Tonearms longer than 12 inches

I'm curious to hear anyone's speculations on the
future of tonearm developement. What could be improved ?
As well, what lengths could we reasonably expect to see
in a pivoting arm ? 14 inch ? 16 inch ?
Long ago, and not often remembered is that 16 inch acetate disks were in use for recording use, so you needed a 16 inch arm. The disc cutter TT and arm could, of course, play anything below that. I had such a unit when I got interested in doing direct to disc recording. I did not have any SOTA electronics at that time so I can't comment on the quality of the sound produced. My 'sound' memory has lost all remembrance. Were talking late fifties. I am sure there is 16 inch units out there and they would be fun to play with.
Who knows? Everything in analog comes back sooner or later (normally worse and super expensive). At the moment we see the comeback from
12" Arms...3 years ago I can remember that the audiophile community wrote, 9" is the best ever :-)
SAEC made a very long arm in the 80's but in a way, 12" was the way most manufacturers choose (in a time when real engineers thought about that and they had knowledge about distortions)
Generally it will depend how something is made and what design Solutions are realized but there are 2 problems:
The majority of tables can't even use a 12" Arm (the only way is a Design like Kuzma 4P or tables with separate Armboards) and the Alignment Systems for it (good ones, we have today endless of them and most users wrote, when they switched from this to that, the improvement was huge, so I guess :-), the most of them are not useable generally for all Arms, even when the marketing suggests it).
I think this is true: The longer the arm, the more accurate one must be in mounting it in order to take advantage of the theoretically superior groove alignment. We are talking about tolerances well below 1.0 mm.

In addition, the longer the arm, the higher the effective mass for a given material, which must also be taken into consideration.
Clearaudio have been making a 14" variant of this arm for a few years now....
See :
Ah...not active links so cutting & pasting required....

I'll save you the trouble, here's the advertising blurb :

"The Clearaudio Unify is designed around a unipivot sapphire bearing that sits on top of a precision hardened steel spike. Other construction features include a stainless steel base, and an aluminium tonearm bearing housing.

This beautifully finished tonearm is hard-wired with Clearaudio's Sixstream cable, a six conductor, Teflon-insulated wire, and offers adjustments for pivot height (vertical tracking angle), anti-skating, and azimuth.

The mount pattern is identical to the popular Linn mount.

The Unify is available in several different configurations:

Tonearm length Nine (standard), 10, 12, or 14 inches

Tonearm contruction Black carbon-fibre, silver carbon-fibre, ebony, or satiné wood

Termination Continuous run from the headshell leads to a one metre cable terminated with Clearaudio's MBC RCA plugs or to an external shielded aluminium box with RCA sockets

Finish Polished silver or gold

The ebony and satiné versions have a slightly warmer sound. Please select configuration when ordering below."
Dear noslepums: Audio world is full of many non-sense " things ". Tonearms is no exception.

12"-14"-16" or whatever pivot tonearm is, IMHO, a terrible mistake supported by the tonearm designers/manufacturers and an additional marketing " hype " and nothing more. They take advantage of each one of us ignorance level ( including me ) we music lovers/audiophiles.

Exist many reasons why a pivot tonearm has to be close to 10"-10.5" and no more.
First reason can be the tonearm/cartridge set up it self: different geometry alignments to choose like Baerwald, Löfgren, Stevenson and many more. Almost all audiophiles use Baerwald or Löfgren ( many of us because that was choosed by the tonearm manufacturer. ) because are the ones every one knows about.
These two different kind of alignment set up are very close in between and its real difference is the overhang calculated for each alignment to make the " right " cartridge/tonearm set up. In both cases the cartridge/tonearm offset angle and pivot to center of spindle distance is the same.
That overhang difference that is lower than 0.4 mm makes serious difference on the distortion levels and where/how ( in the LP recorded area/surface. ) those distortions changes its position ( in the LP surface area. ).
Distortions that we can hear it.

What means all that?: think what  that that small distance difference in overhang of 0.4mm does it ( distortion levels. ) and think who of us can mount the tonearm it self and the cartridge with and accuracy no longer than say 0.05mm, this is a hard task for any one of us. Normally we make the overall set up with " error " over 0.1- 0.2 mmm and up. So always the level of distortions are higher that the theretical distortions numbers and that's what at the end we are hearing: higher distortions.

Well, in longer tonearms those small " errors "  during tonearm/cartridge set up the distortions levels goes higher than with shorter arms. In both tonearm cases we have other issue to solve because during set up we changed the effective length and for this set up the offset angle has to be changed and normally no one do that.

In theory with a longer arm the tracking error goes down against a shorter arm and this is the advantage that has the long arms but this advantage is only in static way and things are that the tonearm/cartridge are not static but always in movement during LP play and has to deal with several dynamic critical issues.

