looking at upgrading my tonearm from a triplanar



I have a Galibier Gavia table, ZYX Universe II cartridge and a triplanar tonearm running through a Doshi Aalap preamp.

The sound is wonderful but I can't help but feel I could enhance the vinyl rig by upgrading the tonearm,
particularly gaining low level detail.

I've read up on a few models and I am looking for input on an arm that would be a significant step up from the triplanar.

I am particularly interested in comments from previous triplanar owners on sonic improvements with a new arm

the Durand Talea, Kuzma 4 Point and Graham are on my short list. I am not considering anything above $10k

thanks

Tom
audiotomb
Did own the Triplanar VII U2 for quite a while and made a lot of comparisons with it, mainly against Graham Phantom first generation (which was replaced later until Supreme) with various cartridges.
The Triplanar was ok in the time when Graham 2.0 was the current one, but every comparison against Graham Phantom was disappointing for me. The Triplanar is grossly overrated, in no area, with no cartridge it was able to stand against Phantom Arm. That one is faster, shows much more detail in every frequency area and it works also with a lot of carts at superior level. The Triplanar looks solid, but it isn't, the energy transfer is mediocre. It is ok with cartridges which do not reflect any or few energy back into the Arm or are low in weight (Zyx is a good match for example). Koetsu, Lyra and others which need a Arm with good energy transfer, solid bearing to shine on their best, work much better with Phantom. Made these comparisons on same Turntable, same electronics and correct installation. The Kuzma 4P is also a loser compared to Phantom Arm, slow, it simply does not have the headroom and subtle details and so on other Arms can deliver, also a comparison on same turntable with identical electronics was done for that. But there will be other opinions who will write something different ...
Tom, I look forward to reading responses to your question from audiophiles far more knowledgeable than myself. I would think the Schröder Reference tonearm might be mentioned, however I do not own one. I'm thinking when one achieves the high level that you are at we might just be talking about different flavors of tonearms.
Tom,

Durand Talea would be a significant upgrade. The Beta version of the Talea easily bested both my fully tweaked TP and Dan_Ed's in direct A/B comparisons, in my system and his, using UNIverse I and XV-1S. The production models now available include improvements based on Beta tester feedback and further research by Joel. I assume they're even better than what I heard. I'd have replaced my TriPlanar with a Talea long ago if I had the funds and time. Well worth your consideration.

FYI, the Talea also bested a Kuzma Airline in that owner's system, using XV-1S and Tranfiguration Orpheus. While the Airline had a few advantages, the Talea had a notably lower sound floor... clearer and with more low level detail... a more realistic presentation of acoustic instruments. This was agreed by five listeners, including the Airline's owner. If the Airline is sonically superior to the 4 Point (assumption based on price)... draw your own conclusion.
;-)

IME, a Schroeder Reference is not an upgrade to a properly set up TriPlanar VII or above. It may be better with some cartridges, but with a ZYX UNIverse (I or II) it would be a lateral move at best. In a direct A/B, with Frank Schroeder setting up his arm and me setting up the TP, the TP more than held its own. This occured before I discovered or implemented any of the tweaks detailed on the "TriPlanar Tips" thread. Many of those enhance the TP's performance in precisely the areas where the Schroeder should have an advantage (low sound floor). If using a high end ZYX, a fully tweaked TP will probably outplay a Reference.

Haven't heard a Phantom except briefly at shows, so can't say how that would compare.
I found the Talea to be a disappointment compared to the Triplanar, after everything I had heard and read about it. In particular the Triplanar is better in the bass- so far, the best I have heard. I use recordings I have recorded myself for reference, as I know how they are supposed to sound (Canto General, if anyone is asking).

The Triplanar has the hardest bearings of any arm made. Its one of the reasons it works so well.

Recently the arm has been updated with more flexible wire, and there are two newer models, the 12" and a regular size that uses the new arm tube materials of the 12".

So it might be that the thing to do is get the older arm updated.
My impressions are pretty similar to Doug's as they should be since Doug and Dan introduced me to the Talea ,on Doug's table ,many years ago. For almost a year I had the TP and the Talea2 mounted side by side ,on my TW AC . The carts were the Trans Orpheus and later , the Lyra Atlas. Having compared the 2 arms ,in the same system for over a year , to my ears there was no comparison and I sold the TP. In every conceivable parameter the Talea2 is a superior arm though I have not heard the later iterations of the TP, namely the 12" version. The Talea2 was intended as a 2nd arm but the differences were so stark it ended up as the solo arm.
YMMV
Best
Pradeep
So, Audiotomb, it seems you need a Graham Phantom AND a Talea2 to cover all the bases, if you replace your TP. I own a TP and have heard the Talea on a neighbor's system with which I am intimately familiar. I cannot say the Talea is better than the TP, because I would need both on the same tt and in my house, in order to compare them, but the Talea did sound superb, with a ZYX UNIverse.
Stating the obvious (and agreeing with you Lew), tonearm/cartridge auditions are the most difficult comparisons to make, and small differences in setup can dramatically influence the results of a comparison.

