Why are modern arms so ugly?

OK.......you're going to say it's subjective and you really looove the look of modern tonearms?
But the great tonearms of the Golden Age are genuinely beautiful in the way that most Ferraris are generally agreed to be beautiful.
Look at the Fidelity Research FR-64s and FR-66s? Look at the SAEC 308 series and the SAEC 407/23? Look at the Micro Seiki MA-505? Even the still audacious Dynavector DV-505/507?
But as an architect who's lifetime has revolved around aesthetics.......I am genuinely offended by the design of most modern arms. And don't give me the old chestnut....'Form follows Function' as a rational for ugliness. These current 'monsters' will never become 'Classics' no matter how many 'rave reviews' they might temporarily assemble.
Take the Graham series of unipivots.......a theory of design suited to elegance.
What Bob Graham delivers is something akin to an exhibit at a proctologists' convention. The only saving grace is that it is manufactured in matt black to disguise its clumsy proportions.
And then there's the Triplanar.......something the Soviets would launch against some Balkan uprising.
And this fashionable separation of VTA tower and arm is responsible for a whole brood of monsters.
Even the Reed (sorry Nandric) and its separated-at-birth twin the Talea show the inability of designers to come to terms with the consequences of this solution.
And then comes the latest horror.....the Kuzma 4 Point......the sister that even Quasimodo's family tried to hide.
Look at the Continuum Cobra as the exception that displays a design excellence in solving the very same conceptual problem?
So there are a lonely few modern arm designs still able to deliver innovation with beauty.
The Continuum Copperhead and DaVinci 12" Grandezza stand apart.
But God help us if our 'classic' tonearms of the future are to be selected from the current hapless choices?
Remember........classics are always beautiful.
Seriously, When the music drifts one to another place and time with eyes closed... does it matter?
I happen to have the Grandezza 12".
The Continuum Cobra has it's own league.
For many audiophiles, a good part of the appeal of a piece of equipment resides in its appearance. It's not just the sound. And tastes differ with respect to whether any particular design looks good.

I won't buy something that I think looks ugly, no matter how good it sounds. Personally, I think the Graham arm looks pretty cool, but I can understand that it can appear ugly to others. Buy what you like.
This thread reminds me of the old SNL shows where Billy Crystal played Rinaldo. Funny as heck when Billy/Rinaldo said, "it's more important to look good than to feel good." hahaha. Sorry for the low browl(sp?) humor.
Hey Stan. I have always respected and appreciated your posts. Does your post above mean that you agree with my Rinalso quip????
I find the Reed's and Durand arms stunning ! While I'm sure the Continuum Cobra is about as good as it get's performance wise, it looks like the male reproductive organ. Certianly not beautiful...LOL
In any event, I buy on performance not bling/looks
I agree with a lot of your examples. I have a Triplanar and it is pretty ugly, I'll admit. However, I have a Schick 12" and it looks beautiful to my eye. I also liked the appearance of the Moerch DP-6 with 12" wand that I had a while back.
I don't know, but I would prefer the looks of the Triplanar to the DaVinci Grandezza - gold and wood reminds me too much of 1970s stationwagons...

I am bracing myself for the inevitable chorus from the who cares what it looks like crowd.

Safe to assume there are no architects among them.
Dear Halcro, You and Dertonarm are our 'fire -eaters' or
'war -horses'. Never heard about fear? I mentioned somewhere that among the most contra-productive rules the oldest was 'de gustibus... non disputandum est'. However
even Mozart needed to learn first about music before he was
able to give his compositions to the humanity. This apply to any artist we admire. But if you look at our educational systems you will see that even 'phylosophical esthetics' is missing. What can one learn about esthetics with the help of TV? So no wonder that only few really care about while many like to talk about...
You may be privileged by your profession in this matters
the most of us have no better than state that we 'like' or admire something but are not able to describe what we exactly mean. The lack of vocabulary suggest the lack of learning.
BTW I stated ealier that I admire FR-64 S the most of all tonearms. But because of my lack of the right vocabulary I had no better description than 'mechanical beauty'. I was very glad to hear from T_bone that he understod what I wanted to say.
I remember the old Zentih Cobra looked pretty nice. I would never let any of my LPs anywhere near one though. I leave that to an arm that is unperturbed by any track recorded in vinyl.

