Pure Fidelity Harmony Turntable. Heirloom Quality Analog.
By Steve Huff
My Video Review where I unbox and assemble the table as well as talk about the sound.
I often re-visit fond memories I have had as a teenager (back in the 1980’s) listening to my audio system that at the time consisted mainly of a record player, cassette deck and CD player. While CD tech was new in the early 80’s analog playback was fully matured and gave me a sound that was bigger, richer and more human that digital was giving me at the time. Needless to say, I acquired a nice collection of vinyl records back then and I still own many of them today.
When digital was new back in the early 80’s there was no way it could compete with vinyl playback at the time. That was when digital was cold, harsh and flat sounding to these ears. Even with my small system back then that set me back a whopping $1800 at the time I was in heaven. Each night I would spin two records as I lay in bed listening before the lights would be turned out and I was always thinking about which record I wanted to buy next. Interestingly enough my system was right next to my bed (the controls) so I would listen and then fade off to sleep.
Shopping for Records
Each and every week in the mid 1980’s I would walk to my local record shop and pick up one record. Sometimes I had no idea what the music would sound like but I would be attracted to the album covers, which back then had a lot of thought put into them (usually). Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised and other times I felt ripped off but it was fun discovering new music in this way as at the time. It was a mystery but always interesting as I enjoyed that walk, the process of browsing and then the excitement when I would arrive home to listen. Unwrapping the cellophane from the album was also a treat.
These days things have changed so much. Discovering new music is now much easier and much more streamlined. Just open any app like Spotify, Tidal or Qobuz and you can discover all kinds of music you may have never knew existed. Some bad, some good but some discoveries are indeed remarkable. While it’s so easy today to find new music I do often times miss the old days when I would physically go to the shop, spend an hour looking for “the one” record for the week and then head home to listen to that one record over and over, front to back.
Over the years as analog faded and digital took over those old record shops have almost all but vanished. The good news is that there are still albums being made each and every day, and in some cities record shops have once again appeared for the growing demand back to vinyl. Yep, there is a resurgence of sorts that has been going on for years now. These days we can also order our albums online and yes they cost much more today than they did in 1985. We can also find used albums almost anywhere on the cheap and some of these albums are not available to stream. Just last week I was at an auction in southern Illinois where there were hundreds of old albums in great shape for $1 each. I have found many gems this way over the years and it is so fun to find them.
In fact there are some of us out there that really enjoy the process and ritual of playing a record. Taking it out of the sleeve, placing it on the platter, wiping off the dust with a record brush and then lowering the needle to the groove. Listening in this way allows me to just sit back in my seat and enjoy an album from start to finish. I love doing this and over the last few weeks I have once again settled into my old routine I had as a teenager.
I am once again listening to one album each night before bed, front to back. I have not done this since 1987 and the reason is because the turntable I am evaluating right now has made me sit up, take notice and in a sense go back in time when I remember analog sounding so damn good and infectious.
For the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of evaluating a Pure Fidelity Harmony turntable. This is by far the nicest analog vinyl spinner I have ever had in my possession. If I take the nicest table before this one that I have had here, wether it is the VPI Prime, the Clearaudiop Performance DC with Tracer arm or the Feickert Volare I fell in love with this Harmony punches way above those tables in various ways. I haven’t had a table of this quality in my life…ever. Even the recent Luxman PD151 is not to this level. One thing to note of course is that the Pure Fidelity is a more pricey table than the others, so we are dealing here with a higher end product. I can see and hear this when I look at the table, turn it on and listen.
The Pure Fidelity Harmony Table with Stratos Cartridge
Here is some of what Pure Fidelity says about this table:
“The Harmony turntable delivers the emotional connection to music you’ll only get with the highest echelon of analog playback. It starts with the extraordinary balance of the Pure Fidelity “hybrid” design. The midrange is rich and the timbre of instruments and voices are real and tangible. The noise floor is uncommonly low, an inky black background from which music emerges with detailed highs and superb bass resolution. Appropriate for a component of this stature, the deck benefits from our most comprehensive countermeasures against shelf-borne vibration and resonance. The result is a musical instrument of rare quality.”
