At those prices you would be remiss not looking at a Moerch also (UP4 or DP6).
You did not mention the table that this will go...but here are some general comments. So far I have used the VPI JMW 9 and Rega RB300 and RB600, but all the mentioned tonearm have gotten good comments from users.
The JMW-9 signature is a little on the low end of effective mass needed for the Denon DL103R. Adding a 2-3g headshell weight should help. It is a very nice tonearm especially when used with VPI tables. It does have exchangable armwand, although for the signature version they can get expensive.
I would second also the suggestion to look at other arms, Moerch DP-4, Hadcock tonearms, etc. The Moerch is very flexible tonearm, with different effective mass arm tubes available. It can be matched ideally to any cartidge. The Moerch would be my joice for my next table.
Good luck with your search,
One thing that seems to get scant attention when talking about the origin live silver is the quality of the bearings. Remember the silver is AFAIK still using the stock RB250 bearings.. The not-very-highly-toleranced stock bearings are not addressed on the OL line until the Encounter. This can have serious repurcussions if you plan on using the arm with high-quality MCs with rigid cantilevers. I'm sure a lot of silver users will disagree and say their arms work brilliantly with high-end-carts, as so they well may. Point is, it seems to be essentially a crap-shoot when it comes to this. As a origin live modified RB250 user, i can testify to the fact that the bearings are not always happy with high energy carts. And the audio results of bearings not able to cope with a cart are not pretty.. This would not be an issue with the morch, higher end regas (600 and up - which could be modified later) and probably not with the hadcock either, being unipivot. This is all IMO, anyway -As always.. try before you buy if you can!
Drminky does bring up a good point that you should consider. That is, what are you likely to do in the future regarding cartridges? And, very important, what table are you using?
If you don't intend in venturing beyond, say a $1K cartridge investment, then I would think that arm based on the Rega design is probably just as good as the JMW-9. At the same time please consider that a cartridge in the range of the Denon 103R will perform extremely well on an arm of a little higher range, and that higher quality arm will open a larger door of opportunity regarding cartridge choice.
Moerch is good choice, but IMO I'd look for a Graham 2.2 to get the more user friendly VTA/VTF adjustments. A used 2.2 can usually be had for not much more than the Moerch. Another option is the Basis Vector. This is an excellant tracking arm and can handle a multitude of cartridges firmly. Not much in the way of easy VTA/VTF but no worse than the OL or JMW-9 you've been considering. You'll have a hard time finding a cartridge that the Vector can't handle, but mounting can be a bit tricky depending on the table you're using.
To sum up, what table are you using, what cartridge might you consider after the 103R, and what is your budget?
>>Not much in the way of easy VTA/VTF but no worse than the OL<<
Hi Dan, Actually VTA on the Vector 3 is very very easy if the arm is ordered with the VTA micrometer. VTF is adjusted by moving the counterweight. It will track virtually any cartridge with extreme precision and the build quality is superior to any OL arm.
The turntable that I am using, is a DIY project. It is based on a 80 mm acrylic platter and bearing from Scheu Analogue (I believe the brand is known as Eurolab in USA). It is a rigid construcion with no suspension standing on 3 Boston Audio tuneblocks. The Plinth is made out of multiple layers of birch plywood that has been dampend with about 25 pounds of led shots. It also has a rubber/cork compound layer. I'm currently experimenting with armboard material, and will try solid maple, plywood with a cork layer, aluminium and several others.
In regards to future cartridge investments, I'm probably going to end up buying a Shelter 901 or Perhaps a Dynavector 17DMKII in between the Denon and the Shelter.
Initially my budget for a new tonearm was around $1000, but I am now considering maybe spending a little more and going for the really great arm right away. I figure I'm probably going to upgrade again, so why not do it straight away. That brings me in the range of the Graham 2.2, Basis Vector, Origin Live Illustrious and others in the $1500 range (used).
That sounds like a good idea as long as you can swing the extra budget.
Last spring I was able to hear a new Teres model that was built entirely from birch ply and hardwood. It sounded very nice. Not as detailed and dynamic as a cocobolo model, but still very nice. I wish I could remember if the armboard was made from ply or solid birch. I'm guessing there was some ply in there as well.
I bet an armboard of ply and hard maple would do pretty well. You've probably already thought of this but try to get the good baltic birch that's made with many tight layers. That should help with the dampening and I rarely find voids in it.
Aluminum could work well and I'd also suggest brass.
Yes, I'm familiar with the Basis VTA option. I once had the pleasure of a first hand demo from A.J. in his shop. That is one very well engineered and implemented device! It had better be for $800. :) I completely agree with you regarding the stability of the Vector. I once owned the Model 1 and a 2.2. I preferred the Vector over the 2.2 in most cases, but there was also a great synergy with the 2500 table I was using at the time. The VTF adjustment is no different than the OL, or the Triplanar as well. One thing I did like was that the Vector's weight has that double "O" ring that made for a little easier adjustments.