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Sideways Uni-Pivot Arm, SUPATRAC Blackbird, formerly "Ekos Killer (Price?)"

Discussion in 'audio' started by sonddek, Sep 20, 2020.

  1. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC


    Bristol - my first commercial trade show as guest, let alone exhibitor, has been a success.

    Roy Gandy dropped in for about an hour, to my amazement, for a full tour. To sit next to the man who has sold half a million tone-arms, the two of us attentively listening to my handiwork, was a surreal experience.
  2. iansr

    iansr pfm Member

    Two women in the room! You must be doing something right Richard;)
  3. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    Yes, the ratio at the show was extreme.
    TheFlash and Durmbo like this.
  4. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

  5. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    From Monday SUPATRAC will be VAT registered, as announced on the web site along with a 17% price rise to allow for dealers' margins. That's, this Monday, 6th March.
  6. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    Cymbiosis has a SUPATRAC Blackbird to demonstrate. I have great confidence that Cymbiosis will support my product expertly. We all know how committed Peter Swain and his team are to ensuring Cymbiosis customers get a great vinyl experience – it hardly needs to be said.

    When I visited Cymbiosis recently I was impressed by their commitment to domestic audio and especially serious turntables. I've never seen such an array of Sondeks in one place, but also Rega, Vertere, Naim, and many other seriously competitive brands, and no foo. I noticed that there was no questionable kit on display - everything they sell seems to be carefully selected and supported for delivering dependable listening pleasure in spadesful.

    Peter and I installed a Blackbird on one of his Sondeks in about 20 minutes and it will be no surprise that he appreciated entirely how the Blackbird works in no time at all. We sat down to listen to it in the Cymbiosis main vinyl listening room, and I thought it sounded wonderful immediately, as I've come to expect. I think Peter was pleased with how it sounded too, and we quickly got talking about how to extend his customers' choices to include the Blackbird.

    It's a pleasure meeting and working with people who are passionate about the potential of vinyl playback. I hope to build working relations with carefully-selected dealers across the UK so that more people can get to hear a Blackbird locally and make their own minds up about whether they want one in their systems.
  7. Nero

    Nero Don’t call me Bud

    Good to hear
  8. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    I've uploaded an improved 229mm protractor ('SUPATRACTOR') to the site. In his review Graeme at TNT-Audio said it wasn't clear how to use the supplied protractor so I've added instructions on the protractor itself. This is a 229mm Baerwald protractor, i.e. Linn geometry, so it could be a useful resource for anybody trying to set up a Linn geometry arm. However, unlike many arms, with the Blackbird you can have the protractor point touch the arm's actual pivot point whereas with many arms locating the precise position of the bearing's yaw axis can involve a bit of guesswork.

    I will be updating 9.5-inch, 10.5-inch and 12-inch versions of the protractor too. They will all be available on the site in pdf format to help with set-up of any arm, not just Blackbirds.

    With any decent laser or inkjet printer you should be able to print this at precisely 100% to thicker paper or card, and then make the cuts indicated.

    I'm always grateful for comments, positive or negative.

    The Linn geometry pdf is here:

    Isobarik likes this.
  9. per-Sony-fied

    per-Sony-fied Me in another jacket

    It would be good to have a reference measurement ruler on the PDF so one can be certain that it is printed out exactly as should be. I've found our work Kyocera doesn't always obey by the rules, where a ink jet printer might in such circumstances.
  10. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    If you measure straight along the horizontal line from the pivot point on the right to the bold curved line at 18mm overhang to the left of the spindle hole you should get 229mm, i.e. effective length. Alter print magnification percentage accordingly if your printer is inaccurate.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2023
  11. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    Some Blackbird owners are now receiving new parts, but by oversight I neglected to include instructions, so here's an update.

    Two new parts are being sent out - a 'peg pot' and an internal mass adaptor.

    The peg pot captures the electrical connector pegs which connect the arm wiring to the pillar, as I've documented previously. It makes it much easier to insert or withdraw the electrical connectors since they will now constitute one plug. A leaflet for the peg pot should have been included, but may not have been. The pdf document is here and prints onto a sheet of A4:

    The second part is an internal mass adaptor for those who use low compliance cartridges and need a heavier arm, but don't like the look of the saddle-type (tree frog) external mass adaptor.

    I would advise establishing the need for additional mass using the external mass adaptor slung over the arm before installing the internal mass adaptor. Once you are happy that you have found the right inertia for your cartridge, and if you prefer to use the internal mass adaptor, then you can calculate the correct position for the internal mass adaptor and use it to replace the external mass adaptor. Most users will not resort to this, but it does mean that you can use the arm optimally with stiff cartridge suspensions and without any external sign of mass addition.

    To install the internal mass adaptor, it may help to remove temporarily the string finger lift and/or cartridge. Squeeze the sponge so that it fits easily into the right arm tube at the headshell end and use a pencil or other rod to push it far into the tube cavity. Next, insert the rod with the tether straggling, and retain a part of the tether while pushing the rod in to the right length.

    To calculate inertia equivalence and thereby set the internal adaptor to the right position, measure the distance (d) of the centre of the external mass adaptor from the pivot when it is ideally sited, and weigh it to determine its mass (m). Weigh the internal mass adaptor to find its mass (M). Also recall your arm's effective length (l). The correct distance (L) to push in the internal mass adaptor, as measured from the pointed tip at the headshell end of the arm, can then be calculated as follows:

    L = l – 38 – sqrt ( ( m x d x d ) / M )

    (This assumes an adaptor rod length of 76mm: 76/2=38)

    This calculation does not take into account the likely variation to inertia when the counterweight is adjusted for the new arm mass, but it will not be far off, and correct inertia is a fairly broad window with most cartridges, so punctilious accuracy should not be required.

