Raven v Walker. Colored v Accurate?

This post has been generated following Jonathan Valin’s recent review of the Raven AC-3/Phantom combination in TAS. What intrigues me is not that JV has been lucky enough to review and buy or have on permanent loan yet another world’s best product. A truly astounding strike rate for any reviewer it must be said. Rather, it is what JV readily describes as the colored sound of the Raven/Phantom combination and the apparent appeal of this sound compared with what JV described as the more accurate sound of the Walker that piques my curiosity. This is not, I hasten to add about the relative merits of either table or their arms. The intention is not to have a slug-fest between Walker and Raven owners.

What really interests me is how it is that a product that in the reviewer’s opinion more accurately conveys what is on the source material is perceived as somehow less emotionally satisfying than one which presumably exaggerates, enhances or even obscures some aspect of the recorded information, if one can accept that this is what colored sound or the product’s character is. It appears counter intuitive and the deliberation of the phenomenon is making me question my own goals in audio reproduction. These have been pretty much on the side of more accurate is better and more emotionally compelling with due consideration to financial constraints in my choice of equipment in achieving this goal.

On face value and if you can accept the hyperbole it appears that the colored is better route is a little like going to a concert and putting on a device that allows you to alter the sound you hear. You twiddle a couple of knobs, sit back with a smile on your face and say “Ah! That’s better, that’s what I want it to sound like” You like it but it’s not necessarily what the musicians intended you to hear.

It seems logical that the closer one can get to accurately reproducing every piece of information recorded onto the medium then the closer you should be able to get to the actual performance, together with all the acoustic cues existing at that performance. I am making an assumption here that the recording medium is actually capable of capturing these things in the first instance.

We have our 12 inch pieces of vinyl on the platters of two systems under evaluation. We are not in the recording booth. The musicians are not on hand to play the piece over and over so that we can compare the live sound to the master tape and even if we did every performance is unique so we can never compare a second or third live performance with the one we just recorded. How then can the accuracy of a turntable/arm/cartridge combination and its ability to convey the emotion of the recorded event truly be evaluated? Ideally we should at least have the master tapes at hand to play on the same system in which we are evaluating the TT’s. The comparison will of necessity still be subjective but the determination would seem to be more believable than if the master tape were not part of the evaluation. If the master tape gave the listener no emotional connection with the musicians then I would contend that there would be something fundamentally flawed in another part of the playback system.

So in evaluating the two combinations would the more accurate combination be the more emotionally appealing? I cannot see how it would be otherwise unless we just don’t like what has been recorded or the way it has been recorded, the musicians have not made an emotional connection with us and the slightly flawed copy is preferred to the original. Is this why God made tone controls?

I have used the words seems, appears and presume quite deliberately, not to have a bet each way but because I am cognizant of the fact that we are, in audio reproduction dealing with the creation of an illusion and creating that illusion with people who have varying levels of perception, different experiences and tastes, different playback media and different physical replay environments so the task at hand for audio designers, humble reviewers and even we poor consumers could not be more complex.
The fact that Jonathan Valin described the differences between these two world class tables well enough that it prompted you to start a thread is a testament to his skill.

Even if he describes one table more "accurate" than the other, that's his subjective opinion. Anther person may listen to these two tables and think the Raven is more accurate. Valin has done a good job, If you take his experience with you it becomes one more ingredient in a recipe for great sound.

Personally I'm so damn happy with analog I get goose bumps with most of them if fitted with a good cartridge. I own the Walker Proscenium Black Diamond and love it, but I've also owned two dozen other turntables and all made great music for the era I owned them and the price I paid.

I should add, I have some master tapes and they are indeed startling as a reference, the source by which to judge all turntables.

The problem is, master tapes sound different when played on an Ampex 351, a Studer A80, a Technics 1520 and so on. Master tape is just another tool to learn from. Conclusive in it's quality and inconclusive as to which playback machine renders playback of THAT tape perfectly.
Yes Albert, Jonathan Valin's opinion is a subjective one and an entertainingly written opinion at that. I too am an analog enthusiast though my experience of different TT's is nowhere near as broad as yours. I currently use a Debut vacuum/Vector 4/ Orpheus combination which I find magical and have no doubt that many will find the Raven magical in their systems. I think your reference to the varying perceived differences between master tapes based upon the player used to replay them is interesting and if one thinks about it (which I did not when I wrote the initial post) differences in playback are just as inevitable with them as with a TT.

My point was really to have an objective standard against which two TT's could be judged as I could not see how something described as more accurate could be seen to be less emotive. I can, however see that the variation in perceived playback in tape makes that comparison flawed. I was suggesting an objective judgement to what is inherently a subjective evaluation. It just so happens that these subjective evaluations are often punctuated with descriptors which seem to portray objectivity e.g. accuracy. Not having a go at JV here just stating a difficulty any reviewer is faced with in conveying a subjective opinion in everyday language.
In the final analysis your own ears become the ultimate arbiters in the decision of which piece sounds the most like live music to you ( to your particular brain).

The trouble is that our rooms and every single component in the electronics chain to the final acoustic output from the speakers affect the final sonic result.

Way back in the day, I wrote a "letter to the editor" of TAS, which was published under the title "The Glamor and the Deception." My basic premise was that it seemed to me that all the amplifiers and preamplifiers that H. Pearson & Co. were rating as "The Best" were tube units (mostly from ARC at that time) that measured poorly compared to other competing products that were somehow "inferior." From this TAS concluded basically that "technical measurements are irrelevant" in the quest for The Absoulte Sound.

They cocked an eyebrow and pointed a dissenting finger at Stereo Review's Julian D. Hirsch for being so foolish as to believe that lab measurements had any significance or bearing on actual perceived audio quality or musicality. Thus, Julian (the staunch objectivist) Hirsch became the butt of many cartoons and jokes in the underground audio press. And this was all very good for business...

