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Da Vinci Audio Grand Reference Grandezza

DaVinciAudioGrandezza

Foreword

The Grandezza tonearm’s packaging tells you right off that someone really cared about this tonearm. It comes in a big beautiful wooden box. The inside has dense foam with precisely fitting cutouts for every part and tool. This kind of attention to detail in the packaging should be expected at this price point, but still it’s the most beautiful and thorough packaging I have ever seen.

In my review of the InUniSon turntable, I shared Peter Brem's story and how it’s not so different from a number of audiophiles I know. His audio journey started pretty much the same way as it does for most audiophiles. He bought a nice high-end system, and started to read more in audio journals. Then he found himself on the slippery slope of upgrading, and that became an endless story of frustration. Sound familiar?

Then comes in Peter Brem's story what I call a light bulb moment. According to his web site, he was trying to decide whether he wanted to continue to listen to music or to start golfing in a big way. He decided to listen to music. So he sold his expensive high-end gear and got a Klipschorn and a 300B amp. For a while he just enjoyed music, but this actually was the starting point of his building his own equipment. He quickly realized his earlier studies in electronic engineering would finally prove to be useful. His first creation was a large horn based on an Altec driver from the old cinema world. He then built a matching amp with a 300B, a VT52, and a RE604 and so on, then phono and line amplifiers in SRPP technology.

He was really enjoying listening to this mono system. Then, in 1988 his real adventure began. On his website Peter Brem says, "there is no right or wrong - there is only music and how it reaches your soul. When music touches your soul, when it moves you, can it be wrong?" I think this story is important in understanding how DaVinciAudio and Peter approach the design of audio equipment.

This brings us to the DaVinciAudio Grandezza reference tonearm. DaVinciAudio says, the most important aspects in the development of the tonearm Grand Reference Grandezza was to reach the highest musicality. They used crucial selection of materials in regard to comportment of resonances, weight distribution and the high precision in the processing. Their design goal was to achieve the highest degree of musicality and remarkable precision with the Grand Reference Grandezza. One last design goal was to make a precise and sophisticated tonearm that was easy to use and set up.

Description

DaVinciAudioGrandezza-3In my review of the DaVinciAudio In UniSon turntable I commented that while it was built with all the precision of a fine Swiss watch, it was rather plain and blocky in appearance. The Grand Reference Grandezza twelve-inch transcription tonearm, on the other hand, is a visually stunning, genuine work of art. The wood and metals come together like beautiful artwork, and the bearing assembly is built with all the magnificence and detail we have come to expect from the Swiss. The heart of the bearing assembly is a double-gambled ruby bearing system. The ruby bearing technology was created by a renowned Swiss clock manufacturer. This bearing assembly is based on cardan joints, similar to the suspensions used in mechanical chronometers found in ships of eras past.

The tonearm tube is made of Cocobolo wood, a tropical hardwood from Central America. It is exceptionally hard, fine textured, and very dense. Still, it is easily machined and holds up well to repeated handling. This may be the reason it is use for gun stocks on very expensive rifles, shotguns, and pistols. If the sound of this arm is any indication, Cocoblolo is actually a great wood for tonearms, as well as being just plain beautiful.

The Cocobolo arm tube terminates on one end into a graceful brass head shell; the review unit was covered with in a beautiful platinum finish. On the other end of the arm tube, you find the bearing block that is made of bronze and steel. The counterweights are made of copper wolfram, and it uses magnetic damping which, combined with the twelve-inch length, does away with the need for anti-skating. I think this is a good thing since it is so difficult to ever get anti-skating set just right.

Setup

DaVinciAudioGrandezza-4
Tonearms come in different shapes and different lengths, They are made from different materials, with different bearings, and different degrees of sophistication. There are some that look so simple, and others that look like they could be part of the children’s game Mouse Trap. Thus, some of tonearms are so complicated to setup that they literally take hours to get right and only seconds to get them out of whack. The Grandezza is a twelve-inch long, straight, very sophisticated tonearm; yet functionally it is very simple.

