Review: Argon Audio TT-4 Special Edition

Special edition with improved sound

Argon Audio has given the turntable a significant upgrade. Which is audible.

Published 2023-11-20 - 12:00 pm
Argon Audio TT-4 Special Edition
Lasse Svendsen

Argon Audio calls the turntable a Special Edition, but the changes are quite subtle and they come at a price. The TT-4 Special Edition costs quite a bit more than the player it’s based on, and apart from the fact that it comes in five layers of high-gloss black lacquer, you can’t tell the difference between this and a regular TT-4.

However, the player is labelled Special Edition in neatly sculpted letters and the felt mat has been replaced by a rubber mat. The disc has been damped on the underside to further reduce resonances The biggest difference is in the pickup. Argon Audio has replaced the Ortofon 2M Red with 2M Bronze, and it’s a good choice.

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Although Argon is not known for turntables, they can easily be included.

The 2M Bronze is one of Ortofon’s best midrange moving magnet cartridges and offers a significant boost in sound quality compared to the 2M Red. The Bronze is also slightly more expensive and contributes greatly to the TT-4 Special Edition costing more than a regular TT-4.

The pickup is manufactured with better tolerances than the 2M Red. It doesn’t need as much needle pressure to track optimally and has a sharper grind that is more linear and should, in theory, pull more of the music and less of the noise out of the grooves.

The Ortofon 2M Bronze is a marked improvement from the 2M Red. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

Another thing: With a Bronze edition, you have the option to upgrade to the 2M Black, which is a staple with even better features.

Otherwise, the turntable is similar to the TT-4. It’s a belt-driven design with electronic speed control. The arm is the same 8.8-inch aluminium arm clad in carbon fibre, with a removable pickup housing. The arm tube is stabilised with ATS (Anisotropic Torsion Stabilizer), which dampens resonances in the 450-500 Hz range. Inside, the arm has improved cabling for the RCA output. The built-in phono stage for MM can be disconnected if you prefer to use a different phono stage.

The built-in phono stage is for MM only (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

Measurements

The player comes with a dust cover and detachable cables, and the pickup is pre-mounted in the headshell. Apart from putting on the rubber strap and placing the plate, you just need to balance the arm with the counterweight and set the needle pressure and anti-skating to 1.5.

When we tested the TT-4, we measured the speed at 33.56, which gave a deviation of +0.69 per cent. This is not a large deviation and we measured wow & flutter at a low 0.27 per cent. The TT-4 Special Edition is more accurate, the speed deviation is only +0.07 per cent, which means a speed of 33.36 rpm. Wow & flutter, on the other hand, is slightly higher at 0.49 per cent, but within the range. And on par with the Rega Planar 3 50th Anniversary, which happens to cost the same as the TT-4 Special Edition.

The arm actually has height adjustment (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

More open soundstage with pronounced focus

This means that competition in this class is fierce. The Rega player is not the only one that plays well in the same price range. Pro-Ject Debut Pro, Reloop Turn 5 and Technics SL100C are very good alternatives.

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The Reloop and Technics player come with the same pickup as the TT-4 SE, both also have rock-steady direct drive, and the Pro-Ject player is slightly cheaper.

Which one is best depends on what kind of sound you prefer, what music you play and what’s most important. The deepest and most stable bass is found in the Technics SL-100C and the Rega player, but the TT-4 SE proves that we were right in our test of the TT-4, where we wrote:

“The arm is clearly built for bigger tasks than an Ortofon 2M Red and will certainly elevate the sound even more with a better pickup, should you get the courage to upgrade.”

Electronic speed switch. (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

A TT-4 is an excellent player for the price and one of the best buys in its class. The special edition with 2M Bronze gives the sound an audible boost.

Much of what we know from the TT-4 is also found here. The full-bodied sound with solid bass reproduction has become more open and better focussed on the Special Edition with the 2M Bronze pickup. There’s more of Jan Gunnar Hoff’s piano playing on Living, and there’s more depth to the sound. On Dire Strait’s Love Over Gold, the cymbals are more sharply defined and the guitar sound is fuller.

The sound is bigger, more stable and there’s a much greater degree of transparency. This is noticeable on live recordings like Pat Metheny’s Side Eye NYC. Here, there’s both more powerful percussion and better dynamics in a wider soundstage.

The special edition comes with important upgrades (Photo: Lasse Svendsen)

Conclusion

With a lavish design and a better pickup, the Argon Audio TT-4 Special Edition is a better player than the player it’s based on. You could argue that you could upgrade from 2M Red to Bronze on a regular TT-4 and get a significant boost in sound quality. This is true, but it won’t save you money. In fact, it will cost you more to upgrade than buying a TT-4 SE to begin with. Which is an excellent turntable whose only problem is that competition in this particular class is fierce.

Karakter
Argon Audio TT-4 Special Edition
Premium

We think

Much better pickup enhances the sound with greater transparency and multiple timbres. Looks exclusive in five layers of black lacquer. The built-in phono stage is for MM pickups only.

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