I've recently had a chance to fiddle about with one of Bob Sattin's hand-wound legendary step-up transformers, the Cinemag 1131. That experience was, in a word, great.
But it was also instructive -- I learned, for example, that just because it looks like it should work doesn't necessarily mean that it will, and that reading the instructions and spec sheets are not only a good thing, they're kinda required, especially if I'm going to go on about the downsides of a particular product.
To wit: just because it's a SUT doesn't mean it's going to work for all low-output moving-coil cartridges equally. I think you can probably hear Bob snorting an "I wish!" over the web at the thought. But it's true -- the windings and impedances have to match just so. If they don't, the world isn't going to end, but if you're attempting due diligence, you can't just wave your hands, hold your nose, and wonder why the magic isn't happening.
The point? Don't guess. Call Bob.
Bob’s Devices‘ set of little widgets just grew again with the addition of the $1,250 Sky 30 SUT. This SUT has different windings from the Cinemag 1131 Blue I was raving about. In that review, I noted that even though the sound was fantastic with the unit inline, the match was not perfect for my low impedance LOMC Ortofon cartridge. In fact, I also noted, the sound quality lost some linearity — even while it gained authority, scale, impact and, well, just about everything else. All in all, it was an interesting trade. But a perfect match it wasn’t. It wasn’t me or my so-called perceptivity. It wasn’t my setup skills. It was the cart. It just didn’t match. Close! But not quite.
Honestly, the Sky 30 doesn’t either. Not for my use-case. But I’m told that there might be a new kid moving to town in a while. Call him the Sky 20, and Bob thinks that Ortofon cart of mine is going to going to lose her little mind over this guy. We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but that’s the thing about SUTs — they’re purpose-built. Sure, you can get close and chances are you’re gonna hear what all the fuss is about. Nail it, however, and the skies may open.
Which is why you gotta call Bob. He’s got the numbers, specs and everything you need to find the best mate for that LOMC of yours.
Bob was showing off a couple of other interesting things at AXPONA, including the $1,650 1131 Integrated, which mounts on the back of a VPI tonearm, accepting the wires right off the cart. To me, eliminating an extra set of wires in a turntable setup seems like the best thing to do, if at all possible. Got a high-end VPI turntable? I’d check this out.
Bob also had one of the new $995 VPI Nomad turntable, with integrated headphone amp, on the table for the looky-loos to fondle.