Your best bet is the experience of an audio buddy whom you can trust, and whose taste doesn't necessarily have to line up with yours as long as you can reliably map their feedback/comments into something that's meaningful to you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a dealer for most of the arms referenced (Durand, Kuzma, Tri-Planar) so I will recuse myself from public comments about any of these fine tonearms, as well as the others which I don't represent.

Cheers,
Thom
The Schröder LT (linear track) tonearm is one worth some very serious consideration. You are likely to hear improved resolution in the lower registers.
Syntax - your comments (Graham vs. Kuzma/Tri-Planar) are very instructive.

I would state it differently: that the presentation of the Tri-Planar and Kuzma are dramatically different from the Graham's presentation.

I wouldn't call either superior, but I would virtually guarantee that someone would line up in one camp or the other, much as you have.

You probably know my biases, but that's not the point of this comment.

Cheers,
Thom
I was able to purchase a Durand Talea MkII used. Really looking forward to the synergy. Thanks everyone and I will comment on the sonics when things are up and playing
Tim Paravicini chose the Helius Omega for his EAR table. I'm guessing it's pretty good!
Had Triplaner TW 10.5 is much better.
Ralph, your mention of the hardness of the bearings in the Triplanar brings to mind a couple of questions for me. Could you give us your design engineer's perspective on the following?

- What is the significance of the hardness of a tonearm's bearings? At the tonearm weights involved, that alone wouldn't seem to be important.

- On the other hand, beside the bearing design itself, two bearing characteristics would seem, at least conceptually, to matter a great deal:

1- The bearing's ability to transfer mechanical energy out of the arm tube and into the mass of the turntable
2- The smoothness of the surface of the bearing material, for lowest friction.
another contender under $10k to seriously consider is the Durand Kairos; which has the composite arm wand.

if you want to upgrade from the Talea MkII it would be a nice step up while retaining that same sonic perspective.
- What is the significance of the hardness of a tonearm's bearings? At the tonearm weights involved, that alone wouldn't seem to be important.

The hardness is important- the more the bearing has the less sticktion. The size is also important- the smaller the bearing the less sticktion. Jeweled bearings (which are very hard) are unfortunately also very easy to damage and often don't survive adjustment at the factory, which is why they are usually adjusted with a little slop. If you over-tighten them they are damaged instantly. So a hard metal bearing is essential for longevity in the field. It is the failure of arm bearings that is why the arm may need to be readjusted over time.

- On the other hand, beside the bearing design itself, two bearing characteristics would seem, at least conceptually, to matter a great deal:

1- The bearing's ability to transfer mechanical energy out of the arm tube and into the mass of the turntable
2- The smoothness of the surface of the bearing material, for lowest friction.

The bearing ideally should not have to transfer any mechanical energy. If it does, this means that the arm and cartridge are mismatched (effective mass is incorrect). What the bearing should be doing is allowing the arm tube to move with the position of the stylus but otherwise simply keeping the cartridge in proper locus so that the stylus' set of angles with respect to the groove of the LP is maintained. The bearings IOW serve no damping properties whatsoever: this would run counter to their mission.
The bearing ideally should not have to transfer any mechanical energy. If it does, this means that the arm and cartridge are mismatched (effective mass is incorrect).
Strongly disagree. The effective mass/compliance relationship tells us only how a cartridge/arm behave when considered as a spring-loaded system. It tells us nothing about how they respond to internal vibrations.

No cartridge is 100% efficient as a transducer. All cartridges respond to cantilever movements by:
1) converting some of this mechanical energy to electrical signal;
2) converting some of this mechanical energy to heat; and
3) not converting some of this mechanical energy at all, which remains in its original state as physical vibrations.

The mix of 1, 2 and 3 is unique to each cartridge and varies according to frequency across the entire audible band (and beyond). The portion that remains as mechanical vibration may propagate through the cartridge body, into the headshell, into the tonearm and beyond.

Depending on frequency and phase, some of these vibrations will be reflected by material boundary layers, potentially setting up internal resonances. (This is very audible with certain cartridges, like those ZYX models with a blue ball on the front.)

Other vibrations may be dissipated as heat as they travel through various materials in the cartridge body, headshell or tonearm. (Well engineered wood tonearm wands are especially good at this.)

Still other vibrations may travel the length of the arm and reach the bearings. At this point, Bpd24's question comes into effect... how will the bearings respond to this?

