Pure Fidelity Harmony Record Player Page 2

To my eyes, the Pure Fidelity Stratos MC cart—which, as previously noted, costs extra—looked like a rebranded Hana, but it isn't that. "The Stratos is built to our specs in Italy," Stratton explained. "It's a joint venture with a Japanese company that provides the cantilever and stylus. It's then shipped to Goldnote for final assembly. Goldnote manufactures the special duralumin body for us."

The Harmony is one of the best-looking turntables I've seen, with striking but subtle cosmetics (including aesthetically contrasting functional elements like that matte-black Delrin platter)—in all, a smart, relatively compact, lovely package that would enhance any living quarters, office, or listening warren visually as well as musically.

Plus, the superglossy "Quilted Maple" finish creates a surreal effect: When you stare into the finish, the turntable seems to float.

Setup
The Harmony was packed extremely well, each part secured in a separate, form-fitting foam rubber section, five layers in all. The manual was clear.

I placed the assembled Harmony plinth and isolation platform atop an IKEA Aptitlig bamboo platform, which sat on three stacks of ½" by 2" mahogany squares layered in groups of four, arranged in a tripod below the platform. The stacks of squares sat on my Salamander rack.

The Harmony's ruby bearing is preinstalled—no sweat required on the user's part. I removed the black protective cap from the crown of the bearing shaft and inserted two drops of the supplied bearing oil. I removed the protective cap from the lower shaft of the subplatter, applied five drops of oil, and carefully lowered the subplatter spindle into the bearing shaft. Following the clear instructions, I spun the subplatter by hand for one minute as it descended, the air forced out, settling, presumably, on that ruby bearing.

The 12V motor is preinstalled, its double pulley preset to the proper height. After wrapping the two Viton belts around the motor rod and the subplatter spindle, I placed the Delrin platter over the subplatter.

I'd been warned that the Encounter tonearm could be tough to set up, but it wasn't. Unscrew two transit bolts and tighten the attached nut to the tonearm shaft on the underside of the plinth. I used my Feickert Next Generation Universal Protractor to align the Stratos cart to the Encounter arm and my Riverstone Audio gauge to set the tracking force to 1.9gm, the suggested value. I adjusted VTA by rotating a round plate at the base of the bearing assembly, similar to how it works with my Kuzma 4Point tonearm. The RPM iPhone app measured the Harmony's speed as 33.45 rpm.

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Listening to joy
Playing guitarist Terje Rypdal's To Be Continued (1981, ECM 1192), which features bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, the Harmony/Stratos combination was magical, the music detailed, dynamic, and punchy on a wide, blooming stage.

As if it had been built to emotional specifications instead of technical ones, the Pure Fidelity Harmony/Origin Live tonearm/ Stratos combination took me on a joy ride, exuding all the liveliness and pace, rhythm, and timing of any well-made low-mass 'table but with a neutral tonal balance and a vice-like low-end grip. To my surprise, it compared well to my Kuzma Stabi R turntable/4Point tonearm/EMT TSD15 N cartridge combination, producing a different flavor/color of sound but one that was just as satisfying, with excellent transparency and surprising resolution.

The Harmony/Encounter/Stratos combo revealed the interior lives of many of my favorite records—or, rather, the artists that made them. This well-tuned trio provided supple transient attacks, thrilling retrieval of microdetail, an open, radiant midrange, and sleek, ample bass lines that, while not as fat and immersive as those produced by the Kuzma, were in, well, harmony with the other aspects of the Pure Fidelity system's performance. The Harmony is a coherent, fast, truth-telling analog beast.

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Playing Miles Davis's "Oleo" from my 1958 copy of Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige PRLP 7129), the Kuzma clearly revealed the distinctiveness of Philly Joe Jones's ride cymbal touch: the stick-on-cymbal "ping," the cymbal's ambience and tone. The Harmony, though, did a better job than the Kuzma of relaying those elements within the whole cymbal sound. Where the Kuzma laid down muscular, copious, fleshy notes from Paul Chambers's bass, the Harmony focused on texture and speed, with no overhang. It pulled a similar feat with Miles's trumpet, which was superpresent: sizzling and immediate. Against the Kuzma's oceanic bass weight and scale, the Harmony lit the stage in a stronger light, with deeper contrast of detail and superior midrange transparency.

