Best Tonearm Match for Shelter 901

I remember reading here on Audigon that some of the "best" tonearms (Graham in particular) are not suited for use with the Shelter 901 or 501 cartridge -- for whatever reason.

If anyone has recommendations for what they consider the best tonearm for the Shelter(s), I'd love to know what those arms are and why they would be a good match.

Also, if you could expand on why certain arms may not work well with this cartridge type -- I'd like to learn.

I currently use the Shelter with a Linn Ittok tonearm with what seems like great success, however I am in the process of building a Teres and would like to purchase the best arm possible for that table.
I have used RB600, SME 309, SME IV, SME V, and ET-2 arms with my Shelter 901. I have had real good success with SME arms and ET-2 arm(did not care for RB600 much). I wouldn't say it would be best since I have not tried other arms but SME and ET-2 arms work well(SME on Michell Gyro/Orbe and SME and ET-2 on VPI) with Shelter 901. But this does not mean that they will also work well on Teres. One thing that I have been finding out with Shelter 901 is that you need tone arm that will give you full/easy adjustment on VTA/VTF.
Hi Bwhite. I am the one that is espousing the opinions about the unipivots not being ideal with the Shelter.

It is not a matter of whether they will work, but how well. I'm sure that there are many unipivot owners out there using low compliance cartridges, and my aim is not to irritate them, but to mention some important points.

First, out of the many unipivots out there, the Graham is probably the most likely to work better with a lower compliance cartridge. It has outrigger stabilizers which will help alot to stabilize the arm with the low compliance cartridges. Since I first made my statements, I have received many emails from unipivot users who claim good results with the Shelter. I don't argue that point. I'm sure they do sound good. I simply make the distinction between sounding good and ideal. There is a difference, and it is audible. If you make an ideal match, then the combination will give you what you are looking for, and not just "nice". A Shelter in just about any arm will sound real good. It's an awesome cartridge. What we are after, is the exceptional sound it is capable of.

For this, we require a gimbal-bearing arm of high quality and great design. It is more important when compliance is lower, to have a very stable platform for the cartridge to work from. Unipivots are inherently unstable, and are not the best choice for a cartridge that feeds alot of energy back into the arm, like a Shelter. For a Benz or Grado or something like that, unipivots are fine. And they have some characteristics that are very desireable, which is why many people choose them. But for this application, I don't think the unipivot is the arm to choose.

So, now we want to examine the gimbal-bearing arms that may be well suited, and there are quite a number of them. I personally have chosen an Origin Live Silver arm at $790. It performs in an outstanding way with the Shelter. It has the medium-high mass needed, and it has great bearings and a very good design all around. Most of the newer SME series will do fine, as will the Linn tonearms, and the Breuer, or Rega upper level, or OL modded Rega arms, also Triplanar. I've certainly left some out, but you get the idea. If you like a linear tracking air-bearing arm, then the ET-2 mentioned above is very nice.

If you want to know what I'd recommend as a first choice, I'd say get the Origin Live Illustrious. I know that the OL arms make a great match with both the Teres TT, and the Shelter cartridges. They provide excellent stability and super detail. They have liquid midrange very much like a unipivot, which provides the musicality that people want when they get a unipivot. But they have the solid bass response which is often lacking in most unipivots. The lateral mass is increased for superior cartridge performance, and have light enough vertical mass for good warp tracking. The resonance behavior is superior, and is very high rigidity. It is generally more musical than the SME, which has more analytical nature. It is less colored than the Linn arms. It has better resonance characteristics than the Rega arms. It has a better lateral mass component than nearly any other arm. For a lower compliance cartridge like the Shelter, the OL arms would be my first choice for top performance in all aspects. It is a distinct possibility that the Illustrious may be the finest pivot arm made at this time. I have the lowest level OL arm( but I did some special TWL mods), and it kicks serious butt with my Shelter on my Teres 245.

Of course, all IMHO.
Hi Twl... I knew it was you who mentioned the Graham not working with the Shelter --- but I just didn't want to mention any names. :)

Thanks for the fantastic reply. It is very much appreciated.

I've looked at the OL Arms and find them to be very interesting however (and this is going to sound lame) they do not appear to have the "adjustment knobs" that other arms (Graham, Linn, SME) have -- or do they? I've been a bit timid to pursue an arm which would require more set up knowledge than I have and the OL (Rega's too) see somewhat spartan in their feature set. Perhaps you can clarify this for me?
I money is not an object check out Shroder Ref
You can order it matched to your Shelter
Twl what is the compliant specs for the cartridges you mention: the benz and grado vs. the shelter? and ZYX's for that matter. Or tell me how to read them. All I could find so far is a 15 for the Benz. I really don't understand what that means.
Brian, the OL Illustrious has a VTA adjustment screw on the base, very similar to your Linn Ittok. The anti-skate bias is set with a weight on a thread, just like the older SME arms used to have. This is very simple, and reliable. No big deal. As far as setting tracking force with a
knob, it is known that setting VTF with the counterweight is the preferred method, and that is how OL does it.

