Looking for tonearm inspiration


I just bought a used SME 20/12 turntable that is about 15 years old.  I also had a used 

Dynavector DRT XV-1s rebuilt/are tipped.  Odd as it may seem, there was no tonearm with the turntable.  I have yet to identify what the phono stage, but listening so far suggest a Sutherland Loco (still open to alternatives).  There must be many out there that have had experience with the SME 20/12 turntable and perhaps a few that have had experience with the SME/Dynavector combination.  Can you suggest a tonearm that had some magic for you with either bit of gear?  Wide range of music: Rock, Jazz, Female Vocal and a bit of Opera from time to time.


chilli42
Sorry for the typo.  It’s a 20/2 turntable (not 20/12)
My inspiration is Japanese tonearms from the 70’s / 80’s

Denon DA-401
Victor UA-7045 / UA-7082
Fidelity-Research FR-64fx
Fidelity-Research FR-64s
Lustre GST-801
Technics EPA-100
Technics EPA-100 mkII
IKEDA IT-345
SONY PUA-7

Some of them are relatively cheap, some are very expensive. But all of them are very good and easy to use.

Denon DA-301 (a better choice for mc cartridges than the DA-401).                       Fidelity Research FR29 and FR54 (great for mc cartridges). I have all these in my collection of tonearms.
You collect tonearms?  And you swap them out to play?  Just curious.
Denon DA-301 (a better choice for mc cartridges than the DA-401).

DA-301 is easy to find while the DA-401 is very rare.

You’re right, the DA-401 is ideal for mid or high compliance MM/MI, some MC cartridges also can be used as you can see on this Denon flyer. This is the arm with special headshell made by Denon (conventional headshells are not compatible).

I’m currently using my DA-401 with Joseph Grado XTZ (MI) cartridge.

You collect tonearms?  And you swap them out to play?  Just curious.

Not sure if you asked me, but when I bought modern high end tonearm (Reed 3p "12 inch) I start searching for vintage classics (tonearms and cartridges). Since tonearm/cartridge combination is critical I was looking for turntable that can give me the an opportunity to swap tonearms. Ended up with two Luxman PD-444 (4 tonearms in use, very easy to adjust, swap ... whatever... with 3-4 different type of metal arm bases provided by Luxman for this turntable).  
SME V or IV are ''obvious'' partners  for SME 20 TT. The postfix
12 may mean 12'' tonerarm. This would mean that the TT is
designed with those arms in mind. The seller sold them as
separates  to get higher price
Dear @chilli42 : Wit your XV-1s the Kuzma 4-point, Triplanar or the SME V are good match and very good tonearms.

Btw, Sutherland is a really good electronics designer and very good with phono stages.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.

The Triplanar is one of the most adjustable tonearms made. Its bearings are several grades harder than those used in the SME arms. So it has very low 'sticktion' as well.

I operate a small LP mastering operation; the Triplanar is the only arm I've heard so far that gets everything right. Works fine with the Dynavectors too.
I agree with Raul & Atmosphere above

The Triplanar you will need to check the arm clears the suspension tower right hand back corner.

SME V is a natural partner and is excellent with the Dynavector

I have recently installed a Kuzma 4point and was very impressed with both a VDH Colibri & Kuzma CAR50 - this easily surpassed the same cartridge with Morch DP8 & Helius on the same TT.

I think the new Kuzma 4Point9 would be a perfect match for your TT/Cartridge - the original 4Point wont fit. The 4Point9 is a nine inch arm as is the SME V.

I would not touch a vintage arm, although there are some excellent vintage arms there is always a risk of worn bearings, corroded wiring etc.

The FR64S ( I have a couple ) has robust bearings.
The Technics EPA100 is an excellent arm, but I would not buy one unless I was prepared to upgrade the ruby bearings ( they are brittle and easily damaged ) with either new ones or silicon nitride for better performance.

In a nutshell here is my shortlist for your TT/Cartridge

SME V
Triplanar
Kuzma 4Point9
Graham Phantom

I would personally go with a new Kuzma 4Point9 or Triplanar.
If you go for a second hand Triplanar, get it serviced before you mount it.
Your turntable deserves the best arm you can afford.



