Detachable Head shell or Not?


I am in the process to up my game with some phono system tweaking.

I read in these forums of many people here with multiple arms, multiple cartridges and even multiple turntables.  I am guilty of this myself but moderately compared to so many phono hardware diehards here.

All the continued comments on Talea vs. Schroeder vs. Kuzma, Da Vinci, Tri-Planar, etc., etc, on these forums.  And the flavor of the day cartridge.  One easy way to manage the use of many cartridges, easily swapping between them, and getting down to one turntable would be to run with a tonearm that supports removable head shells or arm tubes.  And yet this does not seem to be widely done here.  Is everybody just too proud of all the pretty phono hardware to admire?

Many highly respected arms of the past, FR 64/66, Ikeda, and now Glanz, Kuzma 4-Point, the new Tru-Glider, all with removable heads.  And the Graham and Da Vinci with removable arm tubes.  These products have a huge fan base and yet there seems to be an equal number of those against any extra mechanical couplings and cable junction boxes, din connections, etc.

I can appreciate having two cartridges, one to bring out that addictive lush bloomy performance and another that shows off that clarity and detail “to die for”.  Being able to easily swap between the two, with hopefully only a quick VTF/VTA change, would be mighty nice.  If too painful a process, I can understand the need for two arms here;  like the idea of going through many LPs in an evening and not being obsessed with tweaking the arm for each.  I hope I never get obsessed to do get to that point.  But for different days/nights, to listen to different kinds of music, it could be mighty nice to swap out one cartridge for another in different head shells without the added cluster and cost of oh please, not another tonearm!.  Do a minute or two of tweaking, ONCE, for that listening session, and then enjoy.  There is always the added risk during the uninstall / install process to damage that prized cartridge.

Is running with a tonearm that has a detachable head shell all that sinful / shameful in the audiophile world ……. or not?  I’d like to hear from those who have achieved musical bliss with removable head shell arms and also from those that if asked to try such a product would likely say, “over my dead body”!

John

jafox

Almost every tonearm I own has detachable headshells. I don't give them a second thought. Quality arms and quality headshells are not going to mess up the sound, if it has a good rigid connector and the pins are making contact properly. I don't buy into the BS that every connector causes degradation. Any idea how many connectors in a commercial airliner? Probably thousands.

Fixed headshell tonearms are a royal PIA to deal with.

That said, two tonearms really isn't a bad way to go.

 

BillWojo

One major benefit from having a detachable headshell or arm tube is the ability to remove the cartridge for thorough stylus cleaning.

During Covid lockdowns I used the time to go through all my cartridges and clean them thoroughly. What I realised is that unless you can remove the cartridge to put the stylus tip in good light ( led plus natural ) under a 30 times Lupe - you cannot see the stylus clearly enough to clean it thoroughly.

 

I am a big fan of a single TT with 2 arms, essentially favorite stereo cartridge and a mono cartridge. switch without any hesitation back and forth in a listening session.

I added a 3rd, to avoid needless wear on my MC, thus favorite MC Stereo; Favorite MM Stereo; Mono.

Single Arm, 3 headshells ready to go: if is isn't easy, particularly easy/fast arm height as cartridges are different heights, reluctance increases.

 

I'm a sinner and could not care less. Seven loaded headshells here.

Twenty loaded headshells here!

For very low output cartridges, there is a good argument to be made for eliminating the headshell, because it adds up to two pairs of physical contacts in the signal path. So two of my tonearms one is a Reed and the other is a Triplanar have non-detachable headshells. Those two also have continuous wiring from the cartridge all the way to the photo stage. The result is that I seldom change the cartridges in those tonearms. But I have three other tonearms up and running and they all have detachable headshells. I cannot really say I hear a problem, but it makes the anal side of being an audiophile happy when you’re using a non-detachable headshell. I agree with everyone else that you can’t beat the convenience of a detachable headshell , at the same time. Right now my lowest output cartridge, the Ortofon MC 2000, is riding in a Dynavector tonearm with a detachable headshell. I don’t feel deprived of the nuances of its output. But who knows?

One caveat: not all headshells fit perfectly to all arm wands. Be careful that full electrical contact is made and that the connection is physically tight.

