Curious as to the demise and downfall of the seemingly short lived linear tracking TT. Just from a geometry point of view I would have thought a linear arm should be superior to one with a fixed pivot that sweeps through an arc. Obviously there is much more to it than that, sort of the reason for this thread. I am genuinely interested in trying one out for myself as well.
I bought mine in late Autumn of 2008, ten years ago when Vic the Magician had just introduced his unique design online. I have lived happily ever since. Now I have two of them. What you are looking at is the latest implementation with carbon fiber wand. Have fun ; )
First of all, what makes you say that the idea of linear tracking is dead? While there are not many all in one linear tracking turn tables on the market these days, there are still several high-quality linear tracking tonearms available. And as someone else has already mentioned, one of the best is the trans-fi terminator. It was off the market for a while, but I now believe it is for sale once again. As to the problems, everything of a technical nature has its pluses and minuses. So for a linear tracking tonearm, the problem is to drive the tonearm and cartridge across the LP surface, some sort of for force is required. That can be in some cases a servo motor, in some cases gravity, and in some cases just an attempt at zero friction back at the pivot point. Usually extremely low friction is obtained by having the pivot point on an air bearing. Many different types of air bearing have been tried, and most of them work to one degree or another. People argue about whether low pressure or high pressure air is best, for one example.Then there are other issues like what is the proper length of the tonearm? At least some devices attempt to ride the cartridge very close to the stylus tip, with almost no “tonearm“. All of these solutions have their pros and cons .
Lewm - As to the problems, everything of a technical nature has its pluses and minuses. So for a linear tracking tonearm, the problem is to drive the tonearm and cartridge across the LP surface, some sort of for force is required. That can be in some cases a servo motor, in some cases gravity, and in some cases just an attempt at zero friction back at the pivot point.
The best linear tracker tonearms use the same force for movement as a pivot arm - the groove.
But they do not need antiskating and the cart does not sit at an offset.
Have you ever actually owned and used a linear tracker in your room, Lewm ?
Uberwaltz - I believe you are referring to the packaged deal TT setups that included a table, tonearm, cart and available for reasonable amounts? Something like the Technics SL10 I have kicking around in a closet somewhere.
It would be foolish to judge a linear tonearm by the look. Should they be made of gold and diamonds to please all the doubting Thomas´ and naysayers ?
As our fast running friend just pointed out, OP may very well refer to vintage packaged deal TT setups. Actually my friend once had that Technics SL10 and it worked just fine and sounded quite convincing. Beautiful gadget.
Uberwaltz IMO - Those decks are probably the closest thing to the convenience of a CD player. Put in a record and close the cover. But owning a good TT rig requires TT hygiene. The record and stylus needs maintenance and cleaning. Its I think easier to forget about this especially to a younger person. The styli , from younger lazy people (like my son i.e.) , probably got so gunked up with dust and other debris that they deteriorated the sound worse and worse over time. The stylus hard to see if you can believe it.
With the focus on convenience they were made very compact with a tiny tonearm/plinth. Not good. But overall for its size still had heft..
I used to own an sl1200 that I used to loan out to people. I should have done a comparison shootout with the sl10 when I had the chance for curiosity. But have since sold the sl1200 ...and ...unlike my stocks 8^(((... the sl1200 has gone up in price... alot !
The best linear tracker tonearms use the same force for movement as a pivot arm - the groove.
This depends on what is meant by this statement. A number of linear trackers employ an air bearing, and thus have lateral tracking mass that is several times that of the vertical tracking mass. Quite often with such arms the side to side forces on the cantilever become the tracking angle error! This can exceed a good radial tracking arm.
So I'm not sure that qualifies as 'The best'.
A servo to control the rear of the arm as the arm moves across the LP (such as the old Rabco SL8) is a better solution, although the Rabco itself had many other problems. But if a modern version of such an arm were built, it could easily solve most of the issues that were a plague to the Rabco.