Some bearings (Schroeder, Well Tempered) are designed to absorb/dissipate such energies. They do so to a greater or lesser degree, but inevitably suffer some loss in precision and dynamics. Other bearings (Triplanar, SME, other fixed bearings) may pass some energies into the arm base, while reflecting others.

No single bearing parameter (including hardness) is sufficient to predict the behavior of this highly complex process, which occurs across a nearly infinite number of frequencies. In particular, the compliance/effective mass relationship has no relevance in this area.
Hello Doug, I'm simply stating the theory. The bearing should have nothing to do with vibration from the cartridge.

If the arm tube is properly damped and the effective mass is given proper attention it will be found that this is the case.

You can make a similar argument for the suspension and steering in an automobile. If properly designed, the driver can get feedback from the road but it will not be tiring and won't bruise your hands or break your arm if you hit a bump. A damaged or worn suspension and steering system will result in handling problems, not unlike the inability of a damaged arm to properly track a cartridge.

The Triplanar has a damped arm tube and so its bearings (the hardest metal bearings made anywhere in the world) don't have a lot of work to do in this regard, but if they did they are also the best suited to the task.

Any way you look at it, its the best bearing system employed in a tone arm today. In order for anyone to do as well, they will have to get a security clearance. (Triplanar is grandfathered in, but they did get investigated by the Department of Homeland Security on account of the fact that they were using more of these bearings than Boeing Aerospace and the DHS wanted to know why. Turns out some DHS agents like Pink Floyd.)
Geoffrey Owens, the designer of the Helius arms, states that how an arm handles the mechanical energy created by the cartridge is his number one priority in designing an arm! Further, that the bearing assembly should optimally transfer that energy out of both sides of the horizontal bearings at the same time. If it doesn't (and I assume he will tell you very few do), there will be a faint echo created by the arm, because of the mechanical phase differential between the two. Wow.

Helius arms are offered with either Tungsten or Ruby bearings. Goeffrey acknowledges the potential for damage to the Rubies, but feels their surface smoothness is sufficiently superior to ANY metal as to make the risk a worthwhile trade-off. Viewed under a high-powered microscope (Geoffrey's other profession has been in Laser Optics), even the highest spec metal bearings have a very irregular surface. That, of course, creates sticktion.

As in everything else in Hi-Fi, tonearm design is a matter of conflicting design elements, requiring a choice on the part of both designer and consumer.
Viewed under a high-powered microscope (Geoffrey's other profession has been in Laser Optics), even the highest spec metal bearings have a very irregular surface. That, of course, creates sticktion.

The hardest metal bearings are not commercially available- you need a security clearance to get them and even then to get them you have to buy about $50,000 worth at a time (that is what Triplanar does). So this statement doesn't sound right. Did he state how it was that he was able to obtain said bearings? Or is he simply not measuring the 'highest spec metal bearings' as he states?
Some of Geoffrey's other business is involved with NASA-level space exploration. There is actually a superior alternative material already employed in the bearings contained in the Voyager spacecraft, I believe it is, but I don't feel entitled to repeat what was told me a few weeks ago regarding upcoming Helius products. I will just say that if I were looking into State-Of-The-Art tonearms, I would not buy one before next year. You heard it here first!

What Doug said (along with our friend at Helius) ...

Ralph, theory is fine, but the fact is that even our mother planet has a resonant frequency. I fear that it's a bit utopian to expect an armwand to accomplish what our planet cannot do (to dissipate all vibrations into heat).

Bearing precision (and perhaps hardness) are desirable attributes, and congratulations to Tri Mai for sourcing such good bearings, but to categorically state that one's bearings are superior for audio because one needs a Homeland Security clearance is a bit specious and obfuscates the big picture - that (as with all things audio), we're dealing with complex interactions.

I suspect that the relevant attribute of the Tri-Planar bearing has more to do with its ABEC specification (likely 9) - the fact that they are round and to a tighter tolerance, resulting in being less prone to rattling when excited (because the cartridge WILL try to excite them).

It's possible that its material (and possibly hardness) also contributes to energy transfer, but without identical bearing specifications of various materials, one couldn't prove this.

Cheers,
Thom @ Galibier
The Schumann frequency is not actually the Earth's resonant frequency per se. It's the frequency of the electromagnetic wave that is created in the space between the Earth's surface and the ionosphere by lightning and other phenomena. Thus, it's not a mechanical resonance.

Cheers
Go with a Graham Phantom Elite. It is quite the step up from the Graham Supreme. I have two Supremes and one Elite 10" which is my go to arm. I use a 12" Supreme in the rear slot for mono. The Graham also has interchangeable arm wands so you can have a couple carts set up and ready to go save for the need to set tracking weight and arm height which is also easiest with the Graham because of the calibrated bearing tower bubble level.
Ralph, theory is fine, but the fact is that even our mother planet has a resonant frequency. I fear that it's a bit utopian to expect an armwand to accomplish what our planet cannot do (to dissipate all vibrations into heat).

