Tonearm - Acoustical System Axiom
If you have gone trough my webpage, you would have noted that I am more a digital person. I started using music server and NAS more than 20 years ago. I was the first batch of audiophile started with squeezebox 1 and now moved to Taiko Audio Extreme. It has been a long time. I like the convenience of music server and I think music server has come a long way and I can say that it is now consistently better than CD player. About 3 years ago, due to the pandemic, I had not much to do but to stay home, so I started to explore Vinyl LP. Compared to digital play back, LP is more organic and more lifelike. But what interested me the most is that each time I play the same record, there is a slight difference. But with a good play back system, its always captivating and involving. Its like opening up a bottle of vintage wine, full of surprises but never let me down. Have you had experience going to concert, listening to the same music piece on consecutive days? Same orchestra playing the same piece of music but there is a slightly different presentation each day. I suppose that’s life. Compared to digital files, LP a bit less dead boring routine, but bit more humanities.
When I was looking for a good tonearm, I was looking for one that gives me a realistic life like presentation. I initally come across Acoustical System Tonearm in my friend's home. The very first impression I have with Axiom is how well it is built. It has micrometers everywhere that allows repeatable settings that fits various LP setup. I did some read up and found that the CEO, Engineer and the Designer of Axiom are the same person - Dr. Dietrich Brakemerier. I like engineer and designer running the company, they always pay attention to details of their products making sure they perform better than their competitors. They focus on product design and state of the art engineering and not relying on extensive marketing schemes to swamp the market with advertisements, hype. Like many other German company, Acoustical System is all about precision, precision, precision. Think about Leica, Carl Zeiss.
I like classical music and the first impression that I got from listening to Axiom is how accurate each piece of instruments fall into its respective position in space. The violin section, the cello, the double base, the drums and winds etc. are all represented precisely in the correct position within the orchestra. The violinist in a violin concerto is standing to the left of the conductor, follow by the first violin on her left etc. This though can be and should be achieved with any tonearm of this price range. No surprises here. However, what stands out with Axiom is the background, the quietness, the tranquility and blackness. Using DsAudio Grand master optical cartridge, the smoothness and the blackness is the best I have ever heard. Together, they create a black hole that is second to none. All the noise just sucked into the background of darkness. Even in records that has enormous amount of surface noise, the relative noise is much lowered to a level the is not disturbing. It is this dark background that create a 3 dimensional space around each piece of instrument and make them more stand out from the background. Listening to Oistrakh violin concerto, Oistrakh was standing to the left of the conductor, with the violin section further the the left and the empty personal space around Oistrakh is can be clearly “heard”
Listening to big orchestral piece like Mahler 5, Beethoven 9, each piece of instrument are very solidly but vividly locked in position. There is no muddling, no blurring or smearing of stereo image. Even though there was only the cantilever that was vibrating along with the LP groove, the music traduced by this needle reflects the vibrations of the strings, the resonance of the winds, the echo of the bass drums, the tension of the vocal cords and the summation of such that turn my listen room to the concert hall. No, it is more like a time machine that transport me back to the concert hall listening live music at the time. Listen to Axiom truly brings out the magic of LP and no wonder LP has such a come back in recently years despite the advance in digital source.
Before I bought Axiom, I did some research on the web and saw some comments about the lack of musicality. I have to disagree on that. Compared to Graham Elite that I also own, Axiom has mastered the control for all music piece, from pop/rock to Jazz to classical. There is no one second did I feel Axiom is out of control. Elite excels in pop and rock music with a very lively and vivid presentation. But in heavy passages, it can be too explicit to almost out of control. Axiom is compared to a lady, well into her adulthood, full of life experience, has seen the world, pretty and yet elegance, calm but full of emotions, always in control even in times of difficulties. Graham Elite is a flamboyant young teenage lady, hot, full of excitement, exuberance and lively but sometimes out of control. As a man, I am fortunate enough to have both.
The other area that Axiom excels is its ability to bring out the details and the micro dynamics in each records. Listening to violin solo, one can hear not only the vibrato but also the sound of friction when the violinist slide his/her finger over the strings. The texture, the timbre of Stradivarius is well presented to the audience in harmony with the rest of music. It is never intruding, over represented or abrasive.
How about the bass. For this assessment I use "Musik Von Einem Anderen Stern"
from Manger Production for assessment. The Jazz Variants is the track I picked. This track throw a pretty wide soundstage but the most impressive part is the drum beats. Playing this track well demands a good control of the whole system, the arm, the cartridge, the turntable, the pre and power amp and of course the speaker. No one less. The best playback system allows one to hear the relative size of the drums and the position of the drums. One should also hear the sound wave radiates to all direction from center of the drum surface where it was strike. The impulse, the punch should be powerful and with authority. Axiom took on the challange and passed with flying colors.