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But if we consider the sound as a whole that should deliver a respite for our minds and souls in the form of a magical experience, then we must admit that the Black Stork does a marvelous job. Yet I should also say that it lacks a bit of resolution. While the deck was able to show differences between tone arms very easily, the turntable/arm combo was able to show differences between the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme and Miyajima Laboratories Waza pickups almost instantaneously. This quick comparison was possible not because this turntable allowed me to analyse separate sonic aspects but rather, because it delivered the final verdict almost at once. In this respect it was an absolutely extraordinary device. Sure, certain things could still be improved—the SME30 offers better dynamics, the Sindre better resolution—but considering the Black Stork's price, it’s a great value already.

The designers of the company Jonas Jakutis and Vidmantas Triukas live in Kaunas/Lithuania. Both are engineers with several years of study at the Kaunas Science Institute. When deciding to design a turntable, they had to choose from a number of applicable philosophies. The most common one says that you must decouple plinth from motor; or apply enough mass to convert vibrations to heat. Otherwise unwanted resonance finds its way into the stylus. Once again the most common solution is to build a tone arm that dissipates such vibrations as quickly as possible and, via mechanical connection, ‘dumps’ them to ground.

In suspended designs by Linn and Thorens, this can't be done in the same way so they must increase platter weight to suppress vibrations and run a soft suspension that feeds back less energy to the stylus. This can be accomplished quite easily in heavy decks but there always tend to be vibrations that end up with the needle. Even very low amplitudes are bothersome considering the size of the groove. That’s why carbon-fibre arms have become so popular. Their material transfers vibrations very quickly and alters their makeup.

The Lithuanian designers decided to damp vibrations from the start. It’s why their tone arms are wooden. As real engineers, they applied science. They first built a device that would show them just how vibrations travel through the wood in amplitude and time. They sought a material with a clearly expressed resonant frequency whose sound damping characteristics were close to the exponential function. A few types of wood survived these rigorous inspections and carried over into the listening session phase.

Here the winner emerged as American Red Cedar but a few others remained as viable customer options. How was the tone arm bearing solved? As a gimbaled design on carbide points whose first prototype was based on a Polish Unitra arm but used different materials. The bearing, offset angle and carbide point shape all evolved from the Polish precursor however.

The Reed tone arm is based not only on technical and acoustic analysis but also audiophile suggestions. The base is made of steel. It is screwed to a brass housing that might be finished in gloss or matte gold or other options. The base differs between the three arm models. The most expensive 3Q integrates a laser mechanism for VTA adjustment and azimuth. Unlike in most tone arms, azimuth adjustment is not realized via wand movement but in the head shell. There is logic behind it as turning the wand changes more than just azimuth since the axis of the turn is not perpendicular to the stylus or cantilever but the arm. The Lithuanian solution makes their head shell design more complex but worth the effort. The head shell is made of Titanium or aluminum.

The less expensive tone arm version still has the VTA adjustment mechanism but drops the laser support. The least expensive arm lacks the on-the-fly VTA adjustment. The arm suspension is on semi-spherical cardan points with a sapphire thrust pad. The counterweight is made of steel. There are two elements. The bigger one offsets the center of gravity at the level of the stylus and can be moved along the wand. It has an additional element which can be screwed in or out for super-precise downforce adjustment. The arm also sports an anti-skating lever mechanism supported by sapphire bearings (another idea sourced from Unitra). The wiring is based on silver-plated C37 copper and can be terminated with WBT or Eichmann Bullet. Build quality, finish and design are outstanding.

The table itself looks quite ordinarily. It's a decoupled design realized differently from the norm. Large metal elements are fixed to the base with bushings at the top that each receive a rubber ball (one chooses from different balls for compliance adjustments). Then one places a square-section steel triangle with round corner elements atop to level the device. This tripod then receives a granite or marble shelf that weighs around 14kg. Here we find the platter’s oil bearing.

The platter itself is a massive 12kg affair consisting of three layers – non-magnetic steel, a composite core with belt groove and a metal top. A sort of brown velour finishes off the platter which looks great. As the platter’s diameter exceeds a 12-inch record, it’s quite difficult to separate vinyl from mat especially whilst changing sides without interrupting platter rotation.

The table is equipped with a slide-bearing synchronous motor (250 rpm speed) with mechanical on/off switch. Speed changes are manual. In my view a high-end turntable deserves electronic speed changes and a soft start function (here there is an audible click over the speakers when the motor spins up). Luckily this can be addressed by future upgrades. The round drive belt is made of white rubber. The motor is placed in a steel cylinder that weights 4 kg and sits on three rubber absorbers. The overall design is quite solid and shows great attention to detail even though my review loaner still looked a bit rough because it was the first production piece ever.

We should probably call it a very late prototype. The entire turntable with base weights 86kg. Complete technical details can be found here.

Technical data (according to the manufacturer):
Speed: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
Speed variance: +/- 0.2%
S/N ratio: 80dB
Synchronous Crouzet motor 230 V/50-60 Hz
Power consumption: 3.5W
Platter weight: 12kg
Turntable weight: 86kg
Dimensions: 1080 x 485 x 450mm

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