Graham Phantom damping fluid level.

Bob Graham says to use enough fluid to bring the level up to the top of the square profile machined on the bearing cap. The square is only about 1/4" in length. My question is, What level works best for you in relationship to this "square" profile?

I have tried only 3 different levels of fluid in my setup (maximum level to top of square, almost no fluid at all, & to the bottom of the square) but can't seem to obtain optimum results so I'm wondering what others use, although I guess it's really cartridge dependent. Is the fluid level super sensitive? FWIW I'm using a Koetsu RSP.
I have Urushi with Phantom. The dip level varies and changes the sound. How deep you want to dip all depends on your musical taste. I just dip in 2mm. You don't want to over-damp your tonearm,by same token, you don't want to under-damp it.
Frank,it is going to be cartridge dependent,AND requiring careful listening at different fluid settings.No getting around it!
Yes... start with minimum amount(at bottom of squared off area)is the way to go,but you must add VERY small amounts at a time.Then replay your reference LP's and listen for detail retrieval,bass impact(not soggy,or too much fluid),and high freq extension.
When I say add small amounts at a time,I mean REALLY tiny amounts.Here the Phantom does not need to have actual "pinhead" amounts added slowly(like the 2.2),but you MUST go slow,and with small enough additions to not even see much more fluid height,on the bearing square portion.
Good luck.

