What enthusiast with an appreciation of audio history and who values music, from its creation to its recreation, would not love to own a beautifully designed and superbly engineered music-playing component with the tag ‘Gigantic and Tremendous’? Images of a looming multi-driver Gojira-like loudspeaker come to mind but Yamaha, the world’s oldest music company, has revived this sensational term – coined decades ago in the GT prefix for descendants GT-1000 and GT-2000 – to moniker its new flagship turntable, the GT-5000. And yes, Yamaha’s new vinyl spinner sits comfortably with that overt descriptor. The muscular GT-5000 fits the bill by not only featuring Yamaha’s updated engineering and latest refinements of proprietary technologies, but by also being rather… Tremendously Gigantic.
A Direct Approach
It’s an undisputable fact that music playback has been enriched to unforeseen levels in the last 10 years or so. We have the world’s music libraries at our fingertips and all sorts of new digital platforms – both in terms of software and hardware – in which to play endless catalogues.
And yet the near-one-hundred-years old and not-so-humble turntable still thrives… After almost going the way of the dodo in the late 1980s, the ‘record player’ – originally developed in the late 1800s but adopted by music lovers in the 1930s by way of the gramophone – reached its height in the modern turntable of the 1960s and ‘70s.
Its greatest threat then came by way of the Golden Child – the Compact Disc. Indeed, consumers embraced the new format while vinyl wavered. Barring a few specialists from the format’s early days, the turntable almost disappeared from the manufacturing landscape. This lasted around a couple of decades only to return with triumphant force. Vinyl continues to face-off the now-petering CD and offers a viable alternative to file playback, even with digital’s onslaught of ever-growing streaming services and playback software options.
And while there are now more turntable manufacturers then there ever were back in the ‘Golden Age’ of analogue, very few can even approach the history, experience and general industry power of Yamaha. Now with an expanding range of decidedly high-end products in the company’s 5000 series, Yamaha crowns its analogue alternatives (there are a number of offerings at lower budget levels) with the new all-out assault in the GT-5000 flagship turntable.
As a flagship statement from Yamaha, the GT-5000 is something to behold. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of Hi-Fi and the cliché “pictures don’t capture the beauty” indisputably applies here. Most striking as you unbox the GT-5000 is the massive sub-chassis/plinth which is finished in a proper piano gloss black finish of the highest standard (produced at Yamaha’s famous piano factory). It’s been designed to dampen vibrational distortions via its material composition and overall mass. Finishing the gorgeous chassis is a classy embossed silver company logo, off to one side, which serves as the single adornment to the elegant aesthetic. The chassis is supported via massive bespoke aluminium machined feet designed to isolate the entire turntable structure.
Moving on up, we find the custom-designed 223mm tonearm which comes mounted on the turntable out of the box. It’s a straight, rigid and short multi-layer carbon fibre composite construction coupled to a machined aluminium mounting board. The arm cleverly pivots effortlessly as if floating on air – it’s a beautifully friction-free balance. What’s super-attractive, however, is its ease of setup. For a tonearm setup klutz like yours truly, the arm’s alignment took all of 15 minutes, with all that’s required being simple Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) and stylus pressure, or Vertical Tracking Force (VTF) adjustment efforts. Well… no effort really… just simplicity that will need next to zero adjustments in the future.
The tonearm looks a million bucks. The main shaft, or wand as it’s sometimes referred to, is constructed from a 9-layer composite of materials. The inner core is an aluminium tube “plated” with a layer of copper on both the inside and outside walls. The aluminium/copper tube is then laminated with multiple layers of ‘3k’ carbon fibre alternating with glass fibre. The entire construction makes for an ideal mix of torsional strength and resistance to vibrational distortions while being lightweight.
However, first things first. Once the GT-5000 has been placed on an appropriate support platform (quality audio rack or wall mount) you’ll need to position the small (but surprisingly heavy) solid brass sub-platter onto the spindle. You then loop the belt – yes, the GT-5000 is a belt-driven design – around the sub-platter and onto the pulley. The belt is driven via a 24-pole 2-phase AC synchronous motor which features a ‘Crystal Sine Wave’ motor drive.
Yamaha provides a foam container with a number of accessories, two of which are eyelet ‘handles’ with threaded ends. These screw onto the heavy milled-from-solid-aluminium ‘double-structured’ main platter in order to allow easy lifting and positioning onto the spindle. A final touch is to place the dress cover onto the pitch control rocker. Main spinning components of assembly done and dusted. Love it.
So on to tonearm setup which, as I’ve said, is simplicity itself. The separate DIN-style headshell allows easy fitting of your preferred cartridge (in my case, the superb Shelter Harmony, review here) and once that’s done, a rubber gasket/washer, which serves as a vibrational dampener, can be fitted to the end of the headshell if so desired. I chose yes. Once plugged-in a simple twist of the locking ring secures the headshell to the tonearm. Yamaha provides an option of two counterweights (small or large depending on cartridge weight) which have been precision-machined to effortlessly glide into place at the rear of the tonearm.
