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American Audio HDT-4.5 Review - by ProfessorBX - October 2004

”Built Like a H2, Priced like a Geo Tracker”

A few years ago, if anyone asked you if there was an alternative to the Technics 1200 at any sort of reasonable price, honestly you would have probably been laughed at. While the Vestax PDX series of tables provided an alternative for those who wanted a more feature rich table, the price was almost exactly the same as a 1200, and the Gemini PT-series was more of a souped up intermediate turntable than an alternative for the serious scratch artist. The best one could hope for was a decently priced used 1200, and even then you would be taking your chances on whether or not the previous owner had treated it with any sort of care. While the Numark TTX1 broke the $400 price barrier, there was still nothing in the sub-$300 price class that could be considered “professional”. So when the American Audio HDT4.5 was announced, and more to the point, its price was announced, it turned my head pretty quickly. Would it be able to provide an alternative to a 1200mk2 at a price point that could actually be afforded by the common man, or would it simply be another let down?

“Sittin on (black) chrome”

Out of the box, the HDT feels far more substantial than any “budget” table that I have ever used. The top is wrapped in a steel plate which, while not making up the entire top piece, cannot really be described as a faceplate either because of it’s thickness. The paint job is a black finish with tiny silver specs embedded in the paint (think the 1200mk5g’s finish), and while looking great, was a little too easily scratched for my taste (my mixer actually made tiny scratches that could be noticed within the first few weeks). The bottom of the turntable is a rubberized plastic piece with a sunken in steel plate and shock absorbing feet, with the bottom about 7mm thicker than the lower half used in their previous turntable (the HT2.2), providing much better feedback isolation than their previous top end unit. The platter is quite similar to that of a 1200, with a thick rubber coating below the platter, and a motor magnet that is actually part of the platter as opposed to a simple 2 pin design like previous “budget” tables. The platter actually sits about 1.5mm above the unit unlike on a 1200 where it is sunken in, but the platter didn’t wobble enough even under extreme pressure for this to be a problem. Finally, getting to the tonearm, while the space age styling seemed slightly corny at first, I found the whole tonearm to actually be really well built, actually in my opinion more solid than the tonearm base of the TTX1 (which costs $100 more). The only pieces that really didn’t feel as solid as the rest of the table were the start/stop buttons, which were solid but still plastic, and the pitch slider, which, while accurate, was a little loose for my taste and not sunken in like that of a 1200mk2.

“Under the Hood”

Putting a record on, the motor was REALLY impressive from the start. The 4.5kg motor felt like enough to take one’s finger off, and felt really nice when cutting. Setting up doubles of various dirtstyle records and putting them in phase, I found that the motor’s wow and flutter was low enough to keep the records in phase for an entire 10 minute side, which is unheard of in a table of this price class. Reaction time was instant on the start and stop as well, to the point where one can break down a sentence just by tapping the start/stop button. Not even the TTX1 has a stop that fast. Pitch reaction was really fast, especially on the +-50% setting, being able to drop down speed from 0 to –50% faster than a Numark TTX1.

“Windy Road Ahead”

The HDT breaks from the norm as of late by including an S-shaped arm, with no straight-armed model or swappable tonearm like the competition. I never found this to be a problem though, as holding was actually about as good as the 1200mk5g, which has an enhanced tonearm stabilizer (read the review here to find out more). I was able to scratch with the same beat up 505sk used in the MK5g review, which was done over a year ago (and since then the needle has been abused even more). Of course, while you shouldn’t expect to be able to angle the table at 90’ like the Vestax “Pro” series of tables, those cost double the asking price of the HDT.

“Smooth Ride at a Nice Price”

I have to say I NEVER expected to be able to use a turntable this nice at this price point. The whole unit just screams quality, and is on my short list of tables suitable for scratch artists. Even scarier, but with a price point only 1/3 above that of the Numark TT200 (my defacto choice for a starter turntable), one would be hard pressed to start with any less.

American Audio HDT 4.5 Turntable
Appearance
8
Overall
Build
8
8
Tracking
8
Feedback Resistance
8
Durability
8

Big thanks, big ups and props to Stevie Ray for providing the pictures.



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