Versa Dynamics 2.0 LP player January 1988
Now that I've had a chance to live with the Versa for a few more weeks, I've turned up a few relatively minor problems that hadn't surfaced as of my initial review in Vol.10 No.8.
Although rather effectively damped, the spring suspension is still somewhat unstable; once it gets rocking, it takes a second or so to stop. I found that the rocking, if in the plane of cartridge motion, can cause the latter to skip a couple of grooves. This does no harm with today's light-tracking, high-compliance cartridges, but it was annoying. In truth, it must be said that the rocking can usually only be induced by physically jarring the suspension itself; the spring suspension can isolate the platform from all but the most violent floor jouncings. But I was able to eliminate most of the groove-skipping problem via a provision I had previously declared to be irrelevant. I'm referring to the eddy-current brake.
The tonearm's lift bar, which fits into a square yoke at the back of the cartridge carrier, is made of aluminum. The eddy-current brake consists of a pair of small but extremely powerful disc-shaped magnets, which attach to opposite sides of the yoke so they straddle the lift bar. The eddy currents these induce into the bar act to resist motion of the carrier along the bar, with the amount of that resistance increasing according to the velocity of the motion. There is virtually no resistance at the low velocities of normal cartridge travel, but there is substantially more at the 'table suspension's wobble speed, which means the brake greatly reduces the spurious lateral oscillations of the carriage, minimizing the tendency for the cartridge to groove-hop. My recommendation as of now is that the eddy current brake be installed at setup and left there at all times. It has no detrimental effect on the sound.
Versa Dynamics sent me a new, more flexible air hose for the carriage. It helped, but did not completely eliminate the lateral bias. It is still necessary to set the whole 'table at a slight downward angle, in line with the carriage rod, in order to offset a tendency for the hose and the cartridge leads to bias the carrier toward the outer edge of the disc.
The counterweight has a drop-on metal bar, to add additional counterweighting if needed. I found it necessary to use this with my Ortofon cartridge, but there is enough play between the bar and the guide rods it fits over to allow it to shift slightly forward or backward when the arm is lowered or raised abruptly. Because the counterweight is close to the pivot, the small change in center of gravity causes a change of roughly ¼ gram of tracking force. The solution to this is simple, though: You merely add a thin layer of rope-caulking material or Plasticine modeling clay between the main weight and the bar, to hold them physically together.
The problems mentioned in the original review, of the difficulty of cueing-up the arm, have been addressed in two ways by Versa Dynamics. Contact between the back of the arm and the lifter bar is now via a neoprene pad, which provides enough sliding friction when in the raised position to cause the arm to stay where you slide it to. The new pad is available at no charge from Versa Dynamics, and can be easily retrofitted by the user. Versa Dynamics has also moved the position of the whole tonearm assembly slightly closer to the platter, so that its limit of cartridge travel now puts the stylus directly over the last lead-in grooves of the disc. (On earlier models, the fuzzy wire on the arm pillar, next to the cartridge, can be bent to accomplish the same function.)
Subsequently, I went to install a different cartridge in the arm and experienced a lead failure. One hot lead opened up, somewhere between the cartridge clip and the output receptacle (on the 'table base), and I have not as yet been able to locate the break. I am not sure finding it will be all that rewarding, either, because the tonearm wires and clips appear to be the only major weakness of this unit. The wires, I learned, are van den Hul long-crystal copper, which is probably good for the sound but is bad news for any Versa 2.0 owner who's into trying different cartridges. This kind of wire has a tendency to snap when sharply bent, and since the cartridge wires emerge through a small hole right under the carrier, it is almost impossible to change cartridges without flexing the leads at that exit point.
I don't know whether my open circuit is at that point, but if it isn't, it will be at some later date. The wire vulnerability is exacerbated by the cartridge clips, which are of the conventional (albeit gold-plated) variety which have little flexibility to accommodate different-sized cartridge pins (footnote 1). This means it will be necessary to adjust them for some cartridges, resulting inevitably in even more wire bending at the headshell exit hole.
I would suggest that Versa Dynamics consider splicing the vdH cables to an inch or so of conventional stranded tonearm wire right above (or inside) the cartridge carrier, and using the kind of cartridge clips Well-Tempered Lab uses for their tonearm.—J. Gordon Holt
Footnote 1: Why in the name of God are people still making cartridges with all sizes of connecting pins? There is a de facto standard pin size: 0.05" diameter. There is no excuse for any cartridge deviating from that by more than 5%.—J. Gordon Holt