Triangle Art Anubis Turntable And Osiris Mk. 2 Tonearm
The venerable turntable, uniquely among the components of an audio system, presents a fundamentally mechanical design problem. Since a turntable is nothing other than a mass in a spinning motion, the problem is how stability is to be maintained to very close tolerances. If the stylus is to make a complete and accurate read of the record, then in principle nothing extraneous should interfere with its reading the message from the grooves. Approaching this "perfect" interface is the art and science of successful engineering of a turntable design. Many complex design decisions go along with executing a design, and these have an impact on how close to perfection is the decoding of the musical information stored in the record, and accordingly on the "sound" of the turntable.
All bodies, no matter how stable they may appear, have a resonant frequency, and depending on how they are tuned, they can be perceived in various ways. A musical instrument is tuned to be aurally perceptible, but with turntables, the goal is just the opposite. It is to have the fundamental frequency below the perceptible threshold and to impart as little energy to the higher harmonics that reach into the audible range so that they are imperceptibly below the signal. To accomplish this, there are two primary design parameters.
The design choices of the Triangle Art Anubis turntable are high mass and high metal. Manufactured in Anaheim, California, it is a visually striking, yet uncomplicated design, consisting of a massive, shiny, chromed platter that sits via a non-inverted bearing on a massive black metal base. The tonearm and motor are housed in separate weighty metal towers that are placed to the rear right and rear left of the platter/base, respectively. Paired with the Triangle Art Osiris Mark 2 tonearm for this review, their names represent life and death: Osiris is the Egyptian god of life, Anubis, the god of death. Together, these gods present the music without fuss or color. To listen to the Anubis and Osiris is to experience a dimensional, tonally balanced sound field, with precise imaging and a large, precise soundstage. Perhaps the most notable characteristic of the Anubis / Osiris partnership is the harmonic density of its presentation of the music.
Most contemporary front-ends, analog or digital, do an admirable job of presenting the harmonic envelopes of individual instruments. But the trick is to capture the richness of harmonic interactions of instruments that gives music its vitality and coherence. The rendition of these interactions is what focuses our attention musically; it is what draws us into the musical world being produced by the audio system. Here, with this most musical of audio virtues, the Anubis / Osiris combination excelled on recording after recording.
Final Thoughts Part 1: Listening Experience
Triangle Art Anubis turntable sits in the middle of Triangle Art's turntable offerings, which range from the entry level Hathor to the assault on state-of-the-art Ultimate. Its closet relative in the line is the Reference, with which it shares its platter/bearing, motor and speed controller, although not its design aesthetic. The Anubis, as noted, has three main parts. The core is the base/platter assembly, which together form a 12" diameter cylinder 10" high, clocking in at 160 pounds. (This is a light-heavyweight in the Triangle Art turntable line-up.)
The massive platter, composed of proprietary alloy, is 48mm in height. The reviewed unit was very, very shiny chrome, in striking contrast to the black base, in which are embedded three chrome feet that taper to rounded points. The Anubis is also available with a gold-finished platter and feet. With a record on the platter, a brass record weight crowns the tower. Also, the Anubis has two outboard units, for the motor and the tone-arm. With the placement of the motor and tonearm towers in relation to the base/platter core, the Anubis takes up approximately an 18" by 24" piece of real estate, which given the weight of the Anubis needs to be stable and well-supported.
Triangle Art's Anubis is driven by a custom-designed high-torque AC motor connected to the platter by an elastic belt. The housing of the motor in its tower effectively dampens motor vibration. The motor is connected via a power-cord (user supplied) to a crystal digital speed controller. Precise speed accuracy is dialed in via two trim pots and is recorded by a microprocessor; 33 and 45 rpm are selected by a switch on the controller unit.
For this review, Triangle Art's Anubis table was wed to their Osiris Mk. 2 tonearm. The Osiris has two very notable features. The first is the bearing. The Osiris is a magnetic uni-pivot. The wand is located between two magnets on the base, attached to the upper, on which it pivots and is stabilized, by the lower. The second is the arm tube. It is an exquisite cylinder carved from a single piece of Macassar ebony. The headshell and base of the Osiris are brass, which makes for a visually dramatic contrast with the ebony.
The Osiris bolts to the tonearm tower, placed around 5" to the right rear of the platter. The tonearm cable is Triangle Art's pure silver cable; it is integral to the arm and cannot be changed. Notably, the Osiris allows for adjustment of the offset angle of the headshell, necessitated by the tonearm tower not having a fixed position. Tweaking proper overhang of the cartridge is facilitated by a supplied protractor, but is nevertheless somewhat demanding to dial-in. The base of the arm is supported on a threaded column. This allows for fine-adjustments of the height of the arm for setting the vertical tracking angle by turning a collar on the column.
