Can you learn humility by dealing with a tonearm? One can. Because the Moerch DP-8 is difficult. But a gifted one. It's maybe the best thing you can do to your records. And it's most likely the meanest thing you can do to your nerves. But let's start from scratch ...
Moerch - pronounced "Morch", as in mörcherisch - his first name Hans Henrik - is Dane and has been building tonearms with a few employees in Gentofte near Copenhagen for many years. The "small" single-point bearing Moerch UP-4 and the classic ball bearing DP-6 are known. Both tonearms are fine mechanical gems, against which the dominant arms from the small REGA's to the large Clearaudios and arms from SME look as if they had been beaten by a horse smith. Tonearms from Moerch, on the other hand, are finely chiseled and sensitive like Swiss clocks.
The third and current top model from Moerch is the DP-8. It has been on the market for several years and so it is surprising that you hardly find any reviews about it in the German-language specialist press. There's not much to read even in the United States. Only Robert E. Greene's review in Absolute Sound is recommended .
Like its smaller siblings, the DP-8 promises a unique handling advantage, especially for testers who want to change the pickup on the side. The Moerch arms are mounted in no time at all. You only have to remove a small screw on the head of the bearing and you can lift off the whole arm including the pickup. There are said to be vinylists who keep a whole range of ready-made Moerch arms with their favorite pickups in stock. Probably in the climatic cabinet. Like cigars.
Morch DP-8 A small knurled screw on the head of the tonearm axis holds the whole arm
Similar to a Cohiba cigar, the DP-8 behaves a bit twitchy. The Cohiba, the Cuban top product par excellence, is far more sensitive to its storage conditions than other big brands such as 'Romeo y Juliet' or my favorites from Montecristo. A Cohiba is not an option for a beginner in the society of aficionados. And if you've never installed a tonearm yourself, you'd better keep your fingers off the DP-8. This is due to its extremely exhausting variability.
I don't know of any arm on which one could really make all known settings more comfortably. And not one where you can make more mistakes. Overhang, offset, VTA, azimuth, tracking force, anti-skating, vertical damping, damping of the tonearm lift - everything can be set incorrectly. And you set everything wrong at first. You already know all of this from other good poor people? And have you set the "center of gravity" incorrectly? No? You don't know that? I didn't know either. The DP-8 does. And for good reason.
The Moerch DP-8 can do bass - a lot What makes the Moerch DP-8 really unique is its bass competence. I don't know of any tonearms that can match the DP-8 in terms of bass precision. Because Hans Henrik Moerch had an excellent idea. And like all excellent ideas, it is actually simple and obvious: In order to train the arm to reproduce a really tight and full bass and at the same time fine highs, Moerch has given its top product a wonderfully easy vertical freedom of movement. The arm rests slightly vertically in its two sapphire bearings. Horizontally, however, the arm has a high degree of inertia, which is achieved by the weights attached to the side. These weights are intended to prevent the arm from flapping horizontally and thus enable a stable reproduction of the low tones.
And this principle of vertical lightness and horizontal damping - its inventor calls it "anisotropic" - works: the bass is incredibly intense and at the same time precise and dry. This applies to hard rock as well as to fine rococo, no less for the "Monks" than for Thelonious Monk. The treble remains open and free, as with the best tonearms currently available.
The G-spot of the golden arm The side weights can also be adjusted in height. And that's exactly how you set up your system at an optimal point of gravity. You can do it according to instructions or, even better, by ear. The scanning ability of the pickup is obviously determined very decisively by the height axis of the side weights. If everything is set correctly - more on that later - my Shelter 501 under the Moerch achieves an amazing 80µ, which is a very good value for a shelter.
With the optimal setting of the gravitational point, only trying will help. This is also very easy: you just have to loosen and turn the weights a little with the Allen key provided: the holes through which the lateral axes of the tonearm suspension are pushed are arranged a little offset from the center; if you turn the weights you change the gravitational point.
A Shelter 501 picked up But let's start from the beginning. At the beginning, of course, the tonearm has to be mounted at the exact distance from the axis of the turntable. With my 12-inch model - the arm is of course also available as a classic 9-inch model - that's exactly 294.1 millimeters according to the English manual. Don't underestimate the impact of a tenth of a millimeter!
The assembly of the pickup - for me a Shelter 501 as I said - takes place with the usual annoyance that one has when the head does not have any milled screw holes, but has to be fiddled with screws and nuts like with the Moerch. By the way, this actually impossible assembly technique has the consequence that the attachment of the pickup with somewhat voluminous record weights, such as my Scheu, with stupidly cut inner grooves of the valuable vinyl scrubs along the record weight. The needle doesn't like it at all ...
The fastening screws of the scanner can collide with a plate weight
Once the pickup is mounted, you can put your beautiful template on the plate and adjust the overhang and crank until you think you've somehow found the optimum.
Nice stencil Adjust the overhang and crank with the Schön template
Counterweights and side weights should be provisionally installed beforehand. Then your arm doesn't always jump towards you. When installing the side weights, do not forget that they are to be installed mirror-symmetrically on the left and right with millimeter precision. Otherwise your arm will tip over while playing like a motorcycle team going too fast into a curve.
The tonearm height should also be set reasonably precisely. The final setting is made later - also during the game - by turning a small knurled wheel. Incidentally, that's the best VGA fine-tuning I can think of. Even fine-tuning between the 1970s Luschen plate and 200 gram reissue is fun again.