I know some arms have VTA on the fly, and more adjustable this and that. But the bottom line is that any adjustment mechanism also has potential for movement or vibration, and may or may not need alot of changing. Most adjustments are only done once, when you set up the arm. Except for VTA, and I will grant you that some other arms have an easier VTA adjustment mechanism than the OL. But the OL is not really that difficult, and the arm is very good. And all the necessary adjustments are present.

There are other good arms out there, but it's my opinion that the OL Illustrious will beat most or all of them in most any application, especially with a low compliance cartridge. I don't have an Illustrious, I have a Silver, but I'd like to have an Illustrious. The Silver is a pretty damn awesome arm too. Not very fancy looking, but it really delivers in the sound department. The Illustrious is even better, and it looks real cool too. There may be some certain areas that another arm may do slightly better, but none will do all areas combined better than the OL, in my opinion. At least, not in a pivot arm. Of course, this is a matter of opinion, and this happens to be mine. Others may differ.
Jhardy, the term "compliance" relates to the flexibility of the suspension of the particular cartridge. Generally, a number of 12cu or under is considered low compliance. Low compliance means a stiff suspension, and often accompanies a heavier cartridge. Over 12 and under about 25 is medium. And over 25 is high compliance. Actual numerical values of these definitions may vary by some opinions, but these are approximately the values.

Many observe the proper guidelines for arm/cart resonance matching, which would give a combined mass/resonance in the 10Hz-12Hz area. For example, you don't put a lightweight super-high compliance cart on a high mass tonearm. You don't put a heavy super-low compliance cart on a low mass tonearm.

The Shelter cartridges, both the 501 and 901 have a compliance rating of 9cu. This is low compliance. The Benz Glider has a rating of 15cu. That's medium. The ZYX R-100 Fuji also has a rating of 15cu. (Cu is compliance units). The Grado Sonata has a rating of 20cu. Most cartridge compliance ratings are listed on their spec charts.

The Shelters like an arm around 12g effective mass.
Thanks Twl for the response. I apologize for you writing this over again because after I wrote that question, I found a 12/26/02 response from you regarding someones SME 309 vs. JMW 10 vs. Graham 1.5 thread. It was an excellent explanation of the compliance issue for me also.
Twl, you always amaze me with, not only the complete knowledge of vinyl, but the way you communicate it. Up front and honest and in a very non-confrontational manor.
My hat's off to you....

.....Oh by the way....if your ever in town (NYC) I'd love you to come by and check up my Turntable/arm set up!

TWL - thanks for the great response. While it may be the preferred method, I'm still new to this and easily freaked out by things like the "thread and weight" method of setting up the anti-skate bias. Perhaps the only way to overcome that "fear" is to just give it a shot.

When you and I first set up my Linn LP12, I was freaked out then too... but, now after doing it a couple times I find the setup to be a piece of cake.

So since I'm going to try and overcome the tonearm adjustment fear.. what about a Moerch?

On another topic, have you heard about the new Teres with the Cocobolo platter? :)
Bwhite, Moerch is a good arm. It's not one that I would select personally for myself, but you could do alot worse. About the adjustment methods, all you have to do, is adjust it once, and you know how to do it. You just have to get on the bicycle and ride the damn thing!

Yes, I've known about the Cocobolo platter for about 6 months now. I haven't heard it, as I'm still trying to save up for the 255 platter. The word on the Teres forum is that it is better, but there is still some question about the long term stability of the wood, ie. it might shrink, move about, or change shape over time, and depending on conditions. From what I've heard, it is still an experimental thing, but there will be a few for sale, if you want one.
Whoops - I didn't realize (prior to posting) that Moerch is a unipivot design and would fall into the category of "not" being the best option for a low compliance cartridge like the Shelter. I think I'll look elsewhere...

Speaking of elsewhere, I'm also very interested in linear tracking arms (like the Eminent Technology) -- but there again, I have no clue how to set 'em up. :(

DO you have any thoughts on the linear tracking arms?
Brian, linear tracking arms that are of the kind of quality that you would need, are all air bearing types. They have alot of issues with leveling, keeping moisture out of the lines, and the noisy air pump, which usually has to be kept in another room, with the air lines running through the house to get to the pump. They have their strong points, but they are often times more of a pain in the ass than they are worth. If you want to play with pressure valves and gauges, and air lines and pumps, and moisture traps, and level the table every time you play, or risk breaking off your cantilever, then go for it. When they are right, a really good linear tracker can do the job as good as it can be done. They require constant attention.

There is a Moerch that is a dual-pivot. That's what I thought you were referring to. I still think the OL is better.
Eminent Tech. ET2 and ET 2.5 arms are excellent arms.
Yes, they are slightly more involved in setting up but you get rewarded with the result.
As long as you have near by closet or room, you can set the pump outside of the listening room(longer the air tube, better it is). Stock ET pumps are not that noisy either even if you need to keep the pump in the listening room.
Once they are set up, my set up did not need much maintenance unless I move the turntable. Cartridge changing is a breeze due to removable arm tube.
If you can set up your own cartridge, you can set up this arm. When you are looking for one, make sure they are either stock or just have Wisa/Surge tank upgrade. Don't purchase one if they have too many DIY modifications.
I have heard from others that the new Kuzma Reference cartridge is actually a shelter 901 with the Kuzma label. Kuzma must then feel that this cartridge is a match for their arms which have about 12-12.5gr mass.
origin live.