best value current production tonearm

I don't want to mess with vintage arms.
As a second arm to my Steve dobbins garrard 301 (the 1st one is ortofon rs-309d) i'm looking for a great value current production (or last years production) arm with adjustable vta and preferably with detachable head shell at a budget of up to $2-2.5k new or used.
thanks in advance to all repliers.
Trans-fi terminator, just a ridiculous value.
The Jelco SA750D, E and L are a fantastic value. VTA is adjustable although
not on the fly. Your Ortofon tonearm is manufactured by Jelco btw.

Good Listening

I always look at the transfi and then think to myself that with my "2 left hands" I will probably get stuck in the middle trying to mount it.
It looks soooo difficult to handle...
I agree with Pbnaudio. The Jelco SA-750 arms (you pick the length) are hands down best buys, best bang for the buck.
Or the Rega if you are ok with a fixed headshell
I might beg to differ with your opinion Pani. Doesn't make us enemies, just different opinions (and probably different experiences).

IMO, Rega isn't anywhere near the same league as a Jelco SA-750. The best Rega, even modified, isn't there.

IMO, the Rega is a cult arm for tweakers that are promised great performance that is never attained. Just one upgrade after another. But you can't make a silk purse....

I have used a Jelco SA-750D on a modified VPI TNT and it is very good.
There is a machinist/engineer in England whose tonearm business is named Audiomods. He buys the excellent arm tube from Rega and substantially improves it by installing three internal braces (to stiffen it and rid the arm of it's low-frequency resonance) and drilling holes in it (sounds weird, but read about it on the website). He wires the arm with either Cardas copper or silver litz (depending on model), running the wire all the way from the cartridge tags to male RCA plugs on the ends of the external cable, with no breaks or solder joints in between, THE way to do it. Other than the Rega arm tube, all the parts (bearing housing, main pillar, counterweight, anti-skate, etc.) are hand machined by Jeff himself. The mass of the counterweight is adjustable (provided thin discs of lead and brass can be added or removed from it, like the counterweight of the classic Zeta arm, though the discs in the Zeta were steel, I believe. Lead---mass and damping. What a great idea!) to give the arm the appropriate effective mass for your cartridges compliance characteristics. Jeff will even add mass inside the front of the arm tube if your cartridge is lightweight but has low compliance! He has a lot of very satisfied customers, some with very high standards (and expenditures!) in gear. The most expensive version of his arm is priced at 799 pounds, about $1255 at the moment. Jeff sells direct to the consumer, so no dealer mark-up. Each arm is made to order, so you can get exactly what you want. The arm performs way above it's price point. There are reviews from U.K. and U.S.A. mags available to read on the Audiomods website, as well as testimonials from customers. Definitely worth checking out!
Oh, and for 799 pounds you get on-the-fly SRA/VTA adjustment via a built-in precision micrometer!
Trans-Fi is all over it. It's much simpler to set-up than a pivot arm if you can adjudge a right angle.
Super easy set up on the TransFI. I helped someone set one up on a refurbed Technics SP10 MKII with one of those crazy nice wooden plinths.

It took less than an hour. Much less time then mounting a new cartridge on a "normal" tonearm.

I love VPI Classic, but I've seriously considered buying the TransFi Savlation, it's just so freaking simple, and that arm is fantastic.

Your description sounds a lot like the Michell Techno Tonearm

Techno Arm

Had one of these some years back and it was a great sounding arm. However best value in a current build is most defiantly the Jelco offerings.

Jelco Tonearm

Good Listening

The Trans-fi arm looks intriguing if you are a masochistic tinkerer who can't help tinkering all the time - like me. My first 'Big Boy' turntable was a vacuum-platter SOTA with an ET2 arm. It drove me nuts for several years until I traded the SOTA in on a new TNT that I bought with a rock-solid TNT stand. The TNT/ET2 combo was made in Heaven for many years. I got so I could level the arm by turning the knobs over the TNT feet and never needed a level.

I have nice VPI table now with a very nice arm - the JMW 10.5i. It goes for months without needing any adjustment - except for on-the-fly VTA, but I really miss the stunning improvements an air bearing arm brings to the game and would like to look into the feasibility of mating it to my existing SSM, particularly in the Z axis (height re. the platter top). Their web-site is a fright. I can't find any American distributors. I would also like to know the air pressure specs so that I can put something together in the good ol' USA instead of paying a fortune to ship theirs.

