One Amigo Visits Utah To Hear 5 Reference Turntables-My Step Beyond

One of the things I have always loved about this hobby is how it has always not only allowed me to meet wonderful people over the years who also share the same passion for this hobby. Being retired has also provided that extra time to allow me to travel to places I would normally never get to. Such was the case over these past 5 days when I traveled to Cedar City, Utah to visit WBF member ddk (David). Those of us here who have been following David's blog know that he has a museum of vintage equipment that no other mortal I have ever met possesses. I have followed David's blog here and found myself drawn both to not only seeing these turntables but also to hear the legendary Siemens Bionfor speakers he has. For this not aware of these behemoth speakers i can only say that not only are they a sight to behold but let me cut to the chase really quick here. Succinctly put this system transcended anything I have ever heretofore heard in over 50 years in this hobby. It was a sound so perfect that it almost impossible to put into words but hopefully I can capture in writing just what my aural perceptions were. The fact that David is also retired made things quite easy for us to do nothing except listen to music almost non stop---well I digress because for some brief interludes we also managed to buy excellent seats for the production of Amadeus one day and on the next we traveled out to Zion National Park as well as Bryce Canyon National Park for some almost unearthly sites of beauty.

David is a most gracious host and nothing went lacking or unwanted. The fun part to the trip was the getting there. I live in southern California and certainly one way to get there was to drive the almost8 hours and 400+ miles through the desert past Las Vegas, though the north west tip of Arizona and then on into Utah where Cedar City is perhaps 50 miles from the southern part of the state. This was certainly an option as another way was to fly out of Los Angeles through Salt Lake City and then take a puddle jumper south for the 275 mile flight to Cedar City which, with the stop over in Salt Lake City brought the travel to also 7-8 hours. David suggested another method which was the one upon which I decided. That was to fly out of John Wayne Airport here in Orange County to Las Vegas where there is a shuttle which will transport passengers from the airport to St George Utah where David would meet me and then drive me to his home another 45 miles further north.

Well the "die was cast" several weeks ago when my wife wanted to visit our daughter for a girls' few days together in Denver. She suggested I go to Cedar City. The game was on.

I got up early Thursday morning to catch my flight at 1050 AM and arrived in Las Vegas at 1145 and then had to wait almost 2 1/2 hours at McCarran Airport for the shuttle which I boarded at 2:30 for the 2 1/4 hour drive through the desert. Utah time is an hour ahead of California time which with the drive got me to St George at 5:30 where I met a bubbly and smiling David, anxious to get the festivities going. Over the next 40 minute drive to his house we got to know one another and there was an instant friendship and bond started between the two of us.

David lives in a magnificent huge home where TBH the entire lower level occupies the huge downstairs "great room" which is slightly irregularly shape from that of a rectangle but practically speaking measured about 22'W x almost 40'L with a tall 10 foot ceiling. But I digress. I was greeted at the door by David's beautiful wife and gorgeous 2 young daughters. Dinner was served and shortly afterwards the fun began.

David took me downstairs and gave me a synopsis of his room. Within the room and each on their own beautiful stands were those amazing turntables
The American Sound
EMT 927
Thorens
Goldmund Reference
TechDas AF One
Micro Seiki SZ-1t, SX-8000II & SX-8000
EMT 927 (a second one on the floor from his own)
EMT 950
EMT 948

Each unit was eye candy to behold and virtually perfect and new in every respect. The only one I did not hear was the Goldmund Reference as the arm was not fully set up. Also the 2 Micro Seiki turntable were in a second sound room and these also did not get a turn as even 5 days of listening proved to be all too short

Let me cut to the chase hear for those that are interested, as I can say with great certainty which table, arm and cartridge won the show. Let me just say that it wasn't the Tech DasAF1. In fact it wasn't even close because IMO the American Sound TT blew everything out of the water. In fact it wasn't even close.