BTW,I'l be doing the EXACT same thing this week,as my own Phantom has just come in to my dealer.I used to have a Graham 2.2.Another fine performer,yet more sensitive to fluid than the Phantom.
Sam, Are you saying you have a fluid level 2mm high on the square? I am looking to extract the tightest bass possible from the Koetsu RSP.
Sirspeedy, I hope to hear your thoughts when you have yours setup, fluid level and all.
You know there is an updated bearing/cap for the Phantom . Also every time you remove the bearing cap and play with the damping fluid levels , the tone arm needs time to resettle . Does anybody know how long?
I have a VPI arm with damping ability. I add the oil one drop at a time and listen. Deapth, width, and air is added with every drop, then BAM it all falls appart. I take a Q-tip to remove that last bit of oil, and Im satisfied.
Frank/Jeb....I have a dear friend who's Phantom I helped to set up,so I am pretty familiar with it already.I,m going over there tomorrow,btw,to pick up my new Phantom.
The fluid does not take that long to settle.A couple of sides of an LP maybe.Unless it is a "new" installation.Then maybe an hour,I guess.Not a huge concern.
DO NOT use a Q-tip.Firstly it takes off too much fluid,at a time.Secondly,there exists the possibility of "cotton fibers" getting into the fluid.I don't think "they" pose a big problem,but who needs it?
I would use a tooth pick.It allows for definitive amounts of fluid to be added or subtracted.SMALL amounts at a time!!
Also,I would hope one knows where the best VTF and VTA are(for their particular cartridge),when voicing the fluid!!This impacts the amount of fluid to be used.The VTF,and VTA are somewhat of a moving target when playing around with the fluid.
It is best to re-check those parameters after taking out,or adding fluid.I'd start at the lower recommended VTF range,and go from there.From experience,I cannot see where the fluid amount would be much more than half way up,the squared portion of the bearing.I don't think it really needs to be more than 1/3,at most,but I can only speak from Transfigurations Temper-V,and Orpheus.Yet,last month Bob Graham told me to go very low fluid with the Phantom.There is NEW fluid,but not a bearing cap,from my info.
Once you are in the fluid amount ballpark...DON'T STOP THERE!!!...To many "relatively new to vinyl" are happy with "good sound",but one can get GREAT sound with a little more "hands on" playing around!......Overshoot,AND undershoot the fluid parameters(regarding musical performance)so you know the exact spot where the fluid should be.But remember to re-check VTF and VTA(experiment a little too)after setting this.It is really NOT a big deal,so don't be intimidated!
This arm(AT MY FRIEND,who has the Transfiguration Orpheus)exhibits tremendous bass dynamics,while retaining superb/delicate high freq performance."IT" truly has NO sonic signature,once gotten "right".One reason why I sold my "still superb" 2.2."That" arm DID seem to have a subtle resonant quality,which rides along with "some" music.I still loved it though.
BTW,the dialing in of the arm,is NOT going to take one listening session,because different LP's exhibit different musical characteristics.So you might be pleased for some discs,but may need to refine the tuning to voice for a wide range of LP's.NOT hard,and actually fun,if you don't let yourself get intimidated.
Good luck
I know there was an updated bearing cap. I bought one! The point on the end is much sharper than on the older caps. VTA , VTF, and lets not forget playing with cartridge loading!
Frank_sm, 2 mm is from the end/tip. I agreed with Sirspeedy, a little change in fluid will change the sound. Good amount of fluid plus right VTF can get the best out of the Phathom. Too much fluid makes dynamice slow and sluggish.
Since when is the update on the bearing cap? So is there are new fluid as well?
The bearing cap upgrade came out about 9/06.
Well,since I got my new Phantom yesterday(it is still in the sealed box)if there actually is a new bearing cap,I'm a happy fellow....Truthfully I am so happy to obtain the arm that I would have been happy with the original cap my friend has,on his arm.
BTW,I re-checked the fluid levels on my friend's Phantom,yesterday,at his request.He has made some system changes,and wanted me to re-voice his sound,using vta/vtf/fluid.We found that as of now,the fluid is at the bottom of the squared off bearing part.This is on "his" system,so it should vary.
Sirspeedy - Hope you savor every minute of setting up and using your new Phantom. You certainly have waited long enough. Welcome to the Phantom club. Keep us informed of your findings, as you kindly did with the 2.2 Regards.
From my experience, close to nothing is the most "true reproduction" but it will vary from cartridge, Phonostage and what kind of records you listen to.
With newer records I would say, forget it, it doesn't matter, because none of them are true in the tone.
I did listen to a Living Stereo 2400, Strauss Waltzes, Side 1, Track 1
Phantom with Zyx Universe, VTA is a little bit higher in the back
The Vienna Blood allows you a view into the performance, a little bit from above, the strings section left is excellent for that, the tone has to go up and down like their bows and you can hear the reflections on the side walls.
When the fluid is too high, the separation of the strings are a bit "muddy", not really clear, a kind of "wall of sound".It softens the tone.
I checked this tone of this performance with 2 other (top) Record Players, For me: nearly nothing
For anyone interested...just finished my own two day Phantom install,and calibrating.More enjoyable than I had thought,but very tedious.Thank goodness my family left me alone for a few hours!
The entire installation took me 6 hrs on Saturday,with two more on Sunday(today)to get to an acceptable level of performance.As of now,definitely beating my previous 2.2,but not killing it!
Yet,there is more to get,as my set up jig,had some play in it,and I think my armboard was drilled slightly off.No problem,and I'll soon have it all scoped out!But,in all honesty....SHEEEEEEEEESH!!!!!.....What a delicious pain in the tush!!!I am NOW a bit tipsy on my celebratory Amorrone!Been saving it for this exact moment!!
I hope to NOT look into too many new things to do,in the near future!!!
Really fine performing arm!Still more of my reference LP's to "voice to"!!...I can't wait for the end game!!!!!
Sirspeedy, what is your current fluid level? If you could say where it is in relationship to the machined square on the bearing cap that would help. Glad you are having fun with your new tonearm.
Frank,currently I have the fluid level just touching the very bottom of the squared bearing block.Just overlapping it,by a tiny margin.I only have "one" lengthly listening session with the arm,so I may very well add a touch more fluid this week.I have the (old?)blue fluid,which seems to be quite good.One thing different from my friend's Phantom.....the bearing on my arm is much pointier,and it does NOT slip out of alignment,like my pal's does.Not a big deal,but a better modification.
Fortunately I have a very good idea how my specific ref set-up LP's should sound,and this dramatically cuts down on the "voicing" time.The set up time was a pain,though kinda fun,but because I want to max out my Orpheus,I am being fanatical about all parameters.I spent about 6-7 hrs on overall set-up,and am literally exhausted.
Also,because of the general excellent feedback, from all other posters here,and their comittment to exactitude,I am attempting to go a bit beyond what I normally think is very good sound!....I have a Wally set-up tool on the way,to verify what I have done with the acceptable(not perfect)Graham jig!
I always prove alignment with my own protrator (designed on my CAD system) and I am actually very impressed with the outcome of alignment using the Graham jig. As a machinist, I am a stickler for ultimate accuracy, hence all the questions I ask regarding fluid level.

