The LP Lab Carbon Fibre Armtube
Blair Roger reports on an upgrade for the Well-Tempered Tonearm
Simplicity appeals to me. I like simple answers to complicated problems because simplicity is elegant. About eight or nine years ago I read a review in a print audio journal of a very unconventional arm and turntable combination. It was the Well-Tempered Turntable and Tonearm and, of course, I was fascinated by the simplicity of the design. I was convinced that I had to have one, if for no other reason than to see that freaky paddle-floating-in-silicone-goop arm bearing.
The way I figured it, the platter and arm bearings would never wear out. Sure, I'd have to stock up on drive belts and have a spare bottle of silicone wonder-honey handy (hey, STP works too!) but with any luck I'd be teaching my grandchildren how to set the azimuth on this unit, even without a 'scope.
So what did Firebaugh get wrong? The materials specification. After about six months of aural bliss you start to itch. And its an itch that's hard to find, but it's there, somewhere in back of the synapses that connect to the fine hair cells of your inner ear.
The thing is hot! Yeah, that's it! Its got this simmering pot-lid edge that hisses and fizzes and starts to drive you mad. Maybe new cables? Nope. VTA, that's it! Nope, sorry bud. Ah-haaah! Tracking force! This is getting outta hand...sigh.
So while he was at it, Lary whipped up a proper two-bolt mounting, machined aluminum headshell, did some good things at the counterweight end of things and decided (what a guy!) to hardwire the cartridge clips right through to a neatly finished pair of interconnects that plug directly into your phono jacks. Wire choice is yours - Discovery copper (my pick) or van den Hul silver at extra cost.
If you want to go for it here's what to do. Think zen. Be patient. Remove the cartridge from the old, shiny steel armtube after installing the stylus guard. Set it aside. Lift the paddle/bearing out of the silicone fluid (NOT BY THE FISHLINE, OK?) and tilting it to the side, wire it to the gantry arms and let it drip into the bearing cup for at least twenty-four hours. After that, you just need some rubbing alcohol to wipe off any excess silicone fluid which will almost certainly be on your fingers by now. That's the worst of it. Well, not quite.
At the critical last moment of re-assembly you will have to call your wife to help you. She will deftly line everything up while you tighten that last allen head screw. Thank her profusely. As Dale Carnegie said: "Be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation." She just saved your bacon and might not even ask what the thing cost. Tell her the equivalent would be a Graham 2.0 at $2000+; and it's true. Or mumble something about Wilson Benesch and roll your eyes upward to the right.
And there's more. Timbre and timing. Throw on the ultimate test of classical swing, The Royal Ballet Gala (Classic's Reissue LDS 6065). After you get over the freshly revealed sweetness of the strings and woodwinds and the suddenly powerful, rich foundation of the bass contingent, you begin to feel the pulse of the music and the superb ensemble playing that was The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden under Ansermet's baton. For the first time, with this new carbon arm, you sense that the musicians are playing all together, tight, on the beat. And listen for that breath they all take together at the very end of Pantalon et Columbine on side three!
Want some great blowin'? Spin Kenny Dorham at the Cafe Bohemia (Blue Note BLP 1524 - Toshiba EMI [mono]) and time warp back to 1955 with this underrated trumpeter. Luxuriate in the ambiance of the club while Kenny and his brilliant side men, J.R. Montrose, tenor, Kenny Burrell, guitar, Bobby Timmons, piano, Sam Jones, bass and Arthur Edgehill, drums, lay down a passionate riff on 'A Night in Tunisia'. Yes, mono has depth too.
OK. I admit to being biased, after all, I'm not borrowing this gear. I bought it. And why? Because it brings me closer to the moment of musical creation and that's why I'm keeping it. And then there's the simplicity of it all, like a sculpture by Barbara Hepworth or a triode amp schematic.
If you've got a Well-Tempered Turntable and you don't pop for this armtube, you're not hearing all that this unique design has to offer. The LP Lab's carbon fibre armtube transforms the Well-Tempered Turntable into an entirely new one - a vastly better one.
Fibre Armtube for Well Tempered Tonearm
Manufactured by The LP Lab
208 Pepperwood Street, Hercules, CA, 94547
phone: (510) 799-3858, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: US$395 (money back guarantee; tools and telephone support included)
Source of review sample: Reviewer purchase
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