Acoustic Sounds

U-Turn Audio

Orbit Special

U-Turn Orbit Special
By: Michael Fremer

October 5th, 2023



U-Turn Orbit Special Lowers the Price of Great Turntable Performance

electronic speed control, Magnesium one piece arm & more for $549

U-Turn Audio made a bold move last year, introducing the Orbit Theory turntable fitted with its new 220mm effective length OA3 gimbaled bearing tonearm, featuring a one piece molded, tapered magnesium armtube. The research and development costs of the made in USA arm must have been relatively high, yet the Theory sells for a very reasonable $999. Now the company has introduced a full line of turntables featuring a variant of that arm, with prices starting at $249.

Magnesium is a stiff, light-weight metal with excellent self-damping properties. Offering this arm on the full turntable lineup is U-Turn's challenge to both the more established European brands and to the flood of low cost turntables coming in from Asia.

The mid-priced $549 Special, available in a variety of colors along with genuine oak or walnut wood plinths ($120 extra), includes electronic speed control but omits the Theory's height adjustable aluminum feet fitted with Sorbothane inserts, which can be added later for $79.00. The Special features a grooved acrylic platter, suspended A.C. synchronous motor and seamless silicone belt. A hinged dust cover is included.

The OA3 arm used here omits the Theory arm's adjustable, lever-type anti-skating and instead features an internal pre-set one that should suffice for most cartridges that track in the circa 2 gram range, like the pre-installed 1.8g Ortofon 2M Red. The stainless steel counterweight here omits the Theory arm's built-in tracking force gauge. I also requested the optional built-in Pluto 2 phono preamplifier (add $80 for a total of $629).

U-Turn Orbit Special


Once you've put the platter on the spindle bearing, added the belt and placed the Orbit special on a level surface (something the instructions fail to mention, yet it is critically important) you are ready to play records. Well, it's supposed to be ready to play, but when I checked the vertical tracking force instead of it being at 1.8 it was set to .34 grams. The counterweight obviously slipped in shipping. Hopefully this is the usual "it only happens to reviewers" screw up, but it makes me wonder if buyers should be told to double check VTF when their turntable arrives and if they don't have a tracking force gauge, to get one.

That aside, setting up this turntable takes but a few minutes. Once I'd let the platter/bearing spin for a bit I used the Shaknspin and measured rotational performance. The 33 1/3 platter speed measured 33.7, which is slightly but inaudibly fast (no movement on a strobe disc). The wow and flutter measurements were very good, and not surprisingly similar to the Theory's :

One reason for turntable's fine measured performance has to do with the design and execution of the inverted bearing. The bearing shaft is fixed to the plinth.

The bushing is a sleeve of a super hard, durable, low friction, maintenance-free material as is the thrust pad not visible in the photo:

The combination produces a low noise, super stable bearing design.


I decided to begin by auditioning never before played records that have been piling up here, just to hear what this modestly priced turntable sounded like referenced to nothing. I found Kielo by the Finnish guitarist Olli Hirvonen (Ropeadope RAD-675).

Kielo, Ollie Hirvonen It saddens me to think of how many minor treasures like this are sitting here undiscovered. Now living in Brooklyn, Hirvonen and his cohorts, Marty Kenny on bass and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums, recorded this at The Bunker Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on analog tape, with all three playing together in the same space sans isolation and headphones. Alex DeTurk mastered, but since he no longer cuts, the LP was digitally sourced. Never mind, the analog goodness—space, supple attack and generous decay shine through.

On the opening track—the title tune— Hirvonen's shimmering guitar is bathed in enveloping reverb behind which are the drums and bass. It's a bit of shoe gazing-jazz that drew me directly in. The bass doesn't sound particularly deep, which is good because when I further read up on this record I found it was a Fender Bass VI—a six string bass guitar tuned an octave below a standard guitar. The track was well-delivered referenced to nothing and that's good enough for me, playing a $549 turntable through a major system.

