HiFiction Thales TTT-Slim II turntable & Simplicity II tonearm

Money, that unreliable buyer of happiness, has at times proven effective at delivering good sound. It can buy other things, as well: Audiophiles can swap cash for products that function as objets d'art, as status symbols, or even as canny investments.

But—do you think money can buy peace of mind for the audio enthusiast who frets over binding voice-coils, leaking capacitors, drifting resistor values, oxidizing connectors, aging or incorrectly biased tubes, and that most pernicious worry of all, distortion and premature record wear from incorrectly aligned phono cartridges? Sadly, most of those neuroses, some quite reasonable, remain unaddressed by cash almighty.

Early attempts at solving that last one had promise but failed to deliver. That's been especially true of straight-line tracking tonearms, which look good in theory but often wind up torqueing the phono-cartridge cantilever to an extent that compromises the newfound tangency and stresses the poor thing's suspension—one step forward toward peace of mind, two steps back toward audiophile angst. A different path was taken by proponents of the pivoting tangential-tracking tonearm, as originated with the Garrard Zero 100 record player of the 1970s, but that example was compromised by less-than-perfectionist levels of engineering and build quality, not to mention a mindset that disregarded the deleterious effects of resonances and micro rattling.

Pivoting tangential-trackers are once again appearing in showrooms and at shows, none more than those sold under the name Thales, designed by engineer and former watchmaker Micha Huber and manufactured by Swiss company HiFiction. At this writing, there are no fewer than three Thales tonearms—Michael Fremer wrote about their top-of-the-line Statement tonearm ($21,090) in the May 2019 Stereophile—and two similarly distinctive Thales turntables to support them. Earlier this year, Huber sent me the combination of Thales TTT-Slim II turntable (at $6750, the least expensive of his two models) and Simplicity II tonearm (at $9450, in the middle of the Thales line; the two can be bought as a package for $14,180) and suggested I give them a try—which I happily did.

Thales borrows its name from Greek philosopher-mathematician Thales of Miletus (ca 624 BC–ca 545 BC), who noted that in a semicircle, triangles where one vertex is a point on the arc and the other two are at the ends of the arc are, invariably, right triangles. Micha Huber used Thales's Theorem as the basis for a tonearm whose arc of travel across the record is such that no matter where the stylus lands, that point is the vertex of a right angle that has the axis of the headshell and the radius of an LP as its sides—which precisely duplicates the angle of the mastering lathe's cutterhead to the master lacquer.


Huber patented this de sign in 2004 and since then has refined its construction to its present realization: a 9" tonearm comprising two not-quite-parallel aluminum armtubes with an articulated headshell at one end, a split counterweight at the other, and a Gimbal referred to by Thales as a Cardanic bearing—a nod to Gerolamo Cardano, another dead mathematician—at its fulcrum.

In the Simplicity II, the individual bearings that comprise the gimbal, and that enable the headshell's articulation, are HiFiction's patented TTF (Thales Tension-Free) bearings. Ostensibly, these are ball-and-race bearings, but their inner races, as well as their axles, are shaped and machined in such a way that they also offer the benefits of single-point jeweled bearings.

The Simplicity II employs a clever split counterweight: Fastened to the rear of each armtube is a weight of semicircular cross-section with a cylindrical auxiliary weight—the position of which determines downforce—fastened only to the inboard armtube. To correct for inconsistent downforce from the beginning of the LP groove to the end, as can result from such a design under the worst of conditions, an eccentrically weighted disc is fastened to the auxiliary weight and can be rotated and then locked in place to compensate for imbalances.

VTA is adjusted in a familiar manner. After loosening the grub screw that secures the arm pillar within the arm-mount collet, the user adjusts a vertically oriented machine screw that passes through the arm gantry and bottoms out in a dimple on said collet; as that screw is turned clockwise, the gantry and thus the arm rise up, and as it is turned counterclockwise, the gantry is lowered. The grub screw is then retightened. Azimuth is adjusted by loosening two lock screws that secure the gimbal to the structure supporting it, then turning a setscrew hidden away in that structure before retightening the lock screws. The Simplicity II does not offer an anti-skating mechanism, perhaps because this arm, with its distinctive geometry, isn't susceptible to the lateral forces that plague traditional pivoted arms, which rely on generous amounts of stylus overhang and headshell offset to achieve near-tangency. I'll leave it to the manufacturer—who specifies the Simplicity II's tracking error as a remarkably low 0.006° maximum—to comment.