The carrtridge needs to ride the LP grooves in " freely " fashion where the tonearm has to respond very fast to the requirements movements for the cartridge stylus/cantilever can follow with accuracy the information recorded on that grooves. A longer arm response to that cartridge stylus needs is way slower that in a shorter arm, this could means different recovery information from those grooves, loosing information becvause the LP does not stop waiting for the tonearm bearing response but goes on and on.

The same happen with the waves in every LP, non LP is absolutely flat but full of micro and macro waves in the surface.
Each time the cartridge stylus is against those waves the cantilever/suspension deflected and VTF/VTA/SRA change ( it does not matters if the arm is static or dynamically balanced. ) changing the quality level of what we are hearing during those waves ( higher distortions. ). In longer arms the problem is accentend because the arm bearing response to come back to orinal VTA is slower than in shorter arms that are faster.

Through the all LP excentricities/off-center the horizontal movements in the longer arms is accented because are longer and all these means additional distortions at micro levels that has influence in what we are listening where in shorter arms thigs are better.

Other issue is that the effective mass of longer arms can makes more dificult to match with some cartridges. Now, we have to remember that this static effective mass during play change to a dynamic mass that impose stress to the cartridge it self during its ridding LP surface, in shorter arms that dynamic mass effect is smaller and with lower influence.

In the other side, a longer tonearms means additional resonances than in a shorter one. In a larger arm those additional resonances/vibrations ( means higher distortions. ) comes through the longer arm wand, arm bearings ( that resist higher arm torsion effects and has to deal with the higher inertia effects too. ) and the longer internal wiring with the very delicated audio signal.

There are other issues against the use of longer arms and in favor of a shorter one.

So, exist no real advantage but ( normally ) higher distortions with longer arms.
Now, that you like it more those higher distortions is not the subject here. Yes, a longer arm sound different but ( everything the same ) not better than the shorter arm that has overall way lower distortions.
Yes, we have to be a TEA to discern exactly what we are listening through both kind of tonearms.

That's my music lover/audiophile opinion but the best judge always be each one of you.

Regards and enjoy the music,

PD. What's incredible is that already exist a 14" unipivot tonearm where unipivots ( IMHO ) is the worst kind of bearing for a tonearm because is totally micro-unstability !

Very interesting post, I disagree with almost the entire thing but other than that very interesting.

The tracking error problem that has been brought up over and over is a mathematical problem, not a listening problem if you know what you are doing.  I still remember all the tonearm makers that were peddling 9" arms saying how the 12" arms were terrible due to the math, then within a few years they were all making them!!!  You know what that means, either the math changed (it didn't), they lied the first time, or they are lying now!!!!!!  Either way do you want to buy from people like that?

I have made arms from 9" to 16", all 3D printed and the length that works the best is 12", not because of tracking errors but because the longer the arm the effective mass becomes overly large and sounds wrong with the best cartridges.

Besides, the alignment issue is only a real one for those who cannot set up an arm correctly, it is not that hard just painstaking.  You are right about one thing though, the 10" to 10.5" length is the easiest to get the best sound from and is usually the best choice for most listeners, size wise and money wise.


Dear hwsworkshop: Obviously is your privilege to agree or disagree and always is easy to disagree when we don't need to say why. Nothing wrong with that, is each one privilege to do it.

For many years I had the idea that longest tonearms always sounds the better. I learned this mainly from japanese tonearm builders. So I bought some of the best japanese long tonearms and " die for it " against whom tell anything against it.
All that learning process was reinforced by the " nderground " audio magazine reviewers that swered for those long tonearms.

Through my very long learning process " suddenly " I learned that those statements on the long tonearm quality high performance levels ( against the shorter ones. ) was ( IMHO. ) totally wrong ( as many other audio " myths ". ).

How my mind changed about?. First I developed a repetitive and almost bullet proff evaluation/comparison process and through the time I learned what to looking for in that evaluation/comparison process of almost any audio item and of course making time to time check-ups to always have my audio system fine-tunned. I learned to identify real musical information  and the added ( every kind. ) listening distortions.
Second, I was and am having constant training through that evaluation process not only in my system ( " thousands of tests. ) but in other dozens of  different audio systems.

Things are that after I " learned " ( I'm still learning. ) I made several comparisons in my system with the same " everything " ( including cartridge. ) with all my long tonearms against each one shorter brother.
I made the deep and very hard evaluation between my MS MAX 282 and the MAX 237 and I did it too with my Audiocraft tonearm with its long arm wand and its shorter counterpart and too with my SAEC tonearms against SAEC short ones ( btw, i remember why decided to buy the SAEC's over the MS, because I bought first the SAEC's, that's was because a japanese report said theat in Japan people likes SAEC over MS tonearms because the SAEC were more " alive " that the MS " dark " sound. Years later when I learn on the whole subject that " alive " was not better quality performance but just higher SAEC distortions. ) and I did it too with Grace tonearms and other tonearms and in all deep evaluations the short arms gaves ( to my ears knowledge levels. ) me better quality performance with more clear and precise musical information and lower distortions where the longest arms always put tiny veils/bluring ( if you know what to look for. ) on the LP performance.