    Once the mass adaptor rod is correctly positioned, pull the end of the filament which leads to the sponge, while holding the mass adaptor rod in place with your insertion tool. This step wedges the mass adaptor rod against the wall of the arm tube to lock it in place. Finally, shove the loop of filament into the aperture so that it is hidden but can be retrieved with tweezers should you need to remove or adjust the internal mass adaptor.

    It's important that the arm can be configured optimally for the wide variety of cartridges out there. The widest cartridge compatibility has always been one of my goals.
  12. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

  13. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    eksiil likes this.
  14. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    I've just uploaded a fairly significant update to the manual:

    The emphasis is on helping users with configuration/calibration to get the best out of the arm, but there is a bit more information on installation too.

    At the end there is a one sheet A4 arm calibration check list which could be handy to keep by the deck for a run-through every now and then. It's here:
  15. eksiil

    eksiil been there

    As promised, after a week of getting to know the Blackbird, here are my initial thoughts. This is not a caveat: first impressions bear the truest witness to change, to whatever is new or different.

    If I had to pick one word to describe the difference the 12" Blackbird makes in my system, then I'd like to invent one: it "uncrowds" music. It picks out the various sounds and strands of sounds, not just spatially (which it does very well, the soundstage is high, wide & deep). It accords each of them their own place, sustains them there for their "life span", does not let other sounds encroach, even in complex, thronging passages. (This I consider distinct from keeping *instruments* apart (which the Blackbird also excels at). What I have in mind here could, with certain licence, be called "timing").

    My own guess is that this "uncrowding" stems from the Blackbird's "sideways unipivot" principle (now patented, I understand). The suspension of the tone arm on threads & its only coming into lateral contact with the arm post seems to result in a revolutionary new means of vibration-management. The way I would describe the outcome is that it allows the various sounds to acquire & sustain extension (or "body") which remains in each case distinct -- & extremely vibrant, as it were. This applies, in particular, to all kinds of guitars and percussion instruments, but the cello sounds divine & my musically educated girlfriend ajudges the reproduction of the piano to be "entirely correct". Not to mention the human voice -- I've thought of my past setups as revealing, but I'm hearing lots of new lyrics. The Blackbird has tremendous bass in terms of clarity and extension, but it also injects clarity and life into the treble. Among other things, all of this benefits low-level listening. Old favourites among LPs are also getting a whole other lease of life.

    This, for me, is the Blackbird's "superpower". I've never heard an arm "uncrowd" recordings nearly as well. I've had a Rega RB250, Audiomods 5, Cartridge Man Conductor, two different Hadcock 228s & a very good hand-made 13" magnesium unipivot arm from New Zealand. With the exception of the last, I've heard all on the same deck as the Blackbird -- Fletcher Omega 3 -- using the same cart -- a Music Maker III (although it was recently re-tipped and -cantilevered by Joseph Long). For full disclosure, the amp is an Audio Note OTO SE (sporting NOS Telefunken valves & Soviet military spec EL84 equivalents) & the speakers AN-J.

    I've heard a number of other reasonably priced arms -- VPI, SME, AT, etc -- in various other systems & none have even come close to what I now have with the Blackbird.

    I'd be reluctant to say the Blackbird "disappears", as we're playing recorded music in living rooms or man caves. What it does is let the rest of my system deliver what I expect of it (in this instance, resolution, impact, musicality) better than anything else, far better than I could reasonably expect. I'm very curious to hear what it will make of my Deccas -- though I feel the phono stage in the OTO doesn't quite agree with them (& my Croft gear, ideal for the Deccas, is currently set up in my acoustically challenged study). I'm sure it'd be even more of a good thing.

    The Blackbird is, in my experience, inherently no more difficult or fiddly to set up than a unipivot or a tangential tone arm. It can be endlessly tweaked, but equally, once set up, is a breeze to use -- I've found using the thread it sports in lieu of a finger lift to be a revelation & joy to use. The Blackbird is very well made (& presented, in its flight case). It's certainly the best-looking arm I've owned -- or seen. I think a reviewer compared its shape to that of a Concorde & that agrees with my own feeling: it possesses a timeless elegance which doesn't necessarily depend on a future for validation. All the instructions are clear & easy to follow. And last but not least, @sonndek's customer care is second to none -- he literally seems to know no rest.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2023
    Durmbo and Sue Pertwee-Tyr like this.
  16. RoA

    RoA pfm Member

    Gorgeous looking arm.
  17. sonddek

    sonddek Trade: SUPATRAC

    Thank you eksiil! I know exactly what you mean by 'uncrowds'. Complexity revealed as complexity rather than confusion, and as always I'm thrilled that another customer is thoroughly enjoying his Blackbird.

    I sent two 12 inch Blackbirds to established reviewers yesterday, so more reviews to come.
    eksiil likes this.
  18. RoA

    RoA pfm Member

    Sonddek, you need to make a budget version.
  19. Joe

    Joe pfm Member

    What would you like him to leave off the construction to reduce the costs ?....the arm tube ? The bearing system ? or the counterweight ?
    Durmbo likes this.
  20. RoA

    RoA pfm Member

    Strange reply.

    Rega/Project etc make different arms at different cost.

    Sometimes the production process can be simplified and QC/selection is less stringent or materials are cheaper.

    Economy of scale comes also into it. Say he makes 500 of the things in 6 months will cost a hell of a lot more than making 5000.

    Not everyone can or wants to spend that much.

    Anyway, I don't know why I bother.
    SteveH and Darren like this.

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