Zero Distortion: Tango Time

PeterA

Active Member
Dec 7, 2011
4,870
9
38
North Shore of Boston
#21
Kedar, I commend you on your considerable efforts to put that report together. I also appreciate Tang's willingness to let you enter his office and take over his system as you did.

In general, I enjoyed the writing and information that you discovered, particularly the clarity with which you describe particular combinations and the resulting listening impressions. I always enjoy the photographs that accompany your reporting and the enthusiasm with which you take on these assignments. Your enjoyment comes through clearly.

More specifically, I very much appreciate your recognition of the importance of the whole VTA, VTF and set up procedure to the final results. As I read the report and started forming questions, I saw that you addressed by concerns later in the text. The variables of different phono stages and loading are such examples. Because of these variables, I found the direct comparisons between the four cartridges on the AS to be the most informative and useful. Aside from the different inputs, these were the most pure and direct comparisons. The many others were helpful but involved additional variables to make conclusions less clear.

I agree with Ron who said that Tang's system can be seen as a kind of laboratory for comparisons and experimentation. The comments about the VdH were very interesting and to me it speaks about David's deep understanding about his turntable and the 3012R that he now recommends that cartridge highly. You reached a similar conclusion.

I really like your conclusion #1 about the importance of VTA and VTF. To me, that sums up everything about your visit. Here is what you wrote:
Tang returned from his meetings. I asked him, “Did you change anything on the AS rack, like gain etc”? He said, “I tuned the carts. Adjusted the VTA and the VTF. Yesterday the tonearm guy Pisit had set it up, today I did it based on David’s instructions. He taught me to listen to a few things on certain LPs before set up, and I used those tricks to fine tune the carts”.
Wow! Just Wow! A tonearm guy comes in, sets things up using tools, and I have certain findings. Tang comes in, fine tunes based on David’s instructions, and the findings are reversed. I was both elated and disappointed. Elated that SME 3012r when well optimized has such a big difference that it injects energy, size, impact, naturalness, all together to sound better than the TTs set up with SAT and Axiom. Disappointed that any other SME 3012r compare data points not done under David’s instructions are null and void (ok there might be other experts but not easily with the luxury of comparing such arms next to the SME). So I can’t go out tomorrow and compare SME with Arm X elsewhere. Of course, one can argue if SAT and Axiom were as fine tuned, they could be better. That is for another time.
Tang mentioned that he would try to tune the AF1 and the EMT for the next day as they were not optimized either.

However, I am a bit confused by this statement.
In order to rule out advantages due to LP thickness and relative VTAs, I played the second movement, which goes through various individual instruments – violin, basoon, woodwinds, brass, etc – and the initial part is not a large full scale piece like the 4th movement, and found the EMT+GFS being the best here. Each instrument had more drive, bloom, and separation. Better tones, especially the basoon was so much better.
Could you please explain how listening to these specific instruments rules out the advantages due to LP thickness and relative VTAs? I also wonder if you could hear differences between hearing your original pressings like the fantastic Bach Viola de Gamba and harpsichord versus some thicker reissue. On the same arm/cartridge, would not the change in thickness or cutting angle possibly account for some of the difference is quality of sound?

Finally, this conclusion is one that I have considered vital ever since I learned how adjusting an arm can have such a profound effect on the sound of an otherwise well sorted out system. You wrote:
I do not think tonearm compares are easily possible by one person. Ideally, you need an SME 3012r under David’s instructions, Durand under Mike Lavigne/Joel Durand’s guidance, a Schroeder LT set up by Anamighty Sound/Steve Dobbins/Frank himself, and some arms set up by a couple of guys in the UK like Mad Mik and Zerostargeneral. Tang’s Axiom has been personally set up by the designer Dietrich, who will be visiting him again to optimize his arm set up. A couple of veterans in the UK including GT Audio have mentioned that the M2 12r is a better arm. I heard the 3012r sing at Tang’s, in many ways over the SAT. I do not think the different people mentioned above are hearing that different, what I suspect is that each one has mastered his own skills for getting the best out of the respective arm, and you need to compare the arms only when fine tuned by those who advocate that particular arm.​
I am fascinated by your comment in bold. Could you explain more? Anyway, I think the above observation is precisely why Ron told me the other day that one option he is now strongly considering having David set up an SME 3012R with one cartridge and Steve Dobbins set up a Schroder LT with a different cartridge on his AS2000. I would take it one step further. I would invite these two experts to do their thing, and I would try to learn as much as I could from them about their respective arms. I would then try to utilize what they teach me to optimize my arms going forward. As you learned so clearly, the improvement on days 3 and 4 were a direct result of Tang improving the set up based on what he learned from David. This led straight to your increased enjoyment of the system, and a greater appreciation of the differences between the various components.

