Graham Phantom Elite vs. AS Aquilar

Who has spent time with either--or preferably both--of these two 10-inch arms? They check in around the same price-point and offer many similar features. I'd greatly appreciate feedback on sonics and overall user impressions.

I've been running Grahams for years, so I'm very familiar with their ergonomics. How does the Aquilar stack up? On paper it looks similar in adjustability, but what about in actual use? I'd love to hear from folks with experience.

Thanks in advance.



Graham makes a nice arm, but all the extra connections degrade sound so much it puts them out of contention for me. Unless you have lots of carts and enjoy swapping them out it is hard to see where you wouldn't be much better off without all that. Any of the better Origin Live arms, where one continuous wire carries the signal, will be a lot better.

I hear what you’re saying, and all else being equal, an unbroken run from clips to jacks might well be better. It is theoretically, at least. But all else is seldom equal. And the clean run alone does not make the difference. Case in point: for years I owned a Triplanar MkVII uii. It was wired as you prefer, and I could compare it to the Phantom Supreme on the same same ’table--actually the same two ’tables--over the course of several years. I found the Phantom Supreme to be better--more resolving, more energetic, less colored--so I sold the Triplanar and bought a second Graham, a Phantom III.

Obviously, I’m a fan of Grahams (had a 2.2 before the Phantoms, stretching back nearly two decades). My ears, blah, blah, but you can see my point: the wiring scheme did not make the Tri superior.

A lot of people hold the unbroken run as gospel because, well, it makes sense and gets purist points. But an audible difference? Thom Mackris of Galibier Design says on his site that he has compared a Kuzma 4Point with DIN to one with captive cable and could not discern a meaningful difference in sound. Not saying that’s the last word, but it’s from someone who did the semi-controlled experiment as a service to his customers, and who is just as happy to sell a 4Point wired either way.

This is not to say a top OL arm would not be better. I’ve looked into them a bit and the 9.5-in Agile, around the same price as the Elite and Aquilar, has caught my eye. It offers repeatable VTA and easy azimuth changes, which are necessary for me. I bet it sounds wonderful. I do have a nattering worry that my 25mm armboards are too thick. Specs say 27mm max, so it *should* work, but I’d hate to buy an arm I couldn’t mount on its intended deck. Thinking about it, though.

Did not say continuous unbroken wire is enough to make every arm always better. Said nothing about Gospel. Merely said all those extra connections eliminate Graham for me. FWIW I’ve never even considered triplanars. Or Kuzma. I would say anyone unable to hear degradation from adding connections, either their ears or system (or integrity) is suspect. Sorry. Appeals to authority, sounds like "Gospel" to me. Only one of those in all history, and it weren’t Thom Makris.

Anyway, Grahams add a lot more connections than just one DIN. From cartridge clips they add 1) arm wand terminals, 2) tone arm base terminals, 3) internal to DIN, 4) DIN to interconnect. Each of these also has wire soldered or crimped to the connector. Altogether that’s EIGHT extra connections. This is a LOT of eddy currents and interfaces. Not Gospel, just physics and basic electronics.

Not to mention, all those "aerospace" connectors adds unnecessary cost and complexity- that COULD have gone into developing better vibration and harmonics management. But didn't. Which - again- is nice if you have a lot of carts and enjoy changing arm wands. 

OL Agile, haven’t heard, but the OL I have heard outperformed Graham by such a wide margin it is hard to believe. Not a little better here and there, more like on another level everywhere. Bear in mind they are hard to compare, since OL is a known fixed commodity while the Graham is heavily influenced by your choice of phono lead. Apples to apples will include the cost of the IC with the cost of the Graham. This tends to favor OL. Mark Baker can answer any fitment questions. He is like Keith Herron- under spoken, over delivers.



OK, fine, whatever, man. Your opinions are noted. I have no interest in arguing with you.


I guess my OP was unclear. I'd like to hear from forum members who have experience with the Phantom Elite, preferable the 10-in version, and/or the Acoustical Systems Aquilar. I'd like to know how they compare--in practice. I'm not so interested in random tonearm preferences. Thanks.

