This is a quick review / post to mention a special piece of gear that arrived at AR HQ over the Holidays, actually on New Year’s Eve. We took delivery of a new Origin Live Resolution MK4 with Origin Live Illustrious tonearm. The table is fully spec’d out with the Multi-Layer Platter option, the Balanced Upgrade Transformer option, and the External Silver Hybrid Cable option along with the 5 Din Pin upgrade.
Ready and waiting for the table to arrive was a new ZYX Ultimate 100/Z courtesy of Sorasound, IL and a new Sound-Smith Sussurro MKII awaits some playtime once the deck and arm are fully broken in.
I don’t usually react to hyperbole when issued by a manufacturer relating to his or her own product, but I was intrigued by the spiel on Origin Live’s website for two reasons. One – I had just parted company with the very special Origin Live Silver tonearm, bolted to the excellent Dr. Feickert Volare turntable. This had been my first hands-on encounter with Origin Live and I thought that the reasonably priced Silver arm was an excellent product. Two – the website hyperbole appeared to be fully supported by a number of written reviews of the Origin Live Resolution from reputable sources, including this extract:
“In fact, this arm-table combination is one of the finest performers I’ve heard at any price… But regardless of price, this is one of the truly special products I’ve reviewed in the past eighteen years.” Read the full review > From everyone’s favorite analog guy, Stereophile’s Michael Fremmer
So I was full of anticipation over the Holidays as I tracked the two boxes winding their way from the UK, and pleased to be the recipient of this wonderful machinery on the Eve of the New Year. Transit from the factory in Southampton UK to my location in Virginia USA was fairly uneventful via DHL, 10 days total over the Holiday period, and the import duty was a paltry $38.00 – With that paid via the DHL website, the packages arrived the following day.
This isn’t a device you can unpack and be spinning vinyl on 30 minutes later. It needs some careful assembly. Unfortunately, I received the manual for the arm but not for the deck, so I downloaded the Resolution manual from the Origin Live website and set to work. Things were fairly straightforward so long as there was no detour from the sequence in the manual, and I had things put together and provisionally aligned within around 2-3 hours.
Mounting the cartridge was the usual fiddly job and everything was going well until I tried to set the VTF. Apparently, the super-light ZYX (about 5g) is not a good fit for the standard counterweight so I had to fabricate a small plate to sit on top of the head-shell. Fortunately, my GF is a professional jeweler and she presented me with a fairly thick bar of solid silver. Cut down and shaped it added 2 grams to the cartridge end and I was now able to get the VTF properly set.
Installing and leveling the new wall-mounted platform and setting up the new Symposium platform took a while and when I finally hauled out the TT, motor and external power supply for final placement and fine-tuning….well…pretty much two full working days had passed.
I’ll talk about some of the technology surrounding the TT and arm when I have more time, so this will have to do for now – there are absolutely no operational quirks with the Origin Live Resolution Mk4 and the Origin Live Illustrious tonearm, that I’ve been able to find, to date. Ergonomically the package is a dream, as it is aesthetically. (To my eyes/tastes).
The only two setbacks I had throughout the setup process were with the aforementioned counterweight issue and my managing to pull off one side of the in-line connector that connects the free-standing motor unit to the external power supply. This was a first-class pain in the rear as the male side of the connector assembly broke in pieces and I spent a day or more sourcing a replacement. The post mortem revealed that the heat shrink tubing placed over the male end of the connector had not been properly shrunk to the cable so offered no mechanical support and allowed the force required to separate the male/female plugs to pass through to the connector assembly. No, I couldn’t see a cable grip, unless that ended up on the floor when I split the darn thing apart.
OK, that was an inconvenience, but the pain quickly passed.
I’d convinced myself prior to the arrival of this new deck and arm that I’d burn the whole thing in for at least 20 hours so as not to make a hasty judgment. I always plan not to do any critical listening for the requisite burn/break-in period when any new gear comes along, but so far it has never happened. Halfway through the first side I cranked up the volume on the Thor TA-1000 MKII preamp and sat down for a listen. The sound was thin and un-involving, horrendously so. Mehran at Sorosound had said the ZYX sounded great after 40 hours but that it sounded pretty good out of the box, too. I’d already set the gain on the Manley Chinook to 65db, the higher of the two available settings and obviously needed for the 0.24mv output of the ZYX, but I decided after a couple of hours to pull the unit and double-check those lousy dip-switches around the back. No problem there. Anyway, advance a couple of days with no real sonic improvement and it became time to fiddle with the arm and cartridge setup.
The overhang was re-checked, alignment, VTA, VTF, no problem. A quick trial with VTA a millimeter up on the pivot end and then a millimeter or so down yielded changes but no improvement of any substance. So then I decided to tinker with tracking force and out came the digital scale. The range for the Ultimate 100 is 1.5 to 2.5 g and I read somewhere to run it on the high side to accelerate break-in. So I dropped it from the 2.18g setting to 1.75 and voila!
As if by magic things just popped into place. I don’t want to break out with a raft of flowery prose, it’s 11.30 pm as I’m typing this and I’m knackered after being on the go since 5 am. So let’s just say that the sound was and is quite spectacular, and leave it at that for now.
OK then, a little more – in recent times I’ve transitioned from a Clearaudio Avantgarde Magnum deck to a VPI TNT to a Music Hall MMF-11 to a Dr. Feickert Volare, all great turntables and all pretty respectable in the high-end but not bat-shit crazy high-end market sector. Well, the Origin Live Resolution really does appear as though it might play quite happily in the same sand-pit as some of the very best, given a little more break-in and a little more attention to the final setup. I haven’t heard many of the ‘very best’, but this rig is such a step up from anything that’s preceded it in my system that it just has to be ‘up there’….somewhere…
I get now why Origin Live owner and designer and the guy who sold me this piece of audio jewelry – Mark Baker, was able to wax so unabashedly lyrical about his own baby, without so much as a blush…it’s just so obviously good, so much better than….we’re talking about the complete disappearance of a pair of 7′ tall loudspeakers. The removal of a front wall and a couple of sidewalls and the opening up of a soundstage so much bigger than the physical constraints of the room. And a soundstage that locks and holds together at all sensible volumes. It doesn’t start to congeal into an ugly mess once things start a-rockin’. We’re talking about air and detail and dynamics and frequency extension and all of those important measurables that we audiophiles thrive upon but hammered together into a package that sounds so utterly musical. Compared directly with the Feickert Volare, they’re two very different animals. The Origin Live is airier, more spacious, more detailed, and more agile in expressing micro dynamics. The Feickert has a little more weight and authority, it has heftier clout but isn’t able to retrieve the same amount of detail from the groove. Of course, there’s a fairly significant cost difference between the two rigs, so the Origin Live really ought to perform better – and it does. But the intended emphasis here is on just how different one sounds to the other.
OK, I’m done for now, but I’ll be back with more of a review of the Origin Live rig once I hit 100 hours or so. I can hardly wait. Oh, and I’ll talk about what happens when you step up from the excellent Manley Chinook phono stage to the even better Zesto Andros 1.2