Reading your report only strengthens what I have long suspected: we gather data points by reading about and listening to gear that may or may not be fully optimized, and then we pass judgement on poor data. From this, we may reach the wrong conclusions, as your days 1 and 2 may have reached. Assessing components and systems is a very tricky business. Thank you for sharing what you have learned along the way. This is a great report!
 
Mar 12, 2017
1,842
30
48
Bangkok
#22
In case anyone wonder why things were not setup optimally the first day, it was because I switched around my carts and arm a lot. I normally have my tonearm guy do the job because I also have to work in my office. He comes in very handy and accurate for initial setup. Then when I have time I tune the cart myself. I was just at my pace in life...wasnt trying to impress anyone prepping system. What he experienced was what was happening to my daily life. I wrote on another thread before that I had to come to office early in the morning to tune the cart after my tonearm guy did his job previous day. I didnt tune the cart right after because I had meeting to attend...just no time. And admittedly, I didnt want Ked to see how I do it :p.

@Gardener. I am no master. I am a learner.

Kind regards,
Tang
 

ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
5,145
6
38
Boston, MA
#23
Kedar, we are very lucky to have someone that goes around the world and reviews various user systems! This in itself is tremendous service to all of us, much more than it is entertaining. A huge Thanks for all the efforts!
 
Mar 12, 2017
1,842
30
48
Bangkok
#24
For the record. Bonzo did asked (annoyingly insisted actually) me to move my EMT phono to the 927 and Techdas rig, but I refused. My Kuro interconnect cable is very heavy and stiff. I had two incidents breaking rca plugs of my equipments already when switching interconnect in and out. So no apple to apple comparison on tts. But really if you listen 6 hrs a day for 4 days switching the same lps left to right and you couldnt conclude things how they are, you really have to get a new pair of ears.

Tang ;)
 
Last edited:
Likes: bonzo75

PeterA

Active Member
Dec 7, 2011
4,870
9
38
North Shore of Boston
#25
For the recorded. Bonzo did asked (annoyingly insisted actually) me to move my EMT phono to the 927 and Techdas rig, but I refused. My Kuro interconnect cable is very heavy and stiff. I had two incidents breaking rca plugs of my equipments already when switching interconnect in and out. So no apple to apple comparison on tts. But really if you listen 6 hrs a day for 4 days switching the same lp left to right and you couldnt conclude things how they are, you really have to get a new pair of ears.

Tang ;)
I am sure that is true, Tang, but the condition remains that the TechDAS and EMT were heard as a package combination with their phono stage and compared to the AS with a different phono stage. So the comparison is certainly valid as a combination comparison of one TT/phono vs. another TT/phono and should be understood as such. It is clear that Kedar reached conclusions, just not about TTs in isolation, or arms in isolation. That is why I found the whole report fascinating and the cartridge comments particularly useful.

Heavy and stiff cables make swapping and changes much more difficult.
 

Ron Resnick

Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,044
24
38
Beverly Hills, CA
#26
Thank you for the amazing report! I truly do not know how you keep straight all of the different combinations!
 
