Recommended Components 2024 Edition Tonearms



SAT CF1-09Ti: $105,600
SAT CF1-12Ti: $110,200
These two cost-no-object tonearms appear outwardly identical to the Swedish manufacturer's original CF1 arm. However, there is now a titanium tube running through the carbon-fiber armtube and the CF1's removable carbon-fiber headshell has been stiffened with a frame made from titanium. The 9" arm was auditioned, but the 12" arm should be just as good (but longer). Prices are when purchased separately; when the arms are purchased with the SAT XD-1 turntable (see "Turntables"), the prices are €50,000 ('9Ti) and €60,000 ('12Ti). (Vol.43 No.12 WWW)


Acoustic Signature TA-7000 12" NEO: $17,995, 9" $15,995
The TA-7000 uses a gimbaled ball/race bearing system and a damped carbon-fiber armtube. It is available with either an SME or Rega-type mount and in 9" and 12" versions. The model reviewed was the 9", which conforms to the standard Rega geometry. It pays to be cautious when adjusting arm height, advised MF, as the pillar goes, in a hair-turn of the grub screw, "from rock-solid secure to dropping like a pound and a half rock." Repeatable azimuth adjustment is also tricky as there are no reference marks. Included with the arm are a rigid, precise alignment jig set to Löfgren A geometry and AudioQuest's entry-level "Wildcat" DIN-to-RCA cable. With an Ortofon A95 phono cartridge, the lateral and vertical resonant frequencies both measured ideally, at approximately 10Hz. (Vol.45 No.1 WWW)

Acoustical Systems AXIOM Reference: $24,995 in black finish
The gimbal bearing AXIOM is available in 10" or 12" versions and comes with various precision-machined-and-finished spacers of various heights. MF described the designer's goal as being to produce an infinitely adjustable "universal" tonearm "capable of precisely adjusting every setup parameter you can think of and maybe a few you haven't thought of and to place the settings where they are most effectively implemented." Setup was straightforward, a precisely machined, smoothly operating VTA tower mechanism raising or lowering the arm 1mm with each full knob turn. Mounted on the AXIOM, the X-quisite cartridge delivered clean sibilants and the expected smooth, transparent, direct (if somewhat forward, but not bright) timbral balance. MF found that the AXIOM arm delivered microdynamic shifts that helped produce the appropriate, rolling, flowing feel of the classic Cowboy Junkies album. "If it doesn't quite have the slam and excitement of the far-more-costly SAT CF1-09," concluded MF, "it makes up for that with its smooth, refined, erudite, almost academic presentation." (Vol.45 No.9 WWW)

AMG 9W2: $3800 ★
The German-made 9W2 tonearm from turntable specialists AMG combines a traditional horizontal bearing with a vertical bearing that is, according to AD, unique in its field: "an upright pair of 0.4mm spring-steel wires that are perfectly straight when the tonearm tube is balanced, yet flex in tandem and yield to the armtube's mass when the counterweight is moved closer to the twin fulcrums." The result, he reports, is a near-ideal combination of zero play and absence of friction. VTA and azimuth are easily adjusted, and a magnetic antiskating mechanism is included. AD found the 9W2, when used on his Linn LP12—for which it was apparently designed—to be "the first Linn-friendly arm I've heard that has made me stop sobbing about the demise of the Naim Aro: a considerable feat." Also with reference to his past favorite tonearms, AD added: "None surpasses the 9W2 in sheer build quality." HR enjoyed the 9W2 as part of AMG's Giro G9 record player, and said of the arm's vertical bearing, "to my reckoning, this is a simple and supremely effective innovation." The 9W2 was supplied with the MK II version of AMG's Giro turntable, which MT reviewed in December 2022. See Turntables. (Vol.37 No.10, Vol.40 No.10, Vol.45 No.12 WWW)

EMT 912: $6995 with fixed wire & headshell, $7409 with DIN connector
This banana-shaped 12" tonearm comes in two versions, one with a fixed headshell ("HI"), the other with a quick-coupling system that fits EMT's Tondose 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. A dial-operated magnetic antiskating mechanism allows the use of cartridges with a wide range of specifications, and there is a "beautifully machined" threaded ring for VTA adjustment. When HR set up the DIN-connected 912-HI with the EMT JSD 6 cartridge—see Phono Cartridges—on a Dr. Feickert Blackbird turntable, "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." (Vol.46 No.11 WWW)

