Origin Live Conqueror Tonearm
It’s amazing the contribution a particular component can make to the performance of a hi-fi system. The problem is all the components lie in series meaning the overall performance of the system can be very much influenced by the characteristic of any one component in the “chain of command” of the system as a whole. There is some validity in the saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. So, CD transport, DAC, pre amp, power amp, speakers etc. Not to mention stands and cables! On the analogue side, turntable, cartridge, tonearm etc. Got the picture?
Individual components on the analogue side are particularly prone to problems regarding set up in any system. Digital systems involve only processing electrical signals, but analogue processing involves not only the processing of very small electrical signals but how they get distorted electro- mechanically by the vibrations induced by resonances in turntable and tonearm. Not to mention the necessary vibrations which have to be picked up by the cartridge itself.
It’s amazing just how well named a tonearm is. Compare this with e.g. jellyfish, which is not a fish, and glands in the body which are not glands but lymph nodes. The tonearm makes arguably the most significant contribution to sound quality, a device whose only purpose is to see the cartridge can follow the grove to pick up the signal encoded therein.
The problem in designing such a device is to appreciate what in essence it is, a hollow tube balanced on a pivot to provide a stable platform for the cartridge to work. To do this all resonances must be well absorbed or moved well outside the audio range, add to this a need to have the arm held so tightly so that maximum information can be extracted from the groove by the stylus. All this and low friction too! And that is just on the mechanical side of things. Because the movement of the stylus is on the order of microns, the voltage generated in the cartridge is in the order of micro volts. To ensure the maximum amount of electrical energy that can be passed on to the phono stage the conductivity and impedance of the connecting wires must be at a minimum. Wires of high silver content a must here.
Now, how is all this resolved in an Origin Live tonearm? First we have the arm tube itself which must provide the rigidity to enable the stylus to “see” the grove itself, but this means we get resonances adding colourations to the sound. These are dealt with by having the arm made from multiple materials, some providing rigidity and others damping to absorb these unwanted distortions. Next we need a bearing with minimal friction to allow the cartridge to easily track the record.
Origin Live have a range of tonearms available from under £500 right up to over £4,500 and are widely regarded as manufacturing some of the best tonearms in the World, at least according to many Hi Fi magazine sin both the Uk and the US. The arm being reviewed here is the Conqueror which at £2705 is close to the top of their model range.
The company describe them as follows. Origin Live is a privately owned British company with a fanaticism to reproduce music as played originaly, live – hence the name Origin Live.
Origin Live seem to have been able to bring some fresh thinking here to resolve many of these contradictory issues. The question is – do they work? The answer is, to a large extent, yes. At this sort of price point amongst high end tonearms the obvious comparisons have to be made with the likes of SME, Clearaudio etc. Having listened to several of these e.g. SME 4s and 5s and the like alongside the Origin Live I have to say the Origin gives nothing away to these already established stalwarts and reference standards of the genre. Indeed I have to say in my system this Origin Live Conqueror gives a more open and wider sound stage which has to result in no small measure to the ease with which it allows the cartridge to track with absolute ease and precision. Detail is very impressive helped in no small way by the high quality internal and external cabling. Imaging and sound staging are first class with excellent three dimensional depth.
Good and all as these rivals are I think the Origin Live is the best tonearm I have heard at its price point of £2705, in fact I would go as far as to say it outperforms many more expensive rivals.
So a wholehearted recommendation is deserved here but beware, choose a dealer who is well capable of fitting and setting up the device. Experience has told me that setting up requires more than just the tonearm but the isolation and free suspension and support for the turntable. You need a dealer to be knowledgeable, competent, honest and enthusiastic in the service they provide and the Origin Live brand with its basic design philosophy appears to have a tonearm which will compete well at all price points.