Linear Tracking Turntables - Best??

Entertaining the idea of acquiring a linear tracking turntable. Which was condidered the most sota. Ease of set up and maintenace is a prerequsite. Most I have talked with,say linear only way to go. OK AUDIOGON MEMBERS ITS YOUR TURN. Convince me one way or the other
how much are you willing to spend? if price is truly not an obstacle, you should go for the rockport serius. i haven't heard much played on the latest iteration but spent some time with the penultimate model. i have used an airtangent arm on a tnt to good effect, tho it's a bit tricky to setup and keep properly tweeked. same goes for the clearaudio tt/arm combo; the newest version, however, is a good deal better than prior ones. i would avoid going into the used market after a classic goldmund; they are a real setup nightmare. IMHO, you will find it easier to deal with a pivoted arm on a really good tt and, as a consequence play more lp's more frequently than you might with the much more finicky linear trackers. my personal choice is the basis debut vacuum with a graham 2.0 ceramic and koestsu onyx platinum cartridge. whatever your alternative, as with any component, cable, etc.: AUDITION IT IN YOUR SYSTEM. IF YOU CAN'T DO THIS FOR ANY REASON, DON"T BUY.
I owned the Goldmund Studietto turntable/arm and found it to be extraordinarily revealing. Once set up and dialed in for optimum performance, it was very straightforward to operate. This linear tracker was also a relative bargain ($3,000 new) compared to the Goldmund Studio model ($5,500+), which was considered the best TT/arm at the time. Unfortunately, Studiettos rarely come up for sale on the used market. Hope this helps. Daddy-O.
A good pivot tone arm is every bit as good as line tracking. They both have advantages, it is not as simple as one is better than the other.
Najo, I disagree strongly. I have spent years and thousands of dollars trying to find a pivoted-arm combo that did not have the ever-present graininess, harshness, and spittiness which happens at the end of records. It's physically impossible with traditional pivoted arms. Records are cut in a straight line and should be played back that way. Sorry, but that's the truth. Pivoted arms have geometric error which is easily heard near the ends of records when the groove velocity is the slowest. Once you hear a good linear tracking system, like a Goldmund or Forsell, you will never want to go back to pivoted arms like Regas, SMEs, Grahams, etc. I've owned all of them! The record will now sound beautiful from start to finish. So, my advise is go find a good used Goldmund.
Have to put in a word for the Eminent Technology arm which not only maintains it's position today with the finest but is seriously unfussy. The few shortcomings, less bass than others and the poor wiring on the original are solved by the five gallon gas can and the litz (?) wire upgrade of the series II. Paired with the VPI HW-19 IV which has the TNT bearing it's 95% of the Goldmund and Basis for 1/10 the price.
Be sure to check out the Walker Proscenium (?). Awesome. Just MHO.
Well, I had a Liniar Tracking arm, they are ok, but...
They can be hard to maintain, alot of tweaking and readjustment. Pivot arms do have alot of advantages as well.
Tim, OK, I don't know of any arm, which does not deed a lot of tweaking and readjustment. The better and the more demanding your hearing is, the more you are compelled to tweak. For the rest, my personal experience mirrors that of djnorth's. I've experimented for over 12 years until I settled for a heavily modified Goldmund and an equally modified Souther aka Clear Audio arm. Since then somewhat less tweaking and aural happyness has set in. Regards,
Go pivot arm for ease and maintenance. There's a trade off between the music virtues and good looks of linear tracking setups and pivot arms. I concur with Slugo's points from personal experience (except the Rockport of course). I had a Goldmund Studio with a 3F arm for many years. It produced beautiful music and it was fairly easy to maintain if you kept the VTA constant. Changing the VTA meant tweaking other things to get it sound just right. Pivot arms such as Graham 2.2's or Triplainer's allow for very easy tiny adjustments for each record thus producing a better chance of getting the music right for more records more often with less fuss. My current set up is Basis 2500/Graham 2.0 and Koetsu Onyx Platinum - just so you know my bias. Still, I wish I had kept that Goldmund - it was outstanding. I know my perfectly maintained Goldmund was a steal for the buyer. You might find one like that for you.
Right Gerry, changing VTA on the Goldmund was an absolute bitch, which bugged me so much, that I had it modified to be operated by remote control from my listening position. Since then I'm spoilt. Don't mean to show off, just wanted to say that it is a worthwhile tweak. It takes some good mechanical engineering however.
Yamaha px-3. I own one! after years of pivoted arms and high end turntables and tweaking I bought one of these used...slapped on an old grado magnetic and ummmm...should it sound this good? head shell it tracks linearly! anti skating adjustment!...buttons to select Lp or 45 to start at beginning of album so no manual setting down of arm!....why did I wait soooooo long. Anyone who thinks that you have to tweak this thing is sadly mistaken! It just works and sounds good...Isn't that what lets us enjoy the music a little bit more.
Pioneer PL-L1000. Unique silent tonearm drive, excellent DD motor, simple to set up (some need to have the optical sensor tweaked, but this is doable).
for the money, a used maplenoll ariadne signature or reference is one of the best linear tracking tables around. I know i am biased about the tables but once set up and tuned, they are not fussy and produce beautiful music when pair with a good cartrridge and downstream equipment. they are very heavy, tough to initially set up due to the weight and delicate teflon bushing in the air bearing platter.Air setup is another critical variable that once set up right will be pretty easy to maintain. I currently use an apollo and ariadne signature setups and have been very pleased with both of them
Terminator/Salvation combo directly from the maker himself:

Trans-Fi Audio, UK
Foe the cost/performance equation:Kodo "the beat" and it's Schroder pivoted linear tracker is quite interesting...

I would only go air bearing. Love the ET 2, would also go mg1 or trans fi terminator. You don't have to spend a fortune and they don't require constant fussing . I think when people say that they are not very mechanically inclined. 
The problem with air-bearing arms is that the lateral mass is often a multiple of the vertical mass. So you can be tracking at the right weight for the cartridge, but the lateral mass can cause visible left-right motion in the cantilever. When this happens, the tracking error is significantly higher than that of a radial tracking arm!!

The solution is a cartridge with a lower compliance. This might not work out all the well when it comes to simple tracking, as the vertical component (mechanical resonance) might not be satisfied. 

I used to run a heavily modified Rabco arm many years ago that got around these problems- but then had other problems, most notably mechanical resonance in the track in which the arm ran. I do think linear tracking is the way to go, but have yet to see an embodiment that solves all the engineering problems.
My Trans-Fi arm can taken away from me only over my dead body.
The much higher effective mass in the horizontal plane of most linear tracking arms might not necessarily be a disadvantage.  Bass is typically mastered monophonically, which means only lateral movement of the stylus tracing the groove.  The higher effective mass in the horizontal plane would keep the arm from moving so easily so that all of that bass information is imparted to moving the cantilever which means that all of the bass information is actually recovered by the cartridge.  This is the principle behind the Moerch anisotrophic tonearm.  I don't know if this is also what is behind the sound of certain linear arms, but, it might be the case.  With arms like the Walker and Mapenoll, I heard really deep and powerful bass.  

Of course the higher horizontal effective mass would be bad news with off-center records which could severely stress the cantilever.

Does anyone have experience with the Shroeder linear tracking arm?    
One cartridge that plays into atmasphere's point about the lateral versus vertical mass of air-bearing arms is the Decca/London's. The current Londons have a vertical compliance of 15 but a lateral of only 10, making them a good candidate for an a-b arm, at least in regards to effective mass/compliance.
@larryi, there is a problem with this statement:

 Bass is typically mastered monophonically, which means only lateral movement of the stylus tracing the groove.  The higher effective mass in the horizontal plane would keep the arm from moving so easily so that all of that bass information is imparted to moving the cantilever which means that all of the bass information is actually recovered by the cartridge.
The problem is that bass is not mastered monophonically! Its mastered in stereo like everything else. Dealing with out-of phase bass is a problem in modern recordings, which is why a lot of mastering houses employ a passive device that makes the bass mono for a few milliseconds until the out of phase bass problem has passed. We have such a device in our mastering suite, but prefer not to use it; so far anyway I've found that if you just spend a little more time with a mastering project and do some test cuts, you can sort out a way around the out of phase bass without resorting to processing, which I like to avoid.

