DS Audio have expanded their business through DS Exports that represent to the world outside of Japan, some very interesting audio products, especially for the analogue segment.
Here, we have received from DS Exports an interesting Rigid Float 9” CB Tonearm (US$6500.00) from Viv Laboratory Ltd., Kamakura, Japan.
The Viv Lab Tonearm on the THOMAS SCHICK MODIFIED GARRARD 301 TURNTABLE.
The Viv Lab Tonearm reminded me of the ol’ Well Tampered Tonearm by William Firebaugh which the tonearm floats on oil in a well.
However, Viv Lab’s chief designer, Koichiro Akimoto has designed a straight arm of multiple length (7”, 9” and 13”) without any off set angle and with its pivot/base floated in “finely selected” magnetic oil.
The Viv Lab Tonearm on the KRONOS PRO LE TURNTABLE.
That “finely selected” magnetic oil of certain viscosity was of a special formula that provided ‘perfect’ bearing performance and movement fluidity…and remain a trade secret.
Throughout my listening sessions with that Tonearm at multiple set up, I must attest that I did not hear any bearing noise or it’s peculiarity. It was smooth…smoother than I would have expected from any Tonearm of its price point!
That “finely selected” magnetic oil also act as an isolation against vibration from the turntable and the floor, and from the stylus.
To illustrate, I managed to obtain fine details, texture, layerings and dimensionality from well known and heavily played records.
Yes, I could easily hear, feel and almost touch the “minute vibrato, energy and detail” of the strings on the traditional musical instrument by the hand of master Shin Miyashita in his “Instrumental Album” (Japan Press JVC WL Promo Victor, SGS 21).
…And yes, there was no off set angle, no anti skating to compensate, but a simple straight Tonearm…WHAT ABOUT THE TRACKING ERRORS?! ( I have the same questions!).
In short, Akimoto san believes that his straight Tonearm would not increase audible tracking error (to say the least) compared to any tonearm with an off set angle (Headshell) and a compensating anti skating…believe it?!
I brought out to play my reference records, Rob Wasserman’s Duets (Analogue Productions APP118), and found Jennifer Warnes’ voice at the track “Ballad of Runaway Horse”, was dead centre amidst a dead quiet soundstage.
That finding remained true throughout the entire album. There was no audible distortion or ‘moving head’ of any of the lead singers that were meant to be dead center.
Their vocal were vivid, solid, rounded and weighted through the Viv Lab Tonearm as could be found through my other more expensive collection of Tonearms (Vertere Reference, Acoustical System Aquilar, Black Beauty 12”, Breuer 8C [TWA Modified], Sperling TA-1 12”, etc)
In addition, I could easily found inner details in their vocal such as ‘emotional contents’ and they were even ‘naturally’ presented…there was no exaggeration of any particular frequency…(maybe) that’s why intricate and subtle details did not ‘shout out’ but remained in their actual place,…and with depth and layering.
Its puzzling since it contradicted my belief that only ‘accurate tracking’ could bring out such (inner) details and/or the purity of them.
Mentally, I was not at ease when the set up of the Viv Lab Tonearm was so simple, with a provided protractor of a simple thin plastic of ‘L’ shape for effective length, which have a cut spindle hole and a tiny hole cut for the stylus to land into…(phew?!)
The Viv Lab Tonearm on the TECHNICS SP-10R DIRECT DRIVE TURNTABLE.
To me, there was too many margins for errors (tracking errors)!
I was not sure and comfortable with such set up method and jig provided.
I played another well known record to me, T.Misago And His Tokyo Cuban Boys “Excitin’ Latin!” (Toshiba Records – LF-95013), which I found the Viv Lab Tonearm was able to present an organized, well separated, well spaced and naturalness from a complicated and busy recording…even from the last track, side 2, “BRAZIL”.
I could not deny what I have heard and experienced from the Viv Lab Tonearm which was ‘no audible distortion’, even-though through my ultra high end and transparent audio system!
Next, I set up the Viv Lab Tonearm for my newly acquired Technics SP-10R Direct Drive Turntable on an ol’ Mana Acoustics Turntable rack (from United Kingdom,…mainly for Linn LP 12 Turntables)
To me, the Viv Lab Tonearm was a tonearm of great convenience. I did not have to prepare a dedicated arm board or drill any particular holes on any turntable to mount it. It was a Tonearm with a rounded base of about 2kg, which made it quite securely settled into any position without fear of being knocked off position.
There, I played “Winds of War and Peace” (Wilson Audiophile/Analogue Productions APC 8823)…to listen to the bass and dynamics…and I was not disappointed at all!
The bass was cleaned, defined and outlined clearly, that followed the musical instruments…it was agile, nimble, accurate, and yet powerful, ‘weighty’ and dynamic!
It was unexpected, but I must say that it was impressive!
The Viv Lab Tonearm came with its dedicated ‘Nelson-Hold’ almost skeletal-like Headshell with a third screw that act as a center thumb screw to further hold the selected phono cartridge in place…purpose: to further lock the cartridge’s magnetic circuit in place!
To be frank, I don’t see much Headshell with a third screw(?!)
However, after some months of experimentations, I found that slight tightening or loosening of that center thumb screw did have an audible effect of the overall musical presentation.
Tightening it would eventually tightened the imaging, improved the bass and dynamics. Loosening it would ‘warm up’ the musical presentation to the satisfaction of some audiophile.
I played my favorite and reference vocalist record, Kit Chan (New Century Workshop – NCKCLP001W) that I found the center thumb screw allowed me to fine tune the amount of solidly, density, vividness, definition and sharpness of the vocalist’s image…ultimately made the presentation that touched my heart the deepest…
In other words, that center thumb screw could make any good recording vinyl sound better and any better sound the best that could be expected (given).
It was an enlightenment for me to play with the Viv Lab Tonearm. I would not dare to say that I understood in full the design philosophies of that Tonearm and I could not deny what I have heard from it…bliss
No point pondering over…I decided to buy the review sample and continue to be amazed!