"New" arm?


I'm a newby to the forums but a long-time audiophile (read "old guy"). I've been using a VPI HW-19 III table with a FT-3 arm (w/Analog Survival Kit arm tube wrap) and AT-OC9ML cartridge for a long time. Though very good, I can hear the shortcomings of the system. Electronics and speakers are not an issue.

I have a few high quality turntable parts and intend to finish a new turntable project in the next few weeks. The table will likely have a lot of characteristics of an Aries-1 table (hint about what parts I have). I have a very-low-hours Clavis DC sitting on the shelf waiting for the right moment. I could also use the OC9ML.

I'm seeking advice on a "new" tonearm that will be a good step up from the FT-3 (which is pretty good on its own). New or used in good condition. Budget is a bit limited to around $1200 +/- or so.

In my research I've run across the SME M2 line, the 12" straight arm version might be interesting, but I'm not sure it's a real step up from the FT-3. Also found a few Micro Seiki MA-505s on the use market. Some feel that is a quite nice arm.

I'm not limiting my search to these two arms. I am interested in opinions on these and other arms that would mate up well with the Clavis DC or OC9ML running on that kind of table. Of course, being an audiophile, I'm also interested in getting a great deal. :)

TIA for your comments and opinions,

How about a Morch arm, they are within your budget used and have different arm wand options to match a variety of cartridge. Not sure if it's significantly better than your FT-3, but the Morch is just a hair under today's top arm.
Interesting. I've got a little experience with JMW and RPM unipivots. The RPM was quite nice. The JMW 10 was pretty good. Both worked well with Lyra Parnassus and Clavis DC. Have not heard much about the Morch arms but then I've been away for about 8 years or so. Are they in the same league is the RPM?

I suppose I'm not really keen on unipivots. They're not always ergonomically friendly and I tend to have a glass or two of out of date grape juice while listening. That said, I could give the Morch a try.
The Morch DP-6 is actually a dual pivot so it doesn't flop around like a uni. I find the DP-6 sounds even better after a couple glasses of out of date grape juice;)
>> Though very good, I can hear the shortcomings of the system<<

What are the shortcomings, to your ears?

Keep in mind that one of the two most important differences between the HW19 mkIII and the Aries, is the use of a much heavier, thicker platter. The other is the solid, unsprung plinth of the Aries. The traits of this plinth can be mimicked in a DIY table. The added speed inertia and damping of a much heavier platter is going to be tough to mimic. I am very curious about your project. Have you experimented by removing the springs in your HW19, and using a non-sprung suspension?

As far as arm recommendations: A used Graham for around $1200 is tough to beat, and will be a good step up from the FT3. For a match made in heaven on a UNSPRUNG HW19, the ET2 is fantastic. Good luck, and keep us posted
Shortcomings? Detectable glare in the midrange and upper midrange, bit of grain in the middle hf, loss of lower midrange detail, some obvious looseness in the bass, a mild loss of treble and deep bass energy. None of these are traits of the Herron electronics, the speakers, or of the OC9ML in a different tonearm / turntable combo (RPM table / arm in particular). Don't get me wrong, the combo really sounds good - imaging and soundstage are wonderful, acoustic instrument timber is mostly spot-on, transparent. These are just subtle characteristics that can be identified with careful listening.

I've heard of using a -19 III unsprung but have not heard the results. I'm currently using it in its suspended version as designed. (I'm just getting back into audio after being away for 7 - 8 years.)

The "new" table will use an original early TNT platter and bearing with low hours on them. I particularly like that platter / bearing. There will also be a TNT stand-alone motor (NOS). The plinth will be solid, unsprung, very high-mass and lead-filled (80+ pounds). Very dead and non-resonant.