Review: Durand Talea II Tonearm

jazdoc

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Aug 7, 2010
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#1
Review: Durand Talea Tonearm

SPECIFICATIONS:
Bearing Type: Uni-pivot
Effective Length - 263mm
Pivot To Spindle - 247.37 mm
Overhang - 15.66mm
Offset Angle - 20.81 degrees
Price - $8,500

WEBSITE:
http://www.durand-tonearms.com/About/about.html

DISCLAIMER:
I am a personal friend of the owner/designer Joel Durand.

BACKGROUND:
The original Talea was developed by Joel Durand. Joel is professor of music at the University of Washington and the Talea was a collaborative effort using the resources of multiple departments at the University. The Talea II represents a significant improvement to the original design. All components of the design were re-evaluated, refined and critically tested.

MY LISTENING ROOM:
14' (W) x 17' (L) x 8' (H). Front wall has convex curvature treated with fabric. Back wall treated with same fabric with additional acoustic treatment. Right wall with built in cabinets for CD storage and multiple shelves filled with records. Reinforced flooring but definitely acoustically suboptimal. The left wall is treated with diffusors.

MUSIC USED FOR AUDITIONING AND CRITICAL LISTENING: Many LPs in my 2,500+ collection, notably:
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" (SP 4110/Stereo; LP110/Mono)
Nat Adderley "That's Nat" (Savoy, 1955, Mono)
Miles Davis "Milestones" (Columbia CL 1193, Mono '6-eye', 1958)
Duke Ellington & Ray Brown "This One's For Blanton" (Pablo, 1972)
Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington "At Cote d'Azur" (Mosaic Reissue)
Great Jazz Trio "Direct From LA" (EastWind/Nautlis, 1978)
Greg Kihn Band "Kihnspiracy" (Beserkley, 1983)
Shelby Lynne "Just A Little Lovin' (Lost Highway 2008)
Gerry Mulligan/Ben Webster "Mulligan Meets Ben Webster" (ORG 45 rpm/180 reissue)
Opeth "Damnation" (Koch Records, 1983)
Art Pepper "Gettin' Together" (Contemporary S7573, 1960)
Oscar Peterson & Freddie Hubbard "Face To Face" (Pablo, 1982)
Cat Power "The Greatest" (Matador, 2006)

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:
Turntable - Galibier Stelvio
Tonearms - Triplanar VIIu
Cartridges - Benz LPS, Dynavector XV1-s/Miyajima Premium BE Mono
Phono Preamps: Linn Linto, K&K, and Experience Music Kahn
Line Stage: BAT VK50SE
Amplifier: Einstein Light In Dark with Amperex Bugle Boy 6922 tubes
Speakers: Daedalus Ulysses

Additonally, I have auditioned the arm in multiple systems including a modified Garrard, Technics SP10 Mk3, Wave Kinetics NVS and Nantais modified Lenco 75 turntables. I have directly compared with other tonearms including the Schroeder Reference, Schick and multiple Reed models. I have also auditioned with Benz LP, Clearaudio Da Vinci v2 and Ortofon A90 cartridges.

PACKAGING/EASE OF USE:
The arm comes packaged in a beautiful handmade wooden box with complete set of tools and an extensive, well written manual. Some might argue that this unnecessarily raises costs. I would counter that you expect more from the Mercedes showroom than from a Ford dealership. The elegant packing befits this bespoke product.





The Talea is a visually stunning component. Fit and finish are exemplary.



Installation was easy on my Galibier armboard. A pivot to spindle tool is provided for exact adjustment. This was source of frustration with my previous reference arm, the Triplanar which required using a hand-held ruler or a Fieckert protractor to set pivot to spindle. Set up is easy. First you attach the mounting plate to the cartridge, then you attach the plate/cartridge to the arm. If you are used to adjusting offset angle and overhang with two mounting screws, it will take a little practice to get the hang of using a single site of attachment. (As an aside, I would highly recommend the MintLP arc protractor to anyone with a high end vinyl system. The difference between 'close' and 'spot-on' with set up is worth many thousands of dollars spent on equipment upgrades.)

The VTA tower has been redesigned from the Talea I and is easier to read for repeatable VTA adjustments. The 'on the fly' azimuth is extremely useful for nailing this critical but often overlooked parameter. Multiple counterweights are provided including a small counterweight for fine adjustments in the .01 gm range. Again, ability to make repeatable small adjustments to VTF are critical to bring out a cartridge's best performance.

LISTENING:

Noise Floor:
The Talea is extremely quiet in the groove, exceeded only by the Telos. The Schroeder Reference is a distant second in this regard.

