Great bass from a linear tracking arm?

Is great bass and full, rich, mid-bass/upper-bass 'presence' possible from a linear tracking arm?

Is one brand better than the others in this regard:
Airtangent, Kuzma, Walker, ET, Cartridgeman, Forsell, Rockport, etc.?

Is it all just a matter of cartridge selection?
I'm told that an ultra-light cartridge in combination with a light linear tracking arm will produce the best bass.
I get plenty of quality bass through my vintage LT-30 and Grado Sonata.
It's not ALL just a matter of cartridge selection. It's simply that most linear tracking arm wands (plus counterweight) have a pretty low effective mass (because most of them are shorter than the standard 9 inch pivoting arms), so you just have to make sure the eff. mass of the arm is compatible with the compliance of your cartridge (low mass arms like higher compliance cartridges.)
Yes, excellent bass reproduction is possible with linear tracking arms. The Walker arm certainly delivers in this area. Nsgarch is certainly right about cartridge matching, but design of the arm (e.g., bearing rigidity) has a huge impact.
I have no problems with the bass on the Cartridgeman Conductor with either the AT 33PTG or the DL103R. It matches my Schroder model 2 in that aspect.
Dear Exlibris: In my experience if you choose the right cartridge to match the tonearm you can have very good bass response ( everything the same in the system ) it does not matter if is pivoted or linear tracking.

Now, there are differences in the kind/level of bass in a linear traking and in a pivoted tonearms. In my experience, too, the best bass comes from the pivoted tonearms: solid, tight, no overhang, right pitch, etc, etc and as good the linear tracking are these ones are outperformed in that area for the pivoted ones.

I think that the mechanical grounding in the pivoted tonearms makes the difference against the air bearing linear tracking tonearms or the magnetic bearing on the Shoroeder one. Those air/magnetic bearing tonearms outperform the pivoted ones specially on the whole soundstage presentation.

Right now we are on a tonearm design ( and we want to build the best ever, this is our target: nothing less ) and we choose a pivoted one. I'm not saying that because of that the pivoted is the best, no the linear tracking ones have many advantages and as a fact we are on the research about too.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Rual, I take note of the fact that you say you want to build a (the best in your words) tone arm.

I was wondering what your opinion is on the bearing design. If you do go ahead with a pivoted tone arm design, which type of bearing are you would be considering? Also, would your design be influenced by any existing design?

I am asking because you have a good mix of designs in your collection and are very familiar with the differences in design.

Dear Paul: That will be gimball or similar not unipivot. The design/build of a tonearm is far from be an easy task " there are a lot of black magic " there.

We are on the research on bearings, materials, geometry, resonance, vibration, balanced system, etc, etc. . In the next 2-3 months we will have our 2-3 first different prototypes that we have to test against other tonearms and with any cartridge we have at hand. These kind of work will be a very long time consuming before we will really sure where to go.

+++++ " (the best in your words) " +++++, like our Essential 3150 Phonolinepreamp design our target is that. We don't attemp to design/build something " only a little better ", our approach is the best one and the best one for all audio people. We don't know if we can achieve our very high targets about but we will try hard to meet those targets. We hope that God give us the strenght to be there to really help at the music/sound reproduction.
Like in the Essential 3150, we are designing with out any commercial or other kind of compromise, like always our compromise is the: MUSIC, nothing less.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Very good. Thanks to everyone for their responses.
After getting my ET2 arm dialed in on my VPI HW19 Mk3, with a little help from Bruce Thigpen (a benefit from living in Tallahassee),I find that the ET2 is delivering excellent bass response, and that's using a well broken-in AT-OC9, which is not at all a light cartridge at 7.8 grams. Also, I might add that the bass is much better now, as well as the overall presnetation, than with the same cartridge in my Linn Ittok arm/LP12 table.

If you have any doubts on what works and doesn't on air-bearing linear-tracking arms, send Bruce an email and I'm sure he can help you out. After all, he invented it and cousults to those who build them.
I've enjoyed reading your informed posts on cartridges.
Perhaps you would like to chime in on this thread:
Best Cartridge for Kuzma Airline

Here is some information about the Kuzma AIR LINE:

Recommended cartridge compliance: Below 25 cu
Optimal cartridge weight: <9gm.