Any help finding out more about this arm would be appreciated.
The Jelco 750 Series are indeed a huge bang for the buck-I own a 750D.

Replacing the stock Jelco mounting base should be mandatory, however, for anyone running any kind of more exotic stylus profile like line contacts or microridge. The stock base just has too much slop in it which allows the arm to tilt over and wreaks havoc with proper azimuth adjustment.

Both TTWeights in North America and Ammonite Acoustics in the UK manufacture an aftermarket base which eliminates this problem. For around $100 the Ammonite base is a no brainer in my experience.

Pricing on the TTWeights base is not as clear to me-it looks like you can purchase a base unit separately or that unit with VTA on the fly. Not really sure but I would expect it to offer a similar advantage to the Ammonite base which I can attest to working very well.
I haven't used one myself, but, there has been some good press about the 12" Thomas Schick tonearm. I believe it accomodates the detachable SPU headshell like your Ortofon arm.

By the way, your Ortofon arm is a terrific arm.

The custom variable in a Trans-Fi order is the thickness of the delrin or brass pedestal that supports the aluminum arm base. The bottom of the arm base should be about 14mm below the surface of the platter or record mat. Thus the pedestal height should be specified as the distance from your TT armboard to the platter or mat surface minus about 14mm. This will ensure that for a cartridge of typical height, level VTA is obtained toward the middle of arm's range of VTA adjustment. Vic at Trans-Fi usually equips his standard delrin pedestal with a long bolt straight down the center of the pedestal which bolts to the tonearm base at the top and clamps to the underside of the armboard at the bottom. I had him make(and later fashioned for myself in brass) a two-stud version with a separate eccentric stud on top that swings in an arc to allow fine adjustment of the distance between the air manifold and the record spindle.

I use a Rena 400 aquarium pump with a 1 gallon plastic gas can in line to smooth pulsing. There are photos on his web site showing the DIY pump set-up.
Mcbuddah, nothing masochistic about the Terminator arm at all. I thought it straightforward and simple to manipulate.

While I am handier than most, I'm not a tinkerer or engineer, so it wasn't that difficult. My friend with one has not touched it in the 2 years since we initially installed it, and it still sounds fantastic.
Actually Peter, the Mitchell Techno Arm and the Audiomods Arm are quite dissimilar, sharing only one common denominator, and that one tenuous---a Rega arm tube. For anyone serious about investigating what I and quite a few other Vinyl Engine Forum members consider the best current value in a tone arm, details of it's design and manufacture are available on the Audiomods website. I don't understand how anyone not even aware of it's existence, let alone it's design and execution, can believe they know of an arm superior to it for the money. Alas, a sign of the times. For he needing a little prompting to get over to the Audiomods site, consider these facts:

The Mitchell Techno Arm is a slightly modified Rega, nothing more, nothing less. Mitchell buys a complete OEM Rega arm, and does the following to the arm tube ONLY: Removes the black paint, scores the bottom of the tube with large, shallow circles (which do NOT go all the way through the arm tube, but are on the surface only---they are not holes drilled into the tube), lines the tube with foam, rewires the arm, and replaces the stock counterweight and cw stub with their own excellent ones. You will notice that these modifications, the only changes Mitchell makes to the stock complete Rega arm, are all to the arm tube only, the rest of the Techno Arm remaining exactly as it was received from Rega---identical, in fact, to a stock Rega. The bearing assembly, the bearings themselves, the main pillar, the anti-skate, the plastic assembly for the arm rest, the plastic cueing platform, etc. The one other thing Mitchell does is provide an arm mount that is installed on the turntables armboard, into which the arm's stock main pillar is then dropped down into, affording height adjustment of the arm, the lack of which is a major complaint against the Rega arms. To accommodate the diameter of the pillar, the mount is slightly larger than it, requiring a correspondingly larger mounting hole than a stock Rega. The Techno Arm is therefore not a drop-in replacement for a Rega.

