It is always a challenge to design a worthy heir to a successful product. For the Lyra Etna, however, that challenge was twice as difficult as normal. On one hand its primary goal was to replace the popular Titan. On the other hand, the Etna design project had a second goal, which was to achieve as high levels of performance as possible. If this meant that Etna would give stern competition to the flagship Atlas, so be it.
As a model intended to retail for significantly less than Atlas, but having similar aspirations to the pinnacles of performance, Etna was designed with a strong emphasis on engineering efficiency, so that its performance would be as far beyond the sum of its parts as possible. For this reason, although it shares some of its design philosophy with the Atlas, the concepts are executed rather differently.
Etna employs a solid titanium core structure machined with non-parallel surfaces to inhibit internal reflections wherever possible, but unlike Atlas (and Titan i before it), this is mated to a slightly undersized, asymmetric duralumin outer body that is designed to lock over the core like a very tightly-fitting jigsaw puzzle. The core and body are augmented with bronze and stainless-steel resonance control rods, then everything is pressure-fit together into a pre-stressed, solid, void-free structure which is comprised of multiple materials and complex internal shapes. The constrained-layer nature of this construction dramatically reduces the resonant signature of each material and creates a far more neutral-sounding body structure than otherwise possible, while the high body stiffness benefits transients, dynamics and resolution.
Linear transducers such as loudspeakers and phono cartridges are inherently inefficient devices – on the order of 5 to 10%. In other words, of the vibrational energy that enters a cartridge from the LP groove, only 5 to 10% will be converted into electrical signal. The cartridge’s internal damping system will dissipate some of the remaining 90 to 95%, but much of the excess vibrational energy will reflect inside the cartridge, creating internal echoes, smearing, and a general diminishing of fidelity. It is easy to demonstrate this with many cartridges – play a highly modulated LP with the power amp turned off, and bring your ear close to the cartridge. The “needle-talk” that you hear is excess vibrational energy which isn’t being controlled properly.
To help conduct this excess vibrational energy into the headshell, where it can be safely dissipated within the greater mass of the tonearm and turntable plinth, Lyra has traditionally mounted the cantilever directly into the cartridge body, resulting in a rigid, seamless connection between the cantilever assembly and tonearm headshell (as it happens, we remain the only manufacturer to do so).
In the process of designing Atlas, we discovered that in addition to coupling the cantilever to headshell with a rigid, unbroken path, further sonic gains could be realized by removing all objects and voids from the path. Atlas’ asymmetric shape was conceived partly for this purpose, to move the front magnet carrier, mounting screw and screwhole out of the way of the mechanical path connecting cantilever to headshell.
Etna utilizes the same asymmetrical concept, but whereas Atlas offsets the screw and screwhole to one side, Etna moves the screw / screwhole all the way to the front of the cartridge – and interposes an additional bronze damping barrier between the screw / screwhole and the mechanical path linking cantilever to headshell.
The Lyra Etna SL is a special version of the standard Etna, but with a single layer (hence, the “SL” designation) of coils, resulting in lower mass.
Lyra describes the SL series as follows:
For expert users with very high-gain, extra low noise phono stages, or alternatively a step-up transformer designed for phono cartridges of 2 – 3 ohms or less… [It] may provide extra pure and pristine sound from an audio system that is optimised for a low-impedance, low-output cartridge. However, this may be accompanied with a lesser level of energy and power.
Hands-down one of the most superb and lifelike-sounding phono cartridges ever made, the Lyra Etna MC SL phono cartridge uses unique engineering to remove resonance. Not reduce it. Remove it completely. Yes, it’s a big step up in price from most cartridges, but one that yields gains in transparency, the removal of distortion, and remarkable accuracy. In short, the advanced design principles allow the focus to be placed on the music buried in the grooves of your records. A winner of The Absolute Sound’s Product of the Year Award as well as a Stereophile Analog Component of the Year, Product of the Year, and Editors’ Choice pick, Etna SL is simply a work of art. A prestigious musical instrument.
If weight of sound and dynamics are your priorities, go for the non-SL version. But if high resolution and speed are what you’re seeking, and you’ve got a suitable phono stage or step-up transformer, the SL version may be ideal.
While Etna is second from the top in Lyra’s line, one listen will demonstrate that this cartridge’s performance would define the very top of any other cartridge line. Atlas has a very refined, elegant and voluptuous sound while Etna’s personality is more outgoing. We truly believe that choosing between these two exceptional performers will come down to one’s tastes and the system in which it will live. For many customers Etna will be ideal and become their preferred Lyra.