Product name: JoLida phono crosstalk corrector
Manufacturer: JoLida - USA
Cost: US$ 350 - Currency conversion
Reviewer: Richard Varey - TNT New Zealand
Reviewed: May, 2018
I was mightily impressed with the simplicity and effectiveness of the Foz SS-X Sound Stage Expander, so jumped at the offer of an audition sample of this phono crosstalk reduction tool, also from JoLida.
The Foz XT-R circuitry is also designed by Jim Fosgate to optimise sound quality from a tonearm/cartridge by minimising distortions of a particular kind. It's a simple and effective solution to the problems of phono pickup cartridge azimuth alignment and crosstalk.
Proper setup of a phono cartridge on its tonearm mount relative to the disc grooves is critical. High performance music playback requires adjustment to within a few thousands of an inch to minimize the effect of axial tilt that occurs when the cartridge's tip is not perpendicular to the record groove. In addition, a low degree of cartridge channel separation creates crosstalk in which the stereo signal from the left channel “breaks through” or “leaks” into the right channel signal, and vice versa. Phono cartridge crosstalk greatly affects sound stage depth and width, and the position of sound sources in the sound stage. Ideally, the two channels should be entirely separate. When the crosstalk is “in phase” on both channels, the stage width and depth is reduced. When the crosstalk is “out of phase” on both channels, the stage is wider and deeper. When the azimuth setting is wrong, the crosstalk on one channel will be “in phase” and the other will be “out of phase”. This tilts or emphasises the stage to one side and also affects positioning of instruments in the sound stage.
Jim Fosgate designed the XT-R to effectively reduce crosstalk and correct or compensate for axial tilt. The XT-R is a breakthrough since axial tilt and crosstalk, whatever the cause, are compensated for electronically and physical adjustment of the tonearm or cartridge isn't necessary. The XT-R incorporates signal cancellation to reduce inter-channel crosstalk. It corrects for a misaligned stylus or cantilever, a misaligned generator in the cartridge, and/or for misaligned tonearm azimuth (i.e. axial tilt). What's especially clever about this way of correcting is that it also reduces crosstalk resulting from cross coupling of the generator coils or tone arm wiring. This overall correction is more comprehensive than could be accomplished by mechanical adjustments. This all works with moving magnet, moving iron, and moving coil cartridges. The XT-R will compensate for up to seven degrees of axial tilt and can improve crosstalk up to a maximum of 40 dB. The result is improved stereo imaging from all records played. Further correction is then only necessary if the tonearm or cartridge or their mountings are changed.
The case style matches the Foz SS-X, although it's quite a bit smaller (200 x 178 x 76 mm, weighing about 900 g). The controls are mains power switch, dB meter meter adjustment, azimuth compensation adjust active/off switch, left-right calibration switch, and left and right calibration knobs (neg-pos). On the back face are the input and output RCA sockets and the AC power input and fuse holder.
Once connected between my phono preamp and preamp, the unit is left connected as I can make the correction active or switch it out of the circuit for comparison of uncorrected vs corrected sound.
The printed owner's manual clearly states the test and adjustment process, which is simple and quick to perform. You need a test LP with separate channels of a 1 kHz tone. JoLida recommend the Analogue Productions Ultimate Analogue test LP. I used a Hi-Fi Sound HFS75 stereo test record and a Decca How to Give Yourself a Stereo Check-Out. I finished off with my Acoustic Research Demonstration Record: The Sound of Musical Instruments to hear the results of my efforts with the unit. I love the sound of Dusko Goykovich's trumpet on Ten to Two Blues.
I switched on the power and set the unit to active, then the calibration switch to left. I played the left test track and adjusted the left knob to get the lowest reading on the dB meter (the null point). This was repeated for the right channel. Clockwise rotation of the calibrate controls towards positive (pos) corrects for “in-phase” crosstalk, whilst anti-clockwise rotation (towards negative, neg) corrects for “out-of-phase” crosstalk. It wasn't necessary to adjust the sensitivity of the meter, but that option is available if your cartridge output and phono preamp gain dictate this with either a very low or very high meter reading. That is all that is required for the correction process - it couldn't be any easier, surely. It's recommended that you repeat to ensure best accuracy. To get back to playing music I set the calibrate switch to the centre position. I could then switch between active and off to hear the difference made by the correction. And the difference is with correction it all sounds a bit more natural and less strained. By that I mean that playing records has sometimes been a bit frustrating for me as I could sense the record underlying the music, which of course is absent with CD or digital file playback. The sense of presence of played instruments is heightened. I think this is due to a slight boost in level relative to background noise. The dynamic range is expanded. It all sounds less like playing a record!
I really like that this tool stays in the circuit and requires no prior setup (or tidying away!). Adjustment can be redone anytime. JoLida recommend every six months or so. I've now carried out the correction calibration three times since I've been enjoying the upgraded sound from my turntable. It takes a few minutes each time.
This unit is not an alternative to careful tonearm and cartridge mounting setup. It provides a further refinement towards optimal sound quality by comprehensively minimising the deleterious effects of sub-optimal alignments.
I'm already blessed with a truly outstanding tonearm and cartridge pairing (The Wand Plus and Hana EL - reviewed previously here at TNT-Audio, part 1 & part 2). I am delighted to report that the XT-R has lifted music rendering performance even higher. And yes, despite the design of The Wand Plus enabling quite easy setup for superb performance, audible and meaningful enhancement is achieved with the aid of the Foz XT-R unit in my system.
I love this product because it simply does a job of clearly evident enhancement of my record playing pleasure that I could only otherwise do partially and with a fair bit of fiddling. It does an important job easily by applying sophisticated understanding of phono alignment and circuit design in a pragmatic way for enhanced enjoyment of recorded music. Fully worth the modest price. What's not to like about that? Recommended for serious vinyl players. This is an affordable and very effective addition to a record lover's toolkit.
© Copyright 2018 Richard Varey - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com