Origin Live Calypso mk4 with Multi-Layer Platter, Illustrious arm and Silver Hybrid cable – part 3
So, how does this turntable sound? Well, in a word: flabbergastingly good! Tonally neutral, it has absolutely no coldness or hardness or any other sonic clue that can sometimes be attributed to a technically extremely well-executed reproduction. Nope, this turntable’s full-color- and harmonically rich delivery is the antithesis of a cool or sterile sound. Yet, and that’s what’s so fantastic about this player: it has a transparency and resolution of low-level detail that I have not heard before from any other turntable. And, to further add to this, while I have heard other turntables that are either very powerful and dynamic or highly fluid and refined, these two aspects rarely go hand in hand. With the Origin Live, you guessed it, they do. And then some! This player has dynamics and slam that, even after having owned it for several months, still startle me. Oh, and the bass… The Bass! Based on my experience with various belt-driven turntables, including classic Thorens and current Linn models, I had accepted that the bass would never be as rock-solid as that of mass-loaded turntables or Direct Drive models, which introduce other sonic artifacts themselves.
There were two sub-chassis turntables that did provide great bass: the Michell Gyro SE with Tecnoarm and the Avid Volvere SE with SME 309 arm. Alas, although I really wanted to like these turntables, the fierce bass came along with either a dry midrange and rough, dark, treble or an overly controlled delivery. Of the two, I preferred the Avid but even though it sounded rich and highly refined, I found it to be uninvolving. I’m sure that either turntable could have been capable of better performance using different arms or cartridges but, in any event, I did not manage to make them sing. How different it is with the Origin Live Calypso turntable. It is highly lyrical and super-involving with bass that borders on what a Wadia CD player can do and combiens this with a more organic midrange and an even more liquid presentation than even the best suspended sub-chassis players have achieved in my system.
Quite startling, also, is how this player manages to make individual subtle sounds stand out in their own space while all the other sounds are arranged around it in their own spaces. In your mind, you can pick any sound you like and follow it around in the melody as if it’s in complete isolation. But, simultaneously, the player has a musicality and cohesion that is super-engaging. Everything is presented in a highly lyrical manner and in an effortless flow. When playing the same records on the best of my old Thorens player, the TD125MkII, it becomes clear why certain sounds previously went by unnoticed. I can hear them now but they are embedded into a wall of sound that seems flat and uninspiring compared to the room-filling 3D ambiance of which the Origin Live is so effortlessly capable.
Above: Thorens TD160-Super
Stepping back to the TD160-Super only further flattens the sound and, more seriously, lumps everything together in a big ball of energetic but ill-defined sound rather than the wide and varied soundscape that the Calypso presents. The TD160B with its Origin Live Onyx arm extracts a much fuller bass and a richer, more organic midrange from the humble Thorens but, still, it cannot approach the Calypso + Illustrious combination. Not by a long shot: it is just no comparison.
The Calypso turntable manages to combine all the desired audiophile aspects into a seamless whole that picks you up and takes you for a musical ride. It keeps you at the tip of your seat in anticipation of what the next record will uncover but even though it is so very capable of unveiling microscopic details, it is in no way an actual microscope. This is a music machine, designed to take away all the technical aspects to simply allow the music to come across.
Above: with Denon DL-304 cartridge; below: with Aidas Rainbow cartridge.
The assessments as described above pertain to the combination with the ViRa Aidas Rainbow cartridge although the turntable also shines with the Denon. With the DL-304, the turntable sounds luxurious and romantic but with better resolution and fuller bass than I have heard before from the humble Denon cartridge with any other turntable. With the ViRa Aidas Rainbow, there is a staggering increase in transparency and transient clarity and a more natural, timbrally more convincing, tonality. This cartridge also shows the Denon to be slightly synthetic in its timbre. Amazingly, in spite of its enormous transparency and even when fitted with the extremely highly resolving ViRa Aidas Rainbow cartridge, the Origin Live turntable never massacres any recordings. In the worst case, a recording may sound flatter or duller than the average but even then, the music still shines through.
