The Music Hall MMF-5's two-layer base uses six rubber springs to separate the bottom and top platforms, minimizing the transmission of motor and room vibration from the turntable to the LP. The top base has a built-in bubble level, making it easy to adjust the MMF-5 so that it lies flat for optimal sound. The low-resonance glass platter sits on a Teflon-coated ball bearing for minimal-noise operation. The metal clamp produces a deeper bass and helps subdue the clicks, pops, and other noises associated with vinyl playback.
Setting up the MMF-5 is a little more involved than it is with the Goldring GR1.2 and the Sony PS-LX250H turntables. It's not all that complicated, but if you're new to turntables, we recommend studying the comprehensive owner's manual before starting. If you run into snags, Music Hall has an excellent customer-support staff. The MMF-5 comes premounted with a Goldring 1012GX phono cartridge ($225). It sounds awfully good, but higher-end cartridges can upgrade the sound even further. Like the GR1.2, the MMF-5 must be used with a receiver that has a Phono input; if yours isn't so equipped, you'll need to buy a separate phono preamp. Also, changing the MMF-5's speed from 33.3rpm to 45rpm is a bit of a hassle--you'll have to remove the platter and move the belt to a different section of the pulley. (Of course, with decidedly high-end and old-school products such as this, that's considered more an endearing quirk than an annoyance.)
We switched between the LP and the CD of Yo La Tengo's Electr-O-Pura, listening to the former on the Music Hall MMF-5 and the latter on our Pioneer DV-45A Elite DVD-Audio/SACD player. The LP sounded much more lively. Compared with the CD's flat, scrunched-down sound, the LP's was bigger and more realistic. Our Cuban and Latin LPs' percussion had more texture and palpability--we could feel the musicians' hands beating their drums.
The only downsides to listening to records are the relative dearth of vinyl and the inevitable letdown when you have to go back to compressed digital music. The Music Hall MMF-5 may cost more than the Goldring GR 1.2 and much more than the entry-level Sony PS-LX250H, but it provides a much clearer sound than those two turntables and amazingly better quality than the best CD players.