Arche headshell with London Reference cartridge - fantastic results

I've owned a (Decca) London Reference cartridge for about a year and have found it to be an excellent sounding cartridge. It's really special with an immediate and "real" sound.
My tonearm is an FR66s which has a detachable headshell so this allows very easy interchange of cartidges- resulting in an obsessional (and expensive) fixation with collecting cartidges.
Apart from the London, I've ended up with 2 Koetsus (Jade DC and Urishi Vermilion), an FR7 fz, Zu Denon 103 with ESCO stylus, SPU "classic" and SPU Synergy.
For some time I could never get the Jade to really sing. Switching to an Arche headshell (and some great help and advice from Syntax) really improved things. Moving from Brinkmann La Grange to Balance 2 months ago totally transformed the Jade and really for the first time I could see what the fuss with Koetsu is all about. 
However the Balance did not lead to any great improvement in the London. If you read reviews they usually say "sonically brilliant but very fussy about arm and vinyl condition."
That had been my experience. I know little about the science but gather that the lack of cantilever means you are very reliant upon the arm to deal with resonance.
I assumed I was in the right ball-park with the FR66. Before buying the London I specifically discussed this with Brian Wilson (who makes it) and he told me he uses an FR64.
Dont get me wrong - I loved the London from the word go. Once I got used to it I tried it with different headshells. I found the best sound came with a Yamamoto black ebony. This seemed to have a "calming" effect compared to the Orsonic Av1. Speculation here but maybe the wooden headshell had some anti -resonant effect.
Being unable to stop tinkering I took the plunge and went for another Arche. Fitted it to the London (with Aggolos silver wires and Acoustical Systems titanium screws) lowered onto Balance and all expectations were surpassed.
i couldn't believe what a difference (beneficial) I was hearing. The thing was as solid as a rock: It seemed to be far more mechanically relaxed around a full range of vinyl (old/ near knackered/ new). Surface noise and clicks reduced to near Koetsu level.
But best of all, the sound was amazing. It's a cliche but forget the hi-fi descriptions - the sound is just real, in the room. 
I listen to a lot of old choral music recorded in big cathedrals and containing spoken voice passages. The voices became totally human and the decay (echo within large venue) literally melted into the farther draw walls.
The organ made my sofa rumble.
As I said I'm not technical and all I can do is report on my own personal experience. However any London Reference owners that might be interested in a way to maximise the performance of this cartridge I would urge to consider this headshell.
The end result ,in my system at least, is nothing short of astonishing.


Thanks for the report, Howard. Another great pairing with the London/Decca pickups is any of the Townshend Audio Rock turntables, with any arm of one’s choosing (the FR64/66’s being favorites, along with the Zeta). The damping trough inherent in the design of the Rock is an ideal way to deal with the somewhat (!) resonant, undamped, and cantiliver-less design of those pickups. The Reference is the best of them all (except for perhaps the ancient 4-series Deccas), but it too benefits from the Rock’s unique capabilities.

I believe you meant to say Brian Smith, not Wilson, designed the Reference. Actually, Brian Smith is the distributor of London products, his company being Presence Audio. The pickup’s designer, and builder, is John Wright, a Decca engineer who, in 1989, I believe it was, bought the rights to manufacture the pickups. He took the Decca design and ran with it, improving the Decca Gold and Super Gold, and creating the new models Jubilee and Reference.

 I (also) bought 3 extra ''insert pieces'' on which the cart need to

 be fastened. With the included one this means 4 headshells.

I have seen one Orsonic on eBay for $300. This is the right

perspective  to judge the prices. Anyway each headshell should

have ''movable 4 pin connector'' for azimuth and eff. lenght

adjustment. Those are not cheap. My only problem with Arche

are the headshell wire. If those are too tight they influence the

working of the SRA adjustment .


Sorry yes it was John Wright I spoke to - early onset dementia - and he said he used an FR 64 tonearm 
Nandric - my Arche came with some sort of standard headshell wire already attached.
I replaced these with Aggalos silver wires which seem to fit fine and are not at all stiff.

howardalex, I could not afford Aggalos and made my own by

careful choice of headshell clips (clearaudio) and (thin) silver

wire. A kind of ''cheating the cheaters'' which is fantastic feeling(grin).