Of course that all what I learned about can be totally wrong but some of the gentlemans that I know personally in USA where I was listening to his great audio systems can attest what level of that " wrong " I have. Some of them are real TEA and Agoner's too.

All of us are accustomed to different kind of distortions and that's what we like it with out take in count not only the kind of those distortions but its very high levels and the problem is that many of us can't discern about and think that what we are listening is musical information. Far away from that.

Good that for you the alignment issue is no problem because for me and the 99% of the normal people always is a problem. Many of us when make changes on VTA we just do that with out any other change that we have to do it. When the VTA/SRA change we have to re-align to met the effective length on the cartridge/tonearm set up and check that offset angle, same when we make VTF changes: everything change.
Sometimes I think that I can't live any more with my analog be-loved hobby and runnaway to digital but I'm a music lover so I stay here learning everyday to improve my daily music enjoyment.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Geoffrey Owens offers his Helius arms in 9", 10", and 12" versions. He feels 10" is the best compromise, and is the length he recommends.

I agree Raul, the 10" Prime/Classic length arm is the one I recommend for almost everyone.  It is rigid (good bass) it is quiet (3D printing), it is easy to set up correctly, and does not cost an arm and a leg..  The Prime arm just got Product of the Year from Hi-FI Plus in England and the Prime has gotten more amazing reviews internationally than any table we have ever made mostly due to that arm!!  That 10" distance is the magic number for 99% of my customers.

The problem is I have 7 tape machines and hundreds of tapes, many of them master copies, and the 12" 3D printed arm sounds more like the tape than the 10" does.  We are talking subtle, it is not gob smack in the face!!!  It is a painstaking setup though and is probably not worth the energy in the end.

My son has been helping me clean up my basement and found a notebook from my days in college, opens it up and sees a math problem that took two pages to solve, it was about an electron in free space.  I get the math, I believe in math, but in the end I have the reference tape they made the record with on the same tape machine they made the record with so what is right is right, the 12" arm sounds very subtly more like the tape in the upper midrange, those violins are so smooth!!!!!

Raul, you correct about those long Japanese arms, I have been quietly selling off my SAEC and my FR-66 and others because they just don't cut it anymore.  Too many parts, too much metal, too much mass!!  Really nice to look at though.


The problem is I have 7 tape machines and hundreds of tapes, many of them master copies, and the 12" 3D printed arm sounds more like the tape than the 10" does. We are talking subtle, it is not gob smack in the face!!! It is a painstaking setup though and is probably not worth the energy in the end
Exactly my experience although I have owned only three tape machines and have fewer master copies.

Is this the Albert Porter I have heard about over the years with the Technics tables???  Or am I old enough to be hallucinating again!!!

If so it is nice to meet you.


Is this the Albert Porter I have heard about over the years with the Technics tables??? Or am I old enough to be hallucinating again!!!

If so it is nice to meet you.


Hello Harry,

Yes, I am the guy that prefers Technics SP10MK3 and 12" tonearms. 

You probably don't remember but years ago I bought a VPI 17F and wanted it to have two tanks and two pick up wands.  I had the "bright" idea of using a second pure water rinse.

You were incredibly patient with me, sold me the VPI plus extra parts and after I failed to figure out how to adapt the machine to accept extra parts, you took them back and allowed me apply as credit to spare pick up tubes, cleaner and other parts.

I still remember your kindness and still think the VPI 17 is one of the most important products in the history of audio.   Although I have other kinds of cleaning machines today I still stand by the fact that VPI was there early and produced major improvements for early adopters.   Heck, it’s still among the best machines after all these years and after dozens of other companies stole your ideas.

I was pleased to see your name here at Audiogon.   We need more industry professionals posting to our forums. 

Dear hw:  """   you correct about those long Japanese arms, I have been quietly selling off my SAEC and my FR-66 and others because they just don't cut it anymore. Too many parts, too much metal, too much mass!! Really nice to look at though.... """"

I remember how proud was when I received my two long tonearms by SAEC ( we-8000 and 506/30 ). I t was a real " dream come through " for me and when I mounted and saw them my ( one after the other ) WOW's expressions where and makes me a happy audiophile  as never before. Every time one of my audio friends were at my place every one of them always had the same WOW! expresions.

