wall, just above my Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 sleeve. So, it’s not surprising that I don’t pull it out that often, given that I can’t see the spine when I’m browsing. Still, out it came, and I spent a nostalgic half-hour drenched in this well-recorded album.

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Again, the M8xTT’s precision opened up the record, presenting this sometimes-busy album as if it were a giant painting—one of those huge, Dutch-master conglomerations of a city scene, with stuff going on in every corner. “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” has got it all—horns, funky bass, a fruity piano—and it’s here that I really got the measure of the M8xTT. Those low-end and midrange qualities I mentioned earlier complemented the M8xTT’s open, precise top end. The horns have a fair bit of spit on them in this track, and the M8xTT spread it out in a fine mist of high frequencies. Not harsh up top, that’s for sure. In fact, the M8xTT was notable here for the lushness that it imparted to the top end of the horns, but there was a very small amount of prominence to the upper mids and into the treble.

I found the way the M8xTT handled the highs to be most endearing. The slight elevation up top perfectly balanced the meaty, muscular bottom end, lending a sense of bounce to music such as Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) (A&M Records SP-6-4928). The title track just lopes along, doing that chugga-chugga steam-train thing, and I found my head rocking back and forth in time with the beat as the juicy bass pulled me along. Combined with that snappy low end, the crisp synth and guitars rose upward into the cymbals, which just sparkled with a carbonated effervescence.

The M8xTT is not a forward-sounding turntable, but it is a bit larger than life in all directions. Just to let all the haters know that I’m not stuck in the music of the last 40 years, I threw on Vladimir Ashkenazy’s 1973 recording of Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata in G Major (London Records CS6820). I chose this record because it’s so huge, so massive—a piano piece that slows time down in a relativistic manner. I was spinning in orbit around the planet that is Ashkenazy’s piano, and the clocks run slower up there. The entire first movement, “Fantasie,” is an exercise in slow-motion capture—huge piano notes that swallow galaxies, with Ashkenazy carefully considering each key before he depresses it.

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The M8xTT did what it does best here: gripping and controlling the notes, retaining control over the speed and pace of the music while throwing out a huge image from a background as black as the space between stars. Delicious.

Tiny Diamond

The M8xTT is a wonderful turntable. Of course, you have to be able to live with acrylic. It scratches easily and shows dust like salt stains on black leather. You gotta be careful cleaning it, too. Rub it too hard and it’ll swirl. Don’t use this, don’t use that—it’s a bit like adopting a tropical fish. But if you are careful and deliberate, clear, clean acrylic looks like nothing else. It’s like the whole turntable is carved from diamond.

I have a couple of other caveats. Based on my experience, I’d check the speed to make sure it’s consistent, and see if your cartridge will fit in the arm without a spacer.

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That aside, I was absolutely smitten by this turntable’s appearance, build quality, and sound. Watching the M8xTT as it spun that Schubert sonata, I couldn’t help but appreciate the genius of the turntable, how it’s all distilled down to a tiny piece of mineral rubbing on a sheet of plastic. The M8xTT’s crystalline chrome-and-acrylic chassis, the visual effect of the spinning platter, the way the deck rises up from its wide base to the pinnacle of the tonearm’s headshell—it’s a purposely built machine that thrilled me every time I looked at it.

. . . Jason Thorpe

Associated Equipment

  • Analog source: VPI Prime Signature turntable with EAT Jo N°8, DS Audio DS 003, DS Audio W3, and X-quisite Voro cartridges.
  • Digital source: Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Meitner Audio MA3.
  • Phono preamplifiers: Aqvox Phono 2 CI, iFi Audio iPhono 3 Black Label, Hegel Music Systems V10, EMM Labs DS-EQ1, Meitner DS-EQ2.
  • Preamplifiers: Sonic Frontiers SFL-2, Hegel Music Systems P30A.
  • Power amplifier: Hegel Music Systems H30A.
  • Integrated amplifiers: Hegel Music Systems H120, Eico HF-81.
  • Speakers: Focus Audio FP60 BE, Estelon YB, Aurelia Cerica XL, Totem Acoustic Sky Towers.
  • Speaker cables: Audience Au24 SX, Nordost Tyr 2, Crystal Cable Art Series Monet.
  • Interconnects: Audience Au24 SX, Furutech Ag-16, Nordost Tyr 2, Crystal Cable Diamond Series 2.
  • Power cords: Audience FrontRow, Nordost Vishnu.
  • Power conditioner: Quantum QBase QB8 Mk II.
  • Accessories: Little Fwend tonearm lift, VPI Cyclone record-cleaning machine, Furutech Destat III.

Musical Fidelity M8xTT turntable
Price: $10,499.
Warranty: Two years, parts and labor.

Musical Fidelity
Margaretenstrasse 98
A-1050 Vienna
Phone: +43 1-5448580

Email: info@musicalfidelity.com
Website: www.musicalfidelity.com