Thanks again to all those weighing in.
Turns out my dear friend, despite all the tools from wally, graham, feikert, fozgometer, dinolight, etc etc, just did not have the koetsu installed correctly. surprise surprise - The overhang was a good 3/16" short and the tracking force was a bit off, too. After resetting the koetsu, the cartridge definitely opened up with much more clarity, musicality, depth, and imaging.
But yet, the Koetsu still fell short of the Lyra's detail and liveliness. I also tried the Koetsu straight into the LP2, bypassing Bobs SUT, but that was definitely inferior - just not enough gain from the LP2, same issue with the Lyra - Bobs SUT definitely helps both cartridges perform much better than the LP2 alone. In fact, Bob's very quick response to my email regarding a possible mismatch between Koestu and his SUT was squashed when he said he actually uses the same Koestsu Rosewood Signature on his rig. He did recommend the 1:10 gain first, but also said my 1:15 gain is fine, too - both are recommended.
So, that leaves us with table/arm and the cartridges - the only other variable I can't change is the difference in ICs from the cartridge to the SUT. Again, the VPI is hardwired with the hovland while the Kimber TAK-H connects the Amadeus to the SUT.
I just moved the Lyra onto the VPI - way easier to install than the koetsu. Anyhoo, there's some more magic going on now. Comparing the VPI/Koetsu, VPI/Lyra, and Amadeus/Lyra - here's what I hear (yes, I should probably setup the Amadeus/Koetsu and listen to that, too, but at the moment I'm too lazy):
- The VPI is much quieter than the Amadeus. On the Amadeus between tracks and at the end of the record I'd get an audible, tho low in volume, rumble that you'd just know f'ks with the musical floor during playback. The VPI is dead quiet.
- The VPI provides a solid foundational strength and support to the sound - not quite sure how else to say it. Sure, the Amadeus comes across a bit more lively, happy even. With the Amadues/Lyra, the lively translated (sometimes) into some annoying brightness, and some upper mid honk that would even hurt sometimes -I typically associated that with the Lyra's reputation as being a bit clinical (translated by me into bright), and likely excerbated by the metal tweets and ceramic drivers on my speakers and my current ss amp. But, and it's a big but, that honk ain't there with the Lyra on the VPI. The VPI seems to tame the Lyra, and with the already, let's say, subdued Koetsu on the VPI, it was too much.
- Detail and bass. Overall, I find the bass and musical depth with the VPI/Lyra better and more enjoyable than the Amadeus/Lyra setup, though I'll admit that that the latter provides more of that visceral bass line growl - I do like that growl, bass string vibratto might explain it - check out the last track on the Nirvana unplugged MTV album for a big helping. In contrast, the Amadeus/Lyra provides a bit more shimmer and detail, faster, lighter on it's feet.
Image and Stage. In short, the VPI/Lyra is better front to back, whereas the VPI/Koetsu is better side to side - whatever. That Koestu is enveloping in its sound stage, wrapping you up. Vertically, I found the Amadeus/Lyra and the VPI/Koestus were both superb. And, unfortunately, the vertical image of the VPI/Lyra setup seems a bit diminished by comparison.
So, at some point I'll put the Koetsu on the Amadeus and hear what happens. Decisions, decisions- given the relative silence of the VPI table, I'm more inclined to stick with it - simply believing that a silent table has to be better in the long run. And given the clarity and detail of the Lyra, I'm inclined to go with it as well - I'll admit that as a tube guy, prior to all this I fully anticipated preferring the Koetsu (at the moment, I'm not running anything that's all tube, the amp and phono are hybrid, and the SUT and amp are ss). I expect I'll tune it to my liking with better/different interconnects. If you made it this far - Cheers
As another question for you - my friend also had this collection of variously weighted headshell screws -they are also knurled and larger diameter making it easy to finger tighten - no need for tools at the headshell. I do recall him talking about the reported benefits of adding mass above the cartridge (not increasing tracking force) to improve things. These knurled nuts (careful) come in four flavors - uber light (nylon), light (aluminum), medium (silver colored), and heavy (brass-gold colored). Any thoughts on adding mass to the headshell for the Lyra and/or Koetsu? He had the heavy ones installed for the Koetsu, and I used the same with the Lyra in the observations mentioned above. Cheers again!