Tonearm Reviews

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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  |  8 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  |  May 10, 2022  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2018  |  65 comments
It was great fun having our editorial coordinator, Jana Dagdagan, shoot a video profile of me in my listening room. As I write this, it's had more than 88,000 views. While the ratio of thumbs up to thumbs down has remained consistently around 10:1, some of the negative comments, particularly about our industry and about this magazine, do enrage me.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 07, 2021  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2018  |  11 comments
Why am I once again falling down the rabbit hole of alternating current? A while back, I committed to listening to SMc Audio's AC Nexus power conditioner, designed by SMc founder Steve McCormack and distributed by dealer Hi Fi One.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2021  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2018  |  2 comments
Bergmann Audio (footnote 1) launched its first turntable—the Sindre, which featured an integrated tonearm—in 2008. The Sindre's acrylic platter and tangential-tracking tonearm both floated on air bearings; it had an outboard motor controller, a separate air pump for the air bearings, and cost $21,000.
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 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.
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  |  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  |  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  |  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.
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.
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  |  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  |  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.

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