David has so many tone arms that I gave up counting. He uses only the SME 3012 for every one of his turntables even if they could accommodate four arms as The American Sound. The big variable were the cartridges he used. David I have discovered is a collector of all things related to analog reproduction and he had almost 50 different cartridges many of which were countless Ortofon iterations . The cartridge and arm however which when played with the table that was the most magical was the American Sound turntable with the SME 3012 loaded with a very old Neumann DST cartridge from the 60's or 70's. I was taken back by the beauty, fullness, richness of the sound which lacked nothing in detail. To my ears it was perfect. In fact after listening to all of David's tables I can honestly say that my least favorite (but that did not make the sound bad) was the Tech Das AF1 and David whole heartedly agreed.In fact I discovered that the Tech Das AF1 is art the bottom of David's list as a go to table. Having said that the Tech das was spectacular. It just did not convey to my ears what The American Sound did. All in all both of us agreed that this very old Neumann DST cartridge which probably sold 40 years ago for $60 now had a street value of close to $15K. It really was that good


SteveTT.jpg
 
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Comments

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
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A well set up tape machine at <$25k will trump a TT at any price! ;)
I have a different, though admittedly very limited, experience. I have heard only two systems which have both tape and turntable. One had the TechDas and top contemporary tape and the other had vintage tape and a Technics SP10 MK 2. I don't know anything about tape players, but to my ears the Technics actually sounded better than the vintage R2R and the TechDas sounded about the same. I don't know if it was set up, software or something else, but I left underwhelmed by the much discussed superiority of tape.

This may be an outlier experience, and not typical of what most people with much more experience hear, but I thought I would share my somewhat contrarian listening impressions. I was left wondering what all the fuss is about.

But since people continue to praise the fidelity of tape, I remain open minded and hope to someday hear a system which can clearly demonstrate the superiority of the medium.
 
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ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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What keeps the Micro Seiki turntables out of the main system, and the Thorens in? I always assumed they would be better than the Thorens. Is there an ever so slight smearing due to the string drive system?

Better is where it gets sticky Win, at least for me. In absolute terms the Micro's could be considered better but all these tables have their own flavor and are special. I already have the AF-1 and the AS tables in this system, the Micros are of the same flavor, so they're in the other system and I need a tt there.

Wrong tension and/or insufficient inertia can cause the slight smearing that you mention, not the case here and I'm using a solid belt, not thread but the tension will have a direct influence on sound even here.

Bruce,
Didn't you know that magnetic tape causes cancer in laboratory rats? :D
david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,965
498
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Utah
I have a different, though admittedly very limited, experience. I have heard only two systems which have both tape and turntable. One had the TechDas and top contemporary tape and the other had vintage tape and a Technics SP10 MK 2. I don't know anything about tape players, but to my ears the Technics actually sounded better than the vintage R2R and the TechDas sounded about the same. I don't know if it was set up, software or something else, but I left underwhelmed by the much discussed superiority of tape.

This may be an outlier experience, and not typical of what most people with much more experience hear, but I thought I would share my somewhat contrarian listening impressions. I was left wondering what all the fuss is about.

But since people continue to praise the fidelity of tape, I remain open minded and hope to someday hear a system which can clearly demonstrate the superiority of the medium.

Can't speak to your experience because of the possible variables involved but the operating word in Bruce's post was well setup, its not plug & play for that kind of result. The tape guys here can explain it better.

david
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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As I discussed w/Bonzo today, put together a good R2R deck for $5k-$10k, prerecorded 15ips half or quarter track tapes for $100-$200, and a range to include classic Miles Davis, John Coltrane, various Blue Note, Holst Planets suite, Rimsky Scheherazade, Stravinsky, Bach etc, and I would be in.
But this world doesn't exist. Tapes are up to $500, and tbh only one or two appeal to me. I'm not going to get into this w/such a poor selection of software.
No criticism is pointed at any party, the selection is what it is.
But the medium strikes me as existing in a vacuum, and as a way for audiophiles to boast they've climbed the highest mountain of all.
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
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on the hardware side of tape, you have the RTR deck and likely a high quality tape repro. purchased smartly, a top level deck will likely sell for $10k-$15k+ if you aspire to better the best vinyl. the tape repro electronics are $3k--$12k depending.

I have approximately 120-130 RTR titles......mostly 2 reels, some 1 reel, mostly 'grey market' 1/4" 15ips master dubs (a handful of 1/2") of various provenance. some are $500 (a couple are $1000), some $400, some $300, others $275. it's taken 7+ years to put together this collection of tapes. I doubt I will buy even 10 more tapes. I mostly have the ones I want.

and when you step into the tape culture there is access to the very top, top titles if you so desire. anything pretty much you could dream of.

think about the most popular recordings of all time in Jazz and pop/rock; i likely have maybe 40-50% the ones you would list in the top 25 and it's by far the best you would ever hear them. what might that be worth to you?

