Analog Corner #282: OMA Plinth for Technics SP10, SAT CF1-12 tonearm, Doshi V3.0 phono stage Page 2

OMA's Jonathan Weiss hoisted the plinth, fitted with an armboard for a Schröder CB tonearm, atop my Harmonic Resolution Systems M3 isolation base. I set up the CB (the initials stand for captive bearing) arm, with which I'm well familiar—it's the same Thrax-built arm supplied with the Döhmann Helix 1 turntable—and installed an Ortofon MC Century cartridge. This particular Schröder CB was 11" long, with an armtube of carbon fiber instead of the more typical ebony, grenadilla, or cocobolo wood.

The Schröder CB arm costs $4500. Add the costs of the SP-10R and OMA plinth and you're listening to a package costing about $24,000. Add $465 for OMA's graphite mat, machined from high-grade, polycrystalline graphite, not the more usual amorphous carbon (graphite dust in resin).

Lower the stylus into the groove and perform a "tap test" with this combo and you'll know the meaning of dead. The OMA plinth was one super energy sink. Tapping the HRS base or the plinth itself only occasionally produced the faintest impulse through my speakers.

The Sound of Deep, Dark, and Luxurious: Having spun in the preceding weeks many dozens of LPs on the SP-10R–equipped SL-1000R, I had certain sonic expectations, few of which were met. The one that was met was that the SP-10R's solid grip on pitch and speed stability was limited only by each record's concentricity or eccentricity.

Beyond that, all else was different and far superior to the sound of the SL-1000R, especially the certainty and clarity of instrumental attacks and image three-dimensionality and stability, behind which were velvet-"black" backgrounds that I can describe only as serene—they rivaled, if not equaled, those of the Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn, which the SL-1000R had been incapable of producing. The overall sound was very similar to what I remember from my first, memorable listening session with the Caliburn 13 years ago, which immediately set it apart from every other turntable I'd ever owned or listened to.

Cradled in the highly damped energy sink that is OMA's SP10 plinth, the SP-10R produced speed-stability–based sonic serenity and intense excitement as music poured forth from the "blackest" backdrops.

How good was it? I don't mean to pick on the Ikeda 9Gss cartridge but with it installed in the SAT CF1-09 arm mounted on the Continuum Caliburn 'table, and the Ortofon MC Century in the Schröder CB arm on the Technics SP-10R with OMA plinth, the latter combo's sound was clearly superior—something both I and Jonathan Weiss heard, as became clear as soon as we switched between them and exclaimed about the improvement simultaneously.

Later, swapping cartridges between the two 'tables demonstrated that what we'd really been hearing was the MC Century's superior transparency, image specificity, precision of transient attacks, dynamic expression, and most other aspects of sound. The sounds of the 'tables themselves, with their respective tonearms, though not identical, were more similar than different. This let both cartridges fully reveal their strengths—and, in the case of the Ikeda 9Gss, its deficiencies relative to its competitors at the $10,000+ price point.

Next, I reinstalled the MC Century in the Schröder CB and the Lyra Atlas SL in the SAT, compared them, then swapped them back again. Yes, a lot of work! While the Lyra Atlas SL and Ortofon MC Century sound different, and the Schröder ($6500) isn't the sonic equal of the SAT CF1-09 ($48,000), the playing field was now more level.

I concluded that, were my reference front end to disappear, I could happily live with the Schröder CB on the Technics SP-10R on the OMA SP10 plinth. Though its sound was somewhat harder and more austere, it was also rhythmically taut and, overall, "together" from top to bottom. Its bass wasn't as texturally supple or as muscular, attacks were slightly sharp, and sustains and decays were stingy. I thought back to Weiss's remark that he preferred Schröder's wooden-tubed CB arms . . .

Swedish Analog Technologies' CF1-12 tonearm arrives
With SAT's 12"-long CF1-12 arm (footnote 2) installed in place of the Schröder CB, there was one fewer variable in the comparison, though SAT designer Marc Gomez says his 9" and 12" arms don't sound identical, and that he, like some other tonearm designers, prefers his 9" arm for its superior in-the-groove dynamic behavior. Like other designers, Gomez makes the longer arm to meet the needs of his customers—such as those who own Air Force turntables, on which the installation of a second tonearm requires one 12" long.