If there is a downside to the Graham arm design, I would say the azimuth alignment/adjustment could be improved upon. I find it extremely difficult to install the armwand and repeat azimuth with any degree of accuracy. Bob obviously designed in the ability to adjust azimuth by moving the magnet up or down but I find it perplexing that the armwand has several degrees of play where it locates on the actual pins where the wand meets the base. If it was my design I would have implicated 2 pins to register the wand postively with the base for exact alignment to make swapping wands a "walk in the park" As it is now, I dread removing the armwand.
Hmm,Frank I don't see/feel that particular wand problem.My jig has more play in it than my friend's,who lives 40 minutes away.I'm willing to bet that I am almost spot on,but want to be sure,hence the WAlly.
It's definitely a good idea to verify alignment with a good protractor but you mentioned that your armboard was drilled 0.100" out of spec. so how will you fix that?....if that is indeed the case.
Yes,I am calling SOTA tomorrow(I have a new Cosmos),just to confirm.I am not too worried as I am tracing quite cleanly.
The armboard,as I can see,is going to be extremely difficult to drill "spot on"(my friend has a very similar situation with VPI,as of now),since the little peg(yes, I always check everything)must be absolutely perfectly aligned.
The way I view it......there is no adjustability in the Phantom's standard base/mount(unlike the SME mount,which can move,and is not such a bad idea).So with the screws drilled for the Phantom arm mount, which fits into the armboard,AND the holes drilled into the armboard,which screws into the table sub assembly,the amount of slight "play"(in the holes,and alignment)will always allow for a slight "off" position.I am about "maybe" 1/10 inch off,but I have compensated for this with the positioning of the cartridge,in the arm wand.What can I say!!!I don't want to drive myself crazier than I am,already!!!!
Of course I will recheck everything very carefully.
The bottom line is that in my first listening session,I am very close to being in the ball park.This,without playing around with the fluid,which definitely can aid,in voicing the arm.
What I did,this week,in anticipation of setting up my arm,was to go to two of my friends' homes(both have absolutely superb set-ups)and play my ref LP's!Then,I set up my new Phantom,and go from there.
As of now,with the Wally on the way,for re-checking,I hope to be in good shape.-:)
Frank sm,

Yep, my Phantom arm wand needs locate guide pins also. That was one of the first things I noticed . If the pin to plug centers were offset a bit, might have had a tighter fit! I hold the base and twist the arm wand clock wise,taking out the
2 degrees of slop till tight. It's real close every time. Sam
There is a keyway to align the wand with the main body, however it has too much play, I.M.O. If the tolerance of the keyway fit was tightened up a little, there would be less rotational error. I just purchased a second armwand to use with another cartridge so I'll see if there is any difference in fit with that one.

