Best Cartridge for VPI Aries orig + JMW 10.5 ?

I have a VPI Aries (original version) and JMW 10.5. They feed an EAR 834p phono stage, mccormack map-1 preamp, rotel 1095 amp, and vienna acoustics beethoven speakers (which are a bit "warm" sounding). I listen to mostly bluegrass, followed by classic rock and jazz. What is the best choice of cartridge at $1500 or less? (any views on the Sumiko Celebration in this set up?) Any thoughts welcomed as I am a bit new at this. (ps. will one day move to all tubes, but likely a few years off).
As noted in response to another cartridge query above, I don't think you can do much better than the Grado Reference. List is $1200, and many are offered for less. Good luck.
I should have noted that I have your tonearm and an early-model VPI TNT, so I know the Grado cart is compatible.
I have the Sumiko Celebration in this same setup and enjoy it very much. I have tried the Ruby Silver and Clearaudio Virtuoso but prefer the sound of the Celebration. I still own all these cartridges and use them in a second system. I had the Grado Sonata but didn't really care for the presentation. I have not heard the Grado Reference.
I'll second the Lyra Helikon.
I'll third the Helikon.
I also have a Helikon (regular..not the SL-and love it) and also a Benz M2. I had a Grado Sonata and it was quite lovely (especially for the price) BUT (and this is MY experience) it developed the famous Grado wobble. I have heard for other here that their Grado worked well on their VPI's or other tables and arms. I just wanted to add this in. the way...I had the Grado wobble on my Linn/Itoch once also........?? I also had previous Grados (ZTL'???) and they worked fine. Go figure????
Art Duddley editor of now defunct mag. Listener, never had been a convert to the VPI camp until he reviewed the Aries-JMW 10 combo. He found out a particuliary good match with the Denon DL 103.
This is a known "classic" that perform beautifully above its price range, (us 300.00) but uneasy to get from Japan.
In using it in the same set-up and I certainelly like it myself, and althought it is a MC cart., its .38 mv output allow me to use the mm only EAR phono stage without problem.
The Dudley's article, is I thinck, available on the VPI site.
I hope you are talking about a DL103D, because a standard DL103 is WAY too stiff for a VPI arm.
Hi ! TWL, I have a few questions, maybe you can tell me?
1) What is the differences between the Denon DL 103 and the DL 103D ?
2) In witch way a cartridge,( DL 103), can be to "stiff" for an arm, (VPI), and what will be the consequences of this less than ideal partnership.
Art Dudley talk about the "love affair" between is "ol fashion" Denon 103 and the arm. Was is cartridge the exact same than mine, Denon DL 103, I dont know, but I dont see a problem when using mine.
Pboutin, the standard DL103 has a compliance rating of 5cu, which is very stiff in the suspension, and actually is the stiffest cartridge in the world, that I know of. The DL103D is a different compliance rating, I think it is 15cu, and is more of a medium compliance cartridge.

The interaction of the cartridge compliance and the tonearm is a fairly important one, which relates to the energy fed into the tonearm by the cartridge suspension as it plays the record. Low compliance(stiff) cartridges feed much more energy into the arm than medium or high compliance ones do. This energy can "push" the arm around, in a microscopic way, and influence the effectiveness of the information retrieval from the grooves. The mass of the tonearm should be selected according to the compliance of the cartridge. This is particularly critical in the horizontal mass component of the arm. Also, in a unipivot, the azimuth may also be affected by this, and be in a constantly changing condition when playing a low compliance cartridge.

In general, I recommend that unipivots be used with medium or higher compliance cartridges, although there are a few unipivots that have some design features that mitigate this somewhat. Arms like the Graham 2.2 have stabilizers which keep the arm a little more stable than other unipivots.

