Records

The Slovenian High End Audio Experience - Kuzma Analogue Academy by Rom Beyerle

Hotel Zaplata Preddvor, Slovenia

THE SLOVENIAN HIGH END AUDIO EXPERIENCE - KUZMA ANALOGUE ACADEMY

With the excitement building towards the Munich High End show- just a little under two weeks away, my thoughts are cast back to around this time last year. I was lucky enough to be invited, and attend the inaugural Kuzma Analogue Academy, an amazing concept of Kuzma Analogue owner and founder Franc Kuzma.

Kuzma Analogue have long cemented themselves as one of the world’s leading high end turntable designers and manufacturers, with legendary analogue reference equipment. Such as; the Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable, XLDC and most recent, Stabi M turntable. Not to be forgotten are the exceptional reference tonearms such as the renowned Kuzma 4Point, Airline and the many variants of the Stogi S and Stogi Reference. Kuzma has forged a huge reputation for their tremendous build quality, iconic design and superb technical, ergonomic and of course sonic performance.

With distributors on six continents and dealers in more countries than I care to count, Franc Kuzma extended the generous invitation for a limited number of distributors, press and dealers to visit the home of Kuzma Analogue in Slovenia. An opportunity to bring expertise together and explore and learn Franc's own tricks, techniques and philosophy on turntable setup, with an official exam and certification from the Analogue Academy at the end.

For many of the twenty odd attendees from as far afield as Brazil, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Australia. It was our first time to Slovenia, and a real pleasure to experience 4-5 days of Slovenian hospitality, humour and tradition. Arriving mid afternoon to Hotel Zaplata, where the entire small traditional style Slovenian hotel had been booked out by Kuzma following the huge interest in the Analogue Academy (originally numbers were predicted for 8-12people). We were greeted by the fantastically friendly staff at the hotel, a huge Kuzma banner at the front door, flagged by the giant taxidermy animal window display, boy do they like hunting and animal wall hangings there! Before I could sit my bags down I was greeted by Franc and invited to meet the many attendees who had already arrived. Basking in the afternoon spring sunshine, looking up to the nearby snow sprinkled peak from the quaint roadside hotel; everyone enjoyed some local brews or wine and got acquainted.

Dinner was a traditional Slovenian feast of many mainstay dishes, Franc was the ultimate host in opening the Analogue Academy, welcoming us all and giving thorough introduction for us to Slovenian lifestyle, food(Franc himself had played a big part in designing the menu for the evening) and their slight inclination for a beer or wine. A few bets, taunts and challenges were made regarding passing the Academy setup exam for a few days time and we all hit the hay.

Friday began with a very thorough outline of the course content and practical plans. Followed by a valuable series of comprehensive theoretical lectures from Franc and his team on analogue design, challenges, Kuzma products and their own setup methods, tools and techniques.

 Franc, whilst at the top of his game and an absolute expert in the field, graciously remains very open to other opinions, set-up tools and people’s hands-on experiences with different equipment. Many of the distributors have been working closely with Kuzma for many years. These are professionals with vast analogue experience, who are dealing with real world system setups, and troubleshooting on a daily basis. Analogue setup experts who provide the very best service possible, to supply and support Kuzma products all over the world. Whilst many customers have experience and skills on analogue setup, to extract the very best from an analogue source, there are very tight tolerances to adhere to. When available, it is always suggested that turntable setup is carried out by Kuzma product specialists. This is, and should be your retailers mission, to setup, oversee and ensure that you are getting the absolute best you can from your precision instrument!

Moving on, with hugely filled stomachs we were given the opportunity to work on all Kuzma products, and practice the Kuzma setup techniques. In-between, small groups were ferried off to visit Frank Kuzma's own office. His astounding record collection, and amazing high end system were showcased, and we enjoyed a taste of his own reference system used for testing and comparing new designs.

A luxurious dinner in a nearby village saw us all rolling out of the bus for bed after a feast of locally sourced ingredients. This included a head chef who hunts and cures his own salamis, sausages and many other meats…A carnivore’s paradise!

Saturday was much more practical, with testing and exams. All attendees passing with flying colours (of course), but not without strict assessment, triple checking by the fastidious production manager and employees. These gentlemen eat, live and breathe the precision that goes into each and every part, process and innovation of the Kuzma products, and expect it will be maximised with a setup of exacting standards.

Some interesting new products were discussed and shown by various distributors, including the AFI FLAT record flattener, and an audio specific piezoelectric vibration platform. Some varying ideals and analogue techniques were discussed. A great talk was given by journalist Roy Gregory, on his own take on analogue audio; which held some terrific discussion points for everyone in the industry, and audio passionates alike.

A visit to the Kuzma production house was extremely interesting, seeing the many production parts laid out in mass, vintage machining lathes still in service-better quality than what you buy new today. Assembly desks, electronics and wiring construction all in an extremely clean and well laid out light filled workshop, still buzzing with some late minute operations at around 6pm on a Saturday. Vinyl audiophiles wait for no man.