Harmony meets EMT
Mounted on the Origin Live Encounter tonearm, the EMT TSD15 N MC cartridge provided more weight in bass lines than I heard with the Stratos, though not as much as the Kuzma. The Harmony/EMT combo was less burnished and microdetailed, a mite more laid-back and tonally darker—a meatier, more corporeal presentation. Bass and drums sounded more natural and perhaps more accurate through the EMT, but also less exciting. The EMT couldn't equal the Stratos's subtle, dappled, light-filled presentation. The EMT kept a tighter grip and a cleaner view but with less romance and textural shading.

The detail, dynamics, and openness owed as much to the tonearm and cart as to the Harmony turntable. The Harmony/Encounter/Stratos combo complemented one another like Mick and Keef, John and Paul, Miles and Trane.

Harmony meets Luxman
Mounted on the Origin Live, the Luxman LMC-5 cartridge produced fewer thrills than the Stratos or the EMT, though the Luxman was closer in spirit, resolution, and tonal balance to the EMT. Note, though, that the Tavish Adagio phono preamp only loads down to 100 ohms, while the Luxman specs out at 2.5 to 10 ohms, so I may not have been hearing the best the Luxman has to offer.

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Conclusion
In this bottom-line world, where what matters most to many is cash, graphs, and statistics, joy, humanity, and the color and beauty of sound get short shrift. (It's true that the color and beauty of sound is one joyful thing that cash can buy.) Part of our role as audiophiles, I think, is to expose the unaware masses to the wondrous beauty of the sounds of music available from their favorite vinyl discs when played on an exceptional hi-fi system—one that can reveal the information ingrained in the grooves with an appropriate sense of the history, humanity, and passion in the music's creation.

In the $10,000 price neighborhood where the Pure Fidelity Harmony system resides, you could get a J.Sikora Initial ($9495) or my Kuzma Stabi R ($8845) but without a tonearm. For a bit less ($8995), you could pick up an SME Model 6 with a tonearm, or for a bit more ($11,999), the exceptional Thorens TD 124 DD, also with a tonearm.

Aural memory is notorious, but among 'tables I've heard lately, the Pure Fidelity Harmony most closely resembled the Thorens TD 124 DD in terms of energy, inner illumination, and finely wrought detail; less so the Kuzma. All three—Pure Fidelity, Thorens, Kuzma—are exceptional; any one of them could be an end-point turntable for a lot of people.

The Pure Fidelity Harmony brings a beautiful sonic signature to vinyl but with enough transparency to reveal the unique personality of each LP. Every record played on the Harmony, from jazz and rock to electronic and classical, is an event. I couldn't not listen: Each performance demanded my attention and rewarded it with a deep musical connection.

The Pure Fidelity Harmony is one of the finest analog playback machines I've heard, worth every penny of its $9995 asking price.

COMPANY INFO
Pure Fidelity
102–6200 Darnley St.
Burnaby, British Columbia V5B 3B1
Canada
(604) 528-1384
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
partain's picture

I bought an new AR Turntable in 1970 for $100 . No cartridge . It was excellent . That's about $750 now .
I have no desire to go back to vinyl , but the fact that everyone has lost their friggin' minds about what is "affordable" is fairly obvious .

funambulistic's picture

Perhaps if you had sprung for the cartridge, you may have enjoyed your vinyl experience a bit more (I've heard turntables sound a smidge better with 'em) and your enjoyment would have been such that you would not have stopped in the first place.

As for the "affordability" aspect, I agree that $10K is not (affordable, that is - at least for me) but nowhere did I see the author state as such. There was a blurb about "a world-class table at real-world pricing" but that was the manufacturer.

shinri's picture

The original AR-XA was an absolute bare bones turntable, with an arm of very limited performance. Today, for the equivalent outlay, you can get a vastly better turntable such as a Rega Planar 2 or Music Hall MMF-5.3.

teched58's picture

I don't see any specs for wow and flutter. Nor was speed measured. Mikey used to measure speed for every review, so it's not like you can't do it.

Also, it's rubber band drive. I can spend $9k less and get a direct drive table that keeps speed rock solid.

JHL's picture

Which anticipated you.

Quote:

In this bottom-line world, where what matters most to many is cash, graphs, and statistics, joy, humanity, and the color and beauty of sound get short shrift.

scottsol's picture

“The RPM iPhone app measured the Harmony's speed as 33.45 rpm.”

corks67's picture

is that a fancy word for HDF ???

nice looking TT all the same

hb72's picture

Terje Rypdal's "To Be Continued" has Miroslav Vitus on bass, not Dave Holland. Miroslav has contributed several songs on this nice record, perhaps the best being "Morning Lake"; some of us know this ageless track from Weather Report's debut album from 1971, IIRC.

scottsol's picture

How did you manage to mount the cartridge with your eyes closed?

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