Tonearm Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Aug 23, 2022  |  3 comments
The AXIOM tonearm from acoustical systems (footnote 1)—the company prefers lowercase—has been on my To-Review list since I spotted it at Munich High End more than a few years ago, but for one reason or another, that never happened. Until now.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 21, 2022  |  6 comments
Lublin, Poland, is about 130 miles from Lviv, Ukraine, a town that has been in the news lately. That's about the same distance as Hershey, Pennsylvania, is from my desk in northern New Jersey, where I'm writing this. They are close. Russian missiles struck Lviv on March 18, 2022, and as I write these words Lviv is preparing for more intense bombardment.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 08, 2022  |  9 comments
Playing records is a delight-filled chore. The simple, quiet act of lowering a tonearm places one's mind at the ready for something marvelous to happen. Surely, this gentle ritual initiates a higher mode of psychic connectedness than poking absentmindedly at a side-facing equilateral triangle on a piece of cheap plastic.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 28, 2021  |  43 comments
If you're going to spend a year-plus in COVID lockdown, it doesn't hurt to have a million dollars' worth of turntables keeping you company, right? That's been my good fortune. Sounds like a roomful, but it's only three: the SAT XD1, the TechDAS Air Force Zero, and the OMA K3 ($360,000, footnote 1).

You'll find this issue's cover girl either strikingly beautiful or homely. Visitor reactions fall strongly into one of those two camps, with nothing in between. I love the looks. Whatever your opinion, the K3's visual distinctiveness cannot be denied. The innards are equally unique.

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.

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