Tonearm Reviews

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J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 24, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1977  |  1 comments
Not the easiest tonearm to set up (let your dealer do it if you aren't overly skilled at such things), this English-designed and Japanese-made device is the best pivoted tonearm we have tested to date, and at a very reasonable price at that. Polk Audio is importing them and distributing to dealers, most of whom sell them for around $130 to $140, and some buyers have managed to purchase them directly from stores in England for as little as $80. We received two samples of this for testing, one directly from the US distributor, Polk Audio, the other from Natural Sound, a Nebraska dealer and (naturally) one of our advertisers. Suffice it to say that both samples were identical in every perceptible manner.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 27, 2006  |  First Published: Sep 27, 2005  |  0 comments
The Graham Engineering 1.5 tonearm, originally introduced in 1990, was a thoughtfully executed design that logically addressed all of the basics of good tonearm performance—geometry, resonance control, rigidity, dynamic stability—with effective, sometimes ingenious ideas, while providing exceptional ease and flexibility of setup. Over time, designer Bob Graham came up with ways to significantly improve the 1.5's performance, including the replacement of its brass side weights with heavier ones of tungsten, an improved bearing with a more massive cap, various changes in internal wiring, a far more rigid and better-grounded mounting platform, and a new, sophisticated ceramic armwand. (The original wand had hardly been an afterthought: its heat-bonded, constrained-layer-damped design consisted of an inner tube of stainless steel and an outer tube of aluminum.) The arm's name changed from the 1.5 to the 1.5t (tungsten), then the 1.5t/c (ceramic), and on to the 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.
Dick Olsher  |  Mar 26, 1995  |  First Published: Mar 26, 1991  |  0 comments
Frankly, I'm fed up with the prophets of doom, those false seers who forecast vinyl's imminent demise. Some claim to have seen the writing on the wall as far back as ten years ago, sensing that the advent of the CD would perforce relegate the stylus-in-groove method of transduction to the trashpile of history. First of all, most of the music I enjoy happens to be on LP. And I'm sure I speak for many audiophiles who have also spent a lifetime building up a vinyl collection when I say we're not about to throw away our cherished treasuries of music. These LPs I expect to enjoy until the end of my time. Thus, I welcome any phono-system technological advance that will recover more information from the groove.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 26, 1998  |  0 comments
When Bob Graham introduced his 1.5 tonearm at the end of the 1980s, many thought he was dreaming: Vinyl was going the way of the console radio—who would invest two-grand-plus in a tonearm? But there was a method to Graham's madness—he'd designed his arm to be a drop-in replacement for more than 20 years' worth of SME arms, all of which shared the same mounting platform. Perhaps, in his wildest dreams, Graham had already envisioned the current "analog revival"—but even without it, he figured there'd be a robust replacement market, and he was poised to exploit it with what he thought was a superior product.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 20, 2003  |  0 comments
The best tonearm I ever heard was a second-generation Mission Mechanic, ca 1986. It was mounted on a Roksan Xerxes turntable, and I spent several happy hours listening to records on that combination (with a low-compliance EMT cartridge) in two very different systems: one with solid-state amplification from DNM and Roksan's own dynamic Darius loudspeakers, and the other—my home system of the time—using tube amplification from Conrad-Johnson and a borrowed pair of Stax electrostatic speakers.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 29, 2016  |  12 comments
"Hail, Neophyte!"

