Supreme Analog Tangenta Tonearm review


The Leap of Faith

Call me superficial, if you may, and I’d still do it again. I have a soft spot for fancy looking tonearms, and I would buy them on looks alone. When the DaVinci Grandezza tonearm came out more than 10 years ago, I took the plunge as soon as I saw the photos.  Then with the subsequent release of the DaVinci Master Reference Virtu tonearm, I took the plunge once again, by ordering one even before it was released onto the market. Thankfully, both purchases paid off handsomely as both turned out to be fantastic tonearms which I still own to this day; but not all stories have a happy ending, and I’ve had my fair share of duds.


Recently, I took the “Leap of Faith” on the Supreme Analog “Tangenta” tonearm, and this one sure is pretty.   I placed an order for one as soon as I saw a photo of it on Facebook. The Tangenta tonearm carries a hefty price tag of €14,000, money does not rain from the sky for me, so this impulsive purchase carried with it a considerable amount of risk, especially when Supreme Analog is rather a new kid of the block. It burst onto the scene with very little history or company track record.  

The name “Supreme Analog”  denotes a bold proclamation of superiority, but €14,000  is no chump change. You can buy a nice used BMW for that kind of money. Will it deliver a “Supreme Analog” experience as promised? A very reasonable question for any consumer to ask, and it is my hope that I will provide an answer for you.  


THE LEGEND OF ZORAN


Supreme Analog is actually not a new company. It has a history which dates back to 1996, when Zoran Mihajlovic started making HiFi and turntable accessories in Trstenik, Serbia. Mihajlovic’s father worked in the army of former Yugoslavia so he had access to metal machinery and training. The knowledge was passed down onto Zoran Mihajlovic and he began making tonearms in 2011. His design philosophy is to make “sonically neutral” tonearms completely by hand, with machining skills which meet military standards while providing “bespoke” and personalized customer service. I can attest to the fact that Mihajlovic has scored high on all accounts.

Patience is not one of my virtues so I was pressuring Mihajlovic to deliver my tonearm before he even had the chance to conduct enough field test on certain design details which required modifications down the road. Nevertheless, the Tangenta serial No. 001 arrived in November of 2018.


The Tangenta was housed in an elegant wooden box hand made by Mihajlovic. It was well cushioned within layers and layers of hand wrapped foam to ensure safe arrival, but the packaging reminds me of the Schroder Reference Tonearm, very much DIY-ish, except what you find beneath the bubble wrap is this fancy box, instead of the “matchbox” which came with the Schroder.

The Tangenta comes standard with a 12” armwand made of walnut and a matte silver finish on metal components. You can also choose gold, rhodium, bronze in a shiny or matte finish. And if you’re a fan of Flavor Flav, Mihajlovic will be happy to make a 24k polished Gold finish for you. Cardas copper wirings run from the headshell to a DIN plug which exists underneath the base of the tonearm. My tonearm arrived without any mounting template nor owner’s manual but Mihajlovic promised both will be included with production models. 

There is considerable debate on various internet forums on the sonic difference between the choice of armwand materials.  If you belong to the camp who can discern audible differences, Mihajlovic will gladly custom make your arm with your choice of wood. Based on my experience with multiple Reed, DaVinci and Schroder tonearms, Gabon Ebony is my material of choice, whereas cedar, walnut or other softer woods, are unfortunately inferior sounding to my ears. Gabon ebony is an endangered species so importation may not be allowed in certain countries.    


Here’s my own stockpile of Gabon Ebony, but please do not ask me to sell them to you, or where to source them, Mihajlovic will do that for you.  

Rest assured, crazy audiophiles making chopstick sized armwands did not deplete the world’s supply of Gabon Ebony, it was long depleted by hundreds of years of musical instrument making. Gabon Ebony is the material of choice for piano keys, violin bows, and bridges, as well as other classical instrument parts - so point the finger at them instead.


As for wirings, I prefer my own recipe of 32 AWG stranded pure silver conductors instead of the standard Cardas copper wirings, so Mihajlovic obliged to my request for a Tangenta with a Gabon Ebony armwand without wirings. I spent hours painstakingly fishing the wires through the armwand, and sleeving them into Teflon tubing and a wire mesh shield as grounding. I finished the ends with WBT NextGen Silver RCA connectors.    

