The Talea II
(No longer in production)
“The Durand Talea is one of the most satisfying analog experiences I’ve ever had.”
(Jeff Dorgay, TONEAudio Magazine)
The Talea receives the TONEAudio Magazine Publisher’s Choice Award for 2012!
You can read the review here
As a professional musician, my reference in audio reproduction has always been the live music event. I'd rather go to a good concert than sit at home in front of a blank wall--even if the wall is decorated with the pretty lights of expensive audio equipment. I have been to hundreds of concerts, in many of the best (and the worst…) halls of Europe and the US; unfortunately there are just as many concerts I have not attended, or will never attend.
Having moved away from some of the greatest cultural centers in Europe and the US, I started to miss the opportunity to hear live the world-class ensembles one can only find in those places on a regular basis. So the only way to recover some of that magic was to bring them home, in the best possible conditions. As I progressed in putting together my audio system, I soon felt the need to direct the creative energies I had devoted for so many years to musical composition into this new area, in a way that would combine my early training in sciences with what I had learned about music in the last three decades. This is how the Talea™ was born. In order to realize this project, I spent countless hours reading about tonearm design, machining prototypes and trying to fully understand the manufacturing process; and I listened to a lot of music--the best part of it all!
In the process of developing the Talea™, whenever there was a choice to make in the design or selection of materials, I followed the path that brought me closer to the real sound, that delivered the level of realism I knew so well from the concert hall, and was aiming for when I started the project. I am confident that the Talea™ is one of the very finest instruments on the market. I trust that you will agree, once you have had the chance to hear and play it.
A mixture of wood and metals
First of foremost, the tonearm is a precision mechanical device and it should, as far as it is possible, not impart any coloration to the fragile signal from the grooves of the LP. But far from simply being an inert vehicle enabling the transmission of the electrical signal coming from the cartridge, the tonearm is probably the closest component to a musical instrument in the audio reproduction chain: like a violin bow, it is subjected to the mechanical vibrations from the musical source (the stylus moving in the groove), and it should before all not damage them and let them interfere with the electric signal coming from the cartridge. Each of the tonearm's constituents carries a crucial responsibility in the transmission of these vibrations, so every element, down to the smallest screw plays an essential role in the resulting sound. Those who claim that mechanical devices don’t have a sound don’t understand the nature of sound. Everything has a sound. Every piece of matter enters in vibration when it’s moving and that is what gives it its distinctive sound.
This is why, once the basic design had been established, I spent considerable amounts of time selecting the variety of materials that make up the Talea™: it is in the combination of carefully selected exotic hard wood and the different metals used in the assembly that lies one of the secrets of the Talea’s remarkably transparent and dynamic sound. Achieving this delicate balance is a very difficult process, one that involves paying the closest attention to the location and properties of every element of the assembly, and finally putting together each unit by hand and tuning it individually.
The result is a tonearm that delivers exceptional dynamic range and tonal realism throughout its bandwidth.
A unique device for azimuth setting
Just like a musical -- or a laboratory -- instrument that needs to be perfectly in tune before it is played, a tonearm should have a number of adjustments readily available to maximize its tuning. Beside the finely graduated adjustment capabilities for the Vertical Tracking Angle/Stylus Rake Angle and Vertical Tracking Force, the Talea™ offers a unique mechanism for azimuth setting. The Talea™ is the first tonearm to offer the ability to adjust the azimuth on the fly (our Kairos™ is now the second one). Never before has it been possible to fine-adjust this essential parameter while listening to music. Anyone who has spent time getting the most out of a high-end tonearm knows how critical it is to find the proper setting for the azimuth... and also knows how painstakingly complicated it is with most modern tonearms. With the Talea™, all you need to do is turn a small knob on the side of the azimuth tower; and it can be done while playing a record.
More on azimuth in the Support page.
The result of over 2000 hours of research and development, the 1st and 2nd generation Taleas™ were conceived, designed and realized by Joël-François Durand, mostly in the machine shop of the University of Washington Mechanical Engineering department, with resources and help from several departments of the University of Washington (Seattle, USA) including Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, the School of Music, the School of Art, the Business School and the School of Law, as well as the UW Center for Commercialization.
