The Music Hall MMF 1.3 is a high-value turntable priced at a mere $349.99 that nonetheless comes equipped with an Audio-Technica AT3600L cartridge, a built-in phono stage, as well as an electronic 3-speed (33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm) belt-drive motor. Everything you need to have this turntable up and running out of the box is included, from the tonearm to a counterbalance, to a great set of instructions that anyone could follow.
What Makes the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable Special?
- The accessible speed controls are a big plus. There are many turntables on the market that force you to lift the platter and adjust the belt to change the playback. Music Hall has kindly put this control on a dial right on top of the plinth.
- With this turntable, Music Hall provides you with totally reasonable upgrade paths. Do you want to try a new stylus? You can take out the existing one and add a better one without much trouble. Do you want to upgrade the mat? You can do that, too, without much effort. Wanna upgrade the phono stage? Just go to line-out, and connect an external phono stage. These are the things that will allow you to take a $350 turntable that might have kept you happy for a couple of years and turn it into an audiophile component that you might use until it literally stops working – assuming that ever happens.
It’s often the little things that make a difference in audio, so having adjustable vibration dampening feet make a difference. Well-designed feet on a turntable helps you solve two problems. You can ensure your turntable is perfectly level, and you are also reducing the vibration on the turntable. Both of which will greatly enhance the playback of your vinyl.
Why Should You Care About the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable?
There is a reason why brands like Music Hall have stayed in business for as long as they have, and more often than not it’s executing on the smaller things that make a big difference, such as build quality, and that is what you have on display with this turntable.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable
- The built-in phono stage isn’t fantastic. I found I really had to increase the volume on my preamp to be able to hear my vinyl. At this price point, I don’t think it’s the end of the world, as you can upgrade to an external phono preamp for much less than the total cost of this turntable. At the same time, most lower level stereo preamps and integrated amplifiers have moving magnet phono stages built in, so you can always use the line out function if you also find the built in unit to not be to your liking.
- I always feel like it is silly to say this, but there need to be more finish options than just gloss black for sexy audio gear. One of the first lessons I learned about audiophile gear is that while black can look great (and shiny) at times, it can also show every speck of dust that exists in your listening room. You could look at this as a positive and see it as a constant reminder to dust your gear to keep it in its best condition, but I am busy single father and am not always looking for those reminders, so being able to get gear in white or other vibrant colors is nice.
Listening to the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable …
The new Queens of the Stone Age album In Times New Roman (buy at Amazon) is full of dynamics, so I listened to the track “Straight Jacket Fitting” to see how the Music Hall MMF 1.3 would handle these. We know that the vinyl format can struggle with big dynamic swings, but I was curious to see how much of a limitation it would be with a turntable this affordable.
The song opens with some loud but simple strums of the guitar accompanied by the crash of the symbols, before it settles down into its main melody. One of the first things I noticed was the hiss that was added to the track. I don’t believe this was inherently because I was playing a vinyl record, but more because of the amplification required to get a sound out of the phono section. This sound lingers and really acts to muddy Joshua Homme’s vocals in middle section as the band does their take on “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors around the 3:30 minute mark of the track. The dynamics of this track were present when the verse hits the chorus, and you could really feel that feature from this turntable, but I was left feeling like I wasn’t getting the best representation of this track overall.
I also listened to the Radiohead track “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” from their 2007 album In Rainbows (buy at Amazon). This track is full of details, and it builds in layers and just keeps adding and adding until you hit the mid-point of the track and then it starts the process over again in a different key. The Music Hall MMF 1.3 struggled to articulate all of these musical details with the stock phono stage. Things cleared up quite a bit when listening to the internal phono stages of any number of much more expensive integrated amps and especially with my Anthem STR preamp. Note, an upgraded phono stage doesn’t have to cost a fortune as proven by Schiit with their Mani product at $149 (reviewed here) or the Andover Audio SpinStage Phono Preamp which is priced at $249 (also reviewed).
Does the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable Have Any Resale Value?
At just $349, you shouldn’t be too concerned about resale value based on real-world use and the overall low starting costs here. I have said this before, and I will say it again: The best thing you can do with audio gear at these price points is give it away when you are ready to make a significant upgrade. Give said turntable to a friend, donate it to a local school, or maybe give it to a music-loving teenager. Audiophiles love their gear because at its core, it brings joy to their life, and there are few things in life that can bring more joy than being able to share that same love of music and the equipment that makes it so compelling with someone else who might not have had the opportunity otherwise.
Who Is the Competition for the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable?
With the seemingly growing popularity of vinyl, the competition in the turntable space no matter the price has grown to be fierce. One of our newest writers has the U-Turn Orbit Plus ($329 buy at Amazon) in for review. This turntable is available in four different colors, and has two speeds: 33 and 45 RPM. It also has an optional built-in phono preamp, and uses a similar Audio-Technica cartridge.
I recently reviewed the Andover Audio SpinDeck 2 ($299 Buy at Amazon). This is a well-built turntable with easy-to-use speed controls to change between 33 and 45 RPM should you need to, and it comes in both white and black. I enjoyed some of the features that made it easy to use, especially at entry level pricing.
If you’re looking for something with a few more bells and whistles, you can check out the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT ($499 buy at Amazon). This turntable is $150 more than the Music Hall, but it does include a Bluetooth transmitter if you would like to listen to your vinyl through some wireless headphones, and it comes in a nice wood grain (if you prefer that aesthetic), but it doesn’t play at 78 RPM if you’re someone with some older records in your collection that play at that speed. When Brian Kahn reviewed the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT turntable, he noted how Audio-Technica has made it easy for you to upgrade the stylus on this unit, and he felt it was worth the money at its price.
Final Thoughts on the Music Hall MMF 1.3 Turntable
I have spent a lot of time reviewing products from Music Hall this year, and in most cases I have really enjoyed them, specifically finding them to offer a tremendous audiophile value overall. I love where Music Hall’s heart is at with an offering at this price but for all but the most basic of users, I would recommend investing in the Music Hall Classic turntable that Brian Kahn reviewed. Music Hall makes a fine, value-oriented turntable, but the extra few hundred bucks gets you a much better sounding, more solid turntable. With much of today’s new vinyl consistently running $20 to $30 per album for the non-special-edition releases, investing the cost of 10 new records into a more audiophile turntable is my best advice.
I love the upgrade path of the Music Hall MMF 1.3 and especially when used line-out (not with the internal phono stage) you can make a fine sound with this turntable. The cost can’t be beat, but the performance boost that you get from moving up one step in the Music Hall product line is so worth the $200 extra spent that this is likely the best play for many of our readers who are looking to start with an audiophile grade turntable setup.