Linear tracking arms

Forgive my question,I am not an analog expert.If properly designed linear tracking arm is better why should we put up with lesser design? Or they are not compatible with most turntables and cartridges? Or difficult to make work?
Will you educate me on the subject.
Inna. Linear tracking arms have some unique advantages in the tracking error area, and are generally preferred for that reason. However, all linear tracking designs are not created equal, and the ones that can best take advantage of this design are quite complex and expensive. This puts really good linear tracking out of the price range of a lot of buyers. Lower cost linear trackers introduce other problems that outweigh the potential benefits that they might try to provide with this design. So generally it is understood that in the lower to medium price ranges, the pivot arm is a better choice. And even in the high end, there are some advantages to pivot arms, but near-elimination of tracking error is not one of them.
Inna, Twl has said it pretty good. i would add as a linear tracking arm owner that if you don't go for the best (read air-bearing) then a pivoting arm will be better. for the linear arm to track along a friction shaft properly you would need to be a total fanatic....and smart and lucky too.

i had 2 versions of the unipivot Graham arm over a 5 year period and was always very happy with the performance and never frustrated. if you do deciede to go the Linear route be prepared to do what it takes to do it right.
These two guys have it right. Having been an owner of two Graham arms and now using a state of the art air bearing linear, I agree with everything that has been said.

It is more difficult and parts intensive (pumps, hoses, regulators, gauges, etc.) to get an air bearing installed and working, and unless it's done right, it can be worse than a pivot arm.

The Air Tangent from Sweden immediately comes to mind. I had one of these beautiful $10K arms over three months and never got it to perform as well as the Graham 2.2.

The Rockport and Walker linear air bearing arms provide another level performance over a Graham 2.2 or any other pivot arm. These two linear versions also represent a HUGE investment compared to the best pivot arms.

Unless the remainder of the system is up to the task, this is probably not be the first or most economical place to upgrade your music.
Amen to all above. In addition, I am told there is a danger that a linear tracking arm which is not stratospherically high-quality will shorten your cartridge's life a good deal.
Well stated by all, I would just add, that is why you only see good linear tracking arms on the 25K walker, 60K Rockport, etc. The order of importance for extracting the most sound out of your lp's is. The Turntable is most important, then the Tonearm, and then cartridge. So most people knowing this spend accordingly.
Thank you all.It's not that I was going to buy anything now;I am just trying to catch the concept.So,this type of arm is very difficult to implement right and requires too much attention and some luck.I got it at this level.
Tobias, when a linear arm is cued, as the canteliver and stylus drop onto the lead-in groove; if the arm is not level or there is undue friction on the shaft, the canteliver will take the sudden shock of a side load from the leverage of the lead-in groove. this "jolting" action will eventually disable the canteliver attachment assembly. if there is very little or no friction (a properly designed air bearing) and the arm shaft is level, then the Jolt will be minimal and no problem will develop. the other issue is the mass of the arm assembly, which if too great will make this issue more probable. a unipivot arm has some "slop" and a very slight deflection angle (whereas the deflection angle on the linear arm is direct) to absorb the jolt so this is essentially a non-issue with them.....but, of course, this slop (and the geometry) is the design limitation of the unipivot.

this might sound like all the trouble isn't worth it......but i assure you it absolutely is. the only trouble is checking the shaft level about every 2 or 3 months and sliding the shaft back and forth once before playing to remove any dust from the shaft. with such a high-mass turntable nothing really affects the set-up.
Mikelavigne : ouch, what a graphic description of the shock of the stylus landing on the record ! I got a good feel for the leverage effect from the groove. Thanks very much for a very clear explanation of the issues involved in linear tracking arm design as they affect cartridge wear.

I certainly believe you when you say the trouble can be worth it. UHF magazine, for example, swear by their Pierre Lurné-designed linear tracking arm and Audioméca TT. I mentally place this setup, yours and a few others in the very select group of successful linear trackers. At the other end of the spectrum, I also note the regular appearance of used Rabcos on eBay...
Tobias, do you refer to the Pierre Lurne's SL5? If so, I can confirm that I have been using it with no problems for 11 years, and the only problem I had recently (you might have seen my post) was due to my leaving the dust accumulate, and not keeping the arm clean, only God knows for how long. The "problem" was then sovled in 5 minutes. However, recently somebody said to me that because the SL5 also has a pivot of some kind, it is was not truly linear. But who cares, the tracking is and remains linear, as far as I can tell, with all the advantages of linear! And this for only a fraction of the price for one of the big names, not to mention the hassle of pumps, etc.

