Lyra Etna MC phono cartridge Page 2

Other Etna specifications include a frequency range of 10Hz–50kHz, channel separation of 35dB or better at 1kHz, and a medium compliance of 12cu at 100Hz. Lyra's recommended range of VTF is 1.68–1.78gm, with an optimum of 1.72gm. The recommended resistive load is between 104 and 887 ohms, and the recommended load via step-up transformer is 5–15 ohms. The Etna weighs 9.2gm vs the Atlas's 11.6gm.

There you have it: a cartridge constructed altogether differently from the $1000-less-expensive Titan i it replaces, featuring many of the same or similar design features and parts, and specs identical or similar to those of Lyra's top Lyra, the Atlas, for $2505 less.

I measured a stylus rake angle (SRA) of 93° with my Kuzma 4Point tonearm parallel to the record surface—that was within 1° of the ideal setting of 92°, which I easily achieved by lowering the back of the arm about 5mm. However, that's no guarantee that every sample of the Etna will so closely meet its specs; that's something you need to watch out for with any cartridge made by anyone, and it's why a USB microscope is such a great investment. When a cartridge costs as much as the Etna does, a $300 'scope can tell you if yours is a lemon—and lemons can occasionally sneak through even the toughest QC.

Though Lyra recommends a VTF of 1.72gm, i found that 1.75gm produced even lusher tonal quality and sweeping textural beauty. Even before the Etna was entirely broken in, it was obvious that it represents a radical departure from the Titan i, perhaps traveling even further from that model than does the more expensive Atlas.

The Titan i, Lyra's last "analytical" cartridge, was sort of the pinnacle of that type of sound. Properly set up, particularly regarding SRA, the Titan i didn't sound hard or bright or edgy. Rather, it produced macrodynamics and resolved low-level microdetail better than most other cartridges of my experience, though it did sacrifice some midband tonal and textural richness that other cartridges get right, if at the high cost of realistic transient speed and resolution, and an even higher sacrifice of spatial dimensionality. The Titan i delivered generous attack, but its sustain was kind of stingy, and its harmonic envelope was on the dry, less than generous side. In some ways, the Titan i's tonal balance was similar to those of Wilson Audio's MAXX 3 and Alexandria II loudspeakers—though I wasn't alone in being more than satisfied with the sound produced by a combination of Titan i and MAXX 3s. That some people didn't care for the coolish Titan i was understandable, though one could warm up to it given the right phono preamplifier.

But I couldn't give up what the Titan i did correctly to get what it didn't. I much preferred the Titan i to cartridges that warmed up the upper-midbass/lower-treble region but that sacrificed imaging, spatial solidity, and rock-solid bass control—and for a long time, that seemed to be the choice. The game changer was the Ortofon A90, which managed to beat the Titan i at its own game and add generosity of texture, tonality, and sustain, though it was dynamically somewhat restrained compared to the Titan's explosive nature. That's why I needed both!

The Etna is one of the new breed of harmonically enriched, full-bodied, yet ultradetailed and natural-sounding Lyras. These latest models sacrifice none of the brand's renowned resolution of detail, transient agility, and tonal neutrality, while greatly improving on its textural richness and tonal complexity.

The Atlas remains an absolute monster of dynamic drive and three-dimensional spatial resolution, combined with a complete and accurate tonal palette and well-burnished textural suppleness. It fully expresses what's cut into the LP's grooves and is appropriate for every musical genre. It's fast, but it doesn't skim the surface of the music. To paraphrase my May 2012 review, the Atlas transmits and releases energy with alarming speed, while leaving no residue to cloud or confuse the next musical instant. Bass was taut, nimble, and dug all the way down, producing an overall sound that was positively effortless.

Despite the difference in price and their similarities in published specs, the Etna challenges the Atlas's overall performance in many ways, arguably improving on it in some and falling short in others. In terms of macrodynamic slam and soundstage width, depth, and height, the Atlas wins. When, at audio shows or high-end dealers, I play 24-bit/96kHz needle drops made using the Lyra Atlas, the Kuzma 4Point arm, and the Continuum Audio Labs combo of Caliburn turntable and Constellation stand, there's nothing subtle about the space that opens up compared to whatever source had been playing. Nor is there anything subtle about the Atlas's image solidity and deep-bass drive. I recently heard a direct comparison of the Atlas and another highly regarded cartridge, and the differences weren't subtle—nor were the Atlas's increases in bass slam and control.

The Etna's macrodynamics were somewhat reduced compared with the Atlas's, its soundstage was somewhat more compact, and its lower octaves weren't as ear-poppingly iron-fisted—but it was close! In fact, in most ways, the Etna was a slightly scaled-down Atlas. But in a few crucial ways, the Etna's sound quality seemed to surpass that of the Atlas, particularly in the midrange, where its transparency, harmonic expression, and ability to make sense of dense thickets of instruments seemed superior.

AP's "Shaded Dogs"
I've been listening to test pressings of Analogue Productions' first reissues of RCA Living Stereo releases and comparing them to original pressings as well as vinyl reissues of the same titles by Classic Records and Chesky Records. In the last few weeks, I think I've heard Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade (LSC-2446) more times than in my entire life—and I'd heard it plenty, though not 1001 times. Even in his liner note from 1960, original producer Richard Mohr suggests that the work is overplayed and "merits a moratorium"—but he also admits it is "good music and good entertainment"—a film-soundtrack adventure minus the picture, and one of those pieces to be played for anyone who wants to be introduced to classical music.