Howardalex, thank you for your post, very good to know that the combination of LR and Arche works well.. I am intending to have a London Ref soon, and will mount it on SME Series V, but i will first try it on my current SAEC WE506 with either ULS 3 or Nasotec Swing headshell which i have on order. It will be an intersting comparison! 

For those who can't spend a fortune for headshell wire those

Clearaudio clips are available for about 50 GBP (8X). They

are easy to solder. Use an old cart , fasten the cart in a vice

and put the clip on one of the pin-connectors. Use silver Litz

(thin) wire.

Thanks for the nice write-up howardalex. I use a FR-7f 6 digit with its integrated headshell in my FR64s, but if I ever need a headshell the Arche would be it.
Good sound is the sum of details - or parts/designs - done right.
Analog reproduction is a chain ...
Thank you for this post. I have a London Ref and I think I will order the Arche headshell and look into the Aggelos wires. I use my Ref with the SPL Phonos set to 330pf/47k ohms and it sounds scary real. Thinking of trying to aquire a FR66s in order to see what else I can get out of it. I have a AT ART 1000 arriving today, I will be comparing my London directly to the ART 1000 :)

I use Ikeda 9C3 with my FR-64 S (silver wire) as well FR-7fz.

 Decca is  like Ikeda in the sense of the ''cantileverless'' kind. But

 in  MC  ''execution''. For my Arche I at last deed find the right wire:

Clearaudio with excelent clips and very thin wire.

I have been enjoying a  London Reference in a fluid damped unipivot arm - the Basis Audio Superarm9. The cartridge works well and other than the high degree of sensitivity to set-up (it took awhile) is really a joy to use.
The sound is so immediate and lifelike. Startling really. Never have I heard a drum kit sound better. And voices are spooky real.
I've been listening to a lot of Blues lately and it works well for that.
Timbre is also very good on Classical recordings.
I do notice that the condition of the media is very important. Surface noise can be bothersome, and tracking sometimes is suspect.
Anyone tried it in an Ortofon RS 309D?

I second @howardalex experience. Have recently bought Arche from a friend to use with my Reference. The arm is FR-64S on EMT930. VTF 1.98g, 50k load (temporary). Previously the Refernce was mounted in (presumably original) Orsonic AV101 [16.5g] with Ikeda silver leads. I've transferred the leads to the Arche with the cart, set the SRA to where it was - the tale tiny-tiny bit down - and listened. 

Wow! Immediately less cracks and pops! And this on dirty vinyls (was too lazy to wash those particular ones before listening - Vivaldi Dixit Dominus on Erato, Collected works of Couperin HM, Xenakis Decca Headline). Other immediate effects:

- The heights - more flowing and  lucid, less screaming; AV101 heights seemed shouting, resonant, forced

- More relaxed sound in general, like if some stress or tension was removed

- The sound easier separates from transducers - very easy to switch my attention to it

- More 3D, soundstage better defined

- More emotional sound, following emotional line of music easier

I believe the above are derivatives of an increased resolution and microdetail retrieval. In some cases I did hear details I don't remember hearing before. 

Somewhere in the middle of the session I also added HAL-O damper on the FR64 (adjusting the VTF). Didn't pay much attention if and how big the change was - music was more important :)

After the first session I realized my mounting of the Arche to FR64S was flawed - I did not use any washer on the collar and the FR64 nut did not lock the Arche tight enough. I inserted the Arche Cu washer on teh collar, which helped to achieve a dead tight lock. Corrected the VTF and the geometry and repeated listening. After that apart from the above:

- The (upper) bass became better perceived. My system is upper bass sensitive (usually slightly deficient) and any change here is easily detectable. Properly locked Arche helped to get let me understand what is happening with bass - sounds like the 50k load I have now is too high, have to go down to 47-39-33k or whatever needed.

Changing SRA in my case is a bit tricky. The thin Ikeda silver leads  are not strong enough to hold the cart in place when I loosen the head screw to adjust the M4 SRA screw. When tightening back the nose screw I have to support the cart from below with my fingers so that it locks touching the M4 screw and not lower. I still have to play more with SRA to see what it can do. Honestly, so far the changes weren't huge.

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