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

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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#42
Absolutely wonderful reading, and drooling.....

Lee
You're not that far Lee, welcome to stop by and I wouldn't mind getting a few sd pointers for older guys!

david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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#43
It's funny how it all started with horns and they still might be sitting up at the the peak of the summit... Bionors +1 to the one day experience wish bucket list along with the WE, Gary's Genesis Dragons and the Magico M projects.
Horns came naturally to WE when they were designing their theater systems. IMO horns still are the most natural way to sound reproduction, problem today is that for the most part its a lost art specially when it comes down to the available cone drivers. No one today is making paper cones light and fast enough to blend with the compression drivers and that's one of the reasons why you see so many half baked solutions for the bass section on the market. Low wattage SETs are the natural partners to horns and even JBLs who make their own drivers lack the sensitivity and efficiency for SETs.

david
 

BruceD

VIP/Donor
Dec 13, 2013
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#46
Re Reading the comment regards the beauty and naturalness of the Neumann Cartridge--would that be akin to it being a Mirror Image of the Cutter Styli?(ala Neumann)

Interesting:)

BruceD
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#47
I am planning to visit sometime later this year. Looks like it will be November, as I want to visit one other person on that trip who is not ready yet. I have 3 more western Electric demos before the Bionor. I think Vintage horns, and then maybe vintage gear, is the next hobby. It trumps all.

The WE systems in Munich too used to use $5/m cables, like ddk, and they trod all over the Magico Ultimates, Vox, etc at Munich in 2014. I have no doubt the Bionors will too.

How long did were you there, Steve, it must be tough to demo so much gear.
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#48
Got there Thursday afternoon and left Monday. Heard everything except the Goldmund Reference and the Micro Seiki SZ-1t, SX-8000II & SX-8000
 

PeterA

Active Member
Dec 7, 2011
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#49
Great thread Steve. I agree that people really love reading about this stuff and fellow enthusiasts' systems. This and your recent three amigo thread are wonderful reads. Thank you for making the effort to share this with the forum.

Your enthusiasm for this particular system is clear in the OP. It makes me wonder if we have really advanced home audio in the past few decades. Of course, this system is at an extreme end of the hobby and those speakers require huge space and commitment, as does all of that vintage analog gear. It is inspiring to read that someone has gone to these efforts and is so welcoming to others. Just wonderful.

Fellow member Ack, uses that Oistrakh/Bruch Scottish Fantasia LP for reference. And I love the Peggy Lee Greatest Hits LP. Looks like you are getting the Fever for analog.
 

PeterA

Active Member
Dec 7, 2011
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#50
Hi Bruce,

SME 30xx arms all have the knife edge bearing but there are two versions, Nylon or Steel, I prefer the Steel one.

Regarding your ground network, one of the three I installed is a star layout similar to yours but the wiring is quite different, happy to share, just contact me offline.

The early SAEC 12" are excellent but are very rare and very expensive these days.

david
David, congratulations on this wonderful system. As an only analog guy, I'm intrigued by your collection of vintage gear and am particularly interested in your SME arms. Have you compared these SME 30xx arms to their latest V-12 arm in your system? I'm curious to know if the top SME arms have gotten any better over the years.

Perhaps this is better moved over to your system thread, but I saw you comment about the arms here.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#51
Great thread Steve. I agree that people really love reading about this stuff and fellow enthusiasts' systems. This and your recent three amigo thread are wonderful reads. Thank you for making the effort to share this with the forum.

Your enthusiasm for this particular system is clear in the OP. It makes me wonder if we have really advanced home audio in the past few decades. Of course, this system is at an extreme end of the hobby and those speakers require huge space and commitment, as does all of that vintage analog gear. It is inspiring to read that someone has gone to these efforts and is so welcoming to others. Just wonderful.

Fellow member Ack, uses that Oistrakh/Bruch Scottish Fantasia LP for reference. And I love the Peggy Lee Greatest Hits LP. Looks like you are getting the Fever for analog.
I don't know much about Bionors but I doubt any new manufacturer has the budget and focus that Bell Labs spent on Western Electric speakers or that GIP spends on their tweeters. Those speakers were made to sound good, while current improvements are to have it more compact. You will find that those who have heard Western Electrics at Munich and like them really view the world as WE and then, far below, somewhere new hifi. I assume ddk's bionors fall in that category.

