Analog Corner #278: Swedish Analog Technologies LM-09 tonearm; DS Audio Master1 optical cartridge

Despite one website's recent claim that "Vinyl's Revival Is Already Fading," Nielsen SoundScan recently announced that vinyl sales for the first half of 2018 were up 19.2% over 2017, led by Jack White's Boarding House Reach, with 37,000 copies sold so far (and we know that N/S misses a great deal of the action). While on the West Coast looking for business, a friend of mine who's about to open a major vinyl-pressing plant on the East Coast was told by everyone that they're experiencing "double-digit vinyl growth." No one was seeing a slowdown ahead.

Recently, when Marc Gomez, head of Swedish Analog Technologies (SAT, footnote 1), announced two new tonearms to replace his original SAT arm, some readers were outraged, or indulged in snark: "Why didn't he get it right the first time?"

Products evolve over time, and then are released either based on a time schedule (cars, usually in the fall) or when the designer-manufacturer thinks they're "ready"—the scare quotes because some dreamers never think their designs are ready and so never release them to the public, or who release V2 a month after V1, ticking off customers instead of letting refinements and improvements accumulate over time and offering V2 a year or two later.

In the case of SAT, the tonearm I reviewed, fell in love with, and bought had not suddenly appeared in final, finished form. Gomez had shown me an earlier iteration at High End, in Munich, a year before he felt ready to send me one for review. After the review's publication, in the July 2015 issue,1 much to my surprise I found online a much earlier review from 2013 of a far less refined SAT arm that was made entirely of carbon fiber, including the bearing yoke. (The bearing yoke of my review sample was made of stainless steel.) At that point, Gomez was building SATs only to order and was not yet what I would call a manufacturer.

When I reviewed the SAT arm, it cost $28,000. Despite that high price—which continued to rise over time—Gomez ended up selling some 70 SAT arms before suspending production. Was it then "The Best Tonearm in the World?," as that column's headline asked? The question mark was important: how could I know it was "the best"? I hadn't heard any of the other contenders, among them the Vertere Acoustics Reference and the Acoustical Systems Axiom).

After the review was published and the purchasing dust settled, I heard from numerous readers who'd bought the arm based only on reading my review. Their enthusiasm and satisfaction were unanimous—a big relief to me. Not one buyer e-mailed me to complain about the SAT.

Gomez learned some hard lessons during the production run of the original arm, among which was that no matter how carefully he packaged it, shippers found a way to break it. He made a few running changes during production, including improving the counterweight system, and separately packing the upper horizontal bearing for on-site installation to avoid breakage from shock (though Gomez told me that happened only once). The latter was easier said than done: it required a new, partially split bearing yoke, and a tool for accurate on-site pre-loading of the bearing.


But all along, other improvements were occurring to him, so late last year Gomez halted production of the original SAT arm and replaced it with two new arms, each available in lengths of 9" and 12". Gomez, no potchkier (footnote 2), has master's degrees in mechanical engineering and materials science, and hasn't backed off his assertion that, all else being equal, a 9" tonearm lets a cartridge's stylus behave better in the groove and produces better sound than a 12" arm (footnote 3). However, some customers wanted 12" arms, and in some situations (eg, the rear mounts of Air Force turntables), only a 12" arm will do. What? There are people who actually buy two SAT arms? Yes.

The two (or four) new models are the LM-09 (and LM-12) covered here, and the CF1-09 (and CF1-12). I hate to describe a tonearm that costs $25,400 (LM-09) or $29,000 (LM-12) as "affordable," but considering that the CF1-09 will set you back $48,000 and the CF1-12 $53,000, I'm comfortable with it. Maybe you're thinking, "Going from manufacturing one tonearm to four is a big transition for a one-man company. Maybe Gomez has priced the CF1s so high so that he won't have to make many—or any."

I wouldn't count on that. I'm fairly certain that anyone who can afford to drop $30,000 on a tonearm can also spend $50,000, assuming it performs significantly or even incrementally better. (No "starving babies" letters, please!)

SAT's new arms look very similar to the original SAT because they are very similar: The original arm itself was well designed and well executed. In fact, both of the new 9" arms are drop-in replacements for the original SAT.

In designing a more robust bearing system that would be less vulnerable to damage in shipping, Gomez also improved its performance by increasing its overall stiffness and reducing the bearing's stiction/friction. In both new arms, the yoke that holds the vertical bearing has been made more massive.

The new arms feature redesigned, removable headshells of carbon fiber and aluminum—they're different for each arm—with improved coupling rigidity, and smoother rotational action for more precise setting of azimuth. The armtubes, too, are new. The original armtube's polymer sleeve has been omitted, leaving visible the carbon fiber beneath. Gomez doesn't explain why he's done this, but perhaps it's because, over time, the armrest leaves an unsightly mark—or, more likely, it results in better sound. Whichever it is, it results in each arm having a unique look.