Effective length: 184 mm
Effective mass: 13 gr vertical
Minimum clearance below platter: 30 mm
Mass: 2 Kg

"Optimal cartridge weight: <9gm."

Where did you get this spec? It's not listed with the others on the Kuzma site. I'm also interested in this arm as well as the OL Enterprise.

"Optimal cartridge weight: <9gm."
This comes from the 'specifications' section of the Stereophile review from 2004.
Joperfi, please read Rushton and my post at the start of this thread. With linear arms, cartridge weight and compliance are (somewhat) more critical than with pivoting arms.

Or to put it another way, if you have a cartridge you love, you can always find a high end pivoting arm that will work optimally with it. But if you've commited to a linear tracking arm, you have automatically narrowed your choice of cartridges somewhat -- due to the fact that the armwand+cartridge weight+cartridge compliance must all be within certain parameters for the entire mechanism to work properly.
To continue on Rushton's remark:

"design of the arm (e.g., bearing rigidity) has a huge impact."

The Walker, the (now defunct) Maplenoll, which I own, and the Kuzma are all very high air pressure designs although the Kuzma's bearing is much shorter. The ET runs on about one tenth the pressure and is consequently not nearly as stiff. Although it's impossible to do a direct comparison of an ET arm to a Walker or Maplenoll given that the former are both integrated tables, I imagine that this stiffness has a huge effect on everything including the bass reponse.

I know that if I reduce the pressure to my Maplenoll arm, tonality suffers noticably.
I get fantastic bass on my ET2 and Celebration cart. Honestly I've heard some really top notch vinyl playback and when I get home I continue to be impressed with what I hear. If there is a bass shyness I've never been that aware of it and the positive attributes of a linear tracker certainly outweigh any of the negatives.
Raul, great to hear your on a new quest! However, a pivoted arm? I question as to how one can get the BEST playback from such a device. Don't get me wrong, they can sound great when properly setup but they just don't do what the linears do. I find my ET still stomps some of the "best" pivoted arms in existance. I am really sensetive to tracking error, a byproduct of every pivoted arm ever made.
I am always suprised to read about how people spend thousands on products that can only reach near perfection in two places within the groove. Arm makers have created longer arms to help alleiviate this problem but it still exists, simple physics.
Anyway sorry for the sidetracking of this thread.
Dear Alun: Tracking error on pivoted arms: I agree with you, but all over my audio experiences with linear tracking and pivoted tonearms told me that with the pivoted tonearms ( of course with properly setup. ) the trade-offs against the linear tracking own trade-offs are less intruder to the quality sound reproduction, example, for me the quality sound reproduction for the frequency extremes ( low/high ) is a must to have in the right way ( these subjects are the which ones that separate the good from the excellent ) and IMHO the pivoted tonearms are " truer " in the music sound reproduction than the linear tracking ones about. Yes the linear tracking ones are better in the whole soundstage subject but ( for me ) the other two subjects are more important than this one.

There are many other considerations about that we could discuss some other time, it is a very complex subject.

Alun, try to be optimistic about this new tonearm quest, I can asure you that that will be a unique design and when the time to test coming I will " see " if we really achieve our targets, if not then there will be not tonearm and we could start again.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Sorry,Raul,but if you have ever heard an Air-Tangent(with modified pump/compressor)I believe you would change your last opinion,on the subject.This combo(the compressor MUST have alot of compression power,beyond the standard unit)absolutely will change the mind of the most jaded Pivot lover(I have a pivot,but my ears tell me something,sometimes).I am ONLY referring to an Air Tangent with this particular compressor,for this EXTREME level of performance.
I agree that setup is absolutely crucial for BOTH types of arm and pivoted can sound excellent. No disrespect towards your opinion and of course best wishes in your quest to create the ultimate. I always appreciate those who attempt to further the hobby by going out on a limb!

Dear Sirspeedy: I believe you. This is my first time on the tonearm challenge.