Likes: bonzo75
Sep 23, 2017
35
1
8
#27
In case anyone wonder why things were not setup optimally the first day, it was because I switched around my carts and arm a lot. I normally have my tonearm guy do the job because I also have to work in my office. He comes in very handy and accurate for initial setup. Then when I have time I tune the cart myself. I was just at my pace in life...wasnt trying to impress anyone prepping system. What he experienced was what was happening to my daily life. I wrote on another thread before that I had to come to office early in the morning to tune the cart after my tonearm guy did his job previous day. I didnt tune the cart right after because I had meeting to attend...just no time. And admittedly, I didnt want Ked to see how I do it :p.

@Gardener. I am no master. I am a learner.

Kind regards,
Tang
Stop being modest
You are the "master"
 

marty

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,107
1
38
Far Hills, NJ
#29
That was a wonderful report Ked. My main take-away was how much you enjoyed the VdH (as does ddk/Myles/others). I do find cartridge loading matters a great deal so unless I missed it, I'm curious as to what impedance was used to load the VdH. Also, what cables were used from the arms to the phono stage. Did all 3 SME arms and the SAT use the same identical cable?
 
Likes: bonzo75
Apr 7, 2014
1,061
2
38
Canberra Australia
#30
Kedar, we are very lucky to have someone that goes around the world and reviews various user systems! This in itself is tremendous service to all of us, much more than it is entertaining. A huge Thanks for all the efforts!
+1

Most enjoyable report and detailed
Peter A point about cartridge optimisation resonates
Through the article

Great thanks to Ked and Tango... price of VdH and 3012r just went up again ;)
 
Likes: bonzo75
Mar 12, 2017
1,842
30
48
Bangkok
#31
Dear Marty,

Tbh I dont know the exact loading. The EMT phono I am using has an adjustable loading knob. I just kept increasing the loading until the point it sounds best. There is no loading numerical figure indicated on the EMT. Ddk could probably be more specific on this. All 3012R's use their own phono cables. SAT also comes with its integrated silver cable.

Kind regards,
Tang
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,814
34
48
London
#32
Peter, thanks very much for that detailed feedback. It is good to see the enthusiasm reciprocated. To address your points:

With the VDH, I mentioned data points where it seems to excel across multiple TTs and tonearms - Schick/Commonwealth, Schick Garrard 301, Kuzma 4p Stabi M, and now this.

On VTA and the VTF, I made tables each day where the rows were the albums and the columns were the TT/carts. I took notes and tried to see patterns. I was in fact planning to add another column with thickness and pressing and upload in appendix as an excel. People like you and Awsmone would have enjoyed trying to find patterns. I couldn't find any. Patterns were mainly in type of music, not LP thickness.

For Scheherazade, because side 2 sounded good (4th movement), I played side 1 (2nd movement) to check if the Techdas SAT Opus 2 was better on both, which might mean SAT was set up for this thickness optimally. But no, on side 2 it was Techdas and side 1 it was EMT. The difference in the two movements is complexity - one is full scale, the other is less complexity as one instrument is played at a time. That repeated the pattern that Techdas was better than EMT on a full scale assault.

"we pass judgement on poor data. From this, we may reach the wrong conclusions, as your days 1 and 2 may have reached" -

I try not to. That's why I had booked 4 days here, and not 2. Because I knew it would require that. Had he less amount of gear, or if he was in the EU, then I would have done two days, with set-up/switch time between those days instead of when I was present. Also, what I have written about is only the repeatable obvious stuff (the pattern repeats and is easy to hear), not something that requires golden ears. Also, it helps to hear those same components repeatedly across systems. It also helps if you go straight to the bigwigs and try those components. People who can set up and who can let you compare.

Tang is not a guy buying random used gear and trying it out himself where 95% stuff might not be optimal. He he has the respective designers setting up plus a tonearm expert plus the tricks he is learning.

More importantly I was able to calibrate to his listening. He is an open guy who reports like he hears it. He is not reporting what he wants to hear, what his beliefs are, what he thinks a design should do, he is not defending a purchase, and is not stubborn about some philosophy or design. So tomorrow, if he tells me what the SAEC arm he has does w.r.t the other arms, I will take it at face value.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,814
34
48
London
#33
yes i did try to change the phono, I even made sad and disappointed faces but Tang was cold hearted.

