Gramophone Dreams #78: The EMT Experience

If you've read any of my previous Dreams, you no doubt realize that I am an empiricist by trade—that I believe in the value of relaxed, mindful observation, especially if my solitary observances are independently corroborated by others. Whenever possible, I test my observations by getting either the Spin Doctor, the Audiophiliac, or my Russian neighbor to listen and tell me what they notice. If they notice the same things I noticed, independently, I relax. Corroboration is important because when I submit a review, I have an obligation to get it right. I need to be confident that readers, when they listen, will likely hear the same thing I heard, for themselves.

After a review is submitted, my opinion about a product evolves, getting better or worse with further use or, after a product is gone, with further thought. For example, every time I use Denafrips' Terminator Plus DAC or HoloAudio Serene preamp—which lately is every day—each seems more musically and sonically unassailable than they seemed as I reviewed them. By "unassailable," I mean I can't imagine other people using them in their own systems and not being pleased with what they do and don't do, especially at their prices.

Dr. Feickert
Which reminds me of another product I've used for a long while, the axis mundi of my review system, a product I've used daily for almost five years: Dr. Feickert Analogue's made-in-Germany, three-speed, dual-motor, dual-armboard, belt-driven Blackbird turntable. I did not fully appreciate its virtues until I finished and submitted my report on PTP Audio's Solid9 idler-drive turntable.

Since I first described the Blackbird in 2018 (Gramophone Dreams #25), the Blackbird's dual high-torque three-phase Papst motors and its 2"-thick Delrin-and-brass platter have persuaded me to keep my Thorens TD124 and Linn Sondek LP12 (mostly) under my bed by spinning records with steady, torque-enforced fortitude.

During my PTP Audio Solid9 auditions, I noticed that the belt-drive Blackbird moved music forward with a force and momentum that felt remarkably similar to that of the PTP idler-drive, which sounded remarkably close, PRaTwise, to my friend Yale's EMT 930.

A major contributor to that similar sound is, I am sure, the coercive pull of the Blackbird's motors. Long-term use, though, has convinced me that another contributor to the Blackbird's quiet, solid sound is the way the platter mates the record. When I put a flat record on its bare surface and tap it all around with my fingernail, it sounds really dead, suggesting that the platter and disc have mated evenly and effectively. "Really dead" becomes even more dead when I tap the disc after adding the Feickert clamp, which I routinely tighten just to the lighter side of snug.

I have now used the Blackbird with dozens of cartridges and three tonearms: the 12" Jelco TK-850L, the 10.5" Thomas Schick, and now, for this report, EMT's new, improved "banana," the 912-HI, equipped with the JSD 6 moving coil cartridge.

With its satin-feel knife-edge bearings, H4 headshell, and deluxe antiskate and arm-lift mechanisms, the made-in-Japan Jelco TK-850L was an absolute joy. It looked and felt well-built, adapted to every cartridge I tried, and tracked and traced with bright, luminous precision. I was crestfallen when Jelco closed, in 2020.

That is when I switched to the Schick 10.5" tonearm. Its creator, Thomas Schick, is a respected engineer. His simple, unaffected design, use of top-quality ball-and-race bearings, and $1995 price make the Schick arms, which come in three lengths, a high-quality, high-value offering from one of the best minds in German analog. In my system, the mid-length, medium-mass 10.5" arm has matched well with cartridges of diverse weights and compliances. It has been my everyday reference arm since 2020.

Just when my brain fell into a null, thinking, "That's it. I know what the Feickert turntable sounds like, and I know how good the Schick arm is," EMT's new 912-HI tonearm arrived and, together with the EMT JSD 6 cartridge, threw everything I thought I knew out the window. Suddenly, every record sounded dramatically more exposed than I remembered it, clearer and punchier. So much changed that I found it was exciting and unsettling. It took a couple of weeks—trying different phono stages, cartridge loadings, and step-up transformers—to settle in comfortably with the new EMT sound.

The EMT 912-HI Tonearm
During the 1980s, my professional activities included buying and selling used Garrard 301 and Thorens TD-124 turntables. During that time, I began to aspire to own what I imagined as the next step up from vintage Garrard or Thorens. I lusted for a vintage record player manufactured in Lahr, Germany, by Elektromesstechnik, also known as EMT.

Those EMT record players look so extreme-duty, sexy-tech cool that, back then, my hands shook whenever I saw photos of a 927 or 930. In my mind, EMT products have always seemed an apex of analog engineering and industrial design.

Elektromesstechnik introduced its first record player, the broadcast-quality 927, in 1951. Its massive iron, aluminum, and Bakelite chassis measured 27" × 21" × 8.5" and weighed 80lb (footnote 1). It made consumer decks look like toys. Its heavy, cast-aluminum platter looked like a repurposed mag wheel from a German touring car. It—the platter alone—measured a whopping 17" in diameter and featured a bearing shaft 6.6" long and 0.79" in diameter. Sitting on top of the mag-spoked platter was a thick, rubber-and-mirrorglass platter plate. The 927 came with a 12", Ortofon-sourced tonearm called the RF-297. That 'arm was later replaced by a stereo version called the RMA-297. Those arms were configured to be used with Ortofon-sourced, EMT-branded cartridges, all of which had quick-release headshells, tracked above 2.2gm, and included no provision for antiskate.

In 1974, EMT began manufacturing its own version of the Ortofon-sourced 297 tonearm, the 997. The 997 was designed to operate with a pivot–spindle distance of 297mm, exactly the same as the 297. But unlike the original, Ortofon-sourced arm, which was straight with a bend at the end, EMT's 997 featured an aesthetically pleasing curve. Versions of the EMT "banana" arm stayed in production until 2008, when, according to Art Dudley, with the assistance of Keith Aschenbrenner of design-and-distribution firm Auditorium 23, EMT teamed up with retired EMT production foreman Rudi Glaser and brought out an "updated" 997, which came in two versions. One was nearly identical to the original, with headshell-connector pins configured for use with EMT pickups. The second version featured the near-universal pin configuration found on SME tonearms. These arms stayed in production for 10 years until 2018, when the EMT team began working on a new tonearm series with 21st century technology.

According to the EMT-Tontechnik website, in recent years EMT's cartridge manufacturing has been gradually transferred from Mahlberg, Germany, to Micha Huber's HiFiction AG facility in Turbenthal, Switzerland (footnote 2). Now, Huber says, "all EMT products currently listed on our website ( are fully manufactured in house at HiFiction AG." (footnote 3)

In October 2022, EMT/HiFiction AD released re-engineered versions of the 929 and 997 tonearms. The 12" model is the 912. The 9" model is now called the 909. Each comes in two versions, one with a fixed headshell ("HI"), the other with a quick-coupling system that fits the EMT Tondose's four-pin diamond pattern ("Professional"); there's a variant that fits Ortofon's square pin-mounting pattern. There is no provision for G-style Ortofon cartridges; only the shorter, 32mm A-style cartridges are compatible. All variations are available with the standard, fixed-wire output or with a 5-pin DIN connector. The 912-HI with fixed headshell costs $6995 with fixed wire, $7409 with the DIN connector. The 912 with the quick-coupling connection is $6495 with fixed wire, $7095 with DIN. The 909-HI with a fixed headshell is $5995; with the DIN output, it costs $6495. The fixed-head 909 costs $5995 fixed, $6495 DIN. As with the earlier EMT arms, only the 12" version has the "banana" shape; the 9" 'arm features a gentle S-curve.

If you stand back a few feet and don't look too closely at the top of the bearing housing cover, the 912-HI looks much like a classic 997. Look closer, and you notice some differences. The newer version is sleeker, sexier, more refined in machining and finish. Spin Doctor Michael Trei opined that the 912 "seems better built" than any of the many 997s he has installed.

EMT's new arms have eliminated the original's spring-loaded tracking-force mechanism, replacing it with a new, dual-axis ball bearing technology, which I suspect is the new arm's raison d'être. They've added a dial-operated magnetic antiskating mechanism that allows users to use cartridges with a wider range of specifications. There is a beautifully machined threaded ring for VTA adjustment and a hydraulic tonearm lift that can be removed if the tonearm is used on vintage EMT turntables equipped with built-in lifting devices.

The review sample of the 912-HI featured the DIN output. I connected it to a 1.5m Cardas Clear Beyond tonearm cable. The whole system was wired with a full loom of Cardas Clear Beyond; I also tried it with Ikigai Audio Kangai-level interconnects and speaker cables.

Arm installation: One of the bigger reasons the Feickert Blackbird is the centerpiece of my reference system is that I love how easy it makes installing tonearms. I simply bolted the EMT arm's base to the MoFi-supplied 9mm thick upper armboard disc, which came predrilled for the 912. I joined it to the Feickert's 7mm-thick bottom disc, which mates the armboard disk to the calibrated (205–320mm) lozenge-shaped cutout in the plinth's rear corner. Before tightening these disc's cap screws, I aligned the bottom disk's indicator lines with the 297mm mark on each side of the cutout. That number corresponds with the tonearm's 297mm spindle-to-pivot distance. That accomplished, I stood back and admired how sleek this Swiss arm looked on the minimalist German deck. To my eyes, the EMT 912-HI arm made the Dr. Feickert Blackbird look more of a piece, more luxuriously appointed than it looked with the Jelco or Schick arms.

Footnote 1: See EMT_927_EMT_930_Turntables.htm.

Footnote 2: See

Footnote 3: HiFiction AG, M. Huber Toesstalstrasse 14, CH-8488 Turbenthal, Switzerland. Tel: +41 44 533 88 15 Web: US Distributor: MoFi Electronics 713 W. Ellsworth Rd. Ann Arbor, MI 48108-3322. Tel: (734) 369-3433. Web:


Glotz's picture

as the EMT combo really seemed to be next level here. If I had the dosh in this range ($8-9k), I would definitely start hunting down a dealer for a listen.

I still need to hear the Acoustic Sig Maximus Neo or the Tornado at the next expo. (Their tonearm installation approaches seem similar, if nothing else.) They seem like natural competitors as well.

Whatever, killer on the column this month. I've also noticed how your opinions / observations have changed over time. Ex., some preamps have come and gone, but a few have stayed behind for good reason.

I like how the Serene does with a tube amp and this setup (and front end). Great value is the takeaway for me, after these several months.

Kaipapar's picture

Your conclusion is a reveleation. When a system locks into place, you just can't stop spinning!

I haven't heard Burning Spear described like you did here, which I think says something profound about the EMT gear. I need to listen to Marcus Garvey again.

Arvo Pärt has been a favourite of mine in the realm of Andei Tarkovsky -music for a long time. His gentle lingering dark hymns and string stings remind me of pines, marshes, that deep dark green. Another more recent finding was this compilation of norwegian modern classical music from 1978 (Aurora Borealis, Unicorn records RHS 357/8). The fourth side of that comp is a piece by Arne Nordheim, Spur, for accordion and orchestra. I wouldn't've ever though I'd enjoy that combination. But I do. And that goes back to your conclusion about field hollers and alpine yodels.

Krasdale's picture

Your writing makes me excited to listen to music. Thanks.

Herb Reichert's picture

Your compliment makes me want to try harder.