Clearaudio universal tonearm re-wire.

ClearAudio uses the thinnest tonearm wire imaginable. I have had to situations were I have broken the very delicate wires. I would like to replace the wire with something more secure but don’t want mess it up. Has anybody re-wired a Clearaudio tonearm before? It took almost a year to get it back from Clearaudio last time to have it fixed. I don’t want to deal with this anymore and I’m willing to sacrifice a little sonically for this headache to go away.


See if VAS will do it for you. They do tonearm rewiring, but you need to check if they can do that model. Good luck.

VAS, Steve Leong and his son Ray are terrific people, and do excellent work.

I'm lucky enough to live 35 minutes from their shop.

They re-wired my tonearm with his favorite wire which is sturdier than the litz wire it came with. No way to know for sure, but the sturdier wire sounded the same as the esoteric litz wire to me when I got it back.

Good advice, check if they work on that arm, I imagine yes,

Don’t have any new ideas for you (VAS sounds reasonable), but I sympathize on the long lead times getting anything from Clearaudio Germany. Simple arm boards can take several months to show up. I also have a Universal and those lead wires make me nervous too.

I have two Universal arms and those litz wires give me major stress anytime I have to swap a cartridge. I am super careful and have been lucky so far, but I'm interested in solutions if I ever have an issue. I assume repeated cartridge changes will eventually result in a tearful outcome.

@dwette ,

Absolutely not. You should be able to swap cartridges till the cows come home. If anything is going to break it will be a clip or the wire will break right at the solder joint. There should be a heat shrink strain relief on each clip for this reason. If there isn't I suggest you put them on in color code. If the solder joint breaks it is easy to reattach the clip. One mistake a lot of people make is not locking the tonearm down. Use a tie wrap if the arm does not have a lock. Also NEVER use your fingers to remove or replace the clips. Use a small needle nose pliers (4 inch) preferably spring loaded. 

@mijostyn All good advice that I follow anyway.

However, I know that my dealer does all those things too, and has broken wires. Once, Musical Surroundings sent me a warranty replacement Universal and when it arrived two of the head shell wires were broken in transit because they didn’t secure them by putting a little bag around the head shell. These wrires are very, very, very thin. They do break easily enough.

How long have you had a Universal and how often have you swapped cartridges on one?


That isn't reality with Clearaudio tonearm wiring. They use the finest strands of wire which are extremely fragile. It's only a matter of time before you will ever so slightly pull on it too hard it will break. Once you do that trying to remove the insulation on a fine wire like that to resolder it is almost impossible.


@mijostyn is happy to offer his expertise, but he didn’t answer my question about his real-world experience with this arm. His advice is very good if not painfully obvious to most of us doing our own setup. I wonder if he’s touched or ever even seen a Clearaudio Universal, much less dealt with the extreme caution required for removing/installing cartridges on one.

I agree with you. I can’t envision stripping the insulation and re-soldering a lead. Nevertheless, the problem is when they snap, as they do so easily, it’s usually close to the point of exit from the wand, and off to Germany for a rewire in that case.

As good as this arm is (and I have two of them), it is a scary PITA to deal with during cartridge installation. I usually enjoy a nice API first to calm my nerves. LOL



Yes, I have looked at it, but I have never used one. The wiring did not strike me as odd.

You do not strip that wire, you burn the insulation off with an 850 degree soldering iron, a solder pot, or a little torch. When you put the heat shrink on put a crimp in it just behind the pin. You want to make sure the solder joint can not flex.

@mijostyn I can confirm that looking at a Clearaudio Universal tonearm does not result in broken head shell wires. I have hours of experience doing just that and it never happened.

The truth of the matter is that the fragility of the head shell wires is real and well-known. The users know it, the dealers know it, and the U.S. distributor knows it (as they warned me about it first). You’re not the expert on it this time.


Then the options are, being very careful or rewiring the arm with something more sturdy. You might find out what Schroder uses. His wires are very fine and litzed. I have changed cartridges at least a dozen times without difficulty. I think there are Kevlar fibers in there, but I am not sure. It is surprising that a problem that has become so public has not been corrected by Clearaudio. 

It is surprising that a problem that has become so public has not been corrected by Clearaudio.

