Review: Reed 2A Series Tonearm

Category: Analog

The Reed 2A is the second 12” tonearm I have had on my turntable which is a Garrard 301 with a custom plinth designed by Steve Dobbins. The first was the SME 312A. It was originally installed to handle mono playback only. The Triplanar VII mkII was my main reference tonearm. I never achieved success with the SME using various mono or stereo cartridges. I eventually sold the SME and used my Triplanar exclusively with the first generation Allnic cartridge a Denon 103D and a Soundsmith Aida.

I heard about the Reed tonearm when it was in its development stage and when it finally entered production I purchased one to fill the vacant spot left by the SME. A trade in offer was extended by Allnic to upgrade to the Verito Z cartridge and I took advantage of it. The Verito Z cartridge has had mixed reviews on Audiogon. I can understand why this might be in some circumstances. When I had the Z on my Triplanar its performance was good but not special. Perhaps there was a cartridge tonearm mismatch. Even after 40 hours of break in on the Triplanar it never really came to life.

When I moved the Verito Z from the Triplanar to the Reed the improvement in the performance improved appreciably exposing the shortcomings of my Triplanar. This was unsettling as the Reed was not purchased as my reference tonearm but as a secondary tonearm to accommodate mono playback. Besides, the Reed sits at the rear of my turntable which is near a back wall and is not nearly as convenient to work with as my Triplanar. Shucks!!!

Last year after reading the long standing MM cartridge I acquired an Empire 4000D/III. This MM cartridge was given a stellar performance review by Raul Iruegas. I was hoping this cartridge coupled with my Triplanar would surpass the Reed’s tonearm performance regaining the crown from the Reed. Why? Because changing cartridges on the Reed is a major pain in the neck. I have to disconnect my Triplanar from the plinth, sit it to the side then move this 70 lbs plus turntable off its shelf to another location where I can maneuver around the Reed tonearm to set up a different cartridge.

On the Triplanar the Empire was thin sounding, anemic in the bass and not at all resembling Raul’s description in his review. After a period of procrastination I went through the task of transferring the Empire cartridge to the Reed tonearm. Wow! What a transformation. The first thing I noticed was dimensionality, a round full presentation. Bass performance was quite good. Violin strings had a nice vibrant sound and not just a blur of sound coming toward you. Now I could relate to the online review. On jazz and popular music it was the best sound I had ever experienced from my vinyl playback. It was so good I went to great lengths to find a replacement stylus for the Empire so I would never be without this sound/performance. Through various inquiries and multiple emails I found a technician through an intermediary who worked with the Empire Company many years ago and who was willing to part with a NOS stylus from his personal inventory so I would have a backup. From my perspective at the time the Empire would never leave the Reed and my days of removing the turntable to install another experimental cartridge on the Reed was over. Yeah, right!

In the meantime I found a very good performer for the Triplanar which was the Audio Technica AT20 Sla which I continue to enjoy.

Still, after many long listening sessions something was amiss with the Empire. I listen to a fair amount of medium to large scale classical music. I favor music that is colorful and employs the use of a variety of percussion instruments bells, triangle and the like. With the Empire the last bit of sparkle, the overtones of a struck triangle all the sounds that reside in the upper frequencies left me not quite satisfied. It was not that these sounds were missing it was just that they were somewhat veiled and lacking sufficient clarity.

My wife and I have been season ticket holders for the last 3 years to the Boston Philharmonia Orchestra led by Conductor Benjamin Zander. They perform at Jordan Hall which has quite good sound if you sit in a good location. I usually focus my attention on what happens when a triangle is struck or bells are shaken in the midst of orchestral fortissimos and they always come through with clarity. These small embellishments are somewhat overwhelmed by the loudness of full orchestra but never veiled. They always come through with clarity. At the end of April the BSO’s closing concert was a performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet which is packed with lots of colorful high frequency instrumentation where the qualities mentioned above are evident. This is one area where the Empire was deficient in my system.

The opportunity presented itself to audition Mr. Kang Su Park’s recent efforts in cartridge design which takes in all the latest refinements and fine tuning in cartridge building he had to offer. I learned that the Puritas went through several beta versions with field testing and honest criticisms offered by audiophiles who own some of the finest cartridges available before finally settling on the version I now have. There were two requirements I hoped it would meet. First that it would be an excellent match with my Triplanar making it the king of the mountain again and second that it would incorporate all the dynamic power and intensity of the Empire 4000D/III and supply the top end extension and clarity that would satisfy me. In short a cartridge that could manage all the qualities that fit my personal listening biases.