The audiophile magazine from Taiwan, Audio Art has published online the introduction to an in-depth review of the Talea. You can find the first three parts here:
The listening review is available in the printed version of the magazine (issue #280).
Durand Tonearms is also featured in the issue #287 (8/2012) of Audio Art, as well as in issue #381 (8/2012) of Hi-Fi and Hi-Vi Monthly, and in issue #208 (8/2012) of Prime AV.
Effective length: 263 mm (10.35”)
Pivot-spindle distance: 247.37 mm (Loefgren A geometry). Because the pivot is offset from the VTA tower, the Talea™ can be mounted in about the position of a 9” tonearm
Overhang: 15.66 mm. Effective length fine adjustment is realized with a cartridge plate on which the cartridge is mounted (Please see our page on cartridge alignment here)
Offset angle: 20.81 degrees.
Cartridge mount: 1/2”
Mounting distance (from spindle): 207.8-220.2 mm (8.3-8.7”). If you want to make sure that the Talea™ will fit on your turntable, you can download a mounting template here (scroll to “Talea™ Mounting Templates”).
Mounting on the plinth/armboard is done with 2 x 10-24 (or M4) screws (for metal armboards) or 4 x #8 wood screws (for wood armboards). No large central hole needs to be bored
Weight of the whole assembly: ca. 2.3 lbs (1.04 kg)
Bearing: Unipivot, Swiss-made non-corrosive, non-magnetic stainless steel pivot in a sapphire jewel. The center of mass of the tonearm is in the same plane as the bearing, thus ensuring an ideal dynamic balance, without the need for the outrigger weights commonly found on other unipivot systems
VTA: on the fly fine adjustment, with knob; each turn of the knob corresponds to 0.5 mm change in height, thanks to an extremely precise 50 TPI thread (finer than micrometer thread). Maximum range: 23 mm. The VTA tower is fastened to the inner column with a clamp mechanism, ensuring maximum mating and rigidity between the parts
Azimuth: adjustable on the fly. We discuss the question of azimuth setting here
Progressive anti-skating mechanism; can be disabled if desired
Counterweights: 130 g, 95 g, 60 g; with additional fine adjust weight to allow adjustment of VTF in small increments (typically +/- 0.1 g). The Talea™ is a medium mass tonearm, and the combination of counterweights provided with it allows use of most cartridges currently available. The Talea™ has been successfully tested with cartridges from 5 to 15 grams, with compliance from 8 to 20 µm/Mn
Phono cable uninterrupted from cartridge clips to termination connectors, except at the junction internal wires-interconnect cable
(available in unbalanced and balanced configuration); see below
Jig to set the pivot-to-spindle distance provided; no need for a ruler, the jig places the tonearm exactly in the right position
Arc protractor included
Like the Telos™, the Talea™ is a medium-mass tonearm that can be used with most modern cartridges on the market.
To ensure excellent protection and durability, the main metal parts are black nickel plated.
Like all Durand Tonearms products, the Talea™ is entirely made and assembled by hand in the USA.
Please note that our invoice will state full price paid, regardless of where it is sent. Durand Tonearms will not misrepresent your tonearm’s value for customs purposes. Please do not ask us to do so.
Further Technical Information
The making of the Talea
The arm base
In order to achieve the sound quality and the ease of use that I am looking for, some of the parts making up the Talea™ are very complex. The most involved part to machine is probably the "lower arm plate."
It is in many ways the "heart" of the Talea™. It serves as support for the pivot, the azimuth tower, the anti-skating mechanism, the arm lift and the arm rest, and it rests on the VTA column, transmitting vibrations coming from the arm wand into the turntable. Some of its construction involves machining tolerance of .0005" (12 µm), so that the part achieves ideal mating with the others. This part and all the other for the Talea™ are made on CNC machines, using the latest technology. Different materials were evaluated in order to find the one that yielded the best sound for this critical part, as well as all others involved in the construction of the Talea™.
