Cartridge and step up / riaa for TW Acustic Raven


I hope you all are well :)

If everything gets together I will buy a TW Acustic Raven One with a Graham Phantom II in the new year. The next step is to buy a cartridge and phono amp.

My equipment consist of Wilson Sophias II, Burmester 032 integrated amp, Burmester 061 cd player, Nordost Tyr interconnects and speaker cables, Thor powerdistributor with Nordost Brahma powerlines. In addition to this I have a Revox B77 mk2 reel to reel player.

The Burmester sound is in many ways similar to McIntosh, but slightly more on the ying side. The sound is clear and open, with a wonderful mids. The treble is smooth and detailed. The bottom is dynamic and deep, but more running with the flow than with a slam. The bigger 911 mk3 amp is more detailed in the bottom. But the price level is different too.

So I have to combine a cartridge and phono amp to this. I play all kind of music, since I am both is a talent buyer for rock pop festivals and a consultant for the national arts council regarding music (all kinds). So I listen a lot to music through the week.

I like dynamic open detailed open sound, but I do not like it overly analytical if that means too much forward in its presentation.

I like the sound in my system at the moment. However, I have to do something with my listening room, but thats another story. Its an ongoing process as we know!

My budget at this point will be approx. USD 3,000 for the phono amp and USD 1,500 for the cartridge. Maybe step later on.

The dealer of TW Acustic has reccommended Koetsu and Air Tight.

Thanks for your help!

Cheeers, ToffenG

A friend has this very turntable/arm combination and uses a Miyabi (47?) cartridge - it sounds fabulous! I don't recall what phono amp he was using when I heard it about a year ago but has since bought the TW one. Drop me a PM and I can put you in touch if you like?

I've heard a Koetsu Airtight combination, which sounded terrific, but, the cartridge was a very expensive Koetsu Onix Platinum cartridge, which is quite different in sound from most of the lower priced Koetsu cartridges (the Onix Platinum is faster, much more dynamic and leaner sounding). The lower end Koetsu cartridges tend toward the warmer (upper bass and lower midrange emphasis) side and can sound a bit sluggish and lifeless in the wrong system.

I am not familiar with the specific model of Burmester cd player you have, but, I've heard some of their models and really like the sound. It would help to know what kind of sound you are looking for in comparison with the sound you get from the Burmester. Are you looking for something more detailed and dynamic, something less analytical, etc.? My own take on the Burmester sound is that is on the warmer side, though the cheaper Koetsus would be much more on the warmer side.
Dynavector XX-2 (I think retails for $1800)

EAR 834P (retails for $1700 new)

Hear this set up before with several different amp/loudspeaker combos and it is very synergistic with each other and with most associated equipment. Also has the characteristic sound you have described that you like in your system.

Thanks all :)

I like dynamic open detailed sound, but if its too lean it will be impossible to listen to in the long run. As many of the records I receive are of variable quality, its important the the equipment play as natural as possible. Ofcourse natural sound could be on the analytical side, but it can also be on the more musical side (whatever that mean). You have to exuse my english, I am a norwegian you know :)

I have seen through many years of audio, that many audiophile play the same albums all over again. And if you for instance bring with you a NIN or a John Martyn record, the reproduction fall apart instantly.

The cd player 001 from Burmester tended to lean toward the warmer side, but the newer combine ying and yang very good. The 001 is a legend, especially combined with 011 preamp. Then the combination will be more natural, but still friendly toward your ear with all kind of music. The newer 061 is more dynamic and a little leaner. And lower price too! The Burmester 032 amp is also a little more leaner than the 001 cd player since its a newer design. As Absolute Sound stated, its very hard to describe the sound of the latest versions of Burmester. Its like a wire with amplification.

Have anyone of testet Aesthetix or Naim phone amps?

Cheeers, Toffen
You can also try the Shelter 5000, 501. For phono pre-amp, you can consider the EAR834p, GSP Elevator with Era Gold v.
Miyajima Shilabe & 834P, Shilabe is a steal at the price
I agree with Phill777 - the dyna XX-2 & EAR 834P will sound great.