You can read more about the new arms' construction at Here's what Gomez told me in an e-mail:

"The performance levels of the new arms are not an accident or byproduct of the work done to increase robustness, but are the result of a very deliberate and demanding development iteration, seamlessly integrated with the original driving goal of robustness.

"Likewise, I want to make clear that I have not intentionally degraded the performance of one model to favor the others to make it fit into a price/performance range—that is not my style, and it would make me uncomfortable to do so. Instead, I've tried to find ways to increase the performance of the top-of-the-range models. In this case, the CF1 series [which] carries a premium in terms of performance, exclusivity, and price tag."

The LM-09 is made using newly developed, cost-cutting construction techniques, and its yoke and other metal parts are made of aluminum rather than stainless steel, as in the original arm. The reduced mass should make the LM-09 more compatible with suspended turntables.

The packaging, presentation, and fit'n'finish are equal to that of the original SAT arm. The aluminum's satiny finish is quite attractive.


Drop It In and Listen
Swapping out the arms on my Continuum Caliburn turntable and duplicating the settings took but a few minutes. However, removing from the lower horizontal bearing a protective washer that, during shipping, separates the bearing's point from its sapphire cup, and replacing the dummy upper bearing cup with the actual one, seating it into the point and setting the pre-load, is all best done by the dealer. I did it, but not comfortably.

I used Ortofon's MC Century moving-coil cartridge, which at the time was already mounted for my review of it in the September 2018 issue, and by then I knew the cartridge well. But before doing that I listened to and made a 24-bit/96kHz recording of the title track of Davy Spillane's Atlantic Bridge (LP, Tara 3019). It features Spillane on uilleann pipes and low whistle, Béla Fleck on acoustic guitar and banjo, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Eoghan O'Neill on fretless electric bass, Christy Moore on bodhran, and others. Superbly recorded and mixed in Dublin's Lansdowne Studios, the album has stupendous, deep, powerful bass, delicately drawn transients on strings—the banjo is perfectly captured—and other sonic treats, all spread out on an enormous stage. Someone should reissue this!

The combo of original SAT and Ortofon MC Century produced among the best reproductions of this 1987 recording I've heard, especially its bass power and control. I swapped in the new SAT LM-09, and played and recorded the track again.

Footnote 1: Swedish Analog Technologies, Gothenburg, Sweden. Tel: (46) 736-846-452. Web: US representative: Maier Sahdi. Tel: (310) 863-0863.

Footnote 2: Yiddish for one who tinkers or who works in an amateur fashion for little gain.

Footnote 3: Marc Gomez, "SAT pickup arms—discussions on some design aspects."


a.wayne's picture

With some exceptions, most new LP pressings are junk , Just saying ..!

Carry on ...

Jack L's picture


I see what you mean. If you put it another way: "Many old LP pressings still sound better than many new pressings", then I would fully agree with you.

Yes, my tarnished ears tell me many many old old LP pressings still sound pretty pretty good vs new pressings.

I think it is the issue of the master recording more than the pressing itself. In the old time when vaccumm tubes are the only electronics available vs the massive digital/solidstate technology employed during the entire mics/mixing/master recording nowadays.

Sonically, I find those old stereo/mono classical music LPs I got (some 1,000+), olders sound better (of 1960 era), in term of OPENness, airy & lifelike. None of my 30+ digital mastered
LPs sound as good, just like confined in a box despite they all sound clear, clean, punchy & digitally 'correct'.

As I just posted in the phono-cartridge forum here, I was very pleasantly surprised when I played the first time the old Columbia Masterworks label LP: the French Opera Arias sung by Richard Tucker with The Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Pierre Dervaux.
(1960s ?)
Virtually, I found myself sitting at the front 3rd row centre of the oera house (vs my favourite seat: 10-13th row centre). The performance sounds so live, open, powerful & engaging. WOW! Like the tener (a native from Brooklyn, NY) singing right above me on the podium. I have not had such live performance enjoyment at home before.

Listening is believing

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

Junk , care to elaborate ?

I haven't bought a vinyl in decades but would still have to say that the old pressings were never all that good. ( of course there were exceptions which might be why old HP confined himself to Vintage Living Presence ) .

Mr.Kassem seems to have bought-up the available Presses and is in the process of rebuilding as many as he can. He sells his fresh vinyl for $30 to $100 ea.

Vinyl is an astonishingly expensive hobby Now-a-days ! ( it was never cheap with the 1980s Koetsus, that I collect, originally costing $1,000 ).

Tony in Venice Florida

ps. Are $25,000 to $50,000 tonearms affordable ?

MatthewT's picture

Here you are.

Jack L's picture


Yes & NO.

If you play vinyl SMARTLY like me, you don't have to auction yr mom to get into the habit.

I've used my ears & my HEAD, to enjoy vinyl music big big-time without wrecking my bank account a bit !

Like everything else, play smart to get ahead of the game !

Jack L

Ortofan's picture

... "" is still not working.

Perhaps this is the link that is intended:

John Atkinson's picture
Ortofan wrote:
Perhaps this is the link that is intended: ""

Yes indeed. Thanks and I have made the correction.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile