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At a Glance

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Back in late 1981, Scot Strachan unveiled his Syrinx PU2 to an unsuspecting world. It was a promising design, but strongly flawed in several important areas, such as resonance characteristics, ease of use and build quality.

Enter the PU3 in 1983, substantially evolved and with ultra low resonance and ease of set-up as its goals. At £291 it wasn’t cheap, but its quality and design flair were such that it seemed a bargain nonetheless.

An odd looking device, the PU3 is reckoned to be the first tonearm to feature a cigar shaped armtube to reduce resonances. Strachan once lamented the fact that few people gave him credit for this bright idea, although pointed out that Isambard Kingdom Brunel had actually used it in his bridges, some years previous! Despite its beefy looks, it’s a surprisingly low mass design. Weighing in at just 9g effective mass, it will get the best out of higher compliance moving magnets, as well as most moving coils. Cartridge weight range is 4 to 12g. Offset adjustment is done by unclamping the armtube at its boss and rotating the whole assembly fore and aft on a fine screw thread. Tracking weight is set via a threaded counterweight and then locked with a concentric thumbwheel, and bias is applied by a weight and thread, on the falling lever principle. And in the best traditions of tweaky high end kit, neither adjustment is calibrated! Bearings are top quality, highly tolerance items, and internal wiring is high purity copper with PVC dielectric.

Sound quality is extremely good overall, with a particularly lucid and organic midband. Whereas arms like the Zeta give epic, grandstanding performances of every record you play on them, the PU3 is altogether more subtle and cohesive. Bass is lighter and slower with less energy and articulation.
But the Syrinx comes into its own in the midband, which has a beautifully natural, musical character. Although super detailed, it’s never in your face or showy.
Rather, instruments are conjured from mid air in all their tactile, vibrant glory.

Sound staging is gloriously wide, open and deep and imaging accurate yet never pedantically over emphasized. Critics of the PU3 would call it warm and colored, with a slightly fat, overblown sound. But from where I’m standing it’s a true star. Best characterized as extremely analogue, it’s a great way to unlock the music in the groove, rather than the hi-fi. Clean and natural, it draws the listener in rather than makes him focus on the song’s recording quality or the discs surface noise.

The Syrinx PU3 is a fine used buy providing the example you choose is of the one careful owner variety. Pay £200-£250 for a well preserved specimen, much less for a clunker. The PU2 Gold is another possibility, being the latest, most developed incarnation of the 3's predecessor, but they’re hopelessly fiddly to set up and use, and always drift out of tune. Pay £80 for a good PU2g with Mass Ring.

Loveable oddball with a quintessentially analogue performance.
Questionable spares availability and age make for low prices.

Article written by David Price

Source Hi Fi World

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