Graham Phantom1, Kuzma Stogi Ref, Naim ARO

Hello Everyone, I am in the final rounds of selecting a tonearm upgrade for my Verdier/SME3012 combination. Somehow I am unable to make up my mind. I have drilled down to these arms as the final short list within my budget of $2k

Naim ARO (used)
Graham Phantom1 (used)
Kuzma Stogi Ref (used)
Rega RB1000 (new)
Fidelity Research FR64 (used)
Scheu Classic
EMT 929

The cartridge I will be using is a Dynavector Karat 17D3. I am not sure how people choose tonearms in general. My TT should be able to host any of these arms well. So it boils down to which tonearm can handle the Karat well I guess. I normally listen to all kinds of music with preference to classic rock so I like my music to be full and lively with good PRAT.

Would really appreciate some input here. I know I still have to buy blind but your inputs will help me big time in at least eliminating few of these from the list.
You might add the Helius Omega to that list. great arm at a good price. Or the Audiomods Rega conversion. Either will work well with the 17d3. I own both and a 17d2. An Sme 309 or IV would work too.
the other arms you mention will also work. I guess it comes down to what you can find in your price range.
1. FR-64s
2. Graham Phantom

the other ones won't tell you anything new
Wheaton Triplanar
Graham Phantom
FR 64S

The reason the FR64 is not on top of my list is that I like the ease of adjustment offered by both the Triplanar and the Graham.
I agree with Syntax and Brf. The adjust ability of the Phantom and Triplanar are top notch. You can also upgrade to the newest versions when you can afford it. If you can find a used Reed 2A it has the same adjustments and is a very good arm as well.

I have not heard the FR-64 but I am intrigued by it. It is a cheaper option and by all reports is a very good arm.

Pani, I only have experience with one on your list, the Kuzma Stogi Reference. However I have owned many other arms during my decades in this hobby and the engineering of the Kuzma continues to impress me. The bearings are outstanding, set up is fully adjustable, and I cannot fault the sonic performance. It may not look impressive but it is a precise instrument.

The only negative, which will be a plus for many, is the fixed headshell means swapping cartridges becomes more of a task than with interchangeable headshells or arm tubes .
I don't see how the phantom or triplanar fit in his budget
I have the Rega; I also have a Graham and have had a FR 64fx years ago. Frankly I would just as soon have my Jelco 750 as the 64. Have also had the 309 and IV. I went with the Moth version which you can get new for $1200. Can add a Pete Wriggle VTA for $200 or so. I would go with the Rega.
FR64 has always been a mystery to me. Some love it and some dont care about it. I could not find enough internet reviews about it as well to have a clear idea about its sonics. What is it about FR64 ?

Otherwise I am leaning towards Rega 1000 or a Naim ARO, slightly preferring the ARO because of its "musical" reputation. However, the ARO has a fixed headshell and fixed holes, does that mean it can only take certain cartridges ? Can anyone throw some light on this aspect ?
Pani, If you can afford it get an arm with easily adjustable VTA, VTF, and Azimuth. The Rega is the least adjustable arm. If you get a Rega make sure to get an after market VTA adjuster for it. I would skip the Naim for the reason you stated (fixed headshell holes). With the ARO unless you happen to have a cartridge with the right mounting hole to stylus distance then your alignment will not be as accurate as it could be. Why limit your cartridge selection?

Sure, people can and do get by without these adjustments but they are not getting the most out of their cartridges IMO.

From what I understand the FR-64fx is a different animal than the FR-64s. Everything I've read says that the FX-64s is the one to get. Maybe someone with personal experience with both will chime in.

Your not going to find an arm with a 100% approval rating.;) You will just have to pick one and go from there.
Everything I've read says that the FX-64s is the one to
get. Maybe someone with personal experience with both will chime in....

The modern time guides us in the direction that the newest, latest, more
expensive item is the superior one (to whatever...)
The FR pricing is real, after 20+ years you have to pay 1.5K+ for the 64s (with a
B-60 you can think about getting it 7 days, maximum 10 days and then it is
gone), 6k+ for the a way hard to believe, but that's the way it is.
Are they worth the money? They do fetch the prices we are talking about - so
they are "worth" (basic rule of free market...demand/supply) the
money. Are they good? They are. Are they well designed? They are. Can they
compete with today's best? Yes, they can. Then - why can a 30 year old design
compete with todays best? Because - geometry and physics have NOT (this may
be new to many audio designers and their market promoters) changed in the
interim. The older steel FR-60-series does feature extreme hard bearings,
precision tooling, first-class-materials, a very clever application of tonearm-
geometry and are the result of a designer who was/is (even at 85 years) much
more knowledgeable about the topic we are discussing here than any of us -
and any of todays tonearm designers (otherwise we would have better tonearms
today...). Each one of us does "judge" the performance of a given
unit - here tonearm - based on his individual matrix. The FR-64s and much
more the FR-66s do perform excellent with nearly all cartridges I tried, from 5gr
Zyx to 30gr FR-7's...
But it is no guarantee for sonic satisfaction, I know a few who didn't get it (and
the opposite who sold all others), from my experience I can say, the better your
System is or will be, these Arms have no limits, they will always show you
something new (when the bearing is ok or the grease inside isn't stiff).
Definitely a class of their own with Deccas, Londons, Mercuries ... which have
the highest dynamics in the last 3 tracks .. but my last visitor heard it even with
a Guitar Player pickin' the Blues...
Independent from individual taste, they passed worldwide the famous ToT.

(Test of Time).
Does the equation change if I add the Basis Vector 4 tonearm to the list ?
Hey Syntax,

Yes, the Blues, like the Fidelity Research tonearms, they both have famously met the "Test of Time" standard. Thomas, thank you again for those nice evenings where the air and mains are clean and clear, super!

Pani, I am with Syntax here; find yourself a nice FR-64s w/B60, and even better, an original silver-wired version, super...done, that chapter will be closed for you, finished! This tonearm will treat you very well; it is simply amazing when you find a design that correctly meets the intersection of geometry and physics.

BTW, these Fidelity Research tonearms...well, they are termite-proof...;-).

On the FR series of tonearms.......I can't add much more to that which Syntax has stated.
As he rightly points out.........the REAL 'Test of Time' is the 'price' the 'Market' puts on these 30+ year old tonearms.
There is currently only one FR-66s available from TopClass Audio at over $10,000!
Unlike works of art where one 'mad' buyer can pay a ridiculous price for a single work........there are hundreds of these arms in the market place and yet not enough to satisfy the demand of serious connoisseurs?
Yes.....there are those audiophiles who don't 'get' the FR series arms, and I am simply unable to explain this because unlike most other items of audio equipment where subjectivity can be used to explain preferences.........the FR arms simply allow every turntable and cartridge to give of their best?
Hard to explain how such high-mass arms are equally comfortable with low-compliance LOMC cartridges as well as high-compliance MMs?