I do not recommend the Miyajima Shilabe cartridge - it has little life and is quite a boring sound.
Two of my audiobuddies bought based on the 10 audio review and wasted their money and have sold their 3 Miyajima cartridges - You will find that the US distributor will buy the 2nd hand cart's to keep them off audiogon and maintain the illusion.

The Shilabe is one of the most overpriced cartridges on the market. Yuk.

Shilabe is one of the most overpriced cartridges on the market. Yuk

Well, they only do what others do, too.
When you want avoid that, you have to avoid Koetsu (all, what a low performer), the new Zyx pricings, Air Tights, Benz, Shelters...
Cartridges have the highest profit in general (with cables &speakers)
>>12-18-09: Syntax
Well, they only do what others do, too.<<

So what's your point?

>>Cartridges have the highest profit in general<<

Finally, we put the arguments behind us.

Audiofeil asserted that X is overpriced.

Syntax noted sadly that Y and Z are additional examples, and offered an analytical observation characterizing this phenomenon.

Bill responded that broadening his observations was pointless and that analyzing them was irrelevant.

For the second time in a week I find myself agreeing with Audiofeil. Must be the eggnog.
Fact is, Bill is usually correct.
Some may find his replies abrasive.I find them, to the point and often quite humorous.
>>12-18-09: Dougdeacon
For the second time in a week I find myself agreeing with Audiofeil.<<

This is not good.

Time to re-think my position.


Back on track here. What about stepping up to Air Tight PC-3, Transfiguration Phoenix Cart, Ortofon Windfield etc? Its a higher price, but may be worth the investment?

Cheeers, ToffenG
Among your 3 choices, the Windfeld would be my last.

It does nothing wrong but to my ears does not have an "excite" factor I experience with the other 2. Others may feel (hear) differently and cartridge choice is quite subjective.

Remember, you can't fully evaluate any cartridge without a proper tonearm match.

And vice versa.

Dealer disclaimer.

If you have now upped your price range to 4k+ - look at the Ortofon MC A90. Look at the A90 thread - sounds great with a Phantom.

good listening

The Raven and Phantom should be a wonderful combination. I use the Accustic Raven one with an Ortofon 309D. I have used 3 cartridges with it and with the One, you just seem to hear the essential charcter of the cartrige.
the first was a Zyx Airy 3, which was one of the most disappointing cartriges I have owned. Neutral, detailed yes, but lifeless and unenvolving. I know the line is popular, but it just was'nt for me.

Next was the Benz Micro LP. Now these are very expensive in the US, so understandably, not popular. Much cheaper in Europe, I bought mine for about $2100. It has all the neutrality of ther Zyx, but so much more life and dynamics. I could happily live with that forever, but...

I just love Koetsu's and I found a heavily used Onyx on E-bay for $850. If you ever want a cartridge rebuilt, go to the Expert Stylus company in the UK. They have been rebuilding pretty much any cartridge built for over 20 years. They check it over for £25 and a full rebuild, clean, cantilever reallignment, new stylus, cost £290. Now that Onyx just has the edge on the LP, but both are wonderful.

If you can get a cartridge rebuilt cheaply and reliably, I do'nt know why more people do'nt buy second hand, they are often so cheap, bacause buyers are wary of them. I know the koetsu is no longer a Koetsu, but who cares. I am listening to Chick Corea as I type and wondering what better would sound like.
I import the Shilabe and for Bill Feil to say it is overpriced when he has never bought one seems a little like a man who carries many different lines, but is jealous he missed this one!!! (He carries 7 lines of phono cartridges. One line alone carries cartridges at $15K or more. I carry one unique and patented line, and $2800 doesn't seem so expensive when you have to pay $7500 for a middle of the road cartridge from one of his other lines, made in the same country of origin, do the math Bill?)
As for buying them back I bought one single used one as a project to track some grey market cartridges that appeared in the USA. They sell so well with very little marketing, but Stereophile class "A" ratings on the Shilabe and the Premium Mono, and rave reviews from 10 Audio, (who purchased his own directly from the manufacturer).
Please watch for a review in Enjoy the Music, and in TAS!!
So for a "yuk" cartridge in one year in the marketplace, it has garnered both critical acclaim from both reviewers, and purchasers!
BTW. Downunder, maybe you had the cartridge in the wrong tonearm with the wrong loading, oh no, sorry, your buddies owned it not even you!!! I have 60 customers this year alone that would disagree, with your comments.

