It’s amazing how many long lost hi-fi products have started reappearing on the market of late, reinvented and/or remanufactured. One of the first to start this trend was Glasgow-based company Audio Origami nearly a decade ago, which brought back the legendary Syrinx PU3 tonearm – albeit in a far more desirable form. The ‘3 was an extremely well received tonearm in the early nineteen eighties. Many listeners went on record as saying it was ‘the best tonearm in the world’, no less…
John Nilson, the man behind Audio Origami, was a friend of Syrinx founder Scott Strachan, and started with the PU3 as a base for his own tonearm. Essentially, the £1,750 PU7 is a re-engineered PU3 with the bugs taken out, and manufactured to an altogether higher standard. It has been finely tweaked and honed, and comes in an almost infinite range of colours. There’s a choice of Linn or Rega arm mountings, and you can specify armtube length too – either nine or twelve inches. Two types of bell housing are offered, and the armtubes can come in alloy or brass – with the facility to tailor effective mass to cartridges between 11 and 20g. Internal wiring is Cardas OFC, although other options are available. The four ball-race bearings are mounted within a twisted cage rather than the more conventional crown mounting. All of which explains the not inconsiderable price tag, and the fact that you’ll have to wait a month after ordering one.
The tonearm comes with a multi-purpose alignment protractor, and there’s an excellent YouTube set-up video which shows you how to install it better than even an SME handbook could. Fitting is pretty easy, and the arm is so nice to handle that you don’t get the feeling it’s going fall apart before you get it on the deck! Adjustable height and azimuth is provided, but tracking force is held onto the rear end stub like a cheap Rega RB250, which does let the side down a tad – although it works fine. This latest version of the PU7 has improved accuracy in the machining and the thickness of the headshell and bell housing. It also has even better bearings than early models, the company says. It is lovely – as soon as you hand cue the arm in the deck, you can feel its superlative quality.
Indeed, that sums up the sound. I have tried a good many tonearms in this price bracket, and almost all impress strongly in some ways but not so well in others. Linn’s Ekos is powerful and punchy, but lacks subtlety and finesse. SME’s Series IV is clean and detailed but sounds more like a measuring instrument than a musical one. Naim’s ARO is the precise opposite, but lacks grip at frequency extremes. The PU7 however, gives a wonderfully capable all round sound; it has no massive strengths, in the sense that it can’t match the SME’s amazing low bass handling for example, or the Ekos’s firecracker dynamics. But it does everything almost as well and yet has no weaknesses. In short, it’s jack of all trades and master of most – something very rare in any sub-£2,000 tonearm.
For example, cue up a classic rock LP such as Neil Young’s Harvest, and instead of the arm telling you all about the average recording quality, it locks into the music and carries it out to you with almost supernatural ability. Suddenly you find yourself engrossed, charmed, seduced and beguiled – totally forgetting about its fairly lo-fi origins. The way it conveys Young’s fragile, wobbly voice is amazing, almost is if there’s a direct link to his heart; it sounds so intimate and touching. You have to consciously listen out for the hi-fi aspects of this arm, and when you do you’re so impressed – it has a wonderful lack of edge, superb tonal purity and almost holographic soundstaging.
Whatever vinyl you point it at, the Audio Origami is a pleasure. A Karajan reading of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has spaciousness, smoothness and an extended, airy treble. Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy is breathtakingly clean and dynamic, but rousing in its musicality. Tonally the arm is so inert that the differences between this and Isaac Hayes’ Shaft original soundtrack are profound. The PU7 can immerse the listener right inside the music, but it’s also able to reveal every facet about the recording. So the latest PU7 is an essential audition if you’re looking for a truly special way to hear your vinyl.