Cartridges & Arms

Audio Origami’s UniArm allows you to Graduate To Uni

Promising both value for money but also a possible solution for multi-cart owning analogue fans, Paul Rigby reviews Audio Origami’s UniArm

The UniArm unipivot, sports a familiar Naim Aro feel to the design and arrives with Rega or Linn fitting options with varying customer ordered colour options in addition to the aluminium and black finishes.

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The angular headshell (designed for extra strength) is secured by a tight-fitting, hidden pin into the tube. Johnny Nilsen, owner and designer for Audio Origami added, “The arm has been anodised. It’s very hard. You can attack it with the edge of a coin but you won’t scrape it. Also, if you touch it, you won’t leave fingerprints. We had to construct the arm before we anodised it, a rarity in manufacturing. In effect the tube is a constrained layer, an outer layer of anodised coating, soft aluminium in the centre and hard anodised layer on the inside that you cannot see.”

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The sapphire bearing includes a tungsten-over-steel spike and offers two cups, “There is one cup in the centre that the spike goes into,” said Nilsen, “and, above that, a second cup allows you to tweak the arm sound with the supplied bottle of silicon ‘treacle’. Add a small amount to the bearing cup and listen to the effects, adding and removing the silicon (a long cotton bud is supplied to clean the cup), until you are satisfied. The damping might improve the arm’s musicality but possibly at the expense of dynamic ability and punch. The wee bit of damping oil can also calm down a bright cartridge.”

The main feature of the arm is that each tube (or “wand” as Nilsen has it) can be quickly swapped out and replaced with a spare. In this way, you could, in extremis, buy an arm plus three spare wands (£1,000 each), fit a different cartridge to each and ‘hot swap’ them when you are changing from, say, stereo to 78rpm cartridge to mono (1 mil) to mono (0.7mil). I asked Nilsen if he could fashion a suitable storage container for an owner with multiple spare wands and he replied in the affirmative.

Swapping “wands” in this way is far more audiophile (although, obviously more expensive) than the Jelco-type headshell hot-swap as the “wand” is far more rigid and less liable to micro-movements.

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SOUND QUALITY

Spinning the Nancy Wilson vinyl track, Reach out For Me, this song features orchestral backing with a bank of strings plus notable secondary percussion including glockenspiel, tambourine plus guitar and occasional drums. There’s plenty going on.

To convey the first impression of the UniArm, I can only use the metaphor of an unruly class room of 11 year olds, wreaking havoc, throwing paper darts, shouting, running around the class and such like until the commanding presence of a strong and firm teacher storms into the room and stops the shenanigans immediately. That teacher effect is exactly what the UniArm does to music and its extraneous frequencies. I was very impressed just how controlled and strong Wilson’s voice sounded. It was mature, full-bodied and had complete command of the lyric. There was power potential and variance in delivery. With some arms, this Wilson track sounds like her voice is just part of the mix, in amongst the backing instruments. With the UniArm, she is the total star of this show. I was also happy to hear that a slight spotlighting of her voice in the upper mids, a blemish delivered via lesser arms, was now removed.

In terms of that backing suite of instruments. Everything tightened up, even the glockenspiel stood to attention. There was never an ounce of fat on any of the sounds emanating from the backing group. Any possible bloom, smearing or muddying effects were instantly removed while even bass guitar, not a dominant factor on this track, offered notable extra bounce and punch. That’s not to say that the music was stiff or unyielding. Far from it. Tambourine had a delicate, fragile collapsing cascade during every strike, strings were relaxed in their sweeping effects while the gently strumming guitar was almost somnambulant in its approach.

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Turning to rock and Joy Division and their track, Exercise One, from the album, Still and its almost subterranean bass guitar and drums which the UniArm tackled with aplomb. The bass was controlled and steered in such a way that the arm almost acted like a controlling conductor’s baton. That is, you tended to place full confidence in bass performance.

Finally, Popol Vuh’s piano-dominated soundtrack for the horror film, Nosferatu, kept the potentially uncontrollable piano frequencies in check to allow the ensemble instruments more of a say in the mix, giving more time for the rhythm guitar and the relatively exotic sitar.

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CONCLUSION

The Analogue Origami UniArm inspires great confidence during use. You never feel that it will ever let you down because it corrals all available frequencies to produce great music. The discipline and authority that the UniArm gives to music blends happily with finer, more delicate implementations providing a perfect blend. Like the perfect cherry picker, the UniArm gives you the delicate fruits and leaves the rubbish for the birds.


AUDIO ORIGAMI UNIARM TONEARM

Price: £1,500

Website: www.audioorigami.co.uk


Good: disciplined soundstage, bass presence, delicate mids, replaceable ‘wands’

Bad: nothing at the price

RATING: 8

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SYSTEM USED
Wilson Benesch Circle turntable
Roksan The Pug arm
Miyajima Takumi
Icon Audio PS3 phonostage
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp
Icon Audio MB 845 Mk.II monoblocks
Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing mods
Vertex AQ & Atlas cabling

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