I think it depends on how effective one is at setting up a cartridge. Comparing cartridges is best done with two arms so you can AB the cartridges playing the same record. As Lew suggests theoretically the best arm with have no unnecessary connections and joints. If you have to have a removable head shell I think the Kuzma system is the best and you can order the arm direct wired. Schroder's cartridge "plate" can be easily indexed so the cartridge can be positioned correctly without having to pull out a jig. I do not like head shells ala SME. There is always some laxity at the connection affecting azimuth. Is there an audible difference? I sort of doubt it, but I won't use an SME style head shell under any circumstance. As far as switching cartridges for different music goes, I find that I always use the cartridge I like best for all music excepting 78's. IMHO the money spent on multiple cartridges is better spent elsewhere. 

I have a tonearm with a detachable headshell and a number of cartridges mounted in headshells.

I would not want a tonearm with a fixed headshell.

It really depends on what you want to do. If you don't ever plan to change a cartridge, except to replace when worn out it doesn't matter. If you like to listen to a number of different cartridges you want a detachable headshell tonearm.

Both of my main turntables have detachable headshells - a Technics SL 1200 MK2 and a Sota Sapphire with a Jelco 750D.  I have a number of cartridges and like being able to change things up.  If you are happy with just one cartridge, then a fixed headshell may be the way to go. 

I tend to look at things like this from a practical standpoint rather than getting into the minutiae of whether those "extra contact points" are going to degrade the sound or not.  Both of my tables sound great.  I've heard better of course, but I'm happy with what I have and how they function in my system with the other gear (cartridges) that I own.

Thank you everyone here for sharing their positive experience, convenience and happiness with removable head shell arms.

One other thing - tonearm cables.  Many years ago I tried several tonearm cables and have been using the Stealth Hyperphono for over a decade.  A couple others were good and less cost, most notably the Silver Audio Silver Breeze, but the Hyperphono made me aware of what I had been missing; the differences were not subtle. From the many cable evaluations I have done over the years, I have found the tonearm cable to be the second most senstive cable in the system after the line stage to amp IC.

I see many arms today with cabling all the way from cartridge clips to the RCA/XLR connectors.  If I was to order a new arm, I would want to talk to the dealer and/or designer about termination to a 5-pin DIN to allow for the use of the Hyperphono. 

Over a year ago, I had such a communication with a tonearm manufacturer.  He was certain that his Cardas cable all the way from pins to RCA's was the way to go but he did offer the DIN option if I wanted it.  I appreciate that kind of customer service.  I have no doubt that the Hyperphono would outperform the Cardas even with the DIN in the loop.  The pandemic delayed that tonearm purchase but I still see this product as second arm option.  It also supports removable head shells.  However, his arm design only deals with the head shell's mechanical coupling; the wiring is still from the pins to the RCA's.

Again, thank you all for the input here.

John

John,

The correct answer to your question requires that you first know yourself.  A person whose priority is collecting records first and being an audiophile second is likely to prefer detachable headshells.  Conversely a person who is principally concerned with getting the utmost performance from their cartridge is going to lean the other way.  There is a difference in sound quality.  I use both depending on the record being played.  Audiophile records are best served on my VPI HW40 with SoundSmith Experion.  All others work just fine on my SL1200 GAE used with a variety of cartridges, often mono..

There’s no question that it is much more practical to have a tonearm with a detachable head shell. There is also no question in my mind that, everything else being equal, having a fixed head shell has sonic advantages. Whether those sonic advantages are significant enough to justify giving up the practical advantages of detachable head shells is a personal call. Since it is practically impossible to compare both approaches in a situation where everything else is equal, the reason that I feel there are sonic advantages to fixed head shells is the following:

Years ago, when I had more time on my hands and was more obsessive about this hobby I spent quite a bit of time with a soldering iron modifying my components. As crazy as it sounds even to me today, at one point I actually had my entire system (with the exception of cartridge pins and power cords at the wall outlets) hard wired. Not a single connector on any of the cables, low level or high, in sight. Straight shot of tonearm wire from cartridge clips to preamp where it was soldered to the phono section’s circuit board. Interconnects to amplifier and speaker cables at both ends were, likewise, hardwired. My point in bringing this up is that every time that I eliminated a connector or some kind from the signal path there was an audible improvement in sound So, for me, it would defy logic to think that the elimination of the additional contact points introduced by a head shell would not result in a sonic improvement; especially considering a cartridge’s very low level,signal. Again, whether the improvement in sound is worth the hassle and inconvenience is a personal call; but the improvement was real.

