01
Mar
11

The Thales Principle

The newest model from Thales, the aptly named Simplicity ‘tangential pivoted’ tonearm has been running-in in our main system for some time now and is really beginning to ‘open-up’ as they say.  Let me tell you this right from the beginning, if you have ever listened to a tonearm that has no tracking error (well, at least none that you can easily measure), you will understand what the fuss is all about regarding linear tracking arms!

Unlike typical linear trackers however, the Thales Simplicity does not require a motor pump for the air bearing, and all the other complications that go together with that. But before I get ahead of myself, what exactly is the Simplicity’s claim to fame?

It is a unique pivoted arm with a rotating headshell (geometry based on a newly created tetragon solution) that ensures the cartridge mounted on it has no more than 0.008% tracking error at any point on the LP. It is said that a normal tonearm design would need to be 38m long to achieve such a value!

The pivot points achieve their smoothness by using jewel bearings that are also used in the Swiss watch industry. Six jewels and four subminiature bearings make sure that the friction and clearances are within their state-of-the-art tolerances. You can just sense the smoothness as it rotates when you cue the arm! The intrinsic resonance frequencies of the two tonearm tubes are even carefully tuned up in inharmonic proportions in order to have better damping properties than any single arm design.

Set-up is relatively easy and fuss free with the supplied positioning device. You simply rotate the armboard till the armbase fits snugly into the profile of the positioning device, then tighten the 3 mounting screws on the armbase. You do not need to measure the specific spindle to axis distance like in normal arms.

The Simplicity also comes with a high precision cartridge alignment tool that makes cartridge alignment extremely accurate and surprisingly easy to do! The headshell can be detached and inserted in the alignment tool for exact installation of the cartridge. And because the headshell can be detached, you can buy another headshell to pre-install another cartridge for quick and simple interchange to experience a different sound!

How does it sound like?

If I have to describe the overall sound in one word, it would have to be “effortless”. It sounds effortless in the way it glides over any music passage, and takes even heavily modulated grooves in its stride. There is no sign of mis-tracking or distortion anywhere on the LP, nor any sign of congestion on even the most complex of orchestral pieces or the most dynamic of drum whacks. Properly set up, inner groove distortion is a thing of the past!

Whatever the genre, music comes across with see-though transparency and razor sharp speed. Not that every note sounds very fast, but the leading edges of transients have more ‘bite’ without being analytical or threadbare. Conversely, the trailing edges also tend to linger in the air for a few milliseconds more to convey more ambience in the music. As for the tone, I cannot say that it leans to the warmish or whitish side of things but sounds very well balanced. It sounds like a cliché, but this arm really seems to get out of the way of the music and let the natural character of the music (or of the other components in the chain) come through.

The Thales Simplicity is not a cheap tonearm, but it IS a very unique and technically sound design and very well implemented using the very best components currently available. I have to say it is the best and most practical alternative to a traditional air-bearing linear tracking arm that I have come across, but without the problem of where to hide the noisy air pump or how to neatly organize the tubing that comes along with it. You don’t have to worry about the pump breaking down either!

It is also far better than any 12” arm in the market (and regardless of price) where it comes to tracking error, or the lack of it! The Simplicity is now on demo with the Air Tight PC-3 cartridge and mounted on the Raven One turntable. Anyone who is looking for a world-class tonearm must come and audition this technological wonder – you really owe it to yourself!

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