Mihajlovic emphasized strongly that Supreme Analog offers highly customizable bespoke service, he will tailor made the arm to your exact specification, so buyers who want to replicate the configuration I used will be able to do so. But fear not, you will not have to fish any wires through the armwand as the Tangenta will come fully assembled with the wirings of your choice. 


THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG DILEMMA 


Mounting the tonearm without a template proves to be a challenge not easy to overcome. The Tangenta sits on a base which requires four M4 sized ones to be drilled and tapped onto the armboard. M4 is not a standard size in North America so even the tap was difficult to find.   Thankfully, there’s eBay and Amazon.

Without a specified Pivot to Spindle distance, I had to rest the tonearm on the armboard with the cartridge mounted, then the P to S was measured precisely with the Acoustical System Professional Alignment Tractor at the spot where the stylus tip landed on the null point. However, the DIN connector comes out from the bottom of the tonearm base, the tonearm cannot be placed onto the armboard without first drilling a 32mm hole to allow the DIN plug to come through, but how do you determine where to drill this 32mm hole without knowing the P to S distance? And even with if you have the P to S distance, the hole is not at the center of the pivot but at the VTA center column. It is very much a Chicken and Egg dilemma.   

And yes for €14 G’s, Mihajlovic best come up with a precision template and a very fancy gold plated one too!

(Marking the drill holes with a transfer punch)

If your turntable does not have a separate armboard and requires drilling right onto the plinth, you have only one chance of getting it right! Because my Tangenta came without tonearm wirings, I decided to jinx the DIN connector at the bottom and have a straight continuous run of tonearm wire from headshell to RCAs, eliminating the need for an additional connection which is sonically detrimental for the very low output cartridges which I had planned to use.  

With the wire exiting at the end of the tonearm instead of through the bottom of the base, I was able to rest the tonearm onto the armboard without having to drill the 32mm hole for the 5-pin DIN connector. Using the IEC Baerwald geometry, the Pivot to Spindle was determined to be exactly 291.40mm. The pivot column is not rotatable so the 4 holes cannot be drilled arbitrarily if you want the tonearm to sit perpendicular to the table at idle position. 

 (Tonearm wire exiting at the end of the arm instead of DIN plug).

(Tangenta with a matte Gold/Copperish finish and walnut wood)

(Tangenta in Matte Silver finish and Gabon Ebony)

THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


The Tangenta is a true beauty when it comes to fit and finishing. Aesthetically, it is almost a cross between the DaVinci Master Reference Virtu and the Reed 2P. Yet, unlike the DaVinci or the Reed, every single component is made by hand and not with CNC machines. No attention to detail has been spared as tiny pieces of wood inserts have been carefully fitted onto the knobs, counterweights, as well as the lifter handle. It is a truly fine work of art crafted by an artisan. 

The Tangenta is also a beast when it comes to machining precision and fine adjustability.  The Tangenta is a gimbal pivoted design housing 4 single row deep groove diamond ball bearings which have nano tolerances. Most manufacturers will proclaim themselves as having machining precision, yet on some of the tonearms I currently own, I was able to find a bit of play on the VTA tower which causes the pivot to distance to wobble a millimeter or so. The same said of the bearing assembly, on some of them I detected a slight variability in pressure as well as in position. I can detect no play or wobbly parts whatsoever with the Tangenta. Precision machining and tight tolerances will inevitably lead to more accurate setups and more efficient energy transfer, sonically it usually translates into better renderings of dynamics and details. 

Using AnalogMagik, the Tangenta allowed me to perform ultra fine adjustments on every setup parameter. The VTA is adjustable on the fly, with a travel of about 0.8cm. Azimuth is also adjustable on the fly as you turn the knob, and the entire VTA tower will shift to the right or left, quite an ingenious design. Even the tonearm lifter horizontal support can be adjusted so that the armwand can travel perfectly at a constant height against the record surface. The anti-skating device operates by counter-weight and therefore exhibits a constant force, however with a heavy Gabon Ebony armwand, the Tangenta required no anti-skating so I removed the device altogether.  


The Tangenta comes with 2 counterweights, a heavy primary and a smaller secondary weight which is rotatable for ultra-fine adjustments. During initial setup, the cartridge was skidding slightly across entry grooves. This is a commonly encountered problem with many tonearms. Increasing the anti-skating force can in some instances reduce entry groove skidding, this, however, will often lead to too much antiskating being applied as the force is not even across the LP surface.  