It only takes minutes to open the box, take out the different parts, assemble them, mount the tonearm on the turntable, mount the cartridge in the head shell, and do the alignment. Some of the ease of setting up this arm comes from the fact that everything is done with one or two tools that come with the tonearm. You can adjust VTA on the fly, as well as the magnetic damping. Truth is, the Grandezza took about an hour to set up and a day or two of listening to finish dialing it in. It is very simple and intuitive to set up and use. The only complaint I found in the setup or use of the Grandezza was that the cueing mechanism took a longer time than I would like to lower to the record. This didn’t matter much since I usually lower and raise the tonearm manually.

How do Tonearms Sound?

Have you noticed how few reviews there are of tonearms. I did a quick check of the review archives of the eight print and online magazines that I read and could find less than 30 reviews of just tonearms. Then I dug out my old copies, back to issue 1, of The Absolute Sound. I was looking for the best vocabulary for reviewing tonearms. No luck though, tonearm reviews are a rather small part of our hobby and there seems to be no consistent vocabulary for describing how they sound. When you do find a tonearm review, about 80% of the review will have to do with description and setup.

Maybe this explains why Art Dudley in his recent review of the EMT tonearm uses terms like, “less wimpy”, and “juicy” to describe its sound. So I was glad to discover I’m not the only one who finds tonearms hard to review. They’re easy and fun to describe, they’re interesting, and they’re fun to fiddle with; but it’s hard to know just how to describe how they affect the sound. One of the reasons for this is that it’s not easy to move tonearms from one turntable to the other, and a tonearm may sound terrible with your favorite cartridge, but wonderful with another cartridge. This of course is because of things like compliance, mass, and such. I was shocked a year ago when I installed a very expensive, and well accepted tonearm on my table to discover how bright it sounded with my Benz Ebony TR. Then I installed the EMT JSD-5 in that same tomearm and it sounded better than I had ever heard it. So, with the above confession, let me see if I can tell you how the Grandezza tonearm affected the sound of my system.

DaVinciAudioGrandezza-5

The Sound of the Grandezza Tonearm

First, I noticed two things I find typical of good twelve-inch tonearms. The sound had a more relaxed quality to it than I hear with any nine- or ten-inch pivot tonearms I have used over the years. Second, as I expected, it tracked those records with troublesome inner groves much better than the shorter tonearms. I expected both of these from a twelve-inch arm, but I was pleased to discover the Grandezza did these things without any loss of detail or transparency. In fact, it was as transparent as any tonearm I have heard on my turntable. Not only was it transparent, but it was very revealing of musical instruments, and their different tones.

The Grandezza, like the In UniSon turntable, created a big sound from my system. It had a warm, big bottom-end that I found very nice when used on my Clearaudio Anniversary Wood CMB turntable. It also allowed my system to have a very wide, deep, and cohesive soundstage.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this tonearm on the In UniSon turntable, and it worked wonderfully on my Clearaudio Anniversary turntable. If it wasn’t so expensive it would be on my short list of tonearms to own, but like fine Swiss watches it is out of my price range. If the Grandezza is in your price range, you should surely put it on your short list of tonearms to own.

Note: After reading the draft, Jolanda Costa of DaVinciAudio gave me a very cordial and graceful phone call, and told me that the Grand Reference Grandezza tonearm was created first to work with the company's top-of-the-line AAS Gabriel turntable system, and that the In Unison turntable system was created afterwards as a second model to work specifically with the Grandezza. It is Jolanda's opinion that the In Unison turntable setup at Jack's home was suboptimal, hence his very positive but not completely overwhelmed experience.

Specifications:

(10" Unit, 12" Unit)
Distance from pivot to stylus tip: 254.00mm, 308.80mm
Distance from pivot to centre: 237.80mm, 295.60mm
Cartridge offset angle: 21.60º, 17.63º
Inner null radius: 66.04mm, 66.04mm
Outer null radius: 120.90mm, 120.90mm

MSRP: $10,200
Manufacturer:

DaVinciAudio Labs GmbH
Derrière les Maisons
2716 Sornetan BE
Switzerland

Phone: +41 (0) 32 484 01 75
Mobile: +41 (0) 79 286 97 20

Article written by Jack Roberts

Source Dagogo

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