U-Turn Audio Orbit 2 Plus & Orbit 2 Special Turntable Overview

Company History

This article is on a new series of second-generation turntables from our friends at U-Turn Audio — the Orbit 2 Plus and Orbit 2 Special. We love the U-Turn turntables and are excited to tell you all about the massive improvements they have made to what was already an incredibly high-value selection of turntables. Let’s get started!

The founders of U-Turn Audio were all born in the heyday of CDs but as they entered college, vinyl was starting to make a comeback. As poor college students, they couldn’t afford a great turntable and were disappointed with the selection of cheap turntables that sounded bad and could potentially damage their highly valued records, so, they decided to combine their skills of creativity, design, and engineering to see if they could make something they would want to buy for themselves.  

Their timing could not have been any better as Kickstarter was now available for product launches and vinyl sales were exploding. By 2015, they had already sold over 10,000 turntables from their factory in Woburn, Massachusetts. One of their goals too was to source as much as possible from local suppliers.

  1. Blue U-Turn Orbit 2 Plus Turntable on white background w/ acrylic platter & OA3 tonearm U-Turn Audio Orbit 2 Plus Turntable
    Final Price From$399.00 - To$599.00

  1. U-Turn Orbit Special Turntable in green on white background w/ acrylic platter U-Turn Audio Orbit 2 Special Turntable
    Final Price From$549.00 - To$749.00

Design & Build Quality

U-Turn Audio choices in their great value turntables have been called the Orbit Basic, Orbit Plus, and Orbit Special. Last year, U-Turn Audio introduced their Theory turntable which was in a higher price category than the Orbits. Like most great companies, U-Turn was able to take many of the things they learned from the Theory and make some significant upgrades to their Orbit lineup using Theory technology. As a matter of fact, they told us that one of the main reasons they set out to make the Theory was to learn how to make their already great Orbit turntables even better. We’re going to first go over some of the basics of their Orbit turntables then get into all of the improvements you’ll find on the new ones.  

All of the Orbit turntables are manual and belt drive. In the world of high-performance turntables, you’ll find almost 99% of the great ones are done this way. You get simplicity for long-term reliability, and belt drive turntables usually have excellent speed stability for that live sound we all love. Before we get into the upgrades, we want to go over a couple of things that made Orbit turntables famous for their great value.

Features & Technology

One of the most important parts of a turntable is the platter bearing.  Any noise it makes will get picked up by your phono cartridge, and any wobble or drab will affect the speed stability. And a great bearing needs to withstand millions of revolutions without wear, heck, one hour of play results in almost 2,000 revolutions!  

U-Turn uses an inverted bearing design where the inner platter has the well, and the shaft is pointing up. The team at U-Turn wanted to find a material that was super rigid but easy to machine. They use a glass-filled nylon injection molded material they discovered in the auto industry for its long-term reliability. The main stainless steel shaft is anchored in this and attached to the top of the plinth. The inner platter is made of the same material and houses the bushing that contacts the stainless steel shaft. These German-made bushings need no lubrication and have super low friction. Finally, the end of the inner platter has a Delrin load bearing that sits on top of the shaft.

All of this great tech results in a platter that has virtually no friction or wobble. The Orbit 2 Special and Orbit 2 Plus are both upgraded with an acrylic platter. This type of platter is unusual to see in their price range and how they were able to include them is pretty cool. 

Most turntables with acrylic platters have each one machined and polished. U-Turn looked for a way to offer this tech at a lower price. They use an industrial CNC lathe to precisely machine all surfaces for optimal flatness. And like the other parts, this acrylic is also locally sourced.  

Another important turntable part is the motor. It needs to spin at the correct speed all the time.  And once again, the team at U-Turn figured out a way to include a very high-end motor in their Orbit turntables. There is a company in Princeton, Indiana called Hurst which has been making motors for decades. Many turntable brands use their motors, but most of their models are very expensive. There is one model they sell that is very inexpensive due to the fact that about 10% of them have some variability. Well, U-Turn buys these and developed a quick way to test them so they could just keep the perfect ones for their turntables.  

Ok, so those are some of the things all Orbit turntables have that did not change with the new versions.  Now let's look at some of the major improvements.  

When U-Turn developed the more expensive Theory turntable, they wanted to come up with a one-piece tonearm design that was made of magnesium.  It actually took them about 3 years to get this all nailed down and it was released in the Theory as the OA3 Pro. Even at the price of the Theory, it's unusual to see a one-piece magnesium arm being offered, but guess what?  All of the new Orbit turntables have an OA3 tonearm.  This is almost the exact same arm as the Theory. It is simply incredible you can get this type of tonearm on the Orbit turntables for their very affordable price and as you might be guessing, they have this arm tube made in Wisconsin! Once it arrives at their factory in Massachusetts, they do all assembly and testing there. 

