Eminent Technology ET-2 Tonearm Owners

Where are you? What mods have you done ?

I have been using these ET2's for over 9 years now.
I am still figuring them out and learning from them. They can be modified in so many ways. Bruce Thigpen laid down the GENIUS behind this tonearm over 20 years ago. Some of you have owned them for over 20 years !

Tell us your secrets.

New owners – what questions do you have ?

We may even be able to coax Bruce to post here. :^)

There are so many modifications that can be done.

Dressing of the wire with this arm is critical to get optimum sonics along with proper counterweight setup.

Let me start it off.

Please tell us what you have found to be the best wire for the ET-2 tonearm ? One that is pliable/doesn’t crink or curl. Whats the best way of dressing it so it doesn’t impact the arm. Through the spindle - Over the manifold - Below manifold ? What have you come up with ?
Precisely! And, of course, once that task is done the bearing tube must be inserted into the manifold housing; hopefully, of the high-pressure variety. As always, a high-pressure manifold results in more explosive dynamics and creamier highs :-)
10-29-14: Ct0517

I had a quick read of your post. A few comments to clarify some misconceptions :

In an aerostatic compensated air bearing as used in the ET the bearing stiffness is a function of
Bearing surface area
Air Gap

Changes to any of these parameters will alter the "stiffness".

The air gap provides a restriction - on one side you have high air pressure and the other side is lower ( atmosphere ). Air will attempt to flow from the high to low pressure - the escaping air creates the air bearing.

Compensation is where you have a second restrictor between the air supply and air gap (bearing) - in this case this is the capillaries. The function of the capillaries is to
1. Distribute the air over the bearing surface in an optimum manner to get a stable air bearing.
2. Restrict the air flow to the bearing.

By restricting the air flow to the air bearing a reserve is created in the manifold. For example if a load on the bearing reduces the air gap at the bearing, flow is reduced. The reserve pressure that had been held back by the capillaries now allows for increased pressure in the gap, creating a restoring force that gives the air bearing stiffness.

As a general rule when compensation is used the pressure in the bearing is about 50% of the supply pressure.

Bruces comments regards to the quality of air and flow reflect that compensation has a greater impact on bearing stiffness than pressure.

Any restriction or damage to the capillaries or indeed scratches on the bearing surface could compromise the bearing stiffness to a significant degree. Hence your comments about maintenance are very pertinent.

The Air Bearing Spindle psi requirements are less than the manifold as only a portion of this air is required for it to float properly. Approximately 50%. That means on a base ET2 only 1.5 psi ! - if your manifold is restored and functional.

The "old" air escapes as per Bruce' design out the sides of the manifold.
Not really. As explained above a higher pressure is required in the manifold to provide a reserve air pressure using compensation. A leaky manifold would not be helpful. In my experience putting too much pressure through the ET2 pushes so much air out of the air gap between the spindle and manifold bushing the arm cannot reach the end of the record. At some point the rubber seals might leak but this has not been apparent.

Regarding bearing stiffness.
The main advantage of an air bearing compared to ball race or roller bearings as used in most tonearms is twofold -
1. Virtually no friction in the air bearing. In rolling bearings, the static coefficient of friction is higher than the dynamic coefficient of friction. In other words it takes more force to initiate motion than it does to maintain motion. In air bearings the static and dynamic coefficient of friction are the same. So the air bearing has a quicker response to changes required from the cartridge tracking.
2. Surface irregularities in the roller bearing surfaces mean that the rotational tracking is uneven compared to an air bearing.

Now in terms of conventional pivoted arms, most have roller bearings for both horizontal and vertical motion. Some "knife edge" tonearms such as the old SME's have knife edges for vertical motion, but still have roller bearings in the arm pillar for horizontal motion.

True unipivot tonearms have a simple point contact for both horizontal and vertical motion, so they are much closer to an air bearing than they are to a conventional gimbal arm using roller bearings. Because the unipivot has a point load, "bearing stiffness" is not an issue.

Coming back the ET some contributors have commented that with increased pressure the bearing tube arm is harder to pull out of kilter( and hence the comment the bearing is stiffer ). What actually happens is if you pull the air bearing tube perpendicular to the bearing you are closing the air gap on one side. The escaping air ( from high pressure manifold through the bearing to atmosphere ) will try to find the path of least resistance - which in this case will be the bigger gap. Basically the air bearing will collapse. Increasing the pressure will help.

Hi Dover, thanks for your clarifying comments!
Regarding the pressure compensation, it might help to use the analogy of a stiff power supply (air supply & reserve connected to manifold) with a few local supplies (local pressure zones around air capillary openings to the bearing) coupled with high series resistance (capillaries). As current (air flow) drops on one of the sub-supplies, the voltage (air pressure) rises - kind of a passive feedback!
Regarding the usually alluded inherent "stiffness" of mechanical bearings including unipivots, it's worth to consider the following thought:
No material is stiff, everything is more or less elastic. (With some unique properties subsummized in the poetic word "character", importantly damping, and including speed of transmission). Reduce pressure area, and elasticity increases. This affects resonance frequency inherent in any elasticity / mass combo. *Point* coupling as in a unipivot or a spike point, looked at on an "atomic level", is in no way making the coupling stiff, it's the opposite. The surfaces meet in kind of a balanced force & elasticity state, a bit like a jelly ball swimming in water, to put it to the extreme. You don't get steel more elastic than with a perfectly pointed unipivot interface. Then think "it" as an elongated point and you see something like a short subminiature "string" at the end of the point - quite elastic, like a very small piece of microscopic harpsichord string. "Flatter" points like balls have much less of this, and make stiffer bearings - that depend more on extremely complex polishing processes. Some arms use the tip of a roller pen, quite clever!
The whole "argument" (rather a mythical marketing image?) of the "mechanical diode" is moot. Point coupling shurely does "something" (as everything we do does) but shurely it is not "stiff coupling" or magic diode processes. It might eliminate eg. multi-point rattling by a multitude of low pressure indefinite points, eliminating noises of "buzzing paper on a comb"-effects, tingling in metal-to-metal sonority.
And... air bearings are at the total other end of the scale!
That's what Bruce tells us since a long time.
A question to all:
Does anyone have tried grounding the air supply's static charge?
I think Richard mentioned that he connected the brass of the pressure gauge to ground (which ground, where?).
Has anybody else tried it?
There are - expensive - antistatic "hoses" available. Would be interesting to try, maybe even only on the short distance between the last air tank (preferably antistatic & grounded too) and the arm.
Other grounding ideas? Like putting a copper grid into the air tank and potting the grounding wire in hot glue?
BTW my simple air tank is a 20 gallon fuel "canister" (unused :-) with a long and a short aquarium tube entering the cover of the tank reaching the top and the bottom), the whole sealed by hot glue and padded with acrylic wool. Very simple , cheap and working well.
Yes air supply is grounded by earthing the brass threaded part of the pressure gauge that touches the air stream. I have tried this earthing remote from the arm and close to the arm. Close is best in my setup.
Theory is that the air builds static as it flows thru the tube.
A second test, recently repeated was to place a large ferrite bead over the air tube close to the arm. This caused a dramatic negative change.

Go figure.