Further, the higher lateral mass simply means that the arm can be moving one way while the cantilever is going the other way. I've seen this in air-bearing arms with cartridges that are too compliant, and in one case at a local dealer's shop (House of High Fidelity of St. Paul, no longer in business) the excess motion resulted in the cartridge body shedding the cantilever entirely! So this issue should not be ignored or overlooked!

FWIW, I'm a huge fan of the idea of linear tracking. I think there is a way to make it work too; it will have to be a solution that has the vertical and lateral tracking masses being the same, while at the same time having the arm bearings in the same plane as the LP (to avoid change in tracking pressure on bass notes or warp).

Some of the alternative solutions like the Schroeder arm might do the trick. I'm still looking for the bearings to be in the same plane as the LP; not seen that yet.
Atmosphere; I have become so weary of these forums. Then I read one of your posts. Always enlightening! Always interesting. Always worth the read. I owned a Walker Black Diamond few years back. Read about linear carts. Did not really follow, until now.
Thanks for keeping it informative.
i'm just say'in ✌️🖖
I have used a VPI JMW 10, since 2000 (after SME’s, Triplanars and many others). Properly setup (which few owners seem to get) I have never heard inner groove distortion, or any harshness, on any of my 2000 Lps. That is just my experience, YMMV. Once setup it needs almost no adjustment. I can also can swap arm tubes with different cartridges, after a quick SRA and VTF adjustment. Turntables do not have multiple straight tracker arms.

The straight trackers are not my cup of tea.

I always wonder how does the straight tracker keep equal sidewall groove force, throughout the side, when groove spacing varies, across the Lp? You can not run the arm horizontally at a constant speed. How do they vary the speed, with groove spacing? This is audible. Also if the cartridge is misaligned, it’s off throughout the entire Lp side, and never correct.
It's up to the user the correct cartridge alignment.
However it is very easy and not comparable with pivoted arms.

The cartridge always drives the arm. This apply to linear arms also!

 All of the vintage linear trackers like yamaha px1,2,3 or pioneer pl-l1, pl-l1000 have detachable headshell once you've mention the quick cartridge swap.

 As a bonus plus, all of them are direct drives using a technology which the present manufactures cannot even dreamt. These turntables are icons of the true research & development and no one can imagine the todays production cost if ... 

 But lets get real.
 We are in 2016 where people don't sweat for their living and all the funds going to maketing, deceptive claims, ads, image makers and corrupted magazines or blog reviewers.

 Unfortunatelly the research has stopped at '80s when the Japanese giants have faced the digital trend of the wealthies.

Donc55 that's why the only ones I would use are the air bearing ones. 
Atmasphere the ET2 can be set with the bearing at the level of the LP.  
The ET is also stupidly well priced for what it is.  SOTA for under 1K used.  I think it's because a lot of people are afraid of it. And no it does not require constant adjustment. Once set it stays that way. 
What Atmasphere is talking about is discussed at length on several other strings. Having the lowest possible mass really helps this phenomena. i modified my apollo arm (was originally modified by Lloyd Walker to a light weight ceramic) with a carbon fiber headshell, arm wand and using a UNIverse II which is a very light cartridge. The mass is substantially less as a result and the performance is very good. Bass response is not a problem and even with pretty violent passages, i do not have an issue with tracking. The apollo arm is a very short arm compared to many others hence the need for a vacuum to ensure record is flat against the platter. There was another turntable (i think an older vyger line) that was even a lighter set up as the cartridge was directly mounted to the air spindle with no arm to speak of. 
For a long time i did not believe the issue of mass but after watching set up on my older ariadne with the bulky set up maplenoll originally had, i saw exactly what he is discussing. I never damaged my cartridge but the movement was definately there especially on a record whose center hole is slightly off. That is when i started modifying arms to remove weight. 
That being said, i really like the airbearing arms and the magic they produce with a high mass turntable like the Maplenoll or Walker tables

The ET2 has adjustable effective mass as part of its design. As Analogluvr knows, experienced owners know to set it up for highest vertical inertia.
This is well documented in the Et2 manual (Page 9) and the ET2 thread.

fwiw from this thread's perspective and comments from Atmasphere.