Let me start with the pivoted one: and more important let me to have the finished item and that works like we want it. If we obtain our whole targets maybe ( through the time ) we could take the challenge on a linear tracking tonearm design: only God can say something about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I am excited to see what Raul comes up with as well! In the meantime, has anyone seen/heard the Thales tonearm? It's a pivoted arm that keeps the stylus tangential to the groove by rotating the cartridge during play. Pretty cool design, but I've heard next to nothing about it so far.
Thales tonearm
My tone arm project uses servo controlled captured linear tracking wand, with a laser to adjust the arm for warping and off center pressings, driving the cartridge perfectly though the grooves. eliminating much of the variablility in different pressings. The laser will also detect exact VTA setting for each LP and make real time adjustments should they deviate more than the allowable 1/10 of a degree.

The servo's can be set for the three common High performance stylus tips and any cartridge tracking force. An algorithm "evaluates" the laser gathered information from the LP to assure that the cartridge only sees tracking forces +/- 1/1000th of a gram and detects and corrects mistracking momentum predicted by the cartridges known mass and center of gravity.

My system does not rely on gravity other than to keep the turntable on the stand, this system could theorhetically with a few provisions in the software could play lp's upside down.
Dear Matt: I don't know if I mentioned when I was at your place but before the tonearm " see the commercial light " we want to share with all of you our Essential amplifier design, at least this is what we are planning.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,

Yes, you mentioned the amp, though I thought it would be coming after the tonearm. Either way I hope I have the opportunity to try both of them when the time comes! I am very happy with my Essential 3150, so anything else you and Jose design/build will be a "must try" for me:-). Looking forward to hearing more about them...

D_Edwards - wow, what an ambitious project! I guess anyone who doubted your love for vinyl, because of your good defense of multi-channel surround, will probably want to cut you a little slack if you can make this happen:-). I have so many questions about how it works I don't even know where to start, but it sure sounds like something unique. Want to tell us more...?

I have heard the airtangent on my deck (brinkmann lagrange) - it sounds sublime. However it is limited in the bass even though every thing else is unsurpassable. The bass was the only respect in which the brinkmann arm was better - and the difference was pretty huge.
Hey Matt,

So far its been fun trying something a little different,

I forgot to mention that the best tracking arm/cartridge will usually have subjectively less bass, this is one area (of many) where perfection can be a negative in the perceived sound of the music. All other things being equal, using test records is a must when deciding these things, so that you know where the "bass" is coming from.

back to the arm..

The "arm" isn't really an arm at all it is a module which holds the cartridge and laser assembly (where VTA and and pitch and yaw is monitored. Dual worm drives "drive" the module assembly along the grooves and a servo matrix controls or reacts to the feedback sent by the module.

What we are working on is the material that suspends the cartridge mount module from the control servos and thinking of ways to remove the Frankenstein cosmetics from the assembly. It was my idea but it has taken the great skills of others to even get as far as we have...I can build speakers and amplifiers not laser tracking tt arms. :)
Brizonbiovizier, you have an excellent table and I heard one with the Brinkmann arm. The linear tracker must take that table to the next level. I found that the Brinkmann arm just presented too much groove distortion for my liking and I've had a little fantasy about that table and a linear such as the Kuzma or Airtanget.
I'm green with envy...
Sounds like it wasnt setup properly - the brinkmann 10" arm should have very low distortion.

The airtangent not only had less bass but it was vague and lacking in detail solidity extension impact etc compared with the brinkmann arm - and the timing was not that great.
"The Air Tangent not only had less bass but it was vague and lacking in detail solidity extension impact etc".......Seriously,and I truly mean NO disrespect,but you have not heard a well set up Air Tangent.I have had two friends,who went to HUGE aftermarket compressors,to solve the pressure issue,as it relates to bass impact,and other performance areas.I have heard this arm compared to others,and if one is willing to go to the limit(I was not,and don't blame anyone for not wanting to,either)there is a level of "analog bliss" available here,that simply defies believability.The entire Mercury LP and RCA reviews,in TAS,were done using this heavily modded Air Tangent,and it is simply amazing.It has recently been replaced by a very popular unipivot,and the entire system,though still very good,lacks the "absolute magic"of the Air Tangent.Other fellow hobbyists,hearing the A.T.'s replacement are in mourning,like me!!-:)
BTW...virtually all these arms are fabulous possessions to own,so we all are sharing in analog's golden age revival.Right?To me,the really big breakthroughs,in vinyl,are being made with the NEW plethora of AMAZING cartridges coming out,seemingly every month or so.GREAT HOBBY!!!
For $11,500 the Air Tangent should come with a compressor that doesn't have pressure issues. One shouldn't have to 'tweak' an arm that costs this much.
In this respect the Kuzma Air Line seems to be a better design and to represent a better value.,
I enjoy reading your posts but you make it difficult to do so by omitting spaces after commas, periods, and other punctuation marks.
Yes I put the bass issue down to the low pressure pump used and I agree it should come with a better pump. However that is an engineering issue not a setup issue as the arm was set up perfectly as supplied. I am gratified to hear that it does make an improvement however. I am interested in the kuzma as it appears to be a high pressure design. Anyone compared them in the same setup? What pump did these guys use? Were there any other mods?
As the Kuzma arm moves across a disc the downforce "slightly" changes.This was reported by JV in TAS.That IS a BIG issue,and should be considered a design flaw.
As to the issue of a better pump for the A.T.I believe many amps/pre-amps are bettered with "better" NOS tubes.It's all part of the "hobby",I guess.I'm not complaining though.
Sorry about my keyboarding.I am a novice at this,so you'll have to bear with me.

