Lyra Atlas SL and the vdH Master Signature on two SME 12" arms

PeterA

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Last weekend, my good friend Ian (Madfloyd) brought over his Atlas SL cartridge to try in my system. He had it in his SME headshell, so it was a simple matter to insert it into my new SME 3012R tonearm and adjust the alignment. We compared this Atlas SL/SME 3012R combination to my vdH Master Signature/SME V-12 combination on my SME 30/12 turntable. This is not a direct comparison, but having the two arms and cartridges on the same table did allow us to make quick back and forth comparisons between the two combinations. Loading for each cartridge was 500 ohms, but because their respective outputs were different, we used different gain settings on my Pass Labs XP-27 phono stage.

I have been comparing the two arms over the past few weeks with both my Master Signature and MSL Signature Gold cartridges. The differences between the two arms seem to be less than the differences we heard the other day between these different cartridges in the two different arms, so I am fairly confident that most of what we heard was the contribution of the individual cartridges. A more thorough and direct comparison would have involved switching the two cartridges, or hearing each one in each arm, but we did not have time for that in one afternoon.

Al M. joined Madfloyd and me in the afternoon session. We listened to Holst’s Planets, Art Pepper +Eleven, and Carla White, Mood Swings, the latter being a lovely, emotional slow solo vocal piece with cello and piano accompaniment. The following descriptions will refer to the two individual cartridges, but they are more accurately the two different cartridge/tonearm combinations.

My initial impression of the two cartridges was that in terms of tonal balance on a scale of 0 (bass) to 10 (treble), the Atlas SL went from 0 to 8 while the Master Signature went from, or covered the range between, 2 to 10. I heard slightly more bass extension with the former, and slightly more treble extension with the latter. Ian had a very astute response. He suggested that the Atlas simply rolled off a bit sooner in the treble range, while the vdH rolled off a bit sooner in the bass range. He thought the extension of each cartridge was actually very similar over the entire spectrum. Another way to describe this is that the vdH has a bit more high frequency energy while the Atlas has a bit more low frequency energy, but they were very close. Al M. agreed with this assessment.

Another difference I heard was that the Atlas was bolder, and more robust. Images were more stark and perhaps more solid. The Master Signature was just a tad more refined and nuanced. It dug a bit deeper into the inner detail of the music and was more ethereal. I heard slightly more ambient recording venue information with the vdH. Both cartridges sound incredibly lively and full of energy.

The three of us all agreed that both cartridges are superb and we really enjoyed the music with each one. They are similar in type, more true to the recording and less romantic sounding than my other cartridges. They are also both more tonally neutral and resolving than my other cartridges. Finally, both are extremely dynamic and full range. I think each one of us could live happily with either one.

I would like to thank Ian for bringing over his Lyra Atlas SL cartridge to hear in my system and Al for joining in the fun. It is always a real treat to hear a component in one’s own system and not have to just rely on what one reads or try to determine its sound in some other system context. And it is fascinating to hear the component and then to be able to discuss its sound with two trusted audio friends. I am pretty confident that we set up the Atlas SL well enough to get a good impression of its sonic character. With more time, I might have been able to fine tune it even better, who knows? It is a superb cartridge and we really enjoyed hearing it in my system playing very familiar music.
 
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Vienna

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Thank you !
 

PeterA

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Thank you !

You are most welcome, Vienna. It was a very enjoyable afternoon and comparison to make.

I am curious to know if other people have made similar comparisons between these two cartridges or at least heard them in the same system. How would other people describe the sound of these two cartridges, either independently or relative to each other?
 

marty

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Peter,
That's really a nice piece of work. May I ask this? I wonder if some of the differences in cartridges might be a bit different if the loading changed? For example, the Atlas seemed "bolder and more robust". Would either/both those attributes become more prominent on the vdH by going from 500 to 750 ohms? I ran my Benz LP-S at 750 ohms on my former ASR phono stage for that very reason; 500 ohms seemed just a tad closed-in by comparison. Similar changes would also likely occur at the frequency extremes i.e., with a higher load providing slightly less damped, hence robust bass. Thoughts?
Marty
 

PeterA

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Hi Marty, Thanks. I have played a lot with loading the vdH. I don't have 750 on my phono stage, but I tried 1000 ohms, 500, 320, 250, 160, 100. I prefer 500 and 320. It becomes less lively below 250 and 1000 is too much. I briefly tried 1000 with the Atlas SL but it was too much. 500 sounded great on both. I think this just reflects the slight differences we heard between the two cartridges in my system. I suspect I might gain some slight set up improvement if I were to live with the Altas SL for a week or so.
 

