Note: The text below is the verbatim response sent to Stereophile Magazine article in the Listening Column as published by them (click here for a link to that article: http://stereophile.com/artdudleylistening/1004listening/ ). Because of space limitations imposed on manufacturers' responses, much was left out.
That our high mass design caught Art's attention delights me. Like Art, I've never been enamored with high mass turntables, and was surprised that our development process led us here. I’ve generally found examples of this genre to have prodigious bass and black backgrounds, but to be sorely lacking in pace, rhythm, nuance, and music. To me, they are the musical equivalent of a 1960's style hot rod - spinning off the road at the first curve (musical nuance).
Art's comparison to a Hardy fly reel is particularly gratifying to me. In the early days, we took some heat over our aesthetics. While I'm proud of our visual design, this is to a large extent incidental. What you see as industrial art is an outgrowth of a desire for functionality and flexibility, serving our first principle - the music.
It didn't occur to me to send Art a rubber belt to try. I think it would have given him further insight into our design philosophy. During development, we observed "flexy" drive linkages (rubber belts) to be analogous to driving a car with play in its steering. As dynamic passages in the music modulate the platter speed, the belt continually stretches and relaxes - hunting for its original length and in turn for speed consistency, even with the inertia of a 33 pound platter.
We're not talking about gross speed inaccuracies like wow and flutter, but rather orders of magnitude below this threshold. You can think of this as the analog equivalent of jitter, if you will. As we moved from thread, to tape, and then to wider tape, each improvement brought with it a more solid image, greater frequency extension at both extremes, and a richer, more complete harmonic structure.
As Art found out, if you don't pay attention, you can "toast" a belt in no time flat. The good news is that once installed, you're done. People like Art and myself are likely to rearrange our gear more frequently in a single week than most people are in a year. A new belt will cost you about a penny. If you add the cost of a splicing block, you have a lifetime supply of belts for the cost of a single rubber replacement belt.
We used to provide "training wheels" of a sort with our turntables – drive belts made from narrower tape. This helped the user get accustomed to fitting the belt. The wider the tape, the more finicky it is to align but the better it sounds. Last year, we began machining decorative grooves on the side of the platter. These grooves also serve as a visual aid in aligning the belt. As people found it easier to install and align the belt, we stopped dispensing the narrower belts.
The Anvil is controversial to say the least. I am loathe to make record playing a complicated affair. Much as I loved my Merrill periphery clamp, it turned playing records into a chore for me. In comparing the Anvil against the current crop of periphery clamps, I found it to perform nearly as well as the combination of record clamp plus periphery clamp without all of the bother. For me, this is the ideal solution. Furthermore, periphery clamps present an unacceptable risk of cantilever damage for me to be able recommend them in good conscience.
Certainly, our platter and base design doesn't depend on the Anvil for success and one can choose to simplify life further by not using it – just remove the reflex washer from the record spindle. I'm all for anything that makes playing tunes enjoyable, and if an Anvil doesn't float your boat (or sinks it for that matter) then by all means, return it for a refund. Alternatively, remove the lead shot from the central chamber and store the ashes of your deceased parakeet in it.
Our online instruction manual continues to be dangerously close to completion. Mea culpa. Given how easy our rigs are to set up, I've prioritized compiling and producing additional educational materials for our web site over completion of the manual.
If our ‘tables were more difficult to set up, the manual would have long since been complete. As Art commented, the most challenging aspect of setting up his Supreme involved lifting it onto the turntable shelf. Until such time that we complete the manual, we have the opportunity to walk our customers (my favorite people) through the setup process over the phone.
Thanks for "Listening".
Below, is an extended response which was not submitted for publication due the the 750 word space limitation:
I scarcely knew what to cover in the 750 words Stereophile allows for manufacturers' responses.The following comments cover thoughts that I felt could not be published in the magazine, either because of length, or the possibility of being misinterpreted. Since people who surf the Galibier website and this forum know us fairly well, I'm comfortable that you can filter these comments through the context of the Galibier philosophy.
