Schroeder Reference Arm

Hi Folks:

The great Peter Lederman of Soundsmith uses this arm on his VPI HRX Turntable.

What was surprising about Peter's rig is that as much as I respect and like the HRX, I always find it's sound slightly clinical; however the addition of the Schroeder arm made the table sound slightly richer and less clinical while blowing my mind with it's dynamics and accuracy. Has anyone else noticed or tried this? I am experienced enough in this hobby to understand that the tonearm and cartridge provide voicing for the system but a tonearm swap on a turntable of this quality surprised me with the overall change it made. It goes without saying that I think the JMW tonearm series made by VPI are excellent.


Franks builds very serious tonearms. If you contact him for one, it will take awhile to get it, but it's well worth the wait.

By the way, he designed a production tonearm sold by Artemis Labs that is available quickly. It sounds great, too.
What you heard, IME, is the best feature of Frank's tonearms (aside from their gorgeous looks perhaps). All Schroeders are excellent at damping stray energies escaping from a cartridge. The higher up the model line you go the better they get in this respect (and others). This gives them the ability to tame cartridges that can sound shrill or clinical on other arms.

The most striking example I've heard was with a Shelter 901. That cartridge had great macro-dynamic punch but it also leaked tons of energy into a tonearm. Most arms can't handle that so the 901 often sounded edgy, over-excited or disjointed. In my own experience it behaved that way on a Basis Vector, Graham 2.2, Origin Live Silver and TriPlanar. Mounting it on a Schroeder Ref provided a mind-altering experience. The sound settled down to a calm, integrated wholeness that let the music sing. It was shocking to hear how much a well damped arm could tame a basically unbalanced cartridge.

If you use a better damped cartridge, that particular Shroeder advantage may be less significant than other parameters. For example, a TriPlanar is certainly less well damped but it provides more accurate setup and greater stability. That can make it a more effective platform for well behaved cartidges. It's all about component matching, as usual.

Of course we'd all prefer an arm that offers the best of everything! I've used one arm that betters a TriPlanar's setup accuracy and stability while also handily beating a Schroeder Ref for damping of stray energies. It's altogether more holistic, dynamic and accurate than either of these fine arms. Pricing is similar to a Ref, lead time is perhaps a bit shorter.

The JMW is a decent mid-market arm, but comparing it to top tier arms that cost 2-3X its price isn't quite fair.

BTW, a turntable rarely has much impact on how a tonearm performs. Aside from obvious errors like mounting a very heavy arm or a linear tracker on a lightly sprung table and screwing up the suspension, arm/table interactions are fairly insignificant. Almost any arm would perform close to its best on an HRX, or on my Teres, or on a host of other good, stable tables. OTOH, arm/cartridge interactions are vital, as you just heard. That's the interaction one must consider when selecting a tonearm.
I think you did a nice job describing the instrinsic sonic signature of the Schroeder Reference. It is a terrific souding, beautiful tonearm.

As usual, Doug is spot on with his observations regarding the critical nature of cartridge-tonearm matching, especially with respect to resonances. As Thom Mackris has noted, the set up and dialing in of Schroeder's requires a different approach than most arms. Not more difficult, just different. Akin to the difference between using an H-P calculator versus standard calculators. I own the other arm that Doug references and agree with his observations.
Is the Talea still a state secret? Its existence has been publicly disclosed. We know who you lucky owners are, so 'fess up.

Doug, I would be interested to know which of the more popular cartridges put a lot of energy into the tonearm and which ones don't, in your experience. I think you may have come upon a useful way to predict felicitous tonearm/cartridge matches, apart from the well known ones related to effective mass of the tonearm and compliance of the cartridge.
I have had the Schroeder Reference the last 5-6 years using it with my ZXY Universe. It is an excellent arm and I am not surprised by the results that you heard with the HRX table. I have though recently switched to the new Talea arm (number 008). As in previous comments it is more dynamic and accurate providing more detail but in a very natural way. The ease of adjustments with the Talea is without equal in my experience as you can do both VTA and azimuth adjustments by ear while playing a record. Both tonearms are really good but in my system with my preferences the Talea outperforms the Schroeder.

Thank you all.
Im curious how one determines that energy is leaking into the tonearm and how resonance in a tonearm is measured or quantified. Any clarification on this would be greatly appreciated.
Dear Rccc, I too asked Doug about his ideas on cartridges that put a lot of energy into the tonearm, and cartridges that don't. It makes a lot of sense that cartridges could differ in this way, due to the huge differences in construction of one vs another. But I would like to know what Doug knows about specific cartridges.

As to the second part of your question, that is not so hypothetical. The tonearm+cartridge is treated as a single entity, and the resonant frequency can be both estimated and accurately determined by a variety of methods. John Ellison over on VA invented a neat way to determine the actual resonant frequency of the tonearm+cartridge, by simply dropping the needle onto a disc whilst recording the sine wave that is thus generated using a computer program. By observing and measuring the decay of the sine wave, one can calculate resonance. I can't recall further details, but it is a very clever idea. You can probably find it on VA by doing a search.

For clarity, I don't think its helpful to consider resonances in a tonearm in this context. Stray energies leaking from a cartridge can cause problems whether the arm resonates or not. Intra-arm resonances would indeed be a problem, but lets manage one disaster at a time.

The primary deleterious sonic effects of energies leaking from a cartridge occur when those energies are reflected back into the cartridge, causing it to generate spurious, time-delayed or phase-shifted echoes. It's the sonic equivalent of glare reflected off a windshield, with a similar cause.

I wish I could offer a broadly useful method to determine, measure or quantify, but all I can say is that we hear and identify those time-shifted echoes. We've heard enough arm/cartridge combinations to recognize them when they occur, and also to recognize when something else occurs that sounds like them but isn't. My partner's remarkable ears, science expertise and ever-questioning mind often play a role. Consider two cases:

Before a recent cartridge trial Paul specifically predicted it would have these issues. He said so based certain design elements, which he expected would make such behaviors inevitable.

He was right, though the sub-cycle echoes were much worse than even he expected. Paul left the room after a few minutes in pain. (Our audio buddies would recognize the behavior. He has a vanishingly low pain threshhold for time-domain distortions. Problems that take me hours to identify give him a splitting headache in mere minutes.) I struggled with the cartridge for 2