In a Constant State of Awe
Origin Live is a UK-based company founded in 1986 that was first famed for their modifications to the redoubtable Rega RB250 tonearm, taking a fundamentally solid design and making it great. Around 1989 their first in-house Origin Live tonearm—the Illustrious—was officially launched. Reviews as well as industry gossip declared the OL Illustrious as the sonic equal of tonearms costing four times its asking price. In 1991, Mark Baker, the mild-mannered gent who is both owner and designer, introduced the Oasis, the company’s first turntable. Over the succeeding two-plus decades, Origin Live launched a series of successful turntable and tonearm designs the latest of which is the Resolution Mk3 turntable and Enterprise tonearm: the subjects of this review.
I have enjoyed the musicality of Origin Live products for a long time starting with the original Resolution fitted with an Illustrious arm back in 2001 or thereabout. Subsequently, I auditioned their Sovereign table equipped with a Conqueror arm. I found that listening session one of the most musically engaging I’ve ever had.
In case you’re wondering why I didn’t review either of these tables, the simple truth is I was almost totally wrapped up in digital. I had few LPs of value and the time and energy needed for even a modest jazz collection was just too overwhelming. (I had, alas, given away most of my original vinyl collection back in ’92 to make room for audio equipment.) And in the early years of the new millennium, LPs weren’t as readily available as they are today. Then, in 2005, the Laufer Teknik Memory Player was launched giving new life to digital playback. I had strayed into the supposedly greener pastures of digital sources and ongoing improvements along with state of the art sonics held me captive.
Then serendipity struck in the summer of 2012 when I heard the absolutely gorgeous sounding Triangle Art Reference SE turntable alongside the Memory Player. This revelatory session produced my first LP-induced nirvana attack. I finally understood what analog lovers had been raving about for decades. When a turntable, arm, cartridge and phono stage are in synergistic agreement, the sonic results can be exhilarating. (Of course, getting a ‘table, arm, cartridge and phono stage to perform synergistically isn’t necessarily easy and is more often than not very expensive.)
That experience in 2012 led to my re-acquaintance with Origin Live and the subsequent delivery to my Jersey City home of the Resolution Mk3/Enterprise for a formal review. Having the Origin Live in-house offered me the opportunity to find if I could recreate the sonic excellence of the overbuilt and sophisticated Reference SE, which retails for $25k with the Resolution/Enterprise combo that retails for a third the price.
The Resolution Mk2 has been in production for over five years with a few changes and price increases. I found it different from and much more attractive than the preceding Mk1/Mk2 iterations. Mark Baker notes the Mk3 is improved in such areas as image stability, low level resolution and reduction in coloration. Physical improvements and features over previous models include:
- New type of acrylic platter material with reduced internal stresses
- Increased platter thickness
- New bearing hub designed for faster energy transmission
- Lower bearing friction
- Increased plinth size improving aesthetics and stability
- Improved power supply
- Hand-made belt of a new material
- Quieter motor with additional pod damping
The Resolution Mk3 plinth sits on three feet (one metal, the other two made of a specialized plastic). The sub-chassis is peculiarly mounted on a highly damped single support. Though a relatively simple system, “…it took years to refine it to its current level” says Baker.
The Resolution Mk3’s shiny piano finish, heavy rounded base, arm board and external power supply offer a symmetrical appearance, well thought-out and impressively built. I find it’s lower profile and contours give it a certain sex appeal (particularly in light of its $4,000 asking price). Unfortunately, it is not possible to upgrade a Mk1 or Mk2 ‘table to Mk3 because so many parts have changed. However trade-ins are always possible through your local Origin Live dealer.
The Enterprise tonearm is the culmination of decades of research and analysis, Origin Live’s attempt to make the world’s best tonearm. Baker notes it uses a “…hybrid arm tube composed of 6 materials [that] optimizes energy dissipation and increases rigidity over the Conqueror tube [their former reference], yielding increased transparency, dynamics and bass performance.”
- Enterprise Features include:
- Low friction, stable dual-pivot bearing design for vertical movement; dual tungsten carbide points rest in hardened cups to mimic gimbal bearing stability but with much lower friction, resulting in increased clarity and sweet, precise treble, free from smearing.
- Highly specialized, low-friction, floating vertical bearings that decouple the yoke assembly and isolate plinth vibrations.
- Several additional layers of isolation from the vertical bearings yielding very low levels of coloration and increased clarity.
- High-strength aircraft alloy headshell for increased dynamics.
- Pure copper WBT Nextgen RCA phono plugs to provide a precise, tight electrical connection ensuring no signal degradation.