After having the Puritas on the Triplanar for over 60 hours I began to feel buyer’s remorse. I did not think a tonearm change would sufficiently turn this cartridge around to supply my second requirement. With no other choice I went through the arduous procedure of dismantling my TT setup to install the Puritas on the Reed. Eureka! As soon as the stylus produced the first couple of notes I was smiling and greatly relieved. The effort was well worth it.

The Puritas which already had a number of hours of use on the Triplanar was absolutely astounding on the Reed. On Hugh Masakela’s Hope 45 rpm Classic reissue the bass was tight, deep and defined. It does a superb job on handling bowed bass. Christian McBride & Ray Brown sound remarkable. Take the Classic reissue of The Firebird on side 2 there are some powerful bass drum strikes that are fierce. The Puritas on the Reed arm produced it all with coherence and tunefulness. Additionally the Firebird is packed with mid to high frequency colorful instrumentation. Cymbals, bells, piccolos were nicely detailed with an authentic shimmer that I have up to now not been able to achieve in my system. I am in the process of revisiting all my favorite records with a newfound appreciation for my vinyl collection.

I am so satisfied I just had to share my experiences.
Best wishes.

Associated gear
Steve Dobbins custom Garrard 301 w/
Loricraft PSU 301 AR Power Supply

Reed 2A Series tonearm, Red Cedar Armtube w/
Dedicated tonearm cable cryoed.
Eichman Bullet Plugs

Allnic L-1500 Linestage Preamplifer

Allnic H-1500 II Phono stage

Ray Samuels F-117 Nighthawk Phono stage

Allnic Puritas MC Cartridge

Denon 103D MC Cartridge

Empire 4000D/III MM Cartridge

Audio Technica AT20 Sla MM Cartridge

Andante P-76 MM Cartridge

Lectron JH-50 tubed amplifier
Doshi Modifications

Yamaha B2 Class A SS amplifier
R.T.C. modified

Dunlavy SM-1 Monitor speakers

R.T.C. custom subwoofers

PurePower PP-2000 regenerator

Clearday Speaker Cables

VonWaffen Prototype I.C. from linestage to amplifer

Kimber SF-23 with Eichman Silver Bullet diy I.C.

Gabriel Gold Rapture I.C.

WonderWire with Eichman Siver Bullet diy I.C.

Tel Wire Powercords
Nice review. I am a triplanar owner. Seems like you keep coming to the same conclusion!

Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences...
I have the same 301 turntable, PS, Dobbins plinth, and 12" Reed 2A Pernambucco. I am breaking in a new Koetsu Azule. I had a Gen 1 DaVinci (circa 2005) on my old turntable with Dyna DV1s. I liked the Gen 1 DaVinci. I don't feel like I have given up anything with the Reed. I'm happy.
Dear Montepilot: As you reviewed your Reed tonearm is really good, no doubt about.

Please don't think I want to hi-jack the thread because I did not I only want to help you to achieve a better performance from your Empire D4000III:

this cartridge was designed specific for been loaded at 100k to take advantage on the cd-4 recordings with frequency beyon 50K, loading the cartridge at lower impedance affect the real quality performance the cartridge could shows you. In the other side the cartridge stylus profile made it very sensitive to azymuth changes and " playing " around with azymuth cartridge set-up could be worth the time to.

I own two sample stylus too and in my case I found out ( remember that the Empire cartridges are a 30+ years old design: not a " fresh " one. ) that are differences on quality performance in between, small ones but differences you can discern. I don't know if you already try your both samples but you can try and see what happen.

Other subject is that many of these MM/MI cartridges came a little loose in between the cartridge and the stylus plastic body, well I improve the cartridge quality performance when I glued the stylus plastic body to the cartridge it self in a way that there is almost no movement in between when on playback.

I hope this could help you to improve the quality performance on that cartridge.

Anyway, very good review!

regards and enjoy the music,
Very nice review. I also have the Reed 2A tonearm and the latest version of the Allnic Puritas cartridge paired with Steve's "The Beat" turntable. As you have very well described, the sound is superb. Congratulations.