SCULPTURE A  / A.3

Moving Coil Cartridge

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 Sculpture A  A.3

The Denon 103 re-imagined and rebuilt by François Saint-Gérand of Ana Mighty Sound ... one of the (if not THE) best cartridge rebuilders in the world today.

"Art Dudley once wrote, in December 2007 (Vol.30 No.12), that the 'Denon DL- 103 is one of those products that cries out to be maximized'. Based on my correspondence with Mr. Saint-Gérand, I think it was Art’s plea that set him and his colleagues on his quest to build a better 103  ... and they did! 

Michael Fremer

Analog Corner / Stereophile - May 2021

Design Goals

With our full understanding  of analog technologies and how they have developed over the years, we aim to improve older cartridge designs with new technology. To achieve this new synergy we combine vintage parts like coil wires and generators with contemporary damping designs, diamond tips or cantilevers.

 

Each of our highly customizable products is tailor-made in small quantities, built to your specifications only, without ever compromising on technology and workmanship.

 

SCULPTURE A products will provide you with years of music bliss, retrieving the most accurate signal from your record collection.

Design Approach

From the internal structure of the legendary Denon DL-103 cartridge we

have developed our own evolutions named the A .3 and A .4.

Both were born from our questioning of how to best adapt modern diamond tip profiles to a 1962 design. The A .3 and A .4  retain few parts from the original DL-103 but the original AlNiCo magnet still prevails in SCULPTURE A cartridge designs. 

 

To achieve the best synergy a new dual structure body was developed, it allows damping and shielding of the generator from both internal and external stimulations. This new structure also helps achieve specific stylus tracking angles for each of the different diamond tip profiles we use. 

 

We also modify the damper and internal settings to achieve a medium compliance of 12 µm/mN, an optimum fit for most modern tonearms. 

Boron cantilevers and modern diamond tips significantly lower the moving effective mass of SCULPTURE A cartridges and provide better tracking (>80 µm @315Hz lateral), improved tonal balance, better dynamic, transient response and soundstage. 

 

The A .4 goes even further, using hand wound copper or silver coils for impedances over ten time lower than that of the original Denon DL-103.

It is the lowest impedance cross coil design with AlNiCo magnet available today and this just one of the reasons why it sounds so vivid and natural.


Cartridge Design Principles

 

SCULPTURE A cartridge designs are guided by the following principles:

 

Low Mass

Low effective mass of moving assemblies in phono cartridges

 

High tracking ability

High tracking abilities exceeding 90 micron @ 315 Hz lateral

 

Fine-tuning

Fine-tuning both by ear and with  distortion analyzers to achieve best sonic and measurement figures

 

Material

Inventive designs based on carefully chosen materials

 

Continuity

Full emphasis on the integrity of the signal path from the cartridge to phono stage

 

Circuit

Zero feedback circuitry

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TOPOLOGY

Moving Coil

STYLUS OPTIONS

Nude Line Contact

Nude Micro Ridge

Shanked PA Ogura

Early Stereo

Early Mono

CANTILEVER

Boron

DAMPING

New Proprietary Damper
OUTPUT VOLTAGE AT 1000 HZ

5cm/sec. 0.35 mV
COMPLIANCE, DYNAMIC/LATERAL

12 μm/mN

TRACKING FORCE RANGE

2.3-2.5 g (23-25 mN)
CARTRIDGE WEIGHT

13 gms

TRACKING ABILITY AT 315 HZ AT

RECCOMENDED TRACKING FORCE

> 90 μm

TRACKING ANGLE

21°
COIL WIRE MATERIAL

Copper
RECOMMENDED LOAD IMPEDANCE

470 kohms or 1:10 step up ratio
INTERNAL IMPEDANCE, DC RESISTANCE

40 ohm  

Nude Line Contact [3L]

$ 1,995

Nude Micro Ridge [3M]

$ 2,415

Shanked PA Agura [3P]

$ 2,760

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what they say ...

Stereophile

Michael Fremer  |  May 2021

 

A French Riff on the DL-103


" ... The wonderful story I was told in an email about the assembled team deserves retelling, but this column hasn’t got the space to tell it in full. For now, here’s a summary: All Sculpture A products are conceived, designed, and built in Europe by Luxembourg designer Philippe Galowich, German industrial designer Hamlyn Terry, and the Hungarian team of cartridge builder Laszlo Szalai and step-up-transformer designer Zsolt Bodnar. The ringleader is Francois Saint-Gérand, who in 2016 left his life as a civil servant to invest himself fully in analog hi-fi.

 

Francois sent me a Sculpture A.3L MC cartridge based on the venerable Denon 103 generator, but which they heavily modify. The cost is $1995, which in today’s cartridge world is moderate. 

Today, a “base” 103 costs approximately $229, but the Sculpture A.3L version is an entirely different beast.

 

Listening 

If I sit you down and play for you Bill Henderson Live at the Times, recorded in 1975 you would hear Henderson center stage surrounded by his quartet as live, liquid, 3D-solid, artifact-free, and present as any transducer chain at any price might produce. I played it through half a dozen times in one sitting. 

 

The cartridge and SUT were magic on that record, and on others where the sonic stars aligned. With fairly dry, closely miked recordings with acoustic instruments, the listenability was off the charts.

 

But with other kinds of recordings such as hard rock and especially ambience-rich, distantly miked ones, the cartridge -- while still magically liquid, artifact-free, and you-are-there enticing -- can swallow detail and transient information in a sea of warmth and atmosphere that is not - strictly speaking - on the record. 

 

JJ Kirkpatrick’s trumpet on the wonderfully recorded, richly atmospheric Yuko Mabuchi Plays Miles Davis just about disappears, lost in the ambient fog. This recording has plenty of room sound, which the cartridge overemphasizes. Same with Frank on Concert Sinatra, discussed at greater length in my XVX review. 

 

On the other hand, the cartridge’s reproduction of “La Nevada,” from the Gil Evans album Out of the Cool -- wonderfully recorded by RVG -- while more liquid and ambient than I like or am accustomed to, kept me mesmerized for the entire 15 minutes. The cartridge’s liquidity and lushness did not overwhelm the recording’s outstanding transient detail, and the soundstage was unusually generous and deep. Both ingredients may be artificial, but in this context, it worked !  

 

Mr. Saint-Gérand wrote in one of his emails : "We know it is not the best cartridge in the world, but it clearly reflects parts of each one of us, in our ideas, in our way of listening to music and enjoying, of being a team and friends."

 

True ... they’ve not produced “the best cartridge in the world,” but those of you who love the single-ended triode tube’s liquid, lush, and “pure” sound will love this affordable, hand-tuned cartridge/SUT combo that, though lush and somewhat distant as JGH described the original, has a nicely extended and well-developed top end.

 

If you are already a DL-103 fan and you get an A.3 fitted with the stylus of your choice, you may conclude that it is the world’s best 103 variant"