Our planet is supposed do dissipate vibration in a tone arm??
Dang!
Is the Mk.VII Triplanar a significant improvement over the Mk.VI, or merely incremental?
07-23-15: Bdp24
Is the Mk.VII Triplanar a significant improvement over the Mk.VI, or merely incremental?

What a question. Where did you live in the last 40 years? Did nobody tell you that the next model is always better? A total sonic revolution. Even more when it is more expensive? That everyone is honest and able to hear differences, even with units which are well known not to bite the bullet? I knew Dealers, Distributors who were able to live from Love and clean Air but unfortunately they got less from year to year. Does anyone out there knows the reason for? Try to get a good price for the next "upgrade" and you will feel automatically much better. And of course, you will hear something you never heard before :-)
I hear ya, brother! According to ARC, every Mk.2 version of every ARC product is a huge, dramatic transformation of the now unlistenable original. Some SP-10 owners probably traded in their pre-amp for the new SP-11 without thinking twice, soon thereafter regretting it.

I'm sure the Mk.VII Triplanar improves on the Mk.VI (the change was made long ago), but by how much and in what way(s)? A Mk.VI can be had for around $2k, making it look like an easy choice over any new arm at that price.
the Durand Talea brought my system to absolutely new heights! Flat out obvious immediately. Thank you all for the comments, major thanks to Thom Mackris and Al.

No offense, but my old standby triplanar VII sounded mechanical in comparison.

I will comment more later.

Talea - precisely dialed in, nuance in spades
Universe II incredibly revealing and neutral
Galibier Gavia - rock solid, lack of resonance, precise speed and tight presentation

I finally get to hear what the cartridge and table are capable of. Wow

this combo is so real and engaging in it's presentation I am just floored

late nights
I have the newer version Tri P and I can't speak to sound differences over earlier models but adjustment screws and the ability to hold adjustment seem tighter than previous models I've seen.
Maybe, but there are two other arms that should, could or may be considered as well.

Dynavector 507mkII. (I know its an odd ball arm but still it performs great)

Ikeda IT-407CR1
At these levels, I believe the differences of tonearms is not better/best, but just different. Boston's Symphony Hall is different than NY's Carnegie Hall, but is any one better?
I agree with Stringreen.

Not only for tonearms, but also carts, speaker, amps and sources.
Well said Mordante and Stringreen !
Tom,

Thanks for your report and glad you're enjoying! Your finding echoes my experience and that of nearly all who've compared these two arms.

At these levels, I believe the differences of tonearms is not better/best, but just different. Boston's Symphony Hall is different than NY's Carnegie Hall, but is any one better?
At any level, I believe the near-unanimous reports of multiple owners deserve more credence than the beliefs of someone who, so far as I'm aware, has heard neither. In any event, equating tonearms to concert halls is too fantastic to merit discussion. By comparison, Homeland Security's interest in TriPlanar's bearing usage approached being meaningful.
it's been a real eye opening experience

Thanks everyone for helping out

I agree with Doug that sometimes variations between gear aren't just a preference but a clear distinction of what sounds more like live music

That was the case for me with the Talea

My local expert arm setup guy and I just looked at each other and knew what we were dealing with was a big step in musicality

While I'm quite familiar with what the "Triplaner" looks like, I've never seen a "Durand Talea", I decided to look it up.

Heres the site for the famed "Durand Talea";

http://www.durand-tonearms.com/Whattheysay/whattheysay.html

It sure is pretty, now you can get yourself a couple for your two arm TT
Audiotomb did you try any of the newer Triplanars? The new 12" is pretty impressive.
For anyone finding atmasphere's discussion of the bearings used in the Triplanar important in their consideration of tone arm design, or even just interesting, let me direct you to the Wikipedia entry (I don't know how to attach a link---I gotta learn how to do that!) on Silicon Nitride. One section in the entry is specifically about it's use in the making of bearings. NASA chose Silicon Nitride bearings for the main engines of the Space Shuttle for several reasons, one of them being that they are much harder than bearings made of ANY metal, no matter the hardness rating.

Geoffrey Owen of Helius Designs will be using them in his new TOTL tone arm being readied for introduction next year, but is also offering them as an upgrade on the current Omega arm. The standard Omega has Tungsten bearings, the Silver Ruby Omega, duh, Ruby ones, which as Ralph pointed out are easily damaged. Geoffrey used them because they are so much smoother than any metal (look at even the hardest grade of any metal bearing under a high-power microscope---it has quite a rough surface, no matter the grade; part of Geoffrey's business is in laser optics for use in space exploration telescopes), with far lower friction and, as Geoffrey told me, noise, the level of which is a major design criteria of his in making tone arms.