Comparison of sonic qualities of some tonearms

I’m relatively new to the world of vinyl, listening seriously for probably only 2 years.  Of course, many big picture items (e.g. turntable, phono stage, cartridges) are discussed extensively on this forum, but I haven’t seen much discussion comparing different tonearms.  I would be interested to hear about different people’s experiences with different tonearms, mentioning the audible advantages and disadvantages of each tonearm, realizing that there is no perfect sound, although from what I read about others’ experiences, SAT tonearms may come closest, albeit at a very high price.  


The first MC cartridge to make a sizable dent in the US market was the Supex, in 1973-ish. Perhaps your living in the UK gives you a different perspective on Rega and SME, but Rega were a nonentity in the US market until the 80s, and there was no general consensus on materials to be used to build a tonearm back then, just as there is no consensus now.

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@viridian - turns out, we have a mutual friend in our record collecting buddy, Max.

I have no absolute answer to this-- I’ve been using a couple of Koetsu stone bodies in the Kuzma Airline and whether it is the overall mass (horizontal) or the design of the air-bearing lateral tracker, it works a "treat"- the combination is lovely. I’ve always been a mid-range hound (long time Quad Loudspeaker listener), but on the main system, this arm-cartridge combo delivers very filled in, dimensional bass, making double bass recordings on LP (good ones, anyway), sound very lifelike.

How one would construct a controlled comparison would invariably involve what cartridge was in play. Unless I’m missing something.

I’ve mentioned this before here, (I think): at @albertporter 's- comparing on the same SP 10 mk iiii in one of Albert’s plinths, an Airtight Opus and a Koetsu Blue Lace, each mounted on their own respective Kuzma 14" arms. Both playing the same record simultaneously. That told us about the differences in cartridges.

@mijostyn - there’s more than one "way." Why the need to be so dogmatic?

I had a Triplanar before I bought the Airline and have since gotten a Kuzma 4 Pt 9" (No VTA tower). The Koetsu Jade (I also have a Tiger Eye) sounded better in the Airline. Yeah, working with air compressors, air lines and the like adds an additional layer of complexity to the process. But I think there is a level of masochism here that used to appeal to me. These days, I just want to turn it on and play.

Regards to all, including my doppleganger.

Dear @drbond : Even today there are only a few audiophiles with knowledge level on the " fine/critical points " in tonearms design, few know what to look for and that’s why not only in this forum but in other audio forums the tonearm comparisons or threads about tonearms are so low. Tonearm threads came/comes when appears a " new kid in the street " as happened with the SAT or in its times the Graham or the Schroder and the like.

I learned through the years and through first hand experiences some critical subjects of those tonearm fine points " I mentioned.

My first tonearms were unipivots in the 70’s by Grace, Audiocraft, Exel, AT, Stax the Moerch copycat by Highphonic and the Moerch too and even the Graham, Magnepan, Mayware.

After all those years I learned about the " brutal " unstability of unipivots that goes totally against the cartridge tracking those " Everest " recording grooves.

So I changed to gimbal Grace tonearms, Audio Technica, Denon, Technics, Satin, Fidelity Research,Dynavector, Mission The Mechanic, the Breuer copycat manufactured by Jelco: Sumiko The Arm, EMT, Ortofon, SME, the doiuble knife bearing SAEC’s, Victor, Sony.

Btw, owning over 150 MC/MM/MI top vintage and toiday top cartridges.

From those first hand experiences came/comes my own design but more important to have very clear where in the " hell " is or are the " secrets " where in reality there are no secrets at all.

I agree with @mijostyn and disagree with you in those statements:


" The difference in sound quality is so slight ..."


and yours:


" I would say that a tonearm is capable of making as significant a difference as a pre-amplifier, or phono stage can make. "


I think that you need to re-read my first post here where I refered to :


" the overall tonearm damping specially at the headshell where the issue is to " stop " the return/feedback resonances/vibrations that the cantilever will takes as fake modulations that the transducer works with. "


@viridian has a very good point about when posted:


" you cannot compare arms by setting them up with the same cartridges, because different cartridges put different amounts of energy back into the tonearm, at different frequencies, ..."


Now, if the tonearm design is a well damped one that tonearm ( everything the same ) differences against other well damped tonearms will be as mijos posted and if your first hand experiences did/does not showed/shows that it means that one of those 2 tonearms are already off or out to be a well damped design.


Your statement confirms our audiophile low knowledge level on tonearms other that the usual " I like it ":


" because very few even discuss tonearms in these threads. "


I think that in this tonearm topic all of us, inluding me, need to learn deeper to undestand the overall tonearm subject you brougth in this thread and in the OP you confirm it:


" new to the world of vinyl, listening seriously for probably only 2 years "


I learned in audio that does not exist money that can buy ( no matters what ) high knowledge levels in any audio subject: We have to experienced


Tonearm is a " slave " of the cartridge and any today design must be designed to fulfill the cartridge needs , not of any particular cartridge but any cartridge. There are several vintage tonearms that makes that as the Technics EPA-100 MK2 .