His experiences with the ET2 are documented on AudioGon here.

Later I had an ET but after eating a few cantilevers, I ditched it. Obviously I had the wrong cartridges in it; you could sit can watch the cantilever move back and forth as the arm tried to negotiate the LP. If you have ever seen the arm 'wobble' you know what I am talking about.


From my personal experiences, No, not wrong cartridges - just set up wrong. In this case it appears from your comments that it was 1) improper set up and 2) severely eccentric records.

Page 47 - ET2 manual.

If you like to play severely eccentric records, ones with run out greater than 1/8th of an inch, then we suggest you use a low mass pivoted arm

From a cartridge end I have gone as high as 50cms/dyne x 10-6 with no issues with proper setup on an ET2.

Air Bearing linear trackers will always have higher horizontal mass. I don't know one audiophile that plays severely eccentric records. I mean Audibly what's the use. Unless you want to carve out the hole a bit and use a center weight. That's getting pretty anal !  but maybe it's a special record. 

Happy Listening.

Donc55 that's why the only ones I would use are the air bearing ones.
Atmasphere the ET2 can be set with the bearing at the level of the LP.
The ET is also stupidly well priced for what it is.  SOTA for under 1K used.  I think it's because a lot of people are afraid of it. And no it does not require constant adjustment. Once set it stays that way.
The ET does indeed have the bearing at the right plane. The problem is the lateral tracking mass. Lightening up the arm would likely help but the real place to lighten things up is in the bearing itself. Have there been any carbon fiber air bearings? I'm not aware of one, but if such were produced, it would be a simple method of reducing this issue considerably!

The fact that additional air pressure and a larger tank makes an air bearing sound better should tell you something. The engineering principle involved here is that the cartridge has to be held in perfect locus relative to the LP surface while still being able to move freely. To that end, there can be no slop in the platter bearings and the plinth must be absolutely rigid and dead such that the base of the arm moves in the same plane as the LP surface should there be vibration. The bearings of the arm must have no slop such that the arm is rigidly coupled to its base. Any difference between the locus of the cartridge and the surface of the LP will be interpreted as a coloration.

It is that latter part where the issue lies. Because there is slop is why increasing the pressure and adding a tank improves the sound. Essentially it reduces the effect of the slop. But the slop can't be eliminated entirely else the bearing would not work. Now we are talking about microscopic tolerances, but grooves on an LP are microscopic too.  The only way around this is not not have slop which is impossible with an air-bearing arm.

Now I'm not saying an air bearing arm does not work- Bruce could not have stayed in business over 25 years if the arm didn't work! What I **am** describing though is the envelope that needs to be pushed.

All ET 2.0 and 2.5's are designed to work at a certain PSI.  Bruce tailored them to customer specs and he also offered lower and higher pressure models. They need to be run at the PSI as designed.
Now The problem. 

Many owners especially those in high humidity areas not using a water trap, have let moisture carrying minerals and other crap into the manifold allowing the capillaries to get partially clogged. This is when higher psi does indeed help a bit forcing more air through the manifold and the capillaries/partially clogged. Owners wrongly assume it sounds better because of higher PSI.   But its a band aid.  The fix - clean out the holes! .....and use at the designed PSI.

Many buy used ET2's and have never cleaned out the capillaries as shown in the manual.  They have never ever  taken them apart; and they have no idea what PSI they were designed for - like an ebay sale. We have discussed the procedure for how to determine the PSI that Bruce designed them for on the ET2 thread.

So one needs to filter out (pun not intended) and qualify what you read on the internet. The design also has a 19 psi limit -  if set up this way by Bruce in the first place. Like my 2.5. So if you read about someone using i.e  28 psi .......:^)   be leery.

Air Quality vs Air Volume Higher PSI. 
Don't confuse higher psi volume of air over the quality of the air delivery that is being delivered. If the ET 2.0  2.5 is operating properly it is the quality of air delivery from a better pump - not the higher psi that improves its sonics. This is proven by using two pumps, same psi differing in air flow quality only.

The ET2 tonearm more than any that I have owned or am aware of allows, invites mods.The envelope can be pushed as far as you want to go. But, first, you need to figure out how it works.  This takes time and patience and out of the box thinking since it is unique.  

