The other day I wrote about five analog products that caught my eye. That was the first part. Here are my Top Five picks today:
Oswalds Mill Audio Anatase turntable ($8500). I spent a long while in this room with Rogue Audio electronics (including the Aries phono stage, $1999), an Oswalds Mill Audio Anatase turntable ($8500), and two Thomas Schick 12" arms ($1475 each) -- one mounted with a Miyajima Premium BE mono cartridge ($1440, review coming!) and the other with the Miyajima Shilabe MC stereo cartridge ($2800). Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio and Mark O’Brien of Rogue treated me to "Cancion Mixteca," a lovely Mexican love song played by Ry Cooder on a lap steel guitar, "Nessun Dorma," an aria from Puccini's Turandot sung by Jussi Bjoerling, and "St. James Infirmary Blues," sung by Pops Armstrong. What it’s all about!
Brinkmann Bardot turntable ($8000). For someone who wants it all in one, in a straightforward, yet outstanding package, the Bardot ‘table, Brinkmann 9.6 tonearm ($4000), and Brinkmann Pi MC cartridge (0.8mV, $2700) make for a terrific analog front end. And these worked especially well with the new Brinkmann Edison tubed phono stage ($12,990), a fully balanced unit with three inputs selectable by remote. The Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.3 performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy with Andre Previn conducting the LSO made for an experience by turns both stormy and lyric.
Reed Audio 3Q 12" tonearm ($6500). Importer Steve Dobbins of Xact Audio put together a handsome, resolving, and tonally satisfying system. The laser-guided (for azimuth and VTA), cocobolo wood Reed 3Q tonearm integrated perfectly with Kodo's The Beat turntable ($24,000), a 97-pound, direct-drive unit with a massive black-cherry pearl plinth. Electronics were Allnic from Korea, and the cartridge, the new Puritas (0.3mV, $4900), was also made by Allnic. The Beat features two armboards, a standard non-inverted, micro-polished bearing built to the tightest tolerances. The other tonearm is the 10.5" Reed 2P ($4950) with ebony armtube and Ortofon A-90 cartridge.
Townshend Rock 7 turntable ($3000) with Helias Omega tonearm ($2900). Dan Meinwald of EAR USA and Sound Advice always has a superb analog front end and this year was no exception. For value and terrific sound, I didn’t hear better. The Rock 7 'table features the unusual, but ingenious damping trough that engages the gimbal-bearing Omega arm from the headshell rather than near the pivot. Tracks from the Acoustic Sounds reissue of Out of the Cool by Gil Evans had me imagining myself in a tux, sipping a gimlet, and wishing I could repair to a damp trough of my own.
Kara Chaffee Engineering Model 222 tape preamplifier ($2295). Kara Chaffee of deHavilland Electric Amplifier is lately enamored of analog tape, and she brought over her Ampex deck and new Model 222 tape preamp. A tubed unit (two 12AX7s and a 5687 6X4 rectifier), it features 54dB gain, 65dB S/N ratio, and adjustable separate EQ controls for NAB and IEC for you tape nuts. With her superb electronics and a pair of Sonist all-wood Concerto 3 speakers, she played de Falla’s "Three-Cornered Hat" to nods of satisfaction from listeners all around the room.