Graham and Shelter matching - and other arms/carts

When you get a component that truly lifts your system up and reveals what's going on everywhere else, you learn things about your system that you hadn't realized before. My new Io Sig has shown me that I probably need a better linestage (I posted about this in Amps/Preamps), and it's also taught me something about arm/cart matching.

Now that the Io is in the system, I am hearing an unhappy balance between my Graham 2.2 tonearm and Shelter 901 cartridge. There's a tubby bass resonance that sounds to me like the Shelter cantilever feeding back into the unipivot arm structure. The outriggers on the Graham are supposed to minimize this effect, but perhaps the match just simply isn't made in heaven.

Instead, my Ortofon RS-212 tonearm, matched with Ortofon SPU Classic GM cart, is sounding much more balanced, real and musical.

That leaves me with the question of what to do with my Graham and Shelter. I'd like to have a "modern" arm/cart combo to compare with the classic Ortofon setup (I currently have 3 arms mounted on my table). My third arm is an Origin Live modified RB250, which currently has a Denon 103R mounted on it (probably not the perfect matchup either). The Shelter doesn't sound fantastic in the Rega - it's better in the Graham.

I do like the Shelter sound a lot, so I could buy an arm that's a more appropriate match for it, a Moerch perhaps. But I'd have to sell the Graham to afford that, and I kind of want to keep a unipivot.

Any recommendations for exchanging the Shelter and Denon for carts more appropriate for the Rega and Graham, or vice-versa?
The Graham Nightingale cartridge would obviously be a great match with the Graham arm. Graham also makes a matching step-up transformer for the cartridge.
The Io Sig is a great piece and it has to be frustrating to have added such and then experienced "less". Your comments regrading the Graham/Shelter are surprising. I have heard the 901 and the 501 on a 2.2 and certainly didn't hear the results that you are getting. While perhaps not the ultimate match with the Graham, they sounded great. In fact, it is my understanding that one of the guys at Musical Surroundings enjoyed the 901 in his Graham to the extent that they considered (or are considering) pursuing the brand in their line.
Try a ZYX R-100 Fuji or a R-1000 Airy. Better compliance match and superb cartridges.
Perhaps a Clearaudio virtuoso wood mkII on the unipivot? (good compliance match). . .
Dear friend: I use the Shelter with: SME IV, Micro Seiki MAX 282 and Dynavector DV 505. Great with all these tonearms.
Oh, I'd love to afford a ZYX for my 2.2 so that I could give you my impressions! :-)
Dear Patrick: Taking ( like a absolutely true ) what 4yanx told you , I think that before you change your arm or the Shelther you have to ask to your Graham dealer what he think is happen ( maybe your tonearm has an internally problem. Who knows ? ) and to your Shelter dealer the same question. Both of them have to support you.
Best wishes and always enjoy the music.
For using a DL103R or Shelter on your OL modded RB250, major improvements can be had using the HiFi mod. You can read about it on the analog page "Strange Tonearm Tweak" thread. It describes exactly how to make it DIY. If you don't have the time, I can make one for you. There are about 40 Audiogon users who have this mod, and can attest to its effectiveness over short and long term. It is primarily designed for low or mid compliance cartridges, and not for Grado or high-compliance cartridges.

I had a DL103R on my OL Silver tonearm when I invented this HiFi mod. It was a very satisfying improvement overall. Cost is very low. If you DIY, it is only a few dollars.

Additionally, if you add Doug Deacon's "on the fly VTF mod" it will simplify small VTF changes needed for the very VTF sensitive Shelter cartridges. Also good for the DL103R.

That helps out for your RB250, but the Graham question is still up in the air. For that, I'd still recommend trying out a ZYX. In very revealing systems, tonearm matching becomes even more critical, and perhaps the Graham is not in the ideal category for that Shelter cartridge, although many seem to be happy with the combo. In my opinion over the years, I feel that low compliance cartridges always stress any unipivot design to the max, due to large amounts of energy being fed into the arm, and sometimes this reveals some less-than-perfect sonic results. The Graham is one of the best stabilized unipivot arms, and even it seems to show some occasional shortcomings when mated to these low compliance cartridges. I have been taken to task for this opinion about unipivots many times by unipivot users, but the fact is that this kind of problem keeps popping up from users with problems resulting from these matchups. My gut feeling is that even the best unipivots are "on the edge of stability" with low compliance cartridges.

My 2 cents.
Hi guys,

Right now I'm getting so much enjoyment out of my Ortofon arm/cart combo that I haven't been worrying much about this... and actually I'm thinking of mounting my second Ortofon RS-212 with an Ortofon classic mono SPU. Maybe it's time to sell off all my modern arms and carts. Thanks for all the tips.

By the way, Raul and 4yanx, the Graham was fully examined by Bob Graham a year ago, and the Shelter is a recent replacement from Jay at Audio Revelation, so I'm confident that there are no problems with the equipment. The Shelter is actually the second 901 I've tried with the Graham, and on balance I think the problems are the same.

