Ammonite Audio https://ammonite-audio.co.uk Sensibly designed products for vinyl enthusiasts at sensible prices Tue, 27 Jun 2017 20:25:22 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ammonite-icon-150x150.jpg Ammonite Audio https://ammonite-audio.co.uk 32 32 Review of the Reed 3P Tonearm https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/review-of-the-reed-3p-tonearm/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/review-of-the-reed-3p-tonearm/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 10:55:06 +0000 https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2276 Sometimes we all will look at something and think “that’s really clever” or “I wish I’d thought of that”; and in the case of audio there’s always a hope (often dashed) that something cleverly designed is going to sound better than one’s established references.  So it was with the Reed 3P tonearm – even though it’s been around for a few years it only recently came to my attention and its multiple on-the-fly adjustment provisions immediately caught my eye.  Clever stuff, I thought, and that was enough to risk buying in a 12″ version with Cocobolo arm wand and cryo’d copper cabling.

The arm arrived after a wait of around 5 weeks (they are typically made to order in Lithuania) and it immediately impressed me with its solid, workmanlike packaging, which consists of a neatly dovetailed plywood box with the arm very securely packed in layers of laser cut foam.  The only other new arm I’ve seen so well packed is a new SME, although they come in cardboard outer packaging.  It’s somewhat refreshing to see such functional packaging that clearly is not intended to add bling and to elevate/justify the price!

Once I’d received a new offset alloy armboard from Magna Audio to mount the Reed 3P on my Kenwood KD-990 truntable, it was a very simple matter to establish its correct position in relation to the platter spindle and to correctly align the arm tube at rest using the supplied template.  It’s quite nice that the Reed 3P is totally surface mounted – no part of it sits below the arm board.

It’s worth describing what makes this arm different.  At first sight it looks pretty much like any other tonearm, albeit one with a beautifully crafted wooden arm wand.  The clever stuff is all to do with the magnetic bearing design – a magnetically suspended cradle supports the arm wand, which pivots vertically on the cradle using two tiny points (see the second picture below showing the cradle and its two tiny ‘cups’ where the points locate).  So, we have the near-zero horizontal friction of a magnetic bearing combined with near-zero vertical friction of the twin-pivot arrangement, hence Reed’s claims about it working like a unipivot, but with much greater security.  The 3P adds a neat trick, in that the top of the bearing yoke is held by a small lever that enables on-the-fly azimuth adjustment, designed so that when the cradle is tilted by that lever, it rotates around the stylus point, so adjusting azimuth does not upset any of the setup geometry.  Clever stuff, which works with ease and precision.

 

The Reed 3P also has on-the-fly VTA adjustment (or SRA adjustment if you want to be pedantic).  Nothing new about that, but this design has a small lever at the back of the pillar that you use for on-the-fly adjustments, and a knob on top of the pillar that is used to set the arm up initially, eg the normal level arm tube.  I’ve never handled a tonearm that it so easy to adjust accurately and quickly.  Never mind on-the-fly capabilities – with a Reed arm you get to your level starting point in moments.  I like to use a small circular bubble level on the headshell to establish the starting position, before fine adjustments.

 

Fitting a Miyajima Shilabe stereo cartridge was easy because the arm tube can be dismounted from its cradle and put carefully to one side (the wires are still attached though).  I aligned the cartridge using the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor, to their recommended UNI-DIN alignment.  Setting VTF is easy because the counterweight moves and is locked into place easily and it has a secondary threaded insert that means it’s really easy to dial in the correct downforce.  I keep using the word ‘easy’ because it really is ‘easy’.  Simples, even.

