Graham Phantom Supreme?


Has anyone done a comparison between the Supreme and the mkII? Is it worth changing and expending the extra outlay?

The main revisions appear to be the bearing housing and an improved magneglide stabiliser (I think the internal wiring was up to a good standard already on the mkII)

There is a company called AudioMax Ltd (approved contractor?) which can perform upgrades from both Phantom I and Phantom II to the Supreme build.
Any experience of this conversion out there ?
Many thanks... :)
moonglum
Never even heard of it. Nothing of a Supreme version is mentioned on either the Graham site or Musical surroundings. Where did you hear of it??
I needed to have some work done on my Phantom II and recently sent it back to Graham. While it was there Bob did the supreme upgrade. Service was great and he had it back to me in a little over a week. As an aside, Bob Graham is a great guy, and when you call the company he is the one who answers the phone and is very generous with his time.

The upgrade includes the new pivot housing and pivot point, new magneglide magnets, and a new and more substantial looking counterweight.

But when I got the arm back, I also installed a new Koetsu Vermillion cartridge which is still breaking in. So to be honest, I can't distinguish the differences I am hearing between the upgrade and the new cartridge. But the combination has done great things to my system including greater musical detail, richer and more 3D midrange, and an overall warmth and sense of realness to the music.

Regards,

Dave
Dave, What is the cost of this upgrade?

I have a MKII as well. I had sent it back to Bob a couple years ago to have the Micropoise installed. The service was fantastic. Indeed, Bob is a great guy.
Same as Peter at Soundsmith. Too few of them remain in audioland unfortunately.
Thanks
My advise, stick to the manufacturer of the arm. Graham period. Upgrading with him will provide piece of mind in better service, warantee and should you ever decide to sell I'm sure would be piece of mind to the buyer and less of a loss to you.

Cheers
Smoffatt,

I had the bubble level installed at the same time, sime my Phantom II was one of the first and did not come with the level. Total cost was $600, but I think Bob threw in the level for free.

Sorry I can't be more descriptive of the impact of the upgrade alone versus the upgrade & new cartridge.

Dave
$600 seems very reasonable given the work involved. Did the origianl reason you sent the arm in defray some of the cost? In short, do you know if you send the Phantom II in, just for the Supreme upgrade, if its $600?
I've had a couple of email exchanges with Ken at AudioMax about possibly doing the upgrade. They're not offering to do the upgrade. The arm would be shipped to Graham or Musical Surroundings.
Perhaps they want people to work through a dealer for payment and scheduling. I haven't got all of the information, yet.
AudioMax is good people!
Thanks for your feedback guys...

Dave, thanks in particular for the detailed analysis. My mkII is quite recent so the upgrade should be straightforward.
The comparative newness of the arm is a barrier to getting an immediate fix. I'm thinking of acquiring more familiarity with it before jumping onto the upgrade bandwagon again. If Bob comes up with the next generation of mods in 6-12 months I could get both the "Supreme" and the "Supreme+1" updates and be ahead of the game! :o)

Egrady....I agree, $600 is very reasonable and given the cost of the new model it's hard to see where Bob is making any kind of margin. The Phantom I update looks even better value...
I heard from Ken today:
".. it will be 8 to 12 weeks before Graham can take Phantom I arms in for upgrade. He is just beginning to do Phantom II to Supreme upgrades. The parts for the I to Supreme are being manufactured right now."

So, I'll be waiting for a few months.
This is Bob Graham...I'm visiting a friend and just read this blog. Thanks for the nice comments, everyone, and it's good to know that our work is appreciated.

To clairify things, AudioMax is a retail dealer, not another manuactuer, so any upgrades that go through them would be, in turn, sent to us (in the U.S. only, via Musical Surroundings).

The $600 price was an intial entry fee based on preliminary estimates of time and parts cost, both of which have risen (like so much else these days!).. And "moonglum" is correct; the pricing did not leave us very much for the work, let alone developing new products (a turntable in the horizon - somewhere!)..

To check on current pricing, please check with Musical Surroundings (our U.S. distributor) or, in another country, check with your local importer, or contact us via e-mail info@graham-engineering.com Although we do not anticipate any significant upgrades to the pivot, we are always on the lookout for better ways to do things, and these are made retrofittable to the earlier units. We also try to price it so that upgrade costs will be about par with the corrent retail pricing. In that way, we hope people will be comfortable with a purchase now, and not have to worry about being left behind later...

Also, the Phantom (indeed, all the Graham arms) will work on many turntables, including those that "encourage" the use of their own tonearm. While understandably they do this, we feel you should not have the door slammed on you for other options in your choice of arms, just as you should have free choice of cartridges.

