12 inch tonearms

Thinking about adding a 12inch tonearm to try one out.

Any thoughts and experiences, good or bad, on 12 inch arms?

Looking forward to the discussion.
The Morch DP-6 with a 12" armwand is very good. The 12" armwand sounds notably better than the 9".
Dmgrant1: As always the tonearm performance is cartridge dependent.

A long tonearm ( in theory ) has an advantage over the short ones than with a long tonearm the tracking error could be lower ( but this depend too of the tonearm geometry ) and that the cartridge makes lower effort to track the record, but a long tonearm is more sensitive to resonances than a short one ( and this depend too of its construction/design. ). It is almost imposible to have the perfect tonearm we have to learn to live with the trade-offs.

If ( with the same tonearm like the Moerch ) you have the right match cartridge for either tonearm : long/short, both will perform great.

Regards and enjoy the music.
The Moerch DP-6 is an anomaly, in that the consensus is that its 12" iteration is a better arm than the 9" version. Equivalent mass 9" and 12" Moerch arms sound different. I have some thoughts as to why, but no time to elaborate on this.

In general however, I would agree with Raul in that it ain't the meat, it's the motion … that length is just one attribute contributing to fun-factor. Cartridge compatibility and a host of other matters come into play.

I used to look at Bob Graham's white paper (where he advocates a 9" length as being the best optimal solution) with a jaundiced eye. From the perspective of the importance of optimizing tracking error to the exclusion of all other parameters, my experiences with Grahams, Triplanars and Schröders have brought me over to Bob's camp.

FWIW, Frank Schröder is also in the 9" camp … again, because there are so many different issues contributing to making a competent, musical arm that satisfies the goals of getting the most music out of your record collection, with length (and any inherent tracing distortion advantage) being only one of them.

Again, the smart money has it that in the Moerch world, 12" is the way to go, but know that in the opinion of many, you will not be learning anything about 12" arms in general, but rather about the Moerch in its 12". If you are curious about the Moerch, then this is the path many have taken.

Are there cartridges which will work best with the 9" Moerch? I suspect so. The above comments are based on tribal knowledge and not cast in stone.

Thom @ Galibier
Thank you for the informative responses. The deal is this: I have an Avid Diva, which can accomodate 2 arms. Already have a 9 inch Origin Encounter.

Since this is all about having fun, I thought about adding a 12 inch arm and started doing a little research. Certainly not as much info out there on 12 inch versus 9 inch.

Looks like the jist of it is that 12 inch would be theoretically better due to less tracking error, but is harder to implement in reality than a 9 inch.

But it seems there are some contenders:

Moerch 12 inch
VPI 12.7
Sme 319
Clearaudio 12 inch
Nottingham 12 inch

At least these are the ones I have found to date. The Moerch site is certainly very detailed with their arm info.

But I can't seem to find reviews of the 12 inch arms.

any comments from 12 inch arm users out there?

Thank you.
Hi DMgrant,

I applaud your quest for knowledge and musical truth. I cut the following comments from the Schroeder FAQ's section of my website ... not to deter you from your quest, but to add another point of view.

I think you should look at a second good arm, and not limit yourself to a 12" one ... unless you have specialized needs (or curiosity, which I obviously applaud). With that preamble, here's a portion of my "first impressions of a Schroeder" page which is linked to from my Schroeder FAQ's page:

As I've gained experience with more quality pivoted tonearms in the last 18 months, I have arrived at the conclusion that most of what we describe as tracing distortion in pivoted arms is in fact the arm chattering in the groove. I'm certain that my positive experiences of 12 inch tonearms has more to do with the quality of these arms and not with their length - it ain't the meat, it's the (absence of) motion (resonance).

I am in complete agreement with Frank Schroeder - that by stabilizing the cartridge in the groove (taming resonances) the need for longer tonearms is obviated. Build a good 9" arm and you don't have to go longer. Certainly there are specialized requirements for long arms, among them are increasing mass for low compliance cartridges as well as the use of oversized platters, but 12" arms are not required for sonic reasons. I have become a true believer.

Thom, Makes good sense to me- easier to keep the cartridge in line at 9 inches than 12. Mostly the quest is based on curiosity and variety.

Does this mean that most of the nine inch arms can't do it as well as 9 inch or that, under the Schroeder theory, most simply choose to make 9 inch arms?
Dear Dmgrant1: Which cartridges do you own? and which one is mated with your Encounter?

regards and enjoy the music.

Gee, I was hoping someone would be so kind as to be the guinea pig for a 12" DaVinci. ;)
The SME 3012 is another example of a 12"er that beats its 9 and 10" siblings. Not necessarily because of the reduced tracing error(that too, if set up perfectly), but because of the heavier counterweight that results in a heavier load on the knife edge bearings(reduced relative movement between knife edge and "cup" when exited by energy fed into the arms structure).

