AMG Viella Forte turntable and 12JT tonearm

German engineering acumen and machining excellence—acknowledged and admired worldwide—are nowhere to be seen on AMG's flagship Viella Forte turntable and new 12JT tonearm. That's because, while what's on the surface is cosmetically and mechanically well-turned, the design features and precision engineering that set AMG's turntables and tonearms apart are inside and hidden from view.

Nothing about this turntable's mechanical design—or the tonearm's—can be described as "off the shelf" or "standard fare." That's been true since 2009, when the company, which was founded by the late Werner Roeschlau, who passed away in late February 2013 at age 62, developed its first turntable. For more than a decade before it produced its own, the company had been manufacturing precision parts for other turntable companies, as well as for the aerospace industry.

The first Viella, the V12—a mass-loaded, nondecoupled, belt-driven design—debuted at High End Munich 2010 under the Roeschlau-Lorenzi family name. Julian Lorenzi—Roeschlau's son, himself a trained mechanical engineer—was, along with other machinists at the Bavarian factory, involved in the design. After hearing and seeing the turntable at High End Munich 2011, Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer and his German partner met with father and son. They soon formed AMG: Analog Manufaktur Germany.

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The AMG V12 debuted at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and was later shown at that year's High End Munich. When Roeschlau passed away unexpectedly a year later, Julian, who had already been overseeing AMG's factory production and the company's day-to-day operations, was well-prepared to become AMG's managing director. Shortly thereafter, he flew to America and delivered a V12 to me. My review appeared in the August 2013 Analog Corner (Vol.36 No.8). That 'table, with the 12J2 arm, cost $16,500.

An evolutionary Forte
The Viella Forte Engraved ($25,000 without arm), reviewed here with the improved 12JT arm ($32,000 for the package), looks like a Viella on steroids; it is more an evolution of the earlier design than revolutionary product. The "Engraved" part has to do with the elegant scrollwork on the plinth's surface—a $2000 option.

Introduced at High End Munich 2019, the Forte shares the V12's mass-loaded, belt-driven, non-decoupled design and makes use of the same platter-bearing design, decoupled spindle, hand-built, brushless DC motor, and platter-dominated form factor. In most ways, it looks like a larger Viella 12, but—again—important engineering and design differences are hidden within.

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The revolution came with the original V12's introduction. That 'table featured a unique platter bearing, also used here, that features a small, aluminum subplatter atop a hardened steel 16mm axle riding on a pair of sealed hydrodynamically lubricated radial bearings. A statically lubricated axial thrust bearing rides on a generously sized pad. In comparison, more typical spindle bearings and ceramic ball–topped inverted bearings appear rudimentary.

At almost 31lb, 12.5" in diameter, and 3.5" tall, the Viella Forte's platter of black-anodized aluminum is, like the original Viella's lighter version, a two-piece sandwich featuring a weighted rim (producing a flywheel effect), a gently convex, inlaid PVC top surface (thicker than the Viella's), and a decoupled spindle onto which screws a newly designed, larger and more massive, threaded, aluminum-and-polyoxymethylene reflex clamp.

One of the biggest differences between the standard Viella and the Forte is the plinth height and mass; the older table's plinth was about an inch thick and weighed 17.6lb; the Forte's is 2¾" and 50.7lb. Another key difference, which is hidden from view, is the way the plinth and motor housings are joined: While the V12's bearing and motor housings are bolted onto the plinth bottom (right, below), the Forte's are directly machined into the thick aluminum plinth, greatly improving structural rigidity and mechanical integrity. Also, the Forte's CNC-machined aluminum armbase is 35mm larger in diameter and 15mm taller than the Viella's.

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Housed within the mass-damped solid plinth, drive electronics feature "enhanced circuitry" for faster startup of the larger platter. A 20kHz crystal maintains speed consistency. The Forte's power supply is housed in a new, CNC-machined structure that complements the plinth's shape and features a new toroidal transformer and additional voltage filtering.

Updated 12JT tonearm
Here, too, the changes are evolutionary; again, the revolution came with the predecessor, the original 12J2. That tonearm featured a unique, dual-pivot horizontal bearing system (for vertical movement) using 0.5mm-thick spring-steel wires (as used in helicopter rotor heads, AMG says) instead of the usual gimbaled variety that can produce "chatter." The bearing arrangement also provides direct acoustic coupling, which AMG says "exactly draws from your record what is truly on it."

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That bearing system has been retained on the 12JT, but the vertical bearing, which allows horizontal movement—a hardened tool-steel axle, precision-ground for "a backlash-free fit," the manual says (footnote 1)—now uses top and bottom micro ball bearings in place of the original arm's lower roller bearing. As on the original arm, the antiskating mechanism—a pair of adjustable magnets that can be moved closer to or farther away from an opposing ring magnet—is built into the bearing case.

Setting up the anodized aluminum arm has been simplified and now requires fewer specialized tools. A knurled knob now adjusts azimuth in place of the previous tiny Torx screwdriver to access a recessed screw, with far less fumbling. Locking the adjustment is now also done with a knurled knob instead of another tiny recessed screw. Antiskating adjusts via a pair of small knurled knobs instead of more tiny recessed screws. Setting VTA/SRA remains easy and, more importantly, precise and slop-free, via a knurled knob atop the cylindrical-threaded riser tower and a well-marked gauge.