Azimuth is adjusted by rotating the headshell. Small set-screws lock in the set-up. Guidance to the set-up, rather than being provided in print, is via a YouTube video, in which Triangle Art's CEO and chief designer Tom Vu demonstrate the various adjustments. The Osiris was dressed with two cartridges, a Triangle Art Apollo and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature. The Apollo, built in Japan for Triangle Art sports an Onyx body in a semi-nude design. The Rosewood Signature is a classic Koetsu that I acquired in Tokyo in 1989 and has just received a refurbishing from Van den Hul.
Final Thoughts Part 2: Cartridge
It is, however, much denser, in the sense that it emphasized not so much the harmonic envelope of each instrument as much as the richness of their harmonic interactions. If the Apollo draws our attention to the instruments as they participate in the group, the Koetsu's presentation brings our attention to the musical performance as a whole, with less concern with bringing our gaze to the contributions of the individual parts. Both cartridges were engaging and a joy to listen to, and the Anubis / Osiris combo allowed each to express its particular character.
The engaging aspects of the Anubis/Osiris came through on a wide range of recordings. "Milestones" from Bill Evans Waltz for Debby is justly famous for its epochal Scott LaFaro bass solo. Listening to an original Riverside pressing with the Anubis, the musical flow of the solo is deeply engaging, with the bass extremely well-articulated. Especially with the Apollo, the depth and clarity of focus of the instruments make it possible to study the musical interaction between LaFaro and Evans in the first section of the piece. This is a great piece for listening into subtle details: The test is how well the conversation can be followed that is proceeding at the front table at the Village Vanguard throughout the performance. With the Anubis, it could be discerned that there were two men and one woman and that the audible laugh at the end of the piece is in response to what has been said at the table. I've listened to this record countless times; it has never sounded better, with greater attention to inner musical detail, than on the Anubis.
The "digital age" of audio has been tonic for analog audio. Aside from advancements in turntable design, there has been an outpouring of vinyl reissues executed to the highest standards. Some of these are truly revelatory. This is the only way to describe the Blue Note reissues overseen by Joe Harley, first for the Music Matters 45rpm limited-edition reissues, and currently for the Blue Note in-house Tone Poet series. I listened to Sam Rivers Fuchsia Swing Song and Bobby Hutcherson Happenings on the former, and Wayne Shorter ETC on the latter, and these just sounded flat out great. These three albums are highlights of the Blue Note catalog; the music is as brilliant today as the day it was recorded. (It is hard to believe that ETC was not deemed worthy of being released when it was initially recorded!)
On these recordings, the harmonic density of the music is profoundly rendered by the Anubis, which gives an extraordinary picture of jazz groups in full improvisational mode. This is accomplished while maintaining a big, open and finely detailed soundstage, with strong dimensionality and rock-solid imaging. Particularly notable is the portrayal of the drumming. Tony Williams' cymbals playing on ETC and Fuchsia Swing Song, as on other Blue Note dates, and with Miles Davis, is a chapter in the history of jazz drumming. With the Anubis, the shimmer of the symbols floats off into the nether regions of the room. Sax, played by two great masters in Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers, is beautifully portrayed; the horns are strong and powerfully presented.
Where The Anubis Turntable And Osiris Mk. 2
In a completely different vein is the 45rpm single of Steve Winwood's Higher Love. With its extreme dynamics and energy, this is a torture test for the tonearm and cartridge synergy. Triangle Art's Anubis / Osiris handled the track with aplomb, with no mistracking. But the Anubis is equally adept at capturing the relatively more micro-sized dynamics of guitar. A great example is Ralph Towner's incredible guitar on his exquisite solo version of "Nardis" on Solo Concert. This is one of ECM's very best recordings, and on the Anubis', with its ability to express dynamics and deep musical detail, it sounded fantastic.
Some other notable listens. Cecil McBee's bass on "Autumn in New York" duet with Chico Freeman on the latter's Spirit Sensitive [India Navigation / Analogue Productions], and David Holland's classic bass line of "Conference of the Birds" from the Conference of the Birds [ECM German]. In both cases, the bass is tight, deep and well-defined, and particularly with the former, a palpable sense of the wood of the instrument. ECM's great recording of Jack De Johnette's Special Edition's Tin Pan Alley [German pressing] jumped out the speakers, the complex lines and musical interactions of the title piece can be followed with precision.
John Renbourn's guitar on Sir John Alot of [Reprise white label promo] floats on a bed of air, as does the highly reverberant sound of Johnny Almond's sax on "California" from John Mayall's The Turning Point. The ability to reproduce ambiance is on display listening to Bill Dixon's trumpet from the recently released duets with Cecil Taylor Duets 1992 [Triple Point Records]. The overtones of Dixon's trumpet just float off into the nether world. Janos Starker was just plain there in my listening room playing the Bach Unaccompanied Cello suites [Mercury Golden Imports reissue].
Osiris Mk. 2 Tonearm