Instead of increasing the antiskating force, I simply added a smaller counterweight which allowed me to shift them much closer to the pivot of the tonearm, this eliminated the “entry groove skidding” altogether. Mihajlovic has promised to provide three counterweights instead of two for all customers, as to accommodate cartridges of different weights.


THE CROCODILE PIT


By venturing into my Analog crocodile’s pit, with 10 tonearms and cartridges setup at any given time, the Tangenta was subject to intense scrutiny over a four-month period. Parked side by side the some of the greatest tonearms in the world such as the Schroder Reference, the Davinci Virtu, and the Acoustical System Acquilar, the Tangenta rolled with the big boys right off the bat, and it did not disappoint! 

I first paired a My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum cartridge onto the Tangenta, mounted on a Micro-Seiki 5000 turntable with flywheel assembly. Later on, I also tried a Haniwa HCTR01, Kondo IO-M, as well as a ZYX Universe Premium cartridge with the Tangenta on a JC Verdier La Platine turntable, in two separate systems.


The Tangenta’s sonic characteristic remain consistent on all three systems I tried it on. It is unmistakably dynamic, projecting holographic images with a high degree of contrast and weight. It reminds me of the Kuzma 4 Point’s dynamism, well demonstrated on albums such as Carl Orff’s Die Kluge (Eterna 827 155-156) or Carmina Burana (Telarc DG 10056/57). The notable bass drums have never been better demonstrated than on the Tangenta’s chest pounding impact with rock-solid imagery, and plenty of transient attacks. It is almost as if the dynamic range of the entire system has been boosted by Tangenta, yet nothing has changed, except for the installation of Tonearm.


The challenge of both of these recordings is the enormous soundstage which they throw, combined with stage movements of the character on Die Kluge, and the chorus of Carmina Burana, it poses significant challenges for any tonearm. Gimbal or Multi-pivoted arms usually have the upper hand when it comes to maintaining imaging stability, versus say uni-pivots such as the Graham or Moerch UP-4, and torsional suspension designs such as the Schroder Reference. The Tangenta took hold of this advantage and leveraged it to its maximum potential. Carmina Burana’s O Fortuna’s climactic chorus is notoriously difficult to render well given the complexity and dynamic range requirements, the Tangenta rise to the occasion, the soundstage projected had layering, depth and instrument separation. Rather than being crumbled altogether, the individual voices within the chorus can be distinguished and identified, limited only by the quality of the album itself.


The very advantage of multi-pivoted arms on sonic image stability can also be its Achille’s heel. They can sound rigid and analytical when it comes to playing simpler music such as solo violin or cello performances. This is precisely why the Schroder Reference, and the Graham Phantom II are my tonearms of choice for playing these types of music. The multi-pivoted arms, while being stable and dynamic sounding, can be a bit forward and analytical. They can also lack a bit of liveliness and finesse. There are exceptions, however, such as the Acoustical System’s Acquilar or Axiom gimbal-pivoted tonearms which are quite lively sounding and capable of rendering fine inner details. You can now add the Tangenta to the list of lively sounding gimbal-pivoted arms. 


If you haven’t yet purchased Hilary Hahn’s Retrospective album (DGG 4798506), please do yourself a favor and order one before it goes out of print. The first of the two LPs contains a stunningly high quality Direct-to-Disc recording of Hilary Hahn’s Meistersaal Concert in Berlin on 2016. This recording of Hahn’s melancholic, yet emotionally charged performance of Max Richter’s Mercy is brilliant in execution as well as in recording quality. It can even be more challenging to reproduce than large scale symphonic pieces because they are not attention grabbing show-off performances, the audiences’ enjoyment rest solely on the ability of the performer and the quality of the recording. The Tangenta did not fare as nicely as the torsionally suspend Schroder Reference or the Uni-pivoted Reed 3P, they did render Hahn’s performance with more liveliness, and more “ambiance and air” between the violin and the piano. Yet the Tagenta gave one of the best renderings as can be expected from a Gimbal-pivoted arm. I would place it on par or equal to the sound of the Acoustical System Acquilar, and far better than any other gimbal-pivoted arm I’ve owned - a job well done!


