Ancient AR Turntable with NO anti skate

A friend had me over to listen to his restored late 60's Acoustic Research turntable.  While listening, I noticed that the somewhat awkward looking tonearm had no anti skate.  Looking closely at the stylus assembly, it wasn't drifting or pulling toward the center spindle.  It seemed to track clean and true through the entire LP.  The arm is the original stock AR arm and couldn't be more that 8.5" or 9" in length.  I am just curious how AR pulls that off with such a short arm?  I have seen several 12" arms (Audio Technica for example) that dispense with anti skate completely but never a smaller one.  By the way, the table sounded wonderful and the cartridge was a Denon 103R.



The one with the simple machined block at the pivot and the brass counter-weight?

not sure if AR ever put adjustable anti-skate on - even for the XA

one trick is to twist the arm wires (!)

another is to just use a vintage cartridge with low compliance


Yes, that's the arm. The sound was really clean. I'm wondering if I can try that with a couple of my tonearms?

sure, you can try but be careful 

use the adj. anti-skate if you have it
I have a Grace 747 on my Dual 1229 and a SME 3009 on the Garrard 301.  It doesn't work.  I played with them both all night.  I will say though, to my surprise that leaving the antiskate off sounds really good.  I can see however that the stylus is gravitating to the center spindle and that can't be good for the cartridge assembly.
I also tried it using the same cartridge and still wasn't able to get it to track like the AR.

I have always used antiskate but I can now see an argument for leaving it off.


If by "Ancient" you mean as late as the mid 50's most every arm had no
anti-skate, including Ortofon's and the first SME series 1 3012,
and 3009's. Although was later available as an option [series 1] 


I am really intrigued by this.  I have been looking for documentation on how they addressed the skating issue back then.  I have a SME 3009 Improved, of course with the anti skate.  I am guessing that no one was really concerned about it then? 

Wondering now how many run their turntables without anti skate dialed in?
Hello norman, I don't see why one would not apply the antiskate bias if this feature is available.  The skating force exists for every pivoting arm used with any stylus.  It is a vector quantity, very real, not some alternative fact.
Anti skate is such a low force that it is inconsequential..most part theoretical.  Actually  no antiskate sounds better than yes a/s.
Anti skate is such a low force that it is inconsequential..most part theoretical. Actually no antiskate sounds better than yes a/s.
Certainly, many listeners prefer no antiskate, although I'm not one of them. However, to claim that antiskate force is so low as to be inconsequential is mistaken, imo. When antiskate force is considered in relation to VTF and effective tonearm mass, it is significant indeed - even if you prefer to avoid its use.

This discussion comes and goes on every analog forum.  Stringreen has not changed his opinion, which is his right.  But I have to agree with cleeds; the skating force does exist for every pivoted tonearm, whether we like it or not.  I don't have any idea why some tonearms seem to sound fine with no AS applied and others do not.  In some cases (VPI) the routing of the tonearm wires may in and of itself provide some degree of AS force such that lack of a formal mechanism for AS is not missed. At least that is a popular hypothesis.  Many cartridge makers and repairers have also remarked that they see styli with irregular wear patterns, where the cartridge was used for a prolonged period of time in a tonearm without AS.  The skating force is like global warming; it's there all the time, whether one chooses to compensate for it or not. 


I agree with your statement and have always used antiskate  I am just surprised that the AR tonearm didn't appear to need it.  I could see no discernible skating, which I can easily see when I remove the antiskate from my tonearms.

And, to my surprise the old AR sounded very good.

Well, you could purposely not level the TT such that the tonearm drifts in the outward direction when zero balancing the arm.  That can help get by without a bias mechanism.  If everything is correctly set-up and the tonearm bearings don't produce a drag, I have always found a channel imbalance without a bias force.

There are many considerations we're aware of today that were not well known or appreciated in the 1950s and early '60s.  

Another example was cartridge alignment (overhang and offset).  While some engineers studied this even pre-WW2, it did not become more broadly known until the mid-late '70s after an article by Mitch Cotter was published in "The Audio Critic".  That magazine may have elicited concerns for other reasons but credit is due for raising awareness to the importance of proper cartridge alignment.

In spite of such limitations, some older tables such as the AR-XA are still capable of providing a satisfying musical experience, just as you learned.


I am guessing from you comments that you don't use antiskate?  When I removed the anitskate from my two tonearms, the sound changed.  It was very good, but I would have to really do a lot of comparing to state that it sounded better.  I can see though, given the difference in sound why some might decide to leave it off. 