The majority of the assessments were done using the Benz Lukaschek PP1 phono stage. Far from universally applicable with its 22kOhm termination that cannot be changed, this preamp sounds remarkably good with the two cartridges nevertheless. It’s quite highly resolving, has solid and sonorous bass, a full-bodied midrange, and fluid treble. In an earlier comparison with the Jeff Rowland Cadence, I was already amazed at what this petite preamp was capable of. The Rowland has a more liquid sound, higher resolution, and even airier treble but the Lukaschek PP1 has more solid bass and a more powerful sound, irrespective of the available settings on the Cadence. It wasn’t until I reviewed the CH Precision P1 phono stage that my analog sound was catapulted to sonic heights where I had not yet been before. Combining all that the Cadence does with all the solidity and power of the Lukaschek and further raising the transparency and low-level resolution, the P1 was so very clearly superlative that I had to make the switch. And to think that this whole adventure started with the reviewing of the ViRa Aidas MC cartridge…
Above: Silver Hybrid cable; below: Standard copper upgrade cable.
External Tonearm cables
Oftentimes, silver is associated with a whitish, bright, or even edgy sound and even though I know that this certainly need not always be the case, I still feared for it. After I had completed all my assessments using the Silver Hybrid cable, I remembered that I had also requested the standard copper “Upgrade” cable to be included. Honestly, I needn’t have bothered because not once did I feel that the sound was in any way “silvery”. Compared with the Silver Hybrid cable, the standard copper cable is, well, no improvement, rather, it is a big step back. But that only makes sense, given the difference in price. And admittedly Mark already told me but, you know, I had to hear it for myself. Anyway, the standard cable sounds upbeat and lively and not bright or edgy and it is quite involving but after the Silver Hybrid I have to say it is difficult to get used to the regular cable’s comparably drier and thinner sound. The beauty of the Silver Hybrid cable is that it adds (or takes away less) harmonic richness without reducing the speed or the expressiveness. Considering these differences I feel that adding the Silver Hybrid really is a no-brainer. And at 667 euro for the detachable version and only 535 euro for a hard-wired version, it offers a ridiculously good value for money.
The Origin Live Calypso Mk4 with Illustrious tonearm is flabbergastingly good! Tonally neutral, it has absolutely no coldness or hardness or any other sonic clue that can sometimes be attributed to a technically extremely well-executed reproduction. Nope, this turntable’s full-color- and harmonically rich delivery is the antithesis of a cool or sterile sound. Yet, and that’s what’s so fantastic about this player: it has a transparency and resolution of low-level detail that I have not heard before from any other turntable. It keeps you at the tip of your seat in anticipation of what the next record will uncover but even though it is so very capable of unveiling microscopic details, it is in no way an actual microscope. The Calypso manages to combine all the desired audiophile aspects into a seamless whole that picks you up and takes you along for a musical ride. This is a music machine, designed to take away all the technical aspects to simply allow the music to come across.
By now, it will come as no surprise that I am totally smitten with this player. It is a permanent part of my system and I seriously doubt if there is a player out there that can beat it in terms of outright enjoyment and musical flow. And even in technical and audiophile terms, I’ve not heard a better performance than this. I know that much more expensive turntables exist, yet I struggle to think of any single area in which the Calypso/Illustrious combo could be meaningfully improved.
I can’t recommend it more highly – this is a must-hear!
After many more experiments but when still using the AudioQuest Water interlink, I landed on a slightly different balance between the 3 fixation points: the VTA ring is now used only to determine the correct tonearm height, the hex-screw fixed as strongly as I can using only thumb and index finger, the VTA ring then loosened again and the large nut on the bottom tightened just so, again using my thumb and index finger, that it is gently gripped but you can still relatively easily rotate the arm assembly.
After having changed the Water interlink for the Origin Live Silver Hybrid interlink, however, the bottom nut can be tightened more than was pleasant with the AudioQuest Water, actually precisely as much as I can muster using only my thumb and index finger. If you’re then up for further experimentation, depending on the record or your mood, you could again tighten the VTA ring to varying degrees to adjust the balance between slightly laidback and slightly forward. However, based upon the reactions from several visitors, I suspect that most people will prefer the more relaxed sound with only the hex nut tightened and leaving the VTA ring loose.