Most of my listening was done with the affordable ($1700) and sonically excellent Precision Transducer Engineering
CP’s Associated gear
PS Audio Perfect Wave transport
Perfect Wave DAC
North Star Design 192 DAC and transport
Beyond Gentile Integrated
Beyond Fronteirs Tulip Integrated
TIDAL Piano Cera
Stein Music Master Class SP1.1
Ramses II speaker cables
Echole AC cord
Bybee Super Effect Speaker cables and interconnect
Plasencia and Hijos interconnects
Acoustic Revive RTP-6
Acoustic Dream 4 tier Isolation Platform
MM/MC phono preamp. The cartridge used for most of this evaluation was the Spectral Reference MC that I have long admired for its sense of space and overall naturalness. Loudspeakers were the Tidal Piano Cera and the Rebecca mini-monitors from Alexis Sound. The amplifier was a Burson Audio Timekeeper and a Wells Audio Innamorata. The digital front end was PS Audio’s Perfect Wave transport and DAC.
The Resolution Mk3/Enterprise/Precision Engineering combination made music that was always relaxed and enjoyable. Improved harmonics and tonality were obvious almost right out of the gate. The ambiance that filled my dining room caused an immediate stir of emotions. I always felt this room’s lack of sound treatment left it somewhat raw and slightly reverberant. While this may not be substantially so, the enhanced tonal shadings produced by this combo made me sit up and pay close attention immediately. The pace, rhythm and timing (PRaT) were stunningly present even compared to the over-achieving PS Audio Perfect Wave combo.
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
I had finally heard a turntable produce more realistic and exciting sound than even a very fine digital source. I could describe its overall character as depth of harmonic integrity. After many years of being a nonbeliever, I now think the sound of real music is better served through a good analog system.
Take, for example, the remastered version “In The Evenin’ Mama” from the RCA Living Stereo Belafonte Sings the Blues—a near perfect recording. It encompasses a myriad of colors and hues, producing a sonic realism tangibly life-like. I swear I never heard Belafonte like this from any digital source. It went through my mind was that if this level of sonic realism were digitally sourced, what resolution would it have to be? Beyond DSD I suspect, because even SACDs never sounded quite like this. I played the entire album nonstop for days in a row. For those sometime vinyl listeners out there that haven’t reached their own personal nirvana-through-an-LP moment, perhaps you haven’t heard Belafonte Sings the Blues.
Ditto “Flamenco Sketches” from a recently purchased 180-gram pressing of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, featuring Canonball Adderly, John Coltrane and Bill Evans. This classic is generally considered one of the most influential jazz albums of all time. And it is among the most excellent LP recordings I have ever heard. The TIDAL Piano Cera loudspeakers and Resolution/Enterprise combo projected a buoyant wall of sound surrounding me. The emotional intimacy of Miles’ solo, its sense purpose and suspense—riding atop a wonderful melody—reveals his musical genius in one fell swoop. I’ve heard dozens of versions of Flamenco Sketches over the years, but when I hear Miles’ original version, I know it’s the real thing. If Flamenco Sketches is an opportunity to appreciate Miles Davis’s musical genius, then the Resolution/Enterprise combo proffers a wonderful platform for that appreciation. They say God is in the details. If that’s true, then heaven resides in great jazz music.
One fascinating tweak:
I have been anxiously waiting to try out this newest LP Energizer from IPC, yes the same folks who makes the room energizers we recently all went gaga over. Without having to go too far off subject, I found that with just one touch of button, the IPC LP Energizer lifted the Belafonte and Miles further out into deep space. Like the rest of the IPC products, it creates a very naturally wide and encapsulating space to each LP treated. In short, it took an already high-performance turntable and made it that much more impressive sounding. Perhaps the most expensive in the IPC lot (over $4k), but easily highly recommended if you can afford it.
I am quite fascinated by the Origin Live Resolution turntable and Enterprise tonearm and they’ve garnered my 2013 Publisher’s Choice ‘Most Wanted Component’ award. Their combined strengths, ease of installation and remarkable sense of musicality have reinvigorated my appreciation for LPs. The new Origin Live is great news for any analog neophyte who may find the price of most good tables daunting. The quintessence of Origin Live products rests in simplicity of design and sophisticated performance.
My awe of analog reproduction over the past six months (minus a small hiccup—my beloved Spectral cartridge died) has proven no passing fancy. And my upgrade to Holger Stein’s Aventurin 6 reference cartridge a month ago has provided even greater resolution and transparency with an almost supernatural sense of balance. The Resolution/Enterprise combo has lots to offer and I am thankful for the time I’ve spent with it. My hat’s off to Mark Baker for another great offering.