@mijostyn I love my Clearaudio decks but there are definitely "warts" not brought to light by the mainstream audio press. I’ve have a list of "WTF" moments with them over the years, especially certain design decisions. A good example was their full magnetic bearing arms - yeah let’s add ANOTHER high compliance suspension to complexly interact with the cartridge suspension lol. Another example, my dealer had an early twister clamp where the metal twist knob didn’t have a hard stop on loosening - it was very easy to over rotate, then it pops right off and you have a few ounces chunk of metal like a wrecking ball right over your record and cartridge. Anyways, the complaints about Universal tonearm lead wires are legit - it’s borderline sadistic. I’ve almost never seen an "official" reviewer write about design issues like this, but it’s prevalent in the industry. If I used it half as much as my other arms, I'd have broke a lead by now. I don't use it much because I suspect I don't like the sonic contributions of carbon fiber in my analog - but its build quality and materials quality, other than lead wires choice, is extremely high. 

@mulveling Thanks for weighing in on this. I agree with you. OMG: I had a Clarify and then a Magnify. Those magnetic bearings arms are just evil. Add a pair of subs to the mix and listen to the feedback go completely crazy. Musical Surroundings doesn't even support those arms anymore. You can see them on the Clearaudio website, but they are absent from the Musical Surroundings site.

@mijostyn I personally don't need any options at the moment. I have two Universal arms and have managed to keep the head shell wires intact so far. However, I have a temporary Dynavector on my 12" arm while my Lyra is out for cleaning/repair. I will have some stress swapping them out again on its return. I suppose if I do break a lead I will just go the official route for repair.

In my experience anything to do with the Tonearm Signal Path has a obvious fragility.

I have a Silver Litz Wire used as a continuous wire on a Tonearm. I have lost a channel on this on a few occasions.

I passed the Tonearm on to an individual who lives and breaths working with micro volts, a Tonearm is one of their destress jobs, Horses for Courses, is how I was taught.     



Then I would highly recommend rewiring the arm and no I do not have any idea how tough that is with a Universal. My own feeling about those types of things is if they put it together I can take it apart and yes that attitude has gotten me into trouble once in a while, but it does make life more interesting. I believe Cardas sells tonearm leads. The trick is the solder all the wires together with a pull wire. You pull the wire through the arm then solder the new wires to it and pull it back through. I do not know what is at the bottom of the arm, maybe a DIN connector? Whatever, you solder the new wire where the old ones were attached.

@mijostyn There is no compelling reason to rewire my tonearms while they are presently intact. That’s just a waste of money and time. They are fine for now. If the leads break I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, in which case I’ll probably just have my dealer take care of getting it to Clearaudio for official rewire.

The good news for me is I have two Universal arms, one with a stereo cartridge and one with a mono. If I am without one of the arms for a while then I can do without using my mono cartridge while I wait for return of a repaired arm, if and when that happens.

@mijostyn I know you like to tinker and figure out how to take things apart and fix them. I think that’s awesome, but I'm really not much of a DIY person myself, although I know my way around my bicycles well enough. I really have no desire to try and pull wires through the tonearm myself, or even solder cartridge leads. I’ll leave that to the pros.

On the Universal, there is no DIN connector on the arm anywhere. It is truly a direct wire from the head shell leads all the way to the RCA connectors at the phono-stage. There are no connectors along the way. I can understand why Clearaudio does it that way. It likely has sonic advantages. If for no other reason it may keep the tonearm cable capacitance as low as possible (~240pF they tell me), which has an advantage for setting lower cartridge loading for better performance.


Tonearm Arrives, I had no idea what Litz Wire was.

silk covered litz, 37 tiny strands each. tag each wire with colored tape

Strip Silk Covering, pet the silk in vertical movements, Silver Solder to Junction Box


Tonearm Installed! Aren’t I a Brave Warrior!

Later, a Cartridge Clip breaks, Prep to Repair

Used Instant Vinyl for Insulation of reattached clip


Later, Insulation Wears Off at bottom pivot, VAS Rewires, converts to VPI mini-din

Luckily I had a 3 Year Square Trade Warranty, they reimbursed me in full.


Because of me, Maker has revised the design, ready for din connector

a few more details



Ah, a cyclist, the best way to exercise and see the world. The wife and I climbed the Stelvio a few years back and we went romping through the Dolomites, Fausto Coppi's mountains, "Mi Dolomiti." Couldn't do it now. I'm afraid age has got the better of me.

My Schroder arm does the same thing, one wire from clips to XLRs. It is actually easier to rewire the arm that way. I have converted several SMEs. 

@mijostyn I’m 65 and still cycle about 5600 miles year. I don’t plan to slow down, although the last months have been on hold after a motorist in May decided their iPhone was more important than my safety. I’m just getting back to riding after several injuries. :(

They also destroyed my bike, but I have a new Moots on order. :)


I'm 70 and just had a knee replaced and a shoulder repair. I'm struggling to get back in shape.

It blows my mind that people worry so much about guns. The automobile is handily the most destructive weapon in the general population and nobody knows that better than a cyclist with or without a motor. The older you get the longer it takes to get it back. It just requires more determination. Good Luck!