I personally think that the standard DL103 cartridge is much too stiff for a JMW arm, and although it will play the music, I don't think that the best possible performance will be attained with this configuration. I'd recommend a high quality gimbal-bearing tonearm for the DL103. The "ol fashioned" DL103 Art talks about could be either the 103D or the 103, but I think he is referring to the 103D. That is a much better match for the JMW than the standard 103 is.
thanks everyone for the responses so far...based on what i've heard so far it seems to come down to helikon vs. sumiko celebration. can anyone besides ljgj compare the two? also, vpi is recommending the dynavector xx-2h...does anyone have any thoughts on that? thanks again for all the good advice...
I think the Helikon or Celebration would be better choices than the Dynavector XX-2H. They are a little higher in compliance(12cu), and will put the arm under less stress than the (10cu) Dynavector. Call me crazy, but I still don't think that unipivots handle low compliance cartridges well at all. I know, I know, others think that you can just slap any cartridge on any arm, and everything will be just peachy. Sorry, but I don't agree.
In this article, Art suggest categorically but not without humour that, " low compliance cartriges are to high mass arms, what dogs are to pick-up truck", sounds like a perfect ride to me.
Because the pragmatic successfull result obtained in using his low compliance Denon 103, (refered as such by him), with the high mass Memorial cannot be discarded, I am left to favor his theorical interpretation of the low compliance c.-high mass t. a. relationship over the opposite one witch you have proposed earlier and althought this remain the conundrum that it is the fact remain that Art's personnel low compliance Denon 103 as out-done itself when partnered with high mass Memorial arm. What do you thinck of it ?
I would agree with the dog and pick up truck statement. Unfortunately, the JMW arm is not in the high-mass category. Oh, it might be high-mass compared to a Black Widow tonearm, but not in the broader sense. An arm(JMW) that is around 11 grams effective mass, is a medium mass arm. Heavy arms start around 12 grams effective mass, and higher, and the higher ones are more suitable for a very very low compliance cartridge like the DL103. I did some checking on the ideal combined mass of a DL103 and tonearm, and it comes to about 21.5 grams. Since the cartridge itself is about 8.5 grams, that would make a tonearm of about 13 grams optimal for this cartridge.

Now I don't say that a lighter arm couldn't handle it, but it would lose some of the dynamics and bass and detail in the process, from being overdriven by the cartridge.
Also, I would venture to say that since the JMW is a unipivot, it will have azimuth changes during play with this cartridge. It is unavoidable with this combination of ultra-low compliance and unipivot design. It's going to rock and roll.

I have owned and used a number of these Denon cartridges, including the DL103 and DL103R, and am very familiar with their needs, and my viewpoint is not strictly theoretical. I used them on arms that were 11 grams, and ones that were almost 12 grams, and the cartridge was clearly overdriving both of those arms. And they were gimbal-bearing type arms, which give far better stablity, and at least don't change azimuth during play. This led to my development of a tonearm mod, that was required in order to get the proper result from my use of this cartridge, with my available tonearms.

Suffice it to say that I am in disagreement with Art Dudley and his findings.

In the end, if you like what you are using, that is all that matters. I have had this discussion with many JMW owners over the past 2 years. This subject always comes up. It is very difficult for me to be as diplomatic as I'd like, and still tell the truth. I try to help, but people don't want to hear what I have to say.
i appreciate everyone's candor...that's one of the great benefits of these forums...everyone else's years of experience will help me avoid some expensive mistakes (i hope) besides, even though we are straying into denon land, as a newbie i'm still learning alot, especially as it still effects my newly acquired/yet to be set up vpi/jmw front end...still wondering helikon vs. celebration?
The two carts you are deciding on have different sonic characteristics. Depending on your preferences, warm balanced or detail retrieval, your choice would be a lot easier.
It has come to my attention that there are some new optional "outriggers" that have become available for the JMW tonearms. Apparently, this is Harry's "fix" for helping the tonearm to handle low compliance cartridges. If you are planning on using anything below 15cu, then I'd heartily recommend the purchase and use of these outriggers on the JMW tonearms.
to cmk...when you say "warm balanced" vs. "detail retrieval" which attribute belongs to which cartridge?
(btw, my speakers (viennal accoustics) are already a bit warm since they have silk domed tweeters, so i feel a bit cautious about overdoing the "warmth" side of things.
With a good phono stage, the differences between these carts are just personal preferences and are not marked differences.

Having said that, you can tune the cart to match your system's balance using VTA, tracking force, azimuth and anti-skate, so choosing either one of these carts will work.

To answer your question, I'd reckon the Helikon as being in the leaner balanced, while the Celebration as being fuller.

BTW I would tend to associate warm with more bass, rather than the tweeter's silk dome per se.

Happy spinning!
Banjofan, I also have Vienna Acoustics speakers (Strauss). I can't claim to have heard the Celebration, so I cannot directly compare. I have compared my current favorite, the Helikon, to the Benz Ruby 2 and the Cardas Heart. The Helikon provides more detail, while not being over-analytical. The Benz and the Cardas were a tad bit warm for my VA speakers. I also have a VPI table with JMW 10.5 arm. Try doing a search on the Celebration here and at AA. There isn't much information out there on it, I don't know why. FWIW, I don't think you can go wrong with the Helikon.

Get the Helikon
Thanks again TWL for your candid and informative post on this subject once again.
The next question is, TWL what combo is better the silver/shelter 501 or
The JMW 10.5/Helikon
Is the Helikon or Helikon SL better with EAR 834P (fixed at 47k)?
EAR gain is 68db for mc. Is that enough for helikon sl?
Thanks everyone for the input. Its looking like a medium output Helikon (to save money over the SL) with the Aries/jmw10.5/ear834p combo is now the leading contender based on what I've heard here.
The Helikon also works well into a ARC PH3 SE (phono) for me.....hope that helps also!
According to his 6/16 post, TWL never used a JMW arm with a Denon cartridge. Nor presumably with any low compliance cartridge. Nor at all. That being the case, why would anyone pay any attention to what he has to say about this combination? His argument is pseudoscience gone astray.