Kuzma's air bearing is specifically designed to work under high pressure but the Air Tangent's isn't. I wonder how well the AT would physically hold up under high pressure over the long haul?
Well as to the A.T. holding up under high pressure,in the long haul,both of my friend's had this exact compressor combo going for about ten years(I don't know how high the pressure was,but I do know it was way more than the stock model).The only reason they sold the arm was that they were getting a bit "long in the tooth",and wanted a really convenient,non maintenance arm,so switched to a unipivot.Both arms had absolutely zero maintenance issues in the "about a decade" of usage.
BTW,one friend had the 11,500 dollar remote vta model,while the other had the bargain priced 8,500 dollar(that's a joke)manual vta arm.
Personally I love the Kuzma arm,and am only relating how much better the Air Tangent actually is,as opposed to the stock(and it's not bad at all) model with pump.
As a little back story,let me mention that both of these guys(fanatical LP collectors,I mean FANATICS)started out going through a lot of really good arms,but felt the linear design offered "real gains".So after living with some pivots(nice arms,but not the maxxed out A.T.)they switched to a modded ET-2 model,and started playing around with the pump/compressor issue.There were about six guys,in my little circle that went this route,so all mods were then done by committee(a great way to have "instant guinea pigs").
Eventually one went for the "amazing" auto setting(sitting in your seat,you can adjust vta,for every record,on a digital read out)11,500 dollar Air Tangent.Then friend #2 went for the Regular "cheapo"(-:) model for 8,500.BTW,both got sizeable discounts,as they knew industry folks.
Eventually,both started collaborating on how to improve on the bass,so the theorizing began.Ultimately friend #1(and get ready for this)started talking about the hobby to his dentist,who just happened to offer to sell him a HUGE used compressor,he no longer needed.Cheaply priced too!So we were off to the races.
This turned out to be a "windfall" upgrade( I have no clue what the model,or specs are).So my close(in distance and friendship)friend went scoping out the dentists in his neighborhood(seriously),to see if any had this unit coming up for sale.
Don't laugh!!!He found a guy in short order(we hobbyists are fanatics,afterall)and got the exact pump dirt cheap!
Here's where I,and a ton of other hobbyists come in,as we had heard ALL previous arms,cartridges,and pumps(a few,btw).The difference was absolutely amazing,and quite honestly this newfound analog accuracy really impacted how I listen to vinyl,as I have a multitude of very desireable LP's,which I obtained after hearing so many of these at my friend's home.Actually he was nice enough to sell me many of his doubles.Cheap(he's a great guy)!
He has almost every well reviewed LP in existance,and could easily buy a condo(seriously)if he sold his collection!His sound system is absolutely fantastic,and mega-fullrange,but not of the "latest must be greatest" variety,as he is not impacted by anything but two great ears.He comes from the update/mod to your taste school!
The compressor was located in the closet,of one of his "three" record rooms.It really was hysterically funny,to see this "motot boat sized" schtick,sandwitched betweeen three pillows,because of the start up noise(not really bad,actually).BUT the darn thing realy worked,yet is now SADLY gone.As is the Air Tangent.He simply felt that it literally hurt his hands to change the dessicant(his description,and I have no idea what that is)as he is getting on in years,and has been fanatical long enough.
So,now,when I read some of these threads,that are "way technical"(yet wonderful,and entertaining in the best way)I have to smile,as I have seen it ALL,so many times before,with this loveable crowd of "nuts",who merely tolerate me.Too much fun for only one lifetime!!
Yup, Mhmm, just listened to my ET again. FABULOUS BASS! I don't get it, I'm hearing beautiful, clean, tuneful bass from this arm. I know I shouldn't but I do. What gives? Can anybody help me get less bass and hear this tonearm correctly? Oh yeah, I know I'll hook up my tubes again!