If the ET 2 is run properly  there is no slop in the bearing as far as in and out. Not with the usual forces that the cartridge puts on it. 
The air bearing "slop" issue has to do with not having physical contact between the arm and the structure of the rest of the table (arm base and plinth).  Micro vibrations caused by the stylus tracing the groove don't have as effective a path to be dissipated elsewhere so the arm itself tends to shake.  That energy can be damped and reduced by a "stiffer" air bearing, but, this is just one of the challenges of designing air bearing arms.  

As for the mass issue, it is not just that these arms tend to have higher effective horizontal mass, it is also the case that the stylus/cantilever has to drag the whole arm from the force applied to the end of the arm without the mechanical advantage that pivoted arms have (pivoted arms are effectively levers).  My other issue with most of these arms has to do with their shortness.  The shorter arm has certain advantages (lower vertical mass, greater rigidity), but it also means greater changes in VTA from different thicknesses of records; both of my cartridges are pretty sensitive to small changes in VTA and I am not someone inclined to fiddle with adjustments for each record.

Whether or not the inherent mechanical challenges of such arms outweigh the advantages, is, I suppose, a matter of debate.  I do know that I have heard some pretty nice sound from systems using air bearings like the ET 2, Walker, Kuzma and a few others.  I even liked the sound of my cheapie Mapenoll but I got rid of it because of the issue of the cheap air pump not delivering enough pressure.  But, I have also heard terrific pivoted arms of all sorts, so I am not convinced of the inherent superiority of any particular design.
@ct0517 , Thanks for your explanation- I bet there are a lot of owners that don't check that!
I used to own a Technics SL-10 that came with a MC cart.

I sold it.

One of the dumbest things I've ever done.  Trouble free, worked beautifully, sounded great to (at least) my 'tin' ears.  Let it go due to 'financial difficulties'.

It's now featured in a museum of modern design classics....hard to find, too.

Other DumAz move...a Kenwood separates system w/monoblocks that now sell for 2~3X new, IF you can find them.

Moral: go tangential.  Spend the megabucks if you feel you must.  But even an 'econo' unit is better than playing with anti-skate and thinking you've got it down.  You're still 'averaging' the error, regardless of how much you've spent thinking you've 'cured' it.

MHO.  Save the R&R for someone who might care.
Atmasphere - I bet there are a lot of owners that don’t check that!

Yeah. there are a couple things to check If buying a used ET2 with no history known.

First one needs to determine if it is a 2.0 or 2.5 model. The 2.0 came out during the MM heyday. The 2.5 has a wider diameter lower resonance spindle, more ideal for MC. Bruce isn’t/wasn’t big on labeling; they both say Eminent technology ET 2. An easy way to verify which is which; on the end cap that holds the I Beam/ Weights. If flush with spindle its a 2.5, and if it overlaps, it’s a 2.0. 90% of those that I see for sale are 20+ year old base ET 2.0’s. From reference to the ET2 thread over 2000 ET 2’s were sold.

One then needs to determine if it is a low or high pressure manifold. Bruce inscribed HPM on the actual high pressure manifolds. When it is taken apart to check the capillary holes this will be found. With the Air Bearing, it’s a very straight forward procedure for any DIY person to clean the capillaries. If one can change out the cartridge on your sink faucet you can do this procedure. By doing this you also gain knowledge on how it works. Clean capillaries out with isopropyl as discussed in the manual. Put back together, insert the filter/moisture trap in the line and you never have to worry about the capillaries again.

Then one can check for PSI design and the pumps.

The base original low pressure ET2’s were supplied with Takatsuki 3.5 psi pumps. Go forward 25 years and Ebay ET2’s are still being sold with - guess what...
The same pump ! LOL ....What does that tell you ? Two things actually.

1) Surprisingly the original one I still have one in a cabinet somewhere, still puts out about 3 psi when tested but I’m sure its performance in quality of air delivery is no longer the same.

2) It is easily bettered and the manual discusses how to upgrade it with a better pump. IMO This combo base ET2 with the Tak pump was more of a business case decision to sell the tonearm. The PUMP journey is a wonderful audiophile adventure on its own. My journey lastly years and taught me a lot about hydraulics. The quality of the air delivery accounts for over 50% IMO of the sonics story on a properly set up ET2 tonearm.