From it’s beautiful satin rosewood plinth (also available in walnut and other finishes) and fully custom manufactured all metal vibration plate, isolation feet, ruby bearing, massive platter, sub platter, speed control and mighty impressive record weight this table just oozes quality in every way.
The arm is from Origin Live and is branded as the “Illustrious SE”. The cartridge I am using is Pure Fidelity’s own STRATOS, which is under $2k and sounds remarkably good, besting others I have heard from Clear Audio, Koetsu and Hanna. It is a low output MC cartridge.
I do not do many reviews of turntables because the good ones are usually large, heavy, very expensive and not so easy to set up. I also have really been smitten by the sound of digital today when using a great DAC. Why do I want or need static, pops, ticks and flaws in my playback when I can have my music served up clean and clear as a bell, noise free, just from streaming?
The arm that came with the review unit is the Illustrious SE from Pure Fidelity and it’s a superb arm.
Well, playing records on a great table and cart can really show you what analog is still capable of today and with the Harmony I have been hearing my records again in a way I never thought I would. Before I get to the sound of this combo let me briefly talk about the quality of build here.
The Harmony is the flagship table from Pure Fidelity who are based out of Canada. Each table is made in Canada and from the looks of it, they are made with “pure” love and passion. Each part makes sense and this table has things I have never experienced before such as the built in form fitted vibration plate that the rosewood plinth sits on. This ensures that nothing will disrupt the table when it is playing. I can dance, jump and stomp right in front of it and it never skips or has an issue. I slammed my cabinet doors shut and not a hiccup from the table while playing. This alone is an incredible thing as I could not get it to falter no matter what I did.
The Pure Fidelity Harmony never skipped a beat and this told me that this table can withstand some pretty serious vibrations without having the sound altered or the arm skipping. I once had a Clearaudio Concept and just walking in front of it made it skip, no joke. I returned that table immediately (was the very 1st gen when it was released).
The Harmony plinth is made from Ultra MDF and it has a beautiful rosewood satin finish. Inside of the plinth you will find a circle that has been carved out and this is where the platter will sit and give off the appearance of a floating platter. I love this design choice as the platter sinks in just a touch but it really makes the looks stand out.
Pure Fidelity says this about their plinth:
“To realize the benefits of “hybrid” design, the Pure Fidelity plinth is built on a 50-mm core of substantially upgraded Medium Density Fibreboard called ultra MDF. Compared to standard MDF, our ultra MDF offers higher density, better fibers, and better machineability, enabling far more precise assembly. Ultra MDF also helps control resonance.”
Pure Fidelity says this about their vibration platform:
“Like a microphone, a phono cartridge works by converting mechanical vibration into voltage. Crucially, the cartridge not only picks up motion from tracking the record groove, but also unwanted vibration when sound from the loudspeakers impacts the turntable and the shelf it’s sitting on. The cartridge simply cannot distinguish between the music and unwanted vibration, which can degrade playback, damaging musicality and collapsing the soundstage. That’s why the Horizon and Harmony turntables embody an uncommonly thorough program to suppress resonance. The aluminum isolation platform, GAIA™ IV isolation footers, and ultra-MDF plinth all work together to produce music of such pristine clarity, it gives added meaning to our company name, Pure Fidelity.”
The vibration platform is custom made for the Harmony and the plinth slips right in place. This platform eliminates vibrations which means better sounding music from your records. It is made of 6061 aluminum alloy.
Yea, this table also includes and ships with GAIA IV Isolation footers. Where most tables I have tested just have rubber feet this table really has everything thought out very well. I love that this table was designed to look like a classic table rather than an all metal robotic looking thing but that is just my personal opinion.
The Harmony packaging is the best I have ever seen for ANY product, ever.
The Harmony also has a beautifully made sub plater which is where the belts attach. All hidden under the main platter.
The sub platter hides under the main platter and has two belts that drive the platter.
UNBOXING the Pure Fidelity Harmony. A NEW Experience.
I have never ever received a turntable with this kind of amazing packaging, keeping it safe and sound and telling what is what. The box includes several LAYERS that are numbered. Each layer has something packed in it. The plinth, the vibration platform, the platter, the sub platter and speed control.
The arm ships in a separate box.
As for the speed control this is the newest “Conductor” model and is housed in a separate box with a power button and two speed buttons for 33 and 45. It attaches to the table via an umbilical type of cable. I keep the conductor out of the way on a shelf under the table.