I'm thinking that Twl's probably right about the unipivot matching issues, at least to my taste and in my system.

Patrick, sorry such has turned out to be the case with the 901. My personal experience was with the 501 and, though the compliance is the same, I didn't have the same issues. Fortunatley there are a number of cartridges out there that do work very well. Thanks for the info on the Jubilee, I've always wanted to give one of those a go. Now, if I only had the cash..... :-)
4yanx - actually it wasn't the Jubilee that I've been using (though I'm quite curious to hear that cartridge), but the SPU GM Classic. Far more affordable too (but one needs a more exotic arm).


I have had the Shelter 901 on my Graham 2.2 and I thought it was a fairly good match although the bass was not as defined as I would have liked.

I finally mounted the 901 on my Vector tonearm and now this really is a wonderful combination. Excellent bass on the Vector. Just goes to show what careful matching can do. Now that I have the Vectors, (yes I have two) it seems that I don't listen to the Graham 2.2 that much.

The Vector can be adjusted for differnt cartridges with the use of tuning weights and you can also change the weight of the silicone damping oil. My next step is to try an Ikeda cartridge in a Vector.
Very interesting post, thanks for sharing.

Your experience is precisely what I would have expected. I've only used my 901 on a Twl-modded OL Silver. But A/B-ing with and without the mod showed us that an arm's lateral stability and damping make an enormous contribution to the 901's bass amplitude and clarity.

BTW, what TT(s) are you using the Vectors on?

BTW #2, how do you deal with the 901's great sensitivity to tiny VTF changes. Every time the weather changes the cartridge does too. We can instantly adjust VTF by a few 100ths of a gram. Is there an easy way to do that on a Vector?
Doug, you can buy a VTA adjuster now for the Vector that will set you back about $700. Supposedly, it is also removable.
Yeah I heard about that. I also heard the rumor that it's removable because you can't actually play the arm with it attached. Kinda useless if true. Fortunately I know someone developing a VTA-on-the-fly adjuster. He can make it for a Vector, a Rega-style arm and probably others. I don't know the cost but I'm expecting WAY less than $700. I'll be seeing a prototype later this month.

Still wondering about fine-tuning VTF on the Vector though. Moving the C/W just won't cut it for us. I can imagine a mod that might work pretty well but wondered if a real-world user had discovered anything.
Hi Dickson: I own the Ikeda 9REX. Wich your's?.
Regards and enjoy the music.

I am using one Vector on an Oracle Delphi Mk V and the other I was going to try on a Teres 255 but I have not received the armboard from Chris yet. I am in the process of purchasing a used Basis 2800. I guess the Vector will function the best in this TT.

No it is not easy to adjust VTF on the Vector. Certainly the Graham is a lot easier, although A. J Conti has some tuning weights which may make minor adjustments easier. I have not received these yet but I will gives these a try when I get them.

BTW the Vector has a lateral thrust bearing as well as the silicone oil well to provide lateral stability. When I look at the bearing design it is a master piece of engineering to provide excellent lateral stability and damping and hence superb tracking.
Thanks, Dickson.

The bearing design of the Vector (as best I can picture it from written descriptions) sounds like a great piece of engineering. I've always thought it would mate well with a 901 or similar cartridges. Your experience seems to confirm that.

I'd love to try a Vector on my Teres, but we have one or two other upgrades to do first. Let us know how it works on your 255 when you receive the armboard. (Waiting for this hand-made stuff is torture, but so worth it.)

VTF tuning weights? Why not? We use a swivelling paper clip, but that might spoil the look of that nice Basis. On an OL Silver it fits right in!

Next time you talk to Chris about the Vector armboard ask him about VTA adjustment. He may be able to help.
Hi Raul,

I am also using an Ikeda 9 Rex. What tonearm are you using this on? Also what VTF are you using?

Doug, when I spoke to Chris about an armboard he informed me about what he is working on and that is why I am still waiting for the armboard.
Hi guys.

I got the new VTA on the fly adjuster from Pete Riggle Audio. It's called the VTAF. I am making a new armboard for it, and will report how it works once finished. It's about $100, and will work with any Rega mount arm.

It looks pretty good, and should work well judging by the design. I've been out of town delivering a trawler so I have not had the time yet to install.

I know Chris is working on something, but this one is there now and not too expensive.

We'll see what happens!

Hi Dickson: The Ikeda 9 Rex is not an " easy " cartridge to get the best on it. Till now I try with some tonearms: Ikeda IT 407, SAEC 506/30, SME IV ( it does not works with this one ), Micro Seiki MAX 282 and AudioCraft AC 4400. All these tonearms ( exept SME ) are heavy mass type. I like the match with the AudioCraft, but as you know this is a subjective opinion. This cartridge is perhaps the more sensitive cartridge that I have to VTA/SRA and to VTF ( mayme because is a cartridge with out cantilever ),BTW I'm using between 2.6 and 2.9.. What are you using?.
Regards and always enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,

I have just started using the Ikeda on the Infinity Black Widow. It tracks well even without damping! But adding some damping tames some of the sibilance. I am tracking at 2.0 grams.

