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Opus 3 Continuo turntable + arm

Can You Make a Silk Purse From a Sow's Ear?

[Opus 3 Continuo]

[Italian version]

Products: Opus 3 Continuo - turntable + arm
Manufacturer: Rauna/Opus 3 - Sweden
British distributor: Andy Davison at Audiosolutions
Cost, approx: 1200 Euro
Reviewer: Geoff Husband - TNT France
Reviewed: July, 2003

Author's Note

In order to understand this review it is essential that you visit the methodology page that outlines how the test was done, note changes below.


This a review that nearly didn't get written, certainly not in this form. I'm not in the habit of pulling bad reviews, but the Opus 3 Continuo presented me with a unique problem, one perhaps to do with its age?

You see the Continuo has continued in production for over 17 years now (Opus3 are best known for their audiophile records) and has seen no significant changes in that time. In fact one of the very first produced has been running continuously for 17 years at Opus (save for a 5 minute belt change) which must surely be some kind of record.

I came to the Continuo via its British distributor Andy Davison who was enthusiastic enough to insist on visiting on a day-ferry trip to me in France to deliver the turntable. He duly arrived at around 8.00pm, gulped down a quick meal, gave me the chat and left early next morning. We'd managed to get the thing out of the box to look at and that was it. During those few brief hours he did make some rather defensive remarks about the appearance, but it looked OK in our dim room lighting.

Next morning, alone I unpacked the Continuo in the cold light of day.

It looked terrible...

The steel top plate was stove enamelled which showed every ripple in the surface, the paint had spread at random over the wooden side cheeks which looked like some undefined cheap wood stained and varnished in one go without any sanding. My Neighbour has a 20 year old LP12 that hasn't had an easy life but it looked better and newer!

Plugging the thing in showed a platter running a couple of mm out of true and a wobbly pulley, so the lack of build quality wasn't just skin deep.

Grrrr..... 17 years ago were the dying days of the flat-earth period, where tweeky products wore their poor finish almost as a badge of their commitment - "it's the sound that matters stupid!". Such arrogance was misplaced then, it is simply an insult to the customer nowadays. The Continuo is living in a commercial time-warp and quite honestly I'd consider anyone spending nearly a £1000 on something so badly produced would be fully justified in asking for their money back.

Well the thing was going round so I might as well put a record on and at least listen so I'd have some listening impressions for when I did the hatchet job.

So on with a Hadcock 228 (Opus only supply the deck with one hole mounting you can't even fit a longer 242) and it's natural partner the Music Maker.

And guess what? I was very, very impressed. Suddenly nearly £1000 sounded like bargain territory. Obviously the rest of the review will cover that aspect and more, but now can you see my dilemma.

So I contacted Andy Davison and told him what I thought, and asked if there was something, anything he could do to improve matters before I wrote a scathing diatribe in one half or the review? I KNEW that here was a very special product, that as it stood was very difficult to recommend.

Andy said he'd see what he could do, and it was obvious he'd been thinking along these same lines so I agreed to do the listening tests but then hold the review until he could at least try to improve matters

Move on four months. Another flying visit, but this time in daylight. And out of the box comes a transformed turntable. Any plastic surgeon with these skills would make a fortune. The wood side cheeks had gone to be replaced by 8mm thick slabs of brushed aluminium, that cruel stove enamelling gone to have a fine satin-black finish in its place. So very simple, and so very effective. At a stroke the Continuo had evolved from something that looked like something from the Soviet block circa 1970 to a positively Scandinavian style.

OK I'll not get carried away, the looks won't bother Clearaudio (but the sound sure will) or Michell, but the result is perfectly acceptable and in certain circumstances even preferable to the aforementioned decks. Certainly it'll look much the same in 20 years which is sadly not the case with anything but the most cosseted acrylic deck. Both platter and pulley were spot on.

