New Phantom Bearing

There is a new bearing for the Graham Phantom tonearm, available as an upgrade or shipping with new arms. For those who are not sure, it is that portion of the arm - either gold or silver - which unscrews and contains the pointed shaft sitting in the blue fluid you added on setup. The new bearing has a much sharper point, compared to the old. Upgrading is as simple as unscrewing the old and screwing in the new. According to Bob, the new profile better stabilizes the arm and allows for more detail and dynamics to flow through undisturbed. Believe me, the difference is immediate and not subtle. Highs are sharper and clearer, the soundstage is deeper and instruments are more three dimensional. I just changed my bearing and as HP would say - I have not yet gotten the full measure of the upgrade - but I already hear an immediate difference. The new bearing, in either silver or gold, is $225.00 available from a dealer or directly from Graham Engineering. New arms ship with it in place. A great arm made even better. Thank you, Bob.
Does the level of the damping fluid in the Phantom have as great an effect on performance as it does with the 2.2? Just wondering as I had a chance to buy a Phantom a short while ago and may again.
As Rgurney reports, the new pivot cap/bearing does make a significant jump in performance. This is the kind of thing one wishes had been achieved from the very beginning; however, that's the nature of progress, and the reason tonearms, cartridges, speakers, and all the rest continue to improve as they do.

The Phantom is our statement on the very best performance possible at the current state of the art. It was a big jump ahead of the 2.2 before, and now, with the Improved version, moves even further ahead. And, as our website and ads say, we also invite comparison to any other tonearm at any price....

And speaking of price, there is one correction on the upgrade pivot bearing: The price is $250, and given the level of improvement(and not to be immodest!), I might say it's the most significant $250 you can spend on your system if it includes the Phantom B-44.

As for the question of damping fluid level - yes, the amount of fluid will make some differences, and it will end up being your personal call. We recommend starting off with the fluid extending about half-way up the square shank of the pivot cap (like measuring oil on the dip-stick in your car).. A little less or a little more will be a refinement for your personal taste.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and get ready for the fall season of colorful trees and more listening!

- Bob Graham
I just upgraded my Phantom with the new bearing and all I can say is wow! The improvement is just as Rgurney says it is. This is one of the most cost effective upgrades one can do. Thank you Bob Graham!
Yesterday evening, I installed the new bearing. Since then I have spent about 16 hours listening to my system. Before describing the sonic changes, I would like to add a few notes.

I had to return the original upgrade bearing to Graham as it was about 1/16 of an inch too long thus I could not close the bearing cap assembly. Apparently, earlier versions of the Phantom used a different bearing receptacle assembly. Consequently, before ordering your new bearing you should determine what version bearing assembly you have.

Apart from the new pivot having a sharper point, I noticed that the pivot shank with the square profile was about twice the length of my original pivot assembly even though the overall length from the tip of the pivot to the top appears to be the same. Additionally, the circular ring containing the threads for the pivot cover is about 1/16 inch thinner than before. Presumably, this reduces the overall weight of the arm. I am not sure if these two changes contribute to the perceived differences in the performance of the arm resulting from the upgrade.

So far, here are some of the improvements wrought by the new bearing:
The overall presentation is less mechanical, smoother, and noticeably more relaxed with greater musical flow, coherence and refinement. In particular, voices, strings and piano are more natural sounding. Strings really benefit from this upgrade, with natural rich and less mechanical textures. There is improved definition across the sonic spectrum, especially in the upper midrange and treble (although not more extended). Flutes have greater presence and air; transients from acoustic and percussion instruments appear faster and better defined while sounding less mechanical. The sound stage exhibits better definition and improved front-to-back layering with greater focus and spacing between instruments. Image height is about the same, whereas the soundstage is a little wider. The greatest improvement in the soundstage is the improved perception of depth. Better dynamics is another area of improvement with this upgrade (MassenetÂ’s Le Cid, on the Klavier label sounded spectacular).

Graham has succeeded in improving an already great arm. Who would have thought that such a small change could lead to this level of increased musical enjoyment afforded by the Phantom (better yet, for only $250 including shipping).

Highly recommended upgrade.