At first glance, the very compact TTT-Slim II turntable—it measures only 16.5" wide by 12" deep— appears to be a simple, low-mass, solid-plinth design, not unlike so many others available today. Only one of those assumptions proves correct. The platter bearing, drive motor, and tonearm are indeed all fastened to a single structure, but that structure is neither simple nor lightweight: The plinth, like the platter, is machined from solid aluminum—both have a lightly textured anodic finish in anthracite gray—the combination tipping the scales at a surprising 26.4 lb. (Compare that to 13.2 lb for a Rega Planar 3.)

The plinth is machined with a number of hollows and grooves and channels, the largest of these to accommodate its inset platter; as with the classic and no-less-Swiss Thorens TD 124 turntable, the Slim II's platter mat rises less than an inch above the surface to which the tonearm is mounted. The platter is supported by a machined polymer subplatter, next to which sits a small DC motor that's isolated from the plinth by means of an intricately shaped mounting apparatus. The metal motor pulley is positioned as close as possible to the edge of the subplatter, to keep the round-cross-section rubber belt as short as possible. Wiring for the motor run through a channel machined for that purpose, which leads to the onboard drive circuitry and battery pack: Although it's connected to the user's household AC when its Li-Ion batteries need charging—a running time of 20 hours is specified—the external charger is claimed to be electrically separate from the drive circuitry when the turntable is switched on. That said, in order to prevent any electrical emissions from polluting playback, howsoever slightly, HiFiction recommends disconnecting the charger when it isn't needed, thus keeping the Slim II off the grid during playback.


The platter bearing has a well of ductile iron, lined with a sintered bronze bushing that's said to be saturated with oil during a heated soaking process, guaranteeing maintenance-free operation "for many decades." The bearing shaft is made of hardened tool steel, hand-polished with basswood and diamond paste. The 7.7 lb platter, machined with a heavy rim to maximize inertial mass, is said to be tuned to one single resonant frequency, then fitted with an inlaid record mat of an unspecified high-density material. (It looks and feels a little like lead, but I'm sure that's not so.)

The final contributor to the Slim II's performance is a trio of isolation feet: smallish, height-adjustable fittings in which the contact elements—steel balls—are centered with pliant rubber fittings. The manufacturer suggests that these "spikes" effectively isolate the turntable from horizontal vibrations.

Installation and setup
My review sample of the TTT-Slim IISimplicity II combination was installed in my system, with all apparent skill, by Wynn Wong of HiFiction's North American distributor, Wynn Audio. That being said, the Thales turntable and tonearm, not to mention their well-executed packaging, seem to have been designed to ensure both ease of setup and consistently precise results.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Plexiglas-and-aluminum cartridge-alignment jig—in their very good manual, HiFiction refers to this as a sight unit (footnote 1)—supplied with the Simplicity II: To avoid compromising the arm's articulating headshell, the design requires that cartridges be mounted on a small aluminum plate that can, more or less quickly and easily, be removed from that headshell, to which it's locked with a single 0.9mm setscrew. The Thales sight-unit is itself made with a recess into which the cartridge and plate fit—perfectly—and has sight-lines that enable unambiguously correct positioning of the cantilever and stylus. I was impressed that HiFiction invested the effort and care to create such a tool. To borrow a phrase from a soap commercial of yore, Don't you wish everybody did?