However, this is really all academic since a superior arm design with a detachable head shell will be superior to a lesser design with a non-detachable head shell.  I am not aware of any arm that comes both ways, detachable and non-detachable.

 

Too many typos.  Too many solder flux fumes?  😱

I have a custom built tonearm, that is a complete reworking of a known brands model.

This arm has a SME type detachable headshell and during my discussions over a few years with the arms engineer who has carried out the modifications, the design weakness has always been the Detachable Headshell, but the convenience and ease of use has been the reason to maintain it.

Very recently the arm engineer has produced a upgrade detachable Headshell for the arm, that has a much improved coupling to the Wand.

Shortly before the Festive Season, I was given a demonstration of the Original vs New Design, and the difference in improvement was not subtle, it was the cherry on the cake, for the modifications.

Just a slight rethink of the mechanics of the interface and coupling method has brought about very noticeable improvements, with similar levels of convenience maintained for the exchanges if needed.  

A nice orderly sane discussion :-) i have fixed but …..my wandering eye is on a TT with two arms…single shot and a gattling gun…

@frogman, ))))) I even totally rewired a Conrad Johnson preamp putting it in a new chassis with all silver wire. There was only a volume control. I only played records at the time. Sure it sounded better, but I have no way of separating psychology from reality. It was a fun exercise. I no longer do those things because equipment is so expensive and you don't want to remove value. I still insist on a fixed headshell and continuous tone arm wiring clips to RCAs or XLRs. By fixed I mean no SME plug in. I consider Schroder's plate and Kuzma's head shell fixed designs as both are screwed solidly to the tonearm. 

The reality here is that none of really knows what the sonic advantages or disadvantages are as doing that comparison test is difficult at best. So, all we have is theory and some of us are happy ignoring theory for convenience. Which to me means they are not true audiophiles. They might as well get an old Dual changer:)))  

 

+2 to Frogman. The best connector is no connector at all. IME, the worst sounding connectors have been those that are massive and pretentious. If I must use a connector, I use low mass types, like KLE.

mijostin, my most ambitious mod was a complete rebuild of the crossovers (internal and external) and all wiring in a pair of Magnepan MGIIIA’s with high quality and bypassed caps and air core inductor coils; some of the best available at the time. All in an external finished wood box (see through acrylic cover, of course 😊), no fuses and all rewired with Cardas (regret that one) internal hook up wire. Not a single one of those nasty steel connectors that they use (d?); and of course, no socks. I’m sure that all seems like child’s play compared to what some of the esteemed contributors here are capable of, but I was pretty proud of that one. To this day, in many ways the best sound from any of the systems that I have had. In the loft space that they lived in the soundstage was simply phenomenal; huge, well proportioned with great sense of depth. Incredibly, well defined bass down to about 28 hertz, as measured. For orchestral music, I have heard few that got it so close to right. Miss those speakers.

There are endless variations of what it means to be an audiophile, I am quite confident through my time around forums, today it is most commonly associated with how much of an investment that one is willing to make into the equipment.

The P***ing Match of my choice for a system being much more superior than others choices is a common thread woven into the fabric of a heated discussion.

To be a 'true audiophile' is quite simple to achieve as per the basic general description seen today, the transition is achieved when a genuine interest/curiosity develops into and expression, where there is a noticeable enthusiasm to create recorded music replays through an assembly of electronic devices. From my end any one who gains this mind set is a likeminded compadre and will in my world qualify for the wearing the label of being an 'audiophile'. 

The correct answer to your question requires that you first know yourself.

Very true. I am fussing around a lot less with system tweaking these days. After a tonearm/cartridge update in a week or so, I just want to put a record on the player and enjoy. Looking to soon change my Audiophile status to Relaxed Retiree.

 

Looking to soon change my Audiophile status to Relaxed Retiree.

