The Dr. Feickert Volare Turntable Review. Analog Dreams.
By Steve Huff
For the last 15 years or so I have played the game with my Hi-Fi where I go back and forth with having an analog setup within my system.
I always question myself…”Is it worth it”?
My video I did on the Volare shortly after it arrived.
The problem is that I have a track record of being disappointed long term with almost all turntables I have purchased but after 15 years the tide has now changed. I have recently discovered a brand that has turned me around fully on vinyl, and this is my review, my thoughts and my opinion of the Dr. Feckert Volare Turntable.
Oh and this is the “Starter” table in the Feickert lineup but for me, it has bested tables I have had that cost a couple of grand more.
Let’s face it. Vinyl has issues. It’s old tech. It’s noisy. It’s tricky. Setup is key and at times can be a pain. Buying used records for a few dollars sometimes pans out and other times does not. As we gain albums in our collection we will eventually need a cleaning solution as well. Vinyl requires maintenance. We also can not control the tunes with a tablet or phone, so there is no convenience here. Rather we must get up and change the sides when the last song is over.
Truly enjoying a vinyl system also requires careful matching with a cartridge and preamp to get the most from it. For these reasons, some HiFi fans steer clear of vinyl. For others, these are the exact reasons to get into a vinyl system. The system building and trying out new things is a huge part of this hobby, this passion, this craziness.
For those of us who grew up with Vinyl, the nostalgia of it all may just be what keeps us wanting to spin those discs again and again, even if they do not sound as good as our modern day digital playback. I have friends with nice two channel audio systems and I would say about 40% of them have a vinyl setup within their audio playback chain. Most have something like this Project or even a Clearaudio like this one and they enjoy listening to a record every now and again. A couple of friends of mine own truly high end analog system and they listen to vinyl every day. One guy I know has invested $40k into his Vinyl Playback. Ouch!
It Always Sounded Like a Good Idea
Since I was in my 30’s I have always thought the idea of having an analog rig in my system sounded good, but when I added a decent table, cartridge and pre amp and sat down to listen I was always disappointed in what I heard. Today our digital playback is so good it eclipses most moderately priced analog rigs in the sound department, and for less cash outlay so making the case for vinyl can be tough. With new records costing $25-$50 each it’s not an easy choice especially when we can hear these same songs via streaming with services we already subscribe to.
Even so, Vinyl is very ritualistic. Buy an album, keep the static and dust off, place it on the table, lower the needle, sit back and listen, get up and change sides, place record back in its sleeve. Clean it every now and again. I enjoy this process as it keeps me listening to full albums instead of just one song here and there but it has to sound good. This ritual means nothing if you dislike the sound.
I was always trying to get a sound from my records that bettered my digital but this dream (or delusion) never manifested. I was always let down by the sound of vinyl.
I was just about to finally fully give up on vinyl playback in 2020 due to the fact that my streaming setup sounds so magical, and no vinyl playback system I have owned has ever been able to meet or exceed it.
Getting into vinyl today can be extremely affordable or extremely expensive depending on your goals for your analog setup. Do you just want background music? If so, something like this is recommended. Want to sit down in a sweet spot and enjoy the details, soundstage and wrap around sound? Well, this is when you need to invest more into analog than you do digital. To get there will take some cash and careful matching of cartridge.
That matching and synergy thing is important as in the past when I would spend say $5k on a table, then $1k on a cartridge and then $150 on a pre amp, I would have buyers remorse as it just never could match the level of sound quality that my digital front end would produce. Being out that kind of cash hurts when you do not enjoy the outcome for long enjoyment. Even with those fancy new $50 and up “audiophile” pressings I never heard the magic in my vinyl system like I did with my digital.
This is also why I have never really reviewed a turntable other than one that I thought was a good value. The ones that cost me more never lived up to the hype for me in the past in build or performance. I once had a $5500 table and the built in interconnects broke within 2 weeks. Had to go in for warranty repair and then I sold it as that was not acceptable to me for that kind of cash outlay.
I never thought I would find an analog setup that gave me goosebumps. One that would bring me the sound I thought (and remembered) should be pouring out of my speakers.
Well, now all of this has changed and as I sit here right now writing this I am listening to a four album set by Eva Cassidy that has me sucked in to the music and actually sounds better than the digital equivalent streaming through my $7k digital front end. Swapping to an original Queen Pressing of “The Game” brings the same results. Kicking bass, chest thumping drive and a nice bug fat expansive sound that fills my larger space I now have for vinyl.
