Tonearm Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 14, 2020  |  10 comments
German engineering acumen and machining excellence—acknowledged and admired worldwide—are nowhere to be seen on AMG's flagship Viella Forte turntable and new 12JT tonearm. That's because, while what's on the surface is cosmetically and mechanically well-turned, the design features and precision engineering that set AMG's turntables and tonearms apart are inside and hidden from view.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 11, 2020  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2020  |  7 comments
At the 2017 Hong Kong High End Audio/Video Show, I found myself sitting next to a turntable manufacturer who shall remain anonymous. A Reed Muse 3C turntable ($20,000) with 3P tonearm sat on a display table across from us.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 2020  |  18 comments
The catastrophic February 6 fire at the factory where Apollo Masters produced LP-mastering lacquers—flat aluminum discs covered with nitrocellulose lacquer—will be old news by the time this column gets to you, but the repercussions of the loss will be ongoing for at least the next year and probably beyond.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 18, 2020  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2020  |  56 comments
Lately it seems that the more Rega charges for one of its turntables, the less you get—and from Rega's performance perspective that's a good thing.

While some turntable designs pile on the mass, hoping to tame resonances and better isolate the record from the outside world, Rega has long advocated ultralow-mass designs. What's up with that?

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 06, 2020  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2020  |  46 comments
In 2013, when I first wrote about it (footnote 1), the TechDAS Air Force One ($105,000) was that company's best and most expensive turntable; it joined the handful of products that have earned an A+ in our semiannual Recommended Components feature—a rating that remained in place for six years. But too much time has passed since the Air Force One was auditioned by a Stereophile writer, so it has now fallen from that list.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 12, 2020  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2020  |  17 comments
Judging by VPI's new HW-40 direct-drive turntable, middle age well suits the company that Harry and Sheila Weisfeld started 40 years ago in their Howard Beach, Long Island, basement.
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  |  Mar 09, 2021  |  First Published: May 01, 2019  |  37 comments
For a phono cartridge to generate current and voltage, something must move: a coil of wire (as in a moving-coil cartridge), or a magnet (as in a moving-magnet type), or a tiny piece of iron (a moving-iron type). In those rare cartridges that depart from the electricity-generating principle of the ones described above, it can be a displacement-measuring device in which a moving shutter modulates a light source to vary a supplied voltage (as in an optical cartridge), or one in which voltage is modulated when a tiny chip of silicon crystal is squeezed by a moving element, which varies the chip's electrical resistance (as in a strain-gauge cartridge). But regardless of what it is that moves in a cartridge, something has to.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 30, 2019  |  12 comments
There's a noise I make when I'm having trouble with something inanimate: a deep, growly huff that starts in my diaphragm and comes out in one or two quick, staccato bursts. I huff this huff when I drop a tool or can't budge a seized bolt or the bottom falls out of a trash bag. It annoys my family and scares my dog.

I made that noise at least a half-dozen times while installing and setting up the Wand, a unipivot tonearm designed and manufactured by Design Build Listen Ltd., in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Art Dudley  |  Feb 07, 2019  |  3 comments
Peter J. Walker (1916–2003), founder of Quad Electroacoustics and designer of some of the most well-regarded products in the history of domestic audio, famously believed that a properly designed audio-frequency amplifier should have no sound of its own. As for suggestions that his Quad II amplifier (1953–1971) sounded better than most, Walker was unmoved: "We designed our valve amplifier, manufactured it, put it on the market and never actually listened to it."
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 08, 2021  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2019  |  2 comments
How do you like your tangential-tracking tonearm: with a captured air bearing? If so, a stationary bearing and moving rail—or a moving bearing and stationary rail? A hovercraft-style air bearing? Trolley-wheel or servo-mechanical bearing? Or pivoted, with some kind of offset at the pivot or the headshell—or both? In today's crowded market of analog playback, you can buy whatever type of tangential tracker you prefer, from Bergmann, Clearaudio, Kuzma, Reed, Schröder, Thales, and others.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 06, 2021  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2018  |  3 comments
Turntable manufacturer VPI Industries is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Despite analog playback's ups and downs (pun time), VPI has managed not only to survive but to prosper and grow, thanks to a smart product mix that includes high-value, wet-wash/vacuum-dry record-cleaning machines that perhaps took up the revenue slack when, in the mid-1990s, interest in new turntables dipped—but the vinyl faithful still had millions of dirty records to keep clean.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 03, 2021  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2018  |  9 comments
Technics' sudden decision, in October 2010, to stop making its iconic SL-1200 direct-drive turntable, then in its MK6 iteration, took vinyl fans by surprise. At the time, although sales of vinyl and turntables for home use were surging, their use in clubs was falling as DJs moved to the digits. According to Technics (a division of Panasonic), production of the SL-1200 was stopped not because professional sales dropped, but because the factory tooling for manufacturing them had worn out, and retooling wasn't cost-effective.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 09, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2018  |  7 comments
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.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 30, 2018  |  5 comments
In my youth, I unwittingly trained myself in the art of deferred pleasure. I did this by investing my allowance in every mail-order product that caught my eye—things I saw in the back pages of the magazines and comic books I loved—then settling in for a wait that always seemed interminable. This happened most often in summer months, when extra chores brought extra cash, and when school didn't interfere with keeping vigil at the mailbox.

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