The OA3 arm is also a longer tonearm for better tracking.  Its effective length is 220mm compared to the 213 on the older OA2.  This puts is just under 9”, the length of most very high-end turntables.  This longer arm led to some experimentation on the geometry of the plinth. They did all of this design work to optimize the OA3 Pro for the Theory and use the exact same geometry on the Orbits.  

The speed control mechanism for the turntable motor is another area you’ll find manufacturers going to extremes to assure the motor runs at a constant speed.  When they developed the Theory, they designed a new speed control system that not only made the motor for the Theory run more consistently but also offered the ability to change from 33 to 45 by just turning a knob rather than moving the belt.  They were able to modify this exact same speed control to work with the Hurst motor in the Orbit with a firmware change.  This greatly improved system will now be standard on the Orbit Special model and an option on a custom build. 

And speaking of the custom build option, all types will now have the option of a wood plinth as an upgrade. All of them can also get the special anti-resonant feet they developed for their Theory turntable.  Our team at Audio Advice can help you walk through a custom build should you want to make an Orbit your own.  However, the Orbit Plus and Orbit Specials are probably the best value of all.  

The Theory also led them to do some research on a better belt.  The Orbit belts have been made by binding together and then polishing a round piece of rubber.  However, for the Theory, they came up with a seamless, molded liquid silicone belt with no seams.  They even put this through a UV curing process to further reduce friction.  All of the new Orbit 2 turntables will get this greatly improved belt. They also worked on improving the way the belt sits on the platter. This took lots of experiments, but they arrived at a special groove cut into the platter that keeps the belt perfectly centered.  

Finally, this was really fun to talk with the team at U-Turn about as we are turntable geeks, they came up with a very elaborate testing station for every single Theory turntable that comes off the line.  They requested we not go into all of the details for competitive reasons, but the things that are testing are just unbelievable even for a $10,000 turntable.  Orbits used to have their own pretty special test procedure but it's gotten even better with the Theory.  They have set up the same Theory system for the Orbit 2 line and yes, each and everyone goes through a series of rigorous tests before it passes final inspection.  

The fact that U-Turn Audio has gone through all of these technical exercises to make their Orbit turntables even better just blows my mind.  Add in these are all still made at their factory in Massachusetts with mostly local materials is just amazing.  We frankly don’t see how they do it and sell these incredibly well-made turntables for the price they do.  

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a new Orbit 2 Special before the announcement of the new models. We can say without question, everything they did has made this a much better turntable. The original Orbit Special would make us tap our toes to the music as it always had great speed consistency, but it's much better with the new belt and speed control. The included Ortofon 2M Red cartridge tracked some of our harder test passages much better with the longer one-piece magnesium OA3 tonearm.  These changes are not minor, making the Orbit 2 turntables an even better value than they were before.  

U-Turn tables are simply an amazing value. We love the idea behind U-Turn. Here is a group of people who love great local craftsmanship and started their company with an idea and a Kickstarter campaign. They keep innovating and pushing the limits to improve their Orbit tables by leaps and bounds.  At Audio Advice, we feel great about supporting the U-Turn product, and we fully endorse this table for anyone looking for a great entry-level turntable that will last. 

If you have further questions, be sure to reach out to our team of experts at audioadvice.com via chat, phone, or email, and we’d be happy to help you out. Our world-class showrooms have a variety of turntables on display and are another great way for you to compare and hear them for yourself.

U-Turn Orbit Basic Turntable U-Turn Orbit 2 Plus Turntable U-Turn Orbit 2 Special Turntable U-Turn Orbit Custom Turntable U-Turn Orbit Theory Turntable
Orbit Basic Orbit Plus Orbit Special Orbit Custom Orbit Theory
Speed Control Manual Manual Electronic Manual or Electronic Electronic
Platter MDF Machined Acrylic Machined Acrylic MDF or Acrylic Machined Acrylic
Tonearm OA3 OA3 OA3 OA3 OA3 Pro
Cartridge Audio-Technica AT91B Ortofon OM 5E Ortofon 2M Red 5 Options Ortofon 2M Blue or Bronze
Cue Lever Available Separately Available Separately Included Optional Included
Built-in Preamp Optional Optional Optional Optional Optional
Feet Rubber Rubber Rubber Iso-level or Rubber Iso-level
Motor Standard Standard Standard Standard Ultra-quiet
Price $249+ $249+ Final Price From$999.00 - To$1,079.00

  1. Blue U-Turn Orbit 2 Plus Turntable on white background w/ acrylic platter & OA3 tonearm U-Turn Audio Orbit 2 Plus Turntable
    Final Price From$399.00 - To$599.00

  1. U-Turn Orbit Special Turntable in green on white background w/ acrylic platter U-Turn Audio Orbit 2 Special Turntable
    Final Price From$549.00 - To$749.00

  1. U-Turn Orbit Theory Turntable - Rift Walnut angled front right view U-Turn Orbit Theory Turntable
    Final Price From$999.00 - To$1,079.00