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Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 Turntable R.E.A.L. Good

According to a recent poll of our editors and reviewers (TAS 216), the AR XA was ranked as the most significant turntable in the history of analog playback. If you ever lived with the AR XA turntable or one of its successors (XB, XE, ES-1, ETL-1, EB101), you may well have installed some of the popular “Merrill mods” that helped lift the sonic performance of that entire turntable family. These ranged from enhanced speed controllers and motors, to acrylic-lead turntable mats, acrylic subchassis, center and outer clamps, and improved parts, among others. Thousands were reportedly sold, making them the most popular mods for those venerable belt-driven, spring-suspended classics.

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Equipment Review: Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 Turntable

Back in 1973, my passion for turntables began with a modest purchase of an Acoustic Research AR XA. At something like $88 including a pre-installed Shure cartridge, it was a no-brainer even for a High School freshman on a paper route budget. For several years, I “unofficially” worked at an audio store, assembling and setting them up for waiting customers. Little did I know back then that this cheap unassuming little workhorse of a turntable and diamond in the rough would ignite the creative juices of one George Merrill in Tennessee.

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An Interview with George Merrill of Merrill-Williams Audio

I first received an early production Merrill Williams R.E.A.L. 101 turntable System from George Merrill for evaluation in June of this year. It did not take much time for me to realize three things:

This turntable represents a complete re-think in belt-driven turntable design.
This is no re-hash or derivative of the famous Merrill Heirloom or Merrill-Scillia MS21.
This turntable may very well be a game changer.
As such, I feel it important that before we start the journey down the road of describing the Merrill- Williams R.E.A.L. 101, we should first get a bit into the head of the man chiefly involved in the design.

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35 Years in the Making

George Merrill, a Memphis, Tennessee native, began his career in the audio business when he was just 14 years old. In 1974, he created UnderGround Sound. After realizing how different turntables sounded from one another, he set out to experiment with all the versions of Acoustic Research turntables and modified them accordingly. These “Merrill Mods” made a legend of George Merrill.

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