A celebration dinner at one of Ljubljana’s finest restaurants was spectacular and rather theatrical in its unfolding. Franc Kuzma continued to offer bus ride commentary, about the history and insights into Slovenia, and the surrounding areas as we went by. We met outside in a quirky outdoor beer garden, filled with antique machinery and interestingly repurposed and recycled furniture. Welcome drinks were already on order.

Inside the ambient lit “antique shop” feel restaurant, rows of records lined the back bar, and on a wall platform was nothing less than an original Kuzma reference turntable. After the greeting from the staff, it was apparent that Franc Kuzma is somewhat of a celebrity here, and from all reports, all over Slovenia. The charismatic, pride filled person that he is, it's easy to see why. 

 A huge feast saw us take over the entire restaurant, forming one giant horseshoe shaped table where the staff brought dish after dish and the head chef came to carve his way into everyone’s memories forever. Such was the performance and enthusiasm all night, no wonder Franc loves this place.

Terrific hospitality, new friends and stories aside, the opportunity to visit Slovenia alone was well worth the trip across the world. But the content, thorough planning and execution combined with the melting pot of knowledge amassed from all over the world, shared so openly for the benefit of all involved, made the first Kuzma Analogue Academy simply an outstanding event. All credit to Kuzma for creating such a terrific concept, and executing it with such style and thought. One can only hope we will see another KAA someday soon.

All the best to the Kuzma team at Munich High End 2017. I believe they have some exciting new product announcements to share in the coming weeks. Now to find a recipe for that famous Slovenian "Layer Cake".

*Kuzma were kind enough to provide a digital copy of the textbook theory from the academy you can download here. There is also plenty of other reading on the Kuzma website.

Science Meets Master Craftspeople - Thales Tonearm Technology by Rom Beyerle

Our fine friends and master crafts people at Thales have added a new technology page to their already very informative website, please read on for a great insight into the mechanics of what makes their tonearms truly brilliant. Further reading is also available on their website for whitepapers and brochures on all their outstanding products, or simply arrange a time with us to come and audition them for yourself. 

IDEA

It all began when Micha Huber sought for a way to combine the advantages of a conventional pivoted tonearm and those of a linear tangential pick-up arm. The solution method is based on the well-known elementary school aid to construct a tangent: the Thales' circle. After much thought and calculations, a three-dimensional mechanical solution emerged that satisfies all the requirements placed on a modern pick-up system.

The long-cherished dream of geometrically correct tracking with low friction pivoted bearings became reality. A new patent was added to the dozens of existing patents that testify to this dream: CH 694567 Tangential Pivoted Tonearm, announced in May 2004.

DESIGN

Our philosophy is not only to find theoretical perfect solutions but also to realize them the most precise way and achieve continuous improvement in order to set new standards in music reproduction. Therefore, we invest into research and development constantly and we realized tangential pivoted tonearms with more complex mathematical background allowing more elegant mechanical execution.

Based on the experience that a turntable with its tonearm should be designed as one single unit, we have developed our own turntable-line which meets highest requirements. The portfolio is completed by our own phono- and line-cables.

TECHNOLOGY

 

 

TRACKING ERROR

 

While cutting the master disc of vinyl LP, the cutting-tool is hold on a massive support and guided linearly above the disc’s surface. This arrangement keeps the cutter-head rigid, even if high cutting forces occur.

cutting lathe

 

While tracking the LP for playback, it’s totally different properties: the pickup-cartridge should follow the groove as smooth as possible and even tolerate eccentric and wavy vinyl. Therefore, radial pivoted tonearms are established as they allow to reduce unintentional forces at the tracking point tremendously. However, this mechanically preferred solution ends up with a geometrical error, since the cartridge is not guided tangentially to the groove anymore.

This so called tracking error basically distorts the music signal in a non-linear manner. By using non-spherical diamond tips (f. e. elliptical), further consequences as timing error and channel-differences in the frequency-response occur.

GEOMETRY THALES ORIGINAL

The unique Thales-solution combines in an elegant way the advantages of the tried and tested pivoted tonearm with the absolutely tangential tracking. This construction for which a patent was taken out on the 8th of May 2004 reduces the perfectly tangential tracking to pivot points, while the pick-up cartridge is taken and aligned on the Thales' Circle.

 

All triangles ABC on the Thales' Circle around M are rectangular in point C. Thus BC stands rectangular to AC and therefore tangential to the groove (red) with the radius AC. Because the pick-up cartridge is mounted exactly under point C and in the alignment of the straight line BC the tracking is perfectly tangential in every position.

From this completely new solution the following advantages ensue:

  • No tracking error and no consequential resulting distortions
  • Minimal friction because of pivot bearings; no linear bearings; no active tracking
  • Short tonearm with little resonance
  • Symmetric inertia at the tracking point in all axles

GEOMETRY THALES SIMPLICITY

There is a small but mighty history in finding elegant solutions for tangential tracking of analogue records. Some of the inventors concentrated themselves on tetragon-geometry:

P. W. D. BURNE-JONES
GARRARD ZERO 100

P. W. D. BURNE-JONES

He announced in 1953 a patent with a tetragon tonearm where the cartridge was mounted in the middle of one side. Burne-Jones sold tonearms under his own name, and his idea was adapted several times.