Ct, In the absence of any friction at the pivot point, yes there is no need for any external force to move the arm wand/cartridge across the LP surface. However, in the real world, there is never zero friction. Thus we first had the Rabco SL8, referred to by Ralph, which used a servo motor to nudge the pivot each time the arm wand moved in tiny arcs at the stylus contact point; the Rabco makes a series of tiny arcs all across the LP surface, the servo motor makes noise, yadayada. Arguably, it's not even a true SL tonearm. The Goldmund TF tonearm is naught but a very expensive copy of the Rabco idea. We also have the Souther tonearm which operates in concert with a "dished" platter (marketed in recent years by Clearaudio), so that the cartridge "falls" toward the spindle whilst riding on a rail. The most pure form of the art is the air bearing type, which at least strives for zero friction. But since that is impossible, side forces are created, as described by Ralph. In addition, one must fuss with air pumps, etc. But certain examples, like the Terminator, can be very good. I don't need to own an SL tonearm or turntable in order to know these things. What about you?
The only full bore turntable/SL tonearm available now comes from Germany, I think, but I cannot recall its name. Another German company, Brinkmann may also make one.
The best linear tracker tonearms use the same force for movement as a pivot arm - the groove.
This depends on what is meant by this statement.
ok - I will rephrase. The best linear tracker tonearms use the same force for movement across the record as a pivot arm - the groove.
Atmasphere Quite often with such arms the side to side forces on the cantilever become the tracking angle error! This can exceed a good radial tracking arm.
Firstly - no one I know that owns an expensive tonearm any type - plays bad-ass records where side to side forces on the cantilever become any type of problem. A quick call to Peter at Soundsmith on what he sees when he fixes carts, will illuminate all on side forces with improper anti skating. I was talking about the best ones only Atmasphere. Don't be general in your statement Give examples please; maybe in a thread on this topic, and when posting about tonearms in general; I personally feel you should be using your business partnership with Tri-planar disclaimer on each post.
Lewm - so I take it then that your answer is NO - you have never owned a Linear tracker in your room ?
I've been running a Kuzma Airline for more than 12 years. I like it, it is made well, no issues other than dealing with air compressor, which adds an additional layer of complication to what is otherwise a pretty straightforward design and execution. Otherwise, pretty easy to set up and dial in, minimal maintenance. I gather the Trans-Fi is the cat's meow at an easily digestible price. I remember the Rabco. I think the arm on the Goldmund Reference (old) was similar, but there were/are tweaks to get it to play nicely.
These are very good comments but I am still left wondering what was wrong with the general consumer models like the Revox, B&O, Technics etc that caused their lack of acceptance. Surely it was not just all down to the fact that people treated them more like cd players as alluded to?
^^^^ I have heard it said many times in the past, that it was the DJ’s in clubs that saved "turntables" when CD took over. They used sl1200’s and the like. Very durable built like tanks. Came in a bomb proof silver case. There is no way an SL10 linear tracker would have lasted one night in a club.
@uberwaltz my sense is several things happening near simultaneously decline of LP in 80’s so investment in mass market even high end table refinement declined some like B&O required unique cartridges, which were not great... the relatively simple but consumer rugged servo drives / sensors hunted a lot and did not sell well..... disclaimer - I managed a sizable dealerships at that time, our only Linear was the Souther, we had Denon, SOTA, thorens, etc
^- :_) It never fails to amaze me when people post comments on Hi-Fi gadgets they have never seen live in action not to mention heard. FYI the best air bearing TAs do not need fancy devices such as servos to show the way, the groove takes over. So any force or resistance is futile. As seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6nMtn8oEJg
Audio and picture may not be the highest quality but hope you like the music as well : )
testpilot, Thanks for supplying the name of that company, Bergmann. If you re-read my post, you will see that I mentioned first that there was one German company I could not name, and second that I thought Brinkmann might also make an all-in-one SL turntable. On that score, I may be right or wrong.
