Artisan Fidelity SP 10 MK III Next Gen
After being an audio hobbyist since my uncle got me going down this demented path some 17 years ago, I finally purchased a TT. I had flirted with the idea for a very long time but honestly I’ve heard a number of TT’s at shows and at buddies’ homes yet none of them moved me. Now, I’m aware many variables are involved, but I didn’t have the experience to figure it out. “Was the TT set up correctly (superlatively)? I don’t know. Was the arm/cartridge combination simpatico? Again, I don’t know. Was the phono preamp just so-so or great and if it was great was the cartridge loaded correctly? You get my drift.
So with my digital system easily besting (to my ears) the analog I’d been privy to through the years, I found no reason to spend the money required to involve myself with analog. My former Bidat easily dispatched a SOTA Cosmos Vacuum TT in a head to head listening session. Ditto for my former Dynavox Dynastation.., same with my AMR DP777…etc.
At AXPONA last year I listened to the $170K Clearaudio TT along with about $85K worth of Pass Amplification and perhaps $200K worth of JM Labs speaker and cabling only to be more moved by the sound from the Playback Design MPD-5 in the same room.
Finally, I realized the only way I would ever find out for myself would be to purchase my OWN TT and make sure it was expertly setup and dialed-in. I had a rare chance to purchase a latest-revision-pristine example of a Graaf GM70 Phono Preamplifier. I have a soft spot for Graaf as Mr. Mariani simply builds the finest gear I have laid ears on. So now I have this phono pre sitting in the box for a few months when I see a SP 10 MK III come up for sale on AGON. I threw caution to the wind and contacted Chris at Artisan Fidelity; after some conversation I hung up having just commissioned the building of a SP10 MKIII Next Gen TT.
I was happy for about a month then the fear started to creep in, “what have I done? What if this thing SUCKS and my digital system, which is very very very good if I do say so myself, stomps it!?!?!
During the build I researched and read tons of user reviews (I don’t really pay attention to so-called pro reviewers) on arms and cartridges. I finally settled (with a lot of talking to Chris and other friends and a lot of late night web searching) on the Kuzma 4 Point and the Ortofon MC Anna.
So, here we are today and I have had my TT for a little over 3 weeks now and I have about 150 – 160 hours on the rig. Early on it sounded ok, you know.., good but nothing special. I liked it but my digital was fully up to the task and in some cases much better. (Now I’m scared…)
At 100 hours, I think I’m starting to understand all this analog hype better and better. At 150 hours.., the word SUBLIME comes to mind. The spaciousness, openness and natural continuity of the analog is addictive. The dynamics seem to go on forever along with a naturalness that is very difficult to put into words. I did purchase the Furutech Demag, the Destat II, a scale – all the toys to go along with it. Again, I wanted to know for myself and the only way to do that was to take the plunge.
So how does my digital hold up? Well, my well run-in long time AMR DP777 has NOTHING to be ashamed of. It sounds great and I can easily go from the TT to the DP without too much shock (the AMR guys are big vinyl heads and use vinyl as a reference when designing). However, when I have two equally well-recorded pieces of music (Best of Eva Cassidy comes to mind or Diana Krall Live in Paris 24/96 vs. 180g/45), as good as my digital sounds, the SP10MK III simply walks away. Again, the digital is not trodden underfoot and truly within 20 seconds of the digital, you will be fully immersed, but the analog rig beguiles with its effervescent ease and infinite continuity of musical flow.
Ok, so to end this long synopsis, I am now deeply into analog and have been going to local used record stores and burning up my credit on Music Direct and Acoustic Sounds, etc.
The folks at Artisan Fidelity are the real deal and they built me a museum quality +180 pound Porsche Basalt Black TT/piece of art that sounds AMAZING!!!!
I also ordered a Bassocontinuo Apogeo rack for the table that should arrive in about 2 weeks. I am enjoying my foray into the land of analog!!! Thanks to Chris at Artisan Fidelity!
(Audiogon apologizes to Audiofun/aka Don for using the incorrect photo in the original posting of his review. The Porsche Basalt TT pictured above is correct. – AV 4/6/14)