My contention was that the ARC equipment was preferred not because it performed better, but because it glamorized the sound in euphonic ways that rendered it ultimately more pleasing to the ear. In effect, this means that even the most educated and experienced listeners (and TAS reviewers) prefered glamorization and euphony over "accuracy" when given the choice. And that result is what the "deception" in this hobby is all about -- paying the big bucks for highly touted gear that glamorizes the sound in ways that appeal to many individuals. Consequently, there are two schools of design in audio: The School of Accuracy and The School of Glamorization. Then, of course there are the hybrid offshoots that try to combine the best traits of each school. This scenario makes a very interesting puzzle for purists and objectivists, or really anyone trying to figure out which end is up.

Just wondering... hey, if you swapped the tonearm wiring and connectors between the Raven and the Walker would the sonic results be reversed? What about their arm-dampening properties?

Also, I'm sure their respective tonearms have different physical characteristics and mass. This would skew the results to the arm in which the particular test cartridge had the better synergy...meaning that using the same cartridge for the listening test would provide one of the contenders with an unfair advantage... So to get unbiased results, you'd need to use a bevy of top cartridges with each turntable/arm combo and then pick the best combination from each camp to face off against the other (with all other variable being equal).

But honestly, what sane human being would go to that much trouble???

When evaluating turntable systems, you are evaluating one complex set of variables against another. Two different people setting up the exact same turntable system can achieve very disparate sonic results... as can the same person setting up the exact same turntable system at a different time or place.

Be all that as it may, the bottom line will always be: buy the gear that sounds the most realistic to your own two ears! Don't be afraid to make mistakes (it simply cannot be avoided). Try to learn from your successes and your failures.
Dear Phaser: You, Albert an Plato almost give almost every answer about, there is/are almost nothing to add and all of you already open very wide and interesting/critical " windows " on the home reproduction sound.

There is one subject that IMHO we have to take seriously when we read a professional review like this JV one and that subject is/are how JV is biased to the music sound reproduction and biased to one single audio item ( in this case the TT. ):
JV owns the Walker one for many years and he is extremely happy with it ( like Albert and all Walker's owners. ), if we can remember when TAS made the shoot-out Walker/Kuzma Mr. Valin almost all over the review likes Kuzma the most but at the very end he changes and goes for the Walker, in this Raven/Walker he preffers too the Walker, well he has a tattoo's Walker on his body ( and nothing wrong with that it is a subjective point of view with a great audio item. ) and make me feel that JV is totally Walker's equalized ( well he heard/hear Walker almost every single day, like any one of us hear what we have: we in some ways are equalized for what we own. ) and it is almost impossible to him to made/make fair reviews for other TT's: the Walker always be ( for him ) the best one some way or the other.

Now, I almost always support the tonearm/cartridge importance over the TT's one ( with almost any decent TT ). Here we have two top TT's designs that are totally different between each other not only the TT design it self but more important the tonearm/cartridge/cable stage where through it JV made the review.
Like you already posted and know things can/could be different if you change the tonearm in the Walker ( that you can't do it ) for the Phantom and the same for the Raven.

What I wonder is what means for JV: accuracy/accurate, because IMHO here it is his biased subjective review conclusion.

Till today I always support accuracy over colored/coloration ( any kind ), I'm for the " truer to the recording " and IMHO to be near/nearest " truer to the recording " we need " accuracy ", total accuracy ( and please don't confuse accuracy with analytical, both terms are totally different. ), like it or not. Of course that to some of us we preffer a more colored/euphony sound and for other of us we preffer " what is on the recording ".

+++++ " So in evaluating the two combinations would the more accurate combination be the more emotionally appealing? I cannot see how it would be otherwise unless we just don’t like what has been recorded " +++++

I think in the same way, what JV think about? what every one of us think about?

Regards and enjoy the music.
I would rewrite your thread title a few different ways. Linear Tracking vs. Unipivot could be one title. A 2nd would be tonality vs. accuracy. Colored vs. Accurate is in and of itself biased.

As a Raven owner, I would suggest that the table takes on the character of any mat, any tonearm, tonearm cable & of course cartrdige that you use. This of course is system dependant. I would look at Albert Porter using a Jade & now a PC-1 on a very accurate turntable such as a Walker. Both "colored" cartridges. I used 3-5 cartridges & play around. I prefer neutral when the recording is right. On some recordings a bit of color helps. On others, accurate is the way to go. The Titan I is probably one of the most accurate cartridge. Yet, it misses the magic of a Miyabi or Koetsu.

The thrust of the Raven, which was not addressed 100% in the review is that you can change mats, arms etc. & you will hear it all.