In the weeks following Wynn Wong's setup, I disassembled the player in part, mostly just to see what makes it tick. And well into the review, I installed the Simplicity II tonearm on my vintage TD 124 turntable (footnote 2). I have now handled, adjusted, and just plain used virtually every element of these two products, and I have to say this: In 34 years of writing about playback gear, I have seen no products better made than the Thales turntable and tonearm, and precious few—that equal them. Indeed, to merely handle the Simplicity II tonearm—to note how utterly free of friction yet also how solid, smooth, and free of play its bearings are—left me in awe of its manufacturing quality. And although I'm far from obsessed over VTA adjustments, I couldn't help being impressed by how easy it was to adjust arm height. Again, this is accomplished in the same manner as any number of other tonearms of my experience—yet to a one, all are downright crude compared to the way this has been executed on the Simplicity II.

Listening to the TTT-Slim IISimplicity II combination
If only because the Thales record player was so different from my own—small instead of large, new instead of vintage, DC instead of AC, low-torque instead of high-torque— I was a bit startled by how well it performed in many of the performance aspects that are most important to me: color, drive, momentum, sheer juice. I prejudged and came away shocked. There it is.

Footnote 1: The Thales sight unit is reminiscent of, if much more sophisticated than, the clear-plastic cartridge-alignment jig supplied with the Thorens TD 145 record player I bought new in 1975. This was meant to be slipped over the tonearm's headshell and required the user to shim the cartridge, sometimes drastically, in compensation for the player's frustratingly non-height-adjustable tonearm.

Footnote 2: That one was a second sample, which HiFiction kindly dispatched to my home.

HiFiction AG
US distributor: Wynn Audio
Unit 31, 20 Wertheim Court
Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 3A8, Canada
(212) 826-1111

volvic's picture

Used to spend hours in the late 80's looking, adjusting then readjusting then tightening my cartridge on my Dennesen protractor only to go back and look at the cartridge from another angle and start all over again. Got so frustrated, I nearly gave up on vinyl. Fortunately, I did two things that cured my nervosa; I purchased an SME tonearm with its fixed mounting for cartridge and its sliding rail for overhang adjustment, voila overnight everything came into place. Secondly, purchased a Shure V15 MK V cartridge that came with this ingenious overhang slot gauge that further took away the guesswork of aligning the cartridge. Have three Shure V15's and still use them to this day. Have slept soundly since.

I think it might just be bad luck on your part Art, the DG recordings I own are very quiet unless, and it has happened, some previous owner's stylus was not up to par, but that is rare and have been very happy with the quality of the DG vinyl I have purchased. Not as good as Philips pressings but good enough.

So if the Jochum Bruckner 8th is one of your two favourites which is the other one? It must be the Furtwangler with the VPO from 1944 right? It has to be.

Anton's picture

I wish they were done by all.

p.chas's picture

Many thanks Art for another interesting review, although more comment on the several audible advantages of tangential tracking would have been appreciated (see the review of the Thales AV arm by Michael Fremer d/d 31 Oct.2010).
Even though the Simplicity arm does track tangentially, the offset angle still requires compensation of the skating force, and this is achieved by two very small (non-adjustable) magnets integrated in the counterweight.
Frank Schroeder's tangential tracking arm is getting much favourable comment on the web. Any chance
of either you or Michael (Analog Planet) obtaining one for testing?

Ortofan's picture

... SME Model 15A.

volvic's picture

Looks sharp and it replaced the popular model 10.

Michael Quinlan's picture

Hello Art
A longtime reader of Stereophile and of John Atkinson since HFN/RR days.
I am concerned about the structural integrity of the articulations at the headshell. We have been taught that any free-play or jitter in the turntable/arm/cartridge interface will create distortion by allowing the stylus to move of itself not driven by the modulations in the disc groove. This has always made sense to me. And to the generations of arm designers who have engineered increasingly large bearings with vanishingly small free-play, as applauded by Mr Fremer.
So with only your photo to guide me, it does appear the articulations at the headshell are small and poorly engineered and must allow free-play. Did you examine this aspect? Do you agree with the central issue?
An ongoing criticism of most parallel tracking arm set-ups is that they are a spider to catch a fly. The compromises involved are greater than those in a pivoted arm.
But see my avatar for what I have found to be a solution.
Keep on writing and I will keep on reading!!
Kind regards
Michael Quinlan