In fact this new analog setup I have here took me 15 years to find because it is the first one that has given me full happiness and satisfaction with the sound, even surpassing my $7k digital front end with some albums. I have been listening now for a couple of months and I listen almost daily to albums, some of which I have owned since age 9! I wanted to wait a while before I reviewed in case something changed, or broke or failed. None of that happened and instead, I enjoy this system more and more each day.
In the past I have owned tables from VPI (nice), Clearaudio (also nice), Technics, Michell, Nottingham, McIntosh (the green glowing platter) and so many more. I have tried tables that cost $160 and tables that cost upwards of $5500. None of them made me FULLY happy and many were sold 6-8 weeks after purchase, which is when I always vowed to never again get back into vinyl. I do still own the $169 Angels Horn table and plan to gift it to a family member. It’s actually quite decent for the $169 price tag. Great for a background or room filling music listening session but not for critical or full quality listening.
The Big Move
When we moved last year cross country I remember packing up all of my albums. I do not own a ton, maybe 400 or so. Alot, yes, but nothing like some who own thousands of records.
I said to Debby “Maybe I should just sell all of these to the local record shop before we move”. She told me not to do that as I would regret it. She was right. Many of these albums I have owned sine I was a kid and some I spent bug bucks for over the last 10 years. A few are not available for streaming anywhere and are pretty rare. I decided to keep them, and bring them along thinking I would set up a nice little vinyl only system in a room one day, and keep digital out of that system.
After we got settled in and I researched for months I decided to give vinyl one more go, and this time I would focus more on the cartridge and the pre amp rather than only just the table.
A few months back I purchased a Dr. Feickert Volare turntable, in Walnut, from Dedicated Audio. Dan who owns and runs Dedicated gave me some cartridge recommendations that ranged from $800 to a few grand and I chose one that I had my eye on for years, the Koetsu Black Goldline. While it comes in at $2995 retail I wanted to try a really nice cartridge this time, as it would be my last attempt at building a killer analog rig. You can see my review of the Koetsu HERE.
Yes you are right. In no way was this “affordable” or “simple” but this I said “would be my final try”.
When the table arrived I had to assemble it all and it was my first time assembling a table on my own. In the past, my dealers would do the dirty work for me which made it easy for me to just plug and play. The Arm, the Platter, the Cartridge. It took me about 2 hours and when it was all dialed in and set up I was ready to play an album and hear what the sound was like. I also found a satisfaction in completing the setup all on my own, and felt like I learned a few things along the way which is always good. I was ready to rock and roll.
I did not yet have a higher end phono pre amp that matched the level of the table and cart though. I was using a basic but REALLY GOOD $299 MoFi Studio. See my review HERE. Since that review I have also heard one pre amp. that bested the MoFi for less. THIS ONE is cheaper and quite better, plays with the bigger boys in the pre amp realm.
My video on the $189 iFi Zen Phono. I also compare it to other units from $299 to $5000!
I later added a Pass Labs XP-15 Phono Preamp (on review loan from Pass Labs) and some new cables (Cardas Clear Reflection) and this is where things changed dramatically.
My All Time Fave
Before I get more into my thoughts on the sound experience of this table I have to say that the Dr. Feickert Volare is my favorite table of all that I have bought and tried over the last 15 years. It truly is.
The second place prize goes to the VPI Prime with a Clearaudio Maestro V2. That was an excellent table as well but still did not bring me what the Volare does in regards to sound. I am sure if I did invest back then in a nicer cartridge or phono pre, things may have been different. Even so, I like the Feickert Volare even more than that VPI prime in looks, build, size, ease of use and set up, function and sound. It’s a bit retro with the short squat design as well as so polished in its function.
The Volare in Walnut is gorgeous to look at. It’s over 40lbs with a massive aluminum platter (from the more pricey Feickert offerings) and beefy walnut platform. It has spiked feet with cool little metal discs that they sit on. It is compatible with a variety of arms but my arm of choice was the Origin Live MKII which comes with the table.
