Jelco TK-850L review

Just received the new Jelco TK850L.
It is a drop in replacement for the previous model 750L. It retails for around $1100 from a few online retailers. However I got it from GEM Dandy's George Merrill who retails it for $895. I used the headshell from the 750. It looks like it’s the same one. I am running a Decca Super Gold with Paratrace stylus on an Audiograil early model 401 with an Audiosilente idler (just buy it) in a slate and maple plinth. Initial impression is that it is a solid improvement on the 750. Listening to Buddy Tate and Walt Davenport in Nice, France 1974. An improvement in soundstaging is immediately obvious as is speed of attack, or rise-time. Depth and width are improved. The music is more colorful. Trombone sounds more golden than I recall while the guy playing tuba sounds like he is huffing and puffing into the instrument. An added realism. Rim shots are faster and snares portray more insight into the rattles -the metal has color and feel...a mechanical quality. Percussion is much improved. Surface noise seems reduced, supressed even. Now playing Jay McShann and Janis Siegel, Ain’t Misbehavin’. Wonderful vocals and very dynamic with jump out of the stage piano fortissimo that I have never heard before. Highs better with oodles of detail but no harshness. More black space between notes... all of that.
I could go on about the minutiae but I’ll stop. This thing makes music like I’ve never heard. It is a taste of the high end which is lacking in the 750. More anon.

Definitely reduces surface noise in my set-up. One thing that has become increasingly apparent is that older analog recordings are simply amazing. Much increased detail throughout the frequency range. I can hear plucked bass strings vibrating against each other where they are innocuous on the lesser arm. Tiny details like the metallic shimmer of a percussion bell are exquisite. For a relatively low-budget level phono rig like mine ($12k), this arm is transformative. If you are in the market for a Jelco 750 or 550, or indeed, a Rega, I implore you; spend the extra and get the 850. It is that good.

The cons:
1. The arm rest clamp is not great. It doesn’t grab the arm like a friction type. It simply rests on it unless you close it and the hard plastic feels cheap.
2. There is a very mild and barely detectable upper bass/lower mid dip in the response more like a slight veiling of that portion of the spectrum. After swapping out the arm stub and counterweight on my 750L for an Expressimo Audio brass substitute, and experiencing the improvement wrought by that, I believe the same rubber stub on the 850 is causing this coloration (note 3). Again, it is minor. I will follow up if EA bring out a brass replacement for the 850. I spoke to Brian there and at this time there is none available.
1. It may also be not broken in yet as I only used it for 4 hours.
2. I have not played with VTA - too busy listening to my albums all over again.
3. I also have a standard 750L with which comparisons were made.
4. Amps are Croft 25R/EICO HF35 monos, Quad ESL 57. See Virtual Systems
5. The arm looks better and bigger in the flesh than in pictures. 
4 hours is not enough time to give an assessment.  Please put in 50 hours or more and then report back.
Listened for another 15 hours. The clasp is annoying. I have to lock it every time I rest it. The bearings are VERY free moving. One tiny touch and off it goes so be careful. I do not use anti-skating on 12" arms.

I'm not sure why but with the same cartridge and head shell, it is, or the music is, very sensitive to changes in VTA/Stylus overhang compared to the 750. Maybe the increase in info retrieval in general betrays errors in the setup in a more obvious manner.

Anyhow, I seem to be at the sweet spot and it's sounding good. The jury is out on this aforementioned upper bass/lower mid coloration. Increasing the stylus overhang to 2mm past where it is spaced (13mm) helped.
I'm also reluctant to call it coloration - it is as if there is a slight hump in the response in the upper bass and a slight dip in the lower mids. I would love to see test results. It could also be an issue with my rig heretofore not noticed. To reiterate, it is very slight but comparing old favorite LPs, I can hear it. Overall, a good improvement offering improved detail, insight, color, sound-stage and dynamics. It's just not quite magic yet.
Have a few hundred hours on it now and it seems to be settling in or I am getting used to it. I played one of my reference recordings: Frank Zappa Joe's Garage - Little Green Rosetta. It's got a lot going on with singers spread across a wide soundstage. It's always sounded much the same no matter what rig I've had over the years with the usual improvements. Not this time. The soundstage has increased in depth by 300%. Texture, transparency and insight into how the song is constructed are much improved. The best bit is the space between performers front to back has changed the presentation completely. Good fun.  

