The first thing that strikes you about this arm is its sheer vivacity – quickly followed by its astonishing transparency, especially at low frequencies. I’ve never heard a pivoted arm that can image like this – and I’ve never heard any arm that does bass the way the 4POINT does. The clarity and precision of deep notes, their timing, duration, the space between them and the air around them – but most of all the energy that propels them is in a class of its own. The normally grubby thuds of upright bass that underpin so many 60’s jazz tracks are taken in hand, given shape and pace, pitch and placement. They’re also given independence, never swamped by even the most frenetic big band tutti. So the wonderfully undulating bass line that underpins ‘Way Out Basie’ (from Farmers Market Barbeque) takes on a sinuous vitality, an up-beat swing that breaths new life into the track’s underpinnings, leading naturally into the shockingly sudden brass stabs, tying the meandering solos into the fabric, keeping things constantly on the move – an ever present influence, shaping and guiding the music. Which is, of course, exactly how it should be – and so often isn’t. So many arms soften the bass notes and lose track of them altogether once the going gets tough that its something of a surprise to hear them rendered with the same audible clarity and easy independence that you experience live.
That low frequency transparency contributes directly to the palpable acoustics conjured by the 4POINT. That and the arm’s phenomenal stability; images simply don’t wander or shimmer the way they do with other arms – effects that we are so used to that you only notice them once they’re banished – a trick achieved by the Grand Prix Audio Monaco, another primo candidate to partner the Kuzma. This arm produces sound as solid as it looks, which given that it’s probably the most substantial yet handsome arm I’ve ever used, means pretty darned solid. That stability gives images and instruments a real presence that underpins the explosive dynamic potential of the 4POINT. Brass rips the air and drum rolls cascade in a tumble of energy. But this energy is harnessed and concentrated, tied to the instruments producing it and the music it serves; nothing escapes, not one shred is overlooked or wasted. The result, when required, is a drive and momentum that is almost physically propulsive, a vitality that is exciting and bursting with a natural sense of life.
But this isn’t just about big and bold, brash and ballsy. The Kuzma is all those things when it needs to be, but it is poised, delicate and controlled too. The really impressive thing is the way it exerts those qualities at the fff end of the scale as easily as it does at the other extreme – and the ease with which it allows thenm to coexist or transits between the two. The Ricci Carmen Fantasie on Decca is the perfect test in this regard, Bizet’s orchestral bombastics contrasting with the solo violin, the studied technique and precise measures of the Habanera a world away from the pell-mell flurries of the faster passages. The dramatic sweep and stark shadings delivered by the 4POINT produce a vivid, torrid performance from the opening passages, one that leaves the listener almost breathless with the excitement and virtuosity it reveals. Yet the transition to the slow central passage is effortlessly natural, the delicate beauty and muted shadings cherished with a poise and dignity that seems almost beyond the scope of the same arm that generated those musical pyrotechnics that opened the piece. But just follow Ricci as he builds into the finale (and you will, because you won’t want to take the music off) and marvel at the way he bridges through the pizzicato sections to the lightening runs and phrases with which the piece concludes. This is a record I know intimately, one that I’ve played on literally dozens of decks and probably hundreds of systems. But it left me open-mouthed and grinning inanely at Ricci’s astonishing range, his ability to conjure and encompass such emotional contrasts and carry you from one to another so naturally that you don’t even notice his part in doing it. Of course, what I should have been impressed by was the fact that for the first time the 4POINT had allowed the music to transcend mere technique, the unfettered dynamics, lucid phrasing, wide yet coherent bandwidth and absence of grain or edge finally allowing the performance to escape the grooves. In some ways this arm mirrors its lineage, combining the precise vitality and quickness of the Tri-Planar with the easy flow and rich harmonics of the VPI JMW, all built on the stability and presence of the Stogi Reference. But the 4POINT is more, so much more than the sum of those parts. The Airline challenges it in terms of delineating depth and positional precision, and the pivoted arm can’t match the sheer fluidity, the grace through a phrase of the parallel tracker. But many a listener really won’t care, simply blown away by the life, energy, explosive dynamics, transparency and easy control of the 4POINT; And that’s before they experience its absolute delicacy, micro dynamics and preservation of the smallest musical nuance. And if you are still not convinced, just try a vocal. The big Kuzma passes that most acid of tests with the same grace and charm it tackles everything else. Just don’t get spooked when you realize that Ella really IS in the room!