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Like the original arm, this one has a tiny spirit level built into the top of the bearing housing; this makes it easy to set the arm parallel to the record surface as a starting point for adjusting VTA/SRA.

Cartridge mounting has been simplified by the addition of a sliding aluminum carrier to which you first attach the cartridge. Overhang is set by sliding the carrier fore and aft and tightening it using another knurled knob. As with many similar sliding-carrier headshells, there's no way to adjust zenith angle.

Basic arm specs include 304.8mm effective length, 291.4mm pivot-to-spindle (P2S) distance, 13.4mm overhang, 17.89° offset angle, and 13.9gm effective mass.

As on the original arm, the DIN jack, which is located in the arm barrel, requires a cable with a vertically mounted DIN plug. The cable is not included, but AMG offers a Cardas-sourced AMG Turbo tonearm cable ($2250), which is what I used.

Setup and use
AMG's unsuspended mass-loaded design makes it critical what you place it on. In my listening room, the Forte sat atop an oversized, six-footed Harmonic Resolution System M3-1925 isolation base on an HRS MXR Signature stand. After using the turntable's built-in spirit level to check that the stand is, well, level, you unscrew, via small holes on the plinth surface, three tiny steel points, one centered within each of the three feet, so that the 'table sits evenly on the three spikes. One hole gets hidden by the platter, so it's important to do this before installing the platter!

AMG recommends a two-man lift to hoist the heavy plinth atop your stand, but in the COVID-19 era, I had to do this by myself. Happy to say I'm still capable.

The platter installation posed another challenge, both because of its weight and because the belt rides on both an inner hub and a well-machined aluminum motor pulley made inaccessible by the platter. AMG provides wooden support spacers and a special tool to make it easier, but seven years later I'll admit that when I did this with the original Viella, the platter did not lower evenly and got wedged onto the subplatter and stuck. Freeing it required a process that might give Mr. Leerer heart failure, so I won't repeat it other than to say "upside down cake." I was more careful this time.


Footnote 1: Translation: There's no play in the vertical axle.
COMPANY INFO
Analog Manufaktur Germany (AMG UG)
US distributor: Musical Surroundings
(510) 547-5006
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Anton's picture

Ribbed vs. smooth, a classic conundrum.

For 2K more, do you think the ribbed plinth offers greater pleasure?

Sujay's picture

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the comprehensive review of the the Viella Forte. I have owned the Original Viella for over 5 years now and have always been wondering how the Viella Forte ( and the original Viella) compare with the Brinkmann Balance.

Will be great to have your views

Thanks

Sujay

tonykaz's picture

How many readers live on this Planet of yours where values come at such high costs?

We just had the worst Quarter in the history of Capitalism.

What price is paid for hubris?

Tony in Venice

ps. "no play in the Vertical axis". hmm. All tolerance is measurable, certainly the manufacturer knows the actual measurements ( not that it probably matters to most people other than engineers )

Anton's picture

Tony, nobody who could have afforded this baby last year can’t afford it now.

For the people who couldn’t afford it then, it’s even more out of reach now...but that won’t affect sales!

The demographics of potential buyers for this rig have not been altered by recent events!

Michael Fremer's picture

Do you post similar comments on automobile websites under reviews of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys etc.? Or do you do this only on a website that covers high performance audio gear? Just curious.You should know that according to people in the industry with whom I've spoken, well off consumers now stuck at home ares spending more than ever on upgrading audio gear especially big loudspeakers. Is this fair during this recession? No. But economic justice is not our field of expertise. The S&P keeps skyrocketing up and up. Makes no sense to me whatsoever. Actually it makes no sense to even economists! I'm going now to play some records. I can make sense of them!

tonykaz's picture

I'm an Industrial trouble shooter by trade.

My background is Engineering and Manufacturing.

I'm an Analytical Scientist, I work with Analytical Scientists.

I've worked in the Analog Field, I understand transducers and have manufactured Analog type of devices.

I also understand the hubris of presenting outrageously priced gear to an audience of financially struggling, it reads like intentional elitist smugness.

Tony in Venice

ps. I and my peers are critical of all Automotive developments, especially the extravagant Italian 'Look at me' $6 per mile type brands.

ps.2 ) I had a look at this turntable review because it reminded me of the Systemdeks that I imported back in the 1980s

Kursun's picture

Nice looking piece of mechanical engineering...
But $2000 for laser etching of the top plate? That's completely irrational!
I would probably buy a whole new turntable for $2000 that would give me same pleasure.

dial's picture

But not as good as the original Caliburn (now sadly discontinued, 65 000 $ with arm -12 500- in 2006) and SAT CF1-09 (48 000 $ in 2018).
But do you think that for playing ordinary everyday records, from Sonic Youth to John Coltrane Live in Japan, this is necessary or it'll add something incredible ?

Michael Fremer's picture

Come on over and bring your most mundane, unspecial records (wear a mask).

Ortofan's picture

... a turntable, it's an SME for me - or nothing.

Michael Fremer's picture

You know better than that! There are many great turntable designs out there.

Ortofan's picture

... equally expensive turntable/tonearm combinations out there, but if you were about to spend about $30K on a new turntable and tone arm, what would be your choice?

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