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At a Glance

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Just when it seemed that every superarm worth the name had thick, straight tube construction in the idiom of Linn’s Ittok, Alphason’s HR100S appeared in 1983 sporting classic S-shape geometry.

And this wasn’t the only oddity, as the HR100 used titanium in its armtubing for maximum strength and rigidity, as SME had done with the Series III and Technics with the EPA500H, some five years previous. Yet more unusual was its thin flat plate headshell, which was ingeniously formed from the front of the arm tube, which also acted as a strengthening spine above it.

Its concentric gimbal bearings are of hardened tool steel, with pivot surface inserts of ultra hard carbon. The counterweight system is more flexible than many, with a balance weight sitting on a carrier that can be screwed forward or backward on a hard nylon carrier and then locked by an small Allen screw.

As one complete forward rotation of the carrier applies 0.25g, the system obviates the need for a stylus balance to set the tracking weight.

Three counterweights are available, enabling use with a wide range of cartridges. In standard guise, it will accept 4g to 12g designs. Bias is by the old SME-style thread and weight, and is also calibrated. Overall compliance is quoted at 11g, making it a medium compliance arm capable of working well with most cartridges. Early arms ran good quality, low capacitance (95pF) copper cabling, while from 1985 the HR100MCS came withthe worthwhile option of Mono Crystal Silver wire for a small price premium.

The Alphason’s sound is an interesting conundrum. In some respects it’s absolutely superb, in others sadly lacking. It’s beautifully refined and considered nature will run rings around an Ittok or a Syrinx in terms of detail and focus. Midband is extremely neutral and clean, lending instruments a mastertape-like solidity. Soundstaging is well proportioned, with fine spatial detailing and depth perspective.

Tonal quality is good, with a smooth neutrality right across the frequency spectrum and no obvious colorations. Bass is punchy and well proportioned, never sounding leaden like a Zeta or elite like the Grace. In so many ways, the Alphason is a real class act.

The problem is that it isn’t so fluent at music making. Vocals lack power and projection, rhythms are deconstructed rather than played, and dynamics aren’t particularly impactful. Everything on the record is there in your listening room, but it never really sparks the imagination or gets the foot tapping. It’s just a touch too smooth, a teensy bit bland. In fairness, many will value the Alphason’s strengths more than, say, the Ittok’s.

Lovers of classical and choral music, for whom the ability to neutrally recreate a recorded acoustic is paramount, will prefer it to the lumpy, splashy Ittok or the euphonic Syrinx. But boogie merchants, be they into jazz or rock, should look elsewhere. Second-hand Alphason prices are keen these days.

Build was patchy on thevery early models, but generally to a high standard after 1984. Constructionmaterials are far more robust than many rivals, meaning you don’t need to be
quite as paranoid as when buying, say, an Ittok. Prices range from £150 for an early non-MCS to £300 for a mint MCS with all its original packing and accessories.

Beautifully engineered arm with a very refined sound, but not as musical as some.

Article written by David Price

Source Hi Fi World

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