There are buttons on the table which makes it an easy switch between speeds. 33, 45 or 78 at the touch of a button. The motor is dead silent as well and more quiet than my VPI and even Clearaudio Performance DC was, both of which had a slight hum. There are even + and – speed buttons to adjust the speed perfectly. I dialed mine into 33 1/3 and 45rpm using a free app on my phone, so I have absolute perfect speed and pitch. I have never owned a table that offered this and it is a killer feature to have.
Sometimes the speeds may be off on a table and we have no way to adjust but Dr Feickert has put on these adjustable speed buttons to make it easy to dial it in just right.
The platter is metal and beefy and comes with a rubber mat. It’s a gorgeous package and considering the price of the table and arm is under $3800 makes this the first turntable I have purchased that feels like a bargain. This “feels and looks” like a $5-6k table.
Getting back to the sound of this table with the Koetsu Black Goldine cartridge…it is sublime. Once I added in the Pass Labs XP-15 Phono Pre amp the sound just became very open and dimensional with phenomenal bass performance. There was depth like I have not heard with my previous setups. There was everything I heard with my digital, but now it was with the analog warmth and body we alway hear about with vinyl. Of course, this is how it should be when you spend this kind of cash on a table, cartridge and preamp.
I recently setup this vinyl only system in my guest house (which also serves as my video studio and well, a place for guests to sleep) which now consists of my Volare, Pass Labs XP-15 and believe it or not a little PS Audio Sprout 100. The speakers in this system are my beloved Klipsch Heresy IV which are now part of the family, like children ; ) I just love these speakers to death, and they always deliver the sound I love. Nothing like the older models, these new Version 4’s are for me, THE speaker to get under $5k. They will never leave and I have owned them since launch.
The Sprout 100 in an affordable System when it was in my homes living room. Now the sprout resides in a vinyl only system in my guest house. Either way this is a bargain at $699 for anyone wanting to get into audio.
The more I listened the better it got as the cartridge was now fully breaking in and what this has done as a result is make me a hardcore fan of Koetsu. This cartridge brings the sounds that makes me think “THIS IS HOW RECORDS ARE SUPPOSED TO SOUND”! It’s not trying to be audiophile, or detailed or with magic imaging yet it does all of these things with an effortless ease as well as bring life, body and warmth to the music. The first 100 hours it was a little closed in but when it opened up it really opened up.
Bass is spectacular, the treble so sweet and fluid and the mids…MAGIC.
The turntable has been rock solid offering up a sound that is pure analog. Whatever Dr. Feickert is doing here, well, it’s being done right as I have not heard anything near this good with my analog…ever. It’s why I never reviewed a table and why this is the first pricey table I am writing about. It is the only one that I felt was worth the cost and investment. It kept me from selling my vinyl and has allowed me to enjoy my albums in a way that brings me back to the days when all I did was play records in my bedroom as a teen.
Get this. I now prefer the sound of my albums to my digital front end. So much so I may move my Klipsch LaScala AL5’s into THIS ROOM as I know that they will sound even better than ever over here with more space.
For the first time since I was a teenager I am enjoying vinyl more than digital. I am pulling out all of my old records and remembering when I bought them. Where I was I life, what I was doing and that in itself brings some very precise memory to this 51 year old guy. Music has been with me forever and just like photography it’s a hobby and passion that truly enriched my life.
No matter the tables I owned in the past, the Volare surpassed them all in build quality, ease of setup, function, design, beauty and SOUND. There have been no hums, no buzzing, no issues to speak of. I have zero buyers remorse for the first time in 15 years (for an analog system) and that in itself is pretty special as I am not easy to please in this area. No matter if I listen. to Jazz, Rock, Metal, EDM, Bluegrass or WHATEVER, this table and cart combo plays them all with ease and with a quality that brings a huge wide grin to my face.
This Feickert will remain in my system for the rest of my days. Just as I threw out the Klipsch Heresy IV boxes, I have done so with my Volare as it now has a place in a dedicated vinyl system that I can sit and listen to while I write (as I am doing now). When my Koetsu fails years down the road, I will buy another one, maybe even upgrade to the Rosewood but for the foreseeable future this is my end game analog setup and I LOVE IT.
I bought this analog setup from DedicatedAudio.com and I can easily recommend them as a HiFi shop. I have been buying from Dan and the gang for MANY years and they have always been as good as it gets in the audio retail world. Amazingly nice people as well.
You can visit their website HERE or give them a call at 855-991-8181 with any questions.