van den Hul Grasshopper IV phono cartridge System chez Scull 1995
Amplifiers in play during this period were my reference Jadis JA 200s and Forsell's The Statement, which I reviewed last month (Vol.18 No.6). The Statement continued to amaze with its spectacular dynamics and huge, sweet soundstage; the 200s, for their part, never lost their wonderfully elegant musical presentation. Preamp was the CAT SL-1 Signature, clamped and Cable Jacketed on its Marigo power cord and umbilical. Tubes in the CAT were a gracefully aging set provided by Ken Stevens, including a mix of German and Yugo 12AX7s, 12AU7s, and a quartet of Sovtek 6922s. CAT owners should not tune the sound with exotic N.O.S. tubes. A measured set from designer Stevens will always serve you better. Order early—it's worth it!
The entire system, including the Avalon Ascent speakers, was wired up with a cable that really rang my audiophile bell: AudioQuest AudioTruth Diamond. While maintaining the many strengths I've become accustomed to while listening with XLO Signature, Diamond delivered a subtle and beguiling sweetness that I've always secretly longed for in our system, along with a lower noise floor. Reviewers' rigs gotta be tough love, what? Once again, the rap against silver cables sounding thin and zippy bites the dust. The Diamond zippeth not, nor the Siltech before.
Analog front-end was my Forsell Air Force One mounted on the special-order Michael Green Designs four-shelf stands, which I described in my "A Matter of Taste" feature last month. Aside from the minor annoyance of a leaking surge tank or a clogged air filter from time to time, the turntable has been relatively trouble-free. I'm still using the original double-bearing Series 1 Flywheel—as silent and steady as when delivered. The trick to Happy Forselling lies in your stand(s). Those with non–Architectural Digest floors need a stable, massive platform for the 'table and optimally for the Flywheel—one designed to evacuate vibrations downward, and that won't have a tendency to micro-vibrate in relation to each other during play (if you're Flywheeling). Those 'philes with concrete floors or modern apartment parquet can go the Linn route, with something light and rigid. Many vinylists are making good sounds using the Bright Star sand-filled bases, so that's another avenue to investigate. My advice for Flywheeling Forsellers would be to not pass Go, and get with the Green/Ultra Systems stands ASAP.
I used the Shun Mook Mpingo root weight (very expensive, but, oh, what music it makes) and the Harmonix TU-812 Tuning Record Clamp (also AbFab). I always installed a special mini Cable Jacket on the armwire of whatever cartridge was in play, as well as a regular Jacket on the phono cable to the preamp and throughout the system.—Jonathan Scull