Review: Origin Live Illustrious Signature Tonearm

Category: Analog

In the older days I did own a Townshend Rock Mk III equipped with a RB 300 tone arm. This RB 300 tone arm has been replaced by me with an OL Silver. That has been becoming my first experience with the OL Philosophy in designing tone arms only around the target to do what they are supposed to do. Carrying the cartridge, providing a proper tracking and avoiding inadvertently resonance's. Means that the arm is designed in a way to avoid tonal characters from itself. Therefore it has been an exiting experience for me to recognize some new developments in the OL range of tone arms month ago. Except to the Schroeder Arms from Germany not that much has been changed in the league of high end arms during a longer period of time. This did change with Mark Baker and his company by throwing away a lot of old fashion design Philosophies for tone arms and starting designing tone arms in your own way. That is really a establishment of a new ages in the analog league and the amount of development can easily be measured by the success of your company in the analog league. OL developments and tone arms are already a type of a legend in the analog world.

Being aware of this and remembering what I did experience with the OL Silver placed on my Townshend I did decide to buy an Illustrious for my Amazon Reference. With this Illustrious I came closer to the target having a combination of both Graham and SME V. All together the sound the arm was providing was much better than either the SME V or the Graham 2.0. But also a little lack of bass response and detailed midband was recognizable compared to the two other arms in total. Than OL company did grant me the opportunity to shift to the signature version of the Illustrious. Lucky me. In the following I would like to describe what has been happening since the arrival of the arm and would like to get you a detailed impression about the sound quality of the arm.

Lets start with the environment in what the arm is working. As already described he is placed on my Amazon Reference and since the arrival equipped with a vdH Black Beauty XPM. The TT is placed on a Townshend Seismic Sink Stand feeding my Chord Preamplifier/Power Amplifier through a Tessendorf Phono Reference Preamp with a Filter Power Supply unit. The back end are Spendor SP 9/1 floor standing speakers on granite stands.

The Illustrious Signature is very well designed and manufactured. Easy to set up with only a minimum of movable parts to avoid resonance's. It looks marveless like also the regular version was already doing. All the movements are very smooth like they are supposed to be. The antiskating works very proper and the impression of the manufacturing quality is very robust and long lasting Quality.

Long story short: The Illustrious Signature in my mind is THE FINAL TONE ARM: I did decide already to sell my SME V and the Graham 2.0 has been sold to UK already. The reason is the sound (or speak about no sound) the arm is providing. Definitely hard to explain the amount of improvement I did achieve with this masterpiece of engineering. Lets speak about the components of sound:

Noise floor:

Really no surface noise, quite like I never did hear before. The music appears out of a complete black background.


The soundstage is wonderful between the two speakers. Wide and very much detailed like I never did hear before with my two other arms. It is providing an absolutely effortless and free flowing sound. In comparison two my other arms it appears to be absolutely stress free. It appears that the arm is able to extract an incredible amount of Details from my vinyl records by avoiding nearly every resonance. I did hear things from my favorite albums I did never hear before.


The sound the arm is providing did make me really foot tapping. So it did again yesterday evening. Every time I am powering on my set up I am quite impressed about the emotionally involvement that appears to me now when listening music. The tonal balance is how it is supposed to be. Very three dimensional. Hearing Satchmo singing now is being more a matter of an aura than just listening music. It is just like sitting in an jazz cellar, you can really see the smoky air and you can hear the peoples breathing. Amazing stuff!!! It really did redefine the art of sonic performance that I did hear with all other analog hardware during my lifetime to now. There is at any time not a little impression that signals overlay each other. Images where reproduced with exceptional width and depth. No Coloration is being provided from the arm itself. Everything is very much transparent over the entire frequency range. The low bass is very excellent, strong but dry. The high frequencies are sounding very much detailed and accurate. Also a beautiful warm midband is being provided from this arm. Everything appears to be under the highly accurate control of the arm. You can easily get the imagination that you are invited to play on the piano that the arm can establish within the soundstage.

No doubt: In my mind by purchasing the OL Illustrious Signature I did achieve the end on the long road that is laying behind me, the end of upgrades. THE FINAL TONE ARM. I would highly recommend this arm to be purchased from any serious analog lover that is still searching for his FINAL TONE ARM. The end of the road is now available and being provided by Origin Live.

I imagine that this arm can be struck only by another development from Mr. Mark Baker and his Team. So far such a development might take place I will be at the end of the road. No any more reason for more Considerations.

Thanks again that OL did allow this experience for an German analog lover.

Bernd T. /Germany

Associated gear:
Amazon Reference TT, Black Beauty XPM Cartridge, Townshend Seismic Sink Stand, Chord Pre and Power Amp, Tessendorf Phono Reference, Spendor SP )/1 floorstanding speaker, XLO NF and LS Cabels

Similar products:
SME V and Graham 2.0 tone arm

Associated gear
Amazon Reference TT, Black Beauty XPM Cartridge, Townshend Seismic Sink Stand, Chord Pre and Power Amp, Tessendorf Phono Reference, Spendor SP 9/1 floorstanding speaker, XLO NF and LS Cabels

Similar products
SME V and Graham 2.0 tone arm
Great review! I have been recommending this tonearm for quite a while now, and it is nice to see someone actually enjoying it as much as you are. I wish I could afford to buy one myself. I currently use the OL Silver with some mods. Happy listening.
Thank you for your sensitive review. I wish my German was as good as your English!

Could you possibly do a review of the Amazon TTs? This is a brand we are not very familiar with in NA.

Vielen danke!
Thanks TWL and Ivanj for your kind comments. I will post a review on the Amazon TT within the next days. To Twl: Please recognize that there is a difference between the OL Illustrious and the new Illustrious Signature version. Happy Eastern to all of you.
Bernd T., thanks for pointing out that distinction between the Illustrious and Illustrious Signature. I wasn't even aware of the Signature edition until now.
Hi Bernd,
I am also considering buying the OL illustrious but can't make up my mind: regular or signature... the price of the signature version directly in retail is almost double the price of the regular version.
What is actually the difference between the regular (now MK2) and the signature version?
And how much does OL charge for this upgrade?
Would you consider the upgrade effect worth the extra cost?

I guess everyone's experience is different. I went from an Illustrious MK3 recently to a SME V with silver wiring with the same 'table and cart and was quite pleased at the improvements it brought in terms of greater clarity and accuracy while sacrificing nothing. Initial setup, VTA and VTF which were such a pain with the OL are now so simple, quick and accurate. With the OL, a minute tracking force adjustment was hit and miss, taking over an hour sometimes since the counterweight fit loosely on the stub and would tilt when tightened, thereby changing the weight.