Art Dudly, who is acknowledged as an analog expert, has actually tried the combination and says the Denon 103/JMW 10 (It WAS the 103, not the 103D) combination offers great performance. I concur based on experience. It is also an extremely cost effective duo.
Melm, when you learn something about tonearm design, let me know. Then we might be able to have a productive discussion.

FYI, I HAVE used a DL103 on many different tonearms, but only an idiot would even try one on a JMW. If you think that this is not a problem, maybe you should try talking to Harry about it. Do you think Harry would introduce a set of optional outriggers to handle cartridges of low compliance, if they weren't needed? He says that the outriggers are needed for even cartridges of 9cu like the Shelter and Koetsu. He doesn't even try to mention the 103 at 5cu.

My only comment to your(and Art's) use of a 103 on a JMW is, that you don't know what a 103 sounds like when it is in a proper arm for it, or you would not have made statements as you did. Just because it makes sound doesn't mean it is good in the arm. It is people like you, who will throw any cartridge into any arm, and hope it sounds right, that makes getting into analog needlessly difficult and problematic for beginners. I think the JMW is a fine arm with the right cartridges. Unfortunately for you and Art, the 103 is NOT the right cartridge.

The JMW is neither the correct mass, nor stable enough for a 103, and that is a plain fact.

I see this very commonly, especially with JMW users. They think that just because they bought an expensive nice arm, that it can be used "willy-nilly" with any cartridge, without any concern for matching. Well, I'm sorry, but that is not the way it works.

Like I said, try spending about 30 years learning about this subject, and maybe we can talk then.
So Art Dudley put a Denon 103 on a JMW 10 and it sounded great. But Art Dudley doesn't know what a 103 sounds like? And Art is an "idiot" for even trying? But Twl knows the truth-doesn't he?

[In case anyone doesn't know who Art is, he wrote for the Absolute Sound and then ran and edited the very informative "Listner" magazine and is now a monthly columnist for Stereophile. Most of us consider him extremely knowledgeable, especially regarding analog reproduction.]

And I used a Denon 103 for an extended period on a first class arm with traditional bearings, and I am sure it sounded better on the JMW that I have now. But I don't know what a 103 sounds like? And I am an "idiot" for even trying? But Twl knows the truth-doesn't he?.

But you, the great Twl, have never used a Denon 103 on a JMW arm. But you DO know what that combination sounds like. What impeccable logic. Yuccch!

And you, the great Twl, think Art or I would throw any cartridge on any arm simply because we have found the 103 and the original JMW arms to sound very good, a proposition definitely shared by VPI by the way.

The "outriggers" for your information are part of the 1X.5 upgrade, and will probably make any appropriate cartridge sound better, as upgrades are designed to do. The original JMW arms have a VERY heavy upper bearing circular weight well below the bearing and already provide much of what the relatively small 1X.5 "outriggers" provide.

Some people can spend 30 years trying to learn something and then prove by what they say or write that they haven't succeeded in learning anything. What a waste of 30 years.

Twl sounds like a hi fi salesman; he's got all the buzz words. He just doesn't put them together correctly.

There is only one final test, friend; that is to listen!
Melm, go ahead and use the combo. I don't care. The person asked about it, I told him what I thought.

I do realize what this is all about though. I've read the other posts regarding this on the other forum(AA), and your panties are in a wad because you didn't like what I said about the JMW arm. Too bad. I stand by what I said, and it is correct, regardless of your rantings and ravings to the contrary. I know that you came over here from AA for the express purpose of picking a fight with me over this. Just because you are in love with VPI, doesn't mean that it works ideally with every cartridge known to man. I reviewed your posts over there, and the vast majority of them read exactly like a VPI salesman.

But, if you think it does work well with a 103, then by all means, you can use it. I notice that none of the other tonearm brand users get their noses out of joint when somebody mentions a cartridge that doesn't match them well. They all realize that nothing is perfect for everything. But JMW users seem to be overly sensitive about this, and often take the opinion that this(JMW) is some kind of perfect arm that defies all known laws of physics. It's not, and it doesn't. It has good and bad points just like any other arm.

BTW, the smaller outriggers are not needed to be large because the inertia increases by a square of the distance from the pivot. Conversely, even a relatively larger mass at a point close to the pivot will have less effect. This is well demonstrated by the fact that the outriggers were added for the stated purpose. I'm certain Harry is aware of the math, and that is the reason for the size of the outriggers.