So, having got the Reed 3P set up and dialled in, it was time for a listen via my headphone vinyl rig consisting of:

  • Paul Hynes Design MC2 Moving Coil Head Amp, or Miyajima ETR-KSW stereo SUT
  • ANT Kora 3T SE Phono Stage (re-boxed and powered by Paul Hynes Design PR3 regulated PSU)
  • Beyerdynamic A2 headphone amplifier
  • Denon AHD-7000 Headphones
  • Epiphany Acoustics Atratus III interconnects

I’ve been (happily) stuck in a Beethoven rut for some time, oscillating between Piano Sonatas, String Quartets, Triple Concerto and the odd symphony.  Leaving aside my musical tastes, this is good music to evaluate something like a tonearm, because there is much going on, musically, and real instruments being played in real acoustic spaces.  I started with the Beaux Arts Trio and Haitink playing the Triple Concerto Op56 (Philips 9500 382), which I know quite well having played it a great deal before, on the same Kenwood deck and Miyajima Shilabe, but with a Fidelity Research FR-64S tonearm.  I thought that it would be a tall order to improve on the FR-64S which has to be one of the Greatest Tonearms Ever Made.  But, from the first notes the Reed 3P brought out the body sounds of the instruments so much better, with a musical grace and natural portrayal of ‘space’ that is utterly compelling.  The Shilabe already demonstrates its low distortion character in pretty much any arm with sufficient mass to get it going, but in the Reed 3P string sounds and fine details are rendered with absolutely stunning purity – beguiling stuff.  There’s a similar story with Alfred Brendel playing Beethoven Piano Sonatas (Philips 9500 077) where the piano takes on a resonant magnificence that the old FR-64S never quite manages in comparison.  I also played some Dire Straits (Love Over Gold), Lou Reed (Transformer) and even Lene Lovich (Flex) with similarly impressive and expressive results.  It’s difficult to summarise the Reed 3P’s sound in words, but it is truly lovely – low distortion, great handling of low level details and which such a nice feeling of ‘body’ to the sound, all of which comes together to make (to my ears) a truly realistic, organic and very analogue sound.

Are there any downsides?  The two little pins that form the arm’s vertical pivots locate in tiny cups on the magnetically suspended bearing yoke (hence Reed’s words about it working like a unipivot).  It is initially quite easy to dislocate these pins when moving the arm in and out of the rest clip.  It’s only a matter of a second or two to put everything back, and you do learn quickly how to handle the arm to avoid doing this, but it is initially disconcerting.  The arm would not sound as good as it does without this particular design compromise and you do very quickly get used to handling the arm correctly, so this really is not an issue apart from during initial acquaintance, a bit like familiarising oneself with a unipivot arm.  Absolutely not a problem in use, just something to bear in mind when first using the arm.

In summary, the Reed 3P has to be the finest sounding tonearm that I have ever heard, and it’s a truly magical partner for a Miyajima stereo cartridge.  That the sonics are matched by inspired design, flawless quality and intuitive operation are all bonuses.  These days a price tag starting at £3200 for the 9.5″ version is not exactly cheap, but the physical quality is stunning and I shudder to contemplate how much you’d have to pay for a better sounding arm.  At the moment I’m not sure that there is a better sounding arm.

If you would like to hear the Reed 3P tonearm for yourself, get in touch (contact details at the head of the page).  We will be showing it at the North West Audio Show 24-25 June 2017, so please come along to hear for yourself why I am so enthusiastic about this remarkable tonearm.

See our product page here: https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/product/reed-3p-tonearm/

Reed’s website: http://www.reed.lt/products/tonearms/reed-3p/all/reed-3p

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Reed 3P Tonearm is Here! https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/reed-3p-tonearm-is-nearly-here/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/reed-3p-tonearm-is-nearly-here/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 17:59:23 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2150 Our demonstrator 12″ Reed 3P tonearm is now here, and will be up and running in time for the North West Audio Show taking place at Cranage Hall 24-25 June 2017.  Visitors to the show will be able to see, feel and hear how this remarkable tonearm manages to allow on-the-fly adjustment of both VTA and azimuth.

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Ziro Audio Cables https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/ziro-audio-cables/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/ziro-audio-cables/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2017 20:22:59 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2139 We are pleased to be shortly offering Ziro Audio cables.  These hail from Norfolk and we’ve been evaluating the Disclosure Power Cord, which is very good.  Stunningly good, and while not exactly cheap, much better value than any competitor that we can think of.

Have a read of this review in HiFi Pig http://hifipig.com/ziro-audio-disclosure-power-cord/ which sums up what we’ve been hearing rather well.