Welcome to the club! 

Me too.  Have always disliked the label “audiophile” ‘though.  “Enthusiast” works much better for me…..soon to be (more) “relaxed” 😊

@pindac love it and agree. Mostly lost in the music, the journey of discovery and the endless hours of joy. Hard to believe that as a semi relaxed pension drawing retiree, they “

pay me “ to listen to tunes and solder this and that…

carry on in good health !

jim

I'm not done yet, but I know where I'm going and should be there by this time next year. I only have to spend another 64K by my calculation minus any discounts I manage to get. First I'm going to get another motorcycle. My testosterone levels need a little stroking and I need to position my wife for the up coming Corvette ZR 1 which unknown to her I've put in a reservation. You know how it goes. "If I get the Corvette I'll sell the motorcycle." In her eyes that will be a fabulous deal, a 150 HP motorcycle for an 800 HP flat plane crank turbocharged monster. Go figure. 

@mijostyn 

If you get an older Corvette - you know the ones that handle like a tractor - you'll get substantially more testosterone buzz for less money.

But I like your negotiation technique - I always advise my audio buddies to pick the biggest ugliest speaker they can find to show the partner. Anything after that will be an easy sell.

Bicycles are great for enhancing free testosterone.

Hoorah!!,   a Thread where Compadre's Reveal their discovery that the Audible Satisfaction, where the intentionally produced sound entering the ear and creating sensory perceptions that delights is the most satisfying place to find rest as an enthusiast.

I think I can safely say, most individuals most enjoyable and memorable encounters with replays of recorded music, was experienced on equipment they did not own, and possibly never considered owning. It has been these introductions to devices and systems that has been instrumental in creating a enthusiasm and pursuit of very similar or matching replay standards.  

A little bit similar to my other enthusiasm, like when in Photography,                    the 'Being Their', and Capturing the Image, supersedes all the previous talk about the importance of the equipment being used, the Mobile Phone Camera Functions have seemingly destroyed that very old interpretation of how to be a good photographer, as there are stunning images to be seen taken on a Mobile Phone, solely as a result of the 'Being Their' moment.

A moment with Music, either as a recorded Replay or Live Performance and a moment with an Image, either Captured by oneself, or Captured by another, are both capable of putting a broad smile on a face.

The equipment will not even be considered at such a time, it does not stimulate the sensory perception, the equipment is merely a 'means to an end' and in many many cases over rated as a result of the endless subjective scrutiny of the devices capabilities and publicly made claims from obsessional type mind sets, that usually end up in another P***ing Match. 

Oh, how that wheel keeps on turning.      

When you see and feel how precise and thoughtful the connection on most removable headshell systems is, you will not give it a second thought.

Removable headahells allow you to zero in on the perfect mass for a given cartridge as well.

I have magnesium, aluminum, boxwood and cherry wood headahells.

Each work with the mass of its respective cartridge.

And yes, as mentioned, you can clean, inspect and change cartridges much easier with a removable system.

 

 

 

 

Mijo, are you thinking of the Z06 Corvette? Or is there really a plan for another ZR1? My friend and I have reserved a Z06, 50-50. But I want a Ferrari. Pre-owned is ok. 

As much as I like to talk about tonearms and head shells, I feel no hesitation to share that I strictly rely on a Toyo 45 A 4X5 field camera for my photographic endeavors. A Pentax Zone 5 or 6 spot meter is an absolute must. My two lenses are; Schneider 75 mm and Schneider 210 mm. Anybody got a Singh-Ray 65mm Polarizing LB Color Combo Filter they wanna sell?

Additionally, I’ve been hoping to replace the Thorens TP 16 tonearm on a Franken - Thorens TD 145. My thought was to get a respectable but affordable arm with a fixed head shell that would match up nicely with the EMT mono cartridge. I believe the EMT is a low output cartridge. I have no plans of changing the EMT before the stylus needs replacing.

Detachable is fine. Easy to try & change cartridges.

As long as you use a 'decent' enough arm, noone here, absolutely noone, will be able to tell the difference in the sonics between a detachable & non detachable headshell.

 

@lewm I’m contemplating having my FR-66s wired from cart clips to phono stage by Richard Mak. Thoughts?