Ct and Harold, NO, as I mentioned, I have never owned an SL tonearm. And NO, I don't categorically dislike the idea. I have had a long-standing interest in the Trans-fi Terminator, which you can probably verify by doing a search here. I have heard it and other air-bearing tonearms many times, and I agree they have a lot to offer. Up to now, if I were to want to experiment with an SL tonearm, the Trans-fi would still be my choice. I do have an opinion that the Rabco SL8, which I have heard many many times, and the Souther are not the way I would go. These are my opinions. So sue me.
And Harold, Whether you like it or not, there is no such thing as "friction-less" in the real world. Ergo, if the groove is guiding the stylus tip, there is a side force generated at the stylus due to friction at the junction (and the mass) between the arm wand and the tube upon which it rides. Albeit the best air bearing tonearms are pretty successful in minimizing this problem. Why is it so upsetting to mention that?
I will chime in with the problem with straight line tracking air bearing arms is definitely the pump and all parts of the air supply leading to the TT. I had a Maplenoll Ariadne air bearing TT/arm combo for 12 years that was absolutely the best sounding somewhat reasonably priced combo ever built. The problem is it needed very clean 40 PSI pressure to make the arm bearing work. The TT would be fine with about 5 PSI. They had a splitter near the TT that would channel the air to both TT and arm in separate tubes. There needed to be a governor on that splitter that would divert say 85%of the air to the arm and only 15% to the TT. If that had been done, who knows just how great the 'Noll might have been. However, in addition to an extremely loud pump that needed isolation from the room you listen in, I really couldn't run for 4 hours without having overheating problems and either shutting down permanently or rupturing the diaphragm that allows it to pump air. It also required a filter to clean the air, an air plenum to take the condensing water out of the line caused by the high powered pump--and all these things need a separate aquarium tube to run to each piece from the other. The setup did not get out of alignment as long as it was leveled and not moved. GOOD! The air supply to the TT/arm could be stopped by any of the parts of the air supply delivery crapping out or any of the hose connections popping free from the pressure. VERY BAD. Solved that after the first time it happened that way putting on of the small plastic locking straps snugged good over the tube at each connection.
I also have a Trans-Fi Terminator with all the upgrades and it is able to run off a small aquarium pump--solves the 4 hour problem, the arm design only needed 3 PSI; and the noise--very little there. I used it with a super Lenco rebuild using most of Jean Nantais' upgrades and mods and a giant 100 lb. 10-layered plinth. The sound is very good, but not as good as the WORKING 'Noll. A lot safer on the cantilevers of cartridge as there is virtually NO way for the air supply to stop and the arm can float for several minutes IF it did somehow. It's one problem is a PITA in that the arm is a very short 3" for better sound, BUT...the sliderule like rail the arm floats on actually sits above the record and covers the rear 2" of it with only about an inch of clearance from the record. You have to lift the record at an angle to take off the record and the same angle to put it on--not a big deal. But because of its design, when you use the cueing lever, the long thin rod that holds the counterweights ends up rubbing on the record's outside edge too often.
I ended up buying a very good used pivoting arm that sounds as good or better with the Lenco as the 'Noll. I LOVE it--the Pete Riggle Woody. The combo is clearer, more dynamic, and I love it adjustability and easy of use, as in NO issues of any type. As has been already mentioned, it also looks great. Probably more than you wanted to know, but I have some experience with both types of arms in a really good system.
I have heard it said many times in the past, that it was the DJ’s in clubs that saved "turntables" when CD took over. They used sl1200’s and the like. Very durable built like tanks. Came in a bomb proof silver case. There is no way an SL10 linear tracker would have lasted one night in a club.
Rap-“DJ”s have led to the mass destruction of more SL-1200 series turntables and destruction more crappy copies of the SL-1200mk2 than any other consumer electronics product in history. They don’t even need a real turntable - they are only for looks, playing serato time code discs with a rap controller stocked with illegal content.