In stark contrast, the Audiomods Tone Arm contains only two parts (not whole arms) they buy from Rega: the 303 arm tube (the improved version of the Rega tube), which is heavily modified---read on, and the cueing lever. And that's it. Every other part, let me repeat that---EVERY other part of The Audiomods Tone Arm is hand machined out of solid blocks of billet aluminum by the owner/designer of the company, he a machinist by trade. In his machine shop he does the following to the Rega 303 arm tube:

- Bead blasts it to form an anti-resonance "skin" on it's outer surface, resulting a matt finish. A polished finish is also available.
- Installs disc-shaped internal braces at three locations along it's length, stiffening the tube and reducing it's low-frequency resonance.
- Drills small holes completely through the tube's wall in a double helix pattern, thereby reducing the arm's mass, and again lowering it's resonance by opening it's internal cavity, without decreasing the tube's stiffness.
- Rewires with either Cardas copper, or silver, your choice. Complete cartridge tags-to-male RCA plug looms are offered, as well as DIN terminated internal-only wiring.
- Machines a new counterweight stub and adjustable-mass counterweight, the counterweight featuring removable discs of brass and lead to allow tailoring the arm's effective mass to the compliance of any cartridge. For use with a very low-mass cartridge of low-compliance, Jeff will install mass at the front of the inside of the arm tube. Amazing!

The above is only what Jeff does to the arm tube! He also hand machines the following out of billet aluminum:

- An original design horizontal bearing assembly (into which he installs ceramic bearings of much higher specification that those in even the most expensive Rega)
- A bridged arm yoke
- The main pillar
- A mount with the same outer diameter as the stock Rega main pillar, making the arm a drop-in replacement for Rega's. The mount allows arm height/VTA/SRA adjustment with a finger lock.
- An arm rest
- A cueing platform
- An anti-skate assembly of the thread and weight variety
- Every other little part I haven't remembered or just mentioned!

All right, how much would YOU pay for a completely hand-machined (except for the arm tube and cueing lever) tone arm of such excellent design? How does 625 British Pounds sound to you? That's the price of the Audiomods Series 5 Tone Arm wired with Cardas copper! Not expensive enough for you? How about 675 Pounds for the same arm wired with silver? Still not enough? For an extra 120 Pounds Jeff will install his Micrometer with precision calibration, allowing on-the-fly adjustment of VTA/SRA. On the other hand, if you need a lesser priced arm, there is the Audiomods Claasic at 455 Pounds. If the Audiomods Tone Arms at these prices isn't the best value in currently available tone arms, I have no idea what ya'll are looking for in an arm.

Thomas Schick "12 is great value if you like to use low compliance cartridges.
Thanks for the info about the arm customization. I can measure the depth pretty closely with an old dial calipers. don't know the machining dimensions under the arm board as I bought the table used with the JMW 10.5i base securely mounted. It's a factory stock VPI Super Scoutmaster plinth mounted with the 4" square board.

I am starting to yearn for this arm to play with to replace the 10.5i, but the system sounds so good these days that I hate to screw it up. I think the SSM Rerefence (belt-drive) could be an ideal platform for a floating arm. I loved my ET2 for 15 years despite the fact that both tables during that time - a SOTA and original TNT - were suspended on springs. Because the machining quality of the ET bearing was so high, the friction along the manifold was near zero and the carriage had such high mass, it was almost impossible to stay perfectly level along its path. This brought out the OC part of me that relentlessly fixes everything I know isn't right about my system. I think 15 years' experience with an ET2 in the worst of platforms qualifies me to put this little guy in place of the VPI arm. I need to assure myself that the swap won't prevent me from going back to the JMW if that's where the results lead.
Check out the SME 309 or the less expensive M2-9. They are both medium mass ( 9.5 grams) and work great with a whole range of cartridges. BTW,I have the 309 and it betters the many arms that I have owned before.
Don't do that. Trans-Fi bumped SME IV and Graham 1.5TC from my system. Check out testimonials of the many high-end TT owners on the TF web site. No affiliation.
I might need to try the Trans-fi in my system. I don't use the modded TNT much. That is a decent candidate for a change.