My friend with the AR, said that in some literature from AR that they mention that the skating force changes throughout the play of the record which makes sense.  Given that it is impossible then to continually correct the skating force throughout the entire record they decided not to use it on their turntables.

I really hadn't thought of it that way, but after seeing how my stylus pulls to the center spindle with the skating force off, I just can't bring myself to leave the skating force off.

Remarkably, the old AR arm didn't respond like my Grace and SME.  It looked good when tracking.


In spite of such limitations, some older tables such as the AR-XA are still capable of providing a satisfying musical experience, just as you learned.

Excellent comment and I agree. 

Normansizemore 2-8-2017
I can see however that the stylus is gravitating to the center spindle and that can’t be good for the cartridge assembly.

Normansizemore 2-10-2017
I really hadn’t thought of it that way, but after seeing how my stylus pulls to the center spindle with the skating force off, I just can’t bring myself to leave the skating force off.
When little or no anti-skating force is applied the cantilever, as viewed head-on from the front of the cartridge, will appear to deflect toward the outside edge of a rotating record, reflecting the fact that the arm is gravitating toward the center spindle. Is that what you mean in the statements I’ve quoted?

BTW, IME, which has always been with cartridges having relatively high compliance, I have consistently observed such deflection to occur to a readily perceptible degree when anti-skating is altered as little as 15% or so, in either direction, from a setting that results in no perceptible deflection. While at the same time I can readily find a setting that results in no perceptible deflection **at any point on the record.** Which in turn would seem to negate the argument that anti-anti-skating advocates often cite (and that you referred to above as a reason AR did not provide for it on their turntables) that anti-skating is essentially worthless because skating force changes during the course of a record. And as I see it the fact that an effect may only be correctable to some approximation, perhaps even just a loose approximation, does not in itself provide a justification for ignoring the effect altogether.

-- Al

And that is why designers use a spring or magnet for antiskate in many of the tonearms.  It is to vary the amount of the bias force as the arm gets closer to the spindle.  Saying we don't provide an antiskate mechanism because the skating force changes over the record is silly, IMO.

Yes, that is exactly what I meant.  I find that on my Dual 1229 / Grace 747 setup (Denon 103) that I too can easily find a place when adjusting the anti-skate where there is no perceptible deflection of the cantilever, but on my Garrard 301 / SME 3009 setup I can't.  This one is also using a Denon 103. 

I set my anti-skate by playing a blank clean record side (one of Stereophiles).  What I do is play the record and set the arm down after making a crude anti-skate adjustment.  Then depending on the direction of the arm I adjust the anti-skate to where at any point on the record I can raise and lower the arm without any pull inward or outward. 

When using the above method on the Garrard / SME setup, I am only able to get the anti-skate adjusted to where I can raise and lower the stylus near the center or middle of the playing surface.  Perhaps the SME needs a tune up?


And that is why designers use a spring or magnet for antiskate in many of the tonearms.  It is to vary the amount of the bias force as the arm gets closer to the spindle.

If you can flash back far enough, My Dual 1229's original tonearm used the spring method.  It was so easy to set up.  Unfortunately it was damaged decades ago in a move and so I replaced it with the Grace 747.

I wasn't aware until your post that the anti-skate (when using magnets or springs) varied in bias force throughout the record.  That to me would be the logical method to use in a tonearm.


Hi Norman,

Thanks for the additional info.

I've read on several occasions that although it is not uncommon for people to adjust anti-skating using a record having a blank side, that is not an optimal technique.

That is because a basic factor in the origin of skating force is friction between groove wall and stylus, and a blank record of course does not have any groove walls. Therefore the resulting contact and friction are very different than when the stylus is in the groove of a rotating record.

The procedure I've always found to work well, at least with cartridges having medium to high compliance (I have no experience with cartridges having low compliance), and which I’ve found to generally require little if any subsequent fine tuning by ear, is as follows:

1)Observe the cartridge from the front while it is in the groove of a low volume passage of a rotating record, and positioned somewhere in the middle of the record.

2)Adjust anti-skating until deflection of the cantilever to one side (left or right) becomes barely perceptible, relative to its position when the stylus is lifted off of the record. Note the setting.

3)Adjust anti-skating until deflection of the cantilever to the other side (left or right) becomes barely perceptible, relative to its position when the stylus is lifted off of the record. Note the setting.

4)Set anti-skating to the mid-point between those settings.

5)Verify that no perceptible left or right deflection of the cantilever occurs near the beginning and near the end of the record.

