In some ways, there has never been a better time to buy your first proper record player. Even when vinyl was the favoured option for owning music, there wasn’t the variety in terms of features and approach nor the sound quality you get today.
This increase in choice means the market is strewn with affordable albeit sub-par products at the entry-level end, but there are plenty of quality turntables in the rung just above it, making this a highly competitive sector.
The Elipson Chroma 400 RIAA is part of a new six-model line-up from the French brand, with Chroma replacing the successful Alpha and Omega series. It sits around the middle in terms of price and features of a versatile range that starts at £279 and rises to £699 for the flagship model.
The RIAA in the Chroma 400’s name denotes the inclusion of a built-in phono stage, meaning you can plug the deck into just about any hi-fi system or active speaker without the need for extra boxes. You can upgrade later on with a dedicated outboard phono stage – ideal for this kind of ‘new entry-level’ price point.
Speeds 33 1/3, 45rpm
Automatic operation No
Manual operation Yes
Belt drive Yes
USB output Yes
Built-in phono stage Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 12 x 45 x 38cm
New for the Chroma range, building on those Alpha and Omega predecessors, is a revised motor, suspension and electronic control that aims to improve stability and precision while reducing noise for sonic subtleties to shine through. For improved spinning consistency and accuracy, the platter is now a two-part design, with a sub-platter supporting a larger main platter around which the belt is affixed.
Elipson has gone premium on the tonearm, too, again upgrading its carbon fibre design to offer greater accuracy and less resonance thanks to the rigidity and damping qualities of its material. At the end of that is an Ortofon OM 10 cartridge – a fine initial pairing, but another area in which you could make an easy upgrade later on.
If you need inspiration, the top model in the range, the Chroma Carbon 400 RIAA BT, comes with Ortofon’s 2M Red cartridge. For that extra outlay, you also get Bluetooth connectivity, as well as USB recording functionality if you want to rip vinyl to digital files. The deck is carbon-coated, rather than just the tonearm, though there is a model between the top-end and our test sample that just features the USB and Bluetooth.
Those familiar with the Elipson decks these Chroma models replace will feel at home with the design. Everything is effectively in the same place, and the chassis’ curved bottom gives the turntable an elegant silhouette. This model also comes with a choice of three high gloss finishes – black, white or red – so the choice is yours whether you go for sleek or standout.
As you get it out of the box and piece it together, however, it all feels a little cheap. While this kind of price is becoming an entry level for those serious about getting into vinyl, it certainly isn’t budget and we’d like a bit more solidity here.
That said, the Chroma 400 RIAA doesn’t sound lightweight. It isn’t particularly bass-heavy either, which can be a blessing when you consider how much some competitors boost low end at the expense of clarity, but there is a welcoming body to the midrange that never becomes wearing.
It is an undemanding and pleasant presentation, but with a fair level of detail too. The Elipson offers up texture and timbre befitting of a hi-fi system that would cost well into four figures, all components considered. But unfortunately, we aren’t getting our money’s worth when it comes to rhythmic prowess or dynamic insight. The organisation itself isn’t woeful, but the Chroma struggles to make sense of a pattern and deliver it with the correct impetus or drive. It’s a bit sloppy, and it’s a bit apathetic.
The latter is largely down to a dearth of dynamic expression. A laid-back presentation is fine and, for many, it will be preferable, but at this price it is not okay to be near horizontal. While we aren’t assaulted with spikes or sharp edges, the downside is that we are never really roused by what we hear from what is quite a pedestrian and uninspiring performance.
It’s a shame, because we liked the predecessors to this range. But whether the presentation has gone further into itself, or competition has simply become a lot more fierce in the years since we first heard them, Elipson appears to be further off the pace with the Chroma 400 RIAA than it was before.
Remember, this is only one record player from a turntable line-up of six. But for now we’re finding it difficult to recommend what we’ve heard so far.
If you’re in the market for a deck at this price, it is possibly worth your time giving this a listen – if even only to confirm the quality of its competition from brands such as Pro-Ject and Rega.
- Sound 3
- Features 5
- Build 3
Read our guide to the best turntables
Read our Pro-Ject Juke Box E review
Read our Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 review