Pole Star PS-UNV2 Universal Tone Arm review

Pole Star PS-UNV2 Universal Tone Arm

Vinyl is not only in the revival stage. It's here, strong and to stay. We might get hit by the ripples of digital progress, but for those who share enthusiasm for analogue music replay, those fast forward bounces means a constant change and investment into digital gear. Like it or not you can live with your analogue gear and accessories for decades without a change. Talking about value...

Vinyl reproduction might be the simplest in logic, yet when we come to everything involved it become a multi perplexed science where every single nuance count. It's true that contemporary turntables can be bought very affordably. You can even find great deal on some jewels from the past like Thorens, Garrad etc., but you will have to invest some knowledge, founds and time in the vintage record spinners. The advancement of technology and refinement brought us quite few affordable great turntables from companies like Project, Rega, Dual, Thorens and for example finally non dull Clearaudio - Concept. With all mentioned you'll be in quick analogue fix. More or less you'll have to adjust VTA, tracking force and if there is MC cartridge attached, you'll have to play a bit further with loading. Then again, that's all.

Stepping above the entry range, some companies are offering already set and ready to roll-higher priced turntable packages. Why all the fuss around it?

It's an art and hard work to set everything in turntable right. There are so many variables in almost every field connected to turntable. Let be the material of platter, sub-chasiss, turntable enclosure, material of cartridge, internal wiring, damping, tonearm etc. Don't stop here. In the end everything counted here you'll have to combine in to the great sounding whole. Yes the platter might ring, mat might kill all of the energy, feet might let to much of lower register energy feedback and more, more and more. It's often a nut job. Perhaps there's a term analogue nuts for a reason.

For this review I'll be focusing on one part of turntable complication. I'm borrowing this word from another passion of mine - watchmaking. Watch companies are best known for their striking precision, know how and microscopic approaches to the fine art of watch making. I know that both Swiss based Thales and Orpheus use technologies derived directly from hourlogie art. In both fields of our often associated life's passions there is an inherited need for both precise fine tools of trade and right knowledge implied.

In this regard I must broaden my elaboration and get deeper in my analogy. Without this I simply fear, that my writing wont affect my point strongly enough.

History meets past in present
Even if you're not the watch enthusiast you'd probably have heard about Japanese company Seiko. In the 70's they shake the world of watch making with the storm and appearance of their quartz watches. This changed everything. More or less we all used and still do this piece of technology so far in our lives. Being just introductory here I really want to focus on other side of Seiko. Grand Seiko! This was and still is one of the most respect watch brand names in the world for any true watch connoisseur. The quality of this fine time pieces define the quality, proudness and value for money. We do talk luxury items here, but you'l see quickly where I'm heading with Pole Star PS-UNV2 in all this.

From my childhood Japan culture and technology mystified and intrigued me deeply. I don't have any fetish about it, but both strong respect and great experience with products coming from the land of rising sun made me strongly affectionate by the true industrial art.

It often seems that us western's managed to lost something in the culture and process of making things. Our pride is almost as a rule build on the money as a result. For Japanese there is still such a thing as a pride of process-building the certain product regardless of what is used for. This might be due to our cultural differences, but more and more I'm less convinced about this. Take for example J. Allerts cartridges. For him and and thanks God few more it's all about the pain-striking process and materials used. The result must come as both great and self assure statement. It's a must, but I grow little doubts, that process define the outcome. Period! Even the first encounter with PS-UNV2 brought all this indications.

Meet the Polestar
Everything so far made a clear ground and a story for what's coming next in review. It feel's relieving and easy to continue with my word carving job.

I have little to say about quality or to put it better about absence of it. This is an industrial jewel. Everything about Pole Star shows the pride of industrial precision and how to manufacture something in the right way. I had many tonearms in my possession and it's the same as with holding a great watch. You can actually feel the quality of finish, tight tolerances and the way someone sculptured specific product with the assistance of high tech industrial tools. PS-UNV2 appearance alone creates a special aura and pride of ownership.

Motion of sound
Tonearm is a part of turntable and among cartridge, one of the most important structural parts of high end vinyl system. Tonearm defines the motion of sound. Everything counts here. From materials used, internal wiring, head-shell, damping, the mechanism used to lift and gently taking the needle to the point of meeting with fine curves of vinyl. It's a science and art. No tone arm works straight out of the brainstorming. Not even from materialised final product. It demands both physical science and trained ears to fine tune the outcome, that will transfer the energy of music as it suppose to be heard. It shows that Tosy corporation spend much time with designing PS-UNV2.

