The Reson Reca Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge
|The Reson Reca Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge
It’s easy to be enthusiastic about new analog products appearing on the US market, doubly so when they come from a company whose products are almost legendary. Considering the pedigree of the Reson cartridge line, I have been both puzzled and frustrated that no US company heretofore has had the good sense to import these superb cartridges into the US. Concert Sounds has the good sense and is now importing the Reson cartridges, along with the other products of the DNM design philosophy: the DNM electronics and the still iconoclastic DNM/Reson Solid-Core interconnects and speaker cables. The DNM refers, of course, to Denis Morecroft, one of the UK’s most stimulating audio thinkers and designers of the last 25 years.
The Reson cartridge line was developed in tandem with the overall design philosophy that produced the Reson turntable and the well-known Ringmat turntable mat. Reson chose Goldring of the UK as OEM supplier of the Reson line; those familiar with the Goldring line will recognize the Pocan cartridge bodies. The Reson line consists of 5 cartridges: 2 moving magnet designs and 3 moving coils. The Reca boasts a healthy output of 6.5 mV and is, I believe, the least expensive phono cartridge on the market to use a Fritz Geiger Signature line-contact stylus. This stylus (user replaceable, by the way) offers an extremely close facsimile to the cutting head stylus used to cut LP masters, and is capable of extremely high resolution and information retrieval. Like all line-contact styli, it requires careful set up of arm height to guarantee a precise ‘fit’ into the groove. I’ve heard this stylus on at least 4 other phono cartridges and its performance is exemplary. Its incorporation into the very reasonably priced Reca at $455 is a standout.
The Reca’s cartridge body has tapped bronze inserts to hold the supplied allen-head bolts. An included stylus guard makes mounting straightforward. I used the plane on the bottom of the cartridge in which the stylus is mounted as my parallel reference for VTA/SRA settings. The Reca sounded mellow and easy-to-listen-to right out of the box, making the 20-hour or so break-in period less tedious to endure. The cartridge’s sonics bloomed emphatically when it finally broke in.
The Reca’s FGS (Fritz Geiger Signature) stylus demands precise alignment to produce its intended results, necessitating the ability to adjust arm height on any partnering record player. I used the Ringmat LP Support System’s shims (see my review) to optimize the stylus angle in the groove. This system is by far the easiest to use of any of the standard (and affordable) methods to optimize the VTA/SRA adjustment. Like all cartridges using line-contact stylus shapes, the Reca performed quite differently based on its VTA/SRA setting: too positive (cartridge tilted forward from the tonearm’s pivot) resulted in the usual harshness, dynamic compression, increase in record surface noise and premature bass roll-off; too negative and the bass became flabby, phrasing and rhythm fell apart, and the highs became smeared and diminished in level.
The Reca’s frequency response is unusually linear and of wide bandwidth, particularly noticeable in the bass region where many cartridges in its price range sound either rolled-off and excessively lean, or flabby and ill-controlled. There were no unusual deviations from instrumental sonority: the Reca sounds neither lean and etched nor fat and overly rich. Harmonics are attached to fundamentals; hence differentiating violins from violas, different members of the woodwind family, and piccolo bass from double bass (on Ron Carter’s live “Piccolo’ LP for example – one of my acid tests) was obvious. The reproduction of the dual basses on the Carter album was among the best I’ve heard. With far too many set ups, Buster Williams’ double bass is either absent altogether, or reduced to an undifferentiated murk. The Reca not only articulated the double bass lines, it also communicated the interplay between Carter’s higher-pitched piccolo bass. Kenny Barron’s piano, which can sound clangy on this live recording, sounded very natural. The high frequency reproduction of the Reca’s FGS stylus allowed easy identification of maracas, snare drum, and various types of cymbals and percussion, all without splash and sizzle. Midrange intelligibility, and thus vocal reproduction was also very good: sibilants and fricatives were well-controlled, emanating from the singer’s mouth and integrated with the singing rather than splashing around the soundstage. Unlike many cartridges, the Reca doesn’t sound like it has a response dip in the upper midrange and lower treble. Consequently, record surface noise, while clearly differentiated and physically separated from the musical content, was a bit more noticeable than with other cartridges I’ve heard. I deliberately use some chewed-up LPs to test for this. There were no problems with LPs in good or excellent condition.