\ The Supreme is our best effort at this point, and we're very proud of it. Thanks for spreading the good word!
- Bob

Bob - Could you please detail the differences between the Phantom, Phantom II, and Phantom Supreme.

Thanks.

RG
Bob, If you reply, I'd love to hear some details about your turntable you're building along with what differences you hear in the 9, 10, and 12 arm wand lengths...

Thanks in advance
I really love my original Phantom arm (even tho I never got the owner's manual for it!), and I am eager to learn as much as possible about the Supreme.

I hope to read some discussion about the advantages of the new pivot housing, pivot point, Magnaglide magnets, and counterweight.
Syntax

I heard you have the new phantom 2!supreme. Having had the phantom 2, can you give us your impressions so far?

Andrew
Hi Andrew,

of course. But give me some more time for proper information...I will try a few cartridges with it.
The supreme is a killer arm. I of course do not have experience with the previous incarnation of the Phantom II as the Supreme is my first Graham arm. All I know is that the Supreme sounds fantastic....Fast, dynamic, rock solid imaging and sound stage...Very nice extended and tight bass.
Looking at photos of both the Supreme and the II, it seems that both require the use of ancillary ICs, between the base of the tonearm and the preamp. Presumably there is a DIN plug tucked up in the base, as per usual. Has anyone had the tonearm re-wired so as to eliminate the DIN plug and provide a straight shot through to the phono stage input jack from the cartridge (or more correctly from the arm wand contacts)? Does Graham offer this option?
Thanks.
Yes, the Supreme requires separate IC's (DIN to your choice in the phono pre). I doubt that would be an option although it couldn't hurt to ask. The probelm with that is, Graham would have to supply the continuous wire from cart clips to phono-pre jacks. In my case I use a Nordost Valhalla Phono cable. I doubt Graham would use such an expensive cable as that. I suppose they could use the same wire as they use in their top of line phono cable.
Never heard of a captive cable on a Graham. I don't think it's an option.
Rockitman, Some plain old thin gauge silver wire would make me happy enough, and since one would be paying for the re-working of the tonearm, one could also pay for quality wire, Nordost notwithstanding. Any good quality continuous length of wire would be preferable to having the signal traverse the DIN plug, IMO.


The Phantom II Supreme made the first runs with

- LSC-2298 CR Reissue, Side 2

What you get in the very fist seconds is a kind of brutality which is very unusual. This Arm is ultra stable in the groove and with its superior vibration transfer all details are sharp, sharp. sharp in focus. No smearing, no coloration and the dynamic jumps are like a cutting knife..stop-start-stop-start with the ability to deliver a very deep soundstage. The time differences to the microphones are easily to hear and delivers a "picture" of being a part of that performance.
It is no big deal for the listener to follow each swing of the orchestra.

- London-CS 6165 Ruggiero Ricci, London Symphony with Gamba

Tracking Signal like Radar

Right from the first move, you "see" the bow from Ricci how it swings on the violin, down, up, forward, and back, his pressure onto the strings ...this is very amazing. Also his distance as a solo player to the orchestra. When that one starts to fill the room, his playing doesn't suffer, everything is right in separation.

All this is audible with a cartridge for about 1500,-- $. I have not used my other ones which are better and much more expensive. In a way, I am not in hurry with that.
Another very impressive observation, even with those highly dynamic records, even when one is warped, you hear no differences in sonic presentation. This Arm has an interesting kind of Balance which is very remarkable with such records.
Never had this before (except the FR Arms).

Graham made the right steps, his 1.5 Design was always increasing the weight (Tungsten), the Phantom was (or is) brilliant, because he changed and improved his successful design with the Magneglide System and the heavier Phantom. Phantom II got the Titan Tube and a few changes, the difference was not really spectacular, but it was (or is) a big step forward to more true tonal color. In a way, spectacular for those which have a System which is able to show that. A violin sounds more like a violin, you can hear, what kind of Piano is used in the recording... It simply sounds like the real thing. Not softening, not nice, not dampened, no Phil Spector soundstage.
The supreme IS spectacular. I think, everything now is in perfect following, to Arm Material,excellent / outstanding vibration transfer,the right pressure to the bearing and a rock solid Balance. That Arm is faster than a shadow based on Design done right. Graham showed again what is responsible for what. Is this THE Arm to go? Hm, no. You can't use it to light some wood in the fire place, it is not expensive enough to shock your audiophile buddies, it is not limited nor a 12" version.
But, when you are one of those who put a record on the table, an original one, because you want to know what the fascination is with those, well, probably you will discover something you never heard before.
And don't worry, you don't need a 10K cartridge to hear that, a Denon 103R with a good channel separation is fine for this.
Syntax,

I agree with your assessments of the "El Supremo". I am using an Ortofon A90 on this arm. Can't wait to get home and listen again...for hours. This arm will be going on my Clearaudio "Master" Innovation when it ships in Dec.
Here is something really useful, the adjustment tool from Graham for his Arms.

