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


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Comments

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#21
Thank you Steve, my friend, I'm humbled and looking forward to our next get together :)! That CD is arriving this afternoon so you know what we'll be doing tonight...;)

To confirm what Steve kindly wrote above, I strive for a balanced sound when building systems. It's not too difficult to have a system with impressive abilities but I always found that when not balanced and masked those outstanding qualities that initially impress tend to get in the way of the music and natural musical reproduction. IMO, at its best a high end system and the associated listening environment should fade away and not compete with the music.

To clarify, the Neumann DST cartridges on the AF1 & the AS table are the same quality, just slightly different in overall tonal balance that comes from sample to sample difference of handmade products. I find the AF one is a very fine turntable, maybe even the finest made today but with a different set of priorities than those of the other tables.

david
An amazing test David did was to play the below album ( which I have on tape from Tape Project) initially on the Tech Das AF1 with a Neumann DST cartridge which was simply beautiful. Then I asked him to play the same album on the American Sound turntable with his prized other Neumann DST. Simply put there was no comparison as the Tech Das as beautiful as it was just did not have the meat around the bones or the timbre and fullness that The American Sound conveyed. To me the latter was every bit as good as what I had on tape

http://www.discogs.com/Bruch-Hindem...ttish-Fantasia-Violin-Concert/release/3672209
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#23
There seem to be only 2 in existence and David owns both of them one of which he has out on a permanent loan to the man who informed him about this very special TT

As I said earlier the electronics were the entire Lamm Signature line of which I own the amp and preamp. The Phono stage is the LP 1 Signature
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#24
Good luck finding an American Sound TT. Sounds like you found the one you want.
What phono preamp were you listening to these tables through ?
Christian

please don't misunderstand as in spite of it all the AF1 is superb. Just that the sound of the American Sound with that special cartridge reproduced music on a level that heretofore I have never appreciated. Had one heard the same music on the AF1 with that cartridge I am betting that the sound would have been every bit as good
 

rockitman

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2011
7,105
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Northern NY
#25
Christian

please don't misunderstand as in spite of it all the AF1 is superb. Just that the sound of the American Sound with that special cartridge reproduced music on a level that heretofore I have never appreciated. Had one heard the same music on the AF1 with that cartridge I am betting that the sound would have been every bit as good
It does come off that your are picking on the AF1...what I will say....and this goes for all AF1 owners, if you don't have the table on an active isolation table like the Herzan for example, you are only getting to 80% of the table's sound potential.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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Utah
#26
It does come off that your are picking on the AF1...what I will say....and this goes for all AF1 owners, if you don't have the table on an active isolation table like the Herzan for example, you are only getting to 80% of the table's sound potential.
He's not picking on the AF1, it was designed as the next best thing and professionals like Nishikawa know exactly where to make the compromises that will only show up in direct comparison with an AS or an EMT 927 which are still the pinnacle of turntable design, no platform will bridge that gap. Even so the AF-1 is among the best made today, maybe even the best, but from my conversations with them AF-0 will be their statement product and the one to watch for.

david
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#27
Christian when compared to today's turntables the AF1 is truly in an elite class and honestly I love it . It's just that the sound from a 40 year turntable was better. Sad but true. Having said that I would own an AF1 in a heart beat so please, no argument from me. Do I have the $$$$ for an AF0 as David says, probably not.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
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#28
Its here :D!

IMG_7554.JPG
david
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#29

Johnny Vinyl

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 16, 2010
8,571
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#30
Just stunning! I saw the LP of Rickie Lee Jones' debut album. If you don't have the AP 45RPM boxset, run........it is stunning!
 

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
1,356
816
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#31
Great story, just magic and yes, these are definitely the threads that make a forum special. Loved the music and seeing the album covers really brings it to life and travel pics as well.

Big call but maybe next time you go Steve any chance of taking a video on your phone so you could upload a YouTube of the gear playing some of the music and capture the moment.

A big thanks Steve and congrats ddk for sharing experiences with us.
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#32
Great story, just magic and yes, these are definitely the threads that make a forum special. Loved the music and seeing the album covers really brings it to life and travel pics as well. Big call but maybe next time you go Steve any chance of taking a video on your phone so you could upload a YouTube of the gear playing some of the music and capture the moment. Big thanks Steve and congrats ddk for sharing experiences with us.