I had zero problems installing polestar and setting everything needed for connecting it into a analogue rig. Pole Star PS-UNV2 is designed to host a industry standard SME type of head-shells. This opens up numerous ways of fine tunings. Many companies are offering head-shells in various materials and shapes ranging from exotic woods to jewel like aluminium carvings.

Pole Star PS-UNV2 comes with simple, but understandable instructions about setting the PS-UNV2. With the enclosed protractor scale you set the distance from the centre of platter and mark the spot. You simply drill the 22mm hole for the tonearm rest, that got screw down by the screws. From here the levelling of PS-UNV2 is just the matter of setting the right hight of tonearm and cartridge. It takes a bit of knowledge, but it shouldn't give a problem to anyone having little knowledge about turntables. Head-shell with cartridge mounted should be somewhere between 3-5 mm from the platter or mat.

After you place the weight, head-shell and cartridge you must set both tracking force and anti skating to zero. Now you just use traditional zero floating levelling. When you got PS-UNV2 levelled 3-5 mm above platter you adjust the needed tracking force. Tosy recommends the same amount of anti-skate as for VTF. There is no VTA setting by default, but you can help yourself with the slight movement of the screws, that holds the cartridge. This proven to work efficiently on many situations. It's not the same as VTA direct adjustment, but it will work great.

PS-UNV2 is easy to set up and everything is clearly laid out. It's a contemporary approach to a well proven classical design, that should give no problem with instalment.

Music and sound
Writing a review for any part of analogue system is a hard work, sublime and like handling the sword with double edges. Our perceptions of music vary so much, then your's spice might kill my dish and mine portion of salt can stop you appetite. Well, it's not all that bad I'm just trying to convey my thoughts through the analogy Our tastes might differ, but as I always write, the energy and delicacy of music should not be changed regardless of perception. We share the same experience with food. Your and mine dosing of spices and salting might vary, while basic taste should stay. It cannot be any different with using components in music reproduction. The system components might vary, but the result should be strictly in the service of music. PS-UNV2 never acted as a suppressor or enhancer of sound motion coming from the grooves of vinyl, regardless of the cartridge price or range (MM or MC).

It's always the matter of synergy when combining a true high end setup and one component will or will not work it's ways into some harmonious system. This synergy can be the win or failure of person in charge and the victim of dedicated pursuit, that is not always within a musical merits, but too often is some sort of adjusted reality. What does this tell us? Opening a mystical Pandora's box?

There are good and bad products. There are overpriced products. There are people without enough skills, passion, knowledge and especially enough patience to see thing due when it comes to analogue setup. Setting a turntable is a thing of patience, knowledge, experiences and nonetheless sharp ears. During the years this 'training' costed me a lot of both time and money. Broken cartridges, tons of exotic wirings, large sums of strange absorbing materials, numerous wooden plinths, vintage parts and kits. You name it, I'd stocked it somewhere down the time scale.

What I learned through my founds and milage is the key of how I review components. When tonearms, cartridges, turntables comes around for test, this means both pleasure and painstaking, almost military like approach. You can go and ask Michael Fremer, Arthur Salvatore, Art Dudley or any other of recognised turntable guys about this. They might not like each other, but the'll all agree on this. It's not about ego. You might have one, a big one, but ultimately you have to bow down to the rules either you like them or not if you're want to achieve real high-end reproduction with turntable. If patience and experience is not your leit-motif, than go and buy some large boiler platter (as Davorin likes to put it) Show off and let others who know how to do (and charge), do their job.

30 cm's of black gold
My passion for music is out of labelling when it comes to vinyl (and other sources). I'm more of junkie for everything analogue, but open to everything else. If it's recorded in analogue way bravissimo. If not bravo bravissimo for at least having it on vinyl and enjoying the medium benefits. Sounds fanatic? Not at all. Listen to some DDD or better to say DDA vinyl's from Stockfish, Opus3 etc. You'll be surprised to head what a great sounding digital master sound like on 45 rpm. I love to tease some of the audiophiles, that even don't know, how some of their bellowed analogue LP's are actually sourced from digital masters. Absurd? Not really, it's more absurd to actually act like you hear or know the difference.

I used Pole Star PS-UNV2 with most of my favourite records and one's that serves as bare bones of my review/test tools.

Indigo Girls Nomad Saints might not be the best recorded album, but it will connect you with the energy of Amy and Ray at their best hearths out. For something more you should take out of sleeves their Swamp Ophelia. With both records PS-UNV2 in combination with Miyajima Labs Shilabe produced coherent and poignant reproduction. There was life in those moments and musical energy captured so unmistakable performance of two ladies in charge.

