Analog at Pearl Audio Video
We take turntables and cartridge setup seriously. We consider the setup and tuning of a turntable to be a craft, and like any craft, the only way to get better is to do it often and to actively seek improvement.
One of our practices is to set up different cartridges on different tables and tonearms to get a feel for the different sounds and also to better evaluate what turntable configurations we present to a customer. It's not uncommon for one of us to set up several different cartridges on a new or used turntable to get the right feel for the table and the small nuances of performance.
We use precision tools in our setups to maximize performance and minimize wear to a table. For example we use two different sizes of round-grip aluminum tweezers that grasp a cartridge pin but do not crush it. We use Cardas and Linn cartridge clips, Cardas contact conditioners and Cardas eutectic solder. We also use high quality precision screwdriver tips with a variety of Snap-on, Wera, and Wiha driver handles to give us just the right feel and reach for a given situation. We use precision torque wrenches to correctly and repeatedly set our best known values for different screws and bolts. For example, we always set a Rega cartridge using a purpose-built Rega .4 Nm short barrel torque wrench which can fit under a Rega tonearm to tighten the bolt from below.
We also use turntable specific tools from Feickert, Acoustical Systems, Wally Tools, Linn, Rega, Pro-ject, VPI and Clearaudio. We use an oscilloscope, Fosgometer, Analogmajik, SMARTractor, Feickert protractor, several in and out of print setup records, and a long working distance video-capable USB3 microscope to examine azimuth, cartridge condition, and landing behavior. We don't use these all the time on every setup, but we're always prepared and these tools allow us to quickly rule out issues such as a slightly bent needle, incorrect spindle distance, noisy motor, uneven cartridge wear, or a worn-out suspension. Lastly, for final tuning, we use our ears and our extra-quiet ASC designed big sound room with our reference front-panel configurable phono stages. There is simply no substitute for post-suspension settled final adjustments than to actually listen to the table.
Which brings us to one of our loves: the Linn LP12. We've worked on countless LP12's ranging from 1973 original-owner tables all the way to new models. We've installed Linn Basic, Akito, Akito IIB, Jelco, Rega, Magnepan, Naim Aro, Ekos and Ekos SE tonearms. We've installed Naim Armageddon, Linn Lingo I-IV, Radikal, Valhalla and Majik power supplies. We've installed Cirkus bearings. We've installed Kore and Keel sub-chassis. We've installed Woodsong and Booplinth plinths. We've installed Urika I and II internal LP12 phono stages. We've methodically tested and documented different top plate, tonearm, and cartridge torque values while listening to the tables. We've built a jig to help us sort and select trios of the best LP12 springs for the most even loading of the three suspension points. We've drilled arm-boards, carved out tonearm cable passages, straightened top plate bolts, and rejuvenated worn out bottom plate wood screw holes. We've worked with both Cardas and Nordost to develop custom LP12 tonearm cables suitable for the bend and P-Clip routing. We own and use the Linn Kinky.
Both John and Russ work on the tables, often working together on the more complex and long procedure setups such an LP12 or TechDAS. These tables often take multiple hours, so it's actually nice to trade-off worker vs navigator as we work. John and Russ have both attended Linn's by-invite LP12 Masters class.
Pearl Audio has the following turntables on display:
- Rega P1, P2, P3, P6 and P10
- McIntosh MT-2, MT-10
- Luxman PD-171+Hana ML
- Linn Majik LP12+Adikt, Akurate LP12+Krystal, and Klimax LP12+Kandid
- TechDAS V with Graham Phantom III and Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge.
Pearl Audio has the following phono stages on display:
- Audio Research Reference Phono 3
- Luxman EQ-500
- Boulder 508
- McIntosh MP-100
- Linn Urika II
- Rega Fono Mini, Fono MM, and Fono MC