Linear Tracking or Not?, Any Experiences and Recs

I am considering the advantange of a linear tracking tonearm compared to a bearing or unipivot arm. From my uderstanding there is no arm that can compare. Is this true. Does this make the top of the current arms not worth considering. Are there any cartridge that will reject or demand the use of a linear tracking arm. From what I understand some carridges won't work on a linear tracking arm, as well as several turntables.
ALL the stuff being made now is pivoted arm.
Linear tracking was an experiment in frustration.
Between the pumps to float the arms/the servo to make the cheaper ones work the were a pain in the butt.
A few are still in use by diehards, but from your system, I'd say stick with what you have now!
Years ago, I had a nightmarish stint with a Maplenoll table that had an air bearing arm. But, this was a very cheap table with a very, very cheap air pump. The pump was the source of the problem.

I know of three brands of arm/tables offering tangential tracking arms. The Kuzma arm, which I saw at CES, is quite a well-engineered arm (as far as looks). The pump, high quality braided tubing, air plenum/filters/dehydrator looked absolutely first rate. Walker makes a table with an air bearing arm, too.

Clearaudio makes an arm that works without air -- it uses a very low friction quartz rail and sets of wheels that ride on the rail. It looks delicate and fiddley, but I've used it and it seems to work without hitch as long as the table is set up correctly.

I've heard, off and on, that Air Tangent will be making its arm again, which would make four different manufacturers. I bet, if you came up with the cash, Rockport would build a Sirius table with its arm bearing arm.

Tangential arms may have some obvious advantages, due to correct arm geometry, but they have their own theoretical tradeoffs. For example, the effective mass in the vertical plane varies greatly from the mass in the horizontal plane. The short arm tube also means that VTA tends to change radically when the arm moves up and down on warps and even for differences in the thickness of records. There are also issues with sloppiness in the bearing, and how effective the bearing is at draining vibrations transmitted down the arm.

I don't think there is any one design that is theoretically superior in all respects. Besides, differences between theory and practice complicate choices even further.
Yes they require attention,yet when all is set properly there is NO comparison to any type of pivot design.More relaxed and open,with better harmonic structure.Basically,lower distortion!I'm referring to the better(unfortunately,pricey)designs,like Air Tangent,Kuzma,Walker,Rockport.

BTW-I have a pivot,unfortunately.

Best rtegards.
I've been using an Airtech MG-1 linear tracking tonearm with my Teres 255, supporting a ZYX Airy 3xsb cartridge. I've been very happy with it - it replaced an OL Silver, and is clearly superior to that arm. The MG-1 including air pump set me back only about $450 (I think it costs more like $750 now) Still, I'm guessing that given your system, this arm may not compete with the arms you have such as the Ikeda.

I should also mention that while I seem to get great sonics from the arm, when I try the hi-fi News Record Reveiw test LP, I get pretty poor results on some of the test tracks. The OL Silver fared better on the test tracks, but doesn't sound as good.

Finally, I should mention that it's far easier to damage a cartridge with a linear tracker arm. You need to have the arm housing (tube where the air holes are) absolutley horizontal to ensure optimum tracking, and need to double check this frequently as it does shift.
There's not question that a well-set-up linear tracking tonearm delivers easily discernible and substantial sonic benefits. Like the absence of crossovers in full-range speakers, the absence of tracking error is something you certainly recognize when you hear it and you want that absence to persist. Unfortunately, there are some serious trade-offs to get that, which often drive adherents of linear tracking back to pivoted arms tracing a lateral arc.

Mass, complexity, fussiness, noisy air pumps, general geekiness get in the way of market acceptance for linear trackers. An exception is the Souther Linear Arm, now Clearaudio in TQ1 and other variants. I was involved in the final stage of design and materials refinement of the Souther Linear Tonearm back in 1980/81 and helped Lou launch it at CES. As a result I used one for several years. In some respects it was and remains the best sounding tonearm, period. Tracks anything, highly-defined, beautifully dimensioned soundstaging, objective tonal accuracy. This design, which uses a 3-point/3-bearing carriage riding precision twin quartz rails, supporting a center-pivot ultra-low-mass armtube, headshell, counterweight assembly, looks fussier than it is. It is a little delicate, but not too, and it maintains its setup for repeatable performance, within reasonable expectations. It had and has 2 primary sonic disadvantages. First, the short pivot-to-stylus distance produces audible warp-wow on less-than-flat records. This trait is shared by the Dynavector biaxial tonearm(s) and the Transcriptors Vestigal. The second drawback is that the low mass and lossy interfaces in the system render the arm a little lean sounding. Transient impacts lack a little weight, which makes the tonearm sound detailed, airy, effortless but a little clinical, irrespective of phono cartridge. It can even bleed emotion out of the Denon DL103D, which is a tough thing to do.

