IF I WAS going to start making audio gear (a horrible idea in my case), I suppose that I’d start with speakers, or better yet, audio racks. The last thing on my list would be a tonearm. The thought of getting all those tiny tolerances just right is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies.
In any event, wouldn’t you need a modern factory with some seriously advanced machinery if you were going to create an arm that could show a clean pair of (sonic) heels to something as simple (or as highly developed) as a Rega RB301, for example? Apparently not, at least according to James Grant of Analog Instruments Limited, a newish audio manufacturer based in Pukekohe, just south of Auckland.
James has been tinkering with vinyl playback equipment for ages, rebuilding and re-plinthing old decks and designing and building tonearms. He decided to take his latest tonearm design, the wood and brass Apparition 12 to the world, and he seems to be getting noticed – in fact, his eighth batch is sold out and he’s not taking any more orders till early 2013, which is a nice problem for a small business to have. We’d like to think that he’ll find a way to increase production but suspect that will never happen if he has to cut corners to do it.
The following technical information about the arm has been extracted from James’ site:
“The arm wand uses Cocobolo which was chosen due to it’s excellent ability to MAINTAIN a wide and flat frequency response. This decision was made after testing other well known tone woods most of which either tilted the frequency response rolling the bass off early and produced a peaky treble, had an uneven frequency responses with holes and peaks or just sounded tonally wrong making musical instruments sound incorrect.
One piece arm wand has no joins which allows for excellent mechanical integrity and a solid platform for your valuable cartridge to perform at its best.
Headshell shape and transition into the armwand encourages easy migration of the complex arm resonance along the grain of the wood.
Positioning of the bearing into the Cocobolo (not the brass) also encourages easy migration of resonance and reduces stray resonance feeding back into the Cartridge Generator.
The positioning of the counterweights on the one piece arm wand keeps arm resonances from straying or reflecting back to the cartridge; the result is low distortion and a tight stable image.
Two counterweights instead of one in testing showed greater dynamics and more fine inner details in the musical presentation. I put this down to ‘damping’. The tonearm appears to the cartridge to be less damped as it can only ‘see’ the larger counterweight. Less damping allows for a more musical presentation and more fine detail to show through. If you want to kill the music from your Garrard or Lenco, put it in a lead plinth and have a listen. Over damping results in flat lifeless music.
The uni-pivot bearing design utilised in the Apparition 12 is unique and isn’t the standard point and cup type. What is very important with bearing design is that they are quiet in motion so no mechanical vibrations are fed back into the arm structure, and stable in motion so to allow the stylus to track the groove without any instability from the supporting platform (tonearm), especially during torturous groove modulations, warps or structural vibrations. Quietness and stability are areas my bearing excels in. If disturbed the tonearm returns to a state of equilibrium quickly. It also resists being disturbed when excited. During development, my bearing was bench tested to 20 years’ use and no wear was observed. It is manufactured from hardened, ground and polished tool steel.
The mass loaded floating weight that covers the bearing is the result of many hours of testing and is a very specific mass so not to over dampen the tonearm. Its function is to enhance stability of the bearing with its low C of G and slightly mass load the arm to enhance the bottom end performance of the tonearm. This is one uni-pivot that doesn’t suffer from a lack of bass.
The majority of the metalwork and most of the flying cable is earthed to reduce stray RF/EMF noise. This results in a very quiet noise floor.
Brass is used instead of steel for its excellent natural tonal properties.
You can rest assured that every aspect of this tonearm from materials chosen, to the wax used on the arm wand, to its shape and form, to all the technical features applied, are all very intentional and aimed to result in the best possible sound performance.”
We’ve got a review unit coming in the near future and will soon be chatting to James about his creations. In the meantime, to whet your appetites for all things gloriously vinyl related, check out this recent YouTube video:
For more info, check out www.analoginstruments.co.nz