-- Al

The skating force is a component of the friction force vector so it is dependent on the tracking force and the offset angle.  Friction in turn is also dependent on the groove surface, contact area of the stylus, etc.  Back in the day, some manufacturers would provide a chart of antiskate values based on the stylus profile. Most vintage tt antiskate dials were calibrated for conical stylii, you have to dial it down a bit for ellipticals.
Al & rotarius,

I followed your very well written concise instructions last night and was able to dial in the Grace 747 and for the first time the SME 3009. I am really happy about this.

The Denon 103 has a conical stylus, so given rotarius remarks is there something else that I should do?

Thank you!
Norman, your final check/adjustment should be with mono LP to make sure you have even output from both channels and music is coming from the central region between speakers.  Assuming that your room acoustics don't produce an uneven balance to begin with of course.
Norman, it sounds like you found your solution, good to see that.

I don’t know how early manufacturers became aware of skating? If I remember correctly several arm/table combinations included separate recommended settings for conical and elliptical styli. Also, having owned a few Shure cartridges I would always purchase one of their test records for each model. Those (all?) included a blank (ungroved) band to set anti-skate, something I dutifully followed. But later, like Al, I read why that was not accurate. I also remember reading something from Thorens or Ortofon that the force does indeed change as the stylus tracks the radius of the record. At that point, not being an engineer, I began setting the anti-skate at approximately 80% of the VTF value and quit worrying about it. ;^)

Also many know that Harry Weisfeld believes anti-skate is unnecessary and initially didn’t include it on his VPI arms, other than by "twisting" the connecting wiring. Later on he offered it as an accessory, I assumed due to consumer demand.


I have reset the anti-skate yet once again, this time using a mono LP.  The results are almost identical to when I used a stereo LP.  All good.

Thank you.


Using the procedure that Al recommend and then using a mono LP as rotarius suggested I feel good about the settings on both tonearms.  The biggest improvement however was seen using this method on the SME 3009.  The settings on the Grace 747 are almost identical to those that I had previously.

Having always used anti-skate I was just surprised at how the old AR responded without any anti-skate at all. I am still kind of fascinated as that particular set up just did not appear to need it anti-skate at all.


If I remember correctly several arm/table combinations included separate recommended settings for conical and elliptical styli.
In particular Thorens used the graduated anti skate scale dependent 
on stylus shape, along with their no string and weight design.

TD145, TD160 and others.
Glad I was helpful, Norman.

As a point of information, I’ve found that the procedure I described usually results in an anti-skating force corresponding to about 50% to 60% of VTF.

Best regards,
-- Al

I have never heard a worsening of sound by applying anti-skate and it seems to improve tracking and chanel balance as the arm gets closer to the spindle. FWIW, the AR deck (which was my first ever deck) did have antiskate - it was in the original instructions to adjust the signal wires as they came out of the arm base so as to apply a lateral force as the user required
Norman, With all due respect to the venerable AR turntable, could it be that bearing friction is causing some AS force?  (I owned one myself, of course, back in the 70s when I first got interested in "hi-fi".)  My Triplanar sounds obviously distorted in the R channel when I cut AS to zero.  On the other hand, no less an authority than Doug Deacon used to recommend removing the entire AS device from the Triplanar and going without it.  (Although I seem to recall that he did also talk about applying some minimal AS by using small rubber grommets in lieu of the Triplanar AS weight.) Why two different end-users of the same tonearm would come to different conclusions, I do not know. I do set my AS at minimum on all my tonearms; then I listen for L vs R distortions.  I also check the cantilever after the first 50 hours to see whether it is biasing to one side, in which case I add or subtract a tad of AS, as appropriate.  The net result is probably not far from where Almarg ends up, or if anything I use even less AS.

Your suggestion about the arm bearing friction is probably whats happening with regard to the AR.  That would make more sense than anything given the age. The bearing could quite possibly be providing exactly and unintentionaly whats needed by means of wear.


What the OP is describing has to do with setting up the tonearm. The AR XA/XB original tonearm is designed to float towards the spindle. The only adjustment you have is the counterweight on the back of the tonearm. Once you swap the original tonearm for a Jelco, Rega, Grace, etc, you will be able to set the anti-skate. I'm not sure if a modern tonearm will give you VTF adjustments.
To replace the AR XA/B tonearm requires some machining. I took my floating subchassis to a machine shop and had them cut out the bearing well, leaving a hole in the chassis big enough for a tone arm mount. The table is a fine design, the arm not so much.
My first 'real' TT was an AR....simple, straightforward, the only thing it lacked was a 'lift' mechanism, since nimble fingers sometimes aren't...*G*

Anti-skate is a very subjective issue...some notice it, others don't.  I addressed it by going into tangential arms of various stripes.  But that was my response.