Going further in the realms of darker or more wicked states of music I let famous brainchild of Aphex Twin-Richard D. James strictly analogue Analord series changing all the rawness of Electro synth magic through the PS-UNV2. I could easily imagine some high profiled Detroit DJ having a successful pal with PS-UNV2 even with infamous SL-1200.

There is no better way to squeeze every inch or better to say atom of performance from any component, than playing some of the good old brass. Coltrane is master of brass along with others. For mellow, yet sublime Soultrane you'll need no further test bud. PS-UNV2 never ceased or stopped portraying the unmistakable emotion flow of Coltrane. A Love Supreme could be vicious to cartridge or tonearm. Japanese duo performed as tight as it was musical. No hidden reserves, no stopping of the music.

Also Spracht Zaratrusta energy and feeling of space is contagious if not viciously dangerous to blow your orchestral esteem. PS-UNV2 in combination with Miyajima Labs top of the line cartridge Kansui simply throw the motion of orchestra to the room so to speak. On famous entry note low C tone, that went legendary with Odyssey 2001, music seems to embrace all the black energy of universe. I'm talking about raw exchange of musical fine particles called musical energy that no mini monitor or two way speaker can achieve in reproduction. Acoustic Preference Maestoso 2.0 extend whatever you throw into them when drive appropriate and they disappear as quickly as music strikes. Again system with PS-UNV2 incorporated did the great job.

The synergy of Miyajima an PS-UNV2 confirmed further with delicacy of Toscanini. Can there be any other period of not golden but diamond 50's, 60's? No, but we have great amount of heritage behind. If you cannot afford latest audiophile presses don't worry. They are often heavenly good, but you'll get very far with used original records. There might be some cleaning and luck involved, but you'll feel like lottery winner once you're there. Pole Star PS-UNV2 and Miyajima Labs premium BE went magic with mono's. Toscanini included. There is something about directness and attitude of conductor, that resonate with music under the careful and military like discipline of this genius.

Even those Glen Miller's, Satcmo and Ella monos that I inherited from my father were darn good. Some clicks, some pops? Yes. If you have problem with those do yourself a favour and read Henry Rollins great article about vinyl. You horizon might expand a bit further.

PS-UNV2 is tonearm with traditional shape and logic, but manufactured with contemporary tools and needs. It will connect with any turntable from Technics SL-1200, Garrad on the great wooden plinth, legendary Lenco Idler drives or any thing, that modern turntable artistry can offer. If your turntable plinth allows drilling or instalment of additional tonearm, you'll hardly find PS-UNV2 setup problematic.

Pole Star PS-UNV2 is priced somewhere between affordable and boutique luxury tonearms. What it give PS-UNV2 a clear advantage is it's easy integration, no nonsense design, modularity and absence of character. PS-UNV2 works in the service of music as well choose strings connects the violin or guitar with the maestro performer. Tosy Corporation managed to produce more than interesting product, that is via medium for music both as instrument and tool in the service of conveying the music. It's a great product for both audiophile who's entering analogue vinyl domain as for seasoned and experienced turntable connoisseur.

When it comes to turntables and tonearms it's all the matter of synergy and careful setup, but I do feel, that Tosy Corporation managed to design a product, that connect the best of both future and past vinyl playback attributes. Regardless if you're in emotion potent past in records decks universe or vow and flutter specs of high tech machines of present pumps up you high end veins, you'll won't want to miss the Pole-Star greatly executed tonearm.

When you're building or upgrading your high-end audio vinyl front end do not pass PS-UNV2. It might be a building block or via medium of your musical emotions. This is a classy, refined and potent product for any serious turntable system.

Highly recommended and Mono & Stereo highlight.

Pole Star PS-UNV2 Universal Tone Arm specs:

*Most of the parts are made of aluminum; except for the center-block, fulcrum and column that are made of brass
(chrome plated).
Whole Length: 305mm
Length between the turntable spindle center and the arm stand center: 212mm
Length between the stylus and the arm stand center: 228mm
Overhang: 16mm
Internal wire: 6N-OFC combined with 4N-OFC
Cartridge Weight applied: 19g- 28g (including headshell)
Functional inside-force-canceller
Arm lift preinstalled
Headshell (made of aluminum)
Detachable phono cable
Screws, washers and wrenches
*Optional Weight: for a cartridge over 28g in weight

Made in JAPAN
TOSY Corp., Tokyo
SIBATECH, inc., Tokyo


Text: Matej Isak
Mono & Stereo, July 2011
All rights reserved