Artisan Fidelity Statement 301: What are the best combinations/tweaks?

I bought a Statement 301 table from Christopher Thornton at Artisan Fidelity.  My table was ordered with a Kuzma 4Point arm and an Ortofon MC Anna cartridge.  I have had it in my system for about six months now and I am getting a clear view on this great turntable.

To start, you can’t ignore the way it looks.  Mine has the Macassar Ebony finish that you can see on the Artisan Fidelity website. Add the silver platter with the copper top and you have gorgeous.  Guests, whether audiophile or not, are always commenting about how beautiful it is – art for the eyes. The best part is that, almost invariably, they want to hear it. For those that aren’t experienced audiophiles, that gives me a chance to introduce them to vinyl. They come away exclaiming about the sound – art for the ears!

Sound-wise I am very pleased. For me, it is all about presence. That’s what makes vinyl superior to digital. The Statement 301 delivers that “in the room” sense that is often missing from other sources. Music and the air around it come out of a deep black background. Live recordings are live in the best sense of the word.  It is difficult to describe how the combination sounds because it doesn’t. It adds nothing to the recording. Words like warm (or crystalline) don’t apply; it is neither. I like words like transparent and faithful (to the recording) best for this table, arm, and cartridge.

This week we had a shootout. We brought seven copies of a Charles Gerhardt/National Philharmonic recording of The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann Citizen Kane (RCA Red Seal) together to compare them. We wanted to test the idea that different records, particularly different stampers, sound different. Six of the records were acquired over the web, one from a well know company that specializes in finding especially good sounding records. The short of it was: they do! In fact they vary significantly form best to worst. Over several hours of listening we discovered two examples that were flat and compressed; two more that were okay but not great; and three copies with extraordinary sound. Distinguishing between the first four copies and the other three wasn’t difficult, but sorting the remaining three required the highest quality playback. To sort them required hearing variations in the subtleties of each that would challenge any playback system to resolve. The Artisan Fidelity rig gave us that. The best copy turned out to be one bought over the internet, with the specialty company’s copy in the last three.

Clearly, I am happy with the system. I am interested in other people’s experiences with this table.  How does it sound with other arms/cartridges?  Are there any tweaks that anyone has found that make a difference? I am currently trying a Herbie’s Way Excellent II turntable mat.  But I haven’t reached a conclusion about it yet. Anyway, please share your views.

You may have the 'best looking' turntable on the planet. I've owned many turntables.. Nothing in the Rockport or Walker camp but a well flushed out LP12  and Aristion along with several Thorens belt drive models. Of them all, the two turntables I kept were a Dual 1229 modifed by replacing the tonearm with a Grace 747 and removing its automation, (completely rebuilt) and a Garrard 301 grease bearing with a SME 3009 (also completely rebuilt).  For me, the impact and presense of idler drive is incredible. The Ultimate 301 may be Stefano's Garrardzilla (google Garrardzilla).

The beauty of the Garrard is that even at its worse, its still more dynamic than most tables. You might want to eventually add another arm and play with different cartridge combos but you are certainly experiencing what most would consider 'state of the art' with your set up.  

Enjoy.  The table is beautiful and should be the last one you'll ever want or need.  
Thanks!  I feel like this is the best table I have heard anywhere though, like you, I haven't auditioned the Walker or the like in a realistic (home) situation.  When I ordered the table I did get two additional arm boards to try other arms.  A Moerch DP8 and a Reed 3P are both on my list to consider.  Is there someone who has experience with one of these arm/Artisan Fidelity combinations?