Firebaugh’s answer is the fibre-suspended, silicone-damped golf-ball pierced by a narrow aluminium tube that itself is damped with a fine sand filling. This construction will not find favour with those who enjoy obsessively tweaking their tone-arm’s adjustments. Anti-skating, which is applied through a twist in the bridle suspending the arm cannot be further adjusted in any more conventional fashion. What is more, the company displays equal disregard for cartridge alignment fiddlers: the 10.5-inch effective length arm features a fixed head shell that provides no tracking alignment (or overhang) adjustment and the instructions warn that alignment protractors might well disagree with Well Tempered’s settings. “Regardless,” says the company, “we stand by our convictions.”
Firebaugh states that with this design he set out to achieve a high degree of mechanical stability, and that much is obvious from the moment the stylus of the Dynavector XX-2 moving coil drops into the groove of the first LP I played, an old recording of Vernon Handley conducting the London Philharmonic playing Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony. The dynamic contrast is perhaps what impressed most; the awe inspiring weight and solidity behind the orchestral climaxes successfully removing the impression that one was listening to a recording of a piece of music rather than the music itself. The performance, however, was not all about sheer weight and muscle: the Amadeus GT showed itself to be delicate and detailed when appropriate; for example, faithfully rendering the decay of a triangle at the rear of the stage even when more prominent lines were being played in front. All this combined to build a musically and emotionally persuasive performance of considerable appeal. As one listener noted as the music finished “That makes you feel really proud to be British,” a sentiment that certainly would have met with the composer’s approval.
The unwavering foundation that this turntable constructs provides a solid platform for LPs that can tend to sound fragile or lightweight on other decks. Played on the Amadeus GT, these exhibited none of the shoutiness or brittle tonality that results in those edge-of-the-seat moments, or that ‘‘will it track this groove?’’ paranoia.. In this respect it had the beating of my beloved Funk Vector LP12/Naim Uni-pivot/Lyra, which sounded a little nervous whenever Alison Stamp’s voice soared to the rafters in Allegri’s Misereré. On the WT her voice sounded absolutely stable, sweet and secure.
Alison Stamp’s voice soared to the rafters in Allegri’s Misereré. On the WT her voice sounded absolutely stable, sweet and secure. The deck coped just as well with noisy records, and did not make a meal of any pops or clicks it encountered, dealing with them as quickly and quietly as it could. Here, I reckon, my Funk LP12 exhibited an edge over the WT, seeming to ‘distance’ record noise from the music: forgive the single quotes but this is a phenomenon best heard rather than clumsily described in print. The Funk seemed somehow to move the noise away from its presentation of the music while the WT subjugated noise but it retained its attachment to the music. Does that make any sense? I did not imagine it would.
None of what I have written thus far should be taken as suggesting that the WT was overly smooth or laid-back in its portrayal: it certainly gave an accurate account of the instruments used by the Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood playing Pachelbel’s Canon. And it gave a truly vivid appraisal of the lusciously rounded, rich timbre of the trompettesnaturelles playing Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 Trumpets. The difference in every facet of their presentation and that of a modern instrument’s was clearly portrayed and a delight to savour.
I am convinced, however, that the WT saved its finest performances for choral works: it sounded utterly magnificent playing the Trevor Pinnock recording of Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis with the English Concert and Choir again using original instruments. It was not in the least perturbed by the dynamic vocal excursions of soprano, Felicity Lott, or contralto, Carolyn Watkinson. Even the massed choral and orchestral, loudspeaker-destroying might of ‘O Fortuna’ that opens Carmina Burana could not provoke the WT to mis-track, even slightly.