The Acoustic Signature TA-7000 Neo tonearm sits just below their top-of-the-line TA-9000 Neo tonearm in the product range. It is available in both 9 inch and 12 inch lengths, for $15,995 and $17,995 respectively. There is also a choice of color: black or silver, or chrome or gold at additional cost. A 9” silver arm arrived late in my review of the Acoustic Signature Montana Neo turntable, and this arm’s sonic contribution to that turntable review is relevant here.
This is a short review because a tonearm requires both a phono cartridge and a turntable to hear it play. These additional hardware items are covered in their respective reviews.
An Origin Live Agile tonearm, $12,957, was also mounted on the Montana Neo turntable and the two arms provided an interesting contrast, however small. Three moving-coil cartridges were used with the TA-7000 Neo: ZYX UNIverse Optimum (1 Ohm version), a Tzar DST, and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum. All three cartridges suggest that a higher mass tonearm is preferred, but the extreme rigidity of the TA-7000 Neo, with an effective mass of only 10.2 grams, seems to mostly offset or mitigate compliance issues. The ZYX cartridge sang more sweetly when a 6-gram brass weight was added under the TA-7000 Neo headshell.
Some of the arm’s special features:
– Tonearm with 3D-damped carbon armtube
– Super-low resonance, extremely rigid and conical shaped tube design
– Optimal tracking results due to pre-tensioned high-precision ball bearings
– Better rigidity and smooth operation due to stainless steel tonearm axis design
– Internal high-purity silver wiring (4N)
– Now supplied with external Atlas Equator 5-pin phono cable (1.5 m, RCA or XLR)
– Counterweight made of brass
– Optional headshell made of massive titanium
– Adjustable VTA & azimuth
– Anti-skating knob
– SME-type mounting versions
– 5-year warranty (with registration)
This tonearm can be called “The Feather”. The bearings and fit-and-finish are so smooth and refined that there is a barely perceptible feel of the arm when it is moved by hand. Think of the air resistance when you move a feather. Lateral resistance, left-and-right, is just barely noticed and only the 2 grams or so from the cartridge tracking force is felt. It feels as light as a feather. There is no play in the bearings, no chatter or wobble which is exactly as it should be. The very fine threads in the counterweight make adjusting VTF a simple task. Setting VTA with the SME mount is very manual. The overall finish of the tonearm is perfect and meets our expectations for superior German craftsmanship.
The arm was shipped with a starter DIN-RCA cable which was meant to be replaced. It is the lowest cost DIN phono cable from a well-known manufacturer and is not in the same performance level as the tonearm. However, now an Atlas Equator cable, not auditioned, is supplied with the arm. For an excellent upgrade, look at the Stager Silver Solids phono cable priced at $270. The Origin Live Silver Hybrid 2-S cable is superb for even more dollars.
For a great demo recording, listen to “Combat Zone” on The Nylons Seamless LP. This cut will showcase the excellent dynamics, the entire audible frequency range, and imaging from the a capella singers accompanied only by percussion instruments. Along with the cut “Up On the Roof”, the wonderful vocals are certainly a treat to behold. The quality of this LP is excellent. Other LPs by The Nylons are heard often for equipment reviews and for pleasure. Check out Happy Together for a system check. The record must be played loud for best results. At least, that’s what I tell my wife.
The bass range is deep and powerful with terrific impact. The midrange performance clearly showcases the highly musical Koetsu cartridge, and the upper frequency’s clarity and resolution lets the listener enjoy the fantastic detail offered by the ZYX Optimum cartridge. The Agile is the preferred match for the ZYX cartridge because the Agile’s slightly and relatively warmer character due to its higher moving mass nicely interacts with the Optimum’s unique ability to hear how poorly some early digital music was recorded. There is a small preference to use the TA-7000 Neo with the Koetsu cartridge for similar but opposite reasons. This combination tightens the bass just a bit and adds a touch of clarity to the treble, making for an enchanting performance. A change of interconnect cables could, conceivably, confuse these conclusions.
These are (very) small relative characters, neither good nor bad. At this level of performance, component interaction and listener preferences are more critical to the end result than the absolute quality of individual components. However, all three cartridges sound very fine with the Acoustic Signature TA-7000 Neo tonearm. Suffice it to say that the Acoustic Signature arm’s sonic quality is on par with the “10 LP” Agile tonearm.
The Acoustic Signature TA-7000 Neo tonearm is a pleasure to set up and use. The Montana Neo turntable earned a 10 LP rating, and since this arm contributed to that rating, the arm also earns the same rating. Try “The Feather” for yourself. IMO, you will enjoy very satisfactory listening sessions with your favorite music.
Overall Rating: 10 LPs
Link to distributor: Rutherford Audio
This review would not have been possible without the very kind support of Norm Steinke and Rob Niemann at Rutherford Audio, the US distributor. Thank you!