Positive Feedback ISSUE 73
Signature Turntable and Osiris Arm
as reviewed by Pete Davey
OK Boys and Girls, I have graduated out of the entry level TT world and into the big boy leagues. I did what all audiophiles told me to do, and blow loads of money on vinyl and less on gear—so while I had the Project Carbon TT I collected hundreds of records, and not shit ones, either. Talk about expensive! I've said this in earlier articles that I prefer to find mint condition copies of the music I'm into (more on that later) and some of them fetch premium prices (think $30-$150 each). What I keep telling myself is that these records will hold their value if I ever feel like ditching them! But I know that will never happen. Personally I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far and I'm still going strong.
So an opportunity came up where I could review a statement turntable, from a local manufacturer. I can remember the last several shows I've attended that peering into this room (KT Audio Imports) I always saw a glimpse into my future, but never did I think I'd be here today! Maybe 10 years… but I digress.
Some history... I have met a lot of really cool people in the industry (an inversely a lot of not so cool people) that have introduced me to some really cool gear (and music, of course) one that really sticks out in my mind is Micro Seiki. If you don't know the heritage, well, I suggest if it interests you, look it up. A plethora of info will be available at your fingertips—but some of it you really have to dig for, just like anything that was created before the Internet. Their hay-day was between the years of 1970 and 1990, in my opinion. They were pioneers and figured out that big and heavy was where it was at when it came to superior vinyl playback. Not only that, but they were built by what appear to be brain surgeons! Very precise, and very reliable—if kept well of course. Some of their models had some interesting unorthodox accessories, such as air bearings, vacuum platters – yes, you may have heard of that stuff now, but guess who really spearheaded the technology! You guessed it.
So it's probably obvious now that I'm really obsessive about Micro Seiki. It also didn't help that a good friend of mine owned an RX-5000 that came to him needing some TLC. What blew my mind was the premium it fetched, even in the condition it was in! Right there I was floored—how can something this old be worth so much? It's because of the heritage, and the cult following, and the craftsmanship. So off I went, daydreaming of one day, owning a Micro Seiki turntable, just as I did with my Apogee Scintilla journey (don't EVEN get me started!!). Forum and forum, secret corner to secret corner, I was armed with just about everything I needed to know before purchasing such a table. It's an expensive investment for something so old, so you really need to do all of your homework…
Well, several came and several went...even a really nice one from Japan almost made it to my doorstep where I was willing to use a friend in Japan and the whole nine yards! I was really close to doing it… but something happened.
I was looking through some of my photos from one of my various show reports, lusting over some gear, and I came across the one I took of KT audio imports… Those massive turntables, belt driven… wait. Massive belt driven. Where else have I seen this before!! Whoa! Ok, so I never put two and two together before—yes, I've always looked at the tables... just as you would a supermodel, and never even thought for a second you could have it. But wait a second; KT Audio is local to me! Tom Vu is like, 5 miles from where I live! Let me call this guy, I thought.
So down the rabbit hole I went. Tom was one of the most kind people I've ever spoken to, nothing pretentious. I real guy in a real industry not selling snake oil, and he's here in the states. Personally I dig the fact that I'm thinking of doing business with someone here in the states. Hoo-rah! We talked for what seemed like hours! About our audio journeys, about our similar tastes in vintage gear, and of course Micro Seiki came up. I couldn't help but compare the contrasts between the tables, from a visual aspect anyway. Tom was flattered I could tell, and shared all sorts of interesting facts about this table.
Over 200lbs. BACK BREAKER.
48mm Bearing (WOW.) Well, makes sense due to the sheer weight of the platter alone.
Remote motor, AC powered.
Remote tonearm pillar.
That's it! Simple. Heavy. Belt Driven. All virtues that I feel are very important during analog playback. Your opinion may differ – of course. But these are things I find very important.
The motor unit is driven by Lloyd Walkers external AC motor drive unit that allows precise speed adjustment and 33/45RPM with the flick of a switch. It also does other things, but I want to try and keep the focus on the table.
So anyway. Tom was very interested in a review opportunity of this table and offered me this table and the 12" Osirus tone-arm. More on that later.
Hell yes, I said!
We set up a time and Tom was here, with great punctuality. That says a lot, delivered AND set up by the manufacturer himself. Right away Tom winced at the fact that stairs had to be traversed to get this beast into my listening room. But, he made it happen and wow I couldn't believe the sheer weight on this beast. I've had to move it since myself and let me tell you, if you don't do it right you will have a back ache.