Agree with all the above. I had an inexpensive linear arm (HK/Rabco ST-8) and now have a mid-price pivoting arm (OL Silver). The linear tracker was cool, and I didn't have to fuss with antiskating or worry (much) about tracking error. Nevertheless, the OL arm plays circles around it. Even with the same cartridge, the pivoting OL tracks better and handles antiskate test tracks better. It even plays music better.

Mikelavigne's graphic description of scary cueing is right on. I played a record the other day for the first time with my new arm. While cueing I noticed a terrifying series of gouges in the lead-in area from a previous rough cueing. It looked like someone had used a jackhammer on the poor thing. (Mike, have you been sneaking into my LP collection? I'm pretty sure your records don't look like this!)
Leep--hi, yes I meant the SL5. It's in UHF's Alpha reference system, see

Thanks very much for the benefit of your experience with it.

My Sony PS X800 turntable has a linear tracking arm, and I guess it works a bit different from ones described above.

The arm is pivoted (so there is no jaring sideforce when the arm lowers to the record, or at any other time) but the pivot point is moved as the record plays. Arm movement is biased to the speed needed for nominal groove spacing, and then adjusted up or down as necessary to follow variable groove spacing, according to the measured angle of the pivoting arm. The system suposedly regulates tracking angle within 0.05 degree (for the entire record).

Sorry about it being a Sony, but the damn thing works great.
Hi Eldartford, is your linear arm a Sony? Your description might also indicate a Pierre Lurne/Audiomeca SL5 arm, unless I am wrong. In any case, the SL5, at only a fraction of the price of the big names, and also works well.
Leep...Yes, the arm is part of the Sony PS X800 turntable system. It does not surprise me that some other linear tracking arm is mechanized in this way because it makes a lot more sense than trying to create a frictionless air bearing.
Terminator T3Pro is the culmination of this path of Evolution.
You can also buy refurbished used arms from the maker himself.
They all work like dream if correctly adjusted. I´ve abandoned my SME years ago and will never buy another pivoted or alike arm again. For me Terminator & Reso-Mat is the very best buy in hi-fi in 2 decades ! Their are also VERY reasonable priced. Go for them and you will never regret. Just enjoy.
I totally concur the T3Pro is one of the best buys in Audio, I have owned, Signet, Rega, Rega modded, Vpi, and now the T3 I bought the original and have upgraded when Vic comes out with them, I have never had any ubusual cartridge wear, it is easy to set up and use and sounds just amazing, no coloration at all!
A third vote for the Trans Fi Audio Terminator T3Pro. I've been running it on Vic's Salvation direct rim drive tt for 6 months now. Absolutely amazing, the biggest bang for your buck in analogue, IMHO.
It HAS to be set up optimally, esp. wrt being perfectly level, and your support really needs to isolate it from vibration (wall shelf best, although I'm getting excellent results with a Symposium Acoustics Isis Ultra stand).
This is not too difficult to achieve, and you'll be rewarded by the most neutral, uncoloured and transparent sound. I had been running a Michell Orbe with SME V, and was ready to drop some serious $s on an SME 30 with V-12 arm, or TW Acustic AC3 with Graham/Triplanar, but went with the Salvation/Terminator, and don't regret a moment of it.
The most facinating thing about the Terminator is that it totally defies your anxieties/expectations: once set up correctly, it stays true and in full adjustment, and becomes totally intuitive in everyday use. Tracking is the best - so often I'll get to the end of the last track of an lp, and the sound is so consistent that end of side distortion is almost totally eliminated. Bass appears to be lacking initially, but this is just the arm eliminating unwanted resonances. As a result, the lower registers start and stop on a dime giving music a really agile quality that my SME could never do. This in turn enables the mids to projest more prominently, and so allowing the upper frequencies to soar unhindered. The sound both floats and is more secure, simultaneously.
The tt adds further to this mix, but that's another discussion, although I can say the synergy is amazing.
The only caveats as I say are the need for optimal installation - level, isolated from external vibration. Additionally, there is a certain fiddle factor in running a pump and air hose, but again these can be managed. The pump makes a low hum but as long as it's far from you with some soundproofing can be lived with. Or the pump can be hidden in an adjacent room.
A total giant killer, beyond highly recommended. Check out my further thoughts on the thread entitled 'Trans Fi Audio Salvation direct rim drive tt'. Hope this helps.
Another vote here for the Terminator T3. Consistently runs rings rings around tonearms costing much, much more! I keep thinking I'll by another one for my big rig. No issues once set up. Adjustable for all the necessary parameters as well as VTA on the fly. Vic is a genius!