Perception is a funny thing and it is long proven that there is no accounting for taste. I find the Laverda motorbikes from the 1970s to be quite tasteful in design, despite the fact that they are also appear quite technical (http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/laverda/laverda_750sf2.htm)... It has never struck me that someone would have thought that the Triplanar or Phantom to be ugly! To me they look awesome, totally speaking to the requirements of LP. They say that one has as much fun planning and anticipating a vacation; I suspect that tone arms get some of their appeal simply because they present the possibility of music.
FWIW, as someone who considers himself to be sensitive to the difference between good and bad examples of industrial design, I totally agree with Ralph about the Triplanar and the Phantom. To me they create an instant visual impression of finely crafted scientific instruments, which is entirely consistent with their intended purpose.

Although I can understand the visual appeal of the Continuum designs, personally I would not want to have a tonearm that reminded me of snakes every time I looked at it :-)

BTW, as I was composing this post I showed pictures of all of these arms, and also the Talea, to my wife, who is an artist among other things, and who comes from a family that includes several architects. She wouldn't characterize any of them as ugly, just as representing different design concepts.
09-23-11: Halcro
But the great tonearms of the Golden Age are genuinely beautiful in the way that most Ferraris are generally agreed to be beautiful
To put my comments in perspective, I'll add that I do consider the Ferrari 308 to be the most beautiful car ever designed.

-- Al
I just meant that its performance came first; if you get that then apparence is secondary. But you are right that many buy on looks; I have no trouble with the apparence of a lot of modern arms. I have a Graham 2.2 and a Jelco 750 and both are good looking to me. The Wilson Benich carbon arm looks great and is suppose to preform well, I thought about buying one recently but didn't really need it. I have had more arms than most, going back to ones like the ADC Prichard wood arm and the Pickering unipivot, which sat on what looked like a darning needle. There have always been good looking ones and bad looking ones; we just tend to remember the classics and forget the dogs. Something like remembering the origonal T Bird and forgetting the Edsel.
The two Cobras, sure is not my idea of beauty either.[http://www.plan59.com/av/av508.htm]
Then there are these. Some wouldn't work well IMO. [http://ierihon.com.ua/tonarm] [http://www.horomusic.com/horo_ita.html] [http://www.soundscapehifi.com/schroder-model2-pics.htm]
i love beautiful industrial design.

the Linn CD-12, Mark Levinson #33, and the Rockport Sirius III are 3 i've owned where they combined high performance and elegance.

i can appreciate the vintage arms and their simplicity. to me it reminds me of a 50's or 60's Ferrari or such when the designers did not know about correct aerodynamics, brakes, and suspensions. yes; they were beautiful, but cannot keep up to much more modest contemporary efforts. elegance counts for much, but not when the starter gun sounds. then it's what can it do?

i'll be very curious to watch people's reaction to the look of the new Durand 12" Telos at RMAF next month. it's elegance comes from the ruthless no-holds-bared perfection of purpose......stripped to the essentials.
I wonder what the WAF rating would be for this...[http://www.horomusic.com/filosofia2.jpg]
Graham arms ugly?

I personally think they look great - I never got tired of the look and quality feel of my Graham 1.5T (which I owned for ~18 yrs). Sound eventually took precedence and I upgraded to the Phantom - whose look and feel are also superior IMO.

As for the earlier arms I've owned - I liked the SME V's battleship build, though it was hardly beautiful. The Sumiko MDC800 was beautiful (IMO) and had a quality feel to the touch - I miss it.
BTW Halcro, the Dynavector arm you mention has always looked ugly to me, I used to wonder who would want to own such a thing. (I'm talking about looks, I acknowledge that this is a fine sounding arm). Seriously, compare that monstrosity to the elegant Sumiko MDC800.

Perhaps fortunately, beauty is a very subjective thing.
Agree, Al, arms have that precision instrument appearance.
I love the Dino 246 precedent of the 308.
And the '66 427 Cobra SC.
Sorry a little off topic.


thought so too. when I was looking at the Continuum Cobra usually on images or at fairs I thought it is a funny creature. When you have installed this arm and you look on your turntable this arm has some powerful elegance. It is a design piece!

best & fun only
one of the simplest and most elegant designs is the SAEC WE 8000, and one of the best in musical affairs.

best & fun only
Form should follow design if function is the core.
The better tonearms (some not all...) of yesterday (make this "yesterday" 2-3 decades +) were designed by engineers.
Most of todays components in top flight audio is designed by dedicated audiophiles who evolved from customer to professional designer.
And there is nothing wrong about that.
But we see in many tonearms individual concepts of design which does not follow function but personal aesthetics.
This may appeal to some, but in most cases it is not form-follows-function in the original sense of the phrase.
But then - as mentioned before by others - "beauty" ( in industrial, mechanical designs ) is always and only in the eye of the beholder and rarely, if ever, finds universal praise.
The infamous WAF was no issue in tonearm design in the 1970s/80s.
Most of them were pretty raw industrial designs with little to no optical gimmick.
Hard to sell today.
Our society has changed.
The outlook is very important today.
Thus make-up and posing are more important to underline any given USP.
Dear Tobes, the Dynavector is the Lamborgini Countach in tonearm design. You'll find both in the museum of modern art. For good reason.
Dear Daniel,
What's your opinion of the sound of the Dynavector compared to other arms?
i only have one real opinion regarding tone arm design- that it is easy to hold and place over the record, and clamps securely when not in use. i am too CLUMSY to be trusted with anything else...
Dear Halcro, some great design features ( I am especially taken by the in-build eddy current brake ). I was however never really taken by either incarnation's sonics. Always lacking the last bit of "air", inner detail and low end "blackness" and punch.
09-24-11: Dertonarm
Dear Tobes, the Dynavector is the Lamborgini Countach in tonearm design. You'll find both in the museum of modern art. For good reason.

As a piece of modern art, I can see where you're coming from - much thought has gone into the unique way it functions and the aesthetic design with its repeated circular motifs.
And yes, it supposedly is a fine sounding arm.

I just don't find it 'genuinely beautiful' as the OP put it.
Shoot me, but aesthetically I prefer the classic simplicity of something like the Breuer.
Dear Tobes, I am not a fan of the Dynavector's design (nor of the Lamboghini Countach's ....).
I just mentioned it and can understand those who admire either.
It was and is however very unique and showed skill, idea and individualism.
Still looking modern and striking after 30+ years - if not beautiful in my eyes.
Dear Tobes, I need to 'shoot' at you. I understand the aestetical part of your statement but the Breuer is not a 'simple' tonearm. On the contrary. This tonearm as well
as the sibling Sumiko MDC 800 are the perfect illustration
how looks can be deceitful.

I would like to see the SME V without the lines and print on its armtube. It would be more difficult to set up, but it would look great, IMO, as an example of form-follows-function, precision industrial art. Especially, the new SME V-12 with the headshell finger lift removed.
wouldnt you say that the current sme series is simple and functional, very eames like?
09-24-11: Nandric
Dear Tobes, I need to 'shoot' at you. I understand the aestetical part of your statement but the Breuer is not a 'simple' tonearm. On the contrary. This tonearm as well
as the sibling Sumiko MDC 800 are the perfect illustration
how looks can be deceitful.

Probably right Nandric, I was referring to the clean lines of the Breuer in comparision to the industrial look of the Dynavector.
I'm sure there is a lot of precision engineering involved in the manufactur of the Breuer.
Hi Jeff,
Eames-like.......a good description actually of the SME range :^)
Not really a modern design so perhaps reinforces my point?
Dear Halcro, I think that the most people are 'context oriented'. Ie 'art and beauty' have some bondaries regarding the question what one will 'recognise' a such.
I myself never thought about tonearms in this 'context'.
But the FR-64S 'awaked' in me this 'emotive feeling' of
admiration. After 30 years of ownership I am still 'wondering'. There is a deep thought in this English saying: 'a thing of beauty is a joy forever'.

But the FR-64S 'awaked' in me this 'emotive feeling' of
admiration. After 30 years of ownership I am still 'wondering'. There is a deep thought in this English saying: 'a thing of beauty is a joy forever'.
Dear Nandric,
I know what you mean.....but can you please explain to me (because you are a well travelled man)....how it is that the inscrutable Japanese can design an arm like the FR-64S which has such a Teutonic aura?
Dear Halcro, without me intentionally getting the way of Nikola here, let me just say that in technical ways german and japanese minds used to be very similar. Both did share for a long period a very similar devotion to form-follows-function mated with attention to minute detail and high precision.
But then Isamu Ikeda's FR-60 series is again kind of unique in it's strictness following triple-F as well as in it's very reduced design.
It leaves little to no room for errors.......
Which is not a bad way to design mechanic instruments.
Dear Henry, I thought that esthetics is your department.
I myself have no better than that we the 'ordinary mortals'
are not able to comprehend a genius. Think of Michelangelo's David or Pieta. That human hands can produce such works of art is to me incomprehensible.We all are able to admire his work, why should we feel the urge to explain the artist?

Dear Daniel, Your contributions are always welcome. But
are you not too modest as German? To my knowledge the most
Japanese engeneers around II WW were educated in Germany. So no wonder that their 'educated minds' were similar qua engeneering. I would never compare them qua culture.

Regarding modern tonearm designs: what do you make of the new Durand Telos 12" arm? It seems to be a very stripped down design. Early reports from the few who have heard it are very positive. It will be at RMAF.