The first steps to get it right...
Very Groovy....
Thanks for that short review, Syntax. I take it from your remarks that you are using the 9-inch arm wand right now. Dertonearm said or implied that you also do own the 12-inch. I am thinking about the 10-inch.....
10-27-11: Syntax
Here is something really useful, the adjustment tool from Graham for his Arms.


The new one for the supreme allows the height of the plastic flip guide to be adjusted according to cart height. This jig is a godsend especially for carts that have a short cantilever buried underneath the cart body like the Koetsu's, Allnic Puritas, ect.
The 10" arm for the Graham is the way to go. That was Musical Surrounding recommendation anyway.
The 10" arm for the Graham is the way to go. That was Musical Surrounding recommendation anyway.

Did they say why?
Dear Lewm, dear Rockitman, - I can't resist, but I now have to second Syntax' choice for the 9" arm wand. While I am certainly usually try to go for increased effective length, the 9" standard arm wand is the best for the Graham Phantom.
Why ?
I leave this to Syntax to explain - as it was on his selection of all 3 arm wands that it was discovered.
10-28-11: Syntax

The 10" arm for the Graham is the way to go. That was Musical Surrounding recommendation anyway.

Did they say why?

The longer arm having more mass also increases inertial mass of the cart which can be problematic depending on the cart used. Longer arm tubes also allow for more resonance. Bob Graham said this to Musical Surrounding and believes the 10" is better overall than the 12" even though you will have slightly lower tracking error with the 12". That's how I understand things anyway.

Dertonearm. the 10" arm is the sweet spot according to Graham. Lower tracking error than the 9", but less effective inertial mass than the 12" which can be good depending on the cart.
Rockitman, I usually always would go for lowest tracking error - i.e. 12" effective length or more - even at the sacrifice of increased effective mass.
But with the Graham Phantom this is a different issue and the 9" is the "best" arm wand out of the 3 length available.
Syntax may have the honor to reveal why.
I think, Musical Surroundings has (or the person behind it) a problem to listen and to understand something right. Nothing unusual in that business btw. And Graham never said or wrote anything like that, because this isn't his opinion.
10-28-11: Syntax
I think, Musical Surroundings has (or the person behind it) a problem to listen and to understand something right. Nothing unusual in that business btw. And Graham never said or wrote anything like that, because this isn't his opinion.

You very well could be right. They chose the 10" to show off the Clearaudio Master Innovation, which I have on order. The best part of the Graham...I can buy all three lengths of the arm and decide for myself. What length are you using ? I'm using the 10" right now on my Clearaudio Innovation Compact. Fantastic arm.
Rockitman, are you using the outer ring on the Clearaudio table? If so, that might be one reason MusicalSurroundings recommended the 10-in. The 9-in. brings the anti-skate mechanism uncomfortably close to the ring. I have one on the full Innovation Wood and I just *barely* have clearance with my 9-in. Phantom II.
Good Point Wrm57. The arm lift rest is quite close to the ring with my 10". I can't imagine life w/o the ring though. Nothing like flat record playback, not to mention the other bennies. I need to take closer look at the anti-skate clearence.
Hello,

here are some lines in copy from Grahamengineering about that:

... we offer the longer wands for the sole reason that some turntabales with record rings (VPI, Clearaudio) require more length for the arm components to clear. And that's the only reason...

... In a word - don't worry about the long length; you're much better off with the standard 9" arm...

Hope this helps, and best wishes,
Bob Graham

I use mainly 9" Phantom IIs, has the advantage, that the alignment gig is calculated for it, too.
Rockitman, Wrm57, the 10" arm wand was - as the 12" arm wand - Graham's reaction to market request. Indeed you will have a hard time mounting a 9" Phantom (or any other 9" pivot) when the platter diameter exceeds 320 mm or when using an outer ring on the platter. Whether Clearaudio, VPI in specific or others - the 10" is the way to go when using the outer ring anyway. But pay attention to the off-set.
10-29-11: Dertonarm
Rockitman, Wrm57, the 10" arm wand was - as the 12" arm wand - Graham's reaction to market request. Indeed you will have a hard time mounting a 9" Phantom (or any other 9" pivot) when the platter diameter exceeds 320 mm or when using an outer ring on the platter. Whether Clearaudio, VPI in specific or others - the 10" is the way to go when using the outer ring anyway. But pay attention to the off-set.

so there is no advantage with longer arms ? I though longer arms had lower tracking error ? That's why the Gradenzza is 12" the Durand Telos is 12" ect. ? Help to understand...
Rockitman, please - don't get me wrong.
Aside from increased effective mass a longer effective length version is always superior in terms of tangential error and sensibility to SRA/VTA variation due to the inevitable hills and valley on every LP.