This makeover adds precisely £50 to the original cost - and you ask yourself why the f*** Opus didn't do it 17 years ago! [Opus Continuo]

So what follows is a review of the deck as delivered, but the comments on build and appearance apply only to Andy Davison's refinished turntable. He now tells me that the factory has taken what he's done on board and now new production will match his design either with wood or alloy sides, but personally I'd buy mine from him - let's hope he can meet demand. Please note that the photos in the review are of the 'after' version and show the Opus tonearm rather than the Hadcock used for the test, for further info see the postscript.


Having rambled on for so long I better be brief. Bent steel top plate forming a box filled with a crushed marble/resin composite which makes the thing very heavy. Aforementioned alloy side cheeks. AC Synchronous motor powered by a 'wall-wart' power supply, Felt mat on a one-piece aluminium-alloy platter, atop a hefty conventionally orientated bearing. Three strategically placed Audio Technica absorbing feet which allow for levelling. Hole top right hand corner for an arm. Good quality dust cover. On/off switch on the front. [Opus power supply]

Put it on a level surface (it ain't fussy) - switch on, play music.

OK Brief enough?

Measured performance?

No audible flutter as you'd expect with such a heavy platter, and wow/drift was very low - as good as the Orbe. The motor inaudible, though swapping pulleys to change speed was a drag. The Hadcock and Music Maker have been covered elsewhere

On that point, the top plate is drilled for 9" arms but is just a hole which of course the Hadcock was fine with, but some DIY would be needed to fit some other arms such as SME's. The Opus Arm actually glues into place... This lack of flexibility is a disadvantage especially if you already own an arm.

So on to the sound quality

You'll notice that here I've finally deviated somewhat from my earlier format of Stage 1, 2 and 3. The reasons are mainly to preserve my sanity and because the SME on my deck never seemed to really sing with the Music Maker. Also as the tests have dragged on I became guilty at hanging on to two Music Makers and Two GramAmps well beyond the agreed time limit. But before you think this means the turntables now get an easier time I'll point out that now using the Lehmann Twin I can do switched comparisons regardless of the type of cartridge used (before only the MM's could be used) and so differences are just as easy to spot, but each turntable gets a better chance to shine with it's preferred cartridge. The other change has been a move (at vast expense) to a AudioNote M3 pre-amp and Quest Silver 300b monoblocks which combine to make any differences even more blatant than my beloved Audions.

In the case of the Hadcock the cartridge had to be the Music Maker, but the combination also loved the Dynavector XX2, this also being used extensively on the Orbe/SME

When Andy brought over the 'new' Opus, he also brought a review that had just appeared in a well known British Hi-Fi magazine of the deck. He brought it because it puzzled him. It skimmed over the dire appearance (this a pre 'facelift' model) and described the Continuo as rather laid back, heavy sounding, relaxed etc, a sort of 'pipe-and-slippers' turntable.

Remember that at this point I'd written all my listening notes and what I heard was utterly and completely the opposite of this! The Opus is fresh and sparkling, light on its feet, bubbling with detail, delicate in its shading and with the ease that good timing brings. It NEVER sounded sluggish or laid back.

Switching back and forth between the Orbe and Continuo consistently showed this lively open character regardless of cartridge used. Though bass was less prominent it was oh! so tuneful and easy to follow. In fact the old Hi-Fi trick of habituation showed the Continuo to be punching well into the Orbe league. Listening to the Opus for a few hours and then going to the Orbe left the Orbe sounding woolly and leaden. Listen to the Orbe for a few hours and switch to the Continuo and the sound becomes bright and pushy until you habituate to the new balance - a variation on the old trick of putting one hand in ice water and the other in hot water then putting both in tepid water - one hand feels hot the other cold. The point being that given a short period of acclimatisation either deck became a pleasure to listen to.

Apart from the tonal difference the actual abilities of the turntables were keenly matched. The lighter more open presentation of the Opus giving the impression of more sharply defined image in both width and depth placement, the Orbe made those same images bolder.

