Now, The Wand. I believe tonearms can be divided into three broad categories for users: those that limit the number of adjustments, potentially at the expense of the ultimate performance; those that have significant adjustment, but invite the user to constantly tweak their arm’s settings, and those that demand significant initial adjustment when installed, but then become ‘fit and forget’ devices. The Wand very definitely falls into the latter category. The process of installing, aligning, and fine-tuning your cartridge is not for the faint-hearted and not for those of us who have a low threshold in such things might be picking bits of Wand out of a wall, but some of that is because it works differently to other arms. However, when set, it stays set. And it’s not the kind of arm that invites tweaking, fiddling around, or on-the-fly adjustment.
What The Wand brings to the party is excitement. Not swivel-eyed loon excitement, but a sense of speed and energy and zest to the LP. Out came my minty Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section [Analogue Productions] released back in the 1990s. The first bars of ‘You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To’ are always firmly in the pocket, but that groove was even tighter than usual. It has good, tidy bass, but there are arms that go deeper than The Wand, but the bass has a real sense of ‘shape’ and dynamism to it. Soundstaging, image separation, and image solidity are good too, although The Wand tends to cast a deep rather than a wide soundstage, even though you could push the deck still further arm-wise.
And that shows how the two mix together. The wide staging of the Turntable One and the deep staging of The Wand go together well, as does the cavernous bass of the deck, tempered by the deft touch of the arm. Where the Turntable One alone can sound a bit shut in at the top in loud passages, The Wand helps bring the sound back to life. Tom Fletcher favoured unipivots for a reason, and it’s because they clearly work together well, and that’s definitely the case here. The parts are good, but the sum of the parts is really, really entertaining. BBC Radio Two was having a 20 year Brit-pop retrospective at the time of writing this, and it seemed churlish not to spin some Blur and Oasis albums, but then I got better and played ‘Vapour Trail’ by Ride [Creation], a fine slice of shoegazy noise from the early 1990s. This engaged the LP time machine effect very well. The player helped remind me of ex-girlfriends, taking things far too seriously in my Breton shirt, and remembering why I used to think this was the best track ever written.