Breaking The Sound Barrier – Again:

Listening to the Original Source re-issue of the Kleiber/Beethoven 7th Symphony (with the Vienna P.O. DGG 2530 706) the Supatrac revels in the energy, temporal unity and musical momentum that make this performance so special. The result is a vivid, emphatic delivery, full of vitality and attitude, purpose and a definite sense of direction. It moves the studio recording far closer in terms of feel and emotional range to my favourite performance, the live concert recording available from Orfeo on SACD. It also makes for a telling contrast with the same record played using the Kuzma 4Point, the tonearm I usually pair with the Etna Lambda on the Monaco (as opposed to the 4Point14 which I use with the Fuuga). The Kuzma delivers a fuller, warmer and more refined sound, big on substance and presence, acoustic dimensionality and a smooth, weighty, sumptuously powerful delivery. The Blackbird is quicker and more agile, more immediate, with livelier dynamics and more space within the soundstage and around instruments. Tonal colours have a lighter, more vivid shade, instrumental textures are more apparent. The call and response passage between the pulsing woodwinds and string echoes that bridges the first and second themes has greater contrast. There seems to be more time between notes, a more measured delay, with a greater sense of building momentum as a result. The Supatrac doesn’t match the sense of overall acoustic delivered by the Kuzma, but it sits you further forward in the hall, closer to the instruments and with a greater proportion of direct sound. Whether you prefer the more mid-hall perspective of the Kuzma, or the up close and personal immediacy of the Blackbird is down to personal choice. Both arms deliver serious musical integrity, but they differ in almost every other way, physically and sonically.

Gettin’ Biggie Wid It…

Go bigger still, with opera or Romantic orchestral works and the Supatrac arm retains that positive, connected and stable presentation, a performance that certainly lives up to its name. The low pivot point obviously helps tracking, as does the lack of friction in the string bearing, but the company also points out the way in which the horizontal uni-pivot resists stylus drag while its freedom of movement allows the tip to settle naturally in the groove, without resistance to lateral forces that might otherwise cause a twisting moment, resulting in time and phase errors or variations. I certainly understand the theory, although I’m in no position to argue its finer points. What I will say though, is that this is one of those situations where the sonic results definitely align with the theory. The Blackbird’s tracking capabilities are easily demonstrated, using a test disc if that’s your thing, but it’s the rhythmic security, planted dynamics and locational precision, the lack of grain to the sound or haze polluting the space between the instruments that suggests a secure and unimpeded connection between groove and stylus tip. Being diligent, I did indeed wheel out the Image Hi-Fi Vinyl Essentials Test Record (Image Hi-Fi LP 003) and sure enough, the Etna Lambda/Blackbird combination sailed through the 90-Micron cut. Only the top-level 100-Micron modulation produced the onset of tracking distortion, equally disposed between both channels. That’s impressive for a low-compliance cartridge!