Table Toppers, Take 3: A Super Spyder Turntable and Its Wide Web of Intricate and Intriguing Gear Move Sonic Mountains in Santa Cruz

Table Toppers returns anew here in 2024! Recently, we asked the AP faithful to “show us your turntables!” for an all-new feature section titled Table Toppers — and now it’s time for the first series installment of the new year.

First, a brief history lesson about this recurring section. We kicked off our Table Toppers series back in November 2023 with (and please pardon the array of alliteration ahead) a truly terrific trio of turntables owned by Diogo Alfaiate of Lisbon, Portugal. Then, in Part 2, which posted in December 2023, we featured a fine, fine array of analog-centric gear owned by Jake Juros, MD, a psychiatrist based in Los Angeles.

And now, here we are in the second month of 2024, and it’s finally time for Take 3. In this installment, we turn our attention to Vince, who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California. “Sorry for the delay!” Vince responded to me a few days after I initially contacted him by email to let him know he was our next Table Toppers subject. No worries, my friend — learning all about your gear, your stories of how you chose it all and why, and your selection of listening material has all been well worth the wait. Let’s get to it!


Vince started things off by cataloguing the wide web of great gear in his current setup, the balance of which will be shown throughout this story. First, his Brinkmann Spyder turntable that’s fitted with a Brinkman 12.1 tonearm and an Air Tight PC-7 MC cartridge resides on a granite slab that rests on Thorlabs optical table isolators, which in turn rest on wooden stand with sand-ballasted shelves. (He’ll explain the reasoning behind this particular placement in a bit.)

The signal chain continues with an EAR 834P phono preamp, Benchmark DAC3 HGC D/A preamp headphone amp, Bottlehead Kaiju 300B SET amp kit, Klipsch La Scala AL5 floorstanding speakers, and JL Audio Fathom f110v2 powered subwoofer.


There’s also an SPL Phonitor xe headphone amp and Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones in the mix, the latter of which serve to “keep my wife happy,” as Vince puts it. “All of it,” he summarizes, “is in a room that is too small.” (We do what we have to do, sometimes.)

Vince is a loyal customer at one of his favorite regional shops. “I bought the EAR 834P, table, tonearm, and cartridge from Tone of Music Audio,” he says, citing the shop he frequents in the San Francisco area, “and I bought some other kit there too. Tim, the owner, is great!” We here at AP certainly agree with that assessment — and you can check Tone of Music Audio out right here to get a sense of what Tim and his top-shelf ToMA team offer in terms of products, as well as visit the multiple photo galleries that show a myriad of systems from their ever-burgeoning client base.

While Vince can’t quite recall the name(s) of the other local dealers from whom he obtained his Klipsch La Scala speakers, JL Audio sub, and Sennheiser headphones (we’ll let that slide, brother, but just this one time), he can confirm he got his SPL Phonitor from B&H, the Benchmark DAC-3 directly from Benchmark, and the Bottlehead SET (seen below) directly from Bottlehead.


What brought Vince to purchase his Brinkmann Spyder table in the first place? “About a decade ago, I bought a DAC, a Cayin A88T tube amp, and that pair of Klipsch La Scala speakers,” he recalls. “The plan was to send bits to the DAC and enjoy them coming from the speakers. I noticed Tim [at Tone of Music Audio] also stocked a couple of gorgeous Simon Yorke Designs turntables, and as I was leaving with my swell new toys, I asked him how much one of them cost. I was surprised by his answer.”

And then the table plot thickens. “Intrigued, I came back a month or two later to purchase a used Nottingham Spacedeck table, an Ace Space arm, and the EAR 834P phono stage,” Vince continues. “By that time, my wife and I had started buying used records — stuff we had when we teenagers. After a while, we learned Analogue Productions was reissuing jazz titles from the Prestige label, and both mono and stereo runs were being offered. We signed up and enjoyed a new, classic jazz LP every month or few. I was amazed by the quality and the lengths Chad [Kassem, head of AP] went to, to get a superior product. These were not the flimsy LPs from the 1980s. These oozed quality — visual, tactile, and audible quality. I wanted to buy everything Analogue Productions ever made!” (Now, that’s something many of us can directly relate to, no?)

Back to the table saga. “I didn’t forget the beautiful stuff Simon Yorke was offering and wanted to get some of that quality on the playback stage, so I researched tables and was intrigued by the Brinkmann Bardo,” Vince clarifies. “I asked Tim if he had one. He didn’t — but he did have the Spyder. I took a look at it, and saw how Brinkmann offered a beautiful table.”


Once he brought the Spyder home, Vince had some issues to contend with after he set it up. “I immediately noticed I was getting noise, up through the stand,” he confirms. “Tim suggested some isolation, so I added the granite and three pneumatic optical table isolators. This just killed the noise — and the granite looks good, besides.” Duly satisfied with his playback, Vince could begin to take a longer view of his system: “I wanted something that would last, something I could retire with and enjoy, and something I could pass on to the next generation,” he says. “I think the Brinkmann offers that.”

Like many of us, Vince came into the high-end audio sphere by way of an audiophile-centric relative. “My first exposures to hi-fi came by way of my uncle’s Marantz quadraphonic setup,” Vince confirms. “Everything was Marantz except for his Dual turntable. He had the topline receiver with the oscilloscope — a 4400, I think — plus top-of-the-line Marantz speakers, and even a Marantz reel-to-reel [tape] deck. I remember hearing CCR’s ‘Run Through the Jungle’ [Side 1, Track 6 on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic July 1970 LP, Cosmo’s Factory] swirling around the basement at high volume, and I was impressed.”

