In stark contrast, the DGG LP issue easily betters my original LP pressing and any of the subsequent CD/SACD issues, firmly underlining that this is by far the best of the many different pressings and discs I have of this studio recording. In the process, it leapfrogs the Orfeo LP in terms of sound quality and listenability. It’s not that The Groove punishes the Orfeo disc for its shortcomings. Indeed, it really does makes the most of what made it onto the LP. Instead, it rewards the sonic excellence of the all-analogue DGG pressing, lifting its musical qualities to new heights. If push comes to shove, the Orfeo SACD still carries the day (assuming you’ve got a decent SACD player to put it in), but The Groove has unearthed hidden and unexpected treasure in the grooves of the Original Source LP. Coupled to the unobstructive musical articulation of the little Neodio amp, the results are impressive enough in absolute terms and certainly enjoyable enough on musical grounds to seriously frighten many a high-end pretender, offering exactly the sort of engaging musical communication and coherence that so many expensive systems struggle to deliver. This is far more than just a flash of forbidden pleasures: this is the real deal in a bite-sized package…
So far I’ve thrown The Groove in at the deep end, let it mingle with its price peers and given it the opportunity to act out in a high-value/high performance context. The next logical step is to listen to The Groove alongside the other TEAD products, products that share its design ethos and considerations, its sonic and musical virtues. But before doing that, it’s worth just reflecting on what The Groove delivers as a standalone product.
Comparison to the CH Precision P1 and Connoisseur 4.2PLE demonstrates how little the remarkably affordable Groove gives away to two of the finest phono-stages available. Both are far more expensive (and in the case of the Lyra unit, almost unobtainable). Both have areas of musical superiority to The Groove, mainly fastening around the sense of shape to and progress through the musical line or phrase, the way those phrases link to create a coherent whole, the holistic musical presentation that has elevated them to the top of the tree. But The Groove has its own strengths to offer, not least the transparency, dynamic discrimination, life and immediacy with which it conjures a musical picture.
Central to The Groove’s musical capabilities are its ability to discriminate tiny shifts in level, to track the tiny inflections in a voice or playing, the nuances that bring life, character and expression to an individual performance. The incredibly low noise floor is a large part of that, but it’s not just about delivering dynamic range: it’s about being able to react to dynamic demands, to jump in level when required, to traverse that dynamic range without hesitation or delay. Listening to the P10, one of the things that strikes you is its ability to track the dynamic demands of the signal in an utterly effortless fashion. The Groove might not match the utterly natural sense of energy, placement and timing that the mega-expensive CH manages, but it’s certainly cut from the same cloth. If the P1’s presentation shares the P10’s holistic qualities, The Groove takes its dynamic response and immediacy to heart. In video, people talk about ‘capture’ – the images or string of moments that have been frozen in the recording. But with capture comes ‘release’, a useful construct when it comes to understanding just what The Groove delivers and the mechanisms behind it. This phono-stage is all about the energy contained in the record’s groove. It’s about reproducing that energy, uncompressed and intact, arranged so that it happens as and when it should. So you can add timing or spacing to the equation as well.