Versa Dynamics 2.0 LP player Page 4
Readers may remember some discussions in these pages, in connection with the SOTA Star's adjustable vacuum, about how the amount of vacuum can be used to "tweak" the sound of the disc for "optimum" quality. It is my contention that this is nonsense. In any record player, a resonance is a resonance, and it doesn't belong. Resonances of all kinds, including those of the disc, should not be "tweaked," they should be eliminated as completely as possible. Thus, the hold-down in the SOTA Star, or in any 'table with an adjustable vacuum, should be set high enough that any additional vacuum has no effect on the fingernail test described above, and so that any decrease in hold-down increases the audibility of resonances from that test. But what, then, about disc damage due to the vacuum's leaching of surface plasticizer?
Some users of the Audio Technica AT-666EX stabilizer, which requires that you evacuate the disc to a high vacuum level prior to playing (so the vacuum will last through the disc side without replenishment), have observed a rapid accretion of ticks and pops on many discs. It has been theorized that this was the result of a loss of plasticizer from the evacuated surface. Versa Dynamics' John Bicht does not believe that. He contends that the surface-noise increase observed by some users of vacuum 'tables is caused, not by conical fracturing as a result of plasticizer loss, but by surface dust particles which, getting squeezed between the disc and the platter surface, become embedded in the surface of the disc or, at least, leave permanent indentations in it. It is for this reason that Bicht advises using a thin, slightly resilient mat between the disc and the surface of a vacuum platter, and supplies one with each 'table.
Two protective mats came with my sample 'table. One, with a gauzy appearance, is what Versa has been supplying until now. The other, an opaque white mat with the soft, clammy feel of something recently deceased, is an experimental one that Versa has been considering using instead because it seems to provide better disc protection as well as somewhat better sound quality. The gauzy mat has a small center hole and is slightly stiff. Held in place by the small rubber washer normally fitted over the platter spindle (presumably to seal off air leaks at that point), it lies flat on the platter at all times and has no tendency to lift up with a static-charged disc.
The soft white mat, on the other hand, had a large center hole (slightly larger than a disc label) and thus cannot be held down by the spindle washer. To use it, it must first be centered on the platter and then flattened out before you put a disc on. (It has a strong tendency to wrinkle.) Then, when you remove the disc, the mat is just as likely as not to come up with it, requiring careful replacement on the platter before you play the next side. There must, I insisted, be a better way of doing this. (Actually, I found one. I sprayed one side of the white mat with Scotch graphic arts repositionable spray adhesive, let it dry completely, and carefully stuck the mat to the platter. It has remained there since, and does seem to give the disc slightly better damping qualities than the gauze mat. But the difference is oh-so-slight!)
Above all, the impression I get from disc reproduction via the Versa Dynamics 2.0 is one of rock-solid stability. No longer do I ever get the feeling that some discs are on the edge of mistracking, although this may in fact be a result of something else I can't explain. On some tracks of the Shure Series V torture test record, which the Ortofon (and every other known cartridge) should in theory be incapable of tracking cleanly, I still couldn't hear any stress from the Ortofon/Versa combo. This might lead one to suspect that the system is obscuring detail, but the unprecedented wealth of detail from other media would seem to lay that doubt to rest.
Along with stability of tracking, there is now markedly improved stability and specificity of imaging. I was not aware of any deficiencies in either of these areas until I heard what this phono unit can do. The difference is unsubtle. The unresolved question, though, is how much of this improvement is a result of the turntable and how much is attributable to the arm. I suspect it is both, and more, with that "more" being the fact that the V-D system is fully integrated, with each component carefully mated to the other.
Surface noise is also less obtrusive now than I have ever heard it. Probably as a result of reduced HF ringing in the system, ticks and pops are noticeably reduced in pitch content, and seem to separate out from the music; appearing right at the plane of the loudspeakers, they can be easily ignored during the music, which images behind the speakers.