Lower arm plates fresh off the mill
The Talea Armwand
The material used for the armwand is of course just as important as those used for every aspect of the assembly. The experiments conducted to determine which material for this part would deliver the best sound were not conducted in isolation: they had to be done with the armwand mounted on the base because all the elements of the Talea™ work in concert.
(photo Michael Cole © 2010)
While the 1st generation Talea™ used the exotic hardwood Jatoba, it was found that, given the changes in other materials, another exotic hardwood, the Bolivian Rosewood now gave superior results. As before, the shape of the armwand was derived from careful analysis of the shape of the violin bow. Its cross section, in particular, is designed to allow the ideal combination of flexibility and rigidity for this application.
After the "raw" armwand is received from Curt Hart, our woodworker (who also makes the boxes for our Talea™ and Telos™), it first undergoes an 11-step process of sanding. It is then measured and weighed for archival purpose; the other parts of its assembly are added, and it is tested for mechanical balance.
If all is well so far, it is wired and tested for sound: this is the "tuning," where final adjustments in shape can be made if necessary. Once the results are satisfactory, the armwand undergoes a staining process similar to the one that has been used by bow makers for centuries. It is let to dry and finally goes back on the turntable, where it is played for several days.
The cartridge mount
The cartridge is first mounted on a cartridge plate, which is in turn fastened onto the headshell with a bolt. The bolt is also engaged in a slot cut in the cartridge plate, a system that allows the user to easily set the effective length by sliding the cartridge plate along the slot.
If the user likes to change cartridges often, it might be worth having more than one cartridge plate. One can simply leave the cartridges fastened on their respective plate, simplifying the process of mounting them on and off on the armwand (alignment will still be needed for each cartridge, though!).
(photo Carl Zapp © 2012)
Setting the pivot spindle distance
The pivot-to-spindle distance is one of the critical parameters to achieve proper geometry of a tonearm. It is mathematically derived from the effective length (click this link to find a download of the spreadsheet from John Elison that does all the calculations for the Löfgren A and B geometries). If the pivot-spindle distance isn't set correctly, aligning the stylus on a protractor will result in a defective alignment, because the pivot-spindle distance and the effective length will be in the wrong relation.
Usually, this distance is measured with a ruler; that is sometimes very difficult to do, specially with tonearms that have no specific markings for the pivot location. With the Talea™ and the Telos™, you don't need a ruler. A convenient and very simple tool is provided with the tonearm: the pivot-spindle jig (the photos below show the tool for the Talea™; the jig used for the Telos™ is slightly different, but operates in the same way).
The images explain the procedure. Simply engage the larger hole of the pivot-spindle jig into the spindle of the turntable. Then rotate the base of the tonearm (or move the armboard, on those turntables that have moveable armboards), until the pivot shaft is engaged in the smaller hole of the jig. When it is, the correct pivot-spindle distance is set!
For further reading on the subject of alignment, you can find a number of excellent references on the subject in our Support/Links section.
What's a talea?
... and where does that name come from?
The name "Talea" is an homage to the late French composer Gérard Grisey, who wrote in 1986 a musical work for five instruments named Talea. More on Grisey here: last.fm and here: ircam (in French). Here is an interview with the composer, from 1996.
Originally, the talea is part of a compositional technique dating back to the Middle Ages. It has received several slightly different definitions over its history; here is the oldest one (ca.1340), which happens to be one that is still most commonly accepted today, quoted in the Grove Dictionary:
A configuration of pitches and its repetitions are called “color”; a rhythmic configuration and its repetitions are called “talea.”
(Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2001 Edition)
So a talea consists in a rhythmic pattern which is repeated again and again throughout the piece. The interesting trick is that composers usually combined this rhythmic pattern (the "talea") to a sequence of pitches (the "color") which had more or fewer notes than the rhythmic pattern.
For example, here is a rhythmic pattern of 5 values:
And a pattern of 4 pitches:
When combined together and repeated, the two patterns remain out of sync for 5 x 4 cycles. The pitch sequence comes back in phase with the rhythmic one every 20 notes:
This technique has found favor again in more recent times: in the first movement of the Quartet for the End of Time by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (written in 1940), for example, one can find a pattern of 17 rhythmic values combined with a pattern of 29 different chords.