Check Reed 3p is you want one the best modern high-end tonearm, they are available in "9, "10.5 and "12 inch with different wooden armtube. Fully adjustable (including azimuth on the fly). And you can find desirable mass. This is beautiful looking tonearm of the highest quality. Some modern tonearms are so ugly (imo).

www.reed.lt

P.S. Do not buy refurbished vintage tonearms if you don’t know personally who did the job. I bought all my vintage tonearms in mint condition, some of them are NOS, never had any problem with any of them. I wouldn’t buy anything if it’s not perfect and fully original. In fact refurbishing can cause more problems, always depends who will do the job.
@atmasphere  : "  are several grades harder than those used in the SME arms. "

several grades? : how many grades and where are stated ?

Harder?, so what:  wich its radial play, surface finish, material, tolerance ( ABEC 5,7 or 9 ), starting torque which affects the swinging of the tonearm up and down and following eccentricity of the record, noise level and vibration in bearings which adds distortion, how precisely the ball bearings are fitted into the housing and shaft of the tonearm,  vertical/horizontal sensivity etc, etc..

I used the XV-1s in the SME V and like @dover  posted:

"  SME V is a natural partner and is excellent with the Dynavector. "

I know that the V makes the XV-1s shows at its best. How the Triplanar and why surpass that excellence grade quality performance mounted in the 20/2?

R.
I tend to agree with Ralph on this issue. I have no direct experience with the Tri-Planar, but agree that people tend to underestimate the value of a fully adjustable tonearm and a well adjusted cartridge as opposed to spending mega-bucks on a cartridge. Note that Ralph's experience with a cutting lathe, and knowing exactly what sound was engraved on a subsequent record  is invaluable, and is the kind of experience that few on the site can use as a reference, no matter how many mega-bucks they have to spend.I have never found any of the advice given by Ralph on this site to be in error, and the characterization of his advice by Raulruegras as stupid, is  reprehensible.
Dear @oldears : I’m not even touch the tonearm adjustable facilities. So, where are you?, because is not the issue.

Read again my post and wait for his " expert " answer to what I asked.

Btw, for any expert recording engeneering this fact just can’t gives him the cartridge/tonearm in deep experiences several true expert audiophiles have not only in this site ( as @dover ) but all over the internet forums.

I’m not a true expert audiophile but I have " thousands " of first hand experiences with over 150+ top MC/MM/MI in my room/system and many more in other room/systems and first hand experiences ( because I owned and own ) with over 40+ top tier vintage and today tonearms and even rigth now I have mounted in my room/system 3 absolutely first rate unique tonearms designed/builded by a friend and me.

So what are you talking about? impressed by " Ralph " in that specific subject? of course due to your very low cartridge/tonearm knowledge levels. You said: " I tend to agree with Ralph ": in something that you not even understand it? how is that?.

 But wait for his answer because I’m always willing to learn coming from any one and every where, even from you.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.


My apologies for the confusion, my post above is under the wrong OP, I will resend it attached to the correct one.
several grades? : how many grades and where are stated ?
@rauliruegas  If memory serves the bearings in the SME 5 are the hardest commercially available. The bearings in the Triplanar are not commercially available; Triplanar has a security clearance to get the bearings they use. Only one supplier exists worldwide that makes them.


Specifically as it was explained to me by Herb Papier, the problem he ran into was that over a period of years he noticed that many arms needed to be readjusted. He found that the reason was that the bearings would fail over time in the field- due to use and minor abuse the bearing points would blunt. Since he wanted to reduce friction, he used the smallest bearings he could find which made the problem worse. So brute force was applied (IMO); he found and installed the hardest metal bearings made anywhere, which solved the problem.


SME deals with the reliability issue by having physically larger bearings. So their arms tend to have more friction.
@atmasphere  :Again because you did not answer in precise way not even mentioned about:

""  wich its radial play, surface finish, material, tolerance ( ABEC 5,7 or 9 ), starting torque which affects the swinging of the tonearm up and down and following eccentricity of the record, noise level and vibration in bearings which adds distortion, how precisely the ball bearings are fitted into the housing and shaft of the tonearm, vertical/horizontal sensivity etc, etc.."""

""""  I know that the V makes the XV-1s shows at its best. How the Triplanar and why surpass that excellence grade quality performance mounted in the 20/2? """"


After answer those please tell us the Triplanar friction levels ( or at least its sensitivity in the vertical/horisontal planes. ) that you don't say it but try to tell is lower than the V.

If you don't have a specific answer is useless to post nothing about.

R.
@atmasphere  : You can't have a specific true answer because your statements are just blanket statements with no true foundation.

""  If memory serves the bearings in the SME 5 are the hardest commercially available. The bearings in the Triplanar are not commercially available...."

That I know SME never stated about. Where is your link on that precsie tonearm SME characteristic?