One more thing, with 2 different phono stages, you can often match 2 different tonearms to 2 different cartridges on 2 different phono stages to get almost an equivalent sound out of both arms. It truly is a search for system synergy. In the Ravens case, it allows you to have a few different systems ready to go for different recordings.
On face value and if you can accept the hyperbole it appears that the colored is better route is a little like going to a concert and putting on a device that allows you to alter the sound you hear. You twiddle a couple of knobs, sit back with a smile on your face and say “Ah! That’s better, that’s what I want it to sound like” You like it but it’s not necessarily what the musicians intended you to hear.
One might also think of this: What if you move your seat location in order get sound that is more to your liking? Or choose a seat with no one in front of you? Or with a head of big hair in front, because you like the sound better that way? Where is the line between adhering to accuracy and adjusting for more enjoyment?
Let us not forget that the choice of microphone at the recording session will color the recording not to mention the placement of the mics and the room in which the recording was made. More directly to the point, I think Valin's review was incomplete since the Walker is an integrated turntable with the Walker arm. The Raven is not integrated and it should have been reviewed with at least one other arm and the same cartridge for a wider and more accurate review of what this table can do. I heard the table at High Water Sound in NYC and I can attest to the fact that it sounds surprisingly different with the Phaentom, the Tri-Planar, and the Dynavector arms. The results were all excellent, but pick your flavor. It's all an illusion from the mics forward. In order to know what live accoustical instruments sound like, you must hear them played in a variety of locations like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kimmel, Davies Hall, Severence Hall, Covent Garden, La Scala, the Blue Note, Eddie Condon's etc. If you attend live concerts enough and better yet, if you play an instrument, you eventually have a composite mental picture of how instruments sound in life. I cannot think of a better way than through attendance of the real event in many places over a long period of time to gain this knowledge. I have purchased the Raven and it will be delivered shortly. I chose it because it comes close to what I perceive as a natural instrumental timbre in its reproduction of music and I cannot afford the Walker which I think is the closest over a wide and inconsistent collection of recordings. But, make no mistake about it. It is not live music. For that you must eliminate the electronic chain.
The posts began with Johnathan Valin's observations of the difference between the Walker and the Raven.
Am not sure any of his reviews have come my way or if so they are recalled. Stereophile is about but not only my limit in reading. And it is with him or any reviewer where one should start.
What kinds of music does he listen to when he just wants to listen to some music? What does he concentrate on in his reviews? All reviewers are expected to be able to identify treble, midrange and bass areas, stengths and weaknesses, but that being said what are his particular areas of musts, interests, appreciation.
Having read Michael Fremer and Art Dudley amongst others of the usual suspects their concerns and particular passions come through, so in reading them it is apparent to me that in giving their reviews they will be fair as well as show where for them this or that componet fails either in this or that area, including price.
The reviewer, the room/hall and our own ears are the main determinents. That they can hear this or that given their system, their ears, and their experience is really quite wonderful and they give us a valuable service but only if we know enough about them from their writings to gain an idea of their biases. Biases in this case are not unlike those on an amp, they allow the music/review to flow much better when dialed in.
These are individuals that unlike most of us get a chance to hear a wide/r ranger of equipment in relationship to each other than most of us. That helps form their views, and like anything, the more you do it the better you get. Practice does make perfect or at least better.
So heres(hears?) to Johnathan who helped albeit inadvertently start a good thread, which has had a lot of valuable information from a bunch of highly trained/educated listeners from which we, including myself, have gained further insight into a hobby/adventure that continues to draw me in as strongly as the law draws its prisoners for a rehearing when necessary or desired.
All very well written; only to comment that it is certainly no surprise that any table should allow different arms or mats or cartridges to sound different.

... and any attempt at capturing accuracy and/or euphony will be a compromise, only to enjoy the pursuit.
Dear Elinor: +++++ " Let us not forget that the choice of microphone at the recording session will color the recording not to mention the placement of the mics and the room in which the recording was made " +++++

this subject is of paramount importance and if we own an accurate system/room at home then we can hear all that.

IMHO I think that we and the reviewers ( specially these one. ) have to understand that what we heard/hear when we attend to a Concert Hall or a Jazz Club or any live music event is different of what is in the recording, many of us want that our systems sound like what we heard on a concert and this means that some of us like some kind of " colorations, let me explain:

when we attend to a live event we are not the only listeners in that place/room almost always is full of people and normally we have a seat that is 15-30 meters from the main stage ( in classical music concerts ) and not always at the center seat position of that main stage, what we are hearing has to be not only with that distance but with the surrounded people around us that affect the sound that comes in our ears and many other subjects ( this is only an example of the recording differences against what we hear/heard in a live event. ), what happen in a recording? in almost all recordings the Hall is empty and the Micro(s) are nearest ( a lot nearest ) to the whole instruments that we are and I have to say that that Micro(s) have an accurate frequency response that are a lot wider that our ears frequency response/perception, all these facts and many others on the recording process tell us that what is on the recording is different to our live perception, now if this is true why almost all of us ( including reviewers ) want to hear/heard our system home in the way we hear/heard at the Concert Hall?, IMHO two different things to evaluate, yes I know that only the people that were at the recording session can/could know how that recording sound and that's why is so important to attend to live events at different seat position and to try to hear ( if possible ) in your home " sounds " from single instrument like: piano, violin, guitar, horn, etc, etc.
Where want I to " go " with all these " words " ?: that almost all of us are hearing " colored " sound reproduction at home, only a few care about what really mean " truer to the recording ", many people likes the " warmer/lush " sound of the live music but my friends that " warmer/lush " sound it is not ( well some times is ) in the recording it is only what we like or what we heard in almost different condition that the recording conditions. Well I think that all this does not help to much on this thread but you Elinor touch it and it is important ( IMHO ) to have opinions ( different ones ) on the subject.

Other things ( IMHO ) that some of us ( including reviewers ) does not have very clear is that if in any decent TT you hear ( like Elinor experience with the Raven ) different tonearms with different or the same cartridge you will hear different kind of sound: different tonality, different accuracy level, different soundstage, different...,different many subjects.
If we believe these facts then why the reviewers ( any ) or us like s to make TT shoot-out between different TT(s) that each one comes with different tonearm/cartridge combination?, it does not make sense, at least to me.

So, that JV Colored v Accurate ( in the way that the review was made ) really means nothing other than JV likes for the better that cartridge performance with the Walker tonearm.

I think that are many ways to make that kind of shoot-out but maybe the only way ( at least the fair way ) is to make that comparison using the same tonearm/cartridge/arm board combination on both ( any ) TTs, this could be make using stand alone arm boards like the Kuzma one.

Regards and enjoy the music.
All "quality" acoustical guitar companies offer different tone woods,as a choice for the end user/player/musician,for many models.These "all" alter the sonic perceptions of the end user,and the listener.
I was at Lincoln Center,when the Julliard Orch performed Oliver Messiaen's monumental nine movement Turangalela(spelling?).The hall's sonics aided the dissonant characteristic of this incredible music,but after each movement there was a "rush" of white haired older women dying to get out.
I loved it,btw!!
I have to reread the review, but could one say that "colored" is more an observation of taste, while resolution, detail and ability to discipher individual instruments, etc. is a more objective yardstick?

Also I wonder the scale of the differences. Comparing two speakers, the differences are likely quite large. Is it possible that in JV's quest to discern a difference in the two tables, he is actually describing subtle shadings rather than wholesale shifts in reproduction quality?

I think the thing that I enjoyed most about the review was the fact I am probably getting most of what JV heard (on my lowley Raven One/Phantom) for pennies on the dollar compared to the super table Walker.

Here's to Thomas at TW Acustic for creating a product that brings such a high level of performance to the homes of we less fortunate music lovers.

