Does anything better Jelco arm ~$1000


Been reading about the Jelco 850L and the other newer models as I look for arm with budget of ~ $1000 (new or used) to go with a Sota Star and Dynavector XX2mkII. Not a ton of user comments, but just about every one I've read (here, VA, vinylengine, and a few smaller boards) all imply thrilled owners and not a one who regrets the purchase. Sound quality performance value for its price is reportedly high and that has been my experience when I've heard the older 750 series and even their lower priced arms. Another arm under consideration is the Audiomods Series V.

My take so far:
Jelco: pro - longstanding reputation for quality, demonstrated by so many OEM arms provided to turntable manufacturers, good fit & finish, compatibility w/many carts of varying compliance, flexibility of changing headshells(including w/azimuth adjustment), high likelihood of parts/service if ever needed, likely decent resale value if I ever choose to go in another direction.
cons: extra electrical connection points @ armtube and headshell, lack of precise repeatable VTA adjustment (although EasyVTA aftermarket product can address this), knife edge bearings theoretically an improvement, but my impression is that in practice they often aren't ideal. 

To use a car analogy is this the Toyota Camry of tonearms? 

The Audiomods Series V:
pros: keeps the best aspect of the new Rega arm and replaces almost everything else with better design and quality parts, precise micrometer VTA adjustment, silver wire one piece loom from pins to plugs
cons: one man company uncertainties on parts/service if ever needed, relatively little user base or resale market, no opportunity to listen before buying,  a bit more costly than the Jelco. 
Hoping it's not a Saab 900; really cool when they were around but at some point a quirky performer from days gone by that might not be a keeper.

So anybody care to chime in on these or others that fit the bill in the same price range? If you're curious, the rest of the system is here: Austin City Within Limits. Cheers,
Spencer 
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Spencer, George Merrill sells the 850L for $895. Batman reports that the 850 blows away the 750.
If you are in the market for 12" arms, look also at the Audio-Creative GrooveMaster II.
Jelco has a knife-edge bearings and it's not for every cartridge. 
My advice is to look for Victor UA-7082 (long version of the mighty UA-7045). It's a beautiful tonearm and within your budget! If you don't really need a "12 then just buy Victor UA-7045 (same arm, but shorter). The best tonearm made by Victor Lab. The short version is under $750 normally. VTA on the fly, superb armlift ... everything in this tonearm is great and it's a pure joy to use it. Goes well with MC and MM carts. 
From what I've read so far, the new Jelco arms are available only in 9" and 12" versions, no 10"/10.5" for those wanting that length.
In my opinion....

Whenever possible, everything else being equal, it seems better to use a 12" arm than shorter ones.

The Jelco SA-750 series arms were very good in their price range when they were released. Since then, other arms have emerged including the new Jelco series of knife edge arms that, by all accounts, outperform the earlier Jelcos.
Agreed. The 750 (550) is outclassed by the 850 and is a no-brainer to outlay the extra cash. I have both and the 850 is better - more spacious, deeper stage, musically more cohesive, colorful, more incisive highs, smoother but with more detail.
I haven’t been able to setup one of new Jelco arms yet, but have done many other models of Jelcos. 

I LOVE my two AudioMod arms, so it would be a toss up for me. Both are VERY good for the money!
I have 2 that might be better--Origin Live Silver III or II even, and the Trans-Fi Terminator. The TFT with all the upgrades is $1275 new so you could get a basic for about $975. The OLS holds its value very well in the used market. So does the TFT used, except try to find a used one on the market. Apparently VERY FEW ever contemplate selling them. I’ve only seen a couple in 10 years of looking everyday at the ads. I have a fully upgraded one that I am going to sell. Any of these arms will sound better than what you’re looking at. I’ve had the OLS II and the TFT, and I know the OLS III will sound quite a bit better than the II. A new OLS III will cost less than $1000. Used, it would be $700-750. The Terminator is a straight line tracking air bearing tonearm. The OLS II & III are more conventional pivoted arms.