@dover ,)))) It works! When my wife met me I had Tympany IIIs. She thinks the Sound Labs are great looking. 

@lewm , as I am pissed at Porsche (long story) I vowed to change brands and was leaning towards McLaren until Corvette went mid engine. I did not like the looks of the Stingray, too boxy. But, when the blew out the fenders for the ZO6 the car became much better looking plus now they have an engine with character. Still no manual though. There are three more models to come. The ZR1 will be a Turbocharged ZO6 with a less track oriented suspension for high speed GT work. It is rumored to have 850HP. Then the Grand Sport which will be a Sting Ray with electric motors on both front wheels and finally the Zora (Zora Arkus-Duntov) which will be a ZR1 with electric front drive, think Porsche 918. That will be a sub 2 second car with a 1/4 in the 9s. The Sting Ray and ZO6 will soldier on. A track car must be rear wheel drive only. My suspicion is that properly optioned a ZR1 will outrun the ZO6 on track. I have a reservation on the ZR1. I like that wave of torque you get from turbo engines. The ZO6 is also a pretty noisy car. The ZR1 will be a bit quieter. Give me that, a Ford Lightening F150 and a couple of Ducati's and I will be set for life.

@au_lait , as long as you are using a low compliance cartridge, go for it. Will it sound better? Not one of us can tell you, but it will feel better and is a lot more reasonable than a lot of other rather silly tweaks. 

This is something I do not understand. We are audiophiles. I should think we like tinkering with our tables. I have no problems changing cartridges on a fixed head shell design. Once I have set them up the first time the cartridges are indexed with marks so I can put them in the exact same position without pulling out a jig. It takes not even ten minutes to change cartridges. One BIG help is a locking tonearm rest. It is a terrible hassle and very dangerous to be chasing floating tonearms with a $10K cartridge. Many arms come with them but many do not such as my Schroder which has no rest at all. Frank thinks they resonate. It is a simple matter to mount one on the plinth.  

Aulait, my ears tell me there is a benefit associated with a direct wire connection. Is it night and day, and can I measure it? No. As to Richard Mak; I don’t know who he is. Difference I hear is for low output cartridges only. I don’t know why Mijo mentioned compliance. As to removable headshells I think one must pay close attention to the fit between headshell and arm wand, as previously mentioned. Best to use the headshell made for the arm, but there is some cross-compatibility. Ortofon headshells are particularly well made and tend to fit well. Yamamoto and Oyaide too.

The Yamamoto HS-4 is a fantastic headshell

Back in the old days (1970's), this was discussed quite a bit.  I believe that the consensus was that the lower mass of a fixed head shell offered the best reproduction.  However, they are difficult to work with, as many have noted, and back then, with Supex, Satin, Decca, AT, etc., there were only a few cartridges to choose from. 

Today, with so many more, I believe I might go for a removable one.  I would guess that there are nice matches for each arm/head shell combo from cartridge makers today that rival some fixed combos, but the two-tone-arm solution may be the one that works best IF you can convince TT people that the extra tone arm and cartridge do not "interfere" with the TT's ability to be as neutral as possible.

Fun times!

Agree with Lew. Along the same lines as the fixed vs detachable headshell question, if the quality of the wire used to rewire in a continuous run is not at least equal to that of what the arm is presently wired with, as well as that of the cable connecting the arm to the preamp, then the net improvement after rewiring will be lessened; possibly rendered irrelevant. A vote, once again, for the AudioNote silver wire.

Btw, something that doesn’t get mentioned in this “debate”. We all have favorite cabling for our systems. Imagine if one were to decide that our preamp needed to be moved to a different location and instead of the 1 meter tonearm interconnect cable with DIN plug currently used, we would now need 1.5 meter of tonearm interconnect cable.. Does it make sense to, instead of buying a 1.5 meter length of the currently used tonearm interconnect cable, to patch our current one meter cable to a different brand, or model, .5 interconnect? To my way of thinking, that is essentially what happens when not using a continuous run to preamp tonearm wire.

if the quality of the wire used to rewire in a continuous run is not at least equal to that of what the arm is presently wired with, as well as that of the cable connecting the arm to the preamp, then the net improvement after rewiring will be lessened; possibly rendered irrelevant.