In fact the turntable that the Continuo most reminded me of was the Roksan Xerxes but even more open and without the sometimes frenetic pace. In fact on sonic terms alone (and appearance!!) I'd take it over the Roksan despite it costing well under half the price. Given my system with its ultra revealing horns and amps, which like a bit of warmth and substance, the Orbe noses ahead, but in another, perhaps more 'normal' system I could see the Opus pulling ahead.

Upping the anti and pumping the Continuo direct into the M3's phono stage just showed the turntable's class, the extra layer of detail and tonal complexity the M3 is capable of was clearly shown - certainly the Opus was perfectly happy in such elevated company. Ditto a move to the Slee Era Gold, which sounded as natural and unforced as ever.

As for music styles the Opus was happy with all - but really sang with records that showed it's speed and delicacy to best effect, whether the jazz drumming masterclass on Steely Dan's 'Countdown to Ecstasy' or the 'The Monks' dazzling piano. A sheer lack of grunt low down made the heaviest workouts a little lightweight, but it was a rare occurrence and the only turntable I've ever heard that pulled the seismic-bass-and-upper-mid-delicacy trick to perfection was the Clearlight Recovery at approximately five times the cost.

And so to the marks...






Transformed, now acceptable and will stay that way

Fit and Finish



Engineering tt


Very simple, but heavy! No power supply - a disadvantage?



Any arm that will fit the hole is OK, otherwise...

Speed Stability


excellent dispite the simple supply...





very good but the Orbe's bass weight pulls it ahead fractionally.

Stage Width


Very impressive

Stage Depth



Bass Depth


Bass control/speed


Very light on its feet

Detail retrieval


Midrange clarity


Treble extension


Treble Quality


Overall colouration


I think it adds very little - just lets the arm/cart get on with it



In the right system this is of the highest quality

'Miss you' factor


And with another system it could be the other way



So what I'm saying is that the Continuo is without serious flaw, it manages to be pretty much all things to all music. It's very simplicity guarantees reliability and God be praised it even looks good. No I won't be swapping my Orbe for the Opus, but if I were building a system from scratch I'd find it very hard to justify spending more than the Opus - after all even with the supplied Hadcock it still costs less than the SME 4 alone!


[Opus arm]When Andy brought over the face-lift model it was fitted with Opus's own linear tracking tonearm - this incidentally being the arm shown in the photos. A weird and wonderful device that simply should not work. It was a bit fiddly to use but acclimatisation would solve this. However that said it made some very acceptable sounds for the couple of hours I had it here, so much so that I'd strongly recommend a listen before shelling out on the Hadcock. I'm not going to comment further after such a short acquaintance, as a package with the turntable it comes in at about £1250 pounds which is pretty spectacular - let your ears be the judge, but here the sound-per-pound champ has been found...

For those who want something even better looking there is a marble version which Andy says sounds the same but looks a million dollars - at a price...

Andrew Davison comments...

Thank you for not giving up at the first hurdle and allowing me to prove this decks worth. You have pointed out in your review most of my personal findings of the decks major attributes. The manufacturer's intention was to produce a product that retained the characteristics of timbre, dynamics and depth of image over any hi-fi or technical requirements, something I feel they have excelled at. It is easy to write a long list of would be requirements for the latest top spec. record deck and end up with a race horse designed by a committee looking like a camel! when you consider the lack of these 'would-be' requirements the Continuo has, it is a marvel........ state-of-the-art or ark? Many thanks Andy Davison 'A' Audiosolutions.


After reading this test I hope it is evident that without the following companies this series of reviews would have been impossible - thanks from me to them :-)

Michell engineering - http://www.Michell-Engineering.co.uk

'The Cartridge Man' - http://www.thecartridgeman.com

Graham Slee - http://www.audiocontrol.co.uk

Clearlight - http://www.clearlight-audio.de

AudioNote UK - http://www.audionote.co.uk

Dynavector Japan - http://www.dynavector.co.jp

Lehmann Germany - http://www.lehmannaudio.de

Systems used

© Copyright 2003 Geoff Husband - www.tnt-audio.com

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