Bob
I really like the Victor 7045. I suspect the 12" version of that is great as well. I also run a Polestar (for MC) which I highly suspect is made by Jelco. That is also a great arm but not many around. As Chakster mentions above, the Victor is a VERY high quality arm. 
@dorkwad Isn't the TFT out of production?
@noromance
I wasn’t aware of that, but it is possible. I remember a couple years ago, the TFT maker contacting me and saying something like he was thinking of stopping making them. I didn’t know he actually did this, however. The arms are very good sounding and may come up used, if that's the case.   People still are holding on to these arms at this point.
Thanks for all the comments! Many interesting takes. 
After doing a bit more research today I realize that the Sota a start only can fit a 9" arm. That means the TK-850s & TK-950s and the Audiomods are options, but the 12" "L" versions and other 12" arms are out.
The Transfi is one that isn't for me. A good friend has one and while   it sounds good, I am not impressed with the VTA micrometer. Also, the exposed wiring setup looks like an accident waiting to happen. Maybe an anomaly, but he also had much down time with it, waiting for parts to keep the wand properly floating & tracking.
OL has probably sold a high number of tonearms, but compared side by side to the Audiomods, the OL doesn't stack up. Their better models cost much more.
I will read up on the Victor UA-7045. What vintage is typically available and are they all the same?
@noromance I have followed your comments on the other thread and look forward to more comments on the 850s. Cheers,
Spencer 
I will read up on the Victor UA-7045. What vintage is typically available and are they all the same?

You have to look for UA-7045 or 7082 index only.
make sure to check side image or the armwand and counterweight in the extreme position on the end. If the counterweight is in line with the armwand then you’re fine (on the bad samples the counterweight is bent down). And if everything else is fine then it’s a nice tonearm. And believe me they are underrated, it’s reflected in the price, which is amazing for the buyers who knows what it is and how good it is. Highly competitive with much more expensive tonearms! Only the rubber in this tube that supported counterweight is a weak part, but i’ve owned 2 perfect samles without this problem. Tonearm is easy to use and it’s easy to swap and adjust cartridges on it (VTA on the fly etc). Not every tonearm will give you this feelings, and only for $750 max. It’s a bargain!

7082 is long version, rare and normally overpriced a bit (compared to 7045) when it turns up for sale. No difference, just slightly higher effective mass and length.

For both models there is an additional small counterweight to screw in on the back for heavier carts. I've never used this option, but it's good to have it if the shell and cart is on the heavy side.  
Looking at @chakster 's suggested UA-7045 I see online a spindle-to- pivot distance of 230mm. Anybody know if that will fit on a Sota Star? Anybody with personal experience with a tonearm on a Sota Star/Nova/Sapphir w/ S2P distance >230mm?
The 9": arms I commonly see on their tables include SME V at 215mm, Rega RB-300 at 222mm, Alphason at 211mm, Ortofon TA-110 at 213mm OL Zephyr 223mm. Wondering if the UA-7045 is too long to fit. Cheers,
Spencer 
There’s a Victor UA-7082 for sale on ebay from Japan. $730 w/ free shipping.  Also a seller refurbed UA-7045 for $700 from Japan.
@sbank - I cannot offer an opinion on the Jelco arm, but I do own an Audiomods Classic II arm with the bead-blast finish - since 2013.

I have the version with the micrometer VTA - which allows for precise resetting of the VTA back to a pre-defined "norm", something very handy to have if you like to change cartridges frequently. I also have the Silver litz wiring loom with KLE Absolute Harmony RCAs

The quality is more like a "Bentley" and Jeff is very good at what he does. Fitting and setup was a doddle and the features on the arm allows for very precise adjustments.

I had the Rega RB250 arm with the Cardas loom prior to the Audiomods and right off the bat you could feel the difference in the bearings between the two arms when placing the stylus over the album - the Audiomods was much smoother.

The counter-weight, although it looks normal, is "loaded" towards the bottom, which lowers the centre of gravity and there is an additional very small weight that allows for extremely fine tuning.

If you place an order, jeff will email you to ascertain what TT/cartridge you will be using - he will telll you if it is a good match to the arm. He will even make a mounting plate if required

I doubt I will change the arm in my lifetime and other owners that I have conversed with feel the same.