Vince continues, “Later, I spent the summer with my aunt and uncle; it was a way to put some space between my father and me. By this time, he had moved out of my grandmother’s basement and into a single-family home, and the hi-fi had some space to breathe. I was then shown how to properly handle LPs — and handle them I did. My uncle had accumulated an impressive collection, and I listened to as much as I could.”

Like many of us, Vince also garnered some key hi-fi retail experience during his formative years. “Around high-school graduation, I went to work for a local hi-fi shop called The Stereo Shoppe, in Traverse City, Michigan,” he recounts. “We sold McIntosh, Klipsch, Denon, Yamaha, Sony, and several other brands. Transistor gear represented the bulk of what we sold. I learned how to set up a table and tonearm while working there, as well as how to position speakers to optimize bass response and image, and, generally, how to listen.” Though The Stereo Shoppe itself is long gone, Vince retains fond memories of his time working there. “I love running into my old colleagues,” he muses, “but it doesn’t happen often enough.”

Seeing how cleaning vinyl and the use of record cleaning machines have become important topics here on AP, Vince notes, “Thanks to the early, careful instruction from my uncle, my current record collection is very well-kept. Every record in it has been cleaned with a Loricraft PRC6i RCM, slipped into a fresh rice paper sleeve and bagged, and then cataloged on Discogs. Discogs estimates my 553-item collection has a median value of about $24K. Many of the records are audiophile-quality, and were obtained from places like Analogue Productions. I have both UHQR 0001 and UHQR 0002, for example.” (Those two key inaugural UHQR titles are, respectively, the stereo and mono versions of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s seminal December 1967 sophomore LP, Axis: Bold as Love.)


What was Vince’s first LP back in the day as a kid? “The first record I can remember playing was [October 1969’s] Led Zeppelin II,” he recalls — and then he shares a detail many of us can nod our heads at upon hearing iy because, yep, we did that too. “I had to put a penny on the cheesy record player tonearm to keep the needle in the groove,” Vince continues. “Yep, I probably had a collector’s item with that [Atlantic] LP, but my twelve-year-old self had no idea.” (Sidenote No. 1: As for me, I had an array of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters next to my own first, crummy table for similar purposes when I was a kid, because that was all I could literally afford to do to compensate for any warps, warbles, and other LP surface injustices of the day. How about you?)

That all being said, Vince points out, “The system described above [i.e., the Spyder-centric system delineated at the outset of this story] has no problem playing a similar record today.”


What was the first LP Vince bought himself? “The first record I bought was Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding At Monterey,” Vince replies, citing an iteration of the 1970 Reprise combo LP that featured each artist on their own side, as culled from their respective career-defining performances at the June 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. “I remember wanting to build my record collection quickly, and getting two artists on a single album seemed like a way toward that goal. I had just purchased an inexpensive Sony PS-LX2 direct-drive table and a 30W Sherwood integrated amp. The speakers were three-way dynamic, but I can’t say much more about them than that.”

I bet Vince’s following comment sounds familiar to many of you as well. “I was probably 17 at that time, and there was no way my parents were going to drive me to a hi-fi shop so I could waste my money!” he admits. “So, I drove myself, and spent the money I made bussing tables and washing dishes on hi-fi gear and LPs.” (Sidenote No. 2: During my own high school years, I mowed lawns and worked summers and school breaks at a local technical book publisher to help pay for my LP and gear-obtaining proclivities. How did you make money to fuel your own analog passions growing up? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.)


Vinyl Times: Above, “Some good-sounding records,” sayeth Vince, which are LPs by (left to right, top to bottom) Kirsten Edkins (Sights and Sounds), Paul Simon (Graceland), Jerome Sabbagh (Vintage), Nina Simone (Pastel Blues), Neil Young (Live at Massey Hall 1971), Gene Ammons (Nice an’ Cool), and Jon Batiste (We Are).

What are Vince’s current favorite LPs? “Heavy rotation includes the new Lana Del Rey, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. [March 2023, Interscope]. Roger Waters’ Amused to Death [September 1992, Columbia] is always a good ride. Also, Jon Batiste’s We Are [March 2021, Verve], Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971 [March 2007, Reprise], and Paul Simon’s Graceland – 25th Anniversary Edition [April 2012, Legacy] are all pretty amazing.”

Vince loves spinning all of the above LPs (and more) on the Spyder. “The table has been great — nice and quiet, once it was isolated,” he concludes. “And I love the glass mat. It makes it easy to see dust and get rid of it before putting an LP down. The clamp is brilliant, and it really couples the record to the platter. The platter is very well-sorted, and I cannot tell it is rotating at all from my chair. The tonearm is likewise very steady, unless there is an off-center [LP] hole.”

As much as he does love his current setup, Vince, also like many of us, is looking ahead to what might come next. “My upgrade goals include swapping out the EAR 834P for a Manley Steelhead RC phono preamp, and swapping out the Kaiju 300B amp for a Manley Neo-Classic 300B RC preamp or a Line Magnetic LM-845IA integrated amp,” he acknowledges. “And I am looking forward to adding an arm or two, in the future. But, for now, I am happy.” We are too, Vince. Enjoy your system as much as we’ve enjoyed seeing it and sharing it with the AP faithful.

Could you be our next feature subject? It’s never too late to participate! If you haven’t submitted your entry to us yet, see the instructions below for how you too can get into the Table Toppers mix yourself, as we never get tired of seeing our fellow analog lovers’ systems and setups. To be considered for Table Toppers, all you have to do is go here to find out all the necessary steps for submitting your system, and then email it all to us at this e-address:, with “Table Toppers Submission” as your subject line. Happy spinning!


Glotz's picture

That table is to die for! So are those amps. Kudos man! Where did you get your pneumatic pods? Need! Want! lol.

vince's picture

Thank you Glotz. Very kind. Newport makes several different isolators, from simple elastomeric to active isolators with electronic feedback. I use these: Simple and effective.