I got the tip for this combination of the old 70’s Elac STS 355 and the brand new Analogis D355 E Black Diamond needle from my needle dealer. They just received the new black diamonds from Swiss production a few weeks ago.
And he was testing them himself. And he was very impressed by this symbiosis. That made me curious of course. I ordered the used Elac cartridge on ebay and the new Analogis needle from my dealer.
Now, as with other reviews, there was a little prehistory in advance. Both components arrived at about the same time. I love this moment like a child at Christmas when the presents are unpacked. And in this case I put the two parts together, mounted the cartridge on a headshell and this one on my Toshiba turntable.
With great anticipation I adjusted the weight according to the net specifications, put on a record and? Was disappointed at first. With every deep bass sound the speakers creaked and the reproduction was strangely distorted in the mid and high frequencies. Something is not right here at all. I immediately wrote to my needle dealer. They offered me to measure the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond with the Elac TA and adjust it if necessary. I do not have the technical possibilities here.
So I sent the two parts to him. A few days later he wrote me that after an hour-long laboratory session he had now measured the correct Black Diamond needle with the perfect weight of 1.9g and sent me the combination back. Of course this reassured me a lot. So I was spared a back and forth with the Ebay seller, because the cartridge was not defective.
When I now tried the system, it ran without distortion and even sounded very good. I was so excited about the sound of this combination that I decided to review it again. Of course I was very grateful to the needle dealer I trusted for his efforts.
The review of the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond
As in my previous reviews, I would like to deliberately avoid measurements. My hearing alone should guide me. And I will then write down the sensations. That is indeed very subjective. But I think, first of all, a review is always subjective and depends on many factors, apart from my ears, e.g. the hifi chain. And secondly, my review results are not generally valid facts, but my personal experiences with the devices. This way the reader can get some ideas and maybe get the desire to try out one or the other device in his hifi chain himself.
I am now looking forward to my four faithful music examples, which were selected according to different criteria.
First I will play Carole King’s “I can Feel The Earth Move”. Here I will check if the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond can reproduce King’s voice, which is difficult to track for needles, cleanly. This piercing voice has made many a needle desperate.
The second example is a high-end recording from the heyday of analog recording in the late 70s. It is “Space Cookie” by JTB (Jukka Tolonen Band). How exactly can the fantastic recording be sampled and the complicated fusion jazz compositions be decoded? How well is the spatiality and transparency of the recording camouflaged?
The third sound sample is then audiophile in the modern sense. Gregory Porter’s album “Liquid Spirit”, released on vinyl in 2019, was, as you can hear, recorded with the latest high-quality technology. And yet, despite all the digital accuracy, it still radiates a lot of warmth. This is of course also carried by Porter’s voice and the acoustic instruments. It’s a great example that even in today’s world you don’t have to compress everything “dead”. I take the midtempo piece “Musical Genocide” for a listening test.
And last but not least a high quality classical recording. It is from the “golden” Decca period, the 60s. During this time, excellent sound engineers managed to make wonderfully transparent and spatial recordings with the simple technology of the time. Many of them at Decca London. And our example is Haydn’s “Cello Concerto in C Major”, recorded by the London Chamber Orchestra in 1965.
In the other reports I have always had an “opponent”, another equal needle, compete for comparison. This time I will do without this. I would rather let my memories from the other reviews speak for comparison, and perhaps unpack one or the other needle. That way I’m more flexible and don’t steal the protagonist’s thunder.
But now finally to the music:
Test 1: Carole King with “I can Feel the Earth Move”
This recording, which emphasizes the middle frequencies, puts Carole King’s voice very much in the foreground and challenges turntable needles. Because the penetrating nature and frequency of the vocals means that less well-scanned needles can transmit a disturbing scratching sound.
This is unfortunately also the case with our test candidate, the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond. Already after a few bars, after the voice starts, you hear such a light scratching every now and then. I’m a bit incredulous, because in the last few weeks, when the needle started to play, I never noticed anything comparable. You can also see from this how intense this test is for the needles. Is it possible that the groove of this song is already so “sucked out” because I used it again and again for tests?
I’m now testing the AT12 Black Diamond for comparison, about which I already wrote a detailed review. She does a great job. You don’t hear anything disturbing besides the vocals.
All this irritates me. My needle dealer recommended that I set the weight to 1.9g. To test this I now set the weight a bit higher to increase the pressure on the groove edge and to prevent scratching. So I set the needle to 2.1g and test again. And look! The Analogis D355 E Black Diamond almost (!) stops the scratching in Carole King’s voice. Anyway, it is very reduced. And I am reassured. At 2 – 3 places towards the end of the song you can still hear a hint of scratching, but you can neglect this.
My guess is that the needle hasn’t completely played itself in yet. It has only been played for about 10-15 hours, if at all. It is known from the Swiss Black Diamonds that they are not polished, and that they do this during the break-in period by playing. So it can come to slight uncleanliness. But this music example is also extreme. In “normal” everyday life I have noticed nothing like this.
The Elac with the Black Diamond lets the mids come forward, but not so far that they seem “bawling”. However, the mids are also not so dampened that a very relaxed atmosphere is created.
Test 2: Juka Tolonen Band with “Space Cookie”
Wow, okay! The combination of old and young, of Elac STS-355 (approx. 1975 year of manufacture) and Analogis D355 E Black Diamond (October 2020) proves to be a real dynamic wonder. The system is also very loud. Louder than I am used to from other systems. The groove noise between the tracks is almost not audible. That is great!