"  Specifically as it was explained to me by Herb Papier, the problem he ran into was that over a period of years he noticed that many arms needed to be readjusted. He found that the reason was that the bearings would fail over time in the field- due to use and minor abuse the bearing points would blunt. "

many arms? which tonearms and after how many number of years?



"  SME deals with the reliability issue by having physically larger bearings. So their arms tend to have more friction..""

SME ? where are the facts that can prove it.


" tend to have more friction. ", again where are the facts that can prove it and how much more friction. Btw, which its original friction levels? which SME model are you refering?

Seems to me that you are spreading false information against a very well regarded tonearm manufacturer as is SME  and you are an audio item manufacturer ! !

R.
That I know SME never stated about. Where is your link on that precsie tonearm SME characteristic?
That was stated to me by my local dealer. At the time he was close to the people at Sumiko who were importing the SME stuff. One of his salesmen, Allen Perkins, was hired off from his store by Sumiko. Allen later left Sumiko and started his own business, part of which was importing Lyra.

If you don't have a specific answer is useless to post nothing about.
My answers are very specific but I think you are right, 'is useless to post nothing about' since its obvious you are simply attacking for the joy of it.

@atmasphere  : "   you are simply attacking for the joy of it. "

"  My answers are very specific. "

Really?. Where is that " specific answer " not to all question but at least for the one I posted:

""  many arms? which tonearms and after how many number of years?  "

or:

"  " SME deals with the reliability issue by having physically larger bearings. So their arms tend to have more friction..""

SME ? where are the facts that can prove it.  "

You not even honor the words you posted.

R.
Dear @chilli42 : If you do not pull yet the triger for the tonearm then you can add to your alternatives this one that’s really good :

https://www.originlive.com/hi-fi/tonearm/high-end-tonearm-enterprise/


R.
Thanks to all for the very useful suggestions.  Lots to follow up on!
chilli42, leave all that other junk behind and get yourself a Schroder LT. If you can't afford that one I suggest the Schroder CB. Otherwise the Triplanar , 4 point and Reed arms are excellent followed by Origin Live arms. SME's are no longer available. Other arms are just iterations of the same old tired design.
rauliruegas, who singed your back side? I understood Atmasphere just fine. I did not under stand you. You need to get some Maalox and relax.
@mijostyn : here people say: " even what you don't eated makes you sick "

Good for you to support some one that has not any single fact that can prove his words that degraded the SME extremely well regarded " name ". :

"   SME deals with the reliability issue by having physically larger bearings. So their arms tend to have more friction..""

R.


All that is nice rauliruegas but you can't get an SME without a turntable now so it is a mute issue. But having handled both arms the Triplanar does have better bearings and it is a more intelligent design than any SME arm. The vertical bearing is in the plane of the record and you can draw a line from the center of the cartridge through the vertical bearing right through the middle of the counter weight. It is a neutral balance arm while the SME is a static balance arm. Neutral balance is always better. The Schroder CB is another example of a neutral balance arm. Having the vertical bearing in the plane of the record greatly reduces warp wow.
Even if the Triplaner had inferior bearings to the SME it would still be the superior arm. besides old guys like Atmasphere an I have to stick together. Plus I'm hoping to get a deal on one of his amps some day:)
I would avoid vintage tonearms unless they are extremely inexpensive.
I would avoid vintage tonearms unless they are extremely inexpensive.

Basically they are inexpensive, for example Technis EPA-100 cost under $1200-1700. There is no reason to avoid vintage tonearms if you know which one is really good, only people who know nothing about tonearms can make such statement like yours. You will never find anything close to the performance of EPA-100 among any modern tonearms at the same price range! Japanese vintage tonearms are reasonable priced and better than almost everything new. And some better modern tonearms cost over $5000.  


@mijostyn : With all respect you understand  nothing of the main issue to my answers to him. Please read it again.

The issue is that he posted information and when I asked him for facts he just has no single fact to prove what he said .

I don't care if one or the other tonearm is better or if SME tonearm we can't buy it any more because these is not the issue.

Again issue is that I ask that he prove what he is posting and he did not. Got it?

R.
Chakster, I have an old SAEC WE308New arm, thoughts???
@rpeluso  Knife edge bearing system is not the best and SAEC geometry is strange. SAEC tonearms looks nice and the price is low for 308 but you can find better vintage tonearms. Regarding SAEC you can search an old thread on audiogon where everything explained in details. Saec geometry has been changed in latest (much better) models.  
For those of you interested in the specs of SME's bearings and who cannot google (arguably a very small community), here it is...for the SME IV tonearm:
  • Stainless steel cross shaft, ground and thread ground. Carried in massive yoke on 10mm ABEC 3 ball races. Axis at record mean level to minimise warp-wow.
  • 23mm diameter steel pillar, heat treated, ground and honed, carries two 17mm ABEC 7 ball races, widely spaced to resist tilt.