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North West Audio Show 2017 https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/north-west-audio-show-2017/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/north-west-audio-show-2017/#respond Sun, 07 May 2017 13:20:46 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2110 We will be exhibiting at the Northwest Audio Show 24-25 June 2017, at Cranage Hall. See http://audioshow.co.uk for details of the show.

The organisers are creating a ‘Vinyl Village’ and that is where I will most likely be set up with a small stand, showcasing the following:

  • Miyajima Cartridges, both stereo and mono, plus Miyajima SUTs
  • Reed tonearms – I hope to have the 12″ Reed 3P ready for the show
  • Ammonite Audio Improved Jelco tonearm collars and spacers
  • SMARTractor alignment tool – your chance to get hands and eyes on this great aid to turntable setup
  • Townshend Audio Seismic Platforms and Pods – hear for yourself just what these can do for a turntable

We will have venerable Kenwood KD-990 and Thorens TD-124 turntables on hand so that visitors can hear Miyajima stereo and mono cartridges through a high quality headphone rig.

And of course we will be offering some good deals over the weekend.

Depending on progress with the CAD designs, we may also have production prototype examples of a new range of modular and very pretty machined alloy armboards for Technics SL-1200 turntables, both old and new (eg the SL-1200GAE, SL-1200G and SL-1200GR)

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Thoughts on the Miyajima ETR-MONO SUT https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/thoughts-on-the-miyajima-etr-mono-sut/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/thoughts-on-the-miyajima-etr-mono-sut/#respond Sun, 02 Apr 2017 10:38:55 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2064

We’ve had the Miyajima ETR-MONO SUT here for a while, and thought it might be helpful to summarise our thoughts and findings.

One question that we’ve been asked is whether the ETR-MONO is better for playing Miyajima mono cartridges than Miyajima’s stereo ETR-KSW SUT.  The answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes’ – the ETR-KSW is very good, and notably smooth sounding but the mono cartridges really do appreciate the optimum gain and load that the ETR-MONO can provide.  The difference is really quite dramatic – for mono the ETR-MONO SUT is very much better than the ETR-KSW.  We’ve been carrying out some extended listening tests to determine how to get the best out of the ETR-MONO and here are our thoughts.

Dave Cawley of Timestep conducted some lab measurements on the ETR-MONO and here is a table summarising how the different settings change gain and effective impedance:

MIyajima Premium and Zero monaural cartridges have a stated coil impedance of 6 ohms, and Miyajima recommend that the Input Coil is set to “120” and we find that to be best.  But, there is a very wide variation in overall sound, depending on the Output Coil setting.  Miyajima’s Input Coil recommendations are:

Cartridge Coil        Input Coil Setting
2-5 Ω                    80
6-12 Ω                  120
12-20 Ω                 160
20-40 Ω                 200

We do find that the ‘Impedance’ control on the ETR-MONO is largely redundant – it applies resistive loading to the transformer’s secondary winding and therefore changes the load reflected back to the cartridge coil, as well as altering the input impedance of the connected phono stage.  The ‘Impedance’ control acts like a tone control, and without exception we prefer it left in the PASS position, as does Dave Cawley of Timestep, which is why the table shown above gives gain and impedance measured with the ‘Impedance’ control set to PASS.  That said, we can see the ‘Impedance’ control being useful to tame very thin or ‘toppy’ mono recordings, so there’s no harm in it being there.

Using our demonstration Zero Mono B (0.7 mil tip) cartridge, and a variety of old but well recorded mono LPs (mostly classical), we found that with the Input Coil set to 120, best results were obtained with the Output Coil set to 3600.  These settings gave a lovely open character to the music, with taut and nicely controlled bass and a natural musical flow.  That last parameter is difficult to describe in words, but for us it’s the sense that the performers are playing well together, in time, in a realistic acoustic space, and enjoying what they’re doing.  Taking the Output Coil down to 3000 does not audibly change the gain by any appreciable amount, but some of that ‘musical flow’ is lost.  Somehow, 120/3000 sounds just ‘right’.  Adjusting the Input Coil control to 160 lost some of that natural flow.