Dynamics:
IMO, this is one of the places that reproduced music falls well short of the real thing. In comparison to other tonearms I've heard, the Talea has a dramatically larger dynamic range. The Talea stands out in the ability to recreate the physical presence of live music as demonstrated on the live track "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" with Duke Ellington backing Ella Fitzgerald on the "Live At Cote d'Azur" LP. Tony William's kick drum becomes visceral on the Great Jazz Trio recording, especially the track "Night In Tunisia". You can feel the pressure wave. The Talea makes other tonearms sound compressed by comparison.

Soundstaging:
The Talea throws a wide soundstage and is only bettered by the Telos in ability to re-create depth of soundstage. This is a major improvement when compared to the Talea I and is really noticeable with well recorded mono records like Mile Davis LP "Milestones" and Nat Adderley's "That's Nat". The speed and articulation of the Talea reveal the performers location in space. By comparison, other arms make the performers fuzzy and out of focus.

Upper Frequency Response:
My XV1-s had a tendency to sound strident on the Triplanar. On the Talea, this high frequency sizzle is gone. (Second aside, crtitics of the XV1-s often point out this stridency and I've noticed a correlation when pairing this cartridge with the Triplanar. I have a theory that it may result from a resonance issue with the Triplanar. Don't get me wrong, the Triplanar is an excellent tonearm, especially for the money, but it simply can't compete with the Talea for sound quality.) The Clearaudio Da Vinci really excelled in this area (as well as soundstaging) paired with the Talea. Cymbals are always an excellent indicator of high frequency response. The Opeth cut "Windowpane" and Cat Power's "Living Proof" have well-recorded cymbals that the Talea was able to resolve better than any other tonearm I have heard.

Midrange:
The Talea combines the attributes of great amplifiers; the liquidity of tubes and speed and resolution of solid state. Voices are impeccably and naturally rendered. By comparison, the Triplanar is good, but not nearly as natural sounding. To my ears, the Schroeder and to a lesser extent, the Reed tonearms impose their 'house sound'. This overlay is pleasant, I just prefer the neutrality of the Talea.

Low Frequency Response:
The Talea excels in this area. Bass is extended and articulate. This is readily heard on Ray Brown's bass on "Don't Do Nothing Until You Hear From Me" from 'This One's For Blanton' LP. The speed and overtones of the acoustic bass sound much more realistic. By comparison, the Triplanar does not go as deep and the Schroeder Reference is rounded off.

Gestalt:
The Talea seems to provide a larger conduit for transmitting information from the groove/cartridge inferface to the downstream electronics. The result is wider frequency range, dynamic bandwith, and speed. The Talea does not impose the designer's 'house sound' upon the listener; rather it brings the listener closer to the original event.


SUMMARY:
The Talea II is an impeccably built, bespoke high-end tonearm. Yes, the price is high, but the value received is more than commensurate with the cost. The Talea handily bests other fine tonearms discussed above. Indeed, upon initially auditioning the initial Talea I prototype, I cancelled my order for a Schroeder Reference.

I believe that the Talea II set the standard for high end arms. Indeed, the Talea has altered my conventional view of the Linn hi-fi hierarchy. If you are assembling a state of the art vinyl playback system, allocating more of your budget to the Talea rather than the turntable or cartridge should be seriously considered.

But as Yoda says "There is another" and a review of the Telos is forthcoming...
 
Last edited:

jtinn

[Industry Expert]/Member Sponsor
Apr 21, 2010
455
0
16
#6
TAS is looking for more reviewers. Well done. :) Will JT work with another non Talea distributor to provide tone arm mounting info/specs so armboards can be made (mounting holes and height) that will fit a clearaudio for example ?
Christian, me?

If you mean me, I am happy to help any way I can.
 

rad

New Member
Jun 13, 2010
145
0
0
Ohio
#9
Excellent review, well done, & after living with the Talea II, I could not agree more with your findings.

One thing I would add, Joel is a pleasure to work with & takes great pride in his products & craftsmanship.

Also Awaiting delivery of the Telos .............& looking forward to your review.
 
Dec 20, 2014
201
1
18
#10
I have just read this thread and review and was curious as to whether or not you have heard a tonearm using a townshend trough? if so how does that stack up in your pantheon of arms
 

jazdoc

Member Sponsor
Aug 7, 2010
2,600
0
36
Bellevue
#11
I have just read this thread and review and was curious as to whether or not you have heard a tonearm using a townshend trough? if so how does that stack up in your pantheon of arms
I'll presume the question was directed to me. The answer is no.
 

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