I've been demo'd a TT with OL TA's used in its resident system and used in other systems as well.

My last demo' was the Illustrious>Sumiko Pearwood.

This is no long er the in use TA by this owner, as they have purchased a OL 12" Conqueror.

This is their third tonearm now, with moving on from two of the lower models.

I am yet to encounter the Conqueror in use. 

I certainly gained the impression the Illustrious > Pearwood , was a improved presentation as a supersede TA to the Encounter >Pearwood. 

The OL TA your expressing an interest in is carrying and additional £14K as a purchase.

This an area of purchasing that home demo's are the safest way to learn what is on offer for such a substantial sum.

The Tonearm I have chose that Superseded my SME IV was quite a bit less to purchase than a IV, so I was fortunate to have to up the pricing ladder to find the experience I was thoroughly impressed with.

A longer investigation might present a outcome that has shared similarities for yourself.  

@pindac , I see the Agile at £10.5 on the OL site, but your point is well-taken, that continued research and home auditions might yield a tonearm that I like more than my Graham for much less. What did you end up preferring to your SME IV, if I may ask?

The TA I use now that has Superseded in my case a SME IV and a Audiomods Series Five Micrometer, is not limited to myself only as one who prefers it.

The model is a fully re-designed Audio Technica AT 1010, where all mechanical interfaces are addressed using the highest quality materials produced to extremely tight tolerances.

After a period of trials with a variety of Wire Types. The Signal Path is also addressed by the removal of some of the connections, as well as using, a very rarely seen in use wire for this role as the Wand Wire.

This re-designed model, is produced in the UK, by a very skilled mechanical engineer, specialising in micro engineering and electronics.

The design has received a healthy following in the UK and has extended to now being used by Vinyl Users in many Countries.

The model is in use in the US (Washington), Australia, as well as mainland Europe.

This is a model that is with users who have had very well known High End Tonearms and has been the TA to Supersede the use of them any further.

Beyond the design, the additional attraction is that it does not break the bank to have the experience of this TA.

I know enough about the design to offer up a decent description, but that is not my place. If additional info is of interest, I can help via a PM.


Thank you for the information and PM offer. I'll look into the Audiomods and ping you if I have questions. Much appreciated.

When selecting the SME IV arm, the V was also a TA demo'd as a comparison.

On this day of comparison (many many years passed) on the TT's used and System, in the environment it was carried out, there was not enough recognised between the two TA's to suggest there was a real benefit on offer from the V.

Hence, I have purchased the IV.

Many years later, I had formed the view the Audiomods Series Five Micrometer would be a back door route to getting a improved TT over the SME IV. 

This was not realised, they are much of a muchness, they both share designs that were born from mimicking another Tonearm Brands design and produce very similar sonic signatures.

I have come to describe the sonic signature today, as a comparison to the new in use TA, as being quite constrained, they are seemingly on a leash, and restrictive in how the music is allowed a freedom.

Only when the music being presented as totally free and uninhibited can a fair comparison be made, I have no desire to return to believing a expensive Cart' is being limited to what is able to offer.

It is the experiencing the new TA, that has encouraged me to assess all TA's I come across that are of a certain value. To try and understand what is going on under the hood, that enables the TA to present music with a perception there is a perfect mechanical interface allowing for a presentation that is seemingly without constraint caused by the design. 

Another friend has produced a TA which is soon to be put through a rigorous comparison trial, against a selection of TA's, including my New TA, IV and Series Five. Others are also to be loaned for the Comparisons.

A DD TT has had a Dual TA Plinth produced.

My owned LOMC Cart' and one other of the same model, are available both with similar hours of usage.

I have followed the development of this TA, and been demo'd it in use on its way to becoming a working Prototype.

At a certain stage, it showed all that I find desirable in a TA, and has these qualities honed further now it is a Batch Produced TA, almost ready to be offered as a sale item.

I am also suggesting that some of the Batch Produced Arms are swapped during the comparisons to determine if the sonic produced is being mimicked across the Batch.

