Product name: The Wand
Manufacturer: Design Build Listen
Cost: 690 NZD. (Currency conversion)
Reviewer: Mike Cox - TNT UK
Reviewed: July, 2012
In the mainstream HiFi press "The Wand" tonearm from Design Build Listen received a big splash with rave reviews. As with most reviews in the mainstream HiFi press I tend to be a bit cynical as they are too dependent on advertising to be completely unbiased. I was very pleased when the review offer came in to TNT Audio so jumped at the offer.
The Wand arrived with a clear set of instructions and number of different options for mounting the arm. The mounting options are extras that vary in price from 30 NZD to about 80 NZD, as my turntable is normally fitted with a Rega arm I used that option. It was a simple fit, the metal piece drops in the Rega sized hole with the threaded rod that is both the bearing and clamping bolt adjusted for height using the supplied metal alignment jig. The alignment jig also doubles as an tool to set the distance from the turntable cente to the arm bearing centre. The Rega adaptor has the threaded rod set off centre so you rotate the adaptor until the distance from turntable centre to bearing centre is achieved, simple and effective. Once the mount is aligned it is all locked in place from underneath using a large washer and nut after first passing the phono plugs and wire from the arm through the larger hole. Finally you fit the arm rest with locking nut to the threaded rod so it all finishes up looking something like the picture below. The arm then simply drops onto the threaded rod and the basic alignment is complete and ready for the cartridge to be fitted.
The cartridge fitting is simple, there is a aluminium piece with two holes the appropriate distance apart to bolt in the cartrige. There are no slots for adjusting the cartridge overhang, you adjust the whole arm, in my case by rotating the Rega mount adaptor. It can be a bit fiddly to complete the alignment but it is worth taking time and care to get this right. The arm hight is adjusted by rotating the threaded rod that is also the bearing, the supplied alignment jig gets you very close. Once the arm hight and overhang are set arm azimuth must be set by rotating some metal plates on the back of the arm counter weight. You also select the number of metal plates to fit based on your cartridge weight. The instructions are clear with good drawings and diagrams.
As supplied the Wand was fitted with Cardas wire and phono plugs in one unscreened run from the cartridge to the phono stage. There is also the short wire option so you can terminate at the turntable with phono sockets and then use your favourite cable from the turntable to phono stage. In my setup the unscreened cables allowed some noise through though this was only audiable when no music was playing and then only very quietly. If I was purchasing a Wand I would pick the short wire option to reduce the possibility of noise pickup. The short wire version is available at $NZ620 plus $NZ65 for courier delivery, don't forget you will also need to pay VAT and duty to import into Europe.
This version of the Wand does not come with a damped lift/lower device or finger grip at the cartridge end. I found the arm easy to use without these devices but for those of you who find these items essential there is an upcoming retailer version with a damped lift/lower device and other improvements at additional cost.
The first album on the turntable was Michala Petri and the Academy of St. Martins-in-the-Fields directed by Kenneth Sillito playing a selection of pieces by Babell, Handel, Baston and Jacob. The ambiance of the recording venue was clear to hear with a wonderfully rich tone, particularly the treble recorder in the Handel Concerto in B flatOp. 4 No. 6. The Garrard turntable excels at timing and rythm and with the Wand it seemed to step up to another level. The second disk was the Rega produced album by Christine Collister called "Love". The first track on the second side is "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" a favourite of mine since first released by Kate Bush in 1978. The Christine Collister version was played wonderfully by the Wand and my Denon DL103 cartridge, the tone of Christine's voice was rich with real presence in the room, she could have been standing infront of me.
Recently I spent a very pleasent afternoon at a local village fete here in rural Cambridgeshire and while browsing the usual second hand book stall I came across a box of LPs. My experience of these stalls has been that the records are second rate recodings in poor condition. In this case I acquired 4 LPs for 10p each, a bargain if they were any good and not a big loss if they were in poor condition. The LPs are Simply Red "Picture Book" from 1985, Donald Fagan "The Night Fly" from 1982, plus Rod Stewart "Foot Loose & Fancy Free" and "Never a Dull Moment" from 1977 and 1972 respectively. Whilst the records are a bit noisy and will benefit from a clean the music comes across wonderfully as if it was only recorded yesterday. The Wand and Denon combination seem to hide any defects and just let the artists given their best.
The Denon cartridge is good, very good for the money but no high end cartridge and this got me thinking I should perhaps give the arm the opportunity show a bit more of what it is capable of by fitting a better cartridge. I am not in the pisition to splash out on a 1000+ UKP exotic device and spending that amount would make me rather nervous in use. I have an ancient Dynavector Karat Ruby that is well past worn out so it was dispatched to "The Expert Stylus Company" for assement and retipping. The quote was less than 300UKP for cleaning, retipping and alignment, much less than a new equivalent and affordable, just! I am still waiting for the cartridge to be returned so you will need to wait for Part II of this review (now online).
I have not read any of the reviews in the mainstream magazines, just seen the headlines so hopefully I am not being influenced. The Wand is a delightfully simple design well executed with quality materials that should give a long service life. The combination of the Wand, Denon and Garrard gives a wonderful musical experience from top to bottom and a sound stage that is so real and believable. All the LPs I tried sounded good, the combination seemed to level the playing field making all music a pleasure. It should be interesting to hear the Dynavector cartridge in action as it was a superb performer when fitted to the Rega RB1000 arm I usually use.
Comparing the Wand to the Rega arm is difficult as I have to rely on my memory. What is apparent is the wonderful tonality of the Wand, the Rega sounds grey and some what flat in comparison, less believable. I am really looking forward to writing part 2 of this review, assuming I can keep the Wand long enough.
If you would like a Wand it is currently only available direct from - The Wand.
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© Copyright 2012 Mike Cox - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com