Article by WL Low
I’ve been living with analog only for the past 3 months. The arrival of the Kronos Sparta combo started the long analog spell, and now it’s continued by the Dr Feickert Blackbird turn table, come installed with Reed 2P tone arm & Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge. I think in all senses, the timing of arrival for the Dr Feickert combo does seemed rather unfortunate as it will replace the twice as expensive and very much well loved Kronos Sparta/Helena & ZYX Premium Omega combo. The Dr Feickert combo suffers further from the middle child syndrome in a sense that in pricing terms, it also sits right in the middle with my resident Kuzma Stabi/SD 12 & Benz Micro LP cartridge combo being a further half a price down and the Kronos Sparta/Helena & ZYX Premium Omega combo being just more than double the the price.
Isaac Ho of Myhifishop brought the turntable to my man cave, and did all the necessary setting up of the turn table, tone arm and cartridge combo. Being an analog expert, it took Isaac just a little over an hour to set everything up and there was glorious analog sound in my man cave. He soon left me to my own devices after the set up session. The Transfiguration cartridge was set to track at 2.2 grams, which is on the heavy side, for better bass response(Isaac probably knew about my bass head banging tendencies) and my Pass Labs X-Ono phono stage gain was set to 66 db with a wide open load setting of 100 ohm(as per Isaac’s recommendation) for best sound. My initial loading of 325 ohms made the sound harder, giving more etched outlines, less filled up images and less natural sounding.
The Dr Feickert Blackbird turn table is a dual DC motor with built in speed control mounted in to the left of top panel on the thick over sized plinth, with an adjustable mounting point for up to 12 inch tone arms on the right, and another(less adjustable) mounting point for 9 inch tone arm at the back left corner. My review sample also came with optional inertial brass inserts into the sides of it’s black heavy platter(though it’s hard to say what material the platter is made of). This serious looking vinyl lover’s table comes wrapped around in classy zebra wood veneer at the sides, which gives a visual & stylistic match to the Makassar Ebony wooden wand of the 12 inch Reed 2P tonearm. During my time with the Reed 2P tone arm, it’s multiple parameter adjustment on the fly facility would proved superbly useful for fine tuning. The Transfiguration Proteus is just a simple looking matt black finished aluminium body cartridge which is super low key, for something so high end. The whole combo looks handsome in a sort of brutish yet classy sense. A black LP locking clamp, made from the same material as the platter is provided. When in use, again I prefer it as a dead weight in the centre rather than the screw down lock clamp style. Somehow, physically screw clamping an LP flat to the platter, which is technically a good idea, but in practice always seemed to sap the life out of the music. One issue I had at this point with the Blackbird is that the spindle seems to be a bit more well endowed than usual, because when I played some of my nearly 30 year old rock LPs from the 80’s, the spindle requires some effort to push the LP’s through the centre hole, like as if a well romanced MILF suddenly turned virgin all over again. The song by Madonna “Like A Virgin” rings a bell here? Hmmm……………
Now my experience with the Dr Feickert Blackbird, Reed & Transfiguration combo. The first thing I noticed was how fast the single thick wrap around the platter belt, dual motor design mounted at 10 & 4 o’clock position started up to speed and stopped with an almost immediate effect. The electronic speed control allows one touch “On-Off” for 78, 45 & 33 rpm speeds, While there was some technical concern from some senior audiophiles about the 4 o’clock mounting point of the second motor, being so close to the the needle drops in terms of vibrations and resonances, my listening experience proved their concerns not founded. However, I cannot attest to if there shall be sonic improvement gain from relocating the said motor, not that there’s an option anyway as the motor is pre-mounted inside the plinth. In essence, you buy the Blackbird for what it is, a standard, easy to set up, electronic speed controlled, dual motor turntable design with facility for mounting a second tone arm, nothing more, nothing less.
Like I said, the Blackbird slotted in to the roster at a very challenging time, just post removal of the super capable and well loved Kronos Pro. However each product will be judge by it’s own merits, and the moment the cartridge first dropped, there was no eerie silence as before, but rather like my resident Kuzma, LP surface noise was rather evident again. In this respect the Blackbird offered no significant advantage over over the cheaper Stabi. However, let’s not allow the first hurdle ruin the party, I mentioned that the dual motor configuration got up to speed and stop with an immediate effect. However the benefits do not just stop there, the Blackbird offered a more confidently tuneful, consistent speed with propulsive rhythm quality not found on the much cheaper, single motor Stabi. One of the most satisfying aspect of the Dr Feickert combo is the ability of the Transfiguration Proteus MC cartridge to retrieve information. With it’s only 0.2mV output, yet easily extracting all the minute detail information embedded in the LP grooves. The tonal quality is neutral, with a warm enough mid -range to avoid being sterile or mechanical sounding. The highs are smooth and airy, with more than a hint of high end exquisiteness. The slight mid-range bump gives vocals just enough lift and density to stand out from the rest of the proceedings. Bass is solid, propulsive with density and tight note to note transfer quality, making it easy to distinguish as bass guitar and double bass notes playing along noisy rock or complex jazz or orchestral arrangement.
The Blackbird offers a very wide dynamic range in the musical presentation, but not the same level as the standard setting Sparta. I played all kinds of musical genre on the Dr Feickert combo during it’s time here, and whilst I never got the feeling of being short changed in any way, one particular genre stood out clearly with the this turn table combo, that is jazz. I played jazz from the 50’s & 60’s golden era and the infectious rhythmic swing offered by the Blackbird combo is just totally immersive and foot tapping. I guess the superb refinement of the Transfiguration played a big part in this. Staging & imaging scale is nearly life like and immediate in size when playing jazz, but the venue will scale down slightly to offer a more panoramic view when playing classical orchestral performances. Rock offers a more up front & immediate view of the stage, which is just the way I like it. Overall, the total transparency of the Transfiguration Proteus cartridge brings us to the “you are there” at the venue of the recording rather then the “they are here” in your room kind of presentation, in which is the former is the more complete aural experience in my opinion.
Other than the initial noise floor disappointment(which is more due to the comparison with Kronos Sparta than anything else), I found the Dr Feickert Blackbird, Reed 2P tone arm & Transfiguration Proteus cartridge very much a joy to listen to each time. I am particularly fond of the Transfiguration Proteus being the brightest star in this combo given it’s attractive retail price for a top spec MC cartridge. The whole combo performs well and shows the level of musical & hifi performance attainable, with a given analog budget of about RM$65,000 or more so. The individual pieces of combo are priced as below:
1) Dr Fieckert Blackbird turn table, c/w optional inertial brass inserts: RM$31,469.00
2) Reed 2P tone arm(tiger ebony finish): RM$16,350.00
3) Transfiguration Proteus cartridge: RM$19,800.00
For me the Dr Feickert/Reed & Transfiguration combo does squeezes more musical enjoyment and technical performance from the LP than my RM$30,000 Kuzma Stabi/Benz Micro combo set up, but will not come any closer in terms of absolute musical or hifi performance to the near ultimate analog set up of the Kronos Sparta/ZYX combo, priced closer to RM$140,000.00. In the end how far one gets to go in to analog nirvana is resource dependent and how much time and effort one is willing to spend to fine tune his/her acquisition for best performance.
What I had just experienced and described is the possible analog musical enjoyment and hifi parameter performance at three distinct price points in a back to back comparison. Ultimate analog expression does not come cheap, so let your budget be your limitation, but never let enjoyment of music get in the way of your aspirations.
Dr Fieckert, Reed & Transfiguration is sold by Myhifishop
Contact Isaac Ho at 03-79321883 or 016-5550516