And then we have the Christmas question; which is best of Graham II or Triplanar? Ofcourse its a metter of taste, but its impossible to test out beforehand here in Norway. Versality and open dynamic neutral sound is the clue.

Cheeers and thanks for your help!

Toffen, Lillesand, Norway
I've heard your cartridge Robyatt.

One needs not buy one to hear one.

Comparing it to anything I sell is irrelevant as my opinion is just as valid as yours. Perhaps more so having heard hundreds of cartridges in over 50 years of the hobby/business.

So let me be clear. The Shilabe is overpriced IMO.

Thank you very much.
OH, in your opinion, well that makes all the difference. Don't forget as you get older in life your hearing starts to decline, for some more, rapidly than others.
The total price of the Shilabe is less than half the EXTRA mark up on the ZYX Omega, that you carry and sell in North America. That is to name just one of the overpriced phono cartridges you carry.
Hi Toffeng,

I have heard the Aesthetix Io and an older version of the Rhea as well as various Naim phonostages. The Aesthetix Io, in its various iterations, are very nice sounding phonostages, though they can be a bit noisy, particularly if asked to work with very low output cartridges. The Rhea I heard (in a dealer's system I was very familiar with) was a quite different sounding unit. To me, in the particular system I heard it in, it sounded a touch brittle and more like solid state electronics than tube.

I've heard both the cheaper and the top of the line Naim phonostages in a friends system. I don't like the lower end phonostage because it has a somewhat "dry" sound (it is hard for me to describe the sound, it is more a personal response to certain solid state gear), and has an edginess to the attack of the note that makes everything sound a touch mechanical and artificial. But, the top of the line phonostage is an entirely different matter. It has far less of the kind of unpleasant qualities of some solid state, delivered all the harmonics of complex music correctly, and delivered the kind of dynamics and punch that Naim fans like while minimizing the "mechanical" qualities of the Naim sound. I heard it attached to one of the better Naim power supplies, so, in that configuration, it is quite an expensive phonostage.

Among the not so high priced cartridges, I have heard, and liked, the Transfiguration Phoenix and the Ortofon PW. Both are not as warm and rich sounding as the Koetsu cartridges, but, I suspect they will be a nice match for your system.


Thanks! Have any of you listened to PS Audio GCPH Phono Preamplifier? It has received very good reviews and the price in Norway is not bad at all. And its versatile too.

Cheeers, ToffenG
yes I had a GCPH a while ago for some two odd years when I sold it again --- and it is good value for money no doubt.
You will have to spend quite a bit more $$$ (in my estimate as some others have it) in order to get better, --- and as always there is of course.
Also, as you say it is a rather convenient unit.
The "B" rating by Stereophile goes fine in my experience.

No I have not heard the GCPH. I should add another comment about the Aesthetix Rhea. The dealer who had the unit in did not do any swapping of tubes, so I probably did not hear the Rhea at its best. I don't know of a single piece of tube gear that did not require some experimentation with tube choice to match a particular system and to otherwise be at its absolute best. It is impractical for a manufacturer to use anything but current production tubes (availability and ease of supplying replacements), and it does not make sense to supply expensive tubes when the particular system needs of each customer will vary significantly. This is the inherent nature of tube gear.