there is no right or wrong reason to get into high level RTR tape. but no doubt at a high level there is nothing like it. i came of age in the 60's and 70's and being able to hear that music like that happens to be worth it to me.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Mike, just what are some of the top titles you have, as you say "stepping into the tape culture"?
Can one really source, say eg, Miles Nefertiti and Miles Smiles, Coltrane Giant Steps and A Love Supreme, Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti, The Who Tommy, Santana Abraxas, Holst Planets Suite, Rimsky Scheherazade, Bach Brandenberg Concertos, Beethoven's Ninth, Stravinsky Rites etc etc?
I ask this because all I see are things like Tape Project obscure titles.
This obv doesn't really belong on this thread, but what is a good source of info as to the kinds of titles I might like to acquire?
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
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Mike, just what are some of the top titles you have, as you say "stepping into the tape culture"?
Can one really source, say eg, Miles Nefertiti and Miles Smiles, Coltrane Giant Steps and A Love Supreme, Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti, The Who Tommy, Santana Abraxas, Holst Planets Suite, Rimsky Scheherazade, Bach Brandenberg Concertos, Beethoven's Ninth, Stravinsky Rites etc etc?
I ask this because all I see are things like Tape Project obscure titles.
This obv doesn't really belong on this thread, but what is a good source of info as to the kinds of titles I might like to acquire?
Spirit,

the first rule of the tape 'grey market' culture is discretion. even though i likely own multiple legit commercial copies of almost every tape i own and so the artist has been paid multiple times already, i don't normally post about specific titles. i know I've let my guard down a couple of times in 7 years, but i try not to do it. your tape source has legal and possibly ethical exposure. you have legal exposure. best not to press your luck.

i have access to 80% of the titles you listed. i own 25% of the titles you listed, and i don't have that many classical titles compared to pop rock and jazz.

a good source for the most top, top, titles is to find a tape head you trust and that trusts you and ask him/her where to get top titles. my wife calls those guys my 'drug dealers'.

they don't have web sites or advertise.
 

rockitman

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2011
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Northern NY
Spirit,

the first rule of the tape 'grey market' culture is discretion. even though i likely own multiple legit commercial copies of almost every tape i own and so the artist has been paid multiple times already, i don't normally post about specific titles. i know I've let my guard down a couple of times in 7 years, but i try not to do it. your tape source has legal and possibly ethical exposure. you have legal exposure. best not to press your luck.

a good source for the most top, top, titles is to find a tape head you trust and that trusts you and ask him/her where to get top titles. my wife calls those guys my 'drug dealers'.

they don't have web sites or advertise.
+1
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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Mike, is this on a par w/bootlegs? I've spent £00's/£000's w/my favourite bands so have no qualms about securing bootleg live cd's. I would feel the same about R2R tapes.
None of this is helping me, or enticing me to go R2R.
I'm seriously considering a bleeding edge SOTA tt final purchase. My current 75lb slate plinth/direct rim drive Trans Fi Salvation tt would see it's ultimate evolution/cost no object development in the form of the Saskia Reference 2 uber deck ($53k).
It really makes more sense for me to enjoy my 2k lp collection on this, than starting a new medium from scratch.
 

rockitman

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2011
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Mike, is this on a par w/bootlegs? I've spent £00's/£000's w/my favourite bands so have no qualms about securing bootleg live cd's. I would feel the same about R2R tapes.
None of this is helping me, or enticing me to go R2R.
I'm seriously considering a bleeding edge SOTA tt final purchase. My current 75lb slate plinth/direct rim drive Trans Fi Salvation tt would see it's ultimate evolution/cost no object development in the form of the Saskia Reference 2 uber deck ($53k).
It really makes more sense for me to enjoy my 2k lp collection on this, than starting a new medium from scratch.
You will never be able to quench your thirst for all the titles you love on vinyl and get them on tape. I have a decent tape collection and invested a lot in both the software and the playback hardware...that said....I'm lucky to have what I have, but only look at it as a supplement to my vinyl experience. Vinyl still rules 80% of my listening time as I have so much more to listen too. I say knock your vinyl playback system out of the park and if you still have money to burn and a lot of time, patience and luck...get a tape machine.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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Christian and Mike, the main issue is the total lack of tech back up in the UK.
I run a planetarium-grade Barco Cine 9 crt projector, in my opinion the high water mark of analog technology in the video field (overkill on a par w/Mike's bleeding edge Studer), and we're down to one remaining tech in the UK. Fingers crossed he doesn't suffer a cardiac arrest :eek:! Or die of old age.
I've invested £55k/$130k in this baby since 1998. This is stressful enough w.out 1/having to buy a SOTA R2R from the US or on Ebay, 2/being all at sea re availability of titles, 3/having no techhead to share headaches with.
R2R is just not for me, despite being all too aware how it takes analog superiority to unprecedented levels.
 