Just the idea that we can get something that even holds a candle to the likes of the Walker for the price of an standard mail order catalog table is pretty amazing.
I very much appreciate both the input and the thoughtfulness of so much of that input. Some very interesting ideas have been expressed in examining my query on accuracy vs coloration and their relationship to the emotionality of the music we listen to. The two terms I chose as a heading by the way because both were mentioned in the JV's review and for no other reason. While I deliberately steered away from comparisons of equipment a number of respondents have put in their two cents worth and I would like to respond to some of those comments also.

Before I do so , however I would like to state that JV's review could have been about any piece/s of equipment. That it was two TT's is really incidental and in truth for me more interesting to discuss as analogue is my passion. It was his assertion that what he perceived as being the more accurate sound was not as emotionally satisfying compared with his perception of the sound produced by a component(components actually as it was the combination of the Raven/Phantom to which he was referring) that he expressed as having a slight coloration that caused me to sit up and take note. If we were reading about two preamps the assertion would have triggered the same response in me as it is this assertion which appeared to me at first glance to be counter intuitive.

In considering some of your responses and in pondering my navel for a few moments, however it seems reasonable to conclude that indeed the coloration could add impact and even a heightened emotional response. Movie makers do it all the time. Just think how a strange camera angle, a super close up, a flash to another scene, lighting, sound and other manipulated cues can produce a far greater emotional response than watching something unfold in front of your eyes a few feet away. The super reality becomes more intense than the everyday reality. Also, as many have pointed out in this thread in slightly different words- 6 billion people, 6 billion realities.

For me this realization poses some interesting future choices. My perceptions are changed and whatever happens I know with certainty that I will "enjoy the pursuit"

Now I would like to mention something specifically about JV's Raven/Phantom Walker/Black Diamond comparison. Firstly, I believe JV did in fact refer to the combination, not the Raven AC sans Phantom in giving his recommendation. While I agree with Raul and others who mention the indisputable fact that to truly judge a TT's comparative performance against another the arm/wiring/cartridge/support/phono stage etc. need to be identical in this instance he was comparing one combination against another and I cannot see how this is invalid. It doesn't tell you how the Raven will sound with another arm but it does tell you how JV thought it sounded with the Phantom in his system compared with the Walker/Black Diamond. Caveat emptor as always.

I would add that I have heard neither table but have a tenuous relationship with both. I was in fact looking to buy the AC-3 when the Debut Vacuum/Synchro Wave came on the market on Audiogon(thanks for looking after it so well Strapper211) and the table that was bought to replace the Debut I now own was a Walker. In any event I am a very satisfied Basis owner with no thoughts of changing.
The first question that any reviewer, or at least any TAS reviewer, faces is how closely any piece of equipment under test approximates the sound of the real thing. The second question is how faithfully that piece of equipment reproduces known sources. (Of course, "known" in this context comes closer to "how a record has generally sounded in the past on other gear"). Ideally, on the best sources, a product would come equally close to musical and audiophile truth, so there would be no conflict between “realism” and “neutrality" However, the TW Acustic Raven AC-3 presented me with a genuine dilemma. In many important ways, particularly in its much fuller reproduction of the duration of notes, the Raven sounds considerably (and addictively) more like the real thing than any other ’table I’ve owned or tried.

Take the Cisco reissue of the Heifetz/Smith "Kreutzer" on RCA. I was so puzzled by the "improvement" in string tone over the RCA original that I actually called Robert Pincus at Cisco to find out how the mastertape had sounded and how (or if) it has been doctored via eq. His answer, which you will find in my review, is that he did do some eq'ing in the brilliance range and in the upper bass, but not nearly enough to account for the change that the Raven AC-3 wrought. While that change made Heiftez's "David" sound less like it had generally sounded on the RCA LP, it also made it sound more like Heifetz's David reputedly sounded in life and on select mono LPs. Moreover, details of fingering, bowing, and intonation were so greatly increased that the sense of listening to Heifetz actually playing his "David" was that much more convincing.

So what’s a reviewer to do? I tried as precisely as I could to delineate the virtues and the flaws of the Raven AC-3 vis-à-vis the Walker, but when it comes down to it, if the AC-3 is coloring the music (and I believe it is a bit) it is coloring it astonishingly realistically. I don't think I've ever heard another product that made the old question of "musicality" versus "accuracy" quite so fresh and interesting.

BTW,not to be provocative,but I felt JV gave the Raven a free pass,to some extent.My eyes went a bit wide when "he" mentioned the loss of air,and lack of spacial characteristics between instruments on the sound stage.Also,a slight darkening of sound sends up a red flag,to me.Most importantly the "need" to add a platter mat,as well as no true clamping system?..Yes,a gorgeous table,but....Hmmmm!!
LOVE your BASIS!!!-:)
I thought your review was admirable Jon.
I have the Raven AC with both the Continuum Copperhead (Dynavector DV1s) and Davinci Grandezza (ZYX Universe) arms, and I can clearly hear the different 'colouring' of both arms!
So perhaps the 'colouring' you are hearing is the reaction of the Phantom arm with the Raven?
Rather than strings....for me it's the solo piano which defines the realism possible with a great table and arm.
The Raven seems to have and store an enormous 'potential' energy which makes the attack and sustain of musical notes and fundamentals more like the real thing than anything else I have heard.
I personally prefer your choices in ancillary equipment (cartridges, phono stages, preamps and amps) to those of Mikey Fremer who lauds the Caliburn/Cobra combination.
I've heard this combination at length and believe that the Raven/Copperhead/Grandezza gives it serious competition.
With your comparison of the Raven to the Walker Proscenium, I simply have to agree with you......the Raven is a bargain!
Thanks Jonathan for taking the time to offer a little more insight around your review, very much appreciated. As the proud new owner of a Raven AC I have to admit, I was a little anxious about how the review was going to go. Deviations from perfection notwithstanding, I'm absolutely thrilled with the table and feel the review did a great job of characterizing the table.