Your personal attacks on me are getting tiresome. If you wanted to make your point about disagreeing with me on the matchup, you've made your point. You are entitled to it, as am I. If you want to start some kind of personal vendetta against me because I didn't bow down at the VPI JMW altar, then we have something else to deal with altogether.
Any other simmilar posts to this anybody can hip me to?
TWL has once more exposed some of the pervasive idiocy that swirls around this hobby and I am grateful for his seemingly endless patience with you nincompoops.I can claim no such predilection for his level of tolerance.The physics stated are there for all to see.See you all at the next UFO meeting.
Dynavector Karat! taste of the high end for $750

That's the combo I have.
Dear Twl: This is not a fight. The issue here is only: low compliance cartridges with an unipivot tonearms:
I have some experience with unipivot tonearms ( I own five of these ) and I try with low compliance cartridges: Denon, Shelter, Koetsu, Victor,.. .... ( that I own too ) and I never have any problem with this combo-combination: " no rock and roll " ( like you say ). I think that the problem is in the design an execution of that design. The Graham is not an original design ( is a bad copy of the Audiocraft tonearm.), tha's why to much up-grades every " month " and the JMW is not, too, Mr. Weisfeld take some things from the Audiocraft and SAEC tonearms ( he speak about this in the early times of his tonearm ). So if anyone has problems with a cartridge in those tonearms is because the tonearms have problems and not because they are unipivot tonearms. Twl, the theory about it not always is true in the real world because there are many parameters out of control.
Till today, many of the best unipivot tonearms are of Japanese design ( the Morch is a very good copy of the Japanese Highphonic tonearm ). In the time where the Dl 103 or the Black Koetsu born the unipivot tonearm ( like the tubes ) has a very strong force between the Japanese audiophiles and that people live " happy " with those combos ( I have some japanese music-lover friends that still lives in Japan ) still today. So, the problem is not the unipivot way. Now, if you like or not the sound of a low compliance cartridge in an unipivot tonearm, this is another issue and has many " roads " to talk about it.
The other issue is compliance in front of tonearm mass, but this one in some other time.
Best regards and always enjoy the music, not your audio system.
Rauliruegas, thank you for your comments. My contention is that many unipivot tonearms show evidence of instability in the azimuth plane, when cartridges which feed large amounts of energy into the tonearm are used. This is less problematic when medium compliance cartridges(which feed lower amounts of energy into the arm) are used. This is why I recommend what I do. I agree that this is a tonearm design related issue, and many unipivot tonearm makers are showing a trend towards stabilizing features on their arms. I'd say that this is directly related to this issue. All tonearm types have their deficiencies, and this is one that happens to many unipivots, with certain cartridge types.

However, I do accept that many people find these matchups to be listenable in their systems. When making recommendations, I try to show people things to consider when they make their choices. I am in no way trying to tell them what they must do. They can do as they please. But it would be remiss to ignore the things that commonly happen with these combinations. So, I make my recommendations from my experience, and the experience of others that I know, and hope to help them in their quest for better sound. In my experience, tonearm stability considerations(in all planes) are as important for the cartridge matching as the mass/resonance is, when high-energy low compliance cartridges enter the equation.

Not everyone would agree with me, but that is my opinion.
Hi Twl: I agree with you in that all tonearm types have their deficiencies ( all in this life have a trade-off ) and I agree, too, that the tonearm stability is an important parameter for the cartridge matching.
My experiencies tell me that if you have a good design and a good execution of that design you can have a good tonearm it does not matter if is unipivot or gimbal/knife/ball type bearing, and that that tonearm can handle low compliance cartridges.
I give you an example: Mr. Sugano ( Koetsu ) designed a tonearm for his low compliance MC cartridges and guess what?, the Koetsu tonearm is an unipivot type.
Best regards and always enjoy the music.
Thanks to TWL for his insight and help in my own set up regarding compliance and compatability in my Aries/JMW 10!


If you are serious enough to spend $1,500 on a cartridge I would suggest that you listen to the item before buying, or at least have the option of sending it back if you don't like it. See

Given the music that you like I would seriously consider the Koetsu Black. I am using one in a system with a modified EAR 834P. It has an output of 0.5 mv, a wonderfully lush and detailed mid-range, very precise bass and a silky smooth high end. It more than hints at its $7,500 sibling, the Onyx
Platinum. You should however change the impedance in the EAR
to 10 ohms for the best performance. It's not difficult to do.

Happy listening,

Dear Banjofan: I agree with Ljgj, the Celebration is a great cartridge. It is in the same league that cartridges that cost 2-3 times more. It is much better than the Helikon for less money.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I tried my JMW10 with outrigger using a Dynvector Cartridge and it wobbled like crasy playing a 45rpm LP!