Marty, Ack, Andrew, thanks very much. Marty, as mentioned in the report, the EMT was loaded at 100. VDH was initially at 60db gain at 200 ohms, and then moved to 71 db at 100 ohms, like all other carts through the EMT phono (VDH sounded much better at the second setting). The Ayon was loaded at 400 with the same gain.
 
Jun 13, 2013
6,227
11
38
E. England
#34
Ked, since Tang is open to choices w no discernable bias, did you suggest to him he considers getting the Vyger? It would especially fascinating getting his take on the air bearing arm.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,442
4
38
Utah
#35
Congrats Ked very nice report! I never do this type of comparisons just don't have inclination I listen and decide if something has merit or not on it's own so it's interesting to see a totally different approach to listening than one's own. As far as me tweaking the 3012-R goes I don't tweak it at all nor does Tang, he knows how to correctly set the VTA/SRA for any cartridge in all of his tonearms. The tonearm tech does all the grunt work with alignment and VTF but he can't tune in the VTA/SRA angle, frankly very few people can effectively. What you heard after Tang going through the cartridges is proper VTA/SRA setup and as far as I know he did it with all cartridges on all the turntables. Getting the VTA/SRA right is THE superpower for setting up the turntable and Tang has it :)!

david

PS. Please excuse typos and errors no Edit button to fix after posting!
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
7,072
3
38
#36
just had time to quickly scan, and really enjoyed it. will re-visit for a careful deep dive and comment further later when I can. really a great deal of info that deserves careful consideration. great Job!

Tang has created a wonderland of vinyl goodness. fantastic!!!
 

Ron Resnick

Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,044
24
38
Beverly Hills, CA
#37
Tang, David,

I am very impressed, Tang, that you have become a true cartridge-meister, and I am impressed, David, that your technique is teachable! I do not understand how you guys do this without a digital microscope to see, an oscilloscope to watch, a Fogozometer to measure, an alignment block against which to view, etc.
 
Mar 12, 2017
1,842
30
48
Bangkok
#38
Tang, David,

I am very impressed, Tang, that you have become a true cartridge-meister, and I am impressed, David, that your technique is teachable! I do not understand how you guys do this without a digital microscope to see, an oscilloscope to watch, a Fogozometer to measure, an alignment block against which to view, etc.
Dear Ron,

I assume you are a person who also like the set-and-forget kind of thing. I was even more so. But now I realize that if you are a vinyl person you are best relying on yourself...your ears. All the apparatus only gonna give you initial setup accuracy. My tonearm guy likes these tools too. You have an opportunity to learn from ddk, take it.

Btw Ron, I see you have your eyes on both Opus1 and ZYX. If I may, I wish to suggest you get either one but not both. You would be much better off getting a second cart of other brand. Master Signature is highly recommended. Less expensive too.

Kind regards,
Tang
 
Last edited:

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,814
34
48
London
#39
Ked, since Tang is open to choices w no discernable bias, did you suggest to him he considers getting the Vyger? It would especially fascinating getting his take on the air bearing arm.
Marc, I suggested that to close off tonearm compares, he get a Durand, Schroeder LT, FR 66s. Selling one of his SATs should fund at least two of those

Then, to close off TT compares, he get a Vyger and a DD like NVS/Xact Audio. Selling two of his 4 TTs should fund those.

After that is all over, he will have nothing to do at work so he can focus on buying the General's records
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,814
34
48
London
#40
Hi David do not know if I used the word tweak that you are referring to, but if I did, by tweak I meant changing the set up till the VTA/VTF/SRA sounded right. Also not modding vintage is a tweak, just like modding it is :). Rubber grommets are too.

ps: Is the SME V damped? Reason I ask is VDH himself was known to use SME V, but if 3012r is not damped except for the grommets, it is interesting to see how good it works in a non-damped arm.