"oldskool" tonearms

Hi folks, why do many audiophiles who own analog set ups love "oldskool" tonearms, like the SME 3010 or 3012, the Micro Seiki 282, Audiocraft, Toho, Koshin, AR and Hadcock? Are these tonearms better than most of the contemporary siblings? Do these audiophiles like them because of their (oldfashioned) sound? Or because the fact that they are very difficult to get nowardays?
This is surely and incomplete explanation, but often people who are into analog have been so for many years. If they are happy with their rig that includes one of these arms, why change?

That said I am not one who buys into the vintage argument. At least with stuff I have heard, newer gear in every area of (solid state) audio is better than old models from the same manufacturer at the same (inflation adjusted) price point. I know some people disagree with this statement (on amps for instance). But my ear tells me audio is clearly moving forward - not as fast as computers of course, but it is moving.
Hi Dazz,

Speaking on behalf of the MX-282, it's very much a sonic kissin' cousin of the very wonderful Triplanar Ultimate.

My particular sample has one of the lighter arm wands and works very nicely over a range of cartridges from a Benz LP to an Denon DL 103.

On the perfect cartridge (one not requiring azimuth adjustment), I'd say that it edges ahead of the Triplanar.

Overall, I'd chose the Triplanar because of its adjustability. Even with a conical stylus like the Denon, you still benefit from azimuth adjustment.

The Micro's baby brother - the MA 505 (Mk I, II, and II) is a tonearm that I'd pick over a Mörch DP-6.

Tonearms have not necessarily evolved over the last 15 years or so. Of course there are exceptions.

In a recent trip to Dallas, I brought my trusty Schröder/ZYX combo, but not wanting to stack the deck, I wanted to show how good a sound you can make without breaking the bank.

I think it's dishonest to demo an audio system with gear that someone has no intention of owning.

For the second arm in this two armed setup, I chose may Micro MA-505 Mk III / Denon DL 103R combo. Sure the Schröder strutted its stuff, and I love this tonearm/cartridge combo, but the crowd didn't run for the exits when the Micro / Denon got its turn.

Thom @ Galibier
I think economics plays a large part in such decisions. No matter what rung on the financial ladder, it seems we all try to get the best bang for the buck we can afford. For myself, financially, I would love to even be able to afford an SME 3009 II for my Thorens. My LVX playing music still gets the toe tappin and brings a smile once in a while.

Dear Dazz: I can't speak for other " vintage tonearms " lovers but I can speak for my self:

+++++ " Are these tonearms better than most of the contemporary siblings? " +++++

My answer: absolutely, yes.

+++++ " Do these audiophiles like them because of their (oldfashioned) sound? " +++++

There is no " oldfashioned " sound on them, there is only " right sound ".

+++++ " Or because the fact that they are very difficult to get nowardays? " +++++

No, I don't think so.

Let me to explain my answers:

- From my 18 tonearms, 14 came from Japan and all these but one ( Ikeda ) are " vintage " tonearms. The other ones: one from USA and three from Europe, two " vintage " and two current models.

- In the great time when the japanese were the leaders on the manufacture of tonearms, this people were the best of the best building a mechanical device like a tonearm and they make their design, almost always, not only with full skill/love and know how but with a great creative effort. ( I'm not saying that today designers have not that creative and skill for make tonearms ). In that time they really have to be " the best " because each manufacturer had a great ( in quality and quantity ) competition.

- Take a look for example, SAEC : its patented double knife Edge bearing design, its pipe itself is constructed of a special light alloy, a byproduct of French aeronautical technology, and their high-purity / high density headshell ( ceramic ) are unique in the tonearm industry.
Micro Seiki: the Gyroscopic bearing of the MAX 282/237 IS A TOUR DE FORCE AND A UNIQUE BEARING DESIGN.
Lustre GST 801: the variable magnetic flux type stylus force application system and its variable magnetic flux type anti-skating mechanism along with its vibration-proofing of stainless steel arm pipe and its high precision radial bearings, makes this tonearm one of the great ever made.
Dynavector DV 505: Its unique Bi-axis system ( horizontal magnetic type ) and the double damper method ( inertia controlled dynamic damping plus electro-magnetic damping type ) shows the creative brain of these people.
Technics EPA 100 MK2: Its unique variable dynamic damping shows the creativeness on the tonearm design along with an extremly stable 4-point gimbal employing ruby ball bearings with a friction of less than 3mg for movement in any direction and the use a metal pipe alloy of boron and titanium. Extremly hard to beat.