Next we adjust the stylus pressure (VTF), by simply turning the counterweight until the arm is perfectly horizontal. You then dial in the calibration ring on the counterweight to match your cartridge tracking force specification. VTA is as straightforward as working a bolt on the tonearm’s lower side with the supplied Allen key. This allows the suspending of the entire arm off the machined aluminium armboard interface in order to align the tonearm parallel to the record. And that’s it folks.
Up to Speed
Operating the GT-5000 is as simple as operating a selection of three silver press spring buttons for on/off, speed selection (33/45rpm) and start for music and stop to… quit the music. The 33/45rpm button flashes until the table reaches proper speed then remains steadily lit throughout playback and when fully stopped. The crystal oscillator speed controller is quoted as having a rotation speed variation of +/-0.1% and the pitch-adjust rocker mentioned above provides adjustment steps of 0.1% with a maximum range of +/-1.5%. Wow and flutter is quoted as 0.04% or less (W.R.M.S.).
The rear of the unit features the connectivity bay which includes both RCA and balanced XLR output options and a gold plated grounding post. Yamaha provides a strobe light (for checking speed accuracy with the supplied stroboscopic disc) which connects to the GT-5000 via a 3.5mm mini-jack. An IEC socket rounds out the connectivity. Finally, there’s a choice of two platter mats, a rubber or felt option, with the latter being of high quality and gauge; you will not see unsightly edge waves and lifts here.
Now, I was ready to rock ‘n roll. And that’s something this table does well. One of the first LPs I spun was The Pixie’s Doolittle, an ‘alternative’ masterpiece which enjoys the production skills of Gil Norton. This album’s sometimes dark and surreal themes are contrasted by a dynamic and highly-resolving production. The GT-5000 does not skimp on either of those qualities. The tracks “Hey” and “Silver” are propelled along forcefully via the GT-5000, with responsive electric bass, kick drum punch and an incisive snare attack. The transient handling is quite superb here too. When vocalist and guitarist Frank Black lets it rip with angst and anger on “Hey”, the cartridge, tonearm and turntable combo (and the superb Supratek Cortese phono stage too, for that matter) all team up to locate Black in a big soundstage, clearly delineated within the space while his irate screams are intelligible and in clear relief of the complexities of the music. There’s also great contrast between delicate low level notes and the powerful crescendos, especially on “Silver” where the huge intro drum whacks-you-numb (your electronics and speakers need to carry this source’s strengths faithfully, of course).
The latest heavy vinyl version of the Beatles’ Abbey Road played beautifully on the GT-5000, with “Come Together” exhibiting terrific bass depth on the sustained bass notes throughout the track. Despite the age of this recording (remaster not withstanding) the sonic field is massive and gives more recent production efforts a good walloping in terms of spatial qualities. Ditto for the overall dynamic expression which, particularly in “Come Together”, soars viscerally.
But Rock is not the only genre the GT-5000 handles well. No one trick pony here. Deutsche Grammophon’s digital recording of Brahms’ Violin Concerto via the Berlin Philharmonic with Anne-Sophie Mutter at the violin and Herbert von Karajan at the podium was a delight in terms of subtlety and overall scale. With the GT-5000, Mutter’s masterful technique shines with subtlety and nuance, every note heard, every emotion felt. And when Karajan conducts the orchestra to rise to its fullness, the turntable controls the dynamic swings to gasping levels. Yes, this digital recording is overall less than reference level in terms of tonal purity – it strays to being marginally bright, a renowned issue with many of Deutsche Grammophon’s recordings of the era. However, the GT-5000 will just authentically convey what it’s served, as all accurate and well-engineered gear should, be it turntable, amplifier or speakers.
Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing is a nicely produced early 1980s classic. “Walking in the Rain” and “Pull Up to the Bumper Baby” were popular hits in non-mainstream radio stations and I recall enjoying the track in my youth without realising, at the time, how good a studio production it is. Now, playing on the GT-5000, I savour the fullness of the rhythmic bass, its punch and tautness while Jones’ vocals are super-discernible, the message of individuality in the former track and of sexuality in the latter one offering a new appreciation of the song writing. Clarity, order and balance are trademarks of this turntable. All is separated precisely, detail is present but not overt and the transient attack is sharp – all of those traits are not disruptive to the flow of the music.