It is myself who has been instrumental in encouraging the preparations and offering suggestions for the above comparisons, the TA's designer/builder appreciates the ideas, as learning exactly what you have goes a very long way.

Once these comparisons are over, there will be a period where Different Signal Wires are used on the New TA and used in a comparison to the TA that has made the best impression of the TA's made available for the comparison line up.

I have one last wish list, I am encouraging experiencing the New TA, used as a underhung Geometry. I have a itch that I would like to be scratched on this subject. Having a first hand experience, will for me be much more beneficial than letting the math and endless anti arguments decide, if there is merit in this configuration for setting a TA up. 


Dear @wrm57  : "  the Phantom Supreme on the same same ’table--actually the same two ’tables--over the course of several years. I found the Phantom Supreme to be better--more resolving, more energetic, less colored--so I sold the Triplanar and bought a second Graham, a Phantom III. "

More resolving?, well normally the ideal tonearm must has not any " coloration "/sound by it self and are the cartridges mated with the ones with what we like it.

Certainly that your Graham tonearms and your cartridges mated very well to even your MUSIC reproduction targets and no one but you in your room/system can know if the other tonearm could be a good mates too.


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,


By all means the Aquilar. The Graham is a poor value because it spends a lot of money correcting a defective bearing system. It works but at an unacceptable price. The Aquilar (10" only) is a good arm but again not the greatest value. The Reed 2G and Schroder CB are as good or better at much more acceptable pricing giving you more to spend on cartridges.   

@mijostyn , so do you find all unipivots categorically flawed or is it something in the Graham’s particular approach to unipivots that makes you say it has a defective bearing system?

@wrm57 First off, the Graham is an extremely well made arm and a good performer. It's singular problem is it's price. There are to many arms that are as good or better at 1/3rd the price. Having said that. Both Graham and Basis by virtue of their design changes admit that the basic unipivot concept is defective.

For a cartridge to perform at it's best the tonearm that it is mounted in can only have two degrees of freedom, vertical and horizontal. Unipivot arms have a third degree and that is rotationally around the tonearms long axis. Even if the arm/cartridge combination had the perfect geometry with the pivot point exactly at record level these arms are wobbly, difficult to manage and keep in adjustment. I would wager that cartridge accidents are higher with these arms. 

For the best performance the cartridge has to be held rigidly in the proper orientation over the record. The trend in modern arms as exemplified by the SAT arms, is very stiff, two axis bearing designs. Examples are the Schroder CB, Reed 2G, Kuzma 4 Point 9, the Tri planar, the Origin Live arms and the SME's. The Aquilar also is in this class but again the price is way too high for what you get. I personally do not like VTA towers. If you are jumping back and forth between cartridges that frequently you need two arms. If you are changing VTA all the time you need a tranquilizer. Set it at 93 degrees and forget it.  

What do you like, if you don't like VTA towers?  Do you like the inexact and treacherous process of finding the right VTA, holding the tonearm precisely in that selected position for dear life, and then searching for the tiny and usually weakly binding set screw which needs to be tightened down with a tool that is usually just out of your reach?  I personally hate that and would not have any tonearm that still relies on that primitive method for setting VTA.  There are a few vintage Japanese tonearms that permit setting VTA by a rotating knob, positioned over top of the vertical bearing as opposed to a side mounted tower, that moves the pivot up or down and can be fixed once a correct VTA is achieved, like the Victor 80XX series and the Technics B500 (and maybe the 100), but after that the VTA tower is the best solution in my opinion.

I’m with lewm on this one. Way back when, I had an OL-modded Rega arm that set VTA with a grub screw on the shaft. I couldn’t run to a Graham 2.2 fast enough. VTA towers are a boon to sanity and civilization.

But the rotational stability of that Graham was indeed a detriment, one that the Phantom family’s magnetic stabilization largely, if not completely, overcame. Most other high-end unipivots have followed suit, including the pre-Tosca Durands and the Reed 3P, which is essentially a magnetically-stabilized unipivot, according to its lit. These arms perform a very high level using this "defective" bearing structure. But I do get mijo’s point, which is one reason I’m looking to go gimbal, or "gimbalesque," like the 4Points, with my next arm. I have a couple of gimbaled Ortofons (read, Jelcos) that perform surprisingly well but they are not in the league of my Phantom Supreme or III.