A word about tonearm geometry.
A 12" arm that has been set up with the overhang beeing 0,5mm too short(I've seen WAAYY larger misalignment at dealers and other "experts") will yield a larger max. tracing error than that of a precisely set up 9" arm.
If in doubt, it is better to have the stylus a little(no more than 0,5mm in front of your alignment grid/crosshair. This referring to an alignment gauge that adheres to Baerwald nullpoints.

The longer the arm, the more crucial it becomes to get overhang and(even more difficult to nail) offset angle spot on. For an offset angle that is a mere 0,5° too large(think misaligned cantilever), the resulting error once again will make the theoretical advantage mute.

Perfect alignment for a 12"er yields max. tracing error related distorsions of 0,45% between null points, 0,5° more causes 0,76% distorsions(compared to 0,6% for a perfectly aligned 9.4"er).
Analogous to the overhang, rather err to an angle too small. The tracing error related distorsions will then increase towards the innermost usable area only. Not too many records with modulations that close to the run out groove. Best to get it perfectly right off course...
Make sure to disengage antiskating or lower the stylus so that is just about stays clear of the template/gauge. The Antiskating will skew the cantilever, making it impossible to get zenith/offset angle right.
Recheck after cart has 100hrs on its heel.

To sum it up, spend time and use proper alignment tools or you're waisting your money on megabuck arms and carts.


Frank Schröder
Frank, do you make a 12" arm?

Raul, I am using a Micro-Benz Ruby 3 cartridge.

Berlinta's post is most informative. Don't think I would have the capability to get a 12 inch properly set up. I guess there are those who can.
There is a review of Frank's 12 inch Reference arm in the latest Hifi+:

Hifi+ Issue 51
Hi Restock,
Boy, was that review ever a desaster...
The reviewer had the arm for a year(then spent a good week mounting and listening...), didn't read the manual before setting up the arm, lists it as having an eff. length of 315mm when in fact it had 286mm, misidentifies the armwand being made from ebony(it really was a Grenadillo armwand), NEVER called or contacted me despite my multiple invitations to do so(if he was to run into problem or requiring setup tips...), dropped the counterweight, bending the VTF finetuning adjustment screw(rendering it dysfunctional) and marred the centershaft so badly(changing the VTA wasn't possible when I got it back) that it took several hours to repolish/rehone the arm base.
I called and sent a letter asking for an explanation what had gone wrong, --- no reply as of yet.
Many of you guys are extremely cautious when it comes to relevance/truth content of reviews. Many times these reservations are unfounded, but more often than you'd think they're not. I didn't seek this review, they approached me. Should have known better...

I can realize any eff. length(within reason/without compromising structural integrity), typically 8,5" - 12".

Sorry for the rant, but imo the entire review isn't worth the paper it was printed on.

All the best,

Berlinta, we all know this happens. Is there any other reviews of it.

Hello Norm,
It's o.k. if someone else posts links to reviews, I'd rather refrain from it to avoid giving the impression I'm advertising my product. A google search will show up several online mag reviews and if you need more info contact me privately.
Thanks for your understanding.


RE: damaged review sample

I'd be happy to take the damaged review sample off your hands ;-).

Seriously, though, I read the review and thought the reviewer didn't have a clue. His only negative comments appear to come from the fact that the Schroeder tonearms are different from the usual suspects. I'm still drooling over getting one for myself.

Dear Dmgrant1: +++++ " Don't think I would have the capability to get a 12 inch properly set up ... " +++++

Please don't leave that other opinions put on your mind that you are not " capability " to set up the long tonearms.

If the long tonearms set up were really a " pain " and only for specialist people I'm sure those kind of tonearms never exist.

Around half of my tonearms are long ones and when I follow the manufacturer set up information everything is simple and works great.

I can tell you that when the cartridge/tonearm is well matched and with good set up you could be happy with both tonearm designs: shor/long, both are simple to set up there is no problem with the long ones: this is one of many myhts out there.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, Thanks for the heads up. This has been fun- especially learning about the Schroeder arms. That would be my top choice, but out of my fincancial league at the moment!

I am curious to know of any opinions regarding the less expensive choices.
Dear Raul,
Anyone who has the tools/capability to set up a 9" arm perfectly will be able to set up a 12"er just as well.
But on a 12"er, any deviation from perfect will result in the nullpoints being farther off the ideal(be it Baerwald or Loefgren) than for the same error "applied" to the set up of a shorter arm. All I was saying is that 12" arms are less "forgiving" of misalignment than their shorter siblings.
Not a myth, just plain geometry ;-)

Following manufacturers recommendations, particularly for many vintage japanese arms(no matter which length) is generally not a good idea as almost all of them feature a less than ideal geometry.

