Country of origin : Japan
Definitive Audio is the authorised UK distributor for Viv Laboratory.
Trade enquiries welcome.
A radical departure from received wisdom, the Viv Labs Rigid Float tonearms rip up the rule book. Completely.
There is no headshell off-set angle, hence no anti-skating compensation mechanism, a ferrofluid lubricated floating magnetic bearing, no rigid coupling of the arm to the turntable chassis, and on the RF7, a 7” arm tube!
How can any of this possibly be right? Well, the listening experience flies in the face of prejudice and arrests you with stunning performance.
On listening, the Viv Labs tonearms are an education, and one that makes you rethink all previous assumptions about tonearm design.
This iconoclasm from Koichiro-Akimoto, Viv Laboratory president, chief engineer and designer, has resulted in a range of six tonearms. This offers a choice of three tonearm lengths: 7, 9, and 13 inch (namely the RF7, RF9, and RF13) and a choice of two arm tube materials (‘Ha’ for hardened aluminium, or ‘Ca’ for carbon fibre). This makes for quite a wide range of tuning options for an end-user.
The DNA of the bearing design is universal throughout the range, as is the unique Nelson Hold head-shell (charmingly named after the Full Nelson Hold used in wrestling), a design that exerts pressure on the centre of the cartridge body, and thus an exit channel for spurious mechanical energy. Ingenious.
The idea of a 7 inch tonearm may sound frankly ridiculous to those of us who have grown up with conventional offset headshell designs. In reality, it is more accurate to think of the RF7 as akin to a conventional 9 inch arm. Similarly, the RF9 arm is more akin to a conventional 11inch tonearm. And the RF13 to a 15inch arm. Try mounting any of these arms and this will soon become readily apparent.
The Rigid Float series of tonearms provide direct and unmediated music-making with oodles of humanity, romance and charm; qualities so often lost in ‘innovative’ technological solutions. These arms use a completely different design ethos throughout. This is where Viv Labs research has exposed the biggest shortcoming of tonearm performance. The anti-skating mechanism, in their view, introduces more problems than it solves – dynamic rather than static problems. Through their comprehensive research (a white paper exists on their website), Viv Labs have come to the firm conclusion that the anti-skating mechanism, necessarily employed on all offset headshell designs, is an unnecessary evil, to be banished forever and never revisited. Auditioning immediately dictates I respect this conviction.
Oddly, these arms are equally at home with both high and low mass cartridges, as well as both high and low compliance cartridge designs, which is unusual in itself. Normally you would be rightfully circumspect about marrying dissimilar mass and compliance parameters, yet it seems irrelevant to the Viv Labs performance.
There are sufficient presentational characteristic differences between the tonearms in the range to allow listening preferences to be optimised. Our champion may not be your champion, but at Definitive Towers we have a particular weakness for the RF7 Ha. Possessing both vivacity and vavoom, it is the tonearm equivalent of a horn-loaded loudspeaker – instant energy and no messing. It’s like having your brain polished.
Manufacturer’s website: Viv Labs