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REVIEW: Design Build Listen The Wand (Classic) Tone Arms

Model: The Wand (Classic)
Category: Tone Arms
Suggested Retail Price: $620 NZ
Description: Unipivot tonearm with large bore carbon fibre arm tube
Manufacturer URL: Design Build Listen
Model Picture: View

Review by FR Drew on November 26, 2012 at 23:08:01
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for the The Wand (Classic)

Following positive reviews in HiFi World, and having had a unipivot previously exhibit desirable characteristics on my Garrard 401, I took the plunge and ordered the 9 inch "Classic" version of The Wand from Design Build Listen in New Zealand. It replaced a Mission 774 and was mounted with an Ortofon Rondo Blue MC.

The standout feature of this arm has got to be detail. Not in a clinical sense, simply that things that were previously pretty much invisible are suddenly laid bare. For me, it is scary that so much information had been hidden by my previous arm. I am hesitant to use the oft over used "cleaning the window between you and the music" analogy. For the degree of change it seems to drastically understate the difference that this arm has produced. I would liken my old tonearm to the sound one gets from the room adjacent to the listening room with the door closed, versus sitting in the hot seat facing the speakers. Yes, in comparison to the Mission and my Decca Unipivot arms, the difference is *that* big.

Recordings where the odd word here and there gets multitracked to flesh out the sound are laid bare, as are backing singers. Vocal technique and phrasing/inflection, guitar solos and basslines are presented with astounding clarity. The odd studio trick of popping this or that effect into the mix is bleedingly obvious. The last few days have been an endless stream of "Gee! I never noticed *that* before..."

Second strength would be dynamics, but "...not as we know it". Yes, macro dynamics, rim shots, hard hits to tom drums etc are all still present and accounted for, it's the dynamics everywhere else that you never noticed before in vocals, piano, acoustic guitar that suddenly amaze. With this wealth of what we'll refer to as "day to day dynamics" on show, the regular macro dynamics seem less impressive, but simply because the whole performance has gone up significantly in dynamic impressiveness.

It has been reported elsewhere that the sound takes on a sense of "leanness" with The Wand, especially in the midrange, and I would agree. This is not however some tonal suckout that leaves treble and bass sounding boosted, it is merely the removal of hash and mess that previously obscured so much of the detail that lurked in the music unnoticed.

Switching to this arm is a massive upgrade. It's bigger than swapping a Technics SL120 for a Garrard 401 and upgrading its thrust bearing, it's bigger than swapping a Sure M97xe for an Ortofon Rondo Blue, it's bigger than swapping a Project Phono Box 2 for a Musical Fidelity VLPS and VPSU. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the Technics, Shure and Phono Box plus The Wand, would beat the Garrard, Ortofon and Musical Fidelity with the Decca unipivot or Misson 744.

This arm is easily the single biggest upgrade I have ever made to my system in one step.

What you read in the published reviews isn't advertising revenue influenced hyperbole, this arm is an absolute cracker.

Product Weakness: No arm lift, only finger lift on the Classic version (The Wand Plus version has an arm lift). Slightly agricultural looking spindle post (we're really nitpicking here!)
Product Strengths: Detail, dynamics, removal of crud from recordings, brilliant install/setup tool, great customer service

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Denon AVR1910 in stereo direct mode
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Musical Fidelity VLPS/VPSU
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Garrard 401 (upgraded) and Ortofon Rondo Blue
Speakers: Custom DIY MTM towers with Vifa P17WJ and D25AG
Cables/Interconnects: Audio Magic X Stream I/C and Anticables
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock, 80's, Soul, Jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 26 ft x 14 ft x 8ft
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 week
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Design Build Listen The Wand (Classic) Tone Arms - FR Drew 23:08:01 11/26/12 (1)


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