The tone arm assembly is essentially two reinforced carbon fiber tubes joined at right angles. One slides through a solid brass block containing eight high-pressure jets at 45psi/ea. that float the air in an ultra-rigid air bearing. This air bearing is so friction-free that while fully counter-balanced, I could gently blow on the side of the tone arm and have it float across the entire top of the record. The other tube is the tone arm proper, wired with medical-grade silver wire. A full range of adjustments are possible, including VTA and VTF, azimuth and the ability to change the center of gravity for the tone arm assembly depending on the cartridge weight.

Adjustable VTF & Center of Gravity
Leveling the arm is a breeze. Just attach a piece of putty for a counter weight and turn a knob that raises or lowers one of the 'legs'; when the arm floats in a stationary position, you're done. The entire process takes about 30 seconds. Like everything else about this creation, the level remains rock-solid. Although I compulsively check it weekly, I rarely have to adjust it.

As Lloyd states in the interview, high frequency noise, spikes and harshness can be tamed with judicious use of damping. Sometimes this brightness can be mistaken for detail though it's not. To me, damping is analogous to the video sharpness control. When you turn down the sharpness control, your first reaction might be that you lost detail but the opposite is true. The same applies to damping; when dialing in some damping on records that need it, the top end smoothes out. You are not losing high end information - you are losing HF garbage, which now allows more of the music to flow. The better the record, the less damping you need . The dampening trough is located behind and under the tone arm. A thin pin attached to the arm extends into the trough, which is filled with silicon fluid. A small paddle can be raised or lowered into the fluid to displace more or less oil and raise or lower the fluid level. The higher the level, the more the tone arm 'pin' drags in the fluid and the more damping results. This damping implementation is much simpler and more elegant than my description.

Arm wiring
Walker sources his arm wires from a bio-medical laboratory. This is the same ultra-pure, solid-core silver wire with clear .001 inch Teflon insulation that's used in medical research. The wires are separated in the reinforced carbon fiber arm and directionally wired for improved sound. One of Walker's most passionate themes is that connections are inherently bad. The only good connection is no connection. With that philosophy, Walker eliminates every connection possible. Although his table can be custom-built with high-quality female RCA jacks, the best sound comes from hot-rodding the arm wires with male RCAs and plugging them directly into the phono preamp. I've had the table configured both ways and it's not close - the arm wires connected directly to the phono input offer a dramatic improvement in sound, bringing you one step closer to the music.

The platter is 70 lbs. of pure lead. There's that resonance control obsession again. It is slightly smaller than a record and has the label area machined out. This allows the outer lead-in grooves to hang over the platter edge. The record's
forced to the platter via a brass clamp to lie flat and essentially coupled to the inert lead cylinder. Want a vacuum hold- down? Forget it - it's sonically inferior. I asked about vacuum hold-downs and Walker visibly cringed. He essentially said that vacuum pumps are noisy creatures, placing unwanted high-frequency vibrations from vacuum seal leaks at the worst possible location - the record/stylus interface. His system works. I have yet to find a record that did not rest absolutely flat against the platter.

This platter is supported on a zero-friction air bearing. Walker claims a theoretical advantage even to the Rockport design. I can't comment on that but just for fun, I did disconnect the drive belt and spun the platter by hand. Thirty minutes later, the platter was still turning. That's low friction, folks! Also, the inertia of 70 pounds of spinning lead certainly overcomes any drag induced by the stylus on the record.

Drive Motor
The drive motor in its matching crushed marble enclosure sits on Valid Points on a separate adjustable base. Both the angle of the motor and the tension on the ¼" silk belt easily adjust with screw assemblies.

The motor, wired with silver/Teflon solid-core wire and premium capacitors is a low torque instrument-grade A/C design. Even the on/off switch to the motor is silver. Sometimes the motor does not have enough power to start the platter spinning by itself. If you turn the motor on at the 45rpm setting, it will just sit there and vibrate. A gently pushing nudge on the platter and everything spins up to speed in a few seconds. Given the design choice of a
high torque motor vs sound quality, sound quality always wins out over convenience.