That being said, did you have an opportunity to try the AC-3 with a different arm or arms, (apologies if it was mentioned in the review and I'm just forgetting)? I believe it was mentioned above that the table can sound quite different with different arms. I'd be curious know if you tried that and agree. Also, I'd be interested to get a sense of how much of the unique attributes you heard were related to the table, arm or cart or combination?

I have a secret agenda here because I have a Phantom on order and am wanting to understand if there is some strong synergy going on with those two components or if it's just the nature of the table. Or put another way, please tell me I don't have to get a Phantom and a Gold Finger V2 or Air Tight to get that sound.... I'm running out of money!!! :-) Thanks.

Dear Jlvalin: Thank you to join us, it is not an easy task for a revewer to " expose " in an audio forum.

+++++ " any TAS reviewer, faces is how closely any piece of equipment under test approximates the sound of the real thing " +++++

many of us ( including reviewers ) have our own perception/definition of the " real thing " and maybe my question could " see " like something obvious but not for me: could you tell/explain us what the " real thing " mean for you?, thank you in advance.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I have to voice an opinion that essentially agrees with Mr. Valin.
I performed as a percussionist in a number of classical orchestras.
The Raven table (with Graham arm and Dynavector Cart) is the FIRST source component in my 30 years as an audiophile that presents music as I experienced it on the stage of classical orchestras. Percussion, strings, winds, sound real.
Is it accurate? euphonic? colored?...... I don't care what it is called.
It sounds more like the real performance than any component I've ever experienced.

No other piece of hifi equipment has ever done this.
I've never heard the Walker.....I'm sure it's exquisite. I just know what I hear.

What intrigues me the most is the fact that what JV perceives as colored sound ( as compared what is believed to be transparent) thru Raven, Phantom, Gold finger/Air tight combo also said to be sounding REALISTIC AND LIFELIKE.
What is going on here? Does it mean that the the so called transparent sound that is picked up by microphones and/or mastering tape HAS some kind of limitations that keeps it sounding transparent but sterile and thus less than lifelike? Stereo recording techniques known thus far are thus inherently flawed and limited to some extent?
I always believed that the live sound is warmer as well as hot but not one or the other and therefore I, myself, always strive towards getting the sound characteristics in my system (Zanden digital, preamp,phono, MBL amps, Dunlavy Vs, Clearaudio MR w everest stand,TQ1, Insider ref wood) that JV describes in reviewing the Raven/Walker.

Also if you go back several issues where JV reviewed Kuzma Stabi/Walker combination, If I remember right, he preferred walker because WALKER produced the sound characteristics that what now Raven produced in this review- warmer and with ample body.

Also as a bonus would not it be nice, if JV said what associated equipment (Tube or SS ;-)) he used in the Raven/walker combo that produced the best lifelike sound?
I have heard Joshua Bell,in a small college auditorium,and the acoustics had me putting my hands over my ears,due to overly bright hall sound,and close seating.Lincoln Center,especially where the Julliard Orch practices, is also quite "overly-live sounding",as in a bit bright(not as bad as some claim,IMO)but music can be very enjoyable here.So perceptions are quite personal.No shock!
YES,Halcro...you may just have a very valid point(even if you are surprised by my remark here.....hey I have to be honest).
Having owned the Graham 2.2(a STEAL on the used market)and knowing it so well,the Phantom(I now own,and love)definitely has a more "grounded" personality.Not as resonant as the 2.2,but more solid and stoic(in a good way).
I can definitely see(especially with the fluid/voicing issue)how this arm can make a table/cartridge combo "appear" to move towards the "dark side of the Force"!-:)
It's worth mentioning that JV's pick for best sound at CES, also my pick, featured perhaps similar sound via Zanden electronics through Cezarro horn speakers, which were startlingly palpable yet naturally warm and sweet with absolutely effortless dynamics. The Raven, like all good components, has charactristics, some of which might be termed colorations, that conspire with the virtues and limitations of the recording process to approximate something we recognize as live.
My last post,I promise...To be totally fair,my point about the Raven was more about questioning "why" someone like JV did not seem to be too bothered by the differences he heard in two quite different sonic presentations,between Raven and Walker,and question design parameters affecting this......For someone who splits hairs over speaker differences,amongst other things,I was a bit taken aback by this review....BUT....I have heard the Raven,and personally I think it is an AMAZING table,by ANY standard!The importer,High Water Sound always puts together great sounding demos,and when I heard their set-up using the Raven,I was bowled over!So,I must be fair,in that JV obviously did an admirable job of "getting it right"!!Who am I to question anything?
My experience,hearing Miles Davis' Kind OF Blue,had me almost crying from enjoyment.I have the original pressing,and know it well.The Raven,with two arms,and a Dynavector,and Myabi cartridge sounded fabulous.....So do some other fine tables,but the Raven is a beautiful product.
Anyone owning this table shoud be proud!
" My last post,I promise " Famous last words Speedy

all this gushing on TW acustic wants me to hear one again!!
Downunder, I have contacted Halcro(no response yet unfortunately) to see if I could arrange a day to have a listen to his Raven/Copperhead/Grandezza combination. I believe you live a little closer to him than me but maybe we could organize an intensive listening session in the not too distant future. How about it Halcro?
Where do you live Phaser??

I live Mona vale way, where halrco lives Bondi way.
The conflict between audio truth vs euphonia has long plagued many audiophiles. Should our search for audio truth remain unwavering despite our preference for warmth, or can these seemingly opposing objectives co-exist?

When we examine our audio reproduction equipment:

Source > Amplification > Speakers

If we lose 5% of music reproduced at the source, it is impossible for the amps/speakers to "gain" back this 5%, rather you will find yourself losing another 5-10% and in the end, you would be fortunate to get 80-85% at the listening seat (allowing for RFI/EMI/room acoustics).

Sometimes what we term as "brightness" or "warmth" could be the result of the exact combination of equipment, rather than the last piece changed. So when we add TT/arm/cart combination R after listening to TT/arm/cart combination W, and then declared that R sounds more "convincing", it is in the context of the system that this conclusion is arrived at. The result could very well change in favour of W if a part of the system was changed, eg cables, amps, spks. This is also "assuming" that the setup for both combinations was optimised. Now we all know what the wrong VTA/VTF/cart loading/etc... could do to a system which is so high resolution.