Kcin

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I don't have these two cartridges but you've inspired me to compare the Goldfinger Statement , Atlas and Etna SL again ... it has been a while . I have 2 spare headshells for the Kuzma 4pt. So it should not be too difficult.

I may have to upgrade to Lambda level on the Lyras.

Nice review and I can appreciate the work it took to gain your impressions.
 
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shakti

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thank you for the comparison and the detailed description.
 

PeterA

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I don't have these two cartridges but you've inspired me to compare the Goldfinger Statement , Atlas and Etna SL again ... it has been a while . I have 2 spare headshells for the Kuzma 4pt. So it should not be too difficult.

I may have to upgrade to Lambda level on the Lyras.

Nice review and I can appreciate the work it took to gain your impressions.

Thank you Kcin. I hope you get around to doing such a comparison. I enjoy reading these and they improve the body of information from which we can draw when making purchase decisions. Now, if there were only more turntable comparisons....

BTW, my friend Ian is contemplating the Lambda upgrade for his Atlas SL.
 
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jfrech

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I don't have these two cartridges but you've inspired me to compare the Goldfinger Statement , Atlas and Etna SL again ... it has been a while . I have 2 spare headshells for the Kuzma 4pt. So it should not be too difficult.

I may have to upgrade to Lambda level on the Lyras.

Nice review and I can appreciate the work it took to gain your impressions.
I'd love to read about your comparisons. I love my GFS, but I've also owned 4 Lyra's in my life, including a Atlas. The Atlas SL Lamda has me curious...
 
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Kcin

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Hi Marty, Thanks. I have played a lot with loading the vdH. I don't have 750 on my phono stage, but I tried 1000 ohms, 500, 320, 250, 160, 100. I prefer 500 and 320. It becomes less lively below 250 and 1000 is too much. I briefly tried 1000 with the Atlas SL but it was too much. 500 sounded great on both. I think this just reflects the slight differences we heard between the two cartridges in my system. I suspect I might gain some slight set up improvement if I were to live with the Altas SL for a week or so.


I wish there would be more discussion around loading in professional and enthusiast reviews- I know it is very system dependant, however, it would give the opportunity for the reader to hear or not hear what the reviewer is experiencing and draw some data points.

FWIW the Lyras in my system sound best loaded down with 400-500 ohms on the Aesthetix Io Eclipse
 

Lagonda

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I wish there would be more discussion around loading in professional and enthusiast reviews- I know it is very system dependant, however, it would give the opportunity for the reader to hear or not hear what the reviewer is experiencing and draw some data points.

FWIW the Lyras in my system sound best loaded down with 400-500 ohms on the Aesthetix Io Eclipse
I have been using the 300ohms setting for the Benz LPS-MR on my
Io. And should have the option of
400 ohms on my new phono input,
as i specifically ordered it with
that, hope they remembered :rolleyes:
 

Kcin

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Mar 27, 2016
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I have been using the 300ohms setting for the Benz LPS-MR on my
Io. And should have the option of
400 ohms on my new phono input,
as i specifically ordered it with
that, hope they remembered :rolleyes:
You still don't have your unit back?!
 

Lagonda

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You still don't have your unit back?!
It’s with the distributor in Sweden,
should finally have it back this coming week.
On the plus side because of employee injury, Jim White himself
worked on the Io :)
 
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MadFloyd

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Peter, thanks for writing this up and sharing with the community. Because it's so hard to compare any analog components (perhaps with the exception of phono stages) it's fascinating to get any opinions of differences between components.

The day we did that comparison was a lot of fun. Before Peter put my Atlas SL in his system, we compared some LPs on his Master Signature and his MySonicLabs. I really enjoyed those comparisons as well; those two cartridges were very different and I really like your MySonicLabs cartridge a lot. It shines with beauty with the right LPs.

I'm envious of your two tonearm setup. My Opus One would get some use if I had two tonearms.

I also enjoyed Peter's system immensely. It's a different presentation from mine but I found it so utterly engaging and honest; it truly made music. I was surprised because Peter recently removed many room treatments and I expected a little chaos but everything remained very coherent.
 

PeterA

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Thanks Ian. Nice to see you here.

Yes, I like the MSL Sig. Gold very much also. It sounds great in that 3012R arm. I appreciate the kind comments about the system sound. Glad you liked it. "Engaging" and "honest" are two worthwhile descriptors which could probably not have been used together before to describe my system. I hope your Airtight Opus 1 will be the next comparison we make together in my system.
 
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MadFloyd

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I would love to make that comparison. Let's do that soon, I certainly wouldn't mind the drive out to hear your system again!
 

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