Tonearm Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Jul 09, 2015  |  16 comments
Late in the fall of 1982, Los Angeles turned ugly for me. I'd finished my work on Tron and despite the Academy Award nomination for Best Sound (which went to the mixing team, not the sound supervisor), it was obvious that nothing else was coming my way anytime soon. To earn a living, I had to reinvent myself.

So there I was in Las Vegas, at the 1983 Consumer Electronics Show, schlepping heavy bags filled with press kits, each containing an audio cassette of a dozen radio commercials for a car-stereo store that I'd voiced and produced, along with a résumé-bio and endorsements from clients.

Art Dudley  |  Jun 30, 2015  |  11 comments
Before hitting the Refresh key on last month's column, which was dedicated to the challenges one encounters when evaluating audio cables and other accessories, I'd like to share with you a true story: a cautionary tale, as it were, about the hazards of writing reviews for a living.

Seven or eight years ago, just as spring was returning to upstate New York, I made my annual trek to Montreal for Salon Son et Image: one of my favorite audio shows for a number of reasons, not the least being the fact that I can travel there by train.

Art Dudley  |  Jun 26, 2015  |  3 comments
There's nothing new under the sun, or so we are told. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s, a British designer named Tom Fletcher upset the audio status quo with a turntable that combined otherwise-familiar elements in a manner that was, at the very least, new with a lower-case n. Fletcher's product, the Space Deck, was perhaps the first original design in British phonography since the Roksan Xerxes of 1985; and his company, Nottingham Analogue, went from nothing to something in no time at all.
J. Gordon Holt  |  May 07, 2015  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1975  |  17 comments
Because this is an unusual and controversial tonearm design, and has had astonishing claims made for its performance by the manufacturer, this in-depth report goes deeper and is longer than is usual for Stereophile. We will return to a reasonable balance of reportage in the next issue.

The manufacturer's initial advertisement for their mis-named "Vestigal" arm (footnote 1) was so laced with nonsense that we will admit to having been skeptical about the product from the outset.

Art Dudley  |  Jan 22, 2015  |  0 comments
Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: Never try.—Homer Simpson

Months ago, as we put together the most recent installment of "Recommended Components," Phillip Holmes, of Mockingbird Distribution, got in touch and asked if we would please remove from our list the Abis SA-1 tonearm, which Mockingbird distributes (and which I first wrote about in our March 2014 issue, footnote 1). As it turns out, Abis is making some changes to the arm, and Holmes didn't think it would be right to let the recommendation endure until we'd had a chance to try the new one.

Art Dudley  |  Oct 02, 2014  |  0 comments
". . . with faithfully replicated artwork."

That's how a press release, dated June 16 of this year, described the manner in which the next wave of Beatles LPs—mono releases claimed to be mastered direct from the original analog mixdown tapes, and not the 44.1kHz digital files that Apple Records and Universal Music Enterprises (which now owns EMI) considered good enough for their last wave of Beatles LPs—are being packaged for sale. Hope, as Emily Dickinson once observed, is that thing with the feathers. Which, as we all know, evolved from the dinosaurs.

Steven W. Watkinson  |  Sep 12, 2014  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1986  |  3 comments
Once upon a time, SME made "the best tonearm in the world." That claim may have been justifiable through the 1960s and early '70s, but then something happened—SME failed to keep pace with their competition in coping with the increasing popularity of low- to medium-compliance, highish-mass, moving-coil cartridges. I had just about written SME off as a serious high-end company when, at the 1984 Summer CES, I saw the first prototype of the Series V.
Michael Fremer  |  May 14, 2014  |  0 comments
In 1995, Harry Weisfeld's son Jonathan was killed in an automobile accident. Jonathan was a charismatic young man whom I had come to know—a genuinely gifted artist and musician who, at the time of his death, was helping his father develop the tonearm that would be named for him: the JMW Memorial Arm. The design of the original JMW Memorial Arm focused on providing easily adjustable and repeatable VTA and SRA via a massive threaded tower that bolted to the plinth. The bearing point, on the other hand, sat near the end of a relatively long and not particularly rigid metal platform cantilevered off the VTA/SRA tower.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 12, 2014  |  4 comments
In the wake of my October 2013 "Listening" column and its negative take on the Pete Riggle Woody tonearm, I was surprised and gratified by the offer of another new arm: a gesture of trust not unlike sending one's children to a sleepover at Casey Anthony's house. The supplier was Phillip Holmes, of Texas-based Mockingbird Distribution, and the new tonearm was the Abis SA-1, the design and manufacture of which was commissioned by the Japanese firm Sibatech, itself a distributor of dozens of high-end audio brands, including Zyx, Mactone, Zerodust, and, perhaps most famously, Kondo.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 08, 2013  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1980  |  4 comments
The third iteration of SME's 3009 is one of the most versatile tonearms around. For the same reason, it is also one of the most tedious to set-up because, since every parameter is adjustable, every parameter must be adjusted.
Art Dudley  |  Oct 01, 2013  |  2 comments
Whether the subject is hi-fi equipment, films, restaurants, power tools, or condoms (see the April 2005 "Listening"), reviewing should be off-limits to the perennially unhappy. I'm reminded of that dictum by the flap over the recent film Identity Thief, which was savaged by reviewer Rex Reed—not because the film is weak, but because its star, Melissa McCarthy, is heavy. Reed, whose career as the Paul Lynde of film reviewing was punctuated by a starring role in a flop called Myra Breckenridge, mentioned in his review McCarthy's size not once but numerous times, thus exposing himself as a bullying hack who wields his harshest criticisms not when they are merited but as unconscious expressions of his own personal anguish. Hate speech of any sort is the crayon of the unhappy; that is doubly true of people who write for a living.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 01, 2013  |  1 comments
Writing is easy. See? I just did it. Three whole sentences, written between breakfast and lunch. (I had to pause and think about one of them.) Payday, here I come.
Art Dudley  |  Feb 06, 2013  |  2 comments
Sad though they may be, Flat Earthers endure in getting two things right: In any music-playback system, the source is of primary importance; and in a music system in which LPs are the preferred medium, the pickup arm is of less importance than the motor unit—but of greater importance than just about everything else.
Erick Lichte  |  Oct 05, 2012  |  3 comments
Like many audiophiles, I cohabit with someone who understands my audio obsession but has no desire to share it. That someone is my wife. Since I began writing for Stereophile, Ashley has helped me carry amplifiers, tape up boxes for shipping, and found room in our house for all the extra components and their boxes—which sometimes make the place look like a scene from an episode of Hoarders. She's a peach. Every time new gear comes to the house or to my studio, my wife has calmly helped me move stuff around while I dance around like a six-year-old on Christmas morning.
Art Dudley  |  Oct 05, 2012  |  1 comments
Until recently, my favorite shirt was one I'd found on a clearance table at Macy's: a red paisley thing with long sleeves and a button-down collar, not unlike the ones seen in photographs of Peter Holsapple or the young Syd Barrett. When I first found it, this shirt was dusty, and appeared to have been marked down at least a half-dozen times before bottoming out at a price that wouldn't buy a six-pack of Mountain Dew at the local stop-and-rob. Maybe it was on the verge of being discarded, but I suspect that the people at Macy's had simply forgotten it was there.

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