Any outlets in the states?
Bpoletti, Trans-Fi is only sold direct from UK manufacturer. It's not a bad thing, as this disintermediates dealer margin, and Vic provides good sales and tech support via email.
Bpoletti, I would never again run an air bearing arm on a suspended table. If I had to use a TNT, I would get rid of the 4-corner suspension and install some different footers in their place. There are a lot of good candidates on the used market.

The arm would be around $1200 - 1350,including insured UK mail
depending on options. For about fifty bucks more you can get a digital VTA scale. There seems to be a cult of tweakers gathering around this arm and its fans really seem rocked in their enthusiasm for it. I have too many other irons in the fire right now after huge system relocation, new speakers, tubes, cables, rack. I am waiting for a new UberBuss and will soon start screwing around with room tuning and speaker placement. A new tonearm install on top of all that will drive me nuts.

It's a back-burner project for me until I get a handle on all the changes I made already. Maybe next year. But I will probably obsess over it until then. It looks like the manufacturer has been responsive to his customers for years and is continuously evolving the design using their input. They seem to try very hard to make updated technology available as cheaply as possible for their existing customers instead of herding them to buy new models.
McBud - Thanks for the suggestions.

The mods to my [early] TNT include a total scrapping of the old plinth and suspension. The plinth is a small solid acrylic platform that rests on 3 tall cones (that bearing "cup" is pretty long). The original TNT suspension just never was worth the trouble to get it set up. So I went solid. Sits on a bamboo cutting board which is on top of Vibrapods (thanks Sam!). The motor rests on a separate isolated board. Sounds very good with a SA-750D and an OC9/II, but my [original] Aries Extended with a JMW-12 beats it with the same cart.

That's not really a very expensive arm. At least not expensive if it lives up to the comments.

Do you live in the states?
Another vote here for the TransFi arm. I have used it for over five years, first on a Michell Gyro and for the last two years on Vic's Salvation TT. The set-up is different but not at all difficult if you are not a klutz and follow directions. Then again if you are a klutz and don't follow directions you should skip a TT and just buy a CD player. Once properly set-up there is very little adjustment required.
Another vote for the Trans-Fi, I have had once since it's original design, and bought every upgrade since with clear improvements, solid plat form important, good mounting base important (Thanks DG), but once mounted and hooked with air pump, I use the Rena also, I used a 4" pvc tube filled with aquarium filter aith solid caps on each end drilles for fittings, ran 20 foot of hose so pump sits outside of room, it is easy to maintain and sounds utterly transparent, cartridge swaps easy, highly recommended
Yet another vote for Trans-Fi. Vic, the proprietor of Trans-Fi, seemed to be on a mission to improve my system and do whatever was necessary to make it happen. It did.
Jelco 750L hasn't let me down.
I have one. About two years here. Simple. Anyone can make something complex. 
Got the Salvation TT. I can't imagine wanting anything else for spinning vinyl. 

Another vote for the Trans-Fi Terminator!  There are a lot more of us than I thought.  Mine needs a little fiddling with the wiring loom occasionally but that is all to keep it happy.  VTA on the fly, azimuth adjustable (not on the fly) and spare tonearms less than $200.  Just make sure things are level.

Wntrmute2 is right. Make sure that things are level. A carpenter's level is essential, a Starrett machinist's level (8") is better.

That 8" Starrett level is a joy.  Comes with documentation as to accuracy and adjustment if needed in the future.  

I have a question and don't want to bother Vic. What is the range of cartridge compliance that works best with the Terminator/TP3 Pro? 
BTW I can't imagine any TT/tonearm which could be more straight forward as to setup and function. 
I hadn't had a TT for 30 years and went straight to the Trans-Fi. Won't say it's child's play but anyone with a good level could set this thing up.
Dentdog, low low low compliance works. Don't know about high.

The TransFi seems to be made for tweaking, and so may be superior to the alternatives at any price. As you know, the wand is aluminum and has a series of holes along the major axis, which decrease mass. This provision also allows you to set brass weights into those holes, and so increase the mass according to the needs of your current cartridge.

I suspect that I am using the lowest compliance cartridge available (MC). To make it work on the TransFi, I increased the mass of the wand, by adding several brass weights, total 14 grams. Also, brass weights at the pivots helps significantly (don't know if they are standard). YMMD

Good luck!

McBuddah....if you like the 10.5, you'll love the 3D..