The second track, "Erode", sounds like it's out of "Twin Peaks" and since this is a turntable review not a record review I'll stop now other than to add that the final track sounded familiar and that's because it's a cover of Big Thief's "Vegas" from their debut album (that I didn't find out about until years later). Combining jazz improv and shoe-gaze—at least when done by supremely competent musicians like these— produces an infectious, mesmerizing mix. I was happy to discover it on this U-Turn Special turntable.


I'm going to cut short the string of recorded examples, though i listened to many, and get directly to the point: The magnesium arm and electronic speed control feature that lifted the U-Turn Theory's performance well above the typical $1000 turntable does likewise here at around half that price and since the least expensive U-Turn, the $249 Basic, now uses that arm, even without hear it it, it's safe to say U-Turn is close to owning the $1000 and under turntable market—and if that's going too far, let's just say U-Turn is the first place to look at that price point.

The Orbit Special's bottom end performance is exemplary at this price point: taut, well-ended and rhythmically nimble. It's the area where most budget turntables fall down. the Special's success in this region means male voices achieve clarity and warmth without congestion and female voices don't sound "chesty" unless that's how they actually sound. The overall lack of coloration helps make the turntable "disappear", though spending more on a more costly turntable that can deliver it (and not all can) will get you noticeably blacker backgrounds, improved macrodynamic and a few other desirably sonic virtues. But let me reiterate: I'm confident you won't get more sonic performance for $549 than you get here.

You can't adjust VTA/SRA or azimuth, but then you can't do that either on some of the competition. Rigidity at this price point is more critical than is adjustability. I'd just avoid any stylus profile beyond elliptical to avoid set-up issues. Owners can easily swap out stylus assemblies and turn the Red into the audibly far superior 2M Blue. And add the adjustable feet for another $79, which is especially useful if you have feedback issues or a shelf that's not level.

Which reminds me to re-emphasize the importance of placing the Orbit Special or any turntable on a level surface—something the instructions should make clear. Also I'd recommend checking tracking force rather than assuming it's survived shipping correctly set at 1.8 grams. Finally, if you're wondering to what alignment U-Turn uses here it's Löfgren A, which is my preferred but if you prefer another the arm can be set up for Löfgren B, Stevenson or whichever you prefer. The Special does not come with an alignment gauge.

Adding the built-in Pluto 2 for $80 additional dollars is highly recommended as well. It's quiet, timbrally well-balanced and complements both the 'table's performance and the sonic personality of Ortofon's 2M Red and the Blue as well.

In closing I'll just say that this is likely not the first review of a turntable from the new U-Turn lineup that you'll find online, but it's one you can be confident reading and trusting knowing that I actually spent a great deal of time listening to it, before writing the review.

The below video was produced by retailer Audio Advice. Normally we don't run "adverts" but this one is super informative.


Playback speeds 33/45 RPM electronically changed

Dimensions 16.75 x 12.5 x 4.25"

Wow & flutter < 0.125%

S/N Ratio -79 dBA

Rumble < -63 dBA

Input voltage 115V/60Hz

Output connection RCA

Warranty 3-year limited warranty

Manufacturer Information

U-Turn Audio

11 Cranes Court
Woburn, MA 01801


  • 2023-10-05 03:43:03 PM

    Jim Shue wrote:

    Michael - thanks for this awesome review! U-Turn are giving Rega and Pro-Ject a serious run for their money in this $500 to $1000 price range. Love it! Add in the Audio Technica and Technics tables in this price range and people getting into vinyl have a sweet range of solid choices - that kicks ass!

    • 2023-10-05 07:13:55 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      Yes, there are many great choices now...

  • 2023-10-05 03:44:57 PM

    PeterG wrote:

    Great to see these guys creating a path for the next generation, especially in the USA. My son has an older model that had a bit of a problem--their service was excellent, much better than you'd expect for a value-priced company

  • 2023-10-13 07:22:46 AM

    Jim M wrote:

    I must that Im troubled by the speed issue. Ive been considering the Orbit Theory for some time now, but if the speed variance is common in U-Turn tables, it would be a deal breaker for me. Any thoughts? Thanks.