We might as well also add that the arms of both systems were entirely different (linear vs unipivot), so the conclusion could very well be the result of the arm difference rather than the TT per se.

Having heard the complete Walker system - (TT/phono/support/cables) in almost ideal conditions, I felt it pushed the boundaries of analog reproduction to its limit. If there was any system fault, it was because of compromises in the speaker/room.

Given the choice, I would certainly go for the most accurate source. If I wanted to "color" the final result, do it further down the chain so that you minimise the loss OR "retune" the system to remove any "flaws".

So what is to be made of the review? Certainly both products are at the top of their game, near state of the art. It is good that Mr Valin could point out the differences in what he heard from both TT systems, however, statements such as "it also made it sound more like Heifetz's David reputedly sounded in life and on select mono LPs" I think do not help. What does it imply? That Mr Valin heard this violin, or someone's hearsay of how this violin sounds in life?
A pleasure to have you both over at the same time to hear the Raven/Copperhead/Grandezza.
A Sunday or Monday in 3 or 4 weeks time would suit?
Use Email to confirm/liaise?
I would love to commend Jonathin Valin for his review and detailed remarks about the Raven AC. The review was well thought out and of course was thought provocative for some, hey, we don't all agree about the same wine or champagne do we? I appreciate anyone willing to take the time, even paid reviewers to give us an impression of a product in a different venue. If only some of the Raven AC owners would give their own impressions and write a review will we get a sampling of what is happening in the audio community.

Jonathan Valin: Now if only you could do a review of the Transrotor Apollon with three motors and TMD, then I would be as giddy as these other Raven owners. Thanks.

Phaser's assumption: accuracy = reality.

Remember, though, assumptions are the lens we all look through. If you assume before you start to look (or hear or taste, etc.)that "accuracy" will give you The Truth, then that is where you start from, and, perhaps, stop. I think Immanual Kant said something about this...

Basically, this is a debate that has been raging for a long, long time; namely, on one side are the scientific materialists, who say that Truth is solely found through breaking up what you see (or empirically experiment upon)into little bits. In this approach, objectivity is the grail, discovered through using the cognitive faculties to objectify what one is looking at. In stereo, we see this reflected in people who default to "accuracy" and try to make their soundstage into a statue garden (an analogy Jonathan Valin once used, now discarded, perhaps wisely). We have heard these types of stereos: everything carved out as if the sound emanations are "things" that we can nearly see (hence, the visual-related language to decribe such stereos - transparency, etc.). This mind wants sound-things that its mind can "see." It is not a coincidence that such cognitive analysis directed at sound results in a stereo that we many times say is, analytical.

On the other side are the Romantic Idealists. In this approach, science becomes something that is evil, the "other," and the mind defaults to only the subjective, and which drives the accuracy folks nuts because it just seems like to them as mystical regression (hence, accuracy's charge that pure subjectivity is an illusion of the mind upon itself). In stereo, we see this in soundscapes that are less "accurate" (i.e. sound is less of an object to control) in default to the experience of sound as meaning. This is where we see all of the Zen language associated with SE triodes, etc. And, sometimes, the threads of angry judgement that can be directed back at the accuracy camp (and, which, I would note, has little to do with the search for Beauty...).

Then there is a third way, a middle way. Actually, its not a middle path between the accuracy and romantic camps at all, but one that transcends them. This approach values the objective/cognitive, but realizes that it can't get you all of the answers (and that answer can then lead to questions like Phaser's). This way sees "accuracy" as a cognitive tool to get you some of the way there, but not all of the way. This approach knows that, if attached upon, accuracy can at some point get in your way. This way eventually gives up trying to wrestle more answers from reality (or from a stereo) with "accuracy" only, and begins to know that truths are also derived through "seeing," and "hearing into."

Now, I know that I can't tell you in language that this "seeing" or "hearing into" is True (because language is based dualistically in cognition), but...

Its like this: one man is in an airplane at a low altitude and see a coastline and it looks jagged. A second flyer decides to go higher and see the coast is less jagged, smoother. Its the same coast, but the first flyer has only seen the more jagged coast and so maintains that that is the True coast. While the higher flyer knows that one is not truer than the other, but that a True knowledge of the coast can be found at many altitudes (infinite altitudes, actually), with each altitude disclosing a deepening truth of the coast, through a knowledge of all altitudes, together. Now, the two flyers could argue about their different symmetries of Truth all day until they are blue in the face, but because they exist at different levels of sight, the lower flyer only sees through the knowledge lens of his or her own altitude and can't admit, even to the possibility, that higher sight exists. He's comfortable at his altitude, and the attachment to that comfort is the lens that keeps him there (but not for long, there's only one way, and its up, eventually).

Of course, the higher flyer should know better than to jabber on, but, hey, he knows that even by asking about "accuracy" the lower flyer is already become a searcher for higher altitudes, even though he may not know that his plane is starting to inch upwards, and may even deny the possibility of such movement while its starting. And, of course, before we start camps again, we should also see that there is no higher or lower. At a deeper place of sight, the flyers are seen as the same; they are both equal in their potential for higher flight, only separated by their will.

Phaser: this says it much better than I can,

From one side: "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." - Albert Einstein

From the other side: "One may explain water, but the mouth will not become wet. One may expound fully on the nature of fire, but the mouth will not become hot." - Takuan

But, Takuan and Einstein would surely hit me with a stick because there are no sides, only One side, with the division into altitudes merely a tool of my mind (and I get hit because I talk too much...:0)

So, how do I want my stereo to sound? I don't know enough to say that. Here's something, though:

"The wild geese do not intend to cast
their reflections,
The water has no mind to receive their images."

Its a haiku, I don't know what it means. But I would like my stereo tool to accurately and trans-accurately create sounds that catalyze my consciousness towards an experience of the meaning of music, like that haiku "sounds" in my heart.

Thank you for your indulgence.

