Once Analog’s Mk II is a superbly made turntable that will give you a life-time’s listening pleasure.
Australian-made turntables have a batting average that is the envy of most other turntable manufacturers, starting out with the famous JH tables and arms of the 1970s. If I were to judge solely by the number of readers of Australian Hi-Fi that tell me they still own and use a much-loved JH, I’d say most of them are still in fine working condition. And, to my considerable surprise, research on E-Bay indicates they’re also very collectable, commanding prices far in excess of their original purchase price, even allowing for inflation. And no survey of Australian-made turntables would be complete without mention of the current world champion, which (completely co-incidentally) hails from Melbourne, Victoria, which was also the home of JH. I refer, of course, to the famous Continuum Caliburn turntable and its latest partner, the Criterion.
Swelling the ranks of the Australian turntable manufacturers is Once Analog, a tiny outfit run by Vince Hamilton that’s based on the far south coast of NSW. Hamilton has been on the radar of knowledgeable Australian audiophiles for quite a few years now, but the waiting list for one of his hand-crafted turntables was so long that until recently he was unwilling to seek any publicity for fear that the waiting list would simply grow ever-longer. His change of heart has come about because he’s taken on some extra help, particularly with machining the platter, and he’s now sufficiently confident about his production capacity that he’s launched a website, appointed a US distributor and even has his price list in US dollars. However despite this, he remains adamant that his turntables will continue to be hand-crafted here in Australia so, if you place an order, expect some delays…
My review sample was hand-delivered personally by Vince, which is the kind of service that’s apparently not uncommon if you happen to live anywhere on Australia’s eastern seaboard that’s even within cooee of Nowra, so I didn’t have the opportunity to evaluate the quality of the packaging, but he assured me that it’s more than up to the task of ensuring this heavy and beautifully finished turntable will arrive at any destination in pristine condition.
And ‘beautifully finished’ are certainly the words I would use to describe the Once Analog MkII turntable, which has a understatedly elegant—if somewhat ‘old-fashioned’—profile that’s carved from high-density MDF. My review sample had a piano black lacquer finish that had been hand-polished to perfection, which would have been quite difficult considering the various curves that accentuate its appearance. The topside of the turntable is contravisually plain, with a simple ‘Once’ logo on the front at the left that’s visually balanced by an inset circular spirit level at the front right. Hamilton uses an alloy platter on the Once Analog MkII, but rather than the usual partial machining process, his platter is fully machined and fitted with a 4kg central drive hub. The platter is so highly polished that I initially thought it was made from stainless steel!