Are there other Artisan Fidelity TT owners aorund?

So after being an audio hobbyist since my uncle got me going down this demented path some 17 years ago I finally purchased a TT. I had flirted with the idea for a very long time but honestly I've heard a number of TT's at shows and at buddies homes and none of them moved me. Now obviously many many variables are involved. Lets start with, was their TT setup correctly (superlatively).., I don't know. Was the arm/cartridge combination simpatico.., again, I don't know. Was the phono preamp just so-so or great and if it was great was the cartridge loaded correctly.., you get my drift.

So with my digital down through the years easily besting (to my ears) the analog I'd been privy to, I found no reason to spend the money required to involve myself with analog. My former Bidat easily dispatched a SOTA Cosmos Vacuum TT in a head to head listening session. Ditto for my former Dynavox Dynastation.., same with my AMR DP777...etc.

At Axpona last year I listened to the $170K Clearaudio TT along with about $85K worth of Pass Amplification and perhaps $200K worth of JM Labs speaker and cabling only to be more moved by the sound from the Playback Design MPD-5 in the same room.

Finally I realized the only way I would ever find out for myself would be to purchase my OWN TT and make sure it was expertly setup and dialed-in. I had a rare chance to purchase a latest-revision-pristine example of a Graaf GM70 Phono Preamplifier. I have a soft spot for Graaf as Mr. Mariani simply builds the finest gear I have laid ears on. So now I have this phono pre sitting in the box for a few months when I see a SP 10 MK III come up for sale in Agon. So, I threw caution to the wind and contacted Chris at Artisan Fidelity; after some conversation I hung up having just commissioned the building of a SP10 MKIII Next Gen TT.

I was happy for about a month then the fear started to creep in, "what have I done?". What if this thing SUCKS!!!! and my digital system which is very very very good if I do say so myself stomps it!

During the build I researched and read tons of user reviews (I don't really pay attention to so-called pro reviewers) on arms and cartridges. I finally settled (with a lot of talking to Chris and other friends and a lot of late night web searching) on the Kuzma 4 Point and the Ortofon MC Anna.

So, here we are today and I have had my TT for a little over 3 weeks now and I have about 150 - 160 hours on the rig. Early on it sounded ok, you know.., good but nothing special. I liked it but my digital was fully up to the task and in some cases much better :) (now I'm scared)

Ok, so fast forward to 100 hours.., ok, I think I'm starting to understand all this analog hype :) better and better. now we are at 150 hours.., the word SUBLIME comes to mind. The spaciousness, openness and natural continuity of the analog is addictive. The dynamics seem to go on forever along with a naturalness that is very difficult to put into words. I did purchase the Furutech Demag, the Destat II, a scale..., all the toys to go along with it :) Again, I wanted to know for myself and the only way to do that was to take the plunge.

So how does my digital hold up? Well, my well run-in long time AMR DP777 has NOTHING to be ashamed of. It sounds great and I can easily go from the TT to the DP without too much shock (the AMR guys are big vinyl heads and use vinyl as a reference when designing) BUT... when I have two equally well recorded pieces of music (Best of Eva Cassidy comes to mind or Diana Krall Live in Paris 24/96 vs 180g/45) as good as my digital sounds the SP10MK III simply walks away. Again the digital is not trodden underfoot and indeed 20 seconds of the digital and you will be into it fully, but the analog rig beguiles with its effervescent ease and infinite continuity of musical flow.

Ok, so to end this long synopses.., I am now deeply into analog and have been going to local used record stores and burning up my cc on Music Direct and Acoustic Sounds...etc.

The folks at Artisan Fidelity are the real deal and they built me a museum quality +180 pound Porsche Basalt Black TT/piece of art that sounds AMAZING!!!!

I also ordered a Bassocontinuo Apogeo rack for the table which should arrive in about 2 weeks. I am enjoying my foray into the land of analog!!!

I have purchased the new AF copper mat and lived with it long enough that I feel I can comment on the benefits it brings to my setup. First off it is far and away better than the stock mat, which in comparison seems to be overly damped. The new mat is not bright in any way it just allows a more vibrant life-like rendition of the music to flow. It is at once more transparent, detailed, energetic and 3 dimensional while offering longer decays.

I spent about 2 hours adjusting VTA/VTF for the new mat and of course as you may imagine that brought the perfomance of the performance even higher. Currently I have my VTA optimized for 180g discs.

After living with the mat for about a week and getting a good idea of its capabilities I decided to try it sans the JA Michel record clamp which btw works WONDERS when used with the stock mat (and tighten ONLY until you just feel the very very slightest bit of bite/resistance). I can not stress enough that tightening the JA clamp beyond the initial grab on the spindle will shut the music down (over damp).

The clamp with the copper mat sounds fantastic and far far better (as mentioned above) than the clamp and stock mat BUT, and no, I don't know why :) the new mat without any type of weight or clamp is really beyond what I wish to attempt to put into words. I don't want to sound like I have gone off the deep end but everything and I mean everything just gets that much better and it simply sounds real. I have some guys coming by this week to experience it for themselves. I will go on record (NPI) and say that the mat is a resounding success and is probably one of the best upgrades a MK 3 owner could make. Enjoy!!!
By and large, I agree that no weight or clamp is often my preference. Only when certain records seem like they may slip a bit do I use my weight. I don't know if certain discs are more prone to slipping because of texture/weight or maybe a looser fit at the spindle or both. When they seem stable though I think things are more open and "alive" sounding without the clamp. This the way I use both the Boston and Saec SS300 mats.
I also have two Micro Seiki CU-180 mats which would appear to be similar to the AF mat although they aren't pure copper but gun metal (whatever that is it looks like copper). These I'm currently not using. It would be fun to compare all these with the AF but for now cost is a prohibiting factor. Having seen many of Chris's latest creations I'm sure it's a sharp looking piece too.
Chris would be happy to help you figure that out Downunder, I'm sure. Check out the AF site and send him an email inquiry.
Sonofjim: We use clamps/weights exactly the same way. On some of my ~110gm albums slippage occurs if I forego a clamp/weight.

During the time I was optimizing the VTA for the new mat I pulled out the notebook and went off the deep end identifying the optimal VTA settings for 200/180/110-120gr vinyl knowing that the occasional 140-150gr album slots neatly between the 180 and 120gr positions I've identified on the Kuzma VTA tower. Turns out it makes a huge difference on the 110-120gr albums.