Design Built Listen’s Wand Unipivot Tonearm

Posted on 20th November, 2013

Design Built Listen’s Wand Unipivot Tonearm

Kiwi manufacturer Design Build Listen recently unveiled the 12” version of their award winning Wand Unipivot Tonearm® at the Australian Audio & AV Show. StereoNET were on-hand for a closer look.

The original 9” Wand was released a year ago now, and has since picked up a swag of “5-star” reviews from around the world. The 12” arm builds on this success while apparently offering a 24% reduction in distortion due to the longer arm length.

Design Build Listen owner, Simon Brown, told StereoNET he admits to becoming a convert to 12in arms after comparing them. Previously he had been concerned that the longer length of most 12in arms was compromised by the added resonances but as The Wand’s large diameter carbon fibre construction makes it massively stronger than most arms, the benefits of a 12in arm may now be heard clearly.

Wand Tonearm and Number 9 Turntable

The Wand 12” was being displayed at the Australian Audio & AV Show mounted on a prototype of a new Australian designed and built turntable, the “Number Nine” designed by industry veteran Stephen Tuckett (stay tuned to StereoNET for an exclusive look at this turntable). Tuckett was so enthused by The Wand 12” he has now specified it as standard fitment on his turntable.

No stranger to StereoNET readers, another aussie turntable manufacturer, Once Analog has also chosen The Wand (in 9” version) after evaluating it and it is now available in a cosmetic finish to match the Once Analogue turntable. According to Brown, Several other turntable makers have chosen to specify The Wand including UK Analogue Works and Inspire turntables.

Brown went on to say, “The Wand Unipivot Tonearm® represents a step change in tonearm design. This is not your gran’s ‘gramophone’. This is seen in the carbon-fibre arm tube, its large diameter makes it at least four times stiffer than a ‘normal’ arm. The diameter also means that it was possible to ditch the traditional ‘head-shell’ and bolt the cartridge directly into the armtube. Also solving an ergonomic problem as you ‘queue’ the arm with your finger under the tip of the arm, eliminating parts.

Throughout the design process there has been a continuous drive to simplify and then simplify more. To strip down the number of parts. To reduce sonic and visual clutter. Every part resonates, which can add unwanted contributions to the sound. Fewer parts mean’s better sound and keeps the price keen compared to competitors which may have as many as four times more parts.

Tonearms are vital to good vinyl reproduction. A record groove is less than 0.1mm wide. The music signals are literally microscopic ripples pressed into the walls of the groove. So the arm supporting the cartridge must not move relative to the groove, even at the sub-micron level. Yet the arm must also move with perfect freedom across the record. Unsurprisingly most arms make significant unwanted ‘contributions’ to sound quality. Design Build Listen point out that a cheap but competent cartridge in a good arm can sound wonderful where as an expensive cartridge in an indifferent arm will sound indifferent.

Remaining vibrations in the armtube are carefully terminated in the ‘virtual earth’ of the body using a mixture of rigid and damped materials. The exact choice of these materials was to provide the most musically satisfying result. The immensely solid body, made from a 2inch diameter, billet of non-magnetic Stainless Steel also rigidly holds the ‘defined contact’ unipivot bearing.”

Of course, as we know, the best tonearm in the world will sound like the worst if badly set up. The Wand is supplied with a stainless steel alignment tool which speeds up the setup process by allowing 90% of the performance to be extracted very quickly. “The fixed angle of the cartridge mounting ensures the correct Baerwald alignment may be easily achieved simply by moving the base of the arm.” said Brown.

Ease of installation is further ensured by the use of the now standard ‘Rega style’ mounting dimensions and the availability of dedicated mounting kits for Linn LP12 (for those wanting to upgrade older Ittoks), Technics SL1200/1500,  Lenco L75 and ‘SME’ cutouts.

The Wand tonearm was selected as a finalist in the 2011 BEST Design Awards (New Zealand), and Brown is now enjoying global interest in his designs.

Expressions of interest are currently being sought from Australian retailers, with pricing at $1195 (9”) and $1595 (12”).

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    Marc Rushton's avatar

    Marc Rushton

    StereoNET’s Founder and Publisher, born in UK and raised on British Hi-Fi before moving to Australia where he worked as an Engineer in both the audio and mechanical fields.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi


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