Opera consonance wax engine

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cminor7b5
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Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 07 May 2019 02:25

https://i.imgur.com/IpOqNhv.jpg

I'm a big fan of Chi-fi. I believe they make good products with great value.

Recently i replaced my 2018 Rega P3 with an Opera Consonance Wax turntable. It was hard to find much info on this turntable, but I know Opera has a great reputation and so I went ahead and placed an order.

I have now had the Wax Engine for over 6 weeks and wanted to give interested parties my opinions of this turntable.

The turntable arrived in approximately 3 weeks. It was extremely well packed. My first impressions were mostly very positive. The Wax is a "skeletal" design with an aluminum body holding the motor, bearing/platter and tonearm. There is no plinth in the traditional sense. The aluminum base is very inert sonically. The motor is a 12 Volt DC model made by Mabuchi of Japan. The motor has speed adjustment, accessible with a small screwdriver. The table is supplied with a sturdy, plastic strobe disk. The belt is simply monofilament fishing line tied to form a circle. Speed change involves moving the belt to the appropriate hub a la Rega. The turntable has three hard rubber feet and these are height adjustable.

https://i.imgur.com/FbZjrjp.jpg
(Manufacturer's photo)

The tonearm is a hybrid, unipivot. It's a little disconcerting at first, to have a tonearm so exposed to the elements. Unlike the Rega which has a full size plinth and dust cover, the Wax's tonearm floats unprotected when not in use. Definitely not a turntable for people who have cats or curious little ones. Anti skating is applied with the traditional weight on a fishing line and seems more effective than the Rega's magnetic anti skating. The arm tube is aluminum and keeping with the skeletal design, there is a low mass headshell.


https://i.imgur.com/S5NbNH6.jpg
(Manufacturer's photo)


https://i.imgur.com/zyS6C4j.jpg

Opera worked in collaboration with Bill Firebaugh, of WELL TEMPERED LABS fame, on the bearing design. The bearing has a triangular hole and after applying two drops of the supplied oil, the platter is lowered into position. Once in place the platter has some play in the horizontal plane. I believe this play is common to WELL TEMPERED LABS turntables. The thrust plate is teflon to help achieve low bearing noise. The spindle is the tallest spindle I've ever seen. It stands almost 2" above the record! The platter is a thick piece of acrylic, available in black or white. It comes with a black foam mat which I chose not to use because the mat does not seem to grip the platter or the record very well. I use my 20 yr old mat made from shelf liner.

After installing my Nagaoka MP150 cartridge set up of the tonearm was quite straightforward. Opera supplies a VTF gauge, similar to the Shure teeter-totter design. They also supply an overhang gauge. I checked against a Stevenson template and everything seemed bang-on out of the box! I found some of the screws on the tonearm to be a bit on the loose side, so I tightened everything up with the supplied allen keys and I was ready to go. I also checked the platter speed with both my iPhone app and the strobe disk. It was running a bit fast so i used the adjustment screw to bring the speed down to 33.3.

I played several records and immediately noticed an increase in bass definition compared to the Rega. Not more bass but cleaner, more easy-to-follow bass. Soundstage seemed wider and instruments seem more distinct. More details were revealed. This table has PRaT and my wife was tapping her feet to the beat. Horns sound great. Drums have great separation and cymbals seem very airy. I would describe the overall sound as detailed, balanced across instruments and full sounding yet nimble.

On the down side, the lack of a dust cover can be a problem. I cover the platter with a cloth when not in use, but leave the tonearm exposed. I don't feel comfortable covering the tonearm with the cartridge so exposed. The arm cradle doesn't have a lock and this does not inspire confidence. I found I have to be careful changing records or leaning over the table to adjust cables or clean, because my sweater can snag the tonearm.

The ON switch is a tiny metal lever. I prefer to leave the table running and turn my whole system off via the power bar. Still, a more robust ON lever would be nice. The monofilament belt seems inappropriately flimsy but does it's job accurately with minimal fuss. The Well Tempered Lab website even has instructions for making your own belts. After dealing with the various belts available for the Rega I prefer this somewhat less "precious" approach to belts. Be careful moving the table, because if the belt comes off the platter it can be hard to see. Fortunately Opera supplied a second belt as backup.

The Wax has a permanently attached ground lead which i connected to my Little Bear T11's ground. This reduced grounding hum significantly if not completely.

On the whole I'm very happy with this table. I feel it noticeably out-performs the Rega. The Rega seemed like a better table when the Canadian dollar was higher, but at it's current price point it seems a little under enginerred . I understand Roy Gandy's low mass philosophy, but I disliked the non-adjustable feet, the hassle of raising the tonearm to adjust for different cartridges, the need to raise the dust cover to clear the counterweight and the lack of ability to adjust platter speed. I had upgraded my sub platter and felt that was a lot of money, in addition to the original cost of the table. I was also disappointed in reading some of the problems with sagging plinths that some owners have had with Rega P6's. The current P2's lack of adjustable anti skating is inexcusable IMO.

