Pure Fidelity Harmony Record Player

When scouring the labyrinthine halls of big audio shows for products to review in Stereophile, I use three main markers to determine which rooms to visit: a must-hear designation from Editor Jim Austin; a company or brand whose products always light my fire; and systems fellow Stereophile correspondents have described, in a text or an in-person conversation, as worth checking out. Other times, though, I just follow my nose.

Such was the case at AXPONA 2022, held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center near Chicago. At the coffee and pastry stalls on the first floor, I ran into P.J. Zornosa, wizened sage of hi-fi public relations. P.J. was involved with two rooms at AXPONA. One of them consisted of Bel Canto, Audiovector, Cardas, Harmonic Resolution Systems, and—handling front-end duties—the Harmony turntable, which is manufactured by a fairly new company, Pure Fidelity in Vancouver, British Columbia. I decided to stop by for a listen.

In my show report, I wrote, “This … setup … made me forget the mechanics, time, and place, and simply indulge in the music.” “Stratton”—that’s company owner John Stratton—”had an original pressing of vocalist Michael Frank’s 1975 debut masterpiece, The Art of Tea. … The Pure Fidelity/Bel Canto/Audiovector system disappeared and let this epic recording shine. The Art of Tea is very natural sounding, with zero effects; it’s a true, flat recording on par with any Contemporary Records disc. And the rig framed it perfectly. Transparency, tonefulness, imaging, clarity, with a comfy low-end.”

I took Stratton’s card and upon arrival in NYC, conferred with Jim Austin, who had also visited the room, then requested a review sample of the Pure Fidelity Harmony.

“Pure Fidelity started off by modifying parts for other brands,” Stratton wrote to me in an email. “It was just a hobby at first. Encouraged by the response to these upgraded parts, we started to manufacture complete turntables. With lots of encouragement from friends and people in the industry, we sent one of our early models out for a professional review. It not only got a great review, but it won an award.

“The goal for the Harmony was simple: build a world-class table at real-world pricing. I think we have accomplished this.”

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Sleek, slick, sumptuous
The Pure Fidelity Harmony arrived at my Greenwich Village peasant pad with a Conductor power supply, SS-10 Record Isolator clamp, three IsoAcoustics GAIA IV feet, premium Quilted Maple finish, and Origin Live Encounter tonearm. All that comes in a package for $9995—plus $500 for the review sample’s premium finish. The Pure Fidelity Stratos MC cartridge, which was included on my test rig, adds $1995 to the price.

The Harmony is one of four Pure Fidelity ‘tables, offered at two price points in two basic shapes: the Harmony and the Encore ‘tables are rectangular with rounded corners; the Horizon and Eclipse both have a rounded left edge that follows the contour of the platter. The Harmony and the Horizon (which together constitute what Pure Fidelity calls its “H series”) both cost $9995 and come with the same equipment. The Encore and Eclipse (the “E series”) are $2500 cheaper, at $7495, equipped with an Origin Live Zephyr tonearm and a thinner (but not thin) Delrin platter. GAIA IV footers are available on the E-series models, but they cost extra. On all models, the Stratos cartridge and premium finishes cost extra.

Pure Fidelity refers to its turntables as “hybrid” designs. “‘Hybrid’ refers to the weight of our tables,” Stratton wrote. “The strengths of a low-mass design are speed and dynamics, but they can sound bright and lack bottom end. High-mass designs can provide rock-solid stability and, of course, have a much better bottom-end, but they can sound dull.” Pure Fidelity’s ‘tables strike a balance between those extremes, producing a ‘table that’s neither superheavy nor superlight. Is that a hybrid or an average?

“The key element to our designs is our 2”, Ultra MDF core [plinth]. It is virtually resonance-free and completely neutral in sound. … To my ears, tonal accuracy is absolutely a must, and I think our designs nail it.

“Ultra MDF is a much denser product than standard MDF,” Stratton continued, “which is already a very dense product compared to particle board. The material “uses 50% more wood fiber than standard [MDF]. Our 2″ ultra-MDF sheets are custom made for us using two 1″ sheets laminated together. Once laminated into a 4′ × 8′ sheet, the total weight is more than 250lbs! We are not aware of any other manufacturer that utilizes this special makeup of MDF.”

That ultra-MDF plinth is wrapped in dyed, real wood veneer. “We use wood dyes as opposed to wood stains on our wood-veneer finishes,” Stratton wrote. “Dyes are superior for the rich color they achieve without blocking the grain patterns. After the dye process, they are grain-filled. The final process is four layers of topcoat with each layer sanded in between coats. We offer a high-gloss finish on our Quilted Maple and Piano Black and a semigloss finish in Santos Rosewood and Quarter Cut Walnut.” The finished plinth weighs 19lb.

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That glossy (or semiglossy) plinth fits snugly into the cutouts of a 19lb isolation platform formed from 6061 aluminum alloy, stabilized by the three IsoAcoustics GAIA IV feet. Another key functional element of Pure Fidelity designs is the massive Delrin platter. “Our raw Delrin comes in 3′ lengths that are 12″ in diameter,” Stratton explained. “We then rough-cut to the desired thickness, depending upon whether we are making them for the ‘E’ series or the ‘H’ series [turntables]. We finish it off on a CNC lathe. Delrin is a fantastic product for platters as it has very similar characteristics to that of vinyl. That is why you don’t need mats on our tables.”

That finished Delrin platter is 48mm thick. Stratton says the resulting 8lb platter mass increases the flywheel effect, resulting in improved speed stability and image size. The platter rides on a subplatter made from 6061 aluminum alloy and stainless steel, which is driven by two Viton belts. The subplatter’s spindle rotates on a ruby bearing within a bronze shaft, which Stratton says increases mechanical ease and lessens friction compared to a standard, steel ball bearing/brass shaft configuration.

The Harmony’s 12V AC synchronous motor is made by Allied Motion (formerly Premotec) in The Netherlands; it is powered by the new Conductor power supply/speed controller, a quartz-locked system powered by a 25VA transformer, which replaced the previous motor controller, called “Maestro.” The Conductor has a substantial, 3/8″ faceplate and three buttons, one for power and two to choose 33 or 45rpm. Around back are dials that allow you to fine-tune those speeds.

From their manufacturing facility in Vancouver, Pure Fidelity uses CNC lathes to craft the plinths, isolation platforms—even some of the packaging. PF outsources production of platters, subplatters, bearings, and armboards to a nearby machine shop.

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Also outsourced are the tonearms, which are provided by Origin Live. The supplied Origin Live Encounter arm is a dual-pivot design. “Dual Pivot bearings decouple the arm from its environment in a far more competent way than conventional bearings,” states the Origin Live website. “The result is similar to unipivot arms in terms of a natural, fluid-like quality to the sound. … Dual Pivot bearings have the advantage of very low friction, which helps give the Encounter greater transparency and musicality, … allowing you to hear previously unnoticed details in your music. … As with all our arms, tonal balance is neutral, allowing it to work well in all types of systems.”

Also included in the turntable’s price is the Pure Fidelity SS-10 Record Isolator record clamp, which consists in part of a Delrin plate studded with 10 stainless steel bearings. The bearings make contact with the record’s label, which Pure Fidelity says avoids deadening the sound. The SS-10 weighs nearly 2lb, fits well in the hand, and provides a snug fit; using it resulted in the best sound I heard from the Harmony—not always the case with record clamps. As with any heavy clamp, be careful using it, as dropping it could easily damage the turntable, tonearm, cartridge, or a record.

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