That's what members of the Smoky Basement Secret Audio Society would exclaim in unison at the end of each ceremony admitting a new devotee. It was called the Smoky Basement Society not because everyone smoked (though they did), but because its members believed that whenever an audio designer finally got a design dialed in just right, he or she had metaphorically "let the smoke out." They exclaimed, "Hail, Neophyte!" because they believed that the most important aspect of being an audio engineer was to have a fully open "beginner's mind." In Zen practice, this is called Shoshin, or beginner's heart.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 31, 2010  |  0 comments
Ideally, LPs should be played with the pickup stylus remaining tangential (ie, at a 90° angle) to the groove—just as the lacquer from which the LP was ultimately stamped was cut in the first place. Over the years, many attempts have been made to accomplish this. Back in 1877, Thomas A. Edison's original machines tangentially tracked his cylinders, but Emil Berliner's invention of the flat disc put an end to cylinders altogether. In the 1950s, a number of companies marketed so-called "tangential" trackers that used dual arms, based on conventional pivoting arrangements, to change the angle at which the headshell was mounted as it moved across the LP side. In 1963, Marantz introduced the SLT-12, which used a plastic pantograph to move the stylus across the record surface. Garrard's Zero 100 pivoting arm controlled its independently pivoting headshell with a bar that extended from the main bearing of the tonearm.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 01, 2019  |  6 comments
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.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 03, 2004  |  First Published: May 01, 1997  |  0 comments
If the sole criterion for choosing a winner in today's hotly contested premium arms race was original thinking, the Immedia RPM-2 might well come out on top. While some of its design details resemble those found on other products, in many significant areas the arm is unique—not for uniqueness's sake, but in order to efficiently implement some clearly considered goals. If the unipivot RPM-2 bears a resemblance to any other contemporary arm, it is Naim's highly regarded ARO—which I've never heard. The similarity, though, would appear to be superficial.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 09, 2011  |  5 comments
No one has ever accused Franc Kuzma of designing glamorous audio jewelry. His turntables and tonearms are industrial-strength examples of engineering know-how and machining excellence. But to those who appreciate such things, his products are truly beautiful, even if they're not adorned with chrome, wood, and sleekly polished surfaces. And if looking at the 4Point tonearm ($6500) in pebbly Darth Vader black doesn't get your analog juices flowing, perhaps its innovative design will. But first, this message:
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 15, 2004  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2004  |  0 comments
The lacquers from which LPs are pressed are cut in a straight line, and that's how the LP groove should be traced. Even when set up perfectly, a pivoted arm describes an arc across the disc surface, maintaining tangency to the groove at only two points on that arc. Yet despite numerous attempts at building and selling linear-tracking tonearms, few remain on the market, and most are fraught with technical problems. Linear-tracking arms can be anything but linear, committing more sins of geometry as they meander across the record surface than do their pivoted brethren.
Guy Lemcoe  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  8 comments
I first learned of the Kuzma Stogi at the 1993 Winter CES in Las Vegas. In VPI's room at the Sahara, a portly, black tonearm was sitting proudly atop the new VPI TNT Series 3 turntable. Pointing straight at me from the center of its massive, exceptionally stout frame was a tapered armtube the diameter of a swollen thumb. The fact that this unknown (to me) tonearm was chosen to sit atop a turntable as respected as the TNT told me I was looking at a serious new product. VPI's Harry Weisfeld was standing nearby, beaming as usual, to answer the barrage of questions that sprang from my lips as I leaned over for a closer inspection. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How much?
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 22, 2007  |  0 comments
Almost immediately on entering the analog marketplace in 1982, Franc Kuzma, a mechanical engineer based in Slovenia, then part of the former Yugoslavia, established a reputation for manufacturing finely engineered, high-performance products that sold at reasonable prices. Kuzma's early industrial designs, however, while serviceable, looked less than distinguished.
Art Dudley  |  Oct 20, 2007  |  0 comments
Visit www.stereophile.com and look at the Vote Results for June 17, 2007: You'll see that when we asked our readers to name the one audio product that's spent the greatest amount of time in their systems, the most common answer by far was the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable (footnote 1). Little wonder that Scotland's most famous record player endures as an object of attention for various and sundry commercial tweaks.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 19, 1995  |  First Published: Apr 19, 1989  |  0 comments
"Tonearm?" muttered John Crabbe, my erstwhile editor at Hi-Fi News & Record Review, as he bent over my shoulder some 12 years ago to see what I was writing about. "A tonearm belongs on an acoustic gramophone—you should use the term 'pickup arm,' which doesn't suggest that the arm has a sound of its own."

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