The only reason linear tracking turntables were never bought by these goons is because most require the dustcover to be closed before the arm will cue and set the stylus down on the record.
dorkward gave plenty of the reasons an air bearing linear tracker is difficult to own. The servo designs pretty much have problems of the wander, the servo constantly changing the angle slightly back and forth. Then non- centered records..Back in the early 80's (before CD) I owned a linear tracker (servo type) No great shakes. The Servo control pivoted arms of Denon TT like the 47F and 59L were better.
These are very good comments but I am still left wondering what was wrong with the general consumer models like the Revox, B&O, Technics etc that caused their lack of acceptance.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Technics linear tracking turntables. They solved so many problems to do with the difficulty and complexity (for non-technically-inclined types) of setting up a conventional tonearm by ushering in the innovative P-Mount system. Technics was and still is light years ahead of most others in respects of speed stability, and they’ve done very well with their TNRC anti-resonant polymeric compounds. I still own the first turntable I bought, from back in 1981 or thereabouts: the Technics SL-DL5 direct drive linear tracking turntable, and it sounds great, as good today as ever. I’ve since bought the quartz regulated model, the SL-QL5, and it sounds even better. These turntables were also very attractively designed, with a very low profile and sloping dustcover, beautiful materials and sleek, high quality controls. The only thing keeping me from using these for daily use is my SL-1700mk2 which has an Audio-Technica VM540ML cartridge with line contact stylus, which is in my humble opinion, close to being as good as it gets.
Clearaudio has several linear arms starting at the ~$4K range. I had thought about getting the TT-5 for my Ovation (to replace the Magnify arm) but opted for their top of the line tangential arm instead, the Universal. The TT-5 and their other linear trackers are considered finicky to set up and keep dialed in, so I am told. The Universal was easy-peasy for me to setup and dial-in, and is a set it a forget it system. It sounds fantastic and ended up one of the best upgrades I’ve done.
They were great but like anything with complexity they can (will) fail over time and could be difficult to repair. You can still see some listed for sale on craigslist in major cities from time to time. Nothing beats the simplicity and reliability of a direct-drive turntable with a pivoting tonearm.
Good morning Lew, Back to the business. Upsetting is your word not mine. Nothing upsets me after 40+ yrs in Hi-Fi, only prejudice and ignorance makes me laugh really. I never mentioned frictionless either on functionality of LT TAs. There´s a hell of lot friction in both sides of stylus when playing a record, that friction generates the sound. I repeat: no extra force nor resistance is needed to hold the stylus in the groove so with AB TAs servos are voodoo. The groove does the jog. Dot.
If you have heard a LT TA before why not say it right away. Your first writing gives the impression of the opposite. Too much confusion. Very well then... Excellent you are considering buying a Trans-Fi arm but it has taken already five-six years you first said that. Life´s short man. Why dontcha buy one right now ? I know you are a man of reason, due to your great gear as seen online. It´s audio´s most ridiculous bargain. It will fix your Lenco just perfectly (don´t take my word, there´s plenty evidence of Trans-Fi/Lencos online). And in the unlike case you don´t like it for whatever reason you can sell it very easily in used markets. One stayed less than a day on AOS market a few days back. I have never had issues with Terminator, only my clumsiness and goofing around in the beginning as a novice : ). Funny thing, to my great delight I found a linear tracker is easier to adjust properly than pivot arms which are the real PITA in practice, not to mention that ever annoying anti-skate which is practically never right not to mention perfect, and even so it´s always just so darn futile : / Adjusting Terminator PERFECTLY takes LOTS of time. But once you have taken the sweaty task to make it work, the job´s done. Just sit back and enjoy life. The only "drawback" I´ve had: the low-pressure Sera Aquarium pump broke after exactly ten years´ almost daily service just recently. Vic send me new for 25 pounds.
has several linear arms starting at the ~$4K range. I had thought about
getting the TT-5 for my Ovation (to replace the Magnify arm) but opted
for their top of the line tangential arm instead, the Universal.