Graham Engineering Phantom Elite: $17,500–$18,500 depending on length. ★
Outwardly similar to the standard Graham Phantom tonearm, the Phantom Elite is said to be made from more costly materials and incorporates new Litz wiring, a refined alignment gauge, and a thicker, more rigid version of the Phantom's removable, damped titanium armtube. (The latter is available in three sizes, for effective lengths of 9", 10", and 12".) Retained from the original Phantom is Graham's patented Magneglide system, in which magnets are used to stabilize the arm's inverted-unipivot bearing. MF observed that, when used with the TechDAS Air Force Two turntable, the Phantom Elite had good texture but not the same degree of weight as the more expensive Swedish Audio Technologies arm. Like Graham's standard Phantom, the Phantom Elite is available with a circular or an SME-style arm mount; MF suggests that the latter makes it easier to adjust spindle-to-pivot distance. (Vol.38 No.11 Vol.44 No.9 WWW)

J.Sikora KV12 VTA: $8995
The oil-damped, unipivot KV12 VTA is the first tonearm to use an armtube made of Kevlar—"KV" stands for Kevlar—and features precision, on-the-fly VTA adjustment. MF noted that while the KV12's bass reproduction was clean and tight, it couldn't match the "prodigious-yet-honest bass" of the much-more-expensive SAT arm. MF concluded that while the KV12 hasn't got the Kuzma 4 Point's bottom-end "womp" and authority, its timbral balance and everything else about it produced nothing but sonic pleasure. (Vol.45 No.7 WWW)

Korf Audio TA-SF9: $2036 or $2364
Two versions of this Austrian arm are available, the straight TA-SF9 with a fixed headshell ($2036) and the J-shaped TA-SF9R ($2364), which has a detachable H-4 bayonet-mount headshell. Either Korf arm can be supplied with an SME-style mounting plate with adjustable sliding base, or with what they call a JIS/Linn/Jelco round mounting base. MT used the SME-style plate to mount the TA-SF9R on his SME Model 30 turntable. With its extra-stiff steel armtube, the Korf's effective mass is a hefty 28gm, which MT thought might be marginal with his Zu Denon DL-103. However, he found that the Korf arm was extracting an unexpected level of performance from this cartridge. "Gone was the typical, slightly-soft-and-comforting Zu/DL-103 sound," he wrote, "replaced by something significantly more nimble and lighter on its feet." (Vol.46 No.12 WWW)

Linn Ekos SE: $5855 ★
Outwardly identical to the original Ekos in all but color, the Ekos SE is machined from a titanium tube in an effort to smooth out resonant peaks, while its stainless steel main pillar and bearing cradle work to maintain perfect bearing adjustment in the face of temperature extremes and user abuse. The "beautifully finished" SE comes packaged with a selection of tools, a Linn T-Kable interconnect, and a new iteration of Linns cable clamp. With its strong, tight bass and solid aural images, the Ekos SE produced a "cleaner, more dramatic, and more enjoyable" listening experience, said AD. "Other, more exotic arms may give better results in some settings, but I cant think of a more consistent–and consistently recommendable–tonearm. Its a Martin D-28, a BMW 3-series, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire: It will please any sane, reasonable person," he summed up. (Vol.30 No.10 WWW; also see HR's Linn Klimax LP12 review in Vol.45 No.6 WWW)

Schick 12" Tonearm: $1995 ★ Schick 10.5" Tonearm: $1995
Made in Germany and now distributed in the United States by Mofi Distribution, the Thomas Schick 12" tonearm is intended to combine the greater-than-average length and mass of certain vintage models with the high-quality bearings of modern arms. It offers superb fit and finish, with a clean, spare bearing cradle and a smoothly solid pickup-head socket. Though lacking the spring-loaded downforce and other refinements of the EMT 997–and, thus, some measure of the more expensive arm's performance–the Schick is characterized by a big, clean, substantial sound, with an especially colorful bottom end: "a superb performer," per AD, who also verified the correctness of the Schick's geometry with Keith Howard's ArmGeometer freeware. According to Art, "The Schick tonearm is an outstanding value and easily the most accessible transcription-length arm on the market." Thomas Schick has now added to his line a proprietary headshell ($295) machined from resin-soaked "technical" graphite, with a mass (15.2gm) that makes it more suitable than most for use with cartridges of low to moderate compliance. AD bought the new headshell for himself and reported that, compared to his wooden Yamamoto headshell, the Schick offered "far tighter, cleaner bass." He was also impressed with how "cartridges mounted in the Schick suffer less breakup during heavily modulated passages." Now with balanced cable. Reporting on the 10.5" arm, HR wrote that after hearing Schick's arms in a variety of systems, he suspected that the medium-length version "might strike a good balance between the liveliness of the 9" and the greater mass and tracing accuracy of the 12" version." He found it to be a good partner for his Dr. Feickert Blackbird turntable. (Vol.33 Nos.3 & 6, Vol.34 No.10, Vol.37 No.11, 12"; Vol.44 No.1, 10.5" WWW)