At the time of its development, there were so many other problems in the audiophile soundchain that this ascetic signature was more of a benefit than it is today, synergistically ameliorating some of the bloat, discontinuities, uneven resolutions and other excesses of 70s/80s gear and vinyl pressings. In contemporary audio where "hifi" is more explicitly engineered, the Clearaudio linear tracker based on the Souther design fits into a narrower range of systems as a preference over many of the tonally richer arc-tracing tonearms. At the birth of this linear tracker, the pivoted competition wasn't as good.

I went back to pivoted arms eventually, for more tone, though I just bought a table with room for 2 tonearms and I am eyeing a Souther-based design again as alternative.

I have heard the Kuzma arm at several demos and it sounded very nice. I had an ET 2.5 for a number of years and was very happy with it. Sonicly, it was not in the same class as my Schroeder Reference. However, cartridge installation on a linear arm is a 2 minute job. Since I swap cartridges frequently, that is a major consideration for me. Maybe not for you. The lack of inner groove distortion with the ET 2.5 is also something that I really miss. I wouldn't go back to the ET 2.5, but if I could find a used Kuzma at a good price I would grab it in an instant. YMMV.
I have an ET2 on my Teres 255 with a Shelter 901, it the best I have ever had and sounds great all the way to the end of the record. Linear tracking tonearms sound best because this is the way the records were cut to begin with and it only makes sense to play back with a linear tracking tonearm. At first I was afraid of the so called constant adjusting of these arm but it has not been that way with my ET2. Yes, they can be a real pain to do the initial setup and you will need patience but once this is done right and the table is leveled correctly they are no more troublesome than a regular pivot tonearm. Once you go Linear tracking I don't think you will ever go back to pivot tonearms ever again, I know I'm not. Just to let you know that if you find and ET2 you will need the setup jig to help you setup the arm faster and more accurately, without this you will be yanking you hair out on the initial setup.
Hey!!!: Rushton, Mike, Albert, where are you?

Regards and enjoy the music.
as a owner of the (Graham Phantom,Triplanar,SME V and two
Kuzma Airline TA), if you would like to go for a linear tracking tonearm, try to get a Kuzma Airline.
You won't regret it.
The only small drawback is that one should place the air
compressor in a different room. But kuzma suplied
a 25 meter hose for it.

Regards Karl-Heinz

How is the low level bass on the Kuzma? I have heard that linear tracking tonearms can have problems w. the disipation of energy since they are more similar to a Unipivot in this point. Also, they sometimes preclude using an outer ring due to the positioning of the arm. To me unless you have a vacuum platter you are making a compromise. Firmly fixing the record to the platter yields much a much quieter background & increases dynamics considerably.
My friend has been using an Air Tangent for about ten years.There has been no problems,whatsoever.He does not have a table with a vacuum system,yet the sound is absolutely stunning.Clearly a cut above any pivot I've ever heard.I'm intimately familiar with his set-up,and can attest to the fact that,though a linear arm needs some extra attention,there is NOTHING that has the ebb and flow of music,like an arm,of this type.I only wish I had the time to deal with the issues involved in it's care and feeding!

Best regards!
I 've been using a tweeked Maplenoll Ariadne signature for about 13 years with great results. I won't throw my hat in the ring with comparisons since I haven't done any controled test since th Maplenoll is an integrated unit. I will however throw in a little tweek that has worked very well for me in liu of an outer platter ring.

I made two little brass wire brackets kinda like an L shape with just a bit of a point extending out from the top to barely catch the record edge, the bottom leg going under the latter at a slight upward angle, and the vertical length sprung slightly and just over the height of the platter. With these I could clamp the record edge to the platter in two places if needs be. Definitely fiddley but cheap and effective. Email me at if you want to see pictures. Should work on most tables.
Dgad, Your comment on a vacuum table as being necessary for optimun performance of a tangent tracker is of interest to me , as I have just purchased the Kuzma Air Line and do not intend to use it on a commercially manufactured table.
Would you please expound on your opinion. thanks, Ken - kftool
I started using a Kuzma Airline a few months ago and despite the horror stories about these kinds of arms, I have been enormously pleased. Once set up and properly aligned, it is non-fiddly (I did initial set up pretty easily on the Kuzma XL table, but it was fine-tuned by Bill Parrish at GTT, who knows the arm and brought it to a fine point). Setting VTA is brilliantly simple and repeatable.
As to bass, and overall performance, I can give you the following insight- I had bought a Kuzma Reference table and the latest Triplanar, using a Lyra Titan i. The rest of the system was essentially unchanged. Pretty impressive bass (I use Avantgarde Duos, to put this into context) and quiet, dynamic and musical performance. I then switched to the Kuzma XL table- very high mass- and the Airline. More air around and body to the instruments- the bass became far deeper, if a little less pronounced higher up in the spectrum, and the sense of palpability- of real instruments and voices in space- not just a mirage or hologram, but real, with tonality and substance that wasn't there in the more modest set-up. (I grant you, some of this may have to do with the TT upgrade. And with the use of a far better platform for the TT. But, initial comparisons were without the benefit of the finite elemente platform now being used).
There is also less of a sense of a record playing- hard to describe, but when you don't hear it, you realize what you are usually hearing from a phono source.
The compressor must be in another place other than the listening room- it is noisy, it spits and farts, and is an otherwise serious piece of industrial gear. The quality of the arm itself is immediately apparent visually- overbuilt, fairly simple, and so far flawless in performance. I had an ET2 back in the day, and while it is unfair to compare, given the difference in price points-the ET2 was a bargain-
the Airline is an absolute revelation.
As to the need for a vaccuum table, maybe I am not getting the last iota from the XL, but I find that hard to believe- the record clamp does a great job, and the mass of the TT/platter assembly makes for a dead quiet listening experience. But, I'm certainly willing to be educated on this as well.

