Review: Rollerblock Jrs. /Tonearm armpod Symposium Rollerblock Jrs. Tweak
My musical tastes are very varied. This means if it sounds good I will listen to it. I do enjoy voices and string instruments. A clean involving, non fatiguing sound is important to me as I listen for long periods. Boomy bass or shrill sounding music is a total turn off for me.
Symposium Jr Initial Impressions under an Isolated Tonearm Armpod
The purpose of this experiment was to see and hear how well Symposium Jrs. isolate a tonearm armpod and how they affect the music. In our ever evolving quest to reduce and eliminate resonances and vibrations in our analog set up I was provided advice on how these Jrs. are being used successfully in Europe in some very high end systems. Some private pictures were provided to me illustrating their set up. They provided the inspiration for this experiment. Encouragement to try by the Audiogon members provided the rest.
I have never used symposium rollerblocks in the past. We all have various products we use for tweaking our systems - this was not one of them for me. This experiment with the Jrs has to be the most odd and extreme one for me as it goes against conventional thinking – I admit that. But then I am going through a period of experimentation since the nude TT and isolated armpod – we are on a roll. And the costs for the real improvements I can actually hear have been negligible.
The armpod setup was that of a chunk of steel weighing in at almost 19 pounds. On this was mounted a 12 inch VPI JMW tonearm. The platform was already level so putting the block of steel on the Symposium Jrs was easy. All three of them found their place by gravity. The setup was ready to go.
What is the easiest way for me to describe for you what using these Jrs. is like under an armpod? If you have ever used a VPI JMW pivot tonearm (I know there are a great many of these tonearms out there) then you are very familiar with the way the tonearm “shakes and squirms” in its pivot as you lift it and set it over the lp until the needle hits the groove. The Symposium Jrs. under the arm pod “extend” this type of movement down into the armpod so that the armpod and tonearm have the same action and feel. This best describes what its like to use them. It moves around but it does not and will not fall over. It finds its original place again very easily due to the weight of the armpod and tonearm.
BOTH surfaces that the Jrs. touch must be very level and straight or the Symposium Jr. bearings will not find their place by gravity in the middle of each rollerblock.
(1) the armpod bottom platform that the Jr. go up against and (2) the platform that the Jrs rest on must be perfectly level.
My initial setup was on purpose, in a bad location suspended hardwood floors. The Jrs. reduced skipping when walking by greatly compared to the regular setup of the armpod on spikes. The sound difference was noticeable to me even with the cheap old cartridge I was testing with, so I decided to go the next step and set the armpod up next to my SP10 in my sound room.
I believe if you take a cheap but functioning cartridge and put it in a good system, that you will make it sound much better than you think it has a right to sound. Likewise take a good cartridge – put it in a below average system and it will sound like a cheap cartridge.
The cheap cartridge was bearable in my system with the Jrs. It was not bearable without them. Am I ready to try the Jrs. with a $500 - $1000 + cartridge – not yet . Will it make a $500 cartridge sound better – if I was betting on this I would put my money down on it. But I need more time to practice. Yes I used the word practice. The way the armpod moves if you push on it is intimidating. You need to get used to lowering and raising your tonerarm with this armpod.
The cueing lever must be fast and smooth to eliminate as much movement in the armpod as possible. The more your armpod weighs the faster it stops moving when you touch it. If your setup is not level in anyway then the Jrs. will not seat themselves properly – you will know. The Armppod will rock for a longer period – your tonerarm, cartridge will not be level .
You either have the touch or you don’t. I can’t speak for you and I will not be responsible for cartridge failure due to clumsiness or accidents. If you are able to line up a cartridge on your own with the micro movements that are required, than this should be very easy for you.
I found it was easier to put the needle down than it was to raise it at the end of the record. This is all psychological. It is again going to take practice. A light touch to keep the armpod from moving. Very definitely give this a try with a cheap cartridge. You need to try it out to see if this is for you. It is not for the faint hearted? But the results are definitely rewarding – the isolation provided is very evident - you can hear the difference, for those that are able to do it.
VPI JMW 12 inch tonearm.
Sonus Blue Gold MM Cartridge
19 lb Solid Steel Armpod.
Solid Steel Spikes.