Sorane SA-1.2: $1900 $$$ ★
The Japan-made Sorane (originally called Abis) SA-1.2 is a high-mass 9" tonearm that began life as the Abis SA-1, famous for impressing AD and for having been withdrawn from an earlier edition of "Recommended Components," by its importer, while undergoing revision. The new SA-1.2 reflects a number of refinements: improved bearings, greater effective length (9.4" vs 9"), and slightly higher offset angle. The arm's basics remain: a precision-milled armtube of rectangular cross section, static downforce, and a removable headshell for easy cartridge changes. When he used the revised SA-1.2–also an HR favorite–with the perennially recommendable Denon DL-103 cartridge, the low compliance of which is well suited to such a high-mass arm, AD found it capable of pulling from his records "tremendous amounts of touch and force and impact." The SA-1.2 was so good, he declared, that it made his Thorens TD 124 sound more like his Garrard 301. (This, he suggests, is good.) Speaking of which, AD cautions that, to make the Abis more compatible with the unusually low-slung platter of the TD 124, the user must make one or two adjustments. His conclusion: "I'd put the combination of Abis SA-1.2 and Denon DL-103 up against all but their priciest competitors." In his June 2023 Gramophone Dreams HR commented that he used the arm's rear counterweight to set tracking force and the sliding midarm weight to adjust the SA-1.2's effective mass. "This nifty trick, in concert with the use of lighter or heavier headshells," he wrote, allows the SA-1.2 to adapt to a wide range of cartridge weights and compliances. "This adaptability, plus the satiny feel of its dual radial bearings, made the SA-1.2 my top choice for long-haul, daily driver use." (Vol.37 No.3, Vol.38 No.11, Vol.39 No.4, Vol.46 No.6 WWW)

TW-Acustic 12" Raven: $6500
AH was impressed by the functionality of this German arm, when he used it with TW-Acustic's Raven GT turntable. VTA is fine-tuned by turning a ring at the arm's base. VTF is dialed in by rotating the ingenious counterweight, held in place by the friction of unevenly spaced threads. Antiskating is set with a magnetic screw. The integral headshell rotates to allow azimuth adjustments. And the housing of the four-point gimbal bearing has a dimple at its center, to anchor the point of a cartridge protractor and eliminate guesswork from finding the arm's pivot point. Using a Dynavector Te Kaitora Rua cartridge, AH found that the Raven easily outclassed his Schick tonearm, sounding smoother, more harmonically developed, and propelling the music with a more natural sense of flow. (Vol.46 No.7 WWW)

VPI 12" FatBoy gimbaled tonearm: $4500
First reviewed by MF fitted to VPI's 40th Anniversary turntable, the gimbaled FatBoy was fitted to VPI's Avenger Direct turntable for KM's review. (A unipivot version is also available.) The armwand is 3D-printed from liquid resin set into a UV- and heat-resistant stainless steel tube and is supplied with an adjustable, 5/8"-thick, aluminum armboard. Although VPI founder Harry Weisfeld believes the FatBoy arm sounds better with no antiskate, KM experienced skipping. He eliminated this by looping the plastic wire that extends from the tonearm base over a metal peg on the small, V-shaped antiskate mechanism attached to the back of the VTA tower. (Vol.43 No.1, Vol.46 No.6 WWW)

Wand Master Lite 12": $3750
Setting up this unipivot tonearm with its fat carbon-fiber armtube, 7/8" in diameter, on the Wand 14-4 turntable—see Turntables—was a heart-pumping challenge, wrote MT, echoing what AD wrote about an earlier version in May 2019. But as AD found, the result was worth the effort. "The Wand will extract the most from your cartridge," MT concluded, adding "Definitely recommended—as long as you understand what you're getting into." (Vol.47 No.1 WWW)


Rega RB330: $675 $$$
Current version of Rega's classic tonearm. See the Rega Planar 3 50th Anniversary Edition entry in Turntables. (Vol.40 No.2, Vol.46 No.11 WWW)

AMG 12JT, Kuzma 4Point, Reed 5T, Schröder Captive Bearing (CB) tonearm, not reviewed in a long time.

Auditor's picture

The links to the various types of products seem to be missing.

Auditor's picture

They're there now!

Dorsia777's picture

Rotel & Michi nabbed some Class A recommendations. Nice!

Rick57's picture

Can you remind me what it means when there is a star next to the name of a recommended component?

John Atkinson's picture
Rick57 wrote:
Can you remind me what it means when there is a star next to the name of a recommended component?

The star signifies that the product has been recommended for more than 3 years, due primarily to continued experience by one of the review team.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile