I had the good fortune and pleasure of having my Sparta and Helena delivered and set up for this audition by Bill Parish, owner of GTT Audio & Video and U.S. distributor of Kronos products. Bill joined me at my home right after my day at work, and after some conversation, meeting my herd of canines, and schlepping the gear down into my man cave, Bill dug in and started the set-up process in earnest.
Because the Kronos philosophy is to install its platform only on solid, non-articulated stands, and because I use the Grand Prix Monaco Isolation Platform (and amp stands), Bill had brought along a small, standalone, rigid stand for the installation. While I was not sure that this was the best path to take, I was only too happy to comply—at first. More on this soon.
The turntable proved to be surprisingly straightforward to set up, and Bill was done in a matter of an hour and a half. Soon after, we were sitting back spinning a few test tracks to get a taste of what this little upstart could do. The use of a separate stand and the availability of multiple inputs on the phonostages I had on hand afforded the opportunity for direct comparison to my reference analog setup. For the first several days, my reference system won handily, especially in bass impact, tonality, pitch, and overall rhythm; all in all, not an uncommon result when comparing a well-run-in reference system to a “cold” ’table.
While I could have just let the Sparta’s motors running unattended to facilitate the run-in process, I chose to not take that route; I wanted to hear it mature and see what that might sound like. After a couple of days (cumulative, not calendar) of run-in, its attributes really began to impress me. During this period, I had time to assess the individual contributions made by two different ’arms (the Tri-Planar Mk VII Precision versus the Helena) and high-output moving-coil cartridges (the Transfiguration Temper V versus the Air Tight PC-1), and in fact, I swapped carts for several days just to verify my assessment. To my ears, the run-in process took a bit longer than I have come to expect. But the results justified the extra wait.
Once the Sparta had found its footing, I was still not sure that I was hearing the best it could deliver. Since I had done my due diligence by listening to the Sparta on the rigid stand, after about 40 days I decided to move it to the Formula shelf atop my Monaco, removing my Redpoint Model D and installing the Sparta in its place. This was to prove a crucial move, as it was only then that I really began to appreciate the remarkable virtues of this ’table.
Once relocated to my isolation stand, everything improved—and dramatically so. Perhaps the easiest way to give you a sense of what the Sparta was then bringing to the mix would be to say that it was as though a previously unnoticed veiling or smearing had been somehow circumvented. There was a surfeit of new-found clarity, focus, and specificity to instrumental voices, staging, and imaging.
One of the reasons I had moved to the suspension-less, mass-based turntable camp, after decades with the Linn and Oracle platforms, was the seemingly unshakable pace, rhythm, and bass authority they are capable of. Honestly, until the Sparta had run in and been moved to my Grand Prix stand, the Redpoint handily bested it in those departments. After the move, the Sparta asserted itself, leaving no doubt that it was far and away the new champion. Though both were equal in bass extension, in definition and pitch the Sparta was treating me to newfound detail, dimension, and definition.
Midrange showed wholesale clarification and refinement. Fundamental pitch and tonal color were more honest and faithful. Massed strings, acoustic guitar, piano, even brass instruments were more alive sounding and richer in tone, with more clearly rendered texture. Instrumental bloom was more apparent and believable, with voices sounding much more authentic in size, texture, and especially tonality. I was struck by the improvements in timbre; everything seemed to be not only more natural sounding (as though some coloration or artificial harmonics had been removed), but pitch was also noticeably more stable.
The way the Sparta handles the top four octaves was every bit as remarkable. With the best recordings, the newfound air and space up top was invigorating, with enhanced decay and remarkably lifelike shimmer and sheen—all with no etching, glare, or grain.
Something seemingly unique to the Sparta’s sonic signature in my experience emerged—something I can best describe as a deft agility. It seems to reconstruct fine detail and micro-dynamic events more accurately—sounding as if it were somehow faster and more coherent. It offered a clearer, more articulate, more incisive voice. I was hearing more—more clearly delineated spaces among instruments, more highly focused and concise images, more succinct fundamental tone, more faithful timbre, and richer, fuller, more authentic texture.