The Universal looks like a fairly conventional pivoted arm. What mechanism does it have that makes it tangential?
The Revox Linear tracking TT has a high electronic failure rate, it has nothing to do with the operation of the arm itself. Many times you will see the revox up for sale as not working due to this electronic problem.
I can’t remember what the problem was exactly, but it is not all that difficult a fix for a tech - but they all need it, as times has gone on.
Other than that, they are a fine example of a mid level short armed linear tracker.
As for air bearing linear trackers, don't forget the Maplenoll tables.
Unipivot do not 'suck'. I have enjoyed two unipivot arms over the years. First one was a Magnepan Unitrac 1 on a Rega. Nice arm. In fact I am playing a Mozart Piano Concerto using my Kuzma Stogi S unipivot as I write this!
From responses so far it does appear I can summarise the demise of the linear TT as a package, nothing to do with later linear arms.
They were out at the time that vinyl in general was on a rapid decline due to CD. They were packaged and marketed for the most part as a simple and easy alternative to CD, with the result that a lot were neglected, heck it would not surprise me if some people did not even realise there was a stylus in there that needed cleaning. They were somewhat complicated electronically ( required to compete with CD) and as such were more prone to breakdown than regular pivot arm manual TT of the time.
Uberwaltz - I agree with you take for example another timing example.
The original ET2 Air Bearing Linear tracker was introduced in 1980. The same year that CD was introduced. Bad timing ? yes, but thousands were still sold. Today they cost $5000 in US dollars new and without the pump system, but can be had for under $1000 used in good shape for an original version from the 80's.
Now unless someone has driven over one with their car ,there is nothing but a good isopropyl cleaning of the manifold's capillaries, to bring it to factory specs. No mechanical bearing to deal with, no oil or lubricant to get hard over time. Unlike the Transfi with its multi bearing (air and mechanical), the ET2 is a full 360 enclosed air bearing. But it needs a pump with air line.
My reference tonearm is a custom build ET 2.5. Once set up properly, it outperformed all previous tonearms including VPI 12, FR64s, and a Dynavector the last of which came to me on a Jean Nantais (his preferred arm) 100 lb Lenco. This TT had the same gear on it that Salvatore called the best he has heard with the first Ref 1.
But it takes a Type A personality to own an ET2, not a Type B. What is an Type A you ask ?
Well, think back to before GPS in cars. If you were out in the middle of nowhere and lost, would you
Type A) pull out the map and/or ask for directions. (or)
Type B) keep prodding on hoping to find your destination.
(Type B's should not own ET2's)
Anyway there is a whole thread dedicated to this unique tonearm if anyone is interested.
Agreed about the Trans-Fi. Not only is it a good air bearing design, so the lateral forces acting on the stylus are negligible (think about the mechanical advantage of a spiral a meter long, acting over the width of a groove - a distance measured in micrometers), but it’s adjustable. As adjustable as any arm made, and that alone makes it a contender.
Let’s talk about adjustability. Tangentiality - fiddly, but perfectible. An old record, a good micrometer, a bright light, and half an hour. Mass - just add brass weights to the conveniently space holes. Resonance - lay Moongel or Sorbothane on the flat surfaces, as much or as little as required - as required for your cartridge and your taste.
VTA adjustment on the fly - and so easy it’s trivial. VTF a bit crude and fiddly, not on the fly, but intuitively obvious. Azimuth is the toughie - fiddly, but intuitive and very stable. Thing is, you start where most others end - and you end with 1 or 2 minute of arc precision (with a mod - see below).
Forget about overhang and choose-your-poison protractors which pretty much get it right - for parts of the record. And forget about almost-right-I-hope anti-skating. Instead, rejoice in Vic’s measurement about forces acting on the stylus - tonearm wire dominates.
Add the clever engineering which makes use of standard parts instead of precision machining, and you have a low-cost ultra high end device.