I can find no info on VTA adjustment.  Does this arm have some kind of VTA-on-the-fly adjustability or is it another arm that has frustrating manual stop-everything-and-guess VTA adjustment? 
Dear @noromance : There are at least 3 tonearm characteristics than changed in the 850 against the 750: new bearing type ( knife. ), lower vertical bearing sensitivity and lower effective length.
All those characteristics are main part of what you are listening and maybe exist a four characteristic change that could be a better internal wiring quality but I can’t say for sure:!/Jelco-TK-850L-12...

""" Increasing the stylus overhang to 2mm past where it is spaced (13mm) helped. """

well you can do that but increase the distortion levels even if you can’t aware of it.

They said that Jelco uses IEC and Baerwald/Löfgren A alignment protocol but the Jelco specs/parameters are wrong either with the 750 and the 850 and you need to re-aling it:

in your 850L that comes with 303mm on EL ( in the 750: 305mm. ) the correct alignment tonearm/cartridge parameters are:

P2S: 289.5mm overhang: 13.5mm offset angle: 17.96°

If you can try it and see what happens. Certaninly must be lower distortion levels but you are the best judge in your room/system.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

PS.: to make things easy for you and stay with 290mm P2S distance you can test both tonearms with the correct Baerwald/Löfgren A alignment parameters and not the Jelco gaves:

overhang: 13.45mm    offset angle: 17.9°

In that way your listening tests between both tonearms will have a better " meaning " and the 850 will be with a correct alignment set up.

Dear Jelco 750L owners: According with the information in my posts all of you can/could re-align your tonearm to achieve lower distortion alignment levels.

Btw, I don't check the other alignment parameters in the other Jelco models but probably shows the same " behavior " and needs new alignment parameters.

@bpoletti No. I'm afraid that for the $865 I paid, you have to slacken the post bolt. However there are a few after-market VTA adjusting mods available. 
Well...some closure on an issue I was having with the arm. I described a very slight but discernable bloom in the upper bass with a slight lower mid dip.
It's razor sharp now and on song.
Can you guess what was wrong?
Even on those old Batman tv (to be continued) episodes, you only had to wait one week before you got to see how Batman would escape his predicament. Cheers,
Ha! Well you were meant to take a guess! Anyhow, the monoblocs’ tube bias was so low, they were barely running properly. My bad, after changing tubes some time ago, I should have re-checked bias after they settled in.
Bump on this. The Jelco TK-850 continues to impress. Played Nick Cave Murder Ballads for the first time since moving from the 750 to the 850 and adding a Classic Turntable Company platter to my 401 .
Fast, dynamic, colorful and musical.
If you are thinking about getting a 750, get the 850 instead.

The Jelco 850L is good arm but the tonearm wire used could have been a little better, especially for an arm over $1000. But everything else about the arm is good.
@vasaudio Steve, $895 from George Merrill at GEM Dandy. But yeah. Be nice if it had C37 option but I don’t find what it has got to be lacking. Changing out tonearm wiring is a bit risky. What if one doesn't like it? I have tried a few more expensive phono ICs only to go back to the standard pink Jelco because it sounded better.

noromance, since your already dealing with Brian talk to him about a rewire he's an real honest and good guy, if undecided on rewire you could try replacing tag wires, but what a pain breaking in wire all over again. I don't use it much anymore but I have a 750 with Expressimo weight and rewire it did improve the arm.

@noromance I rewired a lot my arms (mostly SME & VPI) arms myself. I used wire all the arms for VPI in the past. If you are interested in a warmer sound, I might have a wire good for it.
Guys, not interested in a warmer sound. The more air and transparency the better!
Thanks jtsnead, I was about to ask if anyone knew if Jelco would be adding a 10" version of the new arm.

Please report after you have it installed.

BTW, people talk about "break in" with a tone arm.  I guess it could be the wire, but what else would change?
I just grabbed one at a premium as Jelco are no more, paid 1150 and ZERO regrets. As far as the tonearm clasp its fine for me, and easy enough to retro fit any time of rest/clamp one could possible want. This is my first for-ray into the better tonearm table world, I also have a 4 point 11 on order that this will be compared to on my Blackbird.