GARRARD ZERO 100

This tonearm, published in 1970, is the best known solution working almost tangential. The cartridge tip was mounted exactly below a pivot-point. This idea made it possible to reduce the tracking error to +0.025 / -0.018°

Even if this solutions are not to be mixed up with the Thales-Original Solution – as the Thales is working on a triangle instead of a tetragon – the experience with the Thales geometry made it possible for Micha Huber to even optimize the tetragon solution and reduce the tracking error to 0.006° which is four times less than all solution published so far. This new geometry now made it possible to come very close to the perfect Thales geometry while using less parts and very elegant design.

GEOMETRY THALES EASY

The geometrical basis for the Easy tonearm is a novelty in tonearm-design. It’s the first solution by Thales where none of the bearing-points is located directly above the stylus. The clever arrangement of six bearing points creates three null points for the horizontal tracking error, plus a zero point for the variable offset angle. So, not only the tracking error is reduced, but the skating force as well.

SKATING FORCE

The skating force is so called because it causes the tonearm to glide over the record from the outside to the inside, so to say 'to skate'. This force which draws the tonearm to the centre of the disc ensues indirectly from the friction between the tracking diamond and the record. This friction force always takes effect in the direction of the tangent line. If the pivot point of the tonearm is not located on the tangent, the friction force is divided into two components: one takes effect in the direction of the pivot point of the tonearm, the other takes effect towards the centre of the disc.

FORCES

The force Ft results from the friction between the record and the tracking diamond. It acts tangentially. Because the pivot point is not located on the tangent, this force is divided into Fa which acts in the direction of the pivot point and Fs which is the skating force. The value of the skating force is not easily determined. It depends – first of all – on the music signal, further on the tracking weight, the circumferential speed and the tonearm and diamond geometry.

Therefore, even if the Thales-tonearms do track tangentially, their offset angle requiers compensation of the skating force. Since the offset angle for all our tonearms are lower than with normal tonearms, we do preset the compensation and it’s not adjustable for the client. For the different solutions, the compensation mechanism is solved as follows:

  • Thales Original: compensation-mass on a small lever, decreasing towards the inner groove because of decreasing offset angle
  • Thales Simplicity II: magnetical compensation between the two arm-tubes, decreasing towards the inner groove because of decreasing offset angle
  • Thales Easy: no skating compensation required, since the offset angle oscillates around the zero-point (straight arm)

the Record Revolution - MKII & the Kuzma Stabi S - High End Turntable at an affordable price by Rom Beyerle

As we see the burgeoning comeback of records and record players allover the world, it's exciting to see people back indulging in the beauty of vinyls. Young children in record stores excited over the latest LP releases, their parents alongside thumbing through crates of freshly wrapped brand new records while carrying a small cache of tasty fresh albums or classic re-issues, as seasoned bargain hunters and collectors scour the clearance boxes. This is just a regular day at any local big box media store. Many smaller niche record stores are also popping up allover. What's old is new again, and if anything it is simply lovely to see an excitement over physical media, tangible things for real people, made by craftspeople, with music created by real artists. People are back in shops meeting and talking with other music lovers, sharing and enjoying music and the experience of being part of whatever sub-culture their musical taste desires - true human interaction among all our digital disconnect.

We see statistics of amazing growth in records and players, and hope that they are all being used. For a long time many of us "audio nuts" have known the still superior sound that is achievable with analogue playback. As people begin the journey into and through exploring records and sound, we do hope it will spark even more intrigue in some to find the best playback system and sound for their records. The immediate yet delicate nature of records demands your attention to detail and we believe this is all part of the charm. A record player should be upto the task of playing back every detail within those grooves, and those audiophile weighted vinyl's should be played back on an audiophile player, capable of completely flooring all but the very best digital playback. A turntable should be easy to adjust in its setup, a joy to use in playback, stylish and complimentary in your home, and it's quality of fit and finish should be absolute, as you would expect from the quality of your valuable new or collectable pressings. It should last, with care, alongside you and your love of records well into old age.

Kuzma in Slovenia have been building turntables of absolute quality for over 30 years, and throughout the decline and almost death of the record, have toiled away refining and creating new tweaks and innovations, many of which designs have stood the test of time now for many years. Our introductory level turntable, is Kuzma's smallest offering, the Stabi S. The stunning T shaped solid brass construction takes technical design elements from far more expensive tables. It offers the fine, delicate finish of all Kuzma products and performance of incredible value for money. Truly stunning in it's appearance and performance, it can be mated to a wide range of tonearms, and also offers pathways for upgrades should you ever desire. True master craftsmanship at an affordable price, the Stabi S is a desirable table of a quality surpassing other tables of similar value with ease. On demo in our Melbourne showroom.