I am sorry if I gave too negative an opinion about the Rhea. I should know better after hearing so many tube stages that dramatically improved with a different set of tubes (e.g., the Tron phonostage, Hovland phono stage built into their linestage). My own phonostage (Viva Fono) sounds very different too, depending on tube selection.

Of the solid state stages I've heard that are not way up there in price, I would suggest looking into the Tom Evans stage. I only heard it briefly, but it sounded pretty good. I've heard the not too expensive top of the line Sutherland phonostage. It sounded reasonably smooth and musical, but, I thought it was a touch dynamically polite with a cartridge which is far from that (Lyra Titan).
Dear Toffeng, The GCPH is a bargain at its price, but IMO you should look higher up the ladder for both your phono stage and your cartridge, to do justice to your state of the art turntable and tonearm. As regards the phono stage, you need to decide whether you want to introduce a tube component into your otherwise all-transistor system. I think it would be wise to do so, because your system would seem to lean to the "lean" side in terms of sonic qualities. (You say that yourself, and I would agree.) Finally, I would also urge you to think hard about choosing a true balanced phono stage for use with what will likely be a low output moving coil cartridge. There are sound reasons for doing so, if you will pardon my pun. High quality balanced, tube phono stages include the Atma-sphere MP1, the balanced version of the Einstein, and the Aesthetix Io. You could not go wrong with any of these, based on my own experience. (I currently own an MP1.) If you want to stay all-transistor, I suggest you consider the (balanced) Ayre P5Xe, which I would place above the GCPH but which is not in the megabuck region for cost. For a cartridge, the arguments for one vs another are endless and boring. Just choose a good one based on a consensus of opinions, and start from there with the realization that you will probably want to try more than one before you reach Nirvana. For this reason, second-hand cartridges bought from reliable persons are a good way to go.
Toffeng, you asked about Aesthetix phono stages and received one comment. I'll add a different perspective. I'm an Aesthetix Io Signature owner so I have a definite bias. With that understanding, I will say that I consistently find both the Aesthetix Io and the Aesthetix Rhea exceptionally well balanced and very natural sounding devices for listening to acoustic music. The Signature versions of both are worth the additional cost, but the basic units are still excellent.

I'm listening to the Io Signature now in my own system after spending the afternoon listening to an Aesthetix Rhea (non-Signature version, stock tubes) in a friend's system. In his system, we kept moving back and forth between the Rhea and another well regarded tube phono stage. The Rhea consistently sounded, to all of us, more true to the timbre of the instruments and delivering more extended and complex harmonic overtones. It simply sounded more natural and more involving.

Good luck in your search.
Hi Robyatt

Everything I have said about Miyabe & Shilabe is factual and your implication of anything else is quite disappointing. I do not like my integrity or honesty questioned.

Why would I comment on the sonics of the Shilabe if I had not heard it?.

I had it in my system for over a month. It was used on both Graham Phantom and Ortofon AS-309.

It was the same Shilabe you bought off my audio buddy when he put it on audiogon.

You mention grey market Shilabe's - That is incorrect as well. My buddies bought them from the importer in country.

Audiogon is a global hifi buying and selling tool, so selling any used cartridge that one does not like is fine. There is never any warranty implied so how is this grey market?.
All you seemed to be doing was to stop someone globally from buying the Shilabe and maintaining some sort of illusion that Shilabe's owners are always happy so don't sell them.

So far Shilabe is zero from 5 in Australia.

Given the OP's preferences I could not think of a worse cartridge than the Shilabe.

have a nice day
I was talking about the grey market sales in the USA coming from your region, I sure hope it wasn't you or one of your buddies? We have implemented a serial number system so we can track excellent global sales, including of course Australia and New Zealand. Your buddy of course never mentioned in his AG classified that the cartridge had been used by several people in the description, just that it was a lightly used no longer needed item!! I will have to question him on that, a little naughty don't you think? But that is why we are checking on the grey market source. I assume that "Downunder" things are a little different, and you and your guys, just pass the gear around until the last guy sells it as new.
You have a nice day.