Motor Controller
The Walker Motor Controller provides the motor with clean and accurate A/C power. As a result of Lloyd's gentle persuasion, I opted for the Ultimate controller with a Teflon board and Walker's proprietary nude metal resistors. I saw the output of this device vs. its line A/C input displayed on a scope. We are talking a perfect sine wave compared to anything but coming in. The unit is similar in purpose to the VPI SDS unit. Having both at my disposal, I performed a mini shoot out between the Walker and VPI on my old VPI system prior to installing the Walker turntable. The Walker controller produced musical images with more solidity and density. Once set, its speed does not vary regardless of incoming power. My KAB strobe showed absolute rock-steady stability with the Walker but I had to re-strobe my VPI at each startup - not major adjustments but adjustments nonetheless. Speed changes are via toggles on the front panel of both units. The Walker has a nonfunctional on/off switch. It is now designed to be left on continuously. Why? Because it supposedly sounds better with the switch disconnected. On the Walker, speed is adjusted by turning small screws with a jeweler's screwdriver while the VPI sports a more elegant flat-membrane speed adjustment with digital readout.

AC power phase switch
The Walker Controller has an esoteric adjustment on the side to reverse internal phase. Walker contends that motors can be wired in two directions and absolute phase will affect the drive motor, with one setting offering better sound. While listening to a record, flip the phase switch during play and leave it in the best-sounding position. The effect is subtle but if your system has enough resolution, you will hear the difference.

When I first installed the table, I didn't fully realize the sonic impact of the motor controller for a couple of reasons. First, I initially failed to properly zero in on the absolute exact speed. I would get it very close and just leave it, being used to all of my previous tables drifting
slightly over time. I took the position 'close is good enough'. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In a subsequent demo, Walker showed me the advantages of perfect speed adjustment. Just for fun, I subsequently removed the controller and plugged the motor directly into the wall as well as a traditional line conditioner. There was no comparison. While it still was good, I had lost the magic. Spend two or three minutes to get the speed exactly right and you will be rewarded with perfect pitch stability, solidity of soundstaging and vocal lock. This thing is amazingly stable; just set and almost forget it. I only check mine once a month or so and it is always right on. Walker has recently upgraded the controller, effectively isolating the 33rpm and 45rpm adjustments from each other to increase the sensitivity of the speed adjustments, allowing for even greater precision and accuracy.

This is not a one-person installation. It involves multiple crates weighing about 300 pounds without the stand, which has to support this weight. Fortunately and due to our close proximity, Lloyd and Fred installed the unit. Although it appears complex, a reasonably competent person with a helper can install it without factory assistance in about a day. Even lifting the platter is a two men job - just try to pick up 70 lbs. of lead to chest level and you'll see why you need help. I understand that about one-half of the tables are self-installed.

I will not detail the entire installation process which took Lloyd and Fred about 4-5 hours. However, the major steps are:

  1. Determine the location for the air pump and its electric outlet
  2. Run the plastic air tubing from the pump to the turntable
  3. Assemble the table, air suspension and air bearings
  4. Level the system
  5. Install and align the arm

Once the above is done, the cartridge is installed for which Walker uses the superb Wally alignment tools. The arm is slid in or out until it tracks the alignment marks from beginning to end. Azimuth is visually adjusted with the aid of a precision ruler. Finally, the cartridge is rotated until the cantilever is parallel with the laser-etched marks. This system is precise and accurate. When the adjustments are done, the arm is locked in place with set screws.

VTF is adjusted via a threaded counter-weight system attached to the end of the tone arm assembly. Adjusting the counter-weight angle adjusts the center of gravity of the tonearm. VTA is changed by another threaded nut at the base of the tone arm. Neither is adjustable during play.

Now the fun began. We spent a few hours of 'dialing in' the VTA and VTF - although the controls are independent, each adjustment somewhat affects the other. Small adjustments made big differences with my Discovery Cartridge and even greater differences with my Reference Wood. After the VTA and VTF were optimized by ear, we applied a small amount of damping. The sound smoothed out and soundstage increased especially in the depth dimension. I played a few non-critical recordings and used the Cardas record to break in the wires for about a week.