The first was a slate based Garrard 301(modified grease bearing) with a resident Ikeda IT407 running Koetsu CoralStone and a Sugano built MK I Urushi with Alnico magnets, Sonus Veritas phono stage and line stage, 45 tube proprietary amps and Gran Sfera horn loudspeakers.
The second was another Garrard 301(modified grease bearing) this time in a PorterHouse plinth with an Audiocraft AC4400 and an Air Tight Supreme running beside a Technics SP MK III also in a PorterHouse plinth with a Fidelity Research FR 66S and another Koetsu Coralstone, this going into Alnic's top phono and line stage, a Lamm phono stage was also used, then CAT amps into Karma speakers. Purist Audio cable throughout. So this was the context and the items to be compared.
I received the arms in fine condition and was impressed with the new packaging being wooden boxes that will stand up to repeated use over the years. I also found the new finish and design excellent. I was very curious to get them going. I mounted them in 20Kg bronze arm towers and put them to work.
I began on system one above mounting the Urushi on the Pernambucco and an Accuphase AC-2 on the Red Cedar after running both tonearm cables in with a CD player and resistive load for 100 hours.
The AC-2 on the Red Cedar was clearly an excellent combination surpassing the Triplanar and Lustre with the same cartridge. Foundation, body and extension were clearly better and the wood tones of instruments in a different league. This was an easy comparison to move on from as the superior performance was clear on a variety of fronts while seeming to give nothing up.
The Urushi on the Pernambucco was more difficult. First I would like to point out that a Koetsu on an Ikeda 407 or FR66 is my favourite combination having none of the Koetsu weaknesses often discussed where lighter arms are used. Here the Pernambucco was very good but gave up foundation and solidity of image while being richer and more adept with violin and wood tones. I then discovered that this arm was lighter than I had originally thought (22g effective mass vs. 32g) and this most probably accounted for the weakness but I had no time to address it. It was off to system two of the above.
The Red Cedar then had an Ortofon A90 (already broken in) mounted up and was put on the 301 next to the AC4400/Supreme. Here the three arms, two turntables and two phono stages were exhaustively compared. There is no question that the A90 was a an excellent match for this arm as well. Being very easy to dial in over a few sessions and get into the arena with some of the best playback I have heard, ever. It was determined that on loud passages, and the CATs can get very dynamic, that the A90 was in the lead but at other times it was between the Supreme and the Koetsu depending on if resolution or drama and space was the preference. The listeners agreed that the A90 was holding things back and we wanted to try the Supreme but the Pernabucco, which was the proper match for the Supreme, was not present.
When I got home I addressed what I considered earlier to be a less than optimal match which was a Koetsu mounted on anything under 30g effective mass. I look for a 9hz resonant frequency as a starting point. I mounted a Coralstone and added weight to the head shell until it passed the point where performance was increasing and began to fall off. Turned out to be 9.5g which caused the need of 50g added to the counter weight. I do not know what that did to the effective mass but on the test record it did come out in 9-10hz Rs region. Now there was a real difficulty to choose a preference between Koetsu on the Ikeda or Reed. The presentations were different to be sure but everyone who heard it was perplexed but the same conundrum: they were both different and yet both equally compelling both being musical and astonishingly resolved. In the end I cannot imagine letting either of them go and I am very keen to put a Supreme on the Pernambucco where I believe it will be not only top tier but perhaps more.
I hope these comparisons are useful, I found them so. That the Reed, after a rather quick setup can get within reach of the best combinations a group of dedicated audio enthusiasts have taken years to evolve to is impressive on its own. So many turntables, arms and cartridges have come and gone leaving these few to stand the test of time that I don't really expect to find anything much to compare with them. That the Reeds hold their own and with further experimentation might easily become preferable is the best that I could possibly expect. It takes time and evolution to fine tune an arm learn how to get the most out of it and I believe I have not yet penetrated these fascinating arms full potential.
Charles Azzolina-Michlin (United Arab Emirates)