If you like it, keep it.  Don't let the means spoil the enjoyment of the music.... ;) 

I did the same thing with my Dual 1229 when I replaced the original tonearm with the Grace 747, only I did the machine work. 

The AR tonearm is crude, but I have to admit it sounds good.  Obviously many others felt the same way.  I was reading that it out-sold every other turntable for a decade by a 3-1 margin. 

If you like it, keep it.  Don't let the means spoil the enjoyment of the music.... ;)
Well said.  I don't remember many quality tangential tonearms in the 70's.  Rabco?  Phase Linear had a sweet arm on it's 8000 turntable which I believe was built by Pioneer or Series ONE for the Japan market. In any event, it was a superb arm.


I believe you are correct the Rabco was the first accessory (separate component) tangental arm.  But by the late '70s several Japanese companies offered tables with tangental arms.  I had one of the Pioneer units (picked up in Japan by a Navy buddy) which was nearly the same as the Phase Linear version sold in the US.

Bruce Thigpen worked for Maplenoll, designing their air-bearing tangental arm prior to starting his own company, Eminent Technology, in 1982.  The first ET product was an improved version of that arm.  During the '80s Souther and other companies also introduced tangental tracking arms.

Back to the AR, VTF was not the only adjustment with that arm.  There is a set-screw on the underside to adjust arm length for stylus overhang.  However offset is fixed because headshell slots are not provided.

Doing a little more reading on the first SME arms that had no anti-skate an early reviewer 1960 commented that he loved the arm but not the fact it came with no skating compensation.

It was suggested to "tilt" the table slightly with the resulting compensation added. A simple fix from a time when you were left
to deal with concerns however one could..

Anyone notice how many 12" arms have no anti-skate?  From what I have read, the arm length seems to offset the skating forces one finds on arms in the 7-9" range. I actually have an old Audio Technica 12" arm that has no provison for anti-skate.  I was going to use it with my EMT turntable but need to have some servicing done on it first.  


The Phase Linear arm was so quick. I wish it were offered as a stand alone item, but of couse never was.

I have a client in Chicago whon has a Rockport System III Sirus turntable and I believe it has an air bearing tangential tonearm. What a table! An entirely different league.

Done correctly, the dreaded tangential tonearm can be the last word on the matter.  Tracking perfectly.  Makes one wonder why we so many pivitol tonearms and so few tangential?



The details are over my head but consider this general view.

When modern records are cut they are not done so with even groove spacing.  Instead the mastering engineer may adjust spacing based upon the dynamics of the music being recorded, along with how much play time is desired to be accommodate on a record side.

So even with playback utilizing a tangental arm, how will the arm be controlled to maintain perfect tangency with variable groove spacing?  It is my understanding that two different methods have been utilized.  I believe most of the arm/table combinations have sensors which read arm position and mechanically move it to maintain the cartridge/stylus perpendicular to the groove.  This means some degree of correction is always in play.  The second method is to allow the stylus to "pull" the arm across the record.  Obviously absolute minimal friction is needed for this to be successful which led to development of air-bearing arms.

Neither of these methods is simple or inexpensive to execute, and thus the emphasis on pivoted arms, being simpler to design and less expensive to produce.

I suspect this is similar to the situation why belt-drive tables became so dominant over direct drive and idler designs. 

Cleeds et al.....   I just wonder how many have really compared the sound of a/s with no a/s and came away with the sound being better with it.  Everyone can decide for themselves but to me it is SO clear that no a/s delivers better sound that it really makes me wonder about those who post on these page.  I'll tell you that the timbre of music doesn't change, but the things that make the system sound better in audiophile terms does.  I have a VPI 3D tonearm with a Winfield cartridge.  Any center presented soloist is much clearly centered with no bleed left or right...a much greater sense of depth, and air is presented without a/s ...and so it goes.  The VPI arms are very easy to add/remove a/s while the record is playing...simply by flipping the device over.  It matters not that posters use a/s or just makes me bewildered that people play by the "rules" and forge ahead.  I should mention that I set up my arm extremely carefully with a 2.6 grm tracking force (manufacturer's spec), use a Fozgometer, and Mint protractor.
Normansizemore.....Do you remember the Harmann-Kardon turntable with linear tracking??

There is no question that the reason we see so many belt drive tables is because they are cheap to manufacture.  Idler drive and direct drive tables are definitely more expensive.  I remember looking at my Linn LP12 and Aristion RD11 (same table) and thinking that other then the nice plinths there isn't much to it.  My Garrard, Dual and EMT are truly custom made tables.  Each part manufactured specifically for the table. The build quality is so evident.  I tire of seeing massive acrylic platters, powered by puny little motors that struggle to get up to speed. 

