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Thread: Timestep T-612 'banana' tonearm - mini review

  1. #1
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 2,923
    I'm Tom.

    Default Timestep T-612 'banana' tonearm - mini review



    Iím not a great hifi show goer by any means. I do like to go to the odd one every few years, but when I do go itís usually a bit of an opportunity for smugness (as Iím sure it is for a lot of us here) ... I generally go home chuffed at the idea that what I have at home is far better than some megabucks setups Iíve just been exposed to. Itís extremely unusual for me to be so struck by something at a show that I go and buy it within days.

    But there always has to be an exception - and the new Tilmestep 12in tonearm, the T-612, turned out to be one.

    I saw it on a stand on the ground floor, the 9in version on one of the new Technics decks, with its distinctive banana shape. I immediately recognised it as related to the Audio Creative Groovemaster II, made in Holland using state of the art hybrid ceramic bearings, with several rave reviews accumulated already.

    It was explained to me that Timestep had created an arm based on the Dutch arm (the Dutch build it as youíd expect), with a number of subtle differences: first of all the geometry was 290mm - a straight drop in for people looking to upgrade a 12in Jelco 750L (the Dutch original has a longer spindle to pivot) - a good move I think. In the Timestep version, silver wiring and titanium arm tube are standard (they are plus-cash options on the Groovemaster). And of course there were the 9in and 10in versions (which I believe the Dutch donít offer), the 9in aimed I guess at use on Technics decks, 10in at vintage Japanese decks like the SP10, and the 12in version aimed at idlers - Garrards, TD124s and Lenco projects - with the 12in in particular focused on users of low compliance cartridges. All the bases covered, with the 12in right up my street in terms of cartridges. Though in fact all of them are suitable for low compliance cartridges - the 12in is 29g effective mass, but even the 9in is 26g.

    I did get a quick listen on headphones to the 9in arm, but I had been curious about the Dutch arm for several years and had read pretty much all there is out there about it; the fact that a version of it was now available with support in the UK rapidly made my mind up.

    I went home, thought about it, and contacted Hugo of Ammonite Audio the next day to see if he could get me one. It arrived fairly quickly. On unboxing, it was clear that this was pretty well thought out: it comes with the same selection of arm weight + extra weights for different cartridges as the Dutch arm. I ordered the optional SME pattern sliding base (for me an essential rather than an option) - this bolted straight on same the armboard used previously for SME M2-12R and Ortofon RMG 309 Limited. The package included is a very useful laminated protractor, and I had it up and running with my Ortofon SPU Royal N in a matter of minutes. The base is quite a clever thing, the collet can go four different ways (facing up, down, or flipped) to give different combinations of support to the arm pillar depending on how high or low it needs to sit on the plinth and how much travel you need in any direction along the sliding base. Neat!

    Probably the most impressive thing about the TT, apart from the smoothness of the bearings, is the titanium arm tube, itís quite a lovely thing to handle, weighty but well balanced. And the looks are fantastic with that EMT-inspired banana shape.

    On listening, I was quite taken aback - this thing has turned out to be one of the best tonearms Iíve ever heard. It almost felt like it made a cheap MM (£45) cartridge sound like an expensive MC (the performance of my Shure SC35C is hilariously good on this arm), while expensive MCs sounded quite superb. My recently acquired Decca-style íno cantilever' Ikeda 9C III - which takes a huge amount of controlling and can disappoint on an inadequate arm - was quite stunning.

    In my opinion it betters my old SME M2-12R by quite a distance (and a Schick 12in I had before that). I have quite a stable of low compliance cartridges - Miyajima Madake and several Miyajima monos in addition to the Ikeda and the Royal N - and itís been a pleasure to listen, compare and contrast, for hours at a stretch. It seems to bring together control and quietness in the groove with maximum detail extraction and the relaxed, musical quality that I tend to associate with longer tonearms. Itís an intoxicating combination. For some reason itís been almost wall to wall jazz since its arrival (something about that relaxed, laid back quality?) but itís very good with classical too. Recording ambience, 3d layering, the finest detail, deep bass - they are all there in spades and in a musical way, not fragmented and deconstructed into constituent parts.

    Are there any down sides to this arm? Well the only criticism I could make is that it feels rather more cheaply accessorised than an SME - it seems to me that the money has gone into the armís performance rather than into bling: the arm lift looks pure Jelco (why reinvent the wheel I guess?), while the arm retaining Ďclipí is a kind of plastic clothespeg - odd, but it works well. The SME sliding base, while 100% functional and secure is plain and unbranded and feels less substantial than the one on my previous Ortofon; the azimuth adjustment is one bolt rather than the two substantial countersunk bolts on the Ortofon. And for smoothness and adjustability, the dynamic balance of my old Ortofon RMG does take some beating (that has some pretty nice bearings in it too as well as a lovely finish) - the static balance on the Timestep arm by contrast is a strictly manual affair involving fine motor skills to tweak the position of the counterweight.

    But these really are just minor quibbles given its performance, and simply demonstrate priorities. All in all, for £1600 including the sliding base, brand new with with warranty, it seems to me to be an out and out bargain, though that doesnít include a tonearm cable - Iíve been using my trusty Audio Note AN-V silver litz cable which seems to have synergy with the internal silver wiring. No-brainer indeed for us idler nuts.

    Incidentally anyone referencing this for using this tonearm with an Ortofon SPU, using the supplied protractor and my Dr Freickert alignment tool, I ended up at 291.5mm for the 52mm collet-to-stylus tip distance on the SPU, rather than the standard 290mm which I assume is based on 50mm.