All reviews I have ever read on the tonearm, all for the ET 2.0, were glowing ones. But no professional review that I have read, ever demonstrated any of the advanced setup techniques, and knowledge that we discuss on the ET2 thread such as weights positioning, single, double, triple leaf springs to match up with the compliance of the cartridge, and single shot wiring bypassing the factory wiring setup; This was done (factory wire setup) IMO again as a business model, to enable the tonearm to work in a package with other manufacturers turntables. This base factory wiring setup is the main reason that most have problems with setup. The ET2 Air Bearing is way more SSS "sensitive", "slippery", "smoother" than other captured air bearings that I have seen/heard. Wiring setup affects performance directly. If one has problems leveling turntables and tonearms; well then there will be two main problems/challenges with setup. Some people have problems differentiating between the two.

The air bearing "slop" issue has to do with not having physical contact between the arm and the structure of the rest of the table (arm base and plinth). Micro vibrations caused by the stylus tracing the groove don't have as effective a path to be dissipated elsewhere so the arm itself tends to shake.

LOL - Larryi - Hilarious stuff.... where do you guys come up with it :^)
You made me spit up some coffee...I guess I could use a new keyboard.
Well you made me do some digging on the ET2 thread. How do I remember this stuff, but I can't remember where I put my car keys !  

You may search Dover's post at this time point on the ET2 thread for more detailed info.

Dover's post on the ET2 thread. 03-05-2013 6:29pm

Martin Colloms did in a Hifi News review years ago ( 1985, I think ). He measured the resonances before and after the air bearing and compared them to ascertain how the air bearing dealt with such. Typically you would use an accelerometer placed on either the arm or bearing housing to measure these.
If my memory serves me well the resonance profile remained in tact, in other words even though the resonance is passing through air and rubber, it went through almost unhindered.

Some more research.


(of a liquid) spill or flow over the edge of a container, typically as a result of careless handling.
"water slopped over the edge of the sink"
synonyms: spill, flow, overflow, run, slosh, splash
"water slopped over the edge"

feed slops to (an animal, especially a pig).


waste water from a kitchen, bathroom, or chamber pot that has to be emptied by hand.
"sink slops"

sentimental language or material.

"country music is not all commercial slop"

Now, if I post the urban slop definition I will most likely be banned from this forum.  

From my experience even average linear arm can easily outperform high performance pivoted. Shortly and clearly.
Hats off to Poul Ladegaard !
 "From my experience even average linear arm can easily outperform high performance pivoted. Shortly and clearly."

Right on...or, shall we say, 'right arm'? ;)
There is no getting away from anti skate's complications. Not to be adamant about LTs because once you delve into the compromises with them questions do arise. 
I do own a Trans Fi and the air cushion under the angled bearing, if you can call it that, would seem to be pretty stable. The interface between the long angled metal base and the saddle that transports the short arm would seem to be quite stable. The design is simple, and uses an extremely low pressure. I just like it. Comments about compromised bass are misguided I can assure you. I can't really imagine any slop affecting the performance. 
I can't really imagine any slop affecting the performance.
The engineering issue is similar to the steering and suspension in a car. If there is any slop, the result is scary and dangerous handling. In a tone arm/cartridge situation, it plays out as a coloration. That is why there can't be any slop, if indeed a neutral presentation is your goal.
Dentdog, I also own and love a TransFi. A good way to check bearing play on that arm is to mount a laser pen so that it reflect at 90 degrees off the pressurized aluminum slider onto the ceiling(the taller the ceiling, the finer the resolution). Instability of the laser dot indicates bearing play.  Assuming that the dot moves a measureable distance, with basic geometry you can calculate the bearing play.   
Trans-Fi Terminator! Forget the post and all the opinions, buy one and you will be very happy for a very long time. I've heard all the arguments for and against linear trackers and have owned a few but the Terminator got it's name for a reason. Highly overlooked in the community but I would race mine against any arm anytime. Plus you get to run your phono completely balanced from cart to pre-amp! Sweet!