Alright that was uncalled for, but seriously, I really don't understand the "lack of bass" that others talk about. I've had this arm for 12 years and I gotta say that I've heard A LOT of others in other megabuck systems and I really can't see the attraction to the pivoted arm other than simplicity. A used ETII properly maintained is an absolute bargain considering the prices of todays linears. Don't get me wrong Id LOVE a Kuzma airline, but I don't believe it offers good value over a used ET even to those looking for the ultimate. I wish that Bruce Thigpen would have continued making these gems and their upgrades.
In regards to the original post, I have had a couple of different cartridges on the ET and did notice a substantial difference when moving up to the Sumiko Celebration. For an elliptical stylus it seems to dig in deep and get the info out quickly and quietly. This cartridge is known to have a raised level of bass so this could lead to my happiness in the bass department but it also does the rest of the spectrum very well. An EXCELLENT buy and again, I'll thank Raul for this recommendation. I know if he heard it on a linear tracker, he'd start designing the best tonearm ever (smiling!).
Brizonbiovizier I suppose the Brinkmann could have been a bit out of alignment and I'm not saying it was horrible. On the contrary it was beautifull...when it sounded right! What I was trying to convey earlier is that it had a sound which I can relate to all of the pivoted arms I've ever heard. On all pivoted arms I've noticed increased amounts of inner groove distortion especially on the inner (last) track. I can play an LP at home that has mild wear towards the end of side and it is very listenable however when played back on a pivoted system (in this case it was a Brinkmann, another case VPI HRX/12.5/Benz LP) That last track was clearly unlistenable and would be embarrasing to playback in front of anybody. Actually before I took the LP to hear these tables, I didn't know it was slightly worn. I've heard this distortion more clearly on all of the pivoted arms period.
I don't claim to have golden ears or anything as such, as a matter of fact my right ear is very slightly muted and I wonder if this has made me more sensitive to some distortions. Anyway, regardless, I know what I'm hearing, and you know what your hearing and thats what important in the end isnt' it.
As expected there has been a lot of discussion of linear trackers that use air bearings.
What about the offerings from Clearaudio that use gravity, wheels, and tracks? I've read about some of the operational problems that one can encounter with these but what about the sound? When everything is working well are these comparable to the very good air-bearing designs?
I heard very fine bass performance with ALL the ET arms my friends ran.We(me) are talking about different degrees of "really good".
I have a very good unipivot,and can fine tune "the heck out of it",thanks to what I heard on my friend's Air Tangent,which caused me to try to duplicate some of what I liked,there("some",only).I never felt the need to do so,until I heard so many of my LP's played on my pal's maxxed out A.T.Try the Penderecki Harpsicord Cto,on EMI to know the meaning of "drop dead dynamic/huge,juicy scaled stage",(or the soundtrack to Rashomon)on a pivot.Then play it on a maxxed out linear arm.Case closed,no matter how much rationalizing one cares to do.I wish it was not so,but it IS!!
Prior to that,I thought I was happy.But I will never lie to myself,to rationalize something I own,if I have heard otherwise.Of course I always tell myself that the tubing runs,and pump maintenance would be a bit much,but my friend's really did not work too hard once everything was installed.So now I am rationalizing that I don't want to send back my armboard for re-drilling.TOO much wasted time.Of course I admit to lying to myself,here!The linear arms I have heard(the Forsell is GREAT too,but a bit flaky,and NOW really rare)have something the pivot crowd will not be able to hear,no matter how good(and many are fabulous)they may be designed,or carefully set up!
BTW,the NEW Cartridge Man Parallel Tracker seems to be of a very high quality,and is nicely(fairly)priced.This looks to be a really good design,and has gotten some very good feedback.
I can only speak of the linear arms I know well(E.T./Forsell/Air Tangent),and don't care to spout techno stuff.The practical advantages of a "really good linear tracker" is easily heard,and I wish I had the spare time to screw around with one.
Still,there are a load of very fine pivots(no surprise there),and I am quite intrigued(not that it means anything)with the Dynavector arm,which seems to be kind of a bridge between the pivot,and linear,in some ways.
Perhaps some of the more technical oriented hobbyists could elaborate,here.I PROMISE I will never be a contrarian again!!!!
I thought the CA designs were even more limited when I heard them.
A person I know who currently owns a number of Airtangent arms (though not the current '2002' model) says that the key to great bass is not higher pressure but a light cartridge.
...says that the key to great bass is not higher pressure but a light cartridge.