I'm waiting to hear from Sirspeedy with an update on the ultimate damping fluid level, as well as any other users who have experimented with different levels.
Frank,as to fluid level....As you know I am still in the set-up phase of my own arm.Probably for another two weeks,or so.
My friend has a Phantom/Orpheus combination,like me.I had re-set it up for him,at his request,and am continually playing around with it,as he likes me to set for certain characteristics,of his liking.I know it well!!
The fluid should be on the low side.Near the bottom of the squared off bearing.It will/should vary based on cartridge,but Bob Graham told me(about two months ago),to shoot for the lower settings here.Some go "dry",but I cannot possibly see this with an Orpheus. My 2.2 wound up about half way up,but it was much more sensitive to fluid.It was still a fabulous arm!!!
The Phantom is still very fluid sensitive(not nearly like the 2.2),based upon how crazy(like me)one wants to get.It still MATTERS!!!
Like you had stated about "sibilence" if the pivot to spindle distance is not perfect,the same basic sonic character occurs,when the fluid is not very well adjusted.The only way to do so is to have a standardized set of particular reference discs,which "speak to you" when all is optimal.
That's the main reason I am NOT keeping my current armboard,even though the slightly "off" positioning sounds good.I now realize "it could be better",so I will now break down the set-up("argh"),and start from scratch,with a new board,AND the Wallytractor(it should be on it's way,from dealer).
My Graham jig is useable(based on my previous experience)but it has play in it.More than my friend's jig.I am not about to complain as I feel lucky to have gotten the Phantom,what with the personal problems Bob is currently facing.I wish him the best,and am sure time will aid all.
A year ago I would definitely not be so insistive of this level of adjustment/fine tuning,but a 4300 dollar arm,and a 5,000 dollar cartridge demands it,I guess.Otherwise I'd always be thinking "what if"!!
Hmmm,I need to get an easier hobby.-:)...Tropical fish????
Sirspeedy, thanks for your insight, much appreciated. BTW, maintaining a tropical fish tank is no easier than what you're currently dealing with, believe me, LOL.
I too have a second arm wand, same fit as the first. Sam
Frank,at one time I had a 150 gal,75 gal,50 gal,and two 20 gal "marine" set ups going,all at once!!I truly know the meaning of "pain in the tush" hobby.-:)Even had to hand feed certain species.
BTw,I still like to look at the aquarium mags,but am running out of patience,in my late middle age.Hence,the hope to just spin some damn vinyl,and forget all else.
What about the magnetic azimuth damping? Does this affect the fluid level? How critical is the fluid level when things like vta will change depending on record thickness. Personally I'm a set and forget type of listener.
The Magnetic damping is one reason for less fluid needed,than the 2.2.Yes,get it set right,and you can forget about it!!Unless you like to constantly adjust for each LP,which some folks do,and some don't.
I won't,I hope-:)
Ducatirider, Do you own a Phantom tonearm?
I'm not aware of "magnetic azimuth damping". The magnaglide function has no connection with damping fluid level. Azimuth is adjustable via a moveable slide. Fluid level has nothing to do with VTA either.
Bob Graham DID mantion to me,that the magnaglide feature adds a degree of damping.It would not have much to do with azimuth,as Frank points out.It aids in damping the pivot.A darn good pivot,at that!!!
I thought the whole point of magneglide was to keep azimuth stable or the stylus from rocking inside the groove. Apparently this is one of the so called inherent flaws of unipivots. So the magneglide and silicon fluid do similar but not the same thing, keeping the unipivot from "chattering" . I actually do not have my arm yet. It just arrived at the Canadian distributor so it should be here soon. I am comparing it to a little know German tonearm called a Musical Life Conductor. But, don't want to jack this thread.
Frank,you are right about the magnaglide stabilizing azimuth,but it does add a degree of damping.
BTW,you are in for a treat!!
I've been following this thread off and on since it started. In my previous configuration (using a Koetsu Jade) I got good results with the fluid level about 1mm past the start of the square shank (new bearing cap).

I just installed the Transfiguration Orpheus and found that I needed to remove some fluid... and am still fine-tuning. Looks like I'm going to land in nearly the same spot as Sirspeedy... just a smidge past the start of the square shank.

I actually took the level way down and the sound was very good, but on certain recordings the bass was getting muddy. I also noticed that the effect of the anti-skate appears to be increased with less fluid. Makes sense if you think about it.

With the low fluid level I was actually having problems with the armwand drifting to the outside of the LP as I was trying to lower it.

Sirspeedy: What kind of anti-skate setting are you using with the Orpheus? I'm finding that it doesn't need much... I currently have the weight set such that the first part of the thread is just barely showing.
Bofh,I'm still playing with antiskate.I have a few more sessions before I really know it,in my set-up.Right now,I have "two" notches showing,on the "bar".Will be making more adjustments,for sure.BTW,the fluid,on the bottom of the squared off point,is "set in stone" for me,with my own Orpheus.....Nice cartridge,heh?
It's wonderful... I'm playing with VTA now... I'm finding that tail up is producing much better results for me than level or tail down. This is the exact opposite of any other cartridge I've ever owned.