Here is a review I conducted of my arm
http://image99.net/blog/files/f233eea773cbc47d311b80d32702da48-40.html

I’m currently using it with a Soundsmith modified Denon 103 caridge with their ruby cantilever and Optimized Contour Contact line stylus

The sound is extremely detailed and the cartridge tracks very well

One incident occured in transit - something had fallen onto the package with some force and put a dent in the wooden box the arm came in - even through the exterior packaging. I contacted Jeff anf after explaining the damage he assured me the arm would not have suffered any damage - in his words " The arm and bearings are much stronger than they look"

It has been on my TT ever since and has operated flawlessly.

A good friend has the Series Five on an SL1200 with a Van den Hul cartridge and is extremely happy with it

Only thing left to say - It’s no "Saab" :-)

Regards - Steve
@bpoletti thanks I saw those. If the length isn't too long, it's an option. Having most recently owned another great vintage arm, the Technics EPA-250, I do like the on-the-fly VTA. The fact that this one was refurbished recently is clearly a bonus.

@williewonka Thanks for the comments. I enjoyed reading your review too. It's great to hear that Jeff is so in tune with his customers' specific situations. The details matter; for example my Nagra BPS has RCA inputs pretty close together, so larger RCA plugs might have a tough time fitting. In that spirit I confirmed via Jeff's manual online that S2P distance of 222mm would fit. I also saw one user mention using a Series V on a Sota table. Cheers,
Spencer
@sbank - I just took a look at the Nagra BPS and it looks as though the KLE RCA will fit OK, 

The minimum distance beween centres for KLE Innovations RCA's to be connected with ease is around 15mm (i.e. with a 1-2mm gap between the RCA housing)

Regards - Steve
Chakster, In your post above, you wrote: "If the counterweight is in line with the armwand then you’re fine (on the bad samples the counterweight is bent down)."  I am surprised that someone who is such a consistent champion of the Victor UA tonearms in any discussion of tonearms could possibly get it so wrong. (Indeed, most of the regulars would probably never have heard of the Victor tonearms, were it not for your adoration of them.)  The slight "sag" of the counter-weight is a designed in feature of the tonearm, not a sign of abuse.  The joint between the pivot and the CW is made to be flexible so as to de-couple the mass of the CW from the downstream parts of the tonearm, and also to place the center of mass of the CW in the plane of the LP, which minimizes variation of VTF when the stylus traverses a warped LP.  (Nearly all the best modern tonearms are also built this way.) Evidence for this is to be found in the UA7045 owners manual, where there is a side view of the tonearm (see Fig 5) showing a slight sag of the CW aft of the pivot, although I admit that there are other drawings in the manual that seem to show a straight CW.  This treatment of the CW is one of the reasons why I agree with you that the UA7045 and 7082 are under-rated and overlooked by connoisseurs of vintage tonearms (but therefore also under-priced, which is good).  One problem that does arise is that over time, the sag gets worse, apparently due to stresses on the rubber grommet or joint between the pivot point and the CW.  My own UA7045 has that problem, but it is fixable.  So, I would say a very slight sag is to be expected.  I've never seen a UA7045 that did not exhibit it; is yours perfectly straight?
@lewm yes, my two sample of Victor UA-7045 were perfect and never refurbished (just perfect condition), there are samples without problems with the counterweight and rubber grommet (the original). I think it depends how it was stored and used by the previous owner. However, the problem can be fixed (rubber grommet replaced) even with the bad samples.  

I am talking about "not a slight sag" of a few degree, but a complete sag or 20-30 degree. What i am calling straight in line with the armwand is "a perfect sample" in my opinion. 

Our member Don Griffith posted about Victor arms way before me on audiogon, he's the one who compared UA-7045 to Lustre GST-801 and was going to sell his Graham tonearm. 
So does anybody else have a suggestion besides those already mentioned? Cheers,
Spencer 
Has anyone directed compared the sound of the Audiomods V vs. the new Jelco or even vs.the 750 series? Cheers,
Spencer 
My point was that a slight sag of the CW on a Victor UA7045 (I agree with you; only a few degrees) confers an advantage vs a sample with a perfectly straight rear end, in that the sag places the center of mass of the CW closer to or in the plane of the LP, which minimizes the changes in VTF that occur when the LP is warped.  But, like parts of the rest of me, my own UA7045 is sagging a bit too far.  Do you know anyone who has repaired this problem?  It may be simple to do; I will have to take mine apart in order to investigate.
@sbank - re...
So does anybody else have a suggestion besides those already mentioned?
Take a look at this one...
http://www.michell-engineering.co.uk/tonearms/