Similar thought when I asked a tonearm vendor if they can put a DIN at the arm's output as I was not all that excited with their cable choice all the way to the preamp.  A vote here for the Stealth Hyperphono.

Imagine if one were to decide that our preamp needed to be moved to a different location and instead of the 1 meter tonearm interconnect cable with DIN plug currently used, we would now need 1.5 meter of tonearm interconnect cable.

If I imagine the 1.5m need in the future, I will purchase a tonearm cable of 1.5m at time of purchase.  The last few tonearms I owned with attached cables all came in 1.5m length.  A 1.5m length over 1m is indeed preferred to provide more spacing between components.  Years ago I got a great deal on a 1m Stealth and I have always managed to work things out with this detachable tonearm cable.  The performance benefit here easily outweighs the fewer options I had in TT placement. 

When I set up a system, placement of the TT comes first, then preamp or phono to accommodate the tonearm cable length.  The rest of the system layout is easy because of the availability of IC's and PC's with varying lengths.

To my way of thinking, that is essentially what happens when not using a continuous run to preamp tonearm wire.

Makes no sense per my above statements as tonearm cables are not only available at 1m lengths.

I do prefer headshell for ease of service instead of just bending underneath tonearm or hassle removing it in certain cases to properly mount cartridge.

Besides, I have a super-luxury swapping headshells with different cartridges at any time I want. I'm Thorens lover and enthusiast so I have 4 Thorens headshells with different cartridges and 2 Thorens decks TD-125 and TD-160 as a back-up or secondary analogue turntable. 

Planning to sell little TD160 and get TD-124 for further Thorensation!

Dear @jafox : " one to bring out that addictive lush bloomy performance and another that shows off that clarity and detail “to die for”. Being able to easily swap between the two, with hopefully only a quick VTF/VTA change, would be mighty nice. "

Well, with all those tubes in your system certainly you are an " addict " to that lush/bloomy performance ( nothing wrong with that because is what fulfill your needs(priorities. ). Cartridges are designed to pick up the signal in the LP groove modulations with minimum added every kind of distortions and obviously inside its market price. A cartridge must be truer to the recording but unfortunatelly the cartridge quality level final performance levels depends of other links in the audio system and the tonearm is mainly the cartridge mate that at the end function as a " tone control ".

Each cartridge performs/sounds different mounted in different tonearm and here is where the removable headshell tonearm designs have a true advantage because when you change/test a cartridge with different headshells you can be sure that you will listen a different " signature " in the reproduced sound even that you are using the same tonearm.

 

Now, if you find out a fixed tonearm design that mates really good with a cartridge that fulfill your targets then go for it. Yes, additional connectors and solder points certainly degrades the cartridge signal but the question could be: how much degradation and if that degradation levels really matters and impedes that we can achieve our targets? Same for IC cables that open a wider choices ofthis critical link because each IC cables has its each sounds " color ".

In audio there is no perfect solutions, every alternative we can have as a choice has its specific trade-offs and it’s up to each one of us to make the better choice for our MUSIC/sound priorities/targets.

 

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

R.

@lewm @mijostyn 

Was planning on using one of my yamamotos and a miyajima cart. TT has 2 arms so the other arm I can keep the DINs and swap headshells whenever. Richard is Analog Magik, only person I’ve found (so far) that offers this service (unless I DIY).

Dear @au_lait  : There are several reasons why your 66 is totally wrong to listen MUSIC and two of those reasons are that's a 12" EL design with a extremely high inertia moment and both of these reasons goes against quality room/system performance levels.

I don't care what you want to make with your 66 at the end is what you like even that you as other 66 owners are wrong with.

 

R.

I was asking @lewm specifically because he has an SP10 with a high mass plinth and a steel FR arm, similar to my set-up. Not really interested in debating how "wrong" my tone-arm is at this stage! But I appreciate your opinion of course.

Jafox, you missed my point entirely. 