Thanks Tao

Indeed it was a very special 5 days for me. I have to admit that I was so caught up in everything that was going on that my mind was racing. I agree that these are the threads that people want to read.

I don't know where you live but I would encourage anyone who has a love of music and wants to hear it through entirely vintage gear to contact David. He is bubbly, highly intelligent, knows stereo like no one I have ever met and he discusses it on a level that becomes easy for anyone to understand, myself included. He is the consummate host and will go the extra yard to ensure one has only a positive experience. This plus listening to David recounting stories of his high school days when he was teenager and a senior at a private high school in Switzerland will have you crying with laughter.
 

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
1,356
816
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#33
A close mate has a crazy big horn setup and it is such a unique way to listen to music. We regularly swap nights spinning tunes on his horns and then here on the big panels.

I'd love to do a western electric system as a retirement project eventually and threads like this don't help cure the desire. I'm transcontinental down south in the down under but Lamm and Bionors would be worth the travel.
 

jfrech

VIP/Donor
Sep 3, 2012
1,586
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Austin
#34
What a fantastic thread...great pics...great story...and highly interesting equipment and music !
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#35
A close mate has a crazy big horn setup and it is such a unique way to listen to music. We regularly swap nights spinning tunes on his horns and then here on the big panels.

I'd love to do a western electric system as a retirement project eventually and threads like this don't help cure the desire. I'm transcontinental down south in the down under but Lamm and Bionors would be worth the travel.
It was worth every penny for me as I own the same Lamm gear and as I told David I was anxious to visit not only to hear the electronics on such a system but also I have never heard a horn system that has captivated my attention. This will grab you fro the very first few notes as it becomes so evident to the ear. The beauty of the system was its ease and relaxation yet still conveying the feeling of every note. We were able to converse through the music rather than over the music. It was truly as if I were at the live event having a drink at the jazz club listening to Ella or at the town hall listening to Montoya. These speakers could reproduce the size of each venue with no problem whatsoever

I have never heard the Western Electrics but I did have a long conversation with David about them. He says that many are either not authentic vintage WE or are but have had many repairs to make them sound proper. David reminded me that if his room were much bigger the sound would have been better still. You need a large room for these speakers
 

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
1,356
816
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#36
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.
 

BruceD

VIP/Donor
Dec 13, 2013
994
52
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#37
Wow what a terrific musical soujorn--Kudos to Steve for relaying this wonderful experience-- one can only read in awe of such a collection of vintage masterpieces- (Incidentally sorry but I agree entirely with the placement of the TechDas TT in the mIx

I'v heard it over 6 times now and while excellent in execution -I feel it lacks warmth in presentation just my opinion as well). Those Speakers are wondrous --I've heard huge similar and know the feeling they impart--so involving!

Interesting to read the grounding rod setup --I have similar plan below --maybe it is close the Davids. His penchant for the 12" SME' is noted--having owned them myself --i fully understand where he is coming from there

I may ask D are they the knifed edge versions?-- I always thought the early SAEC 12" arms with those bearings were the most dynamic of all

Once again thank you for sharing this venture and God willing your long enjoyment

Good Listening

BruceD

 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#38
Wow. I'm sure David will reply as we had s long discussion about them. I know he has three systems outside each with a different configuration and IIRC he preferred the single rod with no added chemicals to the soil.
 

es347

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,570
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Midwest fly over state..
#39

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,970
499
83
Utah
#40
Wow what a terrific musical soujorn--Kudos to Steve for relaying this wonderful experience-- one can only read in awe of such a collection of vintage masterpieces- (Incidentally sorry but I agree entirely with the placement of the TechDas TT in the mIx

I'v heard it over 6 times now and while excellent in execution -I feel it lacks warmth in presentation just my opinion as well). Those Speakers are wondrous --I've heard huge similar and know the feeling they impart--so involving!

Interesting to read the grounding rod setup --I have similar plan below --maybe it is close the Davids. His penchant for the 12" SME' is noted--having owned them myself --i fully understand where he is coming from there

I may ask D are they the knifed edge versions?-- I always thought the early SAEC 12" arms with those bearings were the most dynamic of all

Once again thank you for sharing this venture and God willing your long enjoyment

Good Listening

BruceD
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
 
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