Stereophile

Abis SA-1.2 tonearm

Reviewed by for Stereophile, November 2015

.... the SA-1.2 uses improved versions of the same radial ball bearings found in the SA-1. The bearing that permits horizontal movement of the arm is especially interesting: While most radial bearings are intended for vertical alignment, as in wheel axles, the SA-1.2's horizontal bearing is designed specifically for an upright column. When loaded by gravity, the angled contact surface of the upper bearing race exerts angular force against the bearing balls, down into and against a similarly angled but larger-diameter lower race. This angular-contact thrust bearing thus self-aligns when in use, to produce less friction, noise, and wear than more conventional bearing types.

The Abis pulled from that record tremendous amounts of touch and force and impact, and locked on to every melodic line and followed it like a metronomic bloodhound: It was machine-like, but in the best way. And all the while, tone and texture and color sounded as organic and real as I could want.

I moved on to an old favorite by the (scarcely) post–Richard Thompson Fairport Convention: Babbacombe Lee, which one can rightly call the first Brit-folk-rock operetta (LP, Island ILPS 9176). Note attacks from Simon Nicol's electric guitar and Dave Swarbrick's electric mandolin fairly leapt from the groove, and with appreciably more impact and touch than with my Thomas Schick tonearm and headshell; Dave Pegg's masterfully played electric bass was colorful and likewise forceful, again with solid senses of momentum and rhythm. More important, the music throughout was as intellectually and physically involving as I've ever heard it.

The time had come to try one of my many EMT A-style pickup heads in the Abis, alignment be damned (at least for now—an easy thing to say for a man whose every pickup head is fitted with a spherical rather than an elliptical or hyper-elliptical stylus). After setting downforce with the aid of the SA-1.2's ancillary weight, I cued up my 1960 copy of Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster (LP, Verve MCV-8343) and settled in for "Chelsea Bridge." I was astonished by timbral colors that were much more vivid than with the SA-1, and similarly shocking levels of touch, presence, and blessed drive.

the Abis SA-1.2 tonearm deserves my strongest recommendation. For LP enthusiasts who prize tone, touch, and timing above all else, I'd put the combination of Abis SA-1.2 and Denon DL-103 up against all but their priciest competitors; and for delivering the most of those performance characteristics for the least amount of money, it has few competitors.— Art Dudley

Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/listening-135-abis-sa-12#OFOLk55vdHyRhDtj.99

strongest recommendation

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