Now ( time latter. ) when I learned, can understand that that WOW! was the clasic WOW! that always gives the  ignorance. That's ( today )  similar to that WOW! when we are in front of a " 300 kg. " turntables, just real audio ignorance and whealty pockets: nothing more.

SAEC, FR and many other vintage tonearms and some of the today ones are only ignorance WOW's! and reflects our audiophile level and always I said that's nothing wrong with that because we like it and we like different kind of distortions with different distortion levels.

I remember the Dr. Sao Win   recomendation in his LOMC cartridge manual: don't use a tonearm with knife bearing type ( SAEC use it. ) and look for extremely stable bearing tonearm during play. His answer to me was to avoid unipivots and I think is right but the best judgment about is the one each one has on the overall subjects.

Where are my SAEC, FR, MS, Audiocraft and others long tonearms?, I don't really know but are not with me. 

What I can tell any one is that I learned and still learning each single day.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear friends: Speaking of Helius tonearms bdp24 posted:  """  He feels 10" is the best compromise, and is the length he recommends. """

exist no single perfect audio item, the best one in any audio chain link is the one that's " the best compromise ". 

HW agree with that: """  That 10" distance is the magic number for 99% of my customers """.

Problem with that " best compromise " is if each one of us have the music/audio knowledge level to discern/to discriminate the right and precise " best compromise "  and this is the real challenge for any one of us.

HW: I, for sure,  am not that remaining " 1% of your customers " .

Now: ""  We are talking subtle, it is not gob smack in the face!!! It is a painstaking setup though and is probably not worth the energy in the end.  """

You are talking here of a very precise tonearm models where you are a real expert and even that you said: " subtle,.....and probaly not worth.... " and for me that's all.

Now, exist no single  but one post in the thread that supported/prefers the 12" but with out any single explanation.

Could be excellent for all of us to hear from this sigle gentleman and from other 12"+ owners their valuable opinions on this tonearm subject.

Regards and enjoy the music,

Hello Raul,  I'm mostly an accidental tourist with respect to tonearms, having owned only around 12 over the years.  Of late I have gravitated to the SME 3012R and compared this to a 11" Kuzma 4Point and a Micro Seiki 808X on the same turntable.  The 3012R and the 4Point have identical 14gm effective mass. The SME is arguably the best of the lot, and does great with both high and low compliance cartridges.  Maybe SME got it just right with the stainless steel wand.  I've heard that the R was more popular with Japanese audiophiles than the other versions, and to some surpasses even the IV and V.  The R delivers possibly the best neutrality and LF delineation I've heard.  Not the biggest bass, but perhaps the most well controlled and natural.

I don't understand why setting up a 12" arm should be more difficult than a shorter arm.  I've been careful to find precise pivot-to-spindle distance and use standard null points on a db protractor.



A 12" arm with its shallower arc is like a linear tracking arm that is set up wrong, it is wrong over larger parts of its travel then a shorter arm.  I don't hear the difference the math claims but I do a very precise setup.

My 12" 3D arms when set up properly have the smoothest upper midrange I have ever heard, rivaling the best linear tracking air bearing arms.  The one piece totally damped design with no small pieces sticking out all over really does not resonate and that makes a uni-pivot work even better.   HW

I had a Helius Orion...the worst arm I ever had. Had to go back to England many times to readjust/refurbish the bearings....I’d never again buy from this manufacturer.  I didn't care what it sounded like...didn't have it that much.
Dear dgarretson: I owned that SME 3012 too and really like me, maybe because its big name SME. I own/owned the 1V/V too but I never did a comparisons against the 3012 because this one was sold.

In theory the 4Point by Kuzma is a very good tonearm and maybe your preference for the 3012 was/could be because the cartridge used on that comparison made it a better match with the SME and not because is 12".

HW, Helius and me were talking of comparisons made it with same cartridges with same manufacturer tonearm models: one 12"+ against same shorter tonearm model. This way exist only one diferent parameter under evaluation.

As I said opinions coming for other respectable Agoners like you always helps in any audio item dialogue.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear stringreen: I never had the opportunity to listen the today Helius tonearms and can't share nothing about other that even if those tonearms " are the worst " out there that Helius comparisons is valuable because the owner was listening the same ( good or bad ) where the only diference was the length of the tonearm and this is what we are talking about.

Now, if I remember the Orion is the vintage Helius one that has many not good owners histories like you.

Regards and enjoy the music,

stringreen---I've heard that about the Helius arms of old. They are kind of the Jaguar of arms! Hopefully Helius has improved, as has Jaguar, the build quality and reliability of their current arms.

"The way Jaguar got better is that they sold the company.   ...Tata"

After Ford put $12 billion into acquiring, modernizing, and improving Jaguar, Ford sold it to Tata in a fire sale when in financial straits circa 2007.  Nothing like audio.