The same thing occurred on a Duke Ellington LP on the Fantasy label simply called The Pianist. Some of my favorite jazz recordings are of Ellington with small groups. On this album he plays for the most part with John Lamb on bass and Sam Woodyard on drums. The percussive effects of Ellington’s piano playing came through very well and the bass lines were firm and solid. So relaxed was the Etna that I found myself listening to both sides almost before I knew it.
It was the ease of listening to the Etna that I found most riveting. The greatest contrast between the Etna and Atlas comes down to musicality. The overt excitement of the Atlas does come at a bit of cost. In comparison, I would have to concede that the Atlas does sound a bit hyped on some recordings.
Consider piano. On a Deutsche Grammophon pressing of Wilhelm Kempff playing the Goldberg Variations, I was bowled over by the delicate shadings and colors that the Etna extracted. One step closer to what Kempff really intended when he produced this recording. Above all, it’s the ability of the Etna to render a true pianissimo with utter clarity that makes it such a breathtaking cartridge. There is a gravity to the sound—unrushed, unhurried, unforced—coupled with great resolution. If the transients are precisely sounded, it’s also the case that the decays seem to linger on a pinch longer than with the Atlas. The sound, for lack of a better word, is more analog. This lack of grain endows the Etna with a sense of gliding through the grooves rather than tracking an LP. A sense of space and time is suspended, leaving only music hovering in the air.
Nowhere was this more poignantly conveyed than on a Harmonia Mundi recording of Bach’s cantata Actus Tragicus. If voice is the most difficult instrument to capture, then the Etna came through with flying colors. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was deeply moved listening to the legendary Dutch soprano Elly Ameling singing about the transience of life—her voice rendered with greater fidelity by the Etna than I have ever heard before. To hear her consummate artistry reproduced at this level was simply riveting.
While the name Etna may bring to mind volcanic eruptions, the fact is that this cartridge’s greatest strength is its ability to permit your system to capture the most ethereal aspects of a recording. It may require a waiting time to acquire one as Lyra can only produce a limited number. But ultimately your real concern is likely to be whether you can pull yourself away from it. The Etna SL is the most addictive cartridge I have heard.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Moving coil
Frequency response: 10Hz–50Hz
Cartridge weight: 9.2g
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