The Wax Engine allows for easy adjustment of VTA, platter speed and levelling of the table.

I'm quite fond of the Wax's aesthetics. It has a masculine, no-frills, prototype look that appeals to me. It looks well made and very robust and seems like serious hifi. I also like the fact that it stands out in this age of MDF plinth turntables.

https://i.imgur.com/rSxkifn.jpg
(Manufacturer's photo)

https://i.imgur.com/kpeQtKp.jpg
(Manufacturer's photo)

The vendor i bought the Wax from offered me two shipping options, both for the same price. Option A was faster delivery but I would have to pay duty and taxes upon arrival. Option B was slightly slower delivery but the vendor paid duty and taxes before it left China. It's very hard to calculate duties and taxes in Canada and I didn't want any expensive surprises at the door so I opted for Option B. I also purchased a CD player at the same time and the vendor gave me a substantial discount. Never hurts to ask.


https://i.imgur.com/03LFC5U.jpg

The vendor also included an Opera Consonance P11 MM Phono preamp and an Audio Technica A91 cartridge with the Wax. I'm not sure if it's just this vendor who includes these two items or if Opera bundles them all together (the preamp shipped in it's own box). For someone who wants to get into vinyl and is prepared to spend a reasonable amount of money, this is a great all in one solution. With the included preamp, cartridge, tracking force gauge, overhang gauge, strobe disk, bearing oil and extra belt, it's also a good value. I know Rega has a lot of admirers and I understand that a lot of people don't like ordering products without demoing them first and I also understand that waiting three weeks can be torture to most hifi buffs, but i feel my patience was well rewarded with this purchase. This table could easily be a forever turntable for the right purchaser.

Still in the initial honeymoon phase but i'm pretty sure i'd buy this again.

__________________________________________________________________

NOTE: Since first writing this review I've done some more research on WELL TEMPERED LABS website and have found a number of similarities between the OPERA CONSONANCE WAX ENGINE and some WELL TEMPERED LABS products. i came across an online article from ABSOLUTE SOUND from Nov 2008 where Robert Harley talked about running into Bill Firebaugh, the owner of WTL, while Harley was on a tour of Chinese Hi Fi manufacturers. Here's a quote from the article:

"A perfect example is the new Well Tempered Turntable, which is just going into production. The Well Tempered's creator, Bill Firebaugh, was looking for a company to manufacturer his new design. The association gave Opera access to Well Tempered's technology, as well as another turntable model to sell in China. Well Tempered is proud of the association; where other manufacturers asked me not to disclose the brands they manufacture, each Well Tempered Turntable bears a nameplate that says "Manufactured by Opera Audio under license from Well Tempered Laboratories."

I ran into Bill Firebaugh at the GuangZhou show, and over a lavish lunch (for seven of us that cost the equivalent of $16) I learned much about the new turntable as well as his perspective as a designer having his products made in a Chinese factory. He couldn't have been happier with the experience, or more complimentary about Opera Audio."


Here are some photos of the WTL SIMPLEX MK2 turntable and the WTL RIAA phono preamp to show the similarity with the OPERA CONSONANCE WAX and the PM11 phono preamp.

Here is the tall spindle common to both tables:

https://i.imgur.com/4x8hUqA.jpg

All of these items look very similar:

- the monofilament belt
- the motor pulley
- the platter
- platter mat
- the speed control adjuster
- ON/OFF switch

https://i.imgur.com/w7OwDzz.jpg
(Manufacturer's photo)


https://i.imgur.com/gZk1eoy.jpg
(Manufacturer's photo)


So I think a number of the concepts incorporated in the OPERA CONSONANCE WAX ENGINE came from Bill Firebaugh/WELL TEMPERED LABS either through Bill's direct input or through Bill's association with OPERA CONSONANCE. This certainly adds to my confidence about this turntable.

Solist
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by Solist » 07 May 2019 09:42

That is a very well written review. Glad you like the sound!

I was and still am a bit skeptical about chi-fi, just because of the tolerances required for a turntable. I wonder what kind of quality control they have.

How is the speed holding up? DC motors tend to be a lot more finicky when it comes to holding the platter speed stable compared to AC. The up side is that they produce a lot less vibrations.

davidsss
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by davidsss » 07 May 2019 12:47

I reckon Chi-Fi depends on the brand. I haven't heard an Opera turntable but some years ago heard a few of their amps and they were very nice. I ended up with a Melody amp (also Chinese) but only because I preferred the sound.

That sounds like a cracker of a turntable, enjoy.

DS

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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by Beobloke » 07 May 2019 13:02

I have to say I've long felt the real strengths of the Consonance decks are the arms - every one I've tried has been superb yet they definitely fly under the radar.

gullkeoby
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by gullkeoby » 07 May 2019 14:00

really interesting and a good review...never hear opera but this arm look really interesting and some people mention their more ambitious phono Opera reference 40 http://www.opera-consonance.com/product ... NCE-40.htm ...

cminor7b5
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 07 May 2019 16:08



Here's one of the videos i watched while researching this turntable.

