Lest you think the V12 is a one-trick pony, its fool-you- realistic presentation isn’t restricted to female vocalists. Yeah, it’s thrillingly “alive” sounding on Gisela May’s contralto on Eterna/ DG’s marvelous recording of Brecht and Weill’s mordantly amusing Seven Deadly Sins. But it is just as alive with the four male singers who make up May’s “family” (the bass sings her mother!) or with the clarinet, dobro, and cymbals on the aforementioned Gardot disc, or with Ran Blake’s silvery piano and David Fabris’ dark, slashing guitars on NoBusiness’ piquant Third Stream LP Vilnius Noir, or with the beautiful LSO strings, winds, and brasses on RCA’s famous recording Venice (though no stereo system I’ve heard can reproduce the scale and scope of a symphony orchestra). From the bass right through the ceiling, this record player/cartridge is capable of extraordinary low-level resolution, natural timbre, lightning transients, and (as noted) the kind of 3-D imaging that makes instrument and voices—wherever they are located on the stage—“pop” into lifelike presence, replete with the realism-enhancing performance-and-engineering details that tell you, for example, exactly how a singer in shepherding his (or her) breath, what parts of his chest, throat, mouth, and nose he is using to invest the words of a lyric with expressive color and narrative power, and where he is standing vis-à-vis the microphones and other singers/instruments on stage as he performs.
As was and is the case with the Raidho C 1.1, the secret to the Viella 12’s success is not just the more it is supplying in the way of information, but also the less it is adding while doing so. Like the great Raidho, through most of the audio range the V12 has the kind of grainless transparency that allows you not just to see into but to almost see through the images of instruments and vocalists—to the back of the stage and the other instruments and vocalists behind and around them. There is no opacity—no transparency-obscuring color cast or scrim- like texture—blocking your view of the music-makers. So many audio components subtly insert themselves between you and the soundfield, adding just enough of their own electro-mechanical emphases to let you know they’re there and thereby reduce the transparency of the presentation (when the recording being presented is transparent). The V12, for the most part, does not. It has, through almost its entire range, the peerless, unobstructed, see-through purity of the best sources, analog and digital.
In my previous experience, only the finest turntables and tonearms have been consistently able to do what the AMG V12 does (at least with the Ortofon MC A90 or Goldfinger Statement in its ingenious tonearm)—and, let’s face it, you have to be filthy-rich to afford a Walker or Da Vinci, and still pretty damn well-heeled to opt for an Ascona. Obviously, this feat of engineering smarts and manufacturing prowess earns my warmest recommendation (and sincere applause). Like the $17k Raidho C 1.1 (or the, alas, discontinued $4k Ortofon MC A90), the Analog Manufaktur Germany Viella 12 is a relative rarity—a truly first-rate (and truly original) audio component that, while by no means cheap, is still within the financial reach of folks who aren’t made out of money. The V12 may not give you everything that a Walker, Da Vinci, or Acoustic Signature gives you, but what it does supply on select recordings—the extended sense that you are in the actual presence of real performers in a real space—is more than enough to justify its price and this rave.
Type: Unsuspended, belt-driven turntable with integral tonearm, outboard motor controller, and screw-down clamp
Dimensions: 20 5/8" x 8" x 12 7/16"
Weight: 56.4 lbs.
Price: $16,500 including 12" tonearm and wood skirt; $17,000 for black lacquered skirt $15,000 with no skirt; AMG 1.5m DIN to RCA tonearm cables: Basic for $300, Special for $600, or Deluxe for $1500
MUSICAL SURROUNDINGS (NORTH AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR)
5662 Shattuck Ave.
Oakland, CA 94609
Loudspeakers: Raidho c1.1, MartinLogan clx, Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7, Magnepan 20.7, Estelon x diamond
Linestage preamps: Constellation Virgo, Audio Research Reference 5 SE
Phonostage preamps: Audio Research Corporation Reference Phono 2 SE
Power amplifiers: Constellation Centaur, Audio Research Reference 250, Lamm Ml2.2
Analog source: Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk iii record player, AMG Viella 12, Da Vinci AAS Gabriel Mk ii turntable with DaVinci Master’s Reference Virtu tonearm, Acoustic Signature Ascona with Kuzma 4P tonearm
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Ortofon MC A90, Benz LP S-MR,
Digital source: Mac Mini/ Wavelength Audio Crimson USB DAC, Berkeley Alpha DAC 2
Cable and interconnect: Synergistic Research Galileo, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Power Cords: Synergistic Research, Shunyata King Cobra, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Power Conditioner: Syngergistics Research Tesla III
Accessories: Synergistic ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), A/V Room Services Metu panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps, Critical Mass MAXXUM equipment and amp stands, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix SE record cleaner, HIFI-Tuning silver/gold fuses