I do not believe the Michell is the same league as the Audiomods, but it is much better than a stock Rega and Michell is a large company - so parts/support should not be an issue

To be quite honest - your concerns about support from Jeff and  resale value should be minimal - it's a hifg quality build and probably the last arm you will ever buy - Jeff is also very responsive to emails (at least to my emails)

From what I have seen they are generally snapped up pretty quick - Here is one that was sold on the same day as posted
http://audioabattoir.com/t/for-sale-audiomods-series-v-tonearm/1666

One review i read, when I was looking  placed the Series II, placed at the same level of quality as arms costing between $5k- 6K USD - the Series 5 is apparaently even better

I would read jeff's comments about what is better with the series 5, because from my listening chair the Series II is a top notch buy.

Also take a look at this thread - it has some suggestions
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/drop-in-replacement-for-rega-rb300

Regards - Steve
I echo Steve's comments above.

Jeff is wonderful to work with and I've never had a problem with either my Series II or Series V arms.  I even had one of his original arms for many years and it performed perfectly.

I've owned and setup hundreds of the Jelco, ( and Jelco equivalent) arms over the years and they are very good for the money.

Again, I haven't had the chance to setup/use one of the new Jelco 850/950 arms, but have no doubt they are extremely good.

IMHO, the AudioMod arms are a few steps above the the Jelco 750 series, albeit at a higher price.  I also think they are a "best buy" of most of the arms out there.
I own both a Jelco 750D and an Audiomods Series V.  They are both excellent arms for a reasonable prices. I tend to use lower compliance cartridges on the Jelco.  The Jelco also has the headshell factor to account for. In my system the Audiomods did a better job with treble extension and the Jelco had better bass extesion.  So it may depend on your tastes, desire for headshell and the type of carts you want to use.
 
^ I have two 12" 750 arms and find the highs fine. However, noting what @karl_desch says about the Audiomods having better treble extension, the new Jelco 850 has excellent highs - an order of magnitude better than the 750. Overall the 850 is a far better arm.
Interesting comments, guys!

@williewonka I agree that from the details I found on the Technoarm that the Audiomods is probably a better modded rendition of the Rega. With the Audiomods being a mod of the RB-300 and the Michell a variant of the OEM1(RB-250), with a silver wire loom and more precise VTA adjuster, the Michell while nothing wrong with it, probably isn't my cup of tea. Here's some info on Rega variants that some might find useful: https://www.vinylengine.com/a-guide-rega-tonearms.shtml

@karl_desch & @noromance , good to see a few with some direct comparison experience. Sounds like both the Jelco 850 and the Audiomods V both beat the Jelco 750 series. 
Guess I'm back to where I started except I now know that both have a bigger number of very happy users and I'll probably be pleased with either option.

So right now it looks like I'm considering the Audiomods V with optional VTA micrometer and silver loom(795GBP = $1045 plus international shipping) or the Jelco TK-850S($825) + the EasyVTA(89GBP+Intl. shipping or $200 from US distributor) + a DIN/RCA phono cable(DH Labs or something used like a Harmonic Technology Crystal Silver Phono($350/BO or similar). So total cost would be similar with a slight advantage to the Audiomods. It's a close call...Cheers,
Spencer
@sbank The Jelco phono cable is more than fine. I would get it and not worry for a while about spending more. I have tried others 2 or 3 times the price and went back to the Jelco one.
Jelco, Audiomods ... whatever new arm is available at this price point, do not ignore vintage tonearms designed in the 70s/80s. Especially if you want to exand your cartridge collection, most of the modern tonearms are not designed for high compliance cartridges.