You are hopefully getting the impression that we like the ETR-MONO, and we do very much.  To hear true mono done properly, with a true mono cartridge (such things are actually quite rare) and a properly matched SUT, is something of a joy.  Being brought up on stereo it’s a little difficult to consider mono as being superior, but in many respects it is (for a variety of reasons).  A Miyajima Zero, paired with the ETR-MONO and played through a decent system is likely to leave most people bowled over, and possibly nonplussed at having their preconceptions challenged – these components are among the very best that money can buy, but fortunately they are both relatively sensibly priced.

As an afterthought, we thought it might be fun to bring out a second ETR-MONO and then play a Shilabe stereo cartridge through separate mono SUTs, to hear how this setup compares to Miyajima’s stereo ETR-KSW SUT.  After a bit of knob-twiddling to find the optimum settings on each ETR-MONO to suit the Shilabe (which turned out to be Input 160/Output 3000, equating to 25dB gain and 144 ohms effective load), we rather like the result, which is a more open, modern and incisive sound compared to the ETR-KSW which has a slightly ‘rose tinted’ presentation (but that’s part of its appeal).  Increasing the output coil setting to 3600 (and therefore lowering the effective load to the cartridge) plumps up the sound a little, but the sacrifice is a slight loss of musical agility.   The ETR-KSW does have better quality transformers, though, which explains its astonishing delicacy with fine details.

 

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SMARTractor Back in Stock! https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/smartractor-back-in-stock/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/smartractor-back-in-stock/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:05:27 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2053 My apologies for the wait, but we now have the SMARTractor back in stock.  See https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/product/smartractor-precision-alignment-tool/ 

 

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Make Us An Offer! https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/make-us-an-offer/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/make-us-an-offer/#respond Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:36:53 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2042 We’ve added a feature that allows customers to submit their own offer on most items in the shop above a certain price point.  You simply press the ‘Make Us An Offer’ button on the product page and fill out the form with your offer price, contact details etc.  Your offer is passed to us and we’ll let you know if it’s acceptable (or not!).

We’ll see how this goes – we are always happy to talk to customers about prices and deals, so hopefully this feature will make that even clearer.

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PayPal Checkout https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/paypal-checkout/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/paypal-checkout/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 11:14:01 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=1976 Please note that we have implemented a 2.5 % additional fee for payment via PayPal at the checkout.  There is no fee for paying with a credit or debit card via the Stripe payment gateway.

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Reed and Ikeda Tonearms https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/reed-and-ikeda-tonearms/ https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/reed-and-ikeda-tonearms/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:41:34 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=2018 We are hopefully taking on new tonearm ranges from Reed and Ikeda.

I am indebted to a customer who alerted me to the Reed arms from Lithuania, which are beautifully made, with the most clever facilities for adjustment that you will ever see on a tonearm – you can adjust VTA and azimuth on the fly with these arms!  They are built to order, with a range of finishes and different wooden arm tubes that offer a range of effective mass to suit most needs.

Ikeda arms are modern incarnations of the venerable Fidelity Research arms, which work so well with low compliance Miyajima cartridges, and also built to order.  Ikeda arms are genuinely high-mass and exquisitely built.  Expensive, but a natural musical partner for a Miyajima cartridge.

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More Black Rhodium Cables! https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/more-black-rhodium-cables/ Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:29:13 +0000 http://ammonite-audio.co.uk/?p=1960 We’re so impressed with the Black Rhodium Stylus tonearm cable that we’ve decided to offer more of their cables, concentrating very much on the good value middle ground, and starting with the Foxtrot loudspeaker cable, which retails at £249 for a 4m pair of single run cables.

The Foxtrot sounds really nice and frankly you’d have to pay a great deal more to get much better performance.  You can of course get better, but be prepared to go up the price ladder, and Black Rhodium offer a range of cables that do get progressively better, and particularly their DCT++ ranges.

If you are sick of ugly, stiff cables that won’t stay where they’re placed (Naim NACA5 springs to mind), the Foxtrot is a perfect alternative, being unassuming and nicely flexible.  No nasty or strange electrical characteristics, just good design and quality.

We can get any Black Rhodium in to order, so if you are contemplating a cable purchase, do speak to us and we’ll do our best to get you an unbeatable deal.

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