Rarely do you find an
intermediate level turntable that performs as well as the Gemini
SA600 and what a pleasure it has been to use. For those who began
their dj career using the humble SoundLAB or XL500s, you will
know exactly how inadequate budget equipment can be. Not only do you
have to put up with a poor performance but also your ever so precious
style rating drops right through the floor. Enter the
SA600, the savour of all intermediate decks.
Finished in a black, highly
polished gloss effect with complimentary silver/chrome straight tone
arm and buttons, the Gemini SA600 certainly does look the business.
In addition to the designer aesthetics the Gemini feels like it has
been built well from within and has a sturdy overall construction.
The shear weight alone is an indication that the SA600 will withstand
the inevitable barrage of bumps and scrapes all decks go through
during their life and with a bit of care should last you a long time.
Of course looks dont mean a thing if the deck cant
perform so lets investigate the features a little further.
the most important aspect of a turntable is the strength and
stability of the direct drive motor. After taking the SA600 for a
quick spin my immediate impressions were nice, very nice!
Although it did seem to be a little slow of the mark, once up to
speed the motor felt strong and responsive. The slow start up might
sound like a bad thing but its really not a problem when
performing. Compare the pick up time to other decks in the same class
as the SA600 and you will soon see the difference between them all is
negligible. Lets not forget were talking fractions of a
second here so we shouldnt get picky. A sure-fire sign of a
weak motor is the minimal amount of pressure required to stop the
platter spinning whilst holding or cueing up a record. Whilst using
the SA600 it was very reassuring to feel the motor fighting against
my work and maintaining a constant revolution speed. Only the
heavy-handed should have a problem and if you do find the platter
slowing right down it would probably be best to take a look at your
cueing technique. A quick test of the feather touch start/stop button
and the brake renders the wheel motionless, not even the slightest
screech as it came to a halt, no problems there at all!
Featured adjacent to the
pitch slider on the right we have the pitch bend buttons. For those
who prefer not to nudge or slow the record manually this feature will
no doubt appeal to you. In laymans terms the pitch bend
replicates the hands on manipulation of vinyl allowing you to gently
nudge or slow down a record by a very slight amount. For those who
like to ride the mix for as long as possible this handy little
feature will help to keep those beats in sync should they start to
drift apart at the crucial moment.
Jumping further to the right
we have the main pitch slider offering a respectable +/- 10% sliding
scale. I mentioned earlier that the platter was responsive and this
links in directly with the pitch slider movement. I found that even
the slightest adjustments were reflected in the platter speed and for
an intermediate level deck I was impressed yet again. Like most new
turntables the dead lock zone around the 0% region has been removed
to ensure a fluid movement throughout the whole range. Most
turntables have now opted for a pitch reset button that
when pressed sets the pitch back to zero, irrespective of slider
position. Strangely enough though the Gemini SA600 doesnt seem
to have one, not that this is a problem. The only indication that you
are quartz locked is when the LED lights up in the
all-familiar shade of green. Having found the pitch reset button on
other decks useless Ive actually come to prefer this method and
the certain amount of subtlety it suggests.
Over the past year or two
manufacturers like Vestax and Stanton have begun to stray away from
tone arm convention and have opted for straight rather
than the traditional s-shaped arm. The idea behind this
technology is to eliminate the centrifugal forces that are exerted on
the tone arm as it rests and moves across the surface of the vinyl.
conventional decks that employ an s-shaped tone arm you
will find an anti-skate adjustment dial. Essentially this device
serves the same purpose, counteracting against these unwanted forces
and thus helping to reduce acoustic feedback. The SA600 is the first
release in the Gemini range to feature straight arm technology but
things arent as clear cut as they first might seem. If the
straight tone arm eliminates centrifugal forces then there
shouldnt be any need for anti-skate right? The guys at Vestax
think so, as do the guys at Stanton but the tech heads at Gemini must
know something that the rest of us dont. Sure enough, situated
in its normal top right position along side the counter weight we see
the anti-skate dial.
The down side to a straight
tone arm is that the unorthodox stylus alignment can cause addition
wear and tare to both vinyl and needle. Looking at the SA600 tone arm
set up, dubbed the G-Force, I suspect that the inclusion
of an anti-skate device is due to the specific angle at which the
headshell has been aligned in respect to the actual tone arm. The
word from Gemini is that the specifically angled headshell has been
designed to work in conjunction with conical and elliptical styli.
Perhaps we are looking at a hybrid technology here? During actual
operation the straight tone arm handled well and out performs your
average turntable whilst scratching. Straight arm technology can only
be described as a scratch artists dream come true and with the
centrifugal forces now removed the needle tends to stick in the
groove like space age glue.
The only thing missing from
this deck would be the height adjustable tone arm and possibly
reverse play for added creativity. Of course Gemini has already
thought of this and has also released a big brother to
this turntable that includes a whole host of extra features. If your
budget can stretch to the SA2400 then you really will have a
turntable to battle with. When designing the SA600, Gemini have not
tried to fight the up hill battle in order to compete against the
Vestax or Technics giants. What they have done is put together a very
respectable turntable with a great all round performance and stylish
looks to boot! Its been geared primarily towards those djs who
would like to get a real taste of what this sort of equipment is
capable of but are not looking to break the bank balance in the
process. This is where the SA600 excels, it offers great value for
money and when compared to others in the same price range theres
only one real competitor, the Stanton STR8-60, the rest out there
just dont come close.