I hesitate to call adding the 12" SAT arm to this mix "the icing on the cake"—at $53,000, that's some pricey frosting, and frosty hardly describes the change in sound.

Compared to the Schröder CB's super-tight, well-organized, but somewhat mechanical sound, the CF1-12 produced a more explosive, a warmer, and definitely a fuller sound that resulted with smoother, more natural attacks, more generous sustain, longer decay, and the bottom-end wallop and control I'd noted in my review of the CF1-09 last November.

I immediately heard better resolution of fine detail, especially at the rear of the soundstage, with Cousins: Polkas, Waltzes & Other Entertainments for Cornet & Trombone, with cornetist Gerard Schwarz, trombonist Ronald Barron, and pianist Kenneth Cooper (LP, Nonesuch H-71341)—and also from the Ataulfo Argenta Edition (6 LPs, Alto Analogue AA006). (It's interesting how records can sit unplayed on a shelf for a decade or more—and then I can't stop playing them!) In Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, with Argenta conducting the National Orchestra of Spain, the CF1-12 put soloist Narciso Yepes's finely focused guitar well in front of the orchestra, with believable string attacks and guitar-body sustain, but with none of the milky overlay produced by lesser tonearms, including the one Technics supplies in the SL-1000R. The CB got attacks just about right, but a bit sharp, and skimped on the sustains and decays. Overall, the SAT CF1-12 produced a sound that was similar to that of the 9" CF1-09, but somewhat fuller in the lower midbass.

The power supply of my Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn turntable is starting to fail, and its oil pump has a very slow leak. Should that $150,000 system (the price includes Continuum's Cobra tonearm, no longer in use) give up the ghost after 13 years of dependable, trouble-free use and abuse from me, I could definitely live happily with the ca-$20,000 combo of Technics SP-10R and OMA SP10 plinth with OMA graphite mat (though I'd sorely miss the Caliburn's vacuum hold-down)—and, of course, that replacement system would have to include a SAT CF1 arm. I don't think I've written that about any other turntable that's been here since the summer of 2005.

Doshi Audio V3.0 Phono Stage
Nick Doshi's handsome and compact V3.0 phono stage ($16,995, footnote 3) is one of a series of tubed products from Doshi Audio that include line and tape preamps as well as power amps. It's always sounded smooth and refined in difficult audio-show conditions.

The V3.0 update of the hybrid Phono Stage includes convenient microprocessor remote-control functionality. Its moving-coil circuit includes a JFET transistor differential input that provides 26dB of gain, followed by a pair of monaural step-down transformers that lower the gain by 6dB.


Nick Doshi says that using the transformers to step down rather than up produces three major benefits: it provides pre-preamp galvanic isolation from the rest of the circuit; it converts the cartridge's inherently balanced input (no reference to ground) to single-ended, which allows the use of his "Zero-Feedback" tube circuit; and it steps down the impedance 4:1, thus increasing bandwidth.

The V3.0's tube complement is: two dual-triode ECC83/12AX7s for the first gain stage, two ECC81/12AT7s for EQ/buffering, and two 12DW7s for the final gain stage and line-out buffering. Doshi provides either NOS or OS tubes, and encourages buyers to swap out tubes as desired. I listened using the supplied tubes.

The V3.0 Phono Stage's gain is 50dB into either MM input, and 72dB into the single MC input. Hum and noise are specified as "at least 80dB below 0dBV."

A total of 512 cartridge loadings, from 10 ohms to 10k ohms, are selectable via the front panel or the hefty remote control's unlabeled pushbuttons. Both front panel and remote include a switch for reversing absolute phase.

Other features include a large, massive, outboard power supply connected via an umbilical to the main enclosure, which is made of 14-gauge stainless steel damped with a top plate of solid Corian. Inside are vibration-isolation grommets for the circuit board and Teflon tube sockets fitted with gold-plated copper contacts, transformers custom-made in the US by the Toroid Corporation, and custom ClarityCap coupling capacitors.

Super-quiet, ultra-transparent: I'm not sure why some phono preamps are free of hum as soon as I plug them in, while others just never stop humming. Doshi's V3.0 Phono Stage was one of the quiet ones. I think the JFET/tube combo makes complete sense.