It sounds the best so far on this tonearm. It sounds better than on the Graham tonearm! Go figure? I want to try the Vector but this will require heavier weights.

Dear Dickson: Well, it's good for you. The REX is not an easy cartridge. It is very important to match with the right tonearm ( mass/compliance ). I give to you, here, the formula for check the matching between any phono cartridge and any tonearm: f= 1/2Pi X sqare root:1/mc
where Pi= 6.2832, m=tonearm effective mass and c= cartridge dynamic compliance. The ideal is that f=resonance frecuency will has a value of 10hz, but it's ok between 8hz to 12hz. For the m total value you have to take: tonearm effective mass+cartridge weight+headshell weight+nuts-screws weight,headshell wires weight+....
I would like to know what happen with your REX, with 2.5 in VTF and with out damping ( this is to see about the sibilance ).
We keep in touch.
Enjoy the music.
Dickson: Terrible mistake. Instead to say Pi= 6.2832, it would say " 2Pi= 6.2832 ".
Enjoy the music.
Dear Patrick: I have two of your turntable ( there are some Tweaks to do it ) and I own your Ortofon tonearm. Can I have the operation manual of the RS 212 from you ?.
Please let me know about it.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Patrick: About the Acoustic Solid: try 3 Tri-Orbs heavy
isolation foot from Van Slyke Engineering
it works splendid. Try the mat from SAEC ss-300, last time I see it in e-bay ( turntables ). This two mods are better than the mods list on Other thing: I can see on your picture that you are using a belt drive, instead of the belt drive I'm using a thread and this makes a difference.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I have a Graham 2.2 with a Shelter 901, and I have not experienced the tubey bass sound you describe. In fact the bass is very taut IMO. I do think the loading of the Shelter is critical and mine is loaded at 50ohms. (And, I did readjust the volume on my speaker subwoofers to my personal taste for the Shelter. The cross over frequencies remained the same.)

You have to go with what pleases you, but I am not sure if something is not a miss here with the set-up.

Hi guys ...

I'm new to these message boards, but not new to Audiogon. I have a Well Tempered table and arm (modified) and would like to know how the Shelter 901 and/or 90x would do on my table. I have a high resolution system and presently using the new Audio Research PH5 for a phono stage. Thanks ...


PS: If you don't have the PH-5 ... run to your ARC dealer for a listen. Be sure to bring your check book or Visa card. *lol*
Hi Frank,

I haven't used the WT arm myself, but a WT dealer told me last year the 901 was a fine match for it. I presume the 90X would be also.

Depending on your tastes in sound and music I might suggest looking at other carts. It's not hard to beat the performance of either of those carts for similar money. That's something I definitely have heard (and done) myself.
Dougdeacon ...

Thanks for the response to my question. I've used a variety of cartridges on the Well Tempered ... the best so far was a Clavis. It was a good match for the arm and sounded great until I damaged the cartridge. I'm using a Grado Signiture now (1500) and not satisfied with the tracking. Great midrange though.

Hi Frank,

Shelters aren't known for their tracking ability either. The 901 has inner groove problems even on the best arms, including the top linear trackers. AFAIK the 90X has the same stylus and compliance so it's probably no better in this respect.

If you liked the Lyra's tracking but want a fuller midrange try a ZYX or Dynavector. Either one will out-track a Shelter or Grado. The micro-ridge stylus makes all the difference. The Grado stylus in particular is a war club by comparison. ZYX's are perfectly neutral in the midrange, from top to bottom in fact. I've read that Dyna's have slightly fuller mids but I haven't heard one to compare.
Doug: +++++ " The 901 has inner groove problems even on the best arms, including the top linear trackers. AFAIK the 90X has the same stylus and compliance so it's probably no better in this respect. " +++++

Maybe you have that problems with your 901, I never had that experience: everything was fine. My 90X certanily does not have that problem: all about is to mate with the right gear around.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I'm glad you didn't have inner groove issues with your 901, but the number of people who have is quite large. If it were just my 901 I wouldn't have mentioned it, or at least I would have warned that my experience might be unusual. It's not. I personally know 5 or 6 people who've had the same problems. A search on VA will turn up many more.

The more experiences Frank hears the better of course, then he can weigh the range of experiences for any cartridge that interests him.
I have been using the 901 on my Kuzma Reference arm and have no inner groove tracking issues. It will go through all the test tracks on the HIFI news test record easily. I have had a Schroeder Reference on order since last fall and am due to receive that in the next few weeks. I am anxious to see how well the 901 and Schroeder match up. I will report my findings once I get the arm. If any others have tried this pairing I would be interested to hear.
I've heard the 901 on a Schroeder Ref. "Glorious" comes to mind. It's the only arm I've heard that lets the 901 sing with a musical soul. I'm jealous.

Try the last two tracks on HMU 963, or any Alfred Deller LP with his voice and a similarly voiced instrument doubling him. Two 901's on three different arms send people screaming from the room. Haven't tried that record with a Schroeder/901 though. Would be interesting to hear if it works.