The Bruch Scorrish fantasia LP was the one that I loved in the WE demo at Munich this year. Best violin heard on hifi
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#52
I haven't heard the WE in a system such as David's but I can say if indeed they are better than the Siemens they must be truly amazing. For my ears the Bionor was as perfect a sound as I have ever heard and I did comment that David's system has become my new reference
 
Jan 23, 2011
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Amsterdam holland
#53
If this is the best according to steve ( respect for david who put it together off course ) then it makes me wonder as peter already mentioned , where is the progress then in high end reproduction over the years ???
Apart from the lamm amps its all vintage .
I think however that regarding to house music which i also like this system wouldnt be optimally suited
 

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#54
I haven't heard the WE in a system such as David's but I can say if indeed they are better than the Siemens they must be truly amazing. For my ears the Bionor was as perfect a sound as I have ever heard and I did comment that David's system has become my new reference
Hi I meant ddk's speakers fall in WE category, different from new hifi, which PeterA was referencing. I think David has heard both WE and Bionor. You should travel to South Korea where one of the Hyundai owners is opening, or has opened, a WE museum that has 20 or so rooms
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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Utah
#55
David, congratulations on this wonderful system. As an only analog guy, I'm intrigued by your collection of vintage gear and am particularly interested in your SME arms. Have you compared these SME 30xx arms to their latest V-12 arm in your system? I'm curious to know if the top SME arms have gotten any better over the years.

Perhaps this is better moved over to your system thread, but I saw you comment about the arms here.
Thank you Peter!

Your question is difficult to answer as it rests directly on my personal preference and favorite adjective, "Natural". The 3012 hits the "Natural" bullseye, specially in the low frequencies which have always been the most difficult to produce correctly and naturally for all equipment. There could be better arms out there but I stopped looking years ago because the 3012 is good enough where its important to me. I haven't heard the V-12 only the V that its based on. My SME V came with silver wiring standard, a sound that I detest, probably one of the reasons that I didn't take to the FR-66s. The V was dryer than the 3012 but yet more detailed in the mid, the kind of hyper detail that was bordering on hifi, something that was becoming the vogue in the 80's & 90's. Where the V really failed miserably for me while hailed by the reviewers was in the bass, tight and deep but totally unnatural and colored. In many ways the sound was technically great, the V had full control but never allowed the music to breath and come to life naturally. That's what I heard on my table and every subsequent exposure to the arm only re-enforced what I had heard. I had a Micro Seiki SX-8000 at the time, YMMV on a suspended table.

david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,442
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38
Utah
#56
I don't know much about Bionors but I doubt any new manufacturer has the budget and focus that Bell Labs spent on Western Electric speakers or that GIP spends on their tweeters. Those speakers were made to sound good, while current improvements are to have it more compact. You will find that those who have heard Western Electrics at Munich and like them really view the world as WE and then, far below, somewhere new hifi. I assume ddk's bionors fall in that category.

The Bruch Scorrish fantasia LP was the one that I loved in the WE demo at Munich this year. Best violin heard on hifi
There are some differences between WE & Siemens theater horns. WE is a full range horn and depending on the model you have anywhere from 130hz-6khz to 80hz-8khz. The sound is very seductive and natural but limited and I've never heard a convincing presentation with the addition of woofers and tweeters to the horns. The Siemens is almost full range 50hz-16khz, not difficult to match and extend the lows another 20-25hz with subs. At the end of the day the Bionor is more dynamic and by extension more natural than what I found with any WE system. I wouldn't know where to start if I had to design bass cabinets and crossovers for WE speakers, unfortunately from what I've heard to date neither has anyone else...

david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,442
4
38
Utah
#57
If this is the best according to steve ( respect for david who put it together off course ) then it makes me wonder as peter already mentioned , where is the progress then in high end reproduction over the years ???
Apart from the lamm amps its all vintage .
I think however that regarding to house music which i also like this system wouldnt be optimally suited
Makes you wonder, doesn't it? And yes they do kick butt on house music, I just have to make some minor adjustment to the sub's crossover.

david
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#58
There are some differences between WE & Siemens theater horns. WE is a full range horn and depending on the model you have anywhere from 130hz-6khz to 80hz-8khz. The sound is very seductive and natural but limited and I've never heard a convincing presentation with the addition of woofers and tweeters to the horns. The Siemens is almost full range 50hz-16khz, not difficult to match and extend the lows another 20-25hz with subs. At the end of the day the Bionor is more dynamic and by extension more natural than what I found with any WE system. I wouldn't know where to start if I had to design bass cabinets and crossovers for WE speakers, unfortunately from what I've heard to date neither has anyone else...

david
Wow if they sound better than 12/13 A with GIP drivers that's quite something.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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Utah
#59
Wow if they sound better than 12/13 A with GIP drivers that's quite something.
They're very different, Bionors are much more dynamic.

david
 

marty

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
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Far Hills, NJ
#60
I haven't heard the WE in a system such as David's but I can say if indeed they are better than the Siemens they must be truly amazing. For my ears the Bionor was as perfect a sound as I have ever heard and I did comment that David's system has become my new reference
http://junkyardjukebox.blogspot.com/2012/10/western-electric-12a13a-adam-and-eve-of.html

There are many reports of folks like David who swear that a great horn is the "last word" in good audio reproduction. I guess the real mystery is, how did we lose our way from 1926 "SOA" sound reproduction using speakers such as the WE 12A/13A? I guess some would say we haven't really made much progress at all in nearly 100 years of loudspeaker design. So, are all current audiophiles and speaker manufacturers really nuts, if those ancient horns are as good as many say? At the very least, I'm now motivated to finding good horn systems and listening carefully to them.