rockitman

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2011
7,103
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Northern NY
Christian and Mike, the main issue is the total lack of tech back up in the UK.
I run a planetarium-grade Barco Cine 9 crt projector, in my opinion the high water mark of analog technology in the video field (overkill on a par w/Mike's bleeding edge Studer), and we're down to one remaining tech in the UK. Fingers crossed he doesn't suffer a cardiac arrest :eek:! Or die of old age.
I've invested £55k/$130k in this baby since 1998. This is stressful enough w.out 1/having to buy a SOTA R2R from the US or on Ebay, 2/being all at sea re availability of titles, 3/having no techhead to share headaches with.
R2R is just not for me, despite being all too aware how it takes analog superiority to unprecedented levels.
Don't torture yourself....you really need to be motivated to surpass those obstacles you mention. My vinyl rig sounds very close to tape on the titles I do have in both tape and vinyl. Tape is quieter....no occasional pops or ticks, the apparent density and extension of the music is better and the bass is more resounding in authority. It is closer to the performance than vinyl, but not by a whole lot when compared to very well sorted vinyl playback system..imho.
 
Feb 8, 2011
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606
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Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
Spirit,

the first rule of the tape 'grey market' culture is discretion. even though i likely own multiple legit commercial copies of almost every tape i own and so the artist has been paid multiple times already, i don't normally post about specific titles. i know I've let my guard down a couple of times in 7 years, but i try not to do it. your tape source has legal and possibly ethical exposure. you have legal exposure. best not to press your luck.

i have access to 80% of the titles you listed. i own 25% of the titles you listed, and i don't have that many classical titles compared to pop rock and jazz.

a good source for the most top, top, titles is to find a tape head you trust and that trusts you and ask him/her where to get top titles. my wife calls those guys my 'drug dealers'.

they don't have web sites or advertise.
Basically the music underworld.
 
Feb 8, 2011
21,948
606
113
Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
You will never be able to quench your thirst for all the titles you love on vinyl and get them on tape. I have a decent tape collection and invested a lot in both the software and the playback hardware...that said....I'm lucky to have what I have, but only look at it as a supplement to my vinyl experience. Vinyl still rules 80% of my listening time as I have so much more to listen too. I say knock your vinyl playback system out of the park and if you still have money to burn and a lot of time, patience and luck...get a tape machine.
...And a Ferrari machine. :b
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
9,070
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E. England
Nothstar, don't get onto cars, otherwise I'll have to reveal my third obsession after audio and home cinema, my 1968 Citroen DS21.
If you guys think audio esp R2R is a vortex of OCD, I suggest you try classic car ownership. The joy of driving/pride of ownership/sheer fear of breaking down :eek: at any moment takes "living in the moment" to new levels!
I should be able to take R2R in my stride.
Christian, thanx for your input, I remain content my decision to pass on tape is fully justified.
Now, can I really justify that uber tt buy?
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
I picked up a copy of this disk. All I can say if you can find one, buy it....OMG is it fantastic..
I'm glad you like it. Not only do I use it was a demo album but because of all of the transients and dynamic peaks I also use the album as a burn in disk
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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I'm glad you like it. Not only do I use it was a demo album but because of all of the transients and dynamic peaks I also use the album as a burn in disk
Agree!!!
 
Jul 5, 2016
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Austin, Texas
Sorry to bring an old thread back from the dead, but after reading through the op, I had to thank you for this wonderful post.

It's posts like these that make being on forums so amazingly enjoyable. I love hearing about other's systems, and people's enjoyment of them. Particularly when they create experiences like these.

Though I'm a bit disappointed, as I lived in Utah for fifteen years, and would never have guessed a system of this magnitude was just a few hours drive away from me.

Again, this was a wonderful read, and I thank you for the post.
 

Tango

VIP/Donor
Mar 12, 2017
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Bangkok
As far as silver wire goes, you won't find any in my place ;)!

david
I tried pure silver speaker cables for a day. It sounded refreshing at first but after an hour or two just got uncomfortable with the sparkling and finally took them out. I use silver tonearm cable though.

Btw, do you also avoid full moon, Mr. Karmeli? :rolleyes:

Kind regards,
Tang
 

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