In my room it went, along with the tone arm, and a cartridge from Transfiguration (the Axia model). Setting this thing up is a bit intimidating; Tom has taken what I call a "no compromise" approach to the design of this table, with an emphasis on the tonearm. Here's what I mean by that a lot of work and detail went into the design for PERFECT analog playback and if you're an experienced turntable guru, I'm sure you already know what I'm talking about. How about adjustments all over the place? To further complicate the setup process, the tonearm is NOT connected to the table, rather it's remote. Think about that for a minute...the tonearm has to be able to read the record accurately, while NOT connected. This means it's crucial that it's placed in the right place on your platform. Well, luckily Tom designed a really cool aluminum device that figures all of this out for you. It's still a bit tricky to get perfect though, and requires careful trial and error to get exactly where it needs to be. Then there's the usual stuff, azimuth, VTA, loading for the stylus, etc. Phew! Gotta pay to play, right?
After everything was dialed in, it was finally time to put a record on. I chose to start off with one of my favorites, which I usually start with, Ben Webster and Sweets Edison
This is a reference recording re-mastered by Ying Tan of ORG records. Whoa. Eyes closed, jaw on ground… for a minute I was zapped away, brought back in time! I couldn't believe the transparency and the detail here. Obviously there are a lot of things at play when it comes to a turntable (cartridge and phonostage being equally important, as well as isolation) but it was very obvious that this table was serious business.
Tom noticed my then lack of attention to him and all I wanted to do was to play all of my records! He slowly slipped out of my listening room after telling if I needed anything to call him and away I went – exploring my collection record after record.
The Osiris tonearm—made of Makassar ebony—is very intimidating. Going back to my phrase " no compromise" it floats on a magnet as a bearing. Yes, it's attached by a magnet, NOTHING ELSE! What does that translate into exactly? I'll tell you—if you are a bit too aggressive with it, pull / pivot it the wrong way, it will dislocate and go flying away, with a cartridge attached to it.
Now, I never had that happen to me, as I was very careful when moving the arm, but it did detach on me several times so the anticipation of having to flip the record over ot put a new one on grew and for a while I really started to dislike the design. The one thing that kept me going was the music reproduction of this design. It was bar-none the BEST I've ever heard from a turntable. That is saying a lot as I've been lucky enough to hear some very high dollar setups.
It reminded me of my Apogees. Finicky, heavy, hair-thin ribbon membranes. Why do I put myself through this shit! Because… when it's dialed in, NOTHING comes close. I've met countless people that owned a pair of these speakers and always say the same thing, that they regret getting rid of them but they couldn't / didn't want to deal with the sensitive nature of them.
I wasn't ready to give up on this tonearm! Eventually I got really good at using it, but there were too many times where the magnet detached. Finally, I had it, and called Tom and he immediately said—Pete, don't worry—it will be all right and I'll take care of you. Hair back down, vein now depleted from my forehead, I felt at ease again.
Tom Vu, came to my house, on THANKSGIVING DAY. Yes, you heard that. Family day, drink until you can handle your SO's family day, to dismantle the tone-arm and install a newer / improved magnet system that he guaranteed would NOT detach. At first, I was skeptical. But here I am, several months later, not ONE incident.
The reason I'm sharing that story, is that I firmly believe that it is an asset to Triangle Art, KT Audio, and Tom Vu that the level of customer service I've received with this table and tonearm are simply unparalleled. Most dealers, just want to sell you the latest gear, get your money and then continue to try and upsell you every opportunity they get. Tom is a true enthusiast, music lover, and an artist.
Now I've taken the table to the next step (in my opinion) and physically separated the motor from the platform the TT rests on and have adjoined them only via a Kevlar string using a super secret Micro Seiki knot. This took it to the next level! Tom was open minded about it and I offered him some of this Kevlar string to give it a shot. Normally, the motor and platter are adjoined using a rubber ring, putting the motor MUCH closer to the table and requiring it to be on the same platform as the TT. Not that there isn't anything wrong with that, but I wanted complete isolation. This is a trick by the Micro Seiki crowd. The cool thing about this table is that by nature it allows one to do these sorts of tweaks to get the best sound! You can add additional tonearm pillars, put them wherever you want—the skies the limit here.
While I write this review I'm listening to MoFi's rendition of Ryan Adams' "Love is Hell", which, is one of my favorite albums (requires the right frame of mind of course) and I just can't get over how great it sounds.
Well, what is the best way to end an article without boring the reader too much? I've already said way more than I wanted to—I am truly elated and yes, I BOUGHT THIS TABLE AND TONEARM. There. I said it. I can't think of any better way to vouch for a piece of equipment than to actually buy it in the end. I bought it for the beauty, the sound quality, the customer service.
Tom – thank you for bringing back the real turntables, and putting a modern touch on them. I love to see the faces of those that enter my listening room and their sheer look of awe on their faces. I am proud to say that this is my turntable. I know you wanted two different reviews, one for the table and one for the tonearm, but there is bliss when the two are used in conjunction! To the rest of the folks out there, you are not limited to Triangle's tonearms, you can mount your own. Pete Davey