Satin AR-1S: The best unipivot ever made. Period.

I can talk and talk about those great great!! vintage tonearms, other like: Ortofon RS 212, Fidelity Research, Audiocraft AC 4400, Sumiko The Arm, Mission The Mechanic ( the only tonearm build from a single piece of aluminum. Not casting like the SME V/IV ), Stax UA-7, Denon Da 401, etc, etc.

I own all these tonearms and I owned some of todays tonearms and I can say that with my cartridges in my system nothing can beat them and you can have some of this superior tonearms for a fraction of the today tonearms price.

And let me tell you something: almost all my tonearms are still with its internal original wire, just imagine how could be improve each one when I change this internal wire !!!!.

I respect to all designers but nothing that I know can beat those tonearms at any price with any kind of design. It is not only my opinion: read what Tom ( a person that I highly respect ) post here about the MAX 282 against the Triplanar. Btw Tom, I have all the diferent arm wand on my MAX 282, what a tonearm!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
hello, I'am new to the threads but have been using the Gon for years! I have a problem that I hope someone on these threads can help me with? I 'am mounting 3 arms on my tt as we have been collecting vintage MC's for our new audio club. I just purchased a Magnepan Unitrac and have mounted it but not at the usual 57 degrees as I have a DDX1000 Micro Seiki tt. I am in need of a scan of the proper alignment protractor? Is it possible to set the alignment with another protractor say a Formula 4 one? Is their someone who could send me a scan fullsize of theirs? I would certainly be most grateful and even pay for your time. I have some rare NOS MC's and dont know if they will even work on this arm? Any other set up tips that anyone can give me about this unusual arm would be most a appreciative! I thought because of its VTA on the fly adjustment it would be a good canidate for switching cartridges around often? Or am I way off on this? Maybe I should get rid of it and get something else? HELP PLEASE,Regards Daren
Thanx for all your responses. Raul, you have a wonderful collection of arms. It reminds me of a museum. The Museum of Modern Tonearms. What do you think of the EMT tonearm? You are not very fond of the SME Series V tonearm, aren't you? Thom, the Schröder tonearms are very popular among audiophiles. Are they really that good or is it just hype?
Not wishing to proxy for Thomas Mackris -- but in answer to the Scroder question yes, it's good. Also quite user-friendly, simple really (maybe not as easy to make as it looks).
I have an old (vintage) arm, not a Schroder; but it's a contemporary arm I'd "consider" so to speak.
Dear Dazz: I owned the EMT 997: excellent. I owned the SME V and I own a SME IV, Moerch DP6 and I forgot : the Koetsu SDA 1000MK2.

Many people think that I'm a collector tonearm, but I don't: I have all these tonearms first because they are really great and second because in this way I always can match in the right way almost any cartidge that I own or will owned. I own these tonearms because of my cartridges. Till you find the right tonearm for a cartridge you really can't know how good is that cartridge.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,

How would you compare the Satin AR-1S with the Audiocraft 4000/4400 or Morch UP-4 and any other unipivots you would recommend?

Many thanks in advance,

Dear Anthony: The Audiocraft AC 3300/4400 in fact is a dual point. It is a very good tonearm and better than the Graham 2.2 , this one take the Audiocraft design for its own design.

As unipivot the Satin is at the top ( extremely hard to find ), with the Satin practicable the tonearm link dissapear: free of colorations/distortions. The Moerch unipivots are very good ones too and have the advantage that you can change the effective tonearm mass for to match it with almost any cartridge. From what are out there on today unipivots my vote is for Moerch but I never try the Phantom.
How old is "oldskool"? I have been quite happy with an Alphason HR-100S since 1982. I assume this vintage satisfies your criteria. It has sounded right, or rather not at all, with the few cartridges I've hung on the smart end of the stick.