  • Dear @rpeluso : Your SAEC 308 has a quality build level second to none.

    It's characteristics does not changed over the vintage same model and due that's a removable headshell design you can try different headshells build material to test each one with your cartridge and decide which is a better match for that specific cartridge.

    In other side please check the brochure here and try to find out the black color SAEC stabilizer you can see in the second picture:

    https://www.vinylengine.com/library/saec/we-308.shtml


    Use either Löfgren A/Baerwald or Löfgren B tonearm/cartridge alignment set up.

    R.




    Dear @fsellet : I owned the IV and latter on changed for the V where the bearing balls are ABEC 9 and performs better for its additional facilities.

    R.
    @mijostyn : "  Plus I'm hoping to get a deal on one of his amps some day: "

    a BS of design.

    R.
    Dear @rpeluso : These are the correct alignments parameters you need to make to set up the 308/cartridge ( either: Löfgren A or B. ):

      https://www.vinylengine.com/tonearm_alignment_calculator_pro.php?arm1=Arm+1&l1=el&a1lv=240&a1=la&oh1v=&oa1v=&arm2=Lofgren+A&l2=el&a2lv=240&a2=la&oh2v=&oa2v=&arm3=Lofgren+B&l3=el&a3lv=240&a3=lb&oh3v=&oa3v=&arm4=Stevenson&l4=el&a4lv=240&a4=st&oh4v=&oa4v=&rs=12&rsv=&og=iec1&ogv=&ig=jis&igv=&cal=y&submit=calculate

    Forgeret about the mounting parameters SAEC has, is the worst alignment for any cartridge.
    So you need to mount the 308 as it was the first time but with either of those parameters in that link.

    R.
    Rauliruegas, what exactly does, "a BS of design." mean? I think there is a slight language barrier here. 
    The Modern SAEC 4700 is a static balance arm whose vertical bearing is above the plane of the record. It has an archaic dangling weight for an anti skate devise and it weights a ton not to mention it costs 13 large.
    There are tonearms at 1/2 the price that are superior in all ways.
    The SME V is far superior as are the Origin Live Enterprise and the Triplanar not to mention any Schroder or Reed tonearm. For anti skating the SME uses a spring. The Triplanar and Origin Live arms use a lever and the Schroder and Reed arms use a magnetic system. The best arms are neutral balance and have their vertical bearing in the plane of the record. The Kuzma 4 point arms are also excellent arms. Much superior to his earlier efforts. A neutral balance arm will exert the same VTF over warps and different thicknesses of records. A Static balance are will not.
    As you raise the record surface a static balance arm increases it's VTF as it tries to return to it's balance equilibrium point.
    I have to say you that I owned the two SAEC top models in its catalogue: 506 and the 8000.

    R.
    Oh Raul, Atmasphere did answer your question. You just did not like the answer. He told you that the specifications of the Triplanar's bearings were not available to us as they are used in military gear and none of us have clearance for that information. It is a military secret. My brother does defense work and has that clearance. If you leak any of that information it is the end of your career and you could even wind up in jail!

    The 4700 is the same SAEC 407-23 model and any of those tonearm manufacturers you named could envy the SAEC quality building levels.

    Btw, the SME 3012 tonearm uses that same " archaic " anti-skate mechanism and I have to say works really fine but I name the 3012 because in the last 2 years is considered byt top system audiophiles as one if not the best tonearm out there.

    Tango is a Thailand based audiophile whom own not one but 3 American Sound TTs where has mounted around 8 tonearms 3 are the 50K+ SAT and 3 the " archaic " SME 3012. He owns several cartridges as: Goldfinger Statement, Opus 1, top VDH, Etsuro and the like and you know what: he prefers the 3012 over the SAT ! ! ( I think his sytem is over 500K+ easily. )

    R.
    @mijostyn : "  did answer your question ...."  Really?

    Again read it all because I asked not one question over what he posted. He posted:

    ""  "  SME deals with the reliability issue by having physically larger bearings. So their arms tend to have more friction..""

    I asked for facts that can support it and his answer was and is: dead silence as in other of my questions.

    Never mind, I don't care any more because as almost always he has nothing on hand on this regards. 