It is in specific here - with the Graham Phantom and it's armwands of 9", 10" and 12" resulting effective length.
As I said: look careful to the off-set of the headshell mounting area.
It is correct only for the original 9" version.
That's why the 9" version here is the "best".
Usually I would always vote and go for the 12" version - but not here.
Size is not everything. Short done right can have some advantages ....
10-29-11: Dertonarm
Rockitman, please - don't get me wrong.
Aside from increased effective mass a longer effective length version is always superior in terms of tangential error and sensibility to SRA/VTA variation due to the inevitable hills and valley on every LP.

It is in specific here - with the Graham Phantom and it's armwands of 9", 10" and 12" resulting effective length.
As I said: look careful to the off-set of the headshell mounting area.
It is correct only for the original 9" version.
That's why the 9" version here is the "best".
Usually I would always vote and go for the 12" version - but not here.

I wonder if the new adjustable jig is configured for each tonearm length ? The plastic alignment plate is now fully ajustable so that no matter the cart height, you can get the alignment plate parallel like a record surface. Also using the ring, wavy records are not an issue. 99% of mine are flat using the ring. I suppose with the greater effective mass, there will be better performance with low compliance carts like the Allnic Puritas (Which I am considering).
The 9-incher works fine with the ring, I just have to be careful. And since my days (and nights) of staggering to the 'table to flip a record are long past, being careful isn't much of a challenge anymore. ;)

I only use the alignment jig to get started, then fine-tune with a Wally or Dentonarm's UNI-Pro, so that wouldn't dissuade me from the 10-inch wand. I might pick one up just to check it out.

Dertonarm: "As I said: look careful to the off-set of the headshell mounting area. It is correct only for the original 9" version."

I think what you meant is that the offset angle at the BEARING was originally designed for a 9" armwand. Matching bearing angle to headshell offset angle is to avoid VTA affecting azimuth. I assume the Supreme's bearing was angled at 23.431°, according to spec, to match 9" wand's headshell angle. I can't imagine they would make three different bearing housings for each wand length. It's probably too minute to bother most buyers but perhaps not a perfectionist like Dertonarm. :)

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... wonder if the new adjustable jig is configured for each tonearm length ?

No. It is only right for 9"".
When you use it for 10" or 12" the alignment is wrong, but normally you can hear that in 5s.
For these lengths you should use a seperate alignment System.
The alignment from the Phantom is pretty good. Here is a pic from the
bubble position

and the matching needle position

.
I like that fat counterweight. Looking forward to the upgrade, whenever that actually happens. I'm on the list but was told recently that it won't happen before 2012. Mr. Graham is behind, I hear.
Why would Bob Graham knowingly produce an alignment jig that is off for the 10" & 12" arms ? How much error are we talking about ? To my ears, the alignment sounds perfect...No audible distortion through the lead out groove. Too bad Graham didn't put a detent on the center of the pivot cap so that I could use my feikert. Anyone have an idea how to measure for the exact center point so that I could make my own detent ? I am going to inquire with Graham directly about this.
Dear Hiho, it is the off-set angle at the headshell mounting area. The problem here is, that the off-set of the mounting area is too large for the 10" and especially so for the 12" arm wand.
Resulting in additional and unnecessary breakdown torque as well as in an odd position mounting of the respective cartridge.
In an uni-pivot like the Phantom the bearing has no off-set - just the mounting area has ( here off-set is a function of the geometry and effective length ). The smaller the off-set angle is, the smaller the breakdown torque is.
That's one of the reasons why longer pivot tonearms do sport less skating force.
Hope I am not too obsessed with minute detail here ...;-) ....

Dertonarm: "In an uni-pivot like the Phantom the bearing has no off-set - just the mounting area has."

Actually there is an offset angle at the bearing with semi-unipivot designs like Phantom (or Basis Vector, Continuum Cobra/Copperhead, etc.. in the same genre) because there's a secondary bearing to stabilize azimuth so if you draw a line between the main bearing and the secondary bearing, it is offset at an angle matching exactly like the headshell. This clever design allows the azimuth adjustment having no effect on VTA. Same concept in many fixed bearing designs.

A true unipivot like the earlier Graham arms, such as 2.2, used offset angled outrigger weights to do the same thing, and since Graham has a patent on this feature, you don't see other arms doing that.

Anyway, thanks for explaining about the Supreme headshell issue.

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