Recently, I've been intrigued by the Schroeder DPS Arm. The simplicity of it's design and execution is really quite appealing. I am at somewhat of a loss as to how to compare it's individual audio characteristics with those of my equipment and I'm not in a position to take a $4,000 leap of faith for a new arm.... It sure is pretty, though.
Dear Raul,

I really respect your dedication and knowledge on LP playbacks. Out of all the tonearms that you have, I am a bit surprise that there isn't any linear tracker, air-bearing or otherwise. Just wonder what is you view on these arms.

Thanks in advance,

Many thanks Raul for sharing your thoughts. I currently own the AC-4400 and UP-4 (plus my other unipivot, a RS-A1), although I guess I'll have to start keeping my eyes open for the Satin :)

Thanks again,

Anthony, how does the RS-A1 perform compared to the UP4?
Dear Astock: You Alphason tonearm is a very respected one and a " vintage " one for sure.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Anthony: Good luck on your Satin hunt. I owned the RS-A1 too, it had many interesting " things " ( like the headshell design ) but overall it is not a " great " one unipivot.

Btw, why your love for unipivots?

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Michael: I owned the ET and Dennesen linear traking tonearms and I had the opportunity " to play " with the Air Tangent.

I really like this technology but I prefer the pivoted tonearm music presentation: solid and very well balanced, with the linear tonearms ( and least that was my experience ) the frequencies extremes sometimes where softed. Now, there is one characteristics where the linear tonearms really shine: soundstage, I don't know any pivot tonearm that can beat it.

Another reason is that the linear tonearms need to much " room " for set-up and it be dificult to install with other three tonearms in the same TT.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Pauly, I prefer the UP-4 to the RS-A1 for 2 main reasons. The UP-4 has better extension and a fuller midrange compared to the RS-A1, which is also very very fiddly to setup properly.

However and despite the RS-A1 not sounding as good as the UP-4, the special thing about the RS-A1 compared to other tonearms is that it can be situated (almost) anywhere on a turntable plinth, without the need to drill a hole for mounting. Mine is currently installed onto the plinth of my Garrard 401, together with an Audiocraft AC-4400 and a SME 3012 II. I just use some blutack to secure the base to the plinth.

Dear Raul,

Unipivots have a special place in my collection because of what they do to the midrange on vocals ... they seem to my ears to make the voices sound natural, open and slightly more emphasised, compared to other designs, at the expense of some dynamics or extension.

Kind regards,


Dear Raul,

Thanks for the reply. I have one more question for you. I have a chance to pick up a Micro Max 237 with 2 different kind of wards. I wonder how much difference (performance wise) is there between the 237 and 282. Should I wait for a 282 or should I go for the 237 instead?

Thanks in advance.

Dear michael: Go a head for the MAX 237. Don't wait.

Regards and enjoy the music.

I only own one vintage arm (HK/Rabco ST-8, which hardly qualifies as high performance) so I didn't read this thread until today.

Just wanted to thank you (and Thom too) for a really valuable and informative post. Great info. Also excellent reasoning about "why" vintage Japanese arm makers worked so hard to excel. Competition brings the best ideas to the top.

Dear Doug: There are many subjects about the high quality of those " vintage " tonearms, one of them is that almost all were manufactured more than 20 years ago and are in perfect operational/performance conditions: bullet proof!!!!

Nice to see that you find this post: " a really valuable and informative ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
hELLO, I just wanted to Thank Raul also for educating the rest of us with his great knowledge of tonearms! I also have enjoyed reading these posts! Raul what do you think of the Magnepan Unitrac? is it worth setting up? as I have one that I am in the middle of mounting.Do you have any idea if it will sound any good with MC cartridges as I have several I would like to use? Also Raul do you have any experience with the Formula 4 arm? Does it have any merit? Any experience you want to share with me would be greatly appreciated as I am a novice with the Unitrac and it seems a little puzzling? I have a chance to buy a Formula 4 but the guy wants $425.us and I dont know if its worth it? Thanks Daren
Dear Daren: Both tonearms are a good ones and both work better with low-medium weight/medium-high compliance cartridges.

That price is on the high side: 250-300 dls will be a good deal and fair.

Regards and enjoy the music.