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Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Esoteric X03SE
Analog source: Acoustic Solid Classic Wood with RB300, Grado Reference Sonata 1, Denon DL103, Clearaudio Nano, Audia Flight Phono [in for review]
Preamplifiers: Esoteric C03 [on loan]
Amplifier: McIntosh MA2275, Genesis GR360 & MDHR
Speakers: FJ OMs, Zu Essence
Headphone: Musical Fidelity Xcanv3, AKG K701
Cables: Zu Varial, Zu Libtec, Slinkylinks RCA copper, Esoteric Mexcel balanced interconnects [on loan]
Power Cords: Zu Mother, Accustic Arts Ferrite 2 [on loan]
Powerline conditioning: Monster Power HTS5100mkII, Isotek Titan [on loan], Isotek Nova [in for review]
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics and good 'ol wooden chest
Room size: 12' x 13.5' x 8'
Review component retail: Acoustic Solid WTB211 ($1700 alone, $1200 with an Acoustic Solid turntable)

Digital is easier in so many ways. Want to upgrade? Sell your player and buy one you like better. End of story until next time. You can tweak and squeeze out fractional percentage points of additional performance from vibration control devices or cable changes but a true upgrade usually requires a new player - or at minimum a serious after-market modification. When it comes to vinyl, a world of upgrades awaits at your finger tips. That's where neurosis enters. A new cartridge or tone arm? A rewired tone arm perhaps or instead an upgraded motor, plinth or counter weight? Or a new phono stage? One has more permutations and options than one could reasonably explore in a life time.

Call me un-adventurous but with vinyl, I actually like to ask the designer or distributor for their opinion. It perhaps takes out some of the fun (there's plenty left trust me) but certainly does reduce the scope of choices and associated headaches. So as I was gearing up for a series of phono preamp reviews over the next few months, I asked Musical Sounds, Acoustic Solid's distributor in the USA and Canada. What would be the best way to upgrade my Acoustic Solid Classic Wood turntable? To my surprise, the answer pointed as the most limiting factor in my system not at the Denon DL103 pickup or even Clearaudio Nano phono stage but the Rega RB300 tonearm with its captive cable. There's no question that the RB300 packaged with the turntable is an unbeatable value. But that does not mean it is an unbeatable tone arm. Actually many a business flourishes offering aftermarket upgrades for the RB300. From damping and recabling to new counterweights, there is a range of solutions to offset the major shortcomings of what I believe to be one of the most if not the most sold tone arms in the world.

Diagnosis rendered, Musical Sounds dispatched the recommended cure, a brand new WTB211 tonearm and phono cable manufactured by Ortofon for Acoustic Solid and looking almost identical to the Ortofon AS-212S. The S-shaped tonearm is 9" long, allows head shell removal (a reviewer's wet dream when it comes to changing cartridges), accepts all manner of phono cables equipped with a straight DIN connector, offers magnetic anti-skating and straightforward VTA adjustments similar to those used by Acoustic Solid on the RB300. Of course, its one-screw VTA adjustment is a little crude but finer adjustment mechanics will cost thousands more and require one of the Ortofon D-Series arms.

The base of the WTB211 requires an Ortofon mounting plate whereas my Classic Wood turntable came standard with a Rega mounting plate. One of the many beauties of the Acoustic Solid designs is how easy it is to change the plate. Remove one long hex screw, replace the Rega plate with the one Ortofon sent with the arm, put back the hex screw and done. Almost. Care should be taken to not over tighten the screw at this point as later adjustments may be needed to achieve perfect cartridge alignment.