TT Arm-base Unipivot vs Gimbal-base Designs...

Any thoughts/insight on a single-point needle unipivot tonearm base vs a gimbal based design for turntables? Have you had both in your TT systems - what are your preferences and why? Pros/Cons...your own personal experiences?

- Function, quality of design, usability & ease of use, design purpose to actual performance - is there a notable difference? Does each system have inherent flaws - what are they?


Your insight is appreciated,



My guess is, Unipivot arms works really nicely but to me it felt strange, to each their own. I did also try Linear Tracking TT’s but they were finicky at best on the low end. I will stick with my 1210 and it Jelco arm.

I have been able to be demonstrated many Tonearm Designs, not all in my system.

Many years in the past, through 'sat in front of ' experiences, I deselected many arms of interest and settled on the Gimble Designs as my Tonearms of interest..

Somewhere during this period, I again had been pro-active in achieving demonstrations of different Brands Gimbal Models and made my selection.

The discussion on Tonearms will prove to be endless, especially when 'flaws' are in the remit. 

I suggest experiencing both designs in use, and attempting to discover where the presentation is to be found, that is proving to be most attractive to yourself.

There will be plenty of suggestions for a Model, once there is a sureness brought about, as a result of discovering the design that is of most interest. The only limitation will be Budget and compatibility with other devices wanted to be used. There is plenty of subjective suggestion, that certain Cart's don't perform to their best when coupled with a particular Arm, and the same can be subjectively suggested that certain Arms struggle to reveal the most attractive performance  when coupled to a particular type of TT.

The selection of a Tonearm is only one piece, to create the Trilogy needed to replay recorded music on a vinyl medium. Ask how many are all using the Same Trilogy of Devices ?,   

Note: From the Poorest, through to the most Well Executed of designs, each are able to perform their role for the replay recorded music quite successfully. What really matters is the design that is most attractive in use to the end user, and how much they intend to spend on the pursuit of the most Well Executed of designs. There is a cut off point for any spend. The Budget for such a selection will need to range from approx' $300 - $60 000. In general a prudent purchase within a $1000 - $5000 range can offer a lot of attraction to a performance that can be achieved.   

A Cartridge and TT will also need to be accounted for as well, preferably ones that are known for being able to compliment each other.  


If you use Google, there are endless discussions on the advantages and disadvantages of each type of arm.  In the end, I think it comes down more to the design and execution of each type, rather than whether the arm is unipivot or gimbal.  

Both gimbal and unipoint can be designed to work well. Among the arms in my collection are a Grace 707 gimbal and a Mayware Formula 4 unipivot. Both are low mass with small diameter arm tubes and no headshell. I used both on my Ariston RD11S TT. Both sounded excellent and tracked LPs without any problems. Right now I have the Grace 707/ Denon 103 on the Ariston. For those that don't know the Ariston RD11S is the Scottish cousin to the Linn Sondek - they are sonically equivalent. 

Both designs seem to be made in more/less equal numbers....and on all levels/price-ranges of no real advantages on either?  Taking in to account a "synergy" approach of arm, base, cartridge then both gimbal & unipivot design can perform well/exceptional or poorly if mismatched...I get it.  Those with personal experience with both designs - advantages/disadvantages? If you had the option to step-up or upgrade your next TT system and offered the same table, same arm, same cartridge - but offered in a gimbal vs unipoint design...which would you choose & why? If it was your "last"/final TT - which design & why? Do you only look at the TT, arm, cartridge...unipivot/gimbal does not it just an afterthought... it comes with the rest of the done deal?

My experience with a unipivot arm was a mixed bag. When it was calibrated, it worked fine but almost every time I wanted to spin vinyl, I had to recalibrate the arm(VPI 3D 10 inch unipivot). It was a total PIA. The arm was always cocked to one side or the other and I had to keep tweaking which I hate. After 3 years of ownership and not spinning many records, I traded in the Prime TT and bought the new Technics SL1200G with the magnesium gimballed arm. This TT is a keeper and now I spin vinyl joyously and very often. 

Theoretically I think there is less to go wrong with a unipivot.  With an arm with conventional bearings, the clearances are crucial to good sound and smooth operation, so if you opt for a well made arm. They needn't break the bank - even the lower end Regas have good production standards (although I much refer SME Vs.

I have one system using a Roksan unipivot and have been impressed with the decent sound and lack of fuss using it.

I've heard unipivot arms sound fantastic, including the VPI arm. Personally, they just give me the creeps because they seem all wobbly and fiddly. But that's just me. My preference is for a precise, rigid pickup arm, such as the SME V I've enjoyed for years.

Steve at VAS has a BIG VPI setup, with a uni-pivot arm base, with a nearby shelf, with a collection of uni-pivot arm wands with various cartridges. He tests, and demonstrates cartridges he builds/re-builds there.

It sounds terrific!

The base has VTA on the fly, ... and each arm wand has a mini din connector to a nearby din/rca junction box. pull the din connector out, lift the arm wand off, set it down, place the other arm wand on, connect it’s mini-din to the junction box, ready to play! Single arm base is one set of cables to phono stage which is adjustable/pass for MM.

Steve’s setup takes more area, there is no dust cover, thus not for me. My 3 tonearm setup is 3 gimbal arms, less area, removable dust cover. Mine is 3 sets of arm cables to a SUT, front selector for which arm, then select loading or Pass, then off to MM input.

More than 3 cartridges, a friend’s cartridge, it’s gotta be mounted in it’s own headshell for the Acos Lustre Arm with VTA on the fly.

Switch headshells: if cartridge body is a different height, adjust VTA (easy), then: azimuth has to be carefully confirmed/adjusted, both tracking force and anti-skate adjusted. And, when I go back to my cartridge/headshell: reset VTA, azimuth, tracking, and anti-skate.

I’m very quick, been doing it for many years, and got the hand coordination of the Acos-Lustre arm down, tools at hand, but it ain't instant.

I did not see Steve reset tracking or anti-skate when switching arm wands/cartridges, I need to ask him about that.

I gotta say, 3 cartridges he built (2 for me, 1 for a friend) sounded terrific on his uni-pivot arm wands.

Uni-pivot arms have zero friction. Period. That is their principal advantage. Gimbal designs have to be made with much care to the beatings, and with enough care (and expense) the friction can be made so low as not to matter. No doubt but that both arms can be made to sound great. No apparent sound advantage of one over the other with proper design.

I am amused at those who can’t abide the slight wobble when handling a uni-pivot arm. How they can put up with all of the inconvenience of analog and be bothered by this little thing is beyond my understanding.

That being said, I use a second (sapphire) pivot on my 12" VPI 3D arm. It does get rid of the wobble, but that never bothered me. I do it principally because it makes setting azimuth (which I do by ear) much easier. I consider careful azimuth setting the most important of all stylus adjustments. It is almost impossible to do easily on many (most?) of the popular gimbal designs.

Yes, a lot of care to the beatings . . . but also to the bearings.  Sorry for the typo.