And I recognize the drawbacks of VTA towers. More superstructure to resonate, more mechanisms to introduce error and perhaps instability. What do you think of the Tosca’s innovative "spare-tire-jack" approach? Looks like either an ingenious solution or a big problem, I can’t tell which. I’d like to see one in action.

Durand Tosca


From my observation of a Tosca, it seemed to use an outrigger contraption, a metal peg that sticks out from the pivot point toward the spindle side.  That peg rides on a horizontal support strut set at a right angle to the peg, so as to keep the unipivot from rotating, at least to that one side.  I recall thinking that arrangement was not satisfying, given the cost factor of a Tosca.  The metal on metal contact would seem potentially to create noise AND drag on the horizontal travel of the arm wand. But perhaps my idea of what is going on is incorrect.

Lewm, I think you're thinking of the Telos, no longer made, which constrained the unipivot with that little bar, as you described. The Tosca is the newest Durand arm, and its first gimbal design. It has this unusual VTA adjustment that places the entire bearing assembly atop a kind of scissor jack. Weird but interesting.

Just wanted to bring this thread full circle. I ended up buying a new 10-in Phantom Elite at a good price from an authorized dealer, who had it in stock, amazingly. It arrives in a few days, and I’m excited. In the end, my addiction to Graham ergonomics was too hard to break. Best tonearm on the market? No. Best value? Hell no. But it will certainly be an upgrade to my Supreme and fit beautifully in the front position on my SP10R. Thanks again to all.

Post removed 

Dear @wrm57  : "  I’m excited. In the end, my addiction to Graham ergonomics was too hard to break.  "


This is all about, the Grham is the one you like and no one can argue against it. Good.



Thanks @rauliruegas . Burning in the internal wiring now and will install the arm in a week or so. It is a beauty and much heftier than the Supreme.

I thought I’d update this thread. The Phantom Elite turned out to be a major disappointment. I found its bearing structure to be surprisingly unstable, wobbling in protracted oscillation when lightly touched as the armwand rested on the cueing lift. While this is by no means a definitive test for how it behaves with stylus in the groove, it gave me serious pause. My Phantom III and Supreme do not wobble thus. My sense is that the magnets in the Magnaglide system are too far apart in this model (33% farther apart than the Supreme and III), weakening the force that stabilizes the bearing housing, which itself seems substantially more massive than the earlier models and therefore in need of more, not less, magnetic stabilization. And while the Elite was sonically far more detailed, it was also much brighter.  I couldn’t shake the suspicion that this brightness was in part an artifact of the apparent instability. Anyway, I prefer the sound of my older Phantoms as being more natural. Fortunately, I was able to return it to the dealer for a full refund. Kudos to Elusive Disc for standing behind its return policy.

Now I’m on to another 10-inch at a small fraction of the cost. Taking the recommendation of @rauliruegas , I just bought a Technics EPA-100 from a seller in Japan. Supposedly it’s in great shape but we’ll see when it gets here.




I have had very successful experiences importing from Japan.

On two occasions only, over many years, (1 x Tonearm and 1 x TT)  a goods arrived not as advertised and the insurance policy on the sale item paid a large proportion of the loss. 

If it helps, I was in the Market for a Tonearm that I wanted to be a substantial improvement, 'in my assessment' and had a idea the Budget required was to be between £6K-£10K to find something that would excel in performance over the two Rega copied design Tonearms I was using regularly. 

I was extremely fortunate to meet an individual at a audio social event I attended.

The end product being I discovered a Tonearm produced from a similar era as the EPA 100.

The learning about the TA, revealed it had undergone substantial redesign/modification under the hood, my search for a Tonearm came to an end quite quickly.

