Sunday, January 12, 2020

X-quisite - World Premiere

11 January 2020

Micha Huber was in town to launch X-quisite as the third product line after Thales and EMT. 
Hosted at Modular Audio Singapore, Micha presented a short history of Thales before unveiling two new cartridges, the X-quisite CA and X-quisite ST using patented technology. The cartridges use a monobloc ceramic cantilever which is aimed at overcoming the weaknesses in conventional cantilevers. Micha explained that conventional aluminium cantilevers exhibit deformation and strong resonance during playback, which results in slight loss of mechanical information. Even use of advanced materials such as Boron, Sapphire or Diamond still result in a weak point further up the cantilever, at the connection point with the coil body. The monobloc design was three years in the making in order to overcome the difficulties in design and manufacture. 

Micha passed around samples of the cantilever and the cartridge body. The body has fine grooves to route the cartridge leads and reduce vibration. A sandwich of wood and metal alloy are used to achieve a tonal balance which is highly resolving, yet natural and life-like. The "entry-level" model CA, utilises copper wiring with an aluminium and ebony wood body. The ST, uses silver wiring, Titanium and a wood body. Both cartidges output 0.35 mv, and a compliance of 12 um/mN. List price was quoted to be in excess of CHF 9,000 for the CA and CHF 11,700 for the ST.

Note the tiny grooves on the side for routing of the cartridge wires.

The monobloc cantilever and coil body.

Modular Audio then played back a wide variety of discs using a full Thales deck fitted with a ST cartridge. An EMT preamp cum phono stage completed the family lineup. An Audes Excellence 5 AMT speaker and Rogue Apollo tube monoblock amplifiers were used for the demonstration. 

The absolutely gorgeous EMT JPA 66 Mk II preamp cum phono stage.
The demonstration was a real treat - with very good inner detail, dynamics and slam. The system was obviously very high bandwith, with good bass articulation and plenty of air / shimmer in the high frequencies. I especially liked how the front-end combined both high resolution with tone density. 

I asked Micha whether he had any issues with high frequency resonance from using a rigid material like ceramic. He reply was that the resonant frequency was high and beyond the audible range, and also very low in amplitude compared to existing cantilever materials. Hence, he decided not to use any additional damping. I also asked whether we could look forward to more affordable cartridges from X-quisite using the cantilever monobloc ? Unfortunately Micha could only comment that the difficulties in manufacturing meant that the cost was also very high. Well, we can all keep our fingers crossed ! In the meantime, we can keep this in our audiophile dreams and fantasies.  

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