You have me curiuos. I would love for you to compare the Airline to a Triplanar and to a Schroder. this would be the cats meow. Now, from what I undertand the XL table is a perfect match for the airline & gives you world class sound. I strongly believe in some tables possesing table arm synergy. Maybe some Audiogoners can fill in here. I do know that there is a lot of talk about cartridge & arm synergy. What about table and arm. To name a few simple examples, Basis w. Graham or w. Basis arm, VPI w. its own arm, the Kuzma combination, and TW Acustic w. Schroder or Davinci. There are more but I feel that some such as Walker or Rockport would lose thier magic w. an arm other than a linear tracking arm. I wonder if Mike Lavigne was ever able to compare a different arm on his Rockport (doubtful as it seems difficult to setup). Has Raul ever used a linear tracking arm? There is a lot to learn, but once again I turn back to system synergy as the key to having a world class system.
Hi Dgad,

Well after having setup my TW Acustic I went for a comparison of different Cartridges and TA

Well I finally set up this combination.

1: Graham Phantom with ZYX-Universe / Kondo KSL FZ and Klyne 7xx
2: Kuzma Airline with Transfiguration Orpheus / Klyne 7xx
3: Davinci Grandezza with Takeda Miyabi and Tron Seven
4: Triplanar VII with Koetsu Rosewood Platinum / ZYX Artisan  Put looking for another Phono Pre.


Dgad, Whart, your discourse was very informative. There isn't much discussion on straight line arms, as there aren't many around. Without going out and buying an integrated system such as Walker, Rockport,or Kuzma it seems as though mating a tangent tracker to a table might be a bit of a gamble.

From what I've been able to gather, tangent trackers need a low compliance-high mass cartridge, a high mass table on a rock solid foundation, and if possible, a vacuum platter to keep the arm from constantly hunting if playing anything less than a pefect pressing. I welcome your thoughts Kftool

I know you love the Davinci w. the Universe. How do you like the Universe on the other tonearms? I find the Universe somethig special and different.
Hi Dgad,

well my new setting for the Universe ZYX is
in my System.
Graham Phantom Zyx Universe and Kondo KSL as step up
hooked to the Klyne 7p..


The ZYX Universe is really ok.
Dgad, Whart, in my haste to reply, I errored in referring to hunting; I realize it might happen to a line tracker, if fitted with a high compliance- low mass cartridge.

I meant to refer to the modest changes in vta caused by the shorter effective arm length of a line tracker negotiating a mildly warped record. This problem would be eliminated if a vacuum table is incorporated in the system, or if warped records just aren't played.

When setting up my Triplainer, I noticed the change in bass as I varried vta on the fly. The Triplainer is on a vacuum table so I realize that a warped record would contribute , to some degree, the same sonic changes on a non vacuum table. your thoughts. Kftool
I do try to avoid warped records- I find it wonderful, after returning to serious audio from a 10 + year hiatus, to find so many, many great recordings now available as reissues on vinyl. (Not to say that new vinyl doesn't have problems, sometimes, but when I last left this hobby, the only source of vinyl was squirreling around in bins at used record stores, or worse- the Internet was not a force to be reckoned with either).
Anyway, I am also more sensitive to how much I clamp a given record since too much force can obviously cause the record to bow. The Vta adjustment on the Airline arm is sooo easy, you'd really be remiss not to adjust it for each record. (I used to think that way lay madness, but at the time, had a Well-Tempered set-up and it wasn't as easy). BTW, I don't bother with the Vta adjustment on the arm tower, which as sold with the XL, is also adjustable and has an electronic micrometer. Instead, I use the adjustment on top of the arm assembly- easy as heck.
Is a vacuum system really intended to compensate for noticeably warped records? I assumed it was to create a bond between the platter and the record, to avoid some kinds of sonic aberration, like 'ringing' or resonance. I suppose that could also take care of mildly warped records, but is it really meant to? (Or is it just a question of degree, and all records are 'warped' to some extent?)
Uh,oh. The Madness is coming on... :)
I'm really surprised platter rings haven't caught on more. I predict that we'll see more versions of them as time goes on. My table won't accomodate the currently available one but I've dreamt of making one for years.
The vacuum is definitely for BOTH warps and interface resonance issues and worrks wonders on both.