The speed controller?
“To drive the motor with the utmost precision, we created the Conductor outboard speed control. This features quartz lock to maintain a rotational accuracy of ±0.003%. Because many classic vinyl records predate such precision, the Conductor also provides separate rear-panel pitch adjustments for 33-1/3 and 45 rpm. A robust component in its own right, the speed control isolates the motor drive voltage from the noise, spikes and distortions in your household AC mains, generating a pure sine wave of uncommon stability.”
Everything here has been fully thought out and somewhat perfected. I do not believe in “perfect” products but this table was built and designed by a man who has passion for this running through his body. It’s evident in the construction, parts used and the performance. There is even a RUBY Bearing that costs 100X what a steel bearing would cost but the Ruby is a nice touch.
“By the time it gets to your ears, the output of a moving coil cartridge can be magnified by a factor of 10,000 or more. So even minuscule imperfections in the turntable drive system can become audible issues. For this reason, even though we could purchase 100 steel bearings for the price of a single ruby bearing, we’re sticking with ruby. Ruby offers incredible hardness, with a Mohs scale of 9. (Only one precious stone is harder: diamond.) For similar reasons, we chose bronze instead of the industry standard brass for the bearing shaft. Bronze offers better durability, higher strength and a lower coefficient of friction. The end result of these two materials is a dead silent, near-frictionless drive system.”
Yea, Pure Fidelity HAS thought of it all for the Harmony.
The Conductor Speed Control keeps the platter rotating at the correct speed. Buttons for 33 and 45 as well as a power button are located on the front of the box.
Getting to Business
After I unboxed the table and all parts I assembled it quite easily. The platform, the plinth, the sub platter, the platter and then the arm just sits down into the arm hole. Tighten it all up and get ready to install the cartridge. Once installed just set up the VTA (arm height) to be level with your album and away you go. I spent some time setting it up just right as setup does matter though it is not difficult. Three screws is all you have to adjust to get this table to make music. Two for the cartridge install and alignment and one for the tonearm height.
Once I had the Stratos cartridge installed on the Harmony table I plugged the cables into my Aavik U-150 integrated amp. This U-150 for me has one of the finest MC preamps I have heard (built in). I adjusted the gain to 73 db (goes to 81db without noise) and the amp was dead silent. I pulled out an old Moody Blues album and sat down for a listening session.
Listening to the Moody Blues classic albums was a beautiful experience with the Harmony. The bloom, the beauty, the bass, the highs, the midrange…all there with fantastic imaging and depth.
I fully expected to hear what I have heard from all other turntables I have owned.
VPI Prime: One of my faves from memory. I remember the big bass that the Prime gave me but the motor made a humming noise for me. Although slight, it did bug me for the $5k I spent on it. Besides that, the Prime sounded lovely and was interesting to look at. I enjoyed this one but over time I found the sound to be a little dull compared to my digital. I was running a Hanna MC high output cart. As with all things HiFi, could have been a synergy thing.
CLEARAUDIO Performance DC: I fell for the looks of this table while in the market for one. My local dealer at the time made me a deal on the table, with the top of the heap tracer arm and a Hanna cart for around $5500. Took it home and did not fall in love with it. I found this table and cart sounded somewhat thin and cold. I kept it for a few months and decided to not have a table for a while. Again, probably synergy as this table is a quality table. It just didn’t have the analog sound I remembered and it seemed as if it were trying to replicate digital.
Feickert Volare Walnut with Koetsu Black: I really enjoyed this table and it was my preferred table vs the two above for a long while. Yet again, over time, I found the sound to be a little constricted and dull compared to my DCS digital stack. For this reason I needed up rarely spinning a disc. Was a beautiful table but again, no where near the quality of build as the Harmony.
Luxman PD-151: I bought this table at a dealer (spur of the moment) when I was not shopping for a table. It looked so gorgeous in the store and since I had a Luxman integrated at the time I plopped down my credit card and made a rush decision to buy the dealer demo. With the Luxman cartridge this was a beautiful table but it was also very large and my wife hated the size of it on my audio cabinet. It did look out of place but sounded quite nice and was in no way dull or dark. With this table I felt as if the bass was lighter than the others I have heard. I loved this table, and it was probably the nicest of all I owned but after hearing the Harmony I moved the Luxman on.
