Presently running a TD-124 mki with an SME 3012r and a Denon DL-103 with the Level 3 retip ifrom Soundsmith in a Uwe African ebony body. Pairs really well with my older Audio Research-based system. I also have a TD-124 mkii with an Ortofon RMG 212 and an Ortofon 90th Anniversary SPU. But that table needs a more sturdier plinth and I've been trying to troubleshoot a low hum and haven't been successful in eliminating it yet.
At some point, I hope to acquire a 12" Schick tonearm and pair that with the Ortofon SPU on the mki.
Probably, there is no "best"..... only personal favorites. I've been spinning records on an early TD124 (sn 2729) with three different arms and a few different cartridges.
Apart from the arms and cartridges, I should point out that the turntable became a lot more interesting after I had upgraded the motor mounts from mk1 to a mkII configuration. This made a significant difference in signal/noise ratio and the amount of fine detail this TT can reproduce.
The first arm I tried was an Expressimo modified Rega RB250 tonearm. I had a Denon Dl103R mounted to that. Then I made some mods to the Denon to get more SQ out of it. Ebony body. Then a SS ruby cantilever/Fineline styus. I fiddled around with headweights to get the mass higher on the Rega to suit the Denon. I enjoyed that setup quite a lot.
Then I tried, just for kicks, a Graham 2.2 tonearm with Ortofon Jubilee MC cartridge. I had the Graham on a Teres 145, and just wanted to know if the arm would "work" on a TD124. It was pretty good. It certainly looked a lot deeper into the groove and extracted more detail than did the RB250/DL103R setup. But it was also quite a bit more "polite" sounding. Not as forward as before. A lesser "jump factor" if you will. So I took the Graham / Jubilee off.
Then I tried a Zeta tonearm that had the wires upgraded with an Incognito harness. I used the wood bodied DL-103R on that for a few years. And was happy. Nearly as much detail retrieval as with the Graham, but with an excellent "jump factor" and energy delivery. Life was good.
Then I managed to find someone who could re-furbish my Shelter 501-II cartridge. After getting the Shelter back I put that on the Zeta. Oh boy! Another couple of levels better than with the Dl-103R. And that nice midrange. But energy levels were higher than with the Denon, as was detail retrieval. Good stuff.
Then, one day, I wondered about trying the Graham 2.2 again. Only this time, use the Shelter. An hour later I had that up and working. this time, not so polite. Good "jump factor". Excellent energy delivery. Detail retrieval is the best I've heard. Glorious intimate mid-range. Best yet.
I have an SP10 mkII project in the works. The Graham/Shelter will go on that. Once the dust has settled I will turn back to the Thorens and look into doing a proper 12 inch arm and SPU cartridge. I haven't decided on the arm yet, but popular opinion favors the Schick tonearm. Reasonable priced with excellent reviews all over the web. And the arm was made for SPU hook up. So that just may be my path over the next few years.
For me, I always need to keep trying new combinations. Especially when they take me further toward audio nirvana. :-)
A well reconditioned 124 is a great table deserving of whatever top end arm one takes a fancy to. I don't think it favors, or is synergistic with any particular arm. My local dealer, who recommends this table for some really high end systems, likes the top end Ortofon arms. This makes for a quite reasonably priced combination. If this does not seem like a high end combination, consider that he sells more Koetsu Rosewood Platinum cartridges than any other cartridge.
I remember interview with Leif Johannsen and he said Jelco is the manufacturer of the Ortofon tonearms, they are definitely better than Jelco own design (and more expensive), no doubt. Here is the latest factory tour and there is no tonearm manufacturing department in Denmark. Correct me if i'm wrong, but i think all Ortofon tonearms made in Japan.
hello hello : I refurbished an old dusty td124, removed the "original" ESL tonearm and replaced it with a carbon fiber ADC. runs great, plays great. My question: I would like to set up The old ESL with a second cart. maybe mono, but I cannot find specs, or user info for the ESL. Weird antiquated/antiskate adjustment I cannot figure out. What cartridges would be appropriate for this tonearm?
I tried various vintage SME arms, a VPI arm (quite the rarity on a TD124) and then tried my first Reed 3P. Wow!
As mentioned above, you can put just about any arm on a TD124 if you can find a way to mount it without fear of a mismatch. It just boils down to the quality of the arm.
All of this assumes the TD124 at hand has been optimally updated.
Reed makes terrific arms, so it is not surprising that it worked well with the TD 124. Great table + great arm = sonic bliss. I sort of dislike the notion that a vintage table should be matched to vintage arms; a table as good as the TD 124 deserves a good arm, including really good modern arms.
Replacement, new rubber mushrooms would probably be the way to go. My local dealer reconditions and sells a lot of these tables and new mushrooms are one of the basic steps in reconditioning tables. The person who use to be the dealer's turntable repair/reconditioning/setup person (until recently), most often installs Ortofon and Koetsu cartridges. He does not like the Black models of Ortofon as much as some lower-priced models because, to his young ears, they sound a bit bright and thinner than the other models. I haven't heard the comparison myself.
All of the Ortofon arms became unavailable when Jelco shut down, which strongly indicates Jelco manufactured them. In any case, they were terrific arms at a reasonable price. This was one of the preferred brand of arms my dealer liked for both reconditioned TD 124 and Garrard 301 or 401 tables. Audio Note arms and some Linn arms seem to work well too.