My continued friendship with the designer has introduced me to much more information about the design intent, I have also been instrumental in encouraging a few tweaks to be investigated and are now selected to be in place on later models. Which I can claim with certainty, that there is betterment now available, and this is all I need to aspire to, even though I am already extremely contented with the guise used for my model  .

Once your up and running curiosity might creep in, the link might prove useful. 

I have shared communications with Warrjon, there is engineering work that he undertakes that has proved to be quite interesting to myself.

Also through an Australian having imported a Mk VIII version of the Tonearm I use, he has had a direct experience of it in use, with some of the small changes to the design, that I have encouraged to be investigated and have after a variety of trials , materials were discovered that made it viable to have them put in place.

I am also entering into this same journey of discoveries with another friend who has designed a Tonearm from scratch and now has a Batch produced.

Let the voicing of the Arm begin, I'm to have a front row seat 😎.


Dear @wrm57  :  What certainly will improves the EPA 100 quality performance is a internal wiring change and other that your own observation/listen to it the only way to be sure is in good condition is to send not for modification other that the internal wiring but to check if it's in good operation condition and especially its bearing mechanism.

My sample was in pristine condition as it was too the EPA 100MK2 too.

Some owners like to make a change at the bearing for steeel balls instead the stock ruby and even with ceramic balls: not recomended.

In those times some EPA 100 came with the EPA100MK2 headshell ( boron alloy. ) that's truly good but the advantage is that the design is a removable headshell one and you can mount the cartridges with the one that mates the better to each cartridge.


Btw, in that link a USA gentleman with at least same technical level than theOP posted:


" I’ve had more than a dozen through here and have seen two with the issue, both fixed as I described. Unless you have one that’s out of tolerance, if you disassemble the base you’ll realize that backlash isn’t in the picture.

I appreciate your efforts and your work looks quite nice. I’d only wish meaningful data was shared as it’d help a lot in understanding performance. A plot of a single frequency doesn’t tell us much, and before and after plots of compound changes coupled with those plots being at two very different scales obfuscate even further. If the audible differences are so great how about some needle drops? "

and seems that those gentlemans love the MM designs ( nothing wrong with that ) but the tonearm works really fine with MC too.

Here you will find a gentleman from Germany that is an specialist and who in case you have a doubt of the tonearm operation can makes a check up and obviously the internal wiring change:

[Review] Technics EPA-100 tonearm listening test (


For the gentlemans that do not seen before the EPA 100 here any one can see it through the Technics brochure:

Technics EPA 100 Variable Dynamic Damping Universal Tonearm Manual | Vinyl Engine


It's a beautiful design that still today fulfill cartridge compliance needs. It's unique to Technics.


@wrm57 ,

I tried to warn you about that. Read my first post. The Technics is a well made battle ship but it is defective in a number of respects. It's vertical bearing is above record level leading to increased warp wow, it is a stable balance arm and the best arms are neutral balance. Neutral balance arms do not change VTF with elevation. It has two sets of unnecessary contacts, one at the head shell and another at the output side of the arm. The best arms have a single wire cartridge clip to RCA or XLR. "S" shaped arms add unnecessary mass and inertia to an arm, straight wands only! The less inertia the better the arm tracks. 

@lewm , are your eyes so bad you can't set VTA? I can get it to 93 degrees with a 3 X 5 file card with a 93 degree angle drawn on it and a hand held magnifier. VTA towers are an additional device with potential laxity interfering with the rigid connection between the arm and the platter. Without that connection any resonance in the arm is reflected right back to the cartridge. 


@rauliruegas, thank you for the detailed post with the suggestion for servicing. I had read that TNT review already and noted the specialist in Germany. I have reached out to him via email for more info. It appears that he uses stainless steel bearings for replacements, which, along with ceramic bearings, you don’t like. Is this because alternatives dramatically change the sound? Not sure there are options are out there for restoring the EPA-100 with ruby bearings.