Is it perfect? No. The beam is cantilevered out, and so it’s just as unstable as other air bearing arms (that is, not very, but a little). The beam should hold adjustment to a few minutes of arc for perfect horizontal orientation. It doesn’t - it’s only stable to about 10 minutes of arc, but on the other hand, it’s a predictable amount in a predictable direction. I’ve built a support for the other end of the cantilever, and it solves both issues.
The vertical pivot is higher than the stylus by a centimetre or more. That means slightly compromised performance for warped records. The wand is only 70mm long, which accentuates the problem. On the other hand, the wand is only 70mm long. So that’s a tradeoff. In practical terms, it affects about 3% of my records negatively and 97% positively.
Last, there is a very minor aberration in air pressure on the saddle, for a few seconds, three or four times per side. The only cure is going to be an amorphous carbon bearing - costly, clunky, high pressure, and probably custom. But if I do that, I suspect I’ll have the best, most versatile cost-no-object tonearm in the world.
Or, you could settle for $15,000 performance for $1,000.
System - DIY air bearing TT, Koetsu, DIY electronics, ESL’s.
ok - I will rephrase. The best linear tracker tonearms use the same force for movement across the record as a pivot arm - the groove.
@ct0517 That suggests the possibility of an air bearing.
I don't have a business relationship with Triplanar, just for the record. I do own two of his arms.
I saw a linear tracker eventually fatigue a Sumiko Boron to the point that the cantilever just fell off the cartridge. No particularly bad-ass records used. Prior to that happening, you could see the cantilever move from left to right. Clearly too much compliance.
I owned a Rabco for many years. I built a servo for it so that would be reliable. The servo also took some time to spin the motor up or down; in this way it would establish a speed depending on the cut of the record and didn't make a lot of motor noise. I also replaced the arm 'wand' with a carbon fiber setup that was lower mass. But the track that the arm ran on was its downfall- the track had resonance issues and used poor bearings to support the arm.
When the air bearing arms came out I took a good look at them, as I spent a lot of time at our first dealership, who also carried the arm. It gained a reputation for eating cantilevers. Clearly whatever cartridge you are using is more durable- what are you using?
Terry, maybe you should have taken over for new production ; )
Interesting tweaks you have made there. You mean beam is manifold ? Then, may I ask how you have managed install the support for the other end ? To back of the plinth ? Maybe you could send me pics of it. I have covered the saddle with damping sheet. I can cover the wand too if necessary (one cartridge benefits from damped wand). Do you think it´s an upgrade to cover the base as well although it´s quite sturdy ? The arm sits on a sturdy brass column on soapstone plinth.
Hello. Obviously I’m relatively "new" here but I have a good 35+ years in this hobby. I’ve owned many turntables and have restored and "improved" even more. During that time I started wondering how well a linear tracking turntable might perform.... Long story short, I have now restored 5 B&O Beogram 4002 turntables. They use a photo-optic sensor that becomes "exposed" to a light source as a shutter is opened at the base of the tonearm.....shutter opening and subsequent drive motor engagement are dictated by the gradual inward movement of the stylus in the groove of the record and that is what opens the shutter.... When set up properly they are fantastic performers...very elegant and clever design.
I have two for my personal use and have restored three for clients of mine.... Lots of talk about their cartridges being "so-so".....I disagree, as does Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith…. I run the MMC20EN cartridges and they are fantastic. Am about to send one of mine in to Soundsmith for a rebuild. Will report back how it sounds.
Ultimately, personal preference dictates what we buy, or buy into with this hobby.....
There is a company out of Poland Pre Audio that is making some very interesting new production tables-LT arms combos from $2k and up. they have a few different arms table combos, some air some not. worth looking at.