Forgot, back on point: I enjoyed the Raven review too. Makes me want to get one. Not only because of my/our obsession (down obsession, down!), but because Valin, I think, in an attempt to describe what he experienced, was willing to broach the use of language that he surely knew would get him some grief - and which told me how much he really liked it. The term, "colored," is a taboo word in the hi-end, but the descriptors,"warmer, richer," "beautiful" and "luxurious," are not necessarily bad things if they lead to falling deeper into the listening experience - that is the measure. Because, you know, its not just the absolute sound, its the absolute experience.
Just to muddy the waters further, here is a preview of what Jonathon Valin thinks may be better than either the Walker or Raven, with the Grandezza arm also being the best?
The Grandezza is a great arm with the right cartridge. A low compliance cartridge will thrive with the arm. But if the cartridge is medium compliance it will be a negative effect. The Phantom is a fairly low effective mass which mates well w. a Lyra Titan I etc. W. the Grandeza, Koetsu's, Some ZYX & other cartridges will benefit. The PC-1 is fairly low as well. About a 10cu.

On to the table as a comparison. I honestly believe very few people know what their turntables are capable of until they are perfectly isolated. The Magnetic bearing is one way of achieving this if well implemented. As per my understanding the Caliburn's "greatness" is a result of its magnetic levitation in the stand. I truly wonder how perfectly isolated turntables on a Halcyonics Platform would compare. For me this is the challenge in isolating a turntables performance from each other if all else is the same.
You appear to have had the Phantom on your Raven at the same time as the Schroeder Ref?
Are you able to give us your impressions of these 2 arms?
To Asa. Mark you had me searching for Wittgenstein's Tractatus! Well I did post a philosophical enquiry. As you may have noticed this thread has begun an evolution in my evaluative processes and I now see myself heading towards that transcendent middle ground(who wouldn't want to be transcendent anyway as it sounds so cool) but with a leaning towards the scientific materialist school to maintain my comfort zone. Not quite ready for SET's just yet. I tend to find re assurance when I know that the piece of equipment I am listening to has achieved its end via scientific rigor rather than pot luck or a warm fuzzy feeling on the part of the designer. I don't find good measurements and good sound necessarily mutually exclusive as some on the outer edges of the Romantic Idealist school seem to think.

Back in the here and now I am very interested listen to Halco's Raven AC-3, particularly as his amps are very much in the scientific, measurements are all camp. Should be an interesting mix.

the attractiveness (and limitations) of SET are certainly scientifically verifiable. There need never be conflict between the "two" pursuits.
Piedpiper, I was just having a little fun as I believe Asa was and maybe still is a SET devotee. I think they can sound spectacular.
I know, Phaser, out there, but, right, you did ask - although I like the Raven part of the thread just as much.

Since I assume most people won't read this farther, someone up above said they have listened to a slew of phono cables. I know that there are all kinds of variables there, but I'd still like to hear that person's opinions on those. Thanks.

Back to swisting the noodle...

Phaser, thanks for your answer. I understand. Although, it could be said that one man's pot luck (the appearance of randomness) is another man's open skies. Forest Gump said, "i don't know if Mamma was right or it was Lt. Dan; I don't know if we all have a destiny (determinism)or we are all just floatin' around on a breeze (randomness). But I think its both. I think both is a happin' at once."

Although I can't prove it to you, I can tell you that at one altitude it looks random and then at the next, not. At that next higher altitude, there is then a different kind of incongruency in experience, and then higher, a different kind; perceptions of chaos/order, perceptions of what is random and what is order, changing at each altitiude, on and on and on. Until you "see" all altitudes at once. Of course, that's not me; I have plenty of my own random-ness perceptions in my own little place, just none left related to empiricism versus subjectivism. Its the same coin to me; empiric subjectivism and experiential objectivism, no versus. Love science, love Van Gogh paintings. Not too crazy about what we are doing through our tools to the earth, and not too crazy about, well, 'ol Vincent being a bit crazy, but that's another story.

Yes, I run an all SET, hard wired, all NOS tubed system. But I know what you mean about euphonics. Live music is visceral and if any sound creation (in the hi-end, you are melding other peoples ideas of sound into your own by mixing components) has any quality that gets in the way of the subjective experience of the sound catalyzing the listening mind, then one should keep looking. For myself, I have a very hard time finding any speakers I like with SET's and have never liked an amp that didn't have NOS tubes (excepting the new production WE 300B, which I think is a good tube. Then, again, I haven't heard all of them). At one time I had ESP Concert Grands, big multi-driver speakers, being run by 50W SET's - really beatiful, stirring. So, I understand what you are saying there too. Valin described the Raven as "beautiful." Who doesn't want that in the/your world?

Piedpiper: Some things - actually, mostly about things - are verifiable empirically through scientific method (producing tools, which we call technology, putting tools together, which we call a machine). But not all experience is wholly quantifiable, including the perception of musical meaning. It would be great if that were the case, but, alas, it is not. The dynamics of reality, or the laws of physics, or "God," or whatever boat you want to row, hasn't made it that easy. It doesn't want someone else to run an experiment and, thereby, tell you all of the answers. Sure, you can derive much power over materiality by these methods, but, eventually, you see that "it" wants you to find the rest out on your own (that's where the need for security in attachment to scientific materialism comes in; deeper, its actually a recoil from being open to the possibility of more answers, which, paradoxically, isn't very scientific). A tool is not doing the listening, and neither are your ears; they are conduits to your mind. Information about second-order harmonics doesn't tell you the causal origin about why an SET system, or any system, catalyzes the mind deeper. It might be a good place to start, but its not the finish.

You can't prove "beauty" exists objectively, but don't you want it? Did/do you love your mother, your spouse? Prove it, to me, objectively.

Someone once said, "Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they are yours." That's another dynamic of reality.
"a good place to start, but its not the finish"

indeed, but there is a continuum between the two where intuition swims.
Piedpiper, yes, intuition. But, it can be called more as one moves towards the "finish"...that doesn't mean, though, that Lao Tsu, or Jesus, wouldn't appreciate, or be fascinated by, or see value in, string theory.

