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Gemini Goes Straight
Paul Wright

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 XL500’s, 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 don’t mean a thing if the deck can’t perform so lets investigate the features a little further.

Arguably 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 it’s 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. Let’s not forget we’re talking fractions of a second here so we shouldn’t 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 layman’s 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 doesn’t 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 I’ve 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.

On 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 aren’t as clear cut as they first might seem. If the straight tone arm eliminates centrifugal forces then there shouldn’t 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 don’t. 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 artist’s 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! It’s 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 there’s only one real competitor, the Stanton STR8-60, the rest out there just don’t come close.






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