Nothing like a Ti Bike. I rode an original Merlin for 30 years. It is now in the hands of a young racer. I decided to shift to gravel bikes, the Specialized in particular because I have a bad wrist and the Specialized has a shock in it's stem. But, a huge plus is 38 mm tubeless tires on Fulcrum rims. It is a much kinder ride and surprisingly fast. Tubeless tires have lower rolling resistance the sealant works great. I only carry a few CO2 cartridges now, no tubes or patches. Just for fun I rode an additional 500 miles on a punctured tire until it was worn out. I had a 1/4" gash seal, but I lost a lot of air in the process. That one was replaced immediately, but it was about 30 miles getting home on it and it made it fine.  Which Moots are you going to get? Group?



I like that arm. The only change I would make is I would nix the RCA junction box and get shielded double pair Litzed wire, strip 14" off one end and use a single wire clips to RCA. Schroder's wire is excellent. You might ask him where he gets it. I use a tiny torch to burn the insulation off. I have an 850 degree Weller station and with a blunt tip it will work but the little torch works faster. @ dBx I used a soldering pot. I wired the chassis and power supply of 32 channel noise reduction units. 2 channel modules plugged in to 16 stations. It took me a week to do one unit. The Who got one I wired.

@mijostyn I am getting a Moots Vamoots RCS, SRAM Red AXS 46/33 x 10-33, Zip 353 NSW wheels. I'll run 32mm tires tubeless.

I ride gravel, a '18 Salsa Warbird Carbon with a Lauf fork, Shimano GRX Di2 38T x 10-42, and Easton gravel wheels tubeless with WTB Raddler 44mm tires.

I also ride single-speed (42 x 16), a custom built All-City Nature Boy. My 60th birthday fell on the day of Copper Triangle 2018. I trained for a year and did that event on it regeared to 42 x 21. 80 miles, four climbs up mountain passes for a total 6300' elevation gain, all at 8000-11,500' elevation. I finished...what a birthday to remember.

Good luck with your knee and shoulder. I had four broken ribs, a broken foot, and a torn up knee (among other things). I still have knee pain, but it doesn't hurt to ride, so I am getting back in shape for that.

If people want to use their phone while driving I suggest they they get a $1M Umbrella Policy to protect their assets. Otherwise, I'm happy to take it away from them. I have an excellent personal injury trial lawyer, and I ride with cameras to show juries what happened.



VAS rewired the arm using his favorite tonearm wire. Don't ask me what it is, he showed me a 1000 ft spool of it.

And converted it to a VPI Mini-Din connector, 

FAR easier to disconnect and move the arm board

@dwette ,

Great birthday ride. We have the yearly Kancamagus Highway ride which circles through four notches, 80 miles 5300 feet of climbing, but I am not about to do it with one gear! I will not be able to do it this year. 

I am a Campagnolo guy. When I was a kid I drooled over a Raleigh Professional full Campy. Back then everything else was junk. So, I has Campy on the brain from a young age. Once I had money I always used Super Record. We laughed a SRAM in the beginning but they have come a long way and are very creative while Campy has failed to innovate and is always playing catch up. It is still really nicely made stuff and IMHO the wheels are the best. Campys freehub is whisper quiet. I'd rather hear my tires sing on the downhills. I have never been able to bend a rim or pop a spoke on a Campy wheel. Remember the days we use to shove extra spokes up the handlebars? The other thing is Momag. Campy (Fulcrum) tubeless rims have no spoke holes in them = no rim tape. They hold air much better once the tire seals. I use Orange Seal by the way. It is the best I have ever used. I have another set of wheels with Hutchinson Sector 32's on them buy I am so comfortable on the other wheels I hardly ever use them. Right now I am riding a standard 50/34  11-34  about the same gearing as you. I do not like the one-by's. Too big a jump between gears. 

Have you ever done any tours through Europe?

@mijostyn I have not toured in Europe. It’s on my bucket list. Maybe I’ll do a Trek Tour. I have heard good things about that.

SRAM and Shimano electronic drivetrains work great for me. No one around here uses Campy on new bikes, and I think it’s an expensive proposition to do so.

I rode 7500 miles on my last Moots with SRAM Force AXS electronic and it worked brilliantly. That’s why I am continuing on with Red AXS, a bit of an upgrade.

Agree on using Orange sealant. That’s all I use, and all our bikes (wife’s included) run tubeless. I have not used a tube for any reason in the last 25,000 miles of cycling. I also run liners now too, and don’t even bother carrying a spare tube anymore (except on longer unsupported gravel events).