What the hell are you talking about?

I used my friends cartridge as it sounded so boring and lifeless in his system no matter what tonearm he used it with.

He sent it to me to see if I could get any musical satisfaction from the Shilabe. I was interested in the cartridge from the wonderful review jerry gave it.
I had it for about 5 weeks and probably played it for 5 hours - every album or tonearm combo I tried it with had the same result - lots of ooooh so boring lifeless sound.
My $495 Nagoaka MP-50 sounded in a different musical world it was so much better. I won't even go into how it sounded compared to dynavector XV-1, Koetsu Rosewood,

He tried it again for a short while, then put it up for sale on gon - so yes it would have been very lightly used and no longer needed as it sounded inferior to every cartridge he owned.
Then you came along and bought the Shilabe to maintain the illusion. Lucky him.

My other friend bought the Shilabe and mono and could not live with either and got rid of them.

You sound like the movies Avatar - don't believe the hype as it is a piece of crap.

have a nicer day.
Toffeng, Re my comment that debates regarding cartridges are endless and boring, to wit the above exchange between Robyatt and Downunder, two honest guys with diametrically opposite views. In the end, you will come to your own conclusions re cartridges.

Yes, cartridges seems to be a hot topic. I know about two-three well respected shops in Norway and Denmark, and I will try to find out what they reccommend too.

Since the funds are a little low at the moment, I will concentrate on the Raven One and Graham Phantom. And from there try to borrow some phono stages. Maybe I start with a Air Tight PC-3. According to the dealer of TW this is a good all round pickup. When I get wealthy I can buy the Ortofon A90....

Do you have any reccommendations regarding tonearm interconnects? Nordost Tyr? I use that between my Amp and CD player and as speaker cables. Good alround neutral cable. Maybe not so very exiting though.

Cheers, ToffenG
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year in Norway!

JMTCW FWIW. (More than 30 years enjoying analogue playback!)

My current analogue setup - Roksan Radius 5 with Nima tonearm, Lyra Argo, custom tonearm connecting cable, modified JLTI phono stage. Modest outlay - great bang for the buck. (Why not spend more on LPs?)

My audio network hold Lyra in great esteem, across the board, over many years. One local audiophile owns both Skala and Helikon. Certainly the Skala is superb. But so is my Lyra Argo......the Lyra sonic character is more yang than yin (e.g., opposite of Koetsu which tends to ultra yin.)

Please note precise/meticulous cartridge setup is essential. Premium cabling is mandatory (after all, we are dealing with very low signal levels!).

There is always much (heated) opinion in analogue. Above all, trust your own ears. Enjoy the music!
toffeng something to consider,the Altmann battery run phono stage, it is excellent. Price is right too! partner that with a Zu Denon 103 and you will be happy for a while. The Graham Phantom is superb with so many phono cartridges.
ToffenG, I'm using a Synergistic Research Tricon Analog innerconnect with my Raven One/Ortofon AS 309 combo (Dynavector cart). I've had it since last April so its well burned in, and couldnt be happier (well, maybe I could if I could afford something like the Tara The Zero).Great timbre of instruments,very good detail but not overly etched, no spurious noise, silent background. Cant help but think you would be very happy with it. Happy listening with whatever you choose!--Mrmitch
Since you live in Norway Toffeng .. just a suggestion from northern Italy .. try the Whest Audio PS30 RDT , Whest Audio sells directly when not distributed in the country .. and forget any step up ..
I use the 30 RDT with TW Raven One and Benz LP into a Pass Labs X1 .. and I'm super happy
Never heard a solid state phono stage so good in my life!
thomas wosnich of TW actually highly recommends the Tron Seven for his Raven TT's. Ive heard it at length and its quite a synergy. Carts range from Dynavector, Shelter, and Koetsus.
One of my friends has a Tron Seven, bought from TW. It is defect now for 1,5 years and he used it probably 10h. When you are interested, I can ask for the price. It will be cheap (he has several and it is 1.owner).