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Scheu Analog vs. Acoustic Solid
I actually started the first serious session not with the standard Rega 250 | Ortofon OM 10 version but the Blue since I know the Jelco S arm and Denon 103 from my Acoustic Solid MPX to make for handy comparisons. Hence I requested the standard Cello plus a spare arm board for my Jelco (which is formally distributed by Phonotools).

Tone arm swapping was child's play. Loosen three nuts, add new arm board, tighten nuts, adjust VTA and tracking force, voilà. Oops, how about zero crossings? Perfect off the bat, nice. "Yeah, sounds like a Denon 103 alright" was my spontaneous reaction as Scheu's Cello spun through the first rounds. First one complains about somewhat grey treble resolution, then asserts that ultimate bass definition spells differently. But then one leans back to enjoy the unbelievably realistic mids and a small shot of extra dynamics and presence. This simultaneously relaxed and involving presentation is fun for all but princes on the pea whom I'll address in a few paragraphs.

Over the Cello, the 103 didn't just sound familiar. Shy of a proper term, I noted a midband quality I'll call juicy-flowing. Granted, juicy remains a recognizable core asset of the Denon. With full and properly grounded vocals, emasculated ephemerals are left to others. And yes, that attribute can occasionally lead to clogging up but not with the Scheu deck. Song is
stunningly moving, each turn of scale brisk, close up -- good Lord, outright fluid -- and fully embodied. Particularly with female voices, I might even say sexy. And Johanna Newsom turns arguably seductive where she should really be a bit more insulted and puckish. This was duly noted in the little black book before I continued to indulge in the entire album.

Then it was reconstruction time aka Phonotools aka Jelco arm with Denon back on the arm board of the Acoustic Solid MPX. Hmm, this triggered many little things, none decisive on their own but the scales did shift and decide on the high-mass Schwabian except for the above fluid/seductive aspect. That I missed a bit with the Acoustic Solid. Conversely, it expanded on the extremes, treble opened and freed up, bass gained definition and depth (though the Denon 103 still is no wide bandwidth system). Additionally, precision increased, tones gained body and the soundstage sorted better and deeper. Last but not least, transients shot sharper from the diaphragms.

So is the Acoustic Solid sonically superior? Yes. How does that rank Scheu's Cello? Good. Remember two facts. First, those who don't subscribe to the last word in purity and favor, particularly on voices, more fluid elegance to accept demerits in other areas will prefer the Cello. Second and more vital, €1,000 is a different game than €2,000. Yes, the Scheu deck is €990, the Acoustic Solid MPX €1,800. And, Musical Life's €269 Shale platform below has long since become de rigeur in my set up to add up to more than twice. I'd be disappointed if it didn't excel here or there. For once, an owner is assured that higher expense needn't mean inferior. Rather than meditating excessively over whether sonic advances justified a double dose of banker's vitamin, I downgraded the Cello back to standard Rega arm and Ortofon Super OM10. I admittedly had blasé suspicions of having to suffer at the hands of a sub €100 MM cart.

Upgrade via Downsizing?
This swap didn't just trade more expensive for less, it also involved longer signal paths. Where, via WSS phono cable, the Denon DL-103 connected directly to the MC input of my Octave HP300 preamp, now the signal had to pass the Rega 250's stock wiring (which I eyed with grave mistrust) to enter the MM input of the Aqvox phono, then exit via Axmann Audio analog IC to the Octave pre (incidentally, this Axiom cable is a price/performance sensation, leading me to buy four right off the bat - see if you're curious). Popular hifi wisdom would have predicted greyer skies but Scheu's Cello begged to differ. Don't ask me why but overall, I preferred this setup.

Admittedly, not everything improved. But two items the Denon handles better, albeit more as tendencies. Microdynamics particularly through the midrange the Ortofon renders more distanced, string attacks are a tad slower and individual sounds aren't as precise. And image placement on the stage has a tendency to the "hello, here comes I" to be less finely arranged and interlinked as though each instruments was assigned its own spot. But, a/ that's mere tendency and, b/ it's intrinsic to the Cello's fun factor. Which is undoubtedly high.

The reason for that is the Scheu entry-level combo's macrodynamic chops, its rhythmic élan. It simply swings, arguably a bit much at times. But that's righter - well, preferable than the reverse. Additionally, the stock Cello has true fun bass which, objectively speaking, also reaches lower and is more articulate than the Denon/Jelco rig. The very last infrasonic squiggles aren't retrieved but the lower frequencies are more present without having the upper bass obscure the mids. This transition is very transparent to garner wins for both frequency ends.

Better bass retrieval is accompanied by a more open clearer treble. Those looking for ultimate resolution finesse will be disappointed but should admit that it requires a rather deeper reach into the purse. The essential argument is that the superior rendition of the frequency extremes creates better tonal balance than the Denon/Jelco combo. Hence the more cost-effective Scheu Cello outfit is unobscured down low and blessed with fun; and open and free of hardness on top, albeit not super resolved. This adds up to a balanced, quite luscious but natural picture which also creates grander soundstage scale particularly in width.

One consequence is a less present midband. Taste determines whether that's called better or worse. The Denon 103 presents voices in a somewhat pushy turn-me-on fashion. That's enjoyable (or viewed as lack of proper distance). With the Rega/Ortofon trim, it's a step back onto the base line between the speakers. This doesn't undermine the fun quotient due to the high PRaT of this combo. No fear on that front then. And, while the stage gets erected comparatively farther back, it is broader, with equivalent depth but better illuminated corners. I liked this better even if individual tones were somewhat less precise, shallower and not as pointed/poignant as over the good ol' 103.

Scheu's smallest deck offers attractive modern cosmetics, flawless finish and sonically inherits certain gifts from the dearer Premier model. The Cello clearly is no poor man's job. Quite to my surprise, I was particularly impressed with the stock accompaniment of Rega 250 arm and Ortofon's MM Super OM10. Mrs. Scheu should be acknowledged for a happy hand in this mix.

• The Cello sounds tonally balanced and extended - the frequency extremes don't get short shrift.
• The bass has pep, nice definition and goes solidly low.

• The mid/bass transition is seamless and transparent while the midband is more on the warm side of neutral, distinctly not hyper present or bright.
• The treble is open, clear and free of hardness but more resolution and detail are doable.
• The soundstage commences at the base line between the speakers, is nicely broad and depth layering is on the money. Good illumination of the room corners is enjoyable.
• Image focus or localization lock is good but higher precision exists elsewhere.
• Macrodynamics lead microdynamics.
• The Scheu Cello manages a very rhythmic, compelling musical take.

• Product: Scheu Analog Cello / fitted with Rega 250 tone arm & Ortofon Super OM10 MM cartridge
• Finish: black or transparent plinth
• Concept: Acrylic plinth and platter, inverted bearing, capacitor-less PLL regulated DC motor, string drive
• Speeds: 33.3 and 45 RPM
• Foot print: ca. 43 x 34cm WxD
• Weight: 7kg
• Other: optional dust cover €195 Euro / extra arm board €25 Euro / Special Edition Blue Cello with Jelco S-arm und Denon DL-103 €1.790
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