Now the band starts playing and immediately it becomes clear: This TA wants it loud and dynamic, but without being obtrusive. The basses are very deep, crisp and driving. The lower mids are also emphasized and almost voluminous. The starting acoustic guitar has a lot of body and sounds wonderfully warm. The string picking is accentuated. You can literally see the guitar in front of you. The upper mids and highs can be described as smooth. This is where the voluminous and “deepe” changes into a pleasant unexcitedness. Whereby this all seems very harmonious.
The Black Diamond resolves the complicated passages with ease. The high heads and generally high tones are not placed in front, but are reproduced in a realistic and discreet way. At the same time, the accuracy of the image is extremely accurate and realistic due to the naked diamond. The cymbals do not sound “crumbled” and imprecise as with simple typed stones, but clean and lifelike.
The stage is not very wide, maybe about 50cm to the right and left beyond the edge of the speaker. This is sufficient for a jazz band. The depth of the stage is recognizable. The exact location of the instruments is not generally possible. The spatial reproduction is too imprecise for this. However, when the acoustic guitar starts to play, it stands out well from the others and moves forward.
Overall, this was a very impressive performance of the Elac with the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond. The tension in the sound is mainly due to the deep and accentuated bass from below in contrast with the relaxed upper mids and highs. Together with the warm and voluminous lower mids a very attractive dynamic is created, which reminds me of the charm of the AT3600L or AT12 with Black Diamond. Wow!
Test 3: Gregory Porter with “Musical Genocide”
This attractive dynamic continues in this test. Right at the beginning it becomes clear: This needle comes out from below. The bass run of the acoustic bass, which runs through the whole song, makes all my speakers vibrate. This sounds as real as if the wooden body of my speakers were the body of the bass. When Porter’s voice and the other instruments are used, a warm and homey atmosphere is created and the dynamics are so appropriate. It’s like the band is standing here with me in my living room.
The deep basses are a bit in the foreground like in example 2, but the acoustic bass never competes with Porter’s voice. That is pleasant. This recording has, despite or maybe because of its actuality, no emphasized trebles but slightly rolled off highs. This increases the authenticity and homely mood. Since the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond is relaxed in the trebles, it doesn’t really care. It reproduces the upper treble and treble like cymbals and high heads very precisely and realistically.
I especially liked the presentation of the Elac and the saxophone. The Elac with the BD reproduces the slightly nasal and soft sound very true to the original as well as accentuated. The instrument turns out nicely and shows itself to the listener. It makes advertisement for itself. I really liked the spatial reproduction here. Porter is standing in front between the speakers while singing. The instruments are easy to locate.
It is a lot of fun to listen to Porter and his band with this young and old team. One wonders, what else should come up there? The Elac does everything right with the BD. EIf you want to grumble at a very high level, there’s still room for improvement in the spatial representation. But this is the case with most MM pickups. The MCs play their cards right there and then like to cost 10 times the price of this combination.
Test 4: Rostropovich plays Haydn’s “Cello Concerto in C Major”
Ok, I’ve been listening to it for a while now, and I just had tears in my eyes during the slow middle section … That says it all, right? A wonderful performance of the Elac with the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond.
When playing classical pieces, it’s important to me that the instruments are reproduced as close to nature as possible, that the spatial representation is correct, and that the airy reproduction makes it possible to feel the room, or rather the hall.
Our test combination creates all disciplines here with flying colors. One must rather look for the weaknesses.
Right from the start, when the violins are inserted, it becomes clear. The Analogis D355 E Black Diamond “can” strings. Then when the cello kicks in, I get goose bumps. The applied slight emphasis on the lower frequency ranges gives the cello a great presence, since it can be heard in this range. The vibrating wood of the cello stands in the room, settles down from the speakers, and sounds warm and bulbous. Great!
The rest of the orchestra settles to the back and the individual orchestra groups can be located. That’s all right, with an expensive MC pickup you can probably do a bit more. The stage also has a certain width, appropriate for a chamber orchestra.
But what I find most positive is the airiness of the performance. The listener can hear the music reflected on the walls and ceiling of the chamber hall. This echo, and the sense of space it creates, gives the listener the idea of sitting in the middle of the auditorium and watching the concert live. This, in turn, creates an undertow. One wants to follow the music exactly. It is a great quality of TA with the Analogis D355 E Black Diamond to create this airiness.
The sound quality is first class. The triangles and cymbals are reproduced very precisely, violins and other strings play accentuated and warm,
With this pickup and this needle it is a pleasure to enjoy classical music, because the main disciplines of classical music reproduction are covered very well by accurate reproduction of the instruments, a neat spatiality and great spatial imaging.
Once again Analogis manages to bring old classics of pickups to new life with one of his new Black Diamond needles. Here in the case of the Elac STS-355 this is a great success. The Analogis D355 E Black Diamond needle plays loud, dynamic, but relaxed and cool in the upper part of the frequency spectrum. The lower ranges like bass and lower mids are slightly highlighted. This highlights instruments or voices from this part, and can sound very attractive.
This charm reminds me of the AT3600L or Shure M95. Both pickups I appreciate very much. The Black Diamond with the naked elliptical diamond in the trebles shows its strength. The performance here, again as the other reviews have shown, is first class.
From me there is here a clear recommendation to buy!