I use my Kuzma Air Line for a while now and I tried various cartridges with it. Mainly those, I know very well from Phantom or DaVinci and I am still learning.

The lightest Cartridge I have at the moment is the Zyx UNiverse and it works absolutely excellent on the Kuzma. I am really impressed, there is no big difference - or no loss - to the Phantom or DaVinci. Bass is great on classical records like Stokowski- Hungarian+Roumanian Rhapsody.
I would rate it as a real killer combo.

When I use the heavier ones, there is definately a change in performance. Don't know why (yet).
I would imagine that the Kuzma/Universe combo is so good that it would be hard to go back to the Phantom or DaVinci?
I think my nude brinkmann emt is quite light and that was the cartridge I heard on the AT - it has no body after all. I am guessing it is 6g? What does the zyx universe weigh?
The Brinkmann EMT Titanium phono cartridge is 11 grams.
Maybe the one you were using was quite different than this?

The ZYX Airy 2 and Airy 3 are each 5.0 grams. I believe the Universe is either 5.0 or 5.5 grams.
The UNIverse I have has the SB, I think, it is around 9 gr. A friend uses a Zyx 100 in his Air Line and he told me, it is very good (he owns a UNIverse, too), also a Transfiguration.
I think, weight is one point, but probably the siffness from the needle bearing the other. I saw a few pics with the airline, fitted with Benz LP, Kuzma Cartr., Transfiguration, Lyra Titan etc. So I guess, weight alone is not the secrtet.
I just talked to Mr. Kuzma at CES and he is just now offering the ZYX cartridge line under his own name, without any changes to the cartridges or the prices.
Nope, I was just guessing as it doesnt have a body. It might well weigh a lot more. However I am using the older emt - not the titanium (which replaces some plastic parts with metal) so the titanium could be heavier. Is the zyx really half the weight of the emt?

EMT compliance is 15 micro m/mN

The AT bass was still pretty good - on a par with or better than many pivoted tonearms but nowhere near as good as the brinkmann arm. I would certainly revisit the AT with a higher pressur epump to see what effect that had.
The ZYX UNIverse without the silver base (SB) is 5.0 grams.
The compliance horizontal is 15 x 10-6 cm/dyne and the compliance vertical is 12 x 10-6 cm/dyne.

I'm not surprised that Kuzma is using the ZYX with his linear tracker. I 'did the math' (according to the formula at the VDH site) and both the ZYX Universe and the Airy 3, on paper at least, work great with that arm.

I think that the Airtangent may have a slighter lighter effective mass than the Kuzma which leads one to believe that an extremely light cartridge with a medium to high vertical compliance would work really well with it. Since we don't want the horizontal compliance to be too high (tail wagging dog) it is probably best to go for a really low mass cartridge to get the math, and the bass, to work out nicely.
Great thread...Thanks All.
Kuzma will not be able to sell the UNIverse. That model is sold exclusively by Sorasound.
I use the Kuzma and the Dynavector XV-1s and it is a great combo.
Bass is phenomenal, tight deep and very tuneful.
well I use with the Kurma Airline, the Transfiguration
Orpheus and with the other Airline the ZYX FS-100,
and soon the Lyra Skala.

regards Karl-Heinz
Just recently entered the world of airbearing arm with an older Maplenoll ariadne. I am using a zyx airy 3. I have not fully optimized the system but bass is not a problem. VTA/VTF adjustment is critical in how clean the bass sounds.