TCL Tab 10S tablet, direct-drive vs belt-drive turntables, audio racks that look like furniture (Week 48, 2023)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 48, 2023

Just one gift recommendation this week, as next week I will have a lot of them, all under $100!

TCL Tab 10S 10.1-inch tablet, $199.99: This excellent Android tablet provides a lot for the money, with a very high quality display that is excellent for displaying photographs, good battery life and the ability to expand the memory up to 256GB with TF Cards (also good for photographs, and something you can’t do with an iPad.) You can add a keyboard case to make the Tab 10S a good laptop alternative, which I do with all my tablets and highly recommend. The Tab 10S lists for $199.99 but can often be found on sale for around $150. Keyboard cases are under $30.

Q. I have three questions for you, related to your recommendation of the Cambridge Audio Alva ST turntable deal. Do audio companies still make direct-drive turntables? I remember debates years ago about whether belt or direct drive was superior. Do turntables come with dust covers anymore? Finally, can you recommend an attractive, functional shelf system for audio gear? Not shelves on the wall, something that could pass as furniture in a living room setting.

-M.J., Minneapolis, MN

A. Both direct drive and belt drive turntables are still being manufactured. In fact, Cambridge has two turntables in their line, and the more expensive stablemate to the Alva ST, the $1,999 Alva TT V2, is direct drive. When they are sitting side-by-side you can see the two turntables have a lot of similarities, which is why the Alva ST at $599 is such a great deal. The Alva TT V2 has a high-tech direct drive system and an excellent high output moving coil cartridge, which together account for much of the price difference.Technics makes amazing direct drive turntables, ranging from $1,099.99 to $19,995.95. A modern direct drive Technics is my personal choice (though not the $20,000 version, as much as I would like it!)

You can get great performance out of either kind of turntable drive system, however my own preference in expensive turntables is direct drive. Today, top performing direct drive turntables tend to cost $1,000 or more, and you may get better sound quality with belt drive if the turntable is less than $1,000. This may be why Cambridge decided to use belt drive for the Alva ST. I would not let the drive system solely determine the turntable you buy and if you like a turntable and it gets good reviews, go for it.

Both of the Cambridge turntables have a dust cover. Most turntables do have them, but you still may want to check with the manufacturer or vendor to confirm before you buy. If your turntable of choice does not have a dust cover there are companies that make boxy plexiglass covers that fit over the entire turntable, like a display case.

Pangea Audio is my go-to for audio component racks and their four-shelf Vulcan rack is only $199.95. It is available in a Rosenut wood finish for a furniture look. Pangea Audio products can be found on Amazon and many other online vendors. If actual furniture is what you are after, I love Mid-Century Modern (MCM) design and incorporate it in my home décor. (In fact, Herman Miller fans will appreciate that I am writing this column under a Nelson Bubble Lamp.) Kardiel has some really stunning media cabinets in the MCM style, starting at $1,297. They usually have some kind of discount code sale going so you can probably get one for less.