@mijostyn, you are such a thorough-going tonearm Platonist, eyes (and ears) fixed on the ideal! But as you suggested in the Lofgren B discussion in another thread, these ideal characteristics perhaps make no discernible difference in listening beyond the psychological. I’m really not so concerned about the neutral v static balance issue. It comes into practical play primarily with warps. I flatten all warps with an Orb. And I like being able to swap in headshells and cartridges easily on some of my arms, and even phono cables, so I’m willing to accept the heresies that come with this convenience. I’ve had arms with captive cables that I’ve liked less.


These issues are not theory. They all contribute to the performance of the arm. Whether or not you can hear the difference, frankly, means nothing. With any one issue you may not be able to discern a difference, but put them all together and you are more likely to hear a difference or not. Some people's hearing is more influenced by what they see then sound waves in air. 

I can not play with or listen to every tonearm on planet earth. So, I have to pick and choose based on the arm's design and reputation. I am more likely to get an arm that works well by paying attention to design principles.  

@mijostyn, I hear you, I really do. And I admire the rigor of your approach, and largely agree with—and benefit from—your conclusions. So keep ‘em coming!

Dear @mijostyn  :  With wich cartridges did you already tested the EPA 100 and compared against wich tonearms?

Theory is just that theory and is good but it's not all down there. As the EPA 100 other vintage tonearms as the MAX 237 or the GST 801 were and are great tonearms even if goes against that theory and in the past almost all great tonearms came with removable headshell, yes a trade-off but if you have several cartridges then that´s a welcomed trade-off because we can mate each cartroidge to its best headshell " couple ".


Nothing is perfect and you already know that.






You forget I use to work in this business. 

I keep telling you it is not theory. It is basic physics. The problem with very simple devices like tonearms any bleeping idiot can design one. Give a bleeping idiot enough money and a good marketing department and the results should not be in question. Now technics is a fine company that has come out with landmark items. We all have specialties and I'm afraid the Japanese are not good at tonearms or loudspeakers. For tonearms you go to the British, Germans, and now eastern Europe has gotten into the act. America is trying but has not got a real winner yet. 

Can anyone hear the difference......Hello......Is there anybody out there?

@rauliruegas ,

Again, it is not theory. The EPA 100 is a beautifully made device like a Nikon Camera. It is just deficient in a few design issues that make it antiquated. There are better tonearms made today even if they do not have the jewel-like finish of the EPA 100. You also have to remember where the eye go, go the ears. It is the way we are wired. No, there will never be a perfect tonearm. The notion, in modern terms, is patently ridiculous. 

@mijostyn  : I posted: " Theory is just that theory and is good   " and I'm not against theory but things are what they are.


"  a few design issues that make it antiquated. "  so what? if what you mount on it performs just fabolous, you need to give a try before your kind of comments about when we are in the most imperfect audio existent world: analog.




You forget I was in the business back then right during the EPA 100s lifetime. around 1980. We had one mounted on a Micro Seiki turntable. A customer traded it in for a Goldmund. He should have kept the Micro Seiki. We put a number of cartridges in it, but the only one I remember for sure is the Koetsu Rosewood. 

@mijostyn  : 1980? so what?  " antiquated "?


What is " antiquated " is your tube amps technology, only saying nothing against it.



Long live antiquated tube amp tech!

The EPA-100 arrived yesterday. Mijo is right, it is a jewel-like looker. I’ll drill out an armboard and mount it this weekend. We’ll see how it sounds with an equally-antiquated (yet NOS) ADC TRX2 on a yet more antiquated Lenco (albeit updated by Jean Nantias and speed-controlled by Phoenix Engineering).

Mijo would prefer the original AR XA tonearm over the EPA100, given his druthers. Because the former tonearm more closely adheres to the various tonearm engineering gospels and based on his now 40 years ago listening experiences that took place in a hifi store, of all bad places in which to form an opinion about audio equipment.

@wrm57  : Then you own the original, latter on ADC improved the cartridge with a better cantilever: berylium that was the latest TRX2.

 I never heard this one.



@rauliruegas, interesting. I was going by what the owner's manual says. The cantilever itself is a kind of translucent white.

@wrm57 : Yes, it’s of the same kind of cantilever ADC used with its Astrion cartridge that I owned too.