Various searches that I've done are confirming this as well. Have you experienced the same with yours?
Bofh,with tail up too much I don't like the tonal quality I get.Down gives me a slightly deadened sound.I am "about" parallel to the LP(cartridge body),with an itty bitty tail up position.BTW,the azimuth is "incredibly" important with this cartridge.Absolutely SPOT on is mandatory!!Remember,my cartridge is not close to being broken in,so things will change....An amazing little device though!!
Sirspeedy, speaking of do you verify "spot on" azimuth? BTW, I've been living with the fluid level just above the start of the squared off shank myself and it is much better.
Now if azimuth could be set accurately without the use of meters and test records, etc. I'd be ecstatic. What's your secret method? LOL..
Frank,no secret method!I was loaned a Wallytractor,which looks to be supremely good at this,BUT what I do personally,is use my own set of reference LP's which I know "extremely well"!!This trumps any device,for me.I started out assuming the Wally would be required,but wound up using my ears,and my own set of set-up LP's!
Just got my Phantom mounted. I'm assuming you're using Magneglide at 3 ticks.
Those ticks are just registration marks."Very helpful",but you will do better to use your ears,with some reference LP's.Clearly audible.
I started with the level half way up the square area as per the instructions. But the sound just lacked drive ,so after reading this thread i lowered the level to the bottom of the square portion and it made a huge improvement. The problem i have is i need to lower the VTA more and i run out of down travel. I have now added the cartridge spacer supplied by Graham and this allowed me to raise the VTA . But now the sound was underdamped so i raised the level of the damping fluid about 1/16" up the squared portion. I am assuming because of the spacers extra weight more damping fluid is required to control it. This combo sounds great but still don't have much down VTA adjustment, on some lp's i am at the full down position.
Strangely mine did not come with a spacer and I am out of VTA down VTA travel as well.
That is strange yours was not supplied with the tonearm. I would think if you contact Graham you could probably get one. I prefer the sound of the tonearm with the spacer installed , it seems to be cleaner sounding and i can hear more detail in the music. I wish i could get more down VTA travel i am at my limit on some lp's. If you read the Stereophile review they talk about the spacer in the review.
I use the spacer with my Koetsu RSP and also used it with the Black. I like it better than without. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this. I feel that the lower the damping fluid level is on the squared off portion, the better low and mid frequencies sound, however the downside seems to be that upper frequencies are somewhat compromised. Don't get me wrong, everything sounds great but I'd like to hear a little cleaner upper frequency response.
You need the VTA fairly negative as a rule of thumb on Koetsu. The back of the cartridge should be level. If you know Koetsu this indicates the front of the cartridge being tilted up or a negative VTA. This can only be achieved w. a spacer. The benefit of this approach is that you can increase the effective mass of the arm and the Koetsu (order a spacer in brass is ideal) will sound much better. I know, everyone is going on about damping. But that is fine tuning after everything else is correct. Get the resonant frequency below 12 Hz. I doubt anyone w, a Graham has done so if extra mass was not added. Once you get that done you will hear dynamics and bass. Until then, it will be much more congested.
I have found(even on the Phantom)that whenever I adjust fluid level,the VTA AND VTF should be atended to as well.It's a sort of Rubics Cube combo,but not really hard to do.You MUST become very hands on,and play around alot!
Has anyone tried contacting Graham Engineering? Last I called, the voicebox was full and email has been unresponsive. When I received my arm, it was SME mount and I wanted a template. I had to resort to buying a new armboard from TW for my Raven One.
Frank i found that if i lowered the tracking force just above the distortion point i get great highs. Then i adjust the damping level and it all seems to fall into place, great clean top end and monsterous bass.If i go to low on the damping fluid it becomes thin sounding .
Sirspeedy- i left Graham a message about the cartridge spacer early last week and i have received no response so far. I hear he is having some troubles hope things work out ok for him.