I have no relationship with this company other than owning the Wax Engine turntable.

cminor7b5
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 10 May 2019 16:14

Solist wrote:
07 May 2019 09:42
That is a very well written review. Glad you like the sound!

I was and still am a bit skeptical about chi-fi, just because of the tolerances required for a turntable. I wonder what kind of quality control they have.

How is the speed holding up? DC motors tend to be a lot more finicky when it comes to holding the platter speed stable compared to AC. The up side is that they produce a lot less vibrations.
The motor speed seems very stable. I just checked with the iphone app and the strobe disk and the speed is still the same after 7weeks.

I know many people are sceptical about chinese manufacturing quality but many "Name Brand" audio lines are now being built in China, Quad being one of them. Here's a video showing Chinese CNC'd products to show the high tolerances they are capable of achieving.


Solist
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by Solist » 11 May 2019 00:30

cminor7b5 wrote:
10 May 2019 16:14

The motor speed seems very stable. I just checked with the iphone app and the strobe disk and the speed is still the same after 7weeks.

I know many people are sceptical about chinese manufacturing quality but many "Name Brand" audio lines are now being built in China, Quad being one of them. Here's a video showing Chinese CNC'd products to show the high tolerances they are capable of achieving.
That is good to hear.

Yes, your are correct. I am more into vintage gear, so I am used to see made in Europe/USA mostly. The made in China throws me off. But they got good over the years at building almost everything. Even instruments.

cminor7b5
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 15 Jun 2019 15:42

Solist wrote:
11 May 2019 00:30
cminor7b5 wrote:
10 May 2019 16:14

The motor speed seems very stable. I just checked with the iphone app and the strobe disk and the speed is still the same after 7weeks.

I know many people are sceptical about chinese manufacturing quality but many "Name Brand" audio lines are now being built in China, Quad being one of them. Here's a video showing Chinese CNC'd products to show the high tolerances they are capable of achieving.
That is good to hear.

Yes, your are correct. I am more into vintage gear, so I am used to see made in Europe/USA mostly. The made in China throws me off. But they got good over the years at building almost everything. Even instruments.

Yes the Chinese are making beautiful instruments. If you look into Eastman guitars they are having great success. They have access to wood that some of the Western manufacturers don't. China has always had a history of craftsmanship, quality and innovation. Now that they've made some post revolution adjustments they seem to be pushing the envelope for manufacturing. Here's a recent Bloomberg video on modern China.


Solist
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by Solist » 15 Jun 2019 16:14

I know about those Eastman guitars. A while ago I wanted to get me a floating humbucker laminate back Eastman. Forgot the exact model number, I think it was the 810. GJ hit me hard, so I ended up with an altamira m01. When I went to upgrade the tuning pegs, I took it to a well known luthier, and even he was surprised at how well executed the bracing was.

If I think of it now, its not that surprising, considering their traditional architecture was based on wood.

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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by P4t1n3tt3 » 15 Jun 2019 17:24

Very nice presentation with a lot of details.

When reading about speed accuracy, did you test with a record or without (just a thought)?
Have you tried the black foam mat in comparison to your 20 yr old mat?

Cheers !

cminor7b5
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 15 Jun 2019 17:43

I've just installed the supplied foam mat for a more thorough comparison.

I just rechecked the speed and it was 33.26 so not a lot of variation since i first adjusted the turntable speed some 3 months ago.

cminor7b5
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 08 Jul 2019 17:59

Solist wrote:
15 Jun 2019 16:14
I know about those Eastman guitars. A while ago I wanted to get me a floating humbucker laminate back Eastman. Forgot the exact model number, I think it was the 810. GJ hit me hard, so I ended up with an altamira m01. When I went to upgrade the tuning pegs, I took it to a well known luthier, and even he was surprised at how well executed the bracing was.

If I think of it now, its not that surprising, considering their traditional architecture was based on wood.
Solist: I'm an a GJ'er! Here's a youtube of the new Eastman GJ guitars. They've been well-received.

cminor7b5
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by cminor7b5 » 08 Jul 2019 18:02

Solist wrote:
15 Jun 2019 16:14
I know about those Eastman guitars. A while ago I wanted to get me a floating humbucker laminate back Eastman. Forgot the exact model number, I think it was the 810. GJ hit me hard, so I ended up with an altamira m01. When I went to upgrade the tuning pegs, I took it to a well known luthier, and even he was surprised at how well executed the bracing was.

If I think of it now, its not that surprising, considering their traditional architecture was based on wood.
Solist: I'm an avid GJ'er! Here's a youtube of the new Eastman GJ guitars. They've been well-received.


Solist
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Re: Opera consonance wax engine

Post by Solist » 09 Jul 2019 12:11

Glad to hear that :)

It took them a sweet while to put them out. Need to hunt one in a shop to try it out :)

P.s.: Do they still like to compete who can get the highest bpm, or did things calm down?

I was really into it a couple of years back, but then I took a break. I could not stand people using so much notes, that half of those I could not hear because of the tempo..

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