Aural memories are supposed to be short, but the first time I heard the Doshi V3.0 at home, I was reminded of what had attracted me to the built-in phono stage of Hovland's HP-100 preamplifier, which I reviewed in the November 2000 issue. I've just reread that review for the first time in almost 20 years, and it perfectly describes the Doshi's sound, especially on top: Like the Hovland HP-100, the Doshi V3.0 "served the ebb and flow of music . . . It breathed music with a rare effortlessness, perfectly balancing tube warmth and solid-state clarity while moving dynamically up and down the scale in both large and small steps with exceptional continuity and cohesiveness."

The Doshi's star quality was its ability to unravel upper-octave information and reproduce it with finely dialed-in transient clarity and speed, all completely free of edginess, etch, or grain. It was these qualities that so reminded me of what the Hovland did so well.

The Doshi hasn't got the midrange creaminess of the Ypsilon VPS-100, or the Audio Research REF Phono 3's almost sinful overall richness, or the slam and low-frequency drive of the CH Precision P1/X1 (two of which are far more costly)—but plug in a rich-sounding cartridge with super-low output, like the Ortofon MC Century I mostly used with the Doshi, and $16,995 will buy you a taut, fast, exciting, well-detailed ride on every kind of music. I'm out of room, but if your phono-preamp budget stretches that far, do consider the Doshi. It was clear to me that it was designed by an electrical engineer who loves music, and who listened as he smartly designed.

Footnote 2: Swedish Analog Technologies, Gothenburg, Sweden. Tel: (46) 736-846-452. Web:

Footnote 3: Doshi Audio, Manassas, VA. Tel: (917) 952-2758. Web:


latinaudio's picture

the reviews and the presence of Malachi on these "pages".
Apart from the Kanye West review, relentlessly attacked beyond reason, he is undoubtedly one of the sharpest and most accurate music analysts. I hope he comes back so we can enjoy again his opinions, whether we like them or not.
Greetings, Malachi !

Michael Fremer's picture

Will return ASAP

Stanley1's picture

After reading Malachi’s review of Kanye West, I lost all respect Fremer.
The article had all the depth of a troll trying to mock anyone who disliked Kanye’s music.

Anton's picture

I love Malachi, but he was doomed from the get go: the audiophile demographic is more Patricia Barber than it is Lil Peep.

More Kenny G than Kanye W.

More James Taylor than Tyler the Creator.

More Ian Anderson than Anderson Paak.

A whole lot more Gary Lewis and the Playboys than Plaboi Carti and if the old audio Muppets sitting up in the opera box perceive any slight against their dusty old Gods, woe be unto the new voice.

rschryer's picture

Sums it up well.

Not sure about the Kenny G part, though. :-)

Michael Fremer's picture

Will return to AnalogPlanet...It's not "if", it's "when".... and it should not be long...

Anton's picture

I give you solid credit for his presence.


latinaudio's picture

but does it have to be like this for life? New blood, new ideas, new artists (good or not) are necessary and inevitable to move forward. Rock and roll was born in July 1955, at that time my father continued listening to Xavier Cugat for the rest of his life and I began to admire Elvis and The Beatles. Wasn't it worth it?

shawnwes's picture

...but if it became the new tone of Analog Corner when Michael retires - and he will one day soon - he's 73 - I'd have to let my subscription lapse as there isn't enough depth there, at least not yet. YMMV.

Michael Fremer's picture

I'm 74, thank you! However, this kid's depth never fails to knock me out.

PeterPani's picture

there is no guarantee that things are stable for the rest of our lives. We compensate with buying records that will survive us (and funny - we are concerned that the needle will wear out our record collection before we die).

Long-time listener's picture

"Aural memories are supposed to be short..."

I think your experience is one example that illustrates how wrong this is. It's true that no one can retain an exact, "photographic" memory of how something sounds for more than a fraction of a second -- but that's not how memory, as we generally think of it and depend on it, actually works. We create a generalized impression of how our system sounds -- relative proportions of bass, mids, and treble, tonality, texture, etc. -- and compare that against what we hear when we make any changes. Our memories work by characterizing the nature of our experiences -- not by retaining exact replicas of them. So the idea that you have to do an instant A-B comparison to accurately detect changes isn't really true.

JHL's picture

That got a chuckle:


Aural memories are supposed to be short...