Today, I dusted off my old Technics SL-10. I gave it to my Son years ago and he's storing it here. It currently has a Pickering TL-2S cartridge run thru a Jolida JD-9. I am stunned just how good it sounds. Now I am debating weather to get him another TT and keep the 10 next to my 1210.
ooooooh...so feeling the LTL here............. Linear Tracking Love. You guys may just help me make it through winter. 8^0
Atmasphere ct0517 When the air bearing arms came out I took a good look at them, as I spent a lot of time at our first dealership, who also carried the arm. It gained a reputation for eating cantilevers. Clearly whatever cartridge you are using is more durable- what are you using?
Atmasphere - are you referring to the ET2 ? re" Dealerships and Pro reviewers on the ET2 specifically
Dealerships and Pro reviewers never got past base setup - call it a 6/10 on the audiophile sonics scale. This is obvious to an experienced ET2 person reading any review or visiting a dealership. And still the tonearm ranks at the top of the sonics lists.
An example of this base versus advanced setup. The tonearm has a higher lateral mass and the design goal for setup is to get the highest vertical inertia. How do you do it ? You need to get past base setup. You set up the I beam for the highest vertical inertia. Now one can read the ET2 Tonearm Owners thread. The owners manual hints at it. A version 2 of the Et2 owners manual probably would have come out that described it in more detail, but like I said earlier, the ET2 came out same time as the CD and the demand probably did not warrant it for Bruce Thigpen
Atmasphere Clearly whatever cartridge you are using is more durable- what are you using?
The ET2.0 and 2.5 have no cartridge limits.
The 2.0's resonances are ideal for higher compliance and 2.5's for lower compliance.
I have used everything from a 50 x 10-6cm/Dyne Sonus Blue Gold
The manifold that houses the air bearing is Ground Zero.
Looking at the pic one can see the the Kuzma has a smaller manifold that actually moves with the armtube, and it needs its air line and wires for damping. Its meant for a lower compliance cart. Put a higher compliance on and well, not good...as I have heard from Lyra owners.
The ET2 is a different design entirely. Look at the pic again. It has a much larger "stationary" manifold. The air line is fixed to the stationary manifold, and the wiring is not needed for damping. This is why you see so many wire mods for the ET 2.0 and 2.5. But this is also where folks go wrong. If arranging the wiring the wrong way, it will influence the tonearm and cause lesser sonics, to mistracking due to the bearing being so slick. In comparison to the Kuzma Airline bearing, the ET 2.0 2.5 air bearing has been described as "very slippery" by those familiar with both.
Understanding these design differences will go a long way towards setup of both tonearms. If anyone is toasting carts on an ET2 they have no idea how to set it up.
Sounds to me like your dealers were Personality Type B...8^0.
Linear tracking is for you if you want to always be adjusting, fiddling, and modifying your setup, alignment and configuration and you are inclined, driven, and motivated to repeatedly make these system adjustments, alterations, and calibrations on an ongoing, consistent, and repeated basis.
Not necessary to constantly fiddle, with the Trans-Fi at least. However, most fiddles bring a reward, so the temptation is there. Also, with the Trans-Fi adjustments are stable, rather more stable than most conventional arms I have used.
Good questions. Yes, I support the manifold with an arm bolted to an aluminum column, bolted to the plinth. Actually, I designed my TT to accept this mod, and so the air thrust bushing supporting the platter sits on a panzerholz plinth which is fixed to big blocks of steel. The aluminum column is bolted to one of these steel blocks. The Trans-Fi is bolted to the panzerholz plinth through another aluminum column.
The manifold is slightly extended with a machined aluminum piece which is epoxied into the vee of the manifold. This machined piece has a protruding shelf which accepts a #0-80 screw, which touches the new supporting arm. A 1/16 turn of this screw adjusts height by about 20 microns, acting over a distance of about 30cm (screw to manifold pivot), corresponding to an angle of 0.00007 radians, or about 15 seconds of arc. In practice, I use only about half of this resolution, so adjustments are +/- 30 seconds of arc, which is sufficient. The settings are stable.
I haven't found it necessary to damp the Trans-Fi's base - I think that the air cushion covers that. But I haven't tried it, so I don't really know.