I-Qual Vacuum Disc Mate IQ1300A.
DS-Audio have been busy with their optical phono cartridge and equalizer system for some time due to ongoing healthy demand from the audio community. As their networks improved, DS Audio set up a separate entity, DS Exports, to distribute some of their locally branded audio/analogue related products to the world.
I knew Tetsuaki Aoyagi and his ‘enthusiastic ear’ for these good and viable (audio related) products. In the Land of the Rising Sun, there are many such products the outside world is not aware of. I think Aoyagi-san has done us all a great favour to introduce them to the world.
Recently, I saw an interesting video at ds-exports.biz of the introduction of an add-on vacuum suction record hold down system that fits onto the turntable platter. I knew that not many high end turntables have that feature and those with it came with a high price.
I-Qual, a company from Niigata, Japan made it possible for the other turntables to have that feature at a much lower price around US$1,250-00 to US$1,500-00 (depending on taxation). That system came with a full magnesium disc of 305 mm in diameter, 7 mm in height and 660 grams in weight.
I placed that disc on my Lenco L-75 turntable (modified by SLAT Malaysia), raised the VTA of the Ortofon RS-309D tonearm and checked the other parameters to ensure accurate and fair comparison playback.
My first test was without activation of the vacuum suction hold down. I wanted to hear the sound characteristics and coloration (if any) from that magnesium disc and its assembly alone.
Indeed, I heard the presentation was backed by a darker and quieter background from one of my current test records, “Winds of War and Peace” conducted by Lowell Graham with the National Symphonic Winds (Analogue Productions APC 8823/Wilson Audiophile Recordings 1988).
I found the musical pieces were more fleshed out and the bass was heavier and more defined. The trumpets did not sound as bright and ‘shouting’. Even the musical flow and direction were clearer and more ‘sense full’.
To activate the vacuum suction hold down after placing the record on the magnesium disc was by simply placing the supplied ‘suction collar’ into the spindle of the platter. (That suction collar was connected to the supplied ‘auto disc suction box’, which contained a mini air suction pump, with the supplied rubber hose).
In the event of the record being too warped, they even supplied an ‘absorption adapter’ which is a metal disc of 980 grams in weight, and 313 mm in diameter with a centre hole of 52 mm in diameter for the placement of the suction collar, to act as a weight to flatten that warped record. The metal disc has a face with felt mat which was supposedly to be in contact with the surface of the record.
You apply a bit of weight or pressure on the suction collar as it sits on the spindle. Then, you activate the mini pump in the auto disc suction box. A red light at that box will lighte up with the pump being activated. When the ‘auto suction’ is completed in about 30 plus seconds, the red light and the pump will shut off.
Now, the suction collar will be tightly held onto the spindle. Therefore, a bit of force is needed to remove the suction collar with the other hand holding down the record. The whole process would take no more than a minute.
To remove the record, simply put the tip of your fingers in between the outer edge of the record and the outer edge of the rubber end at the magnesium disc. DS Exports have prepared a video on how to use the product at their website (ds-exports.biz).
Upon activation of the vacuum suction hold down with that same record, “Winds of War and Peace”, the whole background went (much) darker and quieter in comparison. The clicks and pops went softer and less irritating. The background hiss went further back into the background.
I found the soundstage to have greater depth and spaciousness. Here, the musicians and their respective instruments were better detailed, textured, layered, separated, defined, articulated and fleshed out. They stood out better from a dark and quiet background.
The bass was more detailed, dimensional, cleaner, articulated, heavier, extended and impactful. Suddenly, I found there were layers upon layers of low bass with certain details rushing at me before the decay was even completed.
At the upper frequencies, the trumpets’ highs were not as bright and irritating, but managed to retain a more natural rendition or native- ness of a trumpet.
I wish to state that I bought this I-Qual Vacuum Disc Mate IQ1300A unit for the simple reason that it brought the performance of my basic analogue set up to the next level with more audible music.