The same can be said of Nima Ben David’s performance of Carl Friederich Abel’s Prelude in D Minor WKO 207, in her RĂ©sonance album. If you haven’t yet experienced the sound of MA Recordings, now may be the time to start with this title. Todd Garfinkle brings together some of the best talented musicians from around the world on roads less traveled by mainstream music labels. His meticulous attention to detail when it comes to recording venues and equipment brings to the audiophile world albums of superb sound quality. Again, the Tangenta rendered David’s cello performance with the utmost clarity, delivering all the subtleties and nuances as the bow glides across the cello strings, the best I’ve heard coming from a gimbal-pivoted arm. The Schroder and Reed 3P delivers more top end clarity, but the Tangenta delivers more body to the cello as if the bass notes go darker and deeper. I played the same track again with the ZYX Premium cartridge and the JC Verdier La Platine turntable, and the sound went in the same direction of the Schroder and the Reed 3P, more top end ambiance and clarity, but with less weight and body. I cannot decide which combinations I liked better, they are equally good and differ only in shades of the same color. 


Jazz music, however, is where the Tangenta truly shines. I played through multiple recordings from the entire Newvelle-Record’s collection. Elan Mehler and his team deserve full credit for bringing superb quality recordings to the audiophile world, yet fully committed only to vinyl offerings with no digital downloads or streaming. The Tangenta tonearm fully did them justice, from the plucking of strings on double bass, to the velvet hammer of piano keys, to the soulful rendering of Saxophones, the Tangenta’s high dynamic contrast sonic characteristic brings you closer to the recording venue. It allows you to not only hear, but feel the rhythm and snappiness of the music. 


No review is complete without mentioning human voices, for this I picked out the scene which made me cried in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”. Kina Grannis’ rendition of the song “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is the only version which I liked better than the King’s original. 


Yes I did cry watching this chick flick and I was caught red-handed by my daughter as tear drops roll down my face as Soyona Mizuno walked down the aisle during the heart-warming wedding scene. The limited vinyl edition of the Crazy Rich Asian movie soundtrack is totally worth buying if you’re into fun Asians Song. The sound of the Tangenta on human vocals is remarkably neutral, without any added bloom or lush, very similar to the DaVinci Grandezza’s performance, fully delivering the sonic characteristics of the cartridge you put on it. On human voices, the Kondo IO-M is my favorite cartridge of choice and it worked well with the Tangenta.


THE JAPANESE KNIFE


A few years ago my neighbor showed me his Yoshihiro Mizuyaki Honyaki Blue-Mirror Finished knife, hand made by Japanese artisans in Sakai, Japan. It is a small operation so each order takes months to fulfill, it is little known around the world.Yet, those who are in the market for a five thousand dollar knifes will seek them out without much need for advertising, but for the rest of the world, most will be happy with J.A Henckels. The Supreme Analog Tangenta tonearm is such a product.   Every tonearm is meticulously hand made by Zoran Mihajlovic, while providing highly customizable, personalized service. Each tonearm takes weeks to make, so Mihajlovic can only make a dozen or so in a year.


In my ten years of writing review articles, never have I encountered an item with so much interest on Facebook, that I literally receive an email inquiry once every two weeks on how it would perform.   Many Facebook friends have been pressuring me to complete this review sooner rather than later. As of this writing, there is a line up of buyers waiting to get their hands on a Tangenta.   

The Tangenta is a work of art, sonically it combines remarkable high dynamic contrast with a frequency extension and liveliness that rivals the best of non-gimbal-pivoted designs. It is now my reference GO-TO arm for large orchestral music and anything which requires a bit of grandiosity or a show of oomph. If you are considering this tonearm, keep in my that my review is based on a Tangenta made with Gabon ebony, and wired with 32AWG stranded pure silver wirings, which will likely sound different than the stock production model. 


Should you take the “Leap of Faith”? I’ll leave that decision to you. As for myself, I loved the tonearm so much, that I purchased not one, but three Supreme Analog Tangentas.   

By Richard H. Mak, Analog Editor:  Richardmak@gmail.com

PRICE


- 14.000 EUR

CONTACT


Supreme Analog 
Zoran Mihajlovic
Trstenik
Serbia

Tel: Tel: +381 60 0710824
Email: supreme.audio.serbia@gmail.com