Looking at your post again, I think I might not have understood it the first time around. I thought you were saying that the limitations or attractiveness of SET's is an experience that can be wholly described by scientific method (attractiveness being a state of the mind, which means your post would have been saying that the mind can only be described by such method of inquiry). But now you are taliking about, intuition - which, as for myself, I think has a big place in science (just ask Freyerabend...) - but which I think might get the fitchforks out from the accuracy crowd. You'll have to let me know...or not! I think I've pressed everyone's patience enough...
Asa, you got me right the second time 'round. Nothing can be wholly described in terms of limits, although language (and science is simply a language, frequently devolving into dogma) perenially attempts just that, but one "end" flows into the other, ultimately forming a circle as you have so eloquently expressed from a different "altitude."
Well...I'll be a happy guy when my Raven lands at my door step.

I have compared the arms but in a limited manner. The Schroder SQ I have as an effective mass of 18 -22 gm depending on the mounting plate I use. This greatly affects its performance. Obviously a low compliance design won't sound as good. But an 10 cu design does amazing. This includes the PC-1. The SQ somehow frees the cartridge in a way that you feel you hear the cartridge in terms of music with no mechanics at all. Put a Koetsu on a SQ and the holography is unreal, in the best of ways. But,, it might not be for all. Put my ZYX Universe on it and you really have detail and 3 dimensionality with that shared sense of space (SSS) so well explained by others. But,, in the Ikeda the Universe has better dynamics and an improvement in bass & highs. Yet it misses the SSS that the SQ allows. But my Univese is about a 6.5 cu so the Ikeda will be better match in some ways. The Universe can have different compliance ratings (they are all over the place) which will determie what arm is best. The Phantom is somewhere between the SQ & Ikeda. It is a much lower effective mass, w. incredible dynamic agility but less high end air than the SQ. But again it needs the right cartridge. A Lyra Titan I is probably the best cartridge for this arm. You can easily tune the sound by adding/removing damping fluid. You can adjust the magentic gap on the SQ to the same end. Ease of use & setup is almost exclusive to the Phantom. Nothing comes close. The SQ is very difficult to setup until you learn it and it can be a nightmare as it doesn't have a lock to stop the arm from flinging across the table. Imagine losing a $5K plus cartridge due to a tap on the arm. That is why my SQ is in the back. Also, I constantly need to adjust the magnetic gap as it changes daily. It takes me 30 seconds to do. But, once the SQ is locked in, IMO nothing comes close to bringing me into the music. OTOH, if I want kick ass dynamics, the Phantom it is. The SQ is a single cable from cartridge to phono stage and the Phantom has a few joints. There are a lot of variables.

You have me interested in the Continuum arms. I would love to compare it one day.

Just to let you know, it is almost impossible to compare any arms w. identical cartridges and be fair. Every arm has its ideal set of matching cartridges. And then there is the phono stage matching the cartridge. Esp, if there is a SUT. I would say how does the best Phantom combination compare to the best SQ combination that I have heard. And that is what I just described.
Anyone here compared top shelf phonostages like the Zanden, Kondo and others on the market?

Maybe I'm wrong ,would not the phonostage be a defining component over the table, arm and cartridge?

This tiny fragile signal of the cartridge can easily be distorted.

Whatever you put into the phono would define what the phono stage is. Basically, it has be taken as a single source component. Only as strong as the weakest link. Also, Zanden has a SUT as does Kondo. I would say the cartridge needs to match with the phono stage to know what the phono stage is capable of. While a solid state phono stage is more accomodating of different cartridges it also has some synergies due to gain, and different strengths. For example, my Koetsu's loved solid state. Their warmth was balanced by the extension and dynamis of solid state. When I tried a tube phono the Koetsu became too warm. But again this depends on the tubes being used and the SUT.

As far as phono stages there is a thread on them elsewhere that is fairly informative but not contextual as to system specifics. The list of "great" phono stages is long. But I would wonder what you have already prior to saying what is the best phono for you. Also, remember at the top of the ladder the law of diminishing returns sets in.
Dear Stiltskin: +++++ " Maybe I'm wrong ,would not the phonostage be a defining component over the table, arm and cartridge? " +++++

IMHO I can say: absolutely!, I agree with you. Many people don't put in the right place the Phonolinepreamp link in the analog chain, it is not an easy subject and I know for sure that several people have several different opinions than you and me but like Dgad alredy posted you can read something about in the next link:


Regards and enjoy the music.
Stiltskin,this week I will have the opportunity to hear the Zanden phonostage.I'll get to audition it on Wednesday,but it will be at a dealer(a lengthly demo,I hope)!Since this design intrigues me,I am willing to take the time to get whatever I can from the experience.I hope it is informative,and educational!My main reason for interest is the ability to adjust RIAA curves for Decca/Columbia LP's,and this really intrigues me(I have a boatload of them).So,I'll see how it shakes out.Hopefully quite well,as I am only looking at it as a learning experience.
Acouple of more reveiws are due out shortly of the Raven One and AC model,in magazine form.

Sirspeedy, If you can, take your phonostage along to compare to the Zanden 1200.

Heres agood listening experiment,if the dealer has a run of the mill phonostage in his store of any brand, compare it to yours and the Zanden.

When I get my Raven, I'm going to do just that, compare phonostages.
For me at the top of the list and my budget is the ASR Basis Exclusive, a Nick Doshis Alaap along with acouple of others.

I think there is something to having agood phonostage over what you have for a table ,tonearm and cartridge.

I wonder if Mr. Valin with all this great equiptment he has on loan, having one or two top shelf phonostages on level with the Zanden ,the Walker and Raven would be better served.
Sorry Stiltskin,no way I'm schlepping my Phonostage to Manhattan.-:)...I'll just enjoy whatever I can,and am only looking at the experience as a get-away day,for the hobby.
Sirspeedy and Stiltskin, I have had Zanden 1200 now for more than 6 months and have compared with my other four Phono units- Vendetta Research SCP-2B and 2T, Clearaudio Balanced Reference, Jadis DPMC and Zanden is clearly head above shoulders to others. Vendetta comes closest, if at all. I am looking forward to your impressions..