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For me the Miyajima Shilabe performed better even than my beloved Air Tight PC-1 Supreme. Of course the Air Tight was more resolving at the extremes but the sound of the Raven seemed too impersonal with it. Also the PC-1 Supreme is far heavier than the Miyajima and the creators of the TW 10.5 tone arm must have aimed for the lowest possible inertia of the entire setup and not just the arm alone. To achieve this low inertia we need a lighter pickup than the PC-1 Supreme. For me the Shilabe proved ideal but likely there are others.
The ideal cartridge should not be too heavy, not exhibit high compliance and be sonically organic. The latter is especially important as it allows us to extract very developed almost warm timbres from the Raven. After all dried-up timbres are what the heavy mass loaders are usually accused of. The German turntable with the Japanese cartridge sat exactly in the middle between the slightly dry sound of mass-loaded decks and the over-saturated overripe sound usually represented by the suspended camp. Of course I am generalizing. Unlike our Polish politics, I would not like you to believe that there are only two possible options. I merely wanted to show this table’s position on the general analogue map by overemphasizing the extremes.
While I had the Raven One on hand I reviewed different loudspeakers including the Isophon Berlina RC7. Those were mighty constructions with incredibly clean extended bandwidth to allow the Raven to show off fantastic bass that was very low and very saturated. Very - both with discs naturally predestined like Kraftwerk’s Tour The France or Man Machine and tonally seemingly lighter pressings like Jean Michel Jarré’s Zoolook and RandezVous. All of these were cut from high-resolution digital master tapes – Kraftwerk re-mastered analog tapes, Jarré recorded that way. If I’m not mistaken, Zoolook was the first fully digital recording the Frenchman made. His discs had a lovely powerful sound.
So there was some warmth to the Raven but rather than coloration it was a lack of grain. I confirmed this with two Japanese remasters, Study In Brown by Clifford Brown and Max Roach; and Smokin’ At The Half Note, my beloved disc of Wes Montgomery recorded live in a club with the Wynton Kelly Trio. Both had a lovely midrange and clear full vivid treble. There was no roll-off or dryness. Attacks were powerful. With an inferior pressing like the also digitally remastered—and in this instance unfortunately so—Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra, the result was unambiguously drier and poorer but not bad. The German turntable still managed to present such albums from a slightly better angle by preserving strong linear dynamics. Overall the sound here simply wasn’t as good as with the Bergmann Sindre or Avid Acutus Reference. Dryness remains dryness no matter what and a certain listlessness in the midrange (kept to within tolerable limits) was present. On the other hand one could easily listen to this without distaste simply by concentrating on the music and not the sound.
How about specific weaknesses for this German design? I am not sure how to answer this. On one hand it obviously does have them. On the other hand comparing it to the Sindre and Acutus designs showed how it to belonged in the same league, being less resolving than the first while the second one showed greater density in transparent space. It’s really no coincidence that I mentioned these two specific competitors.
The Raven belongs somewhere between them by being resolved and saturated but neither as resolved nor as dense. That’s a subjective call of course and not easily diagnosed unless one placed these designs adjacent to one another. The TW-Acustic turntable struck me as a very good compromise between the intellectual and emotional aspects of music.