At Sterling Sound, Ryan Smith mastered Analogue Productions' reissue from the original master tapes, using a lathe meticulously maintained by Barry Wolifson (his and Smith's initials are visible in the dead wax next to the label?). The discs themselves, stamped at Quality Record Pressings—which, like Analogue Productions, is owned by Chad Kassem—surpass in most ways the original shaded dog, Chesky, and Classic editions. Although each of those is very good in its own ways, none can match the new version's black backgrounds and overall instrumental focus. More important, the AP pressing has a transparency, a delicacy and purity of string tone, and dynamic punch that surpass the others—including the original (my copy is a 6S pressing), which, though still spectacular, sounds less immediate, as if the music orchestra has taken one step back.

Even at the climaxes of the most complex crescendos, the AP reissue unmasks low-level details, while brass, woodwinds, and massed strings have a delicacy and freedom from congestion that rival what's heard in concert. The original does those things too, but with less transparency, and with diminished dynamics.

The Atlas sounds magnificent with this record, as does the Ortofon Anna mounted in the Continuum Cobra tonearm—but when I switched to the Etna in the Kuzma 4Point arm, it was in the eye of the fourth movement's musical storm (The Sea; Shipwreck), where brass, percussion, woodwinds, and strings collide, that I could hear farther into the massed instruments. The Etna sorted out this complex mélange with somewhat greater delicacy and no hint of hardness.

The sound seemed slightly nimbler, too, particularly the timpani strokes. The sheen on the solo violin near the end of the fourth movement sounded magnificent through both cartridges, but the Etna's rendering was slightly silkier. In terms of dynamic explosiveness, the Atlas won here—but for tonality and texture, my vote goes to the Etna.

In my room
Likewise, I've been playing the Beach Boys' "In My Room," one of the greatest songs about adolescence, from another Analogue Productions test pressing, this one at 45rpm, and it never fails to throw me back in my chair. In this stunning Capitol Studios recording, the voices are spread across the stage as if the Boys are in my room, along with their tube-amplified electric guitars and a wood block that pops with alarming reality. This record sounds astonishing through any system. I felt the Atlas did it complete justice; but with the Etna, I felt ever so slightly closer to being in the studio, on the other side of the mike—the wood block's transparency was that much more convincing.

Overall, though, I still prefer the Atlas with most recordings, for its stronger musical torque and greater horsepower—though with some systems and for some tastes, others might prefer the Etna's extraordinary midband transparency, delicacy, and resolution of low-level detail, all of which at least equaled and perhaps surpassed the Atlas's.

One thing's for sure: As good as the Titan i was and is, I doubt anyone, even its most ardent fans, will prefer it to the Etna. And for those who found previous Lyras too analytical, the Etna will allay such objections without diminishing any of the brand's widely acknowledged strengths.

Like those earlier Lyras, the Etna rode silently in the groove, effectively rejecting any defects that normally produce impulse or constant noise. Its tracing and tracking abilities at a relatively modest VTF of 1.72 or 1.75gm were exemplary, although, as with all other Lyras I've tried, the ability of the Etna's stylus to attract dust was . . . impressive.

The Lyra Etna fully succeeds as a replacement for the Titan i, even one that costs $1000 more. One of the most neutral- yet enticing-sounding cartridges I've heard, it's also one I can recommend for any system and for any sonic or musical taste. I couldn't find anything about the Etna's performance that was worth criticizing. The Atlas may be Jonathan Carr's finest achievement to date—but considering its lower price, the Etna may be his greatest.

Lyra Co. Ltd
US distributor: AudioQuest
2621 White Road
Irvine, CA 92614
(800) 747-2770

planzity's picture

Excellent review as always. Almost persuading me to purchase. Except that little thing, the seven thousan dollars. Anybody know how much playing time there is expected before internal problems make it necessary to send  unit back with another few thou USD for retipping etc?

JLV's picture

Hi all,

I am the very joyfull user of the new Lyra Etna.

It replaced a Lyra Argo i (and I was already an absolute fan of the last one...)

I am living in the south of France and probably got one of the first Etna to reach our country.

It is set on a full loaded LP12 SE wiith also the embarked Urika pre and of course the racing arm Ekos SE.

(My system is : pre: french hig- end Audiophile technologie "Theroreme 4.S" and californian amp Coda new TSX, cables symetrical Cardas Golden Cross, speakers BW 802 on Dynaris By aktyna)

(around 5 000 pampered LP's)

I never heard my lp's like that! 

The Reiner CSO Sherazade explodes in the room.

The voice of Diana Krall in "quiet nights" on "Boy from Ipanema" or "Walk on by" whispers in your ears as does Leonard Cohen in "Chelsea Hotel n°2".

Gould playing Bach is still alive and invited in your home as does Milstein playing the solo violin "sonatas and Partitas".

Lets not talk of the reeditions of Blue note "Something Else" of Connonball Adderley and Miles( 1595) double LP  45RPM or Miles  KOB Columbia CS8163.

All my records sound also quiet as FLAC (I assume Flac or HR files doesn't make surface noise...) but with this unsurpassed analog sound!

A lot of air between the musicians,beautiful extinctions of the notes.

Loads of energy, presence, and a feeling that everything is easy for this cart.

Didn't find anything yet to criticize!

Every new listening is thrilling!!!

Congratulations and Thank you Mr Carr and all Lyra team!


JLV from Montpellier south of france.