To me (my opinion) that's hardly engineering. 


Normansizemore.....Do you remember the Harmann-Kardon turntable with linear tracking??
Yes I do.  It was the Harman Kardon ST-7 with the RABCO tonearm.
They had some problems at first, but I have seen those perform quite well. 

I believe that originally, RABCO was an independent company and Harman Kardon eventually bought them out and took over manufacturing.  That is when some of the minor production issues got sorted out.  It was quite popular in the mid seventies.

normansizemore, I still own a SL-8 Rabco arm that's slated to get an update....replace the metal beaded chain drive with a plasticized cable version, some 'creative damping' to isolate motor and carriage, and whatever else comes to mind.  When set up properly, they work quite nicely.  I've got the mechanical version of the TT & arm version as well; doesn't function as well as the SL but I got it 'back when' for next to nil as a curiosity piece.  I've also a Garrard Z-100 and a Teac full auto TT that's not as nice as the Technics SL-10 that I used to have once upon a time...

I like tangential arms.  That's the way the masters are cut, so it just makes sense to me to play them that way.  Anti-skate becomes a non-issue....

I'd go to an air-bearing arm in a heartbeat, but I don't have the disposable $ to go there.  So I play with the less esoteric stuff that works nearly as well.
If it goes south on me, I can avoid getting stressed out over it. ;)  
Done correctly, the dreaded tangential tonearm can be the last word on the matter. Tracking perfectly. Makes one wonder why we so many pivitol tonearms and so few tangential?

Norman - I think you answered your own question in the same paragraph when you used the words .............."dreaded tangential tonearm"
.......audiophiles and perception, sometimes, can go hand in hand.

"Done correctly" is the key. It needs to work, and it needs to work for a long time too. without a lot of hassle. There are good and bad designs for everything.

This kind of reminds me of the early Beta vs VHS thing...VHS won out because you could fit more I Love Lucy episodes on one tape.

So Stringreen you continue to defend your position of no antiskate here and on other threads. And why not...many have tried to defy physics, even in this hobby. So let me ask you ..

Do you drive your car with the front right tire down a few PSI ?

Why not settle this and take your "used" cart to Peter at SS, or one of the other cart rebuilders. Let him get back to you on its wear pattern.

@asvjerry "I'd go to an air-bearing arm in a heartbeat, but I don't have the disposable $ to go there."

Well, I just may have the bridge for you. Kidding. I use a Trans-Fi air bearing tonearm, cost about $1000. Actually, I use two: one for my Nottingham Mentor, upgraded to highest 2015 standard, and heavily modded; and one for my DIY air bearing TT. They bear a Mayajima Zero and Koetsu RSP respectively.

What I like best about the Trans-Fi is that it seems to be made for tweaking. Everything is exposed and accessible. You can add brass weights to make it heavier, you can experiment with damping, you can play with the air pressure, etc. Settings are dead simple and very stable. It uses clever engineering in place of costly machining. You buy it from the factory, not a distributor. And, when I bought mine, the owner himself went on a mission to make my installation a success.

You MAY be able to do better for 5 or 10 times the money, but, I suspect, only in terms of convenience. Opinion only - haven't tried the major alternatives in my system - but I don't see the flexibility in the other designs that I see in this one. See 'tweaking', above. 

Downside: the major downside is the name: Terminator. Other than that, azimuth is dead stable, absolutely repeatable, and intuitive, but it cannot be done on the fly, and is fiddly to adjust. Tracking weight is a little fiddly too - but rock stable and intuitive. That's all.

All in all, highly recommended, period. For the money, unapproachable.

Regarding Stringreen’s advocacy for no anti-skating:

As I mentioned earlier, my experience is comprised of cartridges having relatively high compliance. In recent times a Grace F9E, F9E Ruby, a Soundsmith-retipped F9E Ruby, a Grado Reference Sonata, and currently an Audio Technica AT-ART9. And way back when a Shure and some other AT, with a different turntable and arm. In every one of those cases an anti-skating setting of zero, or anything even close to it, would result in such extreme cantilever deflection toward the outer edge of the record that it would seem preposterous to even try it.

Stringreen mentioned in another thread some time ago that he sees no such deflection. Perhaps that is due to his use of cartridges having lower compliance, or perhaps his arm is applying some amount of anti-skating force even when none is intentionally introduced, or perhaps it is due to some other factor. In any event, while I don’t question or doubt his findings, methinks he is extrapolating too broadly from them.

-- Al