Of course, the tonearm lift also has to be set up. To do this, fill 0.1 milliliters with the enclosed syringe into the tonearm lift cylinder. Then you use the tonearm lift and wonder why the arm does not lower when it is supposed to lower. You try it once, a second time, a third time. The arm stays stubbornly up. And now comes something that men rarely and extremely reluctantly do: they read the manual, in this case the small English-language manual. Aha: the oil must first set in the cylinder. But that takes time. ONLY THEN CAN YOU USE THE LIFT, OTHERWISE IT WILL NOT LOWER INTO THE CYLINDER. But if you have already filled in the oil, you must not pull out the lift, otherwise the oil will stick to the arm cylinder. Beautiful sh ... Now there is nothing else to do, than to support the arm a little with your hand from above when lowering it.In the meantime - after about a week - the system has adjusted itself in such a way that the arm slides down gently, like a white sausage from the skin. Lucky.
I first set the contact weight on my Shelter 501 to a maximum of two grams and then optimally set up the anti-skating force with a test record, which the arm regulates with a small clock spring.
Adjust the tracking force with the simple and functional Shure tonearm scale
Then a record was put on for the first time and it sounded really nice - the tonearm cable hadn't been played in yet - until, yes, until after the second song the needle refused to follow its predetermined course. With the next disc, too, the thing just hopped back a groove here and there and again and again and again. That can hardly be due to the anti-skating, and also hardly to the azimuth, I thought desperately.
Another look at the instructions. It said that the azimuth was actually set correctly by default. Of course, there are pickups with a needle that is a little slanted in the house. With my shelter, I never had a problem with the Scheu Cantus tonearm. But the shyness apparently forgives a lot.
The Moerch forgives nothing. "Driving by sight" is not possible. And not by feeling either. In fact, I had to set the azimuth approximately based on experience. It's not really difficult, but it's annoying. You remove the tonearm - for this you only have to loosen a single screw, as already said - and screw around a little in a hole next to the contact pins in the tonearm bearing. Then put the tonearm back on and test it. You repeat this until everything is correct. Altogether you change sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes lateral balance, sometimes bearing weight and anti-skating, sometimes with tonearm scale, sometimes with a template, sometimes with a mirror and sometimes with a pencil lead, sometimes with a test plate and then again and again by ear. And at some point everything will snap into place. And then you 're pretty close to vinyl heaven. Closer than any other tonearm that can be bought for less than 5,000 euros.
Incidentally, the Moerch DP-8 costs around 3,800 euros in a 12-inch version and with a golden finish. There aren't many dealers who are experienced with this arm. One that can be recommended is on-off-hifi in Boppard. And if you are smart, lazy or have two left hands, then leave the adjustment to the nice Mr. Insten, who runs the business there. But if you are really brave and want to really get to know your Moerch as a craftsman from the bottom up, then assemble it yourself. But take the manual seriously. And every millimeter. The reward are wonderful hours of bass music from vinyl.
By the way, I've heard the Moerch DP-8 with everything my little collection has to offer, from Miles Davis to some strange white label pressings of Embryo to Hindemith, a highlight of my Requiem collection. The shelter transmits its tones via the Moerch sometimes to a pure tube phono amplifier from Reussenzehn, sometimes to the shelter transformer 411 and then to the Heed Quasar. The rest is done by tubes.
Incidentally, the Moerch DP-8 comes with an excellent tonearm cable. The internal wiring consists of fine silver strands. There is nothing to complain about.
There are two arms of different weights for the 12-inch version: the arm marked in red is medium-heavy with a mass of six grams, the arm marked in blue is extra-heavy with 14 grams. Depending on the cartridge, you have to choose the appropriate tube. Or not: my dealer, the nice Mr. Insten from on-off-hifi, did not recommend the theoretically suitable red, but the heavy blue one for my shelter system. The basic resonance thus falls mathematically into the bottomless and my test plate can no longer find a resonance that is somewhere below 8 hearts. Actually, this should have a negative impact. Now the Scheu is a classic mass drive and there is no resonance from buffeting springs.But if you believe the notorious study by Shure from the 1970s, the vinyl grooves cause resonances, especially between two to five hearts,which should make my arm-system combination vibrate. But whichever record I put on: the Moerch DP-8 lies as full in the curves as a 911 on the Nordschleife. So if you have a mass drive, why not try the heavy “blue” tonearm.
Or better: you take two and quickly have a hard pickup - an Ortofon Royal N should go fantastic under the Moerch DP-8 and under your skin - and a wimp at hand. The change succeeds as described in one minute.
Conclusion: the Moerch DP-8 is difficult and gifted diva So what's my conclusion? I have the Moerch DP-8 with a Shelter 501 on a drive from Ulla Scheu. Do the system and drive limit the arm? In my experience, the pickup is the most important link in the drive-arm-pickup chain. The arm can certainly carry significantly more expensive systems. Basically, the shelter harmonizes very well. Does such an excellent tonearm make sense on a quite affordable Scheu drive? Yes. But if there is anything that limits the combination of drive-arm-pickup in my case, it is the engine of shyness. There is better for a lot of money. And the magnetic bearings from Clearaudio would also be worth the money.
Nevertheless, my turntable / cartridge combination with the Moerch DP-8 won a lot. And a second arm with a second system is in preparation. That's the nice thing about shyness: there is room for improvement. And by no means bad, even unrivaled for its money.
The Mørch DP-8 is the best tonearm I have heard so far. It has an unusually strong bass and is extremely precise. Each of the common settings is wonderfully easy and quick. But it does require a steady hand and a lot of time and patience to set up. He's bitchy like a diva. And just as musically. And a diva requires affection and attention.