Another killer tonearm that is so easy to set up and use is the original stand alone Sony PUA-7 (not the cheap junk people sells under this name, but removed from the sony turntables). The original PUA-7 has been sold separately from the turntable, it has the best armlift ever made, precision anti-skating and VTA on the fly. I love this tonearm.

https://scontent-arn2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/18010070_1664384966912997_7703806084026204999_n.jpg?_n...


https://scontent-arn2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/18011135_1665976853420475_7039570777375233089_n.jpg?_n...
I had a Jelco 750 (silver rewired and ebony headshell) and 'upgraded' to an Origin Live Conqueror - Mk3C.  A mistake.  Jelco simply better on my system and I onsold the OL and went back to the Jelco.
PS I like the 'Toyota Camry' analogy.
Thanks, @andrei_nz!

One of the kind posters here offered a good deal on a used Audiomods V, no longer needed since he upgraded to something at a much higher price. After all these posts, I'm thinking that it's not a SAAB and more like a Subaru WRX or a VW GTI.  Awaiting word from Sota that it's a good fit on my table, and if so, think I'm heading that way. Cheers,
Spencer
I've owned an audiomods arm since 2013 and had it on both an Empire table as well as a Rega  rp3 Union Jack. Couldn't be happier, I find the Audiomods to be clean and open in sound performance. It's counter weight shims makes a variety of cartridges possible.

I've never owned a Jelco but have heard it to be a great performer in it's price range. Truly though the Audiomods is a work of art and Jeff Spall  is very passionate about his work and  a gentleman to speak with. 

JP

Sbank,
I didn't see your last post, all I can say is you won't be disappointed. I've never had the urge to look any further than an Audiomods.

Enjoy
JP

I decided to expand my love and just bought Victor UA-7082 (long tonearm)
http://audio-heritage.jp/VICTOR/etc/ua-7082.JPG

Looking forward to check it side by side with my UA-7045.

BTW has anyone ever replaced silicone oil in the armlift of some vintage tonearms ? I have to do it with one of my UA-7045.
they are great, no doubt about it
Does anyone know if the dynamic balance on the Jelco 950 offers any sonic improvement over the 850?
Dynamic is better with lower compliance cartridges. I run low compliance Decca on an 850 and warps and lead-in groove damage can cause it to jump. I have not heard the 950.
Too bad the Audiomods has a fixed headshell. I swap cartridges (generally have 5 or 6 on-hand at any one time) too often to deal with cartridge alignment every change. VTA & VTF are enough. Is down to the TK-850L or Sorane SA1-2 (at 2x the price - eek - that's almost another cartridge or lots of LPs).
I prefer the Roksan NIMA to the previous generation of Jelco arms with Dyna cartridges. Have not heard the latest generation.
SONY PUA-7 is agreat alternative to many modern tonearm over $1k including Jelco. The build quality of SONY PUA-7 is amazing (anti-skating, armlift, vta on the fly .. are precisely made and easy to use). Another picture is here, with its own SONY protractor, and with its own SONY headshell. Very nice tonearm! The price is a steal compared to many other tonearms.  
@gpdavis1 I use the 850L and it’s very good. I have heard the Sorane ZA12 at $2500 and it is excellent. But now you are up there. You could also check out the Groovemaster ll at around $1850. These arms are best with low compliance cartridges.
What are you using now?
chakster and lew, this goes back nearly a year, but I have a question on your counterweight stem discussion.

A few years ago I bought a MS-505S.  That has a similar design where the stem is separated by a rubber cushion aft of the pivot point.  Once I obtained the arm I discovered the stem was not in the same plane as the arm tube.  Searching online I found conflicting opinions as to whether this was "normal" or not.  At that time Jim Howard was still around so I consulted with him.  He said it was deteriorated suspension and not normal, so I had him rebuild mine.

To the point, I don't remember specifics from physics class, but it does not seem desirable for a counterweigh to be too flexible on one side of a fulcrum if we want the other end (stylus) to have a stable platform.  Isn't that the tail wagging the dog?
The Micro Seiki sag. Caused by the rubber bending. Probably not the end of the world. But you know that from your research. Jelco and its OEM arms use rubber stems for the c/w. It may be for 2 reasons. 1. It's cheaper. 2. to absorb resonances. I replaced mine with an after-market brass one to good effect on a 750 once. Having the c/w on a different plane seems to have a superior sonic outcome, especially on unipivots.