The lateral stereo spread was very wide and expansive: with some interconnects (not surprisingly with DNM’ own Solid-Cores) and phono sections it exceeded the width of the speakers and the lateral confines of the room. The size of the instruments was also life-like, particularly so on the Sound Lab Dynastats, and their position in space was unambiguous, though individual instrumental outlines were less absolutely clear. The depth dimension seemed somewhat foreshortened by contrast. Instruments farther back in the soundfield appeared just barely behind the front line of instruments. This wider-than-deep stereo illusion equates somewhat to the sonic perspective of the first few rows in a classical performance hall. The sense of depth is somewhat ambiguous as an audio reproduction phenomenon, as I’ve mentioned before. With multi-mic-ed studio recordings, it is an artificial construct created at the mixing console and thus has no real-life reference. Simply mic-ed non-amplified recordings done in performance halls do create a genuine sense of depth, but even these are different from what the ears hear live. Still, given the difficulties of establishing any realistic reference for the sense of depth, this is the weakest area of the Reca’s performance. One result of a midrange dip in a cartridge’s response can be an added and false sense of depth to the soundstage. The Reca’s lack of a dip in that range certainly didn’t produce that false depth.
While the decay of notes was very good, reproduction of the acoustic surrounding an instrument (and hence immersion into the acoustics of the recording site on classical recordings) was hinted at rather than fully articulated. Musical phrasing and rhythmic drive was very good. Only the slightest loss of micro-dynamic resolution keeps the Reca out of the top class there. Similarly the slight loss of ultimate resolution and clarity and the cartridge’s rather shallow portrayal of the depth dimension are the only things keeping me from chucking all my moving coils, a dozen or so ‘reference’ cartridges, MC transformers and phono stages. The Reca is that good.
My intuition about the Reca is that the moving magnet design principal has been stretched to its ultimate potential, but still lags behind the resolving capacities of the FGS stylus. (I base this on experience listening to the FGS-equipped Reson Etile – review to come), Goldring Elite, Garrott Bros. Optim FGS and P89.) Perhaps this lag in ultimate speed, transient response and transparency relates to a moving magnet’s cantilever moving higher mass magnets rather than the lighter coils in an MC design. Given the cartridge’s considerable strengths – wide bandwidth, exceptional bass response, freedom from glare, anorexia and obesity, its excellent tracking, wide soundstage, and easy phono load, not to mention its reasonable price, it seems churlish to mention these ultimate limitations. After all, no phono cartridge is perfect.
Ultimately, choice of any phono cartridge involves understanding a cartridge’s balance of strengths, its limitations and its incorporation into a given system. I ran the Reca in 4 different turntables in 3 different systems in 3 different rooms. Two of these rooms are incapable of believably producing the illusion of soundstage depth, so the Reca’s weakness there was unnoticed and all of its other strengths more highly valued. To be honest, it was only in my highest resolution ‘reference’ system that the Reca’s limits were truly identifiable, and one could also argue convincingly that a $5000 turntable/arm combination is an unlikely partner for a $455 cartridge.
Every cartridge, regardless of price, involves trade-offs. The nature of these trade-offs becomes more crucial in the $500 and below price range. In this context, the Reson Reca truly shines, offering an overall balance of virtues few of its competitors can completely match. A strong recommendation for the Reson Reca, but only if the partnering phono preamplifier has enough headroom not to overload on its high output and if the turntable allows adjustment of tonearm height to optimize VTA/SRA.
Moving magnet phono cartridge –
Frequency response: 20Hz-30kHz ±2dB
Channel Separation: 25dB min. @1kHz
Channel Balance: 2dB max. @ 1kHz
Output: 6.5mV ±1dB @ 1kHz, 5cm/sec
Vertical Tracking Angle: 24 degrees
Stylus Type: Geiger S, replaceable
Load Resistance: 47,000 ohms.
Cartridge Weight: 6.3 g
Tracking Force: 1.5 – 2 g (1.65g recommended)
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