I prefer removable arm wands to head shells, (I own arms with both).  Nothing against removable head shell, but removable arm wands simplify greatly cartridge setup.  My ET2.5, all I need to do is set the tracking force.  With my VPI JMW, all I have to do is check the tracking force.  Both keep azimuth, zenith, and vta right where I left them.  The Magnepan Unitrack 1 I have I need to set azimuth, vta and tracking weight.

frogman - I indeed understood your comment to rewire the entire cable from clips to RCA's with the same wire as before but this time with no intermittent connections.  We would suspect an "improvement"  here.  But hearing this would be tough to confirm as we are depending on aural memory from before the change that was hours or days ago.   Only when two of the same tonearms, with removeable headshells,  were installed on one TT, one with a DIN inserted and the other the wire with no breaks.  The arms are setup for the one cartridge.  Swapping the cartridge between the two arms would then possibly allow for quantifiable differences to be identied.  My suspicions are that the differences would be minimal, very minimal.  And then take the experiment one level further and drop in a tonearm cable like the Stealth or Transparent Opus, and put this on the arm with the DIN connection.  Here, I suspect the difference could be significant.

Jafox, you’re replacing one conjecture with which you don’t agree with another conjecture that suits you. By the way shouldn’t the comparison be between tonearm A that has a permanent headshell, where the wiring runs all the way from cartridge pins to phono input jacks, vs tonearm B that has a removable headshell and a DIN output connected to a tonearm cable that has a female DIN at one end and RCA or XLR at the other? In this example, tonearm B in set up B would have 3 sets of physical connections in the signal path that are not present for tonearm A.

by any seat of the pants reasoning, it would be hard for me to believe that tonearm B would sound better than tonearm A with the same cartridge. But it is quite possible that there would be no audible difference, especially for a medium to high output cartridge.

Lewm - It’s not about any conjecture suiting me or not. And I did not disagree or agree on anything. I noted suspicions, based on cable differences I have heard, and that was it. The only variable in the comparison would be whether there is a DIN connection or not. Only when both arms are the same can such a test be made, to DIN or not to DIN.

One tonearm I have under consideration has a removable headshell. One appealing factor of this product is that the headshell connection is only a mechanical coupling.....the electrical connections are not made through the headshell as the wires come through the arm tube and directly to the cartridge; the only potential wire break here would thus be a DIN or some kind of RCA junction box if the customer wanted that.

The to-DIN-or-not hardware difference is what needs to be quantifed. Then compare that with a follow-on test between the arm with the stock DIN’d cable vs. my DIN cable. As stated before, my "suspicions" would be that the cable difference would more dramatic than the to-DIN-or-not case.

The problem with this discussion is that it’s often comparing apples and oranges. For a level playing field you’d need a comparison with one cartridge in the same arm with and without the option of detachable headshell. Like the SME 3009, which was originally available with both options. I never owned these, but I’ve made a comparison that could be regarded as sort of ‘next best’. I own an Audiocraft AC-4400, which has the option of interchangeable armpipes. There are various straight armpipes with fixed headshell as well as an S-type armpipe with SME bayonet to accommodate detachable headshells.
So just for the hell of it I made a comparison with one specific cartridge mounted in the straight armpipe as well as in a headshell connected to the S-type armpipe. Of course everything else remained unchanged, from the tonearm cable all the way to the loudspeakers.

I used a Sato Musen Zen Diamond cartridge as Guinea pig. The choice is purely coincidental, but it’s a suitably revealing albeit old MC cartridge (based on the Victor MC-L1000 direct couple but with diamond cantilever). I used the Audiocraft AS-4PL headshell to keep the comparison as ‘level’ as possible.

It may well be my aging ears, but as much as I tried I was unable to detect a discernible audible difference between both options. Direct switching was impossible because I obviously needed some time to chance over the cartridge between both armpipe/ headshell arrangements. To some folks this will likely invalidate the experiment, but nonetheless I would not make too much of a thing about this issue. If it’s flexibility you want, choose a high quality tonearm with detachable headshell option and don’t loose any sleep over it.

Contrary to Raul’s opinion I think very highly of the FR-64/66fx tonearm, but would strongly advise against having it converted to continuous wiring. If anything the very considerable market value of the 66fx will drop like a brick. Changing the internal wiring to silver could make sense though. Depending on the quality of the original wiring there can be an audible sonic benefit and it won’t have a negative impact on the market value.