As for why even own a record player of this quality, well for me I own many albums and some of them have an emotional memory tied to them for me. I mean, I have the exact albums from when I was 16, 17, 18, 19, etc.
These are the albums that got me through my rough teen years after all, so why would I ditch them all together? Sure I could play them all on a $500 table but I believe they do deserve a quality table and they do not always sound the same from player to player.
Almost as if it was fate I received an email from Pure Fidelity asking if I would like to review their Harmony table. It didn’t take me long to say “YES YES YES”! A few weeks later I had a Harmony here and after I unpacked, set it up and started to play it I knew this was going to be a different experience for me.
Back to the Moody Blues albums. I haven’t heard these albums in full (from to back) in a while and sure, I can stream them from my phone but I just love the addictive sound of them on the Harmony.
The Stratos cartridge is a match made in heaven for this table and offers up a huge full sound that also has a wide and tall soundstage with precise yet organic imaging. The bass from this table is next level, and bests any others I have had, even the VPI. It does bass as well (or better) than the VPI prime did but with more control and without any dullness. The sound is alive, real and well….truly sounds like records should. Yes, this setup shows that the Harmony is indeed one of the greats. It is for me at least. There is a midrange bloom as well as a sweet extended top end that is in no way analytical yet brings the details in a way I haven’t heard before.
I own all of the Moody Blues albums and some are a bit worn with surface noise and scratches. Playing these on the Harmony with the Stratos is like a revelation. The surface noise is minimized, the static and pops almost gone and the music seems as if it is a living breathing thing. This is something I have experienced with the nicer tables I have had in here. It makes listening to these albums so much more pleasurable.
The album “Seventh Sojourn” has a pure analog sound. Rich, deep, fluid and magical. I have not heard it sound anywhere this good on other setups. The sound has warmth, beauty and life. When I go to Tidal and play the album I DO NOT feel the same way. I lose some of that “reach out and touch your soul” kind of sound and feel.
As I listen to album after album I am drawn in and allow myself to just soak it all in. Occasionally I will hear a pop or noise and smile as it reminds me of those days listening to albums at night in my parents basement (where my room was in my teens). That was a time for me where music literally savd my life so of course I will have some sort of attachment to this kind of playback.
As I listen more and more I am convinced that this is without question the finest analog playback I have ever heard. I believe Pure Fidelity is onto something with the vibration platform, feet, ruby bearings and all of what they have done to create this package of analog goodness. The Harmony is a true work of art and a reflection of an era that has left us but in some ways still remains because this table takes me back to that time!
This is also one of the most silent tables I have ever experienced. There is zero noise from the motor, platter or well anything.
If I can be blunt, the Pure Fidelity Harmony is the finest turntable I have ever experienced. From its design & build and attention to even the smallest details Pure Fidelity has created a masterpiece. They are not kidding when they say that this is a Heirloom table. It is one that can be owned and passed down generation to generation. It is that good, that beautiful and that solid.
Say goodby to vibration issues with your vinyl playback. I tried hard to get this table to give me a skip, jump or pop but I just couldn’t slow it down or make it fail in any way.
The arm is quite nice as well as is most arms from Origin Live. Super easy to install and setup as well. The table is made for the arm to just set in place and tighten up. Set your VTA and you are all set.
While this doesn’t feature VTA on the fly as some tables do it is easy to set up and lock in. Takes me a minute or so to re-adjust VTA though I admit, I haven’t found I had to change it once it is setup.
The more I listen to the Stratos cartridge the more I appreciate it. It is the finest cart I have heard yet and wether it was on the Harmony or the Luxman PD151 it offered up a similar character which is wide open, fantastic bass and drive, top of the heap imaging and soundstage and it pumps out one heck of an infectious groove, unlike others I have had here. I think if this Cartridge was made by a big name well known brand it would cost AT LEAST double. It can do the gentle details and vocals with ease, very intimate. It can also rock you out of your seat with dynamics, drive and slam.
The Stratos cart is a low output MC and sounds better than it has a right to. This cartridge should be taken seriously no matter the table you own, it is fantastic.