Probably the most troubling aspect of the article was that our turntable was penalized for letting the character of the tonearm show through. I consider the Galibier's transparency and the fact that it brings the best out of each tonearm and cartridge to be a virtue, and not a shortcoming.
During an East Coast trip, I had the opportunity to meet Art and Janet. This was about 10 days after the Galibier arrived at their house. Art and Janet are gracious hosts, and opened their house to me for an evening where we shared food, company, and music. Art is a great bluegrass guitarist and owns a wonderful Santa Cruz guitar.
As the evening wore on, I grew concerned about "corrupting" our professional relationship, because they're the type of folks whom I can easily see as friends.
Please take my comments below in that context of a small manufacturer looking to add his personal bias to the story. You'd expect nothing less. I am well aware that the public hangs on every word written, and it can sometimes be all too difficult for a reviewer to be perfectly fair. We are all human, and in the context of magazine publishing, there are onerous deadlines to be met.
A bit of background ...
I approached the Galibier submission knowing that it was going into the hands of a "Linnie" and did not expect Art to fall head over heels. Why submit it for review then? Simply put, as a small direct-sales manufacturer, the credibility of proving our existence in a print magazine was important to Galibier - taken in the context of it being 2004.
In submitting the Galibier for review, I knew that I was going "behind enemy lines" - that it was being reviewed by a member of the Church of Linn. My approach was that even a lukewarm reception would be a victory, and I was pleasantly surprised by Art's comments that Micro Seiki's never impressed him, but that the Galibier opened his eyes to possibility of high mass turntables. This was the kind of response I was looking and hoping for.
My plan for was to provide armboards for three tonearms:
- the Graham Robin which Art is not a big fan of. I wanted to demonstrate that a Galibier can "up" its game
- the Rega RB-300 - Arts's all time budget favorite
- the Naim ARO - Art's favorite arm
5 weeks after visiting Art in the Spring of 2004, I received both the Rega parts from my machinist, and the draft of the Listening article in my inbox. The realities of publishing and required that the article be ready for the October issue. I did not know this ... so much for other tonearms.
In retrospect, I realize that my assumption of the turntable being at Art's for some 3 months (typical of most reviews) was ill-founded. We never spoke about a specific "review period" and I take responsibility for this. Had I known the time constraints, I would have planned differently. C'est la vie.
The Graham Robin:
I agree with Art's assessment of the Graham Robin - as he states ever so clearly in his "Listening" column - from Stereophile April, 2003 (http://stereophile.com/tonearms/821/).
What troubles me is that in the Galibier column, Art ascribed many of the characteristics of the Robin to our turntables. This puzzles me, in light of ...
Enter the Schröder Reference:
In spite of the above scheduling snafus, I felt that I had an ace in the hole, since I was traveling with a Schröder Reference. Art and I spent the better part of the evening getting to know it - an experience which was mind-blowing for him. When the Denon DL-103R's stylus hit the first groove, Art turned my way with an intense piercing stare of wonderment. The transformation is what anyone who's heard a Schröder Reference or other world-class tonearm would expect.
The question then arises as to why all of the good sound coming out of the front end was ascribed to the Schröder, with no credit being given to the Galibier. With the Graham Robin in place, the flat colorless sound was attributed to the Galibier and not to the Graham.
You can't have it both ways.
My experience has been that with things audio, if it sounds good, then there is nothing in the signal chain choking things off. Furthermore, let's put things this into better perspective, and remember the Linn hierarchy (which I subscribe to as well) of turntable, then tonearm, then cartridge. According to this philosophy, a good tonearm and cartridge are wasted on an inferior turntable.
While on the subject of Linns, the ever controversial High-End Audio website has quite a bit to say on the subject. This consists of both Arthur's opinions as well as correspondence from his readers.
I don't agree with every last word written on this website. I find for example that VPI's are very sterile sounding and uninvolving turntables - like every other American turntable I've heard with the exception of George Merrill's Heirloom , and his modified AR's (and of course, Galibier). There is still quite a bit of provocative reading to ponder here however. Click this link to read Arthur's comments about Linn: http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Linn.html
To be continued ...