    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Norwich

    Posts: 2,399
    I'm Hugo.

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    Thanks for your kind words, Tom! It is indeed a lovely thing and if I did not already have a 9" Glanz MH-94S arm on the SL-1200GR, it would be sporting one of these. I know that Timestep are looking at speccing a bespoke counterweight as an option, so that it fits under the cover of any Technics SL-1200, instead of the longish weight shown above. That option will be confirmed in due course.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Mar 2008

    Location: Dunfermline, Scotland, UK

    Posts: 12,361
    I'm inthescottishmafia.

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    Interesting Tom, seems an ideal choice for my 401, like the way it looks too.
    ďMusic has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of fuel. Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is fuel. I have always needed fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radioĒ

    Hunter S Thompson

  4. #4
    Join Date: Sep 2012

    Location: Newcastle-upon-Tyne

    Posts: 21
    I'm Keith.

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    Nice write up Tom. I have the aluminium tubed A.C. GM2 bought direct from A.C. in Holland on my 401 running a Shilabe and it is really very good, especially at the price. I have toyed with the idea of changing it for the Ti tubed version but where do you stop??!!
    Might look at a change of cart instead!! Any recommendations to improve on the Shilabe?
    BTW, I got Speedysteve to make me a sliding base for mine out of brass as they didn't do their own at the time.
    Simon Clarke dual mono Paradise Phono amp to Najda pre amp/Dac/active crossover and DSP. Crown XLi 1500, Guy Sergeant Hiraga Le Monstre, Leben CS300sx.
    Nottm Analogue Mentor Ref with modified plinth, 12" Audio Creative Groovemaster 2, Oyaide head shell, Miyajima Shilabe. PC running Roon and Tidal to Najda dac.
    Lowther DX4 in Mauhorn V cabinets or DIY open baffle with 18" Fane Colossus XB, Beyma 12p80ND and Beyma TPL150H with Rel S2 sub.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: London

    Posts: 149
    I'm David.

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    Sounds a great arm and a very sensible idea to make it the same length as the Jelco to enable people to easily upgrade their arm.

    I am in the process of trying to achieve an upgrade on my old Jelco 750L (hence the sale of my Roger Studio 1’s in the ads) but I wonder if anyone has compared this arm to the new knife edge 12” arms from Jelco
    David.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Sep 2010

    Location: West Midlands, UK

    Posts: 589
    I'm Lee.

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    Nice write up Tom, I also had a look at this at the Bristol Show and it catched my eye too. When I finally finish my Lenco project one of these could be making its way to the house.
    Vinyl rig 1 - NAS Spacedeck / Jelco 750D / EAR 834P modified / Denon DL 103. Vinyl rig 2 - Lenco GL75 c/w original arm and Shure M75ED MM cart / trichord Diablo with NCPSU. Amplifiers - Audio Note Empress Silver / Hattor Passive Pre. Digital - Mac Mini / Lampizator Atlantic Plus tube rectified Dac / Linear PSU / Hummingboard Network audio adaptor. Speakers - Horns.pl Mummy's. Cables are Audio Note / Albedo / Duelund WE16GA Speaker wire. Power conditioner is a Gigawatt PC2 EVO

  7. #7
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Banbury, Oxfordshire/Panteg is where my late father was born

    Posts: 4,080
    I'm Chris.

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    Looks great on the 1200GR, interesting arm.
    Chris

    We've gone on holiday by mistake !

  8. #8
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: London

    Posts: 149
    I'm David.

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    This May seem a silly question but what’s the point of a sliding base for arms like this?
    David.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 2,923
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moko View Post
    This May seem a silly question but whatís the point of a sliding base for arms like this?
    Flexibility in using different cartridges including fixed heads from the likes of Ortofon or EMT without having to cut a new arm board each time.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 2,923
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by keith1962 View Post
    Nice write up Tom. I have the aluminium tubed A.C. GM2 bought direct from A.C. in Holland on my 401 running a Shilabe and it is really very good, especially at the price. I have toyed with the idea of changing it for the Ti tubed version but where do you stop??!!
    Might look at a change of cart instead!! Any recommendations to improve on the Shilabe?
    BTW, I got Speedysteve to make me a sliding base for mine out of brass as they didn't do their own at the time.
    Great idea on the sliding base I'm sure Steve did a super job. Maybe Audio Creative would sell you a Ti arm wand? I'm sure someone like J7 or Angus could stick it on for you.

    As for improving on the Shilabe that's a tough one ... I moved to it from an Audio Note Io which I previously thought was about the best I could sensibly lay my hands on (given the need for a top-quality, specialist SUT to get the best out of it), somehow I felt the Shilabe did all the hifi stuff just as well, but was more musical / holistic in how it did it. After a Kansui (which I'm not sure was an upgrade as such, just another flavour from the Shilabe) I've ended up with a Madake which is a truly stunning cartridge, outpointing even my other two 'star' cartridges, an SPU Royal N (a model I've owned three times now - keep coming back to it) and my recently acquired Ikeda 9C III which is also a fabulous cartridge in its directness and immediacy, but somehow the Madake just eases ahead in its effortlessness.

    The only cartridge I've heard in my system that I'd truly put on a par with the Madake is the Ortofon SPU 95th Anniversary. I'm currently racking my brains as to how I can afford a 100th Anniversary SPU when they get released in May at Munich High End. No doubt most of them will pass into the hands of collectors [pauses to spit on the ground] who will never play them but keep them in an air-conditioned cupboard somewhere. But who knows maybe somebody somewhere will want to sell their 95th Anniversary off to raise funds for one.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

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