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Après coffee we moved to the adjacent room to witness the setup of the Blackbird including the DFA-1o5 arm and the mounting and adjusting of our own Zu Denon DL-103 Grade 2 cartridge. We had other manufacturers and distributors install and set up their turntables before and anticipated that this would take at least an hour and a half. How would Chris get on?

From the neatly packed shipping box emerged a small box with the power supply and bags with small parts, then the plinth. We found it novel to see the bearing’s spindle installed already but that’s how Feickert does it. And why not. The first order of business was attaching to the bottom of the plinth the power supply connector. It’s trickier to do once the whole table is already assembled. Another surprise but typical of Feickert was the power supply itself. It looked like an off-the-shelf SMPS - which it is. Finesse derives from the motor controller’s electronics which are safely tucked inside the base. With the cable in place, the next step was leveling the base. Dimensionally the Blackbird fit nicely on our ASI shelf and its three feet made final adjustments easy. The feet themselves are made of aluminum and fitted with a layer of rubber for a slip-free mount.

Once leveled, we took a closer look at the spindle. Around the mounting plate fitted with four bolts there was an engraved message in the aluminum: Dr. Feickert Analogue, Model Blackbird. Engineered and handcrafted in Germany. Serial Number 0031. After the platter is mounted, this message along with CE and RoHs logos disappears from view, giving the whole table an understated sleek appearance.

Further on the top plate we noticed the speed controls at the left bottom corner, tiny switches for 33 and 45 RPM with an optional third 78 setting in the middle. Above the black switches were pin holes to trim speed. Two Papst precision motor pulleys work at an opposing 180° in a master-slave setup for best synchronicity. This loads the bearing evenly and drives the platter nearly tangentially. The two upper corners contain the slots for the arm boards. The right slot accepts arms from 9 through 13 inches in length, the smaller left slot handles arms from 9 to 10 inches. Both are equipped with millimeter scales on either side for easy and precise adjustments. After cleaning the spindle and applying a little lubricant, Chris slid the heavy platter over the spindle and let it slip down carefully until the inverted bearing contacted the post. A quick spin showed that not even run in, the bearing had very low friction resistance and spun freely for quite a while.

Next came the mounting of the arm base. Feickert stocks bases for most popular arms and can produce a custom one on order. Since the arm we’d use was an OEM Jelco arm built to Feickert’s specifications, Chris knew the mounting distance by heart. He fixed the base with two heavy bolts at the 252mm mark. With the arm in one hand, Chris next fed the cabling through the arm base before preliminarily fixing arm to base. Because our cartridge is relatively heavy, the arm’s counterweight would be moved out quite a bit. We like heavy arms that accept heavier cartridges without flinching. The tonal result always satisfies and we were quite confident that this new combination should work well. Chris mounted the Zu DL-103 to the head shell and attached it to the DFA 1o5. A digital scale helped dial in the ideal needle down force of 2.5gram.

Now a specialty of the new Feickert series of turntables came to the fore - the built-in protractor. Both Blackbird and smaller Woodpecker are equipped with a tiny hole in the top plate for each tone arm. With a set-pin adapter, the non-generic protractor can be used to fine-tune cartridge and arm settings. First to be adjusted was overhang. From the three available geometries based on the research of Bärwald, Løfgren and Stevenson, we picked the Løfgren. Protractor installed, the tip of the needle needs to be exactly at the crossing of the linear tracking line and the protractor’s Løfgren mark. Once set true, the arm can be fixed. Next the set pin is removed and the protractor turned such that the outer null point for the Løfgren setting can be angled correctly. Then the same is done for the inner null. Chris performed these steps very quickly and within a few minutes all settings except for speed and azimuth were locked in.

For speed correction Chris reached in his backpack for a netbook computer. This handsome PC was equipped with his Adjust+ software which in combination with the Adjust+ test LP makes correct speed and azimuth settings child’s play. The cable lead from the cartridge connected to an input on our Tri TRV EQ3SE phono stage, the output of it leashed to the netbook’s soundcard. With the correct track cued up on the test record, the Adjust+ software displayed very precisely the deck’s RPM. For 45s the Blackbird was a tad slow. Tapping the switch beneath the pinhole corresponding to the 45RPM setting, the speed was raised a little until the software confirmed its figure.

Azimuth is the horizontal tracking angle of the needle relative to the groove. A well set azimuth equals perfect channel balance. Feickert’s test record includes a special track for this adjustment but first the cartridge must be aligned at sight with a level. Now the track was played and the netbook graph monitored for phase angle and channel level. After subsequent slight rotations, the graph confirmed success. The user-friendliness of Feickert’s software makes this previously tedious chore a real breeze. Because the graph also shows channel separation, VTA adjustments made by raising or lowering the tone arm are simple based on following the on-screen display. Chris explained that when both channels are equal, VTA too is optimally set.