Thiele and Analog Relax Join Absolute Sounds

Thiele joins Absolute SoundsAnalog Relax joins Absolute Sounds

As vinyl’s resurgence continues apace, high-end audio distributor Absolute Sounds adds another turntable manufacturer (Thiele) and cartridge maker (Analog Relax) to its roster of brands.

Sales of vinyl records increased for the 16th consecutive year in 2023, with 5.9 million units sold in the UK alone, so it stands to reason that demand for turntables at all price levels has also continued to rise. Absolute Sounds has responded to this demand by building a portfolio of some of the vinyl scene’s brightest luminaries, including Döhmann, Reed and TechDAS.

Keen to further extend its vinyl offering, Absolute Sounds has spent the last 12 months auditioning turntables, arms and cartridges from a range of manufacturers. At the end of this process, two companies were selected – German turntable and tonearm producer Thiele and Japanese phono cartridge maker Analog Relax.

Thiele’s founder, Helmut Thiele, boasts an impressive CV in the field of audio design. He has held the position of chief designer at turntable specialist Thorens for more than 10 years and has worked with an impressive array of brands including Acoustic Research, Marantz, Mordaunt-Short, Parasound, Pioneer and Tannoy.

Three years ago, Thiele launched the first products under his own name – the TT01 turntable and TA01 tonearm. He began developing the tonearm in 2009, creating multiple protypes before finally perfecting its ‘zero tracking error’ design. When the matching turntable was ready – painstakingly designed to be the tonearm’s perfect partner – both were made available to analogue afficionados in Germany in 2021. Now, Thiele is reaching out to passionate vinyl lovers around the world.  

The TT01 turntable features ‘constrained layer damping’, its internal construction divided into three levels to ensure that interference from the drive motor is kept away from the tonearm and cartridge.

The lower level incorporates the motor and its associated electronics, the XLR output terminal and three adjustable feet that couple the TT01 to the turntable support. The centre level, externally edged in silver, is connected to the lower and upper levels by a special damping adhesive and carries only the arm board and tonearm, while the platter bearing and control panel are mounted on the top level. A large linear power supply unit is kept offboard, entirely separated from the main chassis.

Each level’s vibration control is optimised using different types of wood and wood composites. This construction, utilising multiple isolated levels with a specific mix of materials, eliminates all forms of vibration from drive level to tonearm level, enabling the cartridge to dig every drop of detail from a record’s grooves, unsullied by interference.

The complex kinematics of the partnering Thiele TA01 tonearm combine the precise guidance of a pivoted arm with the advantages of a linear tracking design, delivering a low lateral tracking angle error of less than 0.036 degrees. The arm tube consists of not one but two coaxially arranged carbon fibre tubes, one inside the other, with a special damping gel filling the space between them.

The TA01’s headshell and the coupling struts of the arm bearing incorporate ebony wood, favoured for its acoustic damping properties (even the turntable’s spindle is made of ebony). The combination of engineering and painstaking attention to detail pays sonic dividends that include enhanced spatial resolution, detail retrieval and strong tonality.

The Thiele TT01 turntable and TA01 tonearm are made in Germany and now available in the UK for the first time via Absolute Sounds. The UK RRP for the TT01 in its standard anthracite finish is £24,500, including the TA01 arm and RM01 resonance-damping platter mat. Custom finishes using any colour from the RAL colour matching system may also be requested.

The TA01 tonearm can also be purchased separately to use with other turntables, with prices ranging from £11,500 to £15,000 according to connection type and a choice of aluminium or gold-plated bronze metal parts.

Yasushi Yurugi, the founder of cartridge maker Analog Relax, is a Japanese craftsman of the highest calibre, says the company’s new distributor. He is also something of an ‘analogue crusader’, not simply in terms of vinyl evangelism but also in relation to the wider ‘digital world’. Digital information is all-pervasive, he argues; our brains don’t get a minute’s rest. We are ‘analogue’ creatures living in an ‘analogue’ world – take the time to interact with that world and feed your physical senses, and your mind and body will thank you.

The concept of being at one with yourself and the world around you is embedded deep within Japanese culture and is also central to Yasushi’s philosophy. He makes phono cartridges with bodies carved from exotic woods selected for their acoustic properties, fashioning perfectly realised marvels of microengineering with exceptional skill. The pleasure generated by these beautifully crafted physical objects, each fulfilling a singular purpose – to deliver glorious, living, breathing sound from a vinyl record – is a perfect example of the joy of ‘analogue living’.

There are four cartridges in the Analog Relax range, all moving coil designs (as opposed to moving magnet). The entry-level model is the EX300 (£2,698), sporting a body made from beeswax-finished walnut – a tonewood used for guitars – and an elliptical diamond stylus. The EX500 (£4,998) steps up to Romanian maple, favoured by violin makers for its tonal qualities, with an enhanced version of the EX300’s elliptical stylus. According to Absolute Sounds, these two cartridges exceed the sound quality of any they have experienced below £3,000 and £5,000 respectively – and they have heard the very best.

Next in the range is the EX1000 (£10,998), its body fashioned from 2000-year-old Yakusugi cedar from Yakushima Island. These trees are protected by law and wood must be sourced from trees that have already been felled, adding to its rarity. The wood’s natural resin content and fine, densely packed wood grains, formed through centuries of growing in harsh conditions, endow the cartridge with an unmistakably pure, organic quality that simply sounds ‘right’. This is combined with Analog Relax’s Super Line Contact Version 2 diamond stylus and ruby cantilever.

Top of the line is the new EX2000 (£15,000), featuring a body carved from the finest spruce from the South Tyrol region of Northern Italy – a tonewood highly prized by preeminent stringed instrument makers since the time of Stradivari. An ultra-fine powder coating is applied to the surface of the cartridge body, enhancing the wood’s organic resonance to maximise the EX2000’s extraordinarily engaging and natural sound. Its stylus is the Super Curve Line Contact Version 3, a further evolution of the Version 2 stylus used for the EX1000, combined with a precision-machined diamond cantilever.

Speaking about the addition of Thiele and Analog Relax to Absolute Sounds’ distribution portfolio, Ricardo Franassovici – Absolute Sounds’ founder and Managing Director – says, “Vinyl has once again become a vital part of the high-end audio scene, with strong demand for ‘forever’ turntables that will do full justice to a treasured record collection and become timeless heirloom pieces. But if we were to add to our vinyl replay portfolio, which already includes such peerless luminaries as Döhmann, TechDAS and Reed, it had to be something very special…

“We scoured the world and trialled many highly reputed brands, some of which are truly impressive. But none stirred our souls as much as Thiele and Analog Relax. Both these makers apply unique creativity and engineering for the sole purpose of achieving world-class analogue sound – without question, they have emphatically succeeded.”

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