I remember the sound of a particular *tweeter* thirty years later. It simply conjures up the same adjectives it did 30 years ago. To forget that sound I'd have had to have forgotten all the words.


Our memories work by characterizing the nature of our experiences -- not by retaining exact replicas of them.

Precisely. Take the aural memory myth to its logical conclusion and you must now run to throw away your phone. That could be anyone on the line.


...the idea that you have to do an instant A-B comparison to accurately detect changes isn't really true.

Also correct. Spastic A/B swaps serve to shift the experience from the normal to the abnormal - would you please play that bar with these two different violins sixteen times. They serve to heighten the simplest of experiences - that there is *a* difference in a pursuit where everything *is* a difference - while diminishing its global effect in the frame of reference of the entire realm of music through one particular system at a time.

Having nil aural memory is one of those silly objectivist myths, like the one about being so suggestible that you really mustn't look at your gear while hearing it, or the unscientific supposition that component break-in is your brain acclimating to the sound of a new device. Here again perception - which is inherently tied to memory - works by characterizing the nature of our experiences. Without that we are functionally insane as well as, in this context, getting next to nothing out of the time spent.

Anton's picture

I agree.

I think my aural memory for 'critical listening' is basically a batched up bundle of recall of specific deviations or parameters, for good performance or ill.

Example: Recalling a speaker as too hot in the treble at a demo doesn't go away, and I think yields valid comparisons to new experiences.

Part of the fun of critical listening is filing experiences away for future reference.

Really nicely, said, LTL!

tiagoramossdg's picture

Which means I will look up Malachi's writing, especially after he has received such high praise. I'm also curious to find what is it that he wrote that caused such a stir.

I find the discussion on the comment section fascinating. It is an instance of an old problem: how do you introduce new people and new ideas into an institution, community or, in this case, hobby, without fundamentally changing its nature and all the good things you love about it?

My belief is that the solution has to do with speed. Change should not be welcomed too eagerly and anxiously. Novelty should be tested over time before it is embraced. Newcomers should learn the old ways before reinventing them. I understand that puts me in the "old white guy" team (despite the fact that I am neither old nor white), but I think lasting social institutions (by which I loosely mean voluntary associations of people over a shared interest, practice or goal) have struck that balance between ossification and extinction by rejection of novelty, and disfigurement or loss of purpose by embrace of novelty for novelty's sake. It is a fine line, and treading it requires intelligence. Thankfully, there is an abundance of that in this community.

Anton's picture

I wonder with generational change, how does a hobby publication manage that?

You bring up a cool issue.

Does Rolling Stone still attract twenty somethings, does it influence younger culture...or is it an AARP journal for older hipsters?

In our local club, we have some members in their 20's, some 30's...but we skew to 55+ taken as a larger group. We all party and hit Burning Amp together.

The members in the 20s and 30s read differently than I do when it comes to consuming media. The younger guys are avid tube rolling vinyl loving audiophiles, but they don't tune into many journals simply based on the Veblen nature of how many audio journalists in the hobby seem to be.

The younger folks are quicker to tune out the "this piece of kit was great, but the obvious wide chasm between this piece of gear and my reference 80,000 dollar digital front end puts it in its place," or "this third of a million dollar turntable may be expensive to some, but it offers value to the..."

It's daunting to think about the magazine's need for keeping us grey hairs safe from Hip Hop while hoping to attract a younger crowd.

I don't know how to pull that off!

At some point, we should see the average subscribers age start to come down. I wonder if there is any known data in this regard.

Michael Fremer's picture

I also have a 16 year old Canadian vinyl fanatic/Beatles fan Nathan Zeller writing for me. He's about to review his first piece of equipment and we are both really excited about that. It's a phono preamp from Canada. Yesterday he wrote that he'd bought a double 45rpm reissue of The Beach Boys "Surfer Girl" from another kid, and when they got to talking he told him he was writing for AnalogPlanet. That kid was a site fan too and now he's going to submit a review. He's an English major in high school so I expect he'll write well. Nathan told me he was in a record store recently and overheard two kids talking. One said the other "I wish I could go hear Michael Fremer's stereo some time." Now that blew me away! I asked Nathan if he'd gone over and told them that he wrote for AnalogPlanet. He didn't. Those Canadians!!!!!