Andover Audio SpinDeck MAX Review: This User-Friendly, Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable Delivers!

Andover Audio SpinDeck MAX Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable

$599.00
Andover Audio SpinDeck MAX Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable
7.3

Build

7.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Sound

7.0/10

What We Dig

  • Extremely Easy To Use
  • Smooth Operation
  • Engaging Sound

What To Think About

  • Could be a little more transparent

TL;DR

If you’re planning to buy Andover’s excellent SpinBase turntable speaker system, and you’re looking for a capable, fun, user-friendly turntable to match, the SpinDeck MAX is precisely what you’re looking for.

Intro

If you’re a regular reader of Hifitrends, then you know we’re big fans of the gear coming out of Andover Audio. They do a lot to make the ritual of listening to vinyl both easy and convenient. Not only that, they make it fun as well.

Two Andover products we like are the $299 SpinBase Turntable Speaker System (which received our Product Of The Year Award back in 2020) and the $349 SpinDeck, a quality turntable commissioned by Andover from Pro-Ject to go with the SpinBase.

They are both parts of Andover Audio’s “Spin System,” a modular audio system including their $299 SpinSub powered subwoofer and SpinStand rack. When you put them together, they allow you to build a capable yet low-cost vinyl setup that’s easy to use.

The SpinDeck is a straightforward Turntable that’s both plug n’ play and sounds good. However, it’s also a manual turntable, which means the user has to drop the needle on the record and pick the needle back up at the end of the side.

Many audiophiles consider “swinging” or moving the tonearm an essential part of the vinyl listening experience. Still, for those who place a higher value on convenience, there are (albeit fewer and fewer) automatic turntables that will do the work for you.

That’s where Andover Audio’s new $599 SpinDeck MAX comes in. It’s a fully automatic turntable, so with the flick of a start/stop switch, the tonearm will automatically lift and start playing at the beginning of the record. Then, the tonearm will lift automatically and return to its resting place at the end of the record.

With this new turntable, Andover aims to offer a “full-service” option to match its excellent SpinBase speaker system (comes in the same Black and White colors). So is it worth the premium over the manually-operated SpinDeck? Read on for my full impressions!

Disclaimer: This unit was sent to us by Andover Audio in exchange for our review. However, no input was given or promises made regarding the content contained in this evaluation.

Build/Features

The SpinDeck MAX is made to Andover Audio’s specifications in Germany by the same company that manufactures the long-established Dual turntables. It’s a company with 60+ years of experience building turntables, so it’s no fly-by-night operation.

This experience is evident when you look at the SpinDeck MAX up close and check out its construction. It has a thick (but lightweight) MDF plinth and rubber isolation feet to soak up surface vibrations.

Further protection from resonance is provided by the floating platter, tonearm, and low-vibration DC motor, which sit on an additional set of rubber feet hidden inside of the plinth.

Speaking of the tonearm, the Andover’s SpinDeck MAX uses an 8.3″ low-mass aluminum tonearm with a preset counterweight for easy setup. The factory-mounted Ortofon OM10 cartridge (somewhat ubiquitous on budget players) is replaceable, but there is no removable headshell (not the end of the world at this price).

Continuing on the theme of easy setup, the belt-driven SpinDeck MAX comes pretty much ready to go right out of the box. Even the belt is pre-installed, so all you have to do is remove the shipping locks from the floating sub-chassis, put on the dust cover, platter, and felt mat (which is nice and thick, by the way).

Other features include a switch to automatically move between 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records, electronic servo regulation for speed accuracy, a pre-installed (non-removable) RCA cable with gold-plated terminals, plus a 45RPM adapter included in the box.

Finally, please remember that this turntable doesn’t have a built-in phono pre-amp, so you will need an amp/speaker with one or a separate phono-pre. However, if you plan to use it with the Andover SpinBase, you don’t have to worry because it has one built-in.

Listening to the SpinDeck MAX

For my listening tests, I swapped out the SpinDeck turntable in my SpinSystem setup (SpinBase, SpinSub, SpinStand) with the SpinDeck MAX. As the four feet on the bottom of the MAX are not adjustable, you must place it on a flat surface. However, that’s not an issue with my setup, as the SpinStand and SpinBase take care of that.

I’m pretty used to operating a tonearm as I’ve used a manual turntable for many years now, but I must say it was pretty cool to slide the MAX’s switch to “start” and let the turntable take over. I like how quickly the playback started and stopped, taking only a few seconds to begin the music.

You can also operate the tonearm manually if you wish. Swinging the arm in will start the record rotation, and swinging it out will stop the rotation. The cueing arm aids in gently lowering and lifting the tonearm.

Listening to “Colors” from the Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition) album, I found the SpinDeck MAX to have excellent dynamics and timing as it propelled the song forward. It brought the SpinSystem alive and had me nodding my head to the tight rhythm. Up top, it has a silky smooth sound, albeit bordering on too smooth at times, like many budget models.  It could use a touch more clarity.

When comparing the SpinDeck MAX to the original SpinDeck, the dynamics were a little more pronounced, and the bass was richer on the MAX. That said, I wouldn’t say the automatic turntable was head and shoulders above its manual brother in this regard.

If I had to choose between the two, I probably would grab the cheaper SpinDeck over the SpinDeck MAX unless I really wanted the convenience of full-auto operation. That’s basically what you’re paying for between the two.

Also, keep in mind that a manual turntable at the same price point will probably sound better overall. On the other hand, you’ll then be missing out on the ease of automatic operation, and in many cases, creature comforts like the built-in dust cover. Not to mention it probably will not match the rest of the system color-wise. So you are paying a premium for convenience and finish.

The Wrap Up

While it doesn’t represent a massive leap in sound quality over the original SpinDeck, the SpinDeck MAX does provide a decent-sounding fully automatic turntable that will match the rest of their SpinSystem components. While it could be just a touch more accurate, it has a nice smooth midrange, good dynamics to get your head nodding, and a rich low end for the price.

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