    R.
    I asked for facts that can support it and his answer was and is: dead silence as in other of my questions.
    I stopped answering simply because it was patently obvious you were not interested in the answer, although there is one and its actually rather simple. You need to take it down a notch and be less confrontational. Otherwise its not worth the time- as Samuel Clemens once wrote.

    Dear @mijostyn : "  There are tonearms at 1/2 the price that are superior in al...""

    For you statement seems to me that you have deep first hand experiences with the SAEC tonearm ( all have the same design . ) and probably with different cartridges.

    Is it that way? because if you don't have first hand experiences with then your statement means almost nothing and through that post you are " degrading " the SAEC tonearms.

    R.
    Something definitely wrong with one of our member:

    When I said "stay away from SAECs " I'm not saying is a bad arm but against the 250 seems to me looks as an inferior performer.

    Knife-edge tonearm bearing is the exeption and ask you why the 99% of tonearm designers choosed a different bearing design than knife-edge.

    As I said the 407/506/8000 are extremely well made with a very high quality excecution, no doubt about and are second to none in this regards but this build quality does not means the tonearm is a " stellar " one because it's not.

    I don't think SAEC made any changes because they already had evrything to build it as the original but exist the posibility that they did it. As you said we have to wait. Now, the SAEC problem is not about its choosed alignment parameters, its problem is deeper than that. As you know you can make any kind alignment you choose with any tonearm.

    R. (05-03-2018)

    and now this:

    Dear @rpeluso : Your SAEC 308 has a quality build level second to none. ... ... ...   

    R. (08-07-2020)  


    I have nothing against SAEC, when i was looking for my first serious tonearm many years ago I had to choose between SAEC 308 and Technics EPA-100. Guest what what my choice @rpeluso  ? :) 

    Definitely Technics EPA-100 

      
    Rauliruegas, I am sure the Saec is beautifully made. It is just a bad design by modern standards and if you know anything about tonearm geometry it is obvious just by looking at it.  I do not have to use it. I know exactly what it is going to do. It is a beautifully made piece of junk by modern standards. Like I said before there are any number of modern arms that will handily out perform it at considerably less expense. I would not take one even at $500.00. 
    Your friend is entitled to his own opinion especially when it come to his own system. I have heard many $500,000 systems that sounded awful to me. It is just a race for who can spend the most money. I have heard $100,000 system that are hard to criticize. The owner knew what he was doing. 
    I have a 20/2 and it came with a SME IV.vi tonearm, which was very good.  I upgraded to a Tri-Planar tonearm about a year ago and found it to be a big improvement.  
    My cartridge is a Lyra Kleos and my phono stage is a Parasound JC-3+.
    This has been a very nice combo for me.  
    Best of luck finding your best solution.
    Dear @snackeyp  :  The V is better than the IV.vi, the V comes with ABEC 9 bearing instead ABEC 7. Yes that can makes a difference.

    I like the Kleos and I mounted in several tonearms including the V and at each top tonearm combination the Kleos performs different due that all tonearms resonates in different frequency range and its damping levels are different too.

    If you mount your Kleos in the Kuzma 4Point or the Reed you will like it too and who know maybe will like it more than with the Triplanar that's a good tonearm too.

    R.
    @rauliruegas I had a real laugh the you mentioned other ’top’ a’philes using the old war horse SME 3012R! I used to own this tonearm, and let me tell you it is nothing special at all! The biggest issue is something called ’bearing chatter’...which is really easily heard when the knife edge chatters...to say one hears considerable sibilance would be an understatement. Then we also have the losses at the tonearm to head shell connection, which while they are less noticeable than the knife edge chatter, they are still clearly evident when compared to a one piece tonearm. There is a self professed ’guru’ on the forum where these folks contribute to, who ’co-incidentally’ happens to have a large stash of the old warhorse SME3012R arm for sale...these very same folk believe every word that comes out of this guys mouth. It amazes me that the people on that forum cannot see through the guys ’BS’, but I guess the allure of a ’guru’ who can supply you with a cheap product is strong. Pathetic IMHO.
    @rauliruegas  I'll take your word for it that the V is better than the IV.vi.  It should be for almost $2K more.  The one thing I hate about both of these tonearms, however, is the tapered tube design.  This design makes adjusting the VTA a pain, and if you try to play a warped record it will sometimes contact the tonearm and cause distortion or skips.  
    I contacted SME to ask their advice in solving this and they really didn't have an answer besides, "Don't play warped records."  If only that were an option.  
    SME 3009R (NOT the improved version)