For sheer fun, musical satisfaction and bass wallop, you can’t go past any of Yello’s releases. Although I’ve played this innumerable times, Stella’s “Oh Yeah” drove along with surprising solidity and powerful beats via the GT-5000, really testing out the speakers’ woofers while also tasking the midrange and tweeters to decipher the rhythmic complexities. No problem there through my resolving system. Had the recording presented a choked, dynamically compressed congealment then that’s what, ultimately, I’d hear. The GT-5000 however, once again delivers truthful precision and potent resolution.
The delicacy of the acoustic instruments in Ensemble Operarmonica’s Carillon Limited Edition album was an example of pure tonal beauty (I was privileged to be gifted this numbered album by GN Records an arm of the Gold Note audio specialist). GN Records has edited Carillon from the original analogue master tapes and pressed it onto heavy vinyl. The result is a great example of extraordinary tonal fidelity. The GT-5000 credits the music with excellent timbrel accuracy through the delicate organ and flute musicianship while also excelling at the representation of the soprano. And in the tracks which feature ‘four-handed’ organ, the GT-5000 climbs the upper notes while expertly dipping to powerful lows without a drop of sweat (the excellent Shelter Harmony cartridge helps there too, it’s a tracking champ).
Yamaha continues to make strides in the ongoing development of its highly acclaimed and award-winning 5000 flagship series. It’s a compelling high-end story encompassing analogue source – in the subject at hand – the thoroughly engineered C-5000/P-5000 preamplifier and power amplifier combo and the superb NS-5000 loudspeakers, a revitalisation and improvement on the iconic NS-1000 predecessor (read the SoundStage! Australia reviews of C-5000 preamp/P-5000 power amp here and NS-5000 speakers here, with follow-up here).
Further line expansion has recently come via the addition of the very promising NS-3000 standmount loudspeakers which feature similar driver, crossover and enclosure technologies to the flagship NS-5000.
Yamaha also supports the 5000 line with a recently updated range of integrated amplifiers and CD players. The new models cover wide price points with the upper tier offerings promising potentially fruitful integration with the flagship line (the A-S3000 integrated amplifier and CD-S3000 CD player present a strong case).
That aside, a subtle nudge, Yamaha. Could we possibly imagine a no-holds-barred digital source to round-out the 5000 series (this writer asks with a hopeful grin and an “I’ll review it!” desire…)? A thoroughly modern take on the equally Gigantic Tremendous GT-CD1 with digital inputs and high-resolution capabilities. Oh, one can only dream…
Back to the real world and the GT-5000. There’s no doubt Yamaha is making a statement with its flagship turntable – and it’s a powerful declaration too. This is a highly-developed product exhibiting refined engineering evidenced by the black-hole-silent bearing and motor, the precisely-machined main and sub-platters and the overall outstanding build quality. Equal design sophistication is shown in the exacting tonearm construction with its beautifully-finished composite tube complimented by the high tolerance machining of its ancillary components. So when it comes to the deck’s performance, the GT-5000 makes a convincing argument for being a product of the sum of its excellent parts.
The GT-5000’s princely stature presents a generous soundfield and an overall natural, balanced performance. Its physical robustness reflects in the way it actually sounds – it’s a big and boldly dynamic analogue playback system which does not skimp on low-end power and depth. Yes, it’s Gigantic and Tremendous… but it’s also resoundingly Gorgeous and Tuneful. Have a listen to it, I’m confident that like me, you’ll find it Genuinely Tantalising too.
… Edgar Kramer
- Speakers — Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2, Axis Loudspeakers VoiceBox S (nearfield monitor), Vermouth Audio Little Luccas Mk.II
- Amplifier — Gryphon Audio Antileon EVO
- Preamplifier — Supratek Cortese, Lightspeed Attenuator LDR passive
- Sources — Digital: 432EVO High-End Music Server, Yamaha CD-S2100 transport, Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler, Totaldac d1-core DAC, Asus PC as Roon Core. Analogue: Michell Engineering Orbe with Gert Pedersen Level 3 modifications and Origin Live Ultra upgraded motor, Trans-Fi Terminator air bearing linear-tracking arm, Shelter Harmony cartridge, Supratek Cortese & REDGUM Audio RGPH2 phono stages
- Processor — DEQX PreMate
- Cables — sILENzIO loom, Vermouth Audio Reference loom, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl Mk.II loom
- Audio Rack — SGR Audio Statement Model V
- Acoustic Treatment — Vicoustic Multifuser Wood, Wavewood Ultra, Cinema Round Premium and Super Bass Extreme
- Miscellaneous — Les Davis Audio Viscoelastic CLD discs, VRC Vinyl Record Cleaning system plus miscellaneous accessories
Yamaha GT-5000 Turntable & Tonearm
Warranty: Ten Years with online registration
Australian Distributor: Yamaha Music Australia
+61 1800 805 413
10-1, Nakazawa-cho, Naka-ku
Hamamatsu Shizuoka 430-8650, Japan
+81 (53) 460-2211