The combo of the Harmony and Stratos for me offer up a slice of analog perfection. Takes me back to my vinyl days when I would listen nightly to full albums as a teenager but back then I would have never dreamed the sound I would get from these same albums nearly 37 years later.
It has been a pure pleasure evaluating the Pure Fidelity Harmony and Stratos. While this is not an inexpensive investment when you include the arm and cartridge but if you want a lifetime table, one that can be handed down to your kids, this is one that fits the bill. If you want top notch build, design and parts, this one fits the bill. If you want to listen without fear of vibrations killing your session, this one fits the bill. If you have albums you want to get the most from, old or new, this table will bring you the best of them.
There are tables that cost much more than this but for the life of me can not understand how it can get better than this as a table that spins records. You have it all with the harmony and it is without question the finest analog playback I have ever heard.
So think you Pure Fidelity for allowing me to audition this table for a review. It is going to be incredibly hard to send back. I confess that I even stalled on this review in order to hold on to the table longer! I have fallen in love and over these couple of months it has not gotten old. In fact, I have been listening to more records than I have in 35 years. It’s amazing what a truly well thought out turntable and cart can do with your record collection.
What a Beauty this table is but Pure Fidelity also offers up solutions that cost less and you can see all of what they offer at their website HERE.
If you have the funds to purchase one of these beauties and you love analog I can not imagine being disappointed with the Harmony. High end analog at its finest without having to get into the $20k, $50k or even $100k tables. Sure it may get better but you would have to spend a fortune to best this able. Of course, that is my opinion so take it for what it is.
Who is the Harmony for?
This is a table for someone who wants their last turntable. Someone who has a collection of vinyl albums. Someone who appreciates the “ritual” of playing and listening. To me, this is HiFi in its purest form and while it will never sound like digital of any kind, what analog brings to the table is a more tangible experience. As I listen I browse the album art, the credits, the notes or the lyrics, which are all in my hand as a physical thing. That is something I do not get with digital. Ahhhh, and this table brought back all of those memories I had as a teenager in the 1980’s just enjoying the music night after night.
In comparing the picture in your review of the Illustrious SE tone arm to the picture in the Harmony website I noticed a difference. What prompted me to do the comparison was curiosity about a cuing lever. I am not versed on very high end turntables and tone arms. I have a Technics SL 1200 from the late 70’s and it has served me well. I am considering an upgrade and your review of the Harmony motivated me to look very closely at the Harmony table. In the picture in your review it appears that there may be a cuing lever but the picture on the Pure Fidelity/Harmony website does not show this lever (at least to my eyes). Would you clarify this question? Thanks, Lyle
The arm, no matter if it is the one I have or if you order one, will have a cuing lever. So yes, it does have one. Thank you.
Steve I really enjoyed you process on the installation of the Pure Fidelity Turntable I myself own a Rega P6 which I enjoy. The Delrin platter looks and sounds like it ground the overall sound of the platter spinning opposed to other turntable you hear them spinning. The plinth looks heavy so there’s no need for an isolation board under it . I really enjoyed you Feedback on this turntable I’m definitely going to put on my wishlist in the future when it’s time to upgrade .
Thanks for the feedback, Gene. What do your customers do if they want to play both stereo and mono records? Is there an arm that you can swap headshells since it doesn’t seem to have the space to accommodate two tones? Or do your customers just play both mono and stereo with a stereo cart? Or do they have two turntables, one for mono and one for stereo? 😉
Thanks for the review. This seems to be a great TT but I have both stereo and mono records so I’d need either a detachable headshell or preferably two tonearms and this looks like it doesn’t have the space to accommodate a second tonearm. I was considering a Feickert TT for my needs; it would be interesting if the Woodpecker or Blackbird models would be more comparable to the Pure Fidelity than comparing the Volare as they are larger/heavier. Appreciate your thoughts and thanks again for the reviews!
Yep, I have carried Pure Fidelity in my shop for many years now. Every last customer who has bought one of these raves on and on. Most certainly, the Harmony is worth the extra dollars over the less expensive Encore. The improvement to the music that the Harmony offers is well worth the money. Reliability has been superb as well as owner John Stratton’s custo,er service.–Gene Rubin
Thanks for your feedback Gene. I ended up breaking down and buying the review unit so this one will be staying put!