The Passionate Restitution of the Westrex Cutting Stylus
To be left with only one supplier of lacquer discs was bad enough…But to be left with only one supplier of cutting styli, and that restricted to product for Neumann heads only was serious. Not least because I had invested several years in restoring my Scully Lathe 601 (Serial No.560) fitted with a Westrex 3DII (No.211) and the Westrex RA 1700 series amplifiers.
Remembering that Orbray / Adamant did offer cutting styli for Westrex Heads at the turn of the century, we asked them if they were prepared to re-introduce two models. To their credit, Orbray / Adamant embraced the project with passion and enthusiasm. The next few months were hectic, researching drawings from the original adamant designs, and those of Micro-Point. (The original company owned by Ed Schwartz) We eventually settled on two Sapphire tipped Aluminium shank products WSH-2 and WSH-2S.
The first four pre-production samples were ready in April, and testing started immediately. My own Westrex head was fitted with a very old Transco 320 utilising an adapter to accept a Neumann stylus.
The results from the prototype Adamant stylus tip were nothing less than spectacular!
But then I would say that. So, my next port of call was to contact Stephen at Marsh Mastering in CA, Stephen was enthusiastic, to say the least, and started with the 3-micron tip WSH-2S.
His comments below (verbatim) epitomises the enthusiasm and passion shared by the mastering community, not only in CA but worldwide.
Oh, excellent! Thank you
I finished testing the 2S yesterday; it is REALLY impressive. The reproduced cut translates very well to the source. In comparison to the Transco tool - there is less exaggerated bottom end, greater sense of stereo width and clearer, cleaner top end. Even just turning the head on - the sound reproduction coming directly off the stone is noticeably more balanced and smooth. I've found on my system (perhaps they're all like this) how the tool 'sings' has a very direct relationship with how well it cuts so I do quite a bit of listening to the just the tool itself.... perhaps I’m insane!
As for the physical nature of the tool - it’s VERY sturdy, and the cuts are clean and precise with no or nearly no chip remaining on the cutter surface after lift-off. The smaller size surely helps with better chip pickup - I can probably lower my vac down a bit in fact.
As for the cut itself - silent groove was dead silent @ .6 amps heater current - I mean DEAD silent. When I tested the My Shank Diamond it was EXTREMELY picky about heater current, and in fact, it had such a small 'sweet spot' on the meter it was more like a 'sweet micron'. I suspect that while they may be able to cut the diamonds sharper (Steven's big boast) - they'll never get heat to flow through it like it does through the ruby/sapphire tools.
I'll get you feedback on the 1 micron once it arrives - I cannot wait!
Steph is now looking at the 1-micron version. Like Steph, I cannot wait, but it will have to keep for another day.
I must also thank Caspar Sutton-Jones, Mastering Engineer of Gearbox Records, and Lewis Durham, (guitarist from sibling trio Kitty, Daisy & Lewis and son of Graeme Durham, Head Mastering Engineer) both residing in London for also putting these new styli through their paces.
Last but not least, my thanks to Adamant Namiki for all their support in bringing this exercise to fruition. I first started working with Adamant some 20 years ago distributing their range of cutting styli for Neumann heads. Five years ago, we (Micro-Point formerly Transco Blanx) upped our game and reviewed the stylus specification taking on the advice of a number of 'enlightened' audio mastering engineers. (Could I say Illuminati?)
A word of caution, though. The products tested are pre-production samples and development is ongoing-But rest assured it is only a matter of time before we have a stylus perfectly suitable for the growing community of Scully/Westrex users.
These mastering engineers included Barry Grint of Alchemy, Miles Showell of Abbey Road Studios, and Mandy Parnell. I am grateful for their contribution, which resulted in an improved product for Neumann Heads.
It was around this time that we introduced some additional benefits. Each Micro-Point stylus carries a unique identification number, Laser etched on the shank, and a digital image of the tip is held on file at our offices in the UK. This ensures the providence of styli supplied by Micro-Point.
Our range is no longer restricted just to NSH-2 and NSH-2S for Neumann. We now have two first class products for Westrex type cutting heads. (Updated 07/09/20)
glad to see westrex styli coming — please reserve a minimum of three for us – to start with
It is nice to see work being done by the many influential masters of our trade, so that disc recording may continue to flourish. Professionals and Hobbyists alike should benefit from such work.