Versa Dynamics 2.0 LP player Page 3
Associated components used for my tests of the Versa Dynamics 2.0 were the Ortofon MC-2000 cartridge with its X-2000 step-up transformer, Threshold FET-10 preamplifier and SA-1 power amplifiers, and Sound Lab A-3 full-range electrostatic speakers. Cartridge tracking force was set to 1.5 grams, with the cartridge body parallel to the disc surface. Interconnects were Monster M-1000 Laboratory Reference series, and the speaker cables were by Straight Wire. Signal sources were from analog discs from Sheffield, Reference Recordings, Wilson Audio, and Opus 3 (the Depth of Image test record), with original 15ips tapes and CDs (from the Stax CDP Quattro and the Sony CDP-650ESD/DAS-703ES combo) used as references.
As soon as I started trying to use the arm, I ran into trouble with my Ortofon cartridge, whose extremely low (0.05mV!) output had made it difficult to get rid of audible hum when I first put it in service. But in this case, hum wasn't the problem; it was a relatively high-pitched tone. It was coming from the drive motor, and seemed to be getting picked up by the loops of unshielded wire connecting the tonearm frame to the headshell. Moderately audible at the highest volume-control settings, this dropped to the edge of audibility at normal listening levels, and was not found to be a nuisance in normal use. It would never be likely to occur with a cartridge having "reasonable" output.
I also found two minor ergonomic vexations. First, the cartridge carrier has such low friction that it is quite difficult to cue a record band with it. With the 'table and arm properly leveled, blowing gently on the carriage was all that was needed to move it, and it came to such a gradual stop, with no visible springback, that it was clear that this was about as close to a perfectly frictionless arm as it is possible to produce. It was this lack of friction which made the arm hard to handle. There is no finger lift on the headshell, and there is no convenient edge on which to rest one's wrist while cueing the cartridge. So you push it into position from the side, at which time inertia takes over and it overshoots the mark. What is needed here is a gentle clutch arrangement for the sliding carriage, which would hold it where you move it to until you lower the lift lever, and would then release it.
Second, there is a need for an outer-groove stop buffer, that would position the cartridge right over a disc's lead-in grooves when you slide it to that end of the rider rod, and hold it there until you lower it. John Bicht is aware of both problems, and suggested rubbing a candle along the underside of the arm lift rod to cure the overshoot problem. This struck me as a very Mickey-Mouse "cure," but it worked...for the time being. His solution to the lack of an outer-groove cue stop? Move the tonearm slightly closer to the platter, so the cartridge's travel limit will put it right over the lead-in groove. That's not easy to do on an already assembled unit, but he claims it will be done on future production samples.
This is the first time in many years that I can recall hearing what I would describe as a dramatic improvement effected by a turntable or arm. (The last two times were when I first auditioned the Well-Tempered Arm and then, later, the SOTA Star Sapphire with its vacuum-platter upgrade.) But something almost miraculous took place when I installed the Versa Dynamics 2.0 system. Suddenly, LPs no longer sounded like LPs, but like original master tapes!
There was no feeling whatsoever of a mechanical stylus tracing a groove; the not-quite-subliminal mistracking that I have always associated with disc reproduction, particularly from inner grooves, seemed to vanish, and what was left had the etched, focused detail of a good first-generation tape. (I recall having a master-tape reaction to the Iverson/Robertson EK-1 strain-gauge pickup system, but in retrospect, that was mostly because the sound had a quality of ease and freedom from, if you will, strain, that I had not previously heard from discs. I would now venture to say that the Iverson pickup, with the associated equipment (ca 1984) sounded like a good 1:1 copy of the master, while the Ortofon in the Versa Dynamics sounds like the original.)
The disc hold-down system is the most effective I've ever come across. This is immediately evident if one locks down a disc and then taps its surface with a fingernail. Instead of the usual click (or clunk, with most vacuum hold-down systems), all you get is a very faint "tuck." With the cartridge on a stationary disc, volume at normal listening level, this fingernail test produces practically no sound. You have to listen carefully in a quiet room to hear anything from the speakers at all. This, it seems to me, renders completely irrelevant the usual design considerations of disc-vibration coupling into the surface and what to do with such energy. With the Versa Dynamics 2.0, the disc surface is, for all intents and purposes, no longer a mechanical (read "resonant") entity. It is dead. This is, theoretically, exactly what it should be, and doubtless contributes mightily to the Versa Dynamics' remarkable performance.