How I wish that setting up a turntable perfectly was as easy as you say. The audiophile community would have plenty of dealers to choose from, all(not just a few) of them capable(and hopefully willing) to provide customer support that justifies the markup on our favorite toys. In Germany(considered an analog heaven), that number may not even match the age of my son(now in 5th grade...). And even though there are many consumers now who don't require any assistence/help from a dealer, lots of them still do and many future newbies will.

Lastly, setting up the original Goldmund T3(not even a long arm...) certainly was a pain, but it was nevertheless quite successful. For many, the tweaking/tinkering is half the fun of this hobby(nothing wrong with that).

@ Dmgrant1: By all means, get a 12" arm :-) Check out:


Affordable, easy to set up, a good match with low compliance MCs. No business affiliation....

Good night,


I have a Moerch DP-6 with two 12" arms (6gr and 13.1gr), a VPI 12.5 with two arm wands, and a Schroeder Reference with 9" 12gr arm. I have the VPI and Moerch set up on the same turntable right now with identical cartridges (that particular TT (Garrard 401) has three arm pods and I have three AT OC9/II cartridges from the same lot). I have also done back to back comparisons between the Moerch and the Schroeder, though not with identical cartridges. That comparison comes as soon as I stop working seven days a week.

To my ears and in my system, the Moerch gives tremendous bang for the buck. It is really a good arm. I will be interested to hear how it sounds versus the Schroeder when I move it from its current TT (Nak TX-1000) back to the TT with the Moerch and VPI. My educated guess is that the Schroeder will have slightly more detail, be smoother, more refined in sound, and will move me closer to the music.

I like the VPI because I can do cartridge swaps in less than 30 seconds which is what you need when doing A-B cartridge tests. Swapping armwands on the Moerch takes time as you have to set VTF and VTA and possibly azimuth. On the other hand the Moerch is nice because it has different weight armwands. Thus, I play high compliance cartridges on the 6gr arm and low compliance cartridges on the 13.1gr arm. Of course, if you don't swap cartridges frequently, this won't relevant to you.

Hope this info helps.

This has really opened my eyes to all of the possibilities. Sounds like maybe the VPI is the easiest one to set up and start with?
Rgordonpf, having owned many tts and arms, including the Schroeder and now a Shindo 12 derived from the old Ortofon 12 spring loaded arm, I have to say that ease of setting up an arm is not an indicator of it sound. I loved the Schroeder I had with my Loricraft/Garrard 501 tt. I even used it with a Decca Jubilee. It was very critical what the separation space was between the magnets, but when right it song.

Please listen first and worry about setup afterwards. I now know the benefits of a 12" arm and would buy a Schroeder in a flash were it possible to mount it on my Shindo/Garrard tt. Perhaps some day I will have this capability. I must say that the sound I get with all Shindo is extraordinary.
Tbg, I don't think you read Rgordonpf's post very carefully. He offered good comments on four different arms based on personal use. He pointed out one (the VPI) was particularly useful for anyone making frequent cartridge changes because ONCE the VTF and azimuth has been set, a second arm tube allows cartridge swaps without going through as many set up steps again. I did not read any of his statements relating sound quality to ease of initial set up.

Also Dmgrant1, don't confuse Rgordonpf's comments on ease of swapping cartridges on the VPI with initial set up. The VPI is somewhat unique in that not just the arm tube is changed but the whole upper arm above the pivot point. This means once cartridge mounting, alignment, VTF, and azimuth have been set, upper arms can be exchanged with only resetting VTA by a marked dial being necessary. Initial set up on a VPI is not particularly difficult but not necessarily easier than with others.

Regardless of which arm and which length you choose, ease of set up will relate to having the appropriate tools for the task, steady hands, and a bit of patience.
Pryso, you are right. I should have directed what I said to Dmgrant1.

I once had another arm where you entirely removed the arm, counter-weight, and cartridge and could immediately replace it. It was the Keith Monks which used four mercury baths for contacts. The VPI has a much better implementation.
Just to clarify Tbg's post above- The Shindo arm is not derived from an "Ortofon spring loaded arm." It is a Shindo arm with aesthetics paying homage to Ortofon's wonderful early work.

Dear Frank: +++++ " Anyone who has the tools/capability to set up a 9" arm perfectly will be able to set up a 12"er just as well. " +++++

I totally agree. This is the answer and it is all about and yes the long ones are " less forgiving " but not " big deal ".

Now, on the vintage japanese tonearms that had less than ideal geometry I try it in different ways and always return to the manufacturer recomendation: overhang and pivot to spindle distance, etc, because always the quality performance is better ( the MAX 282 is an example where its different arm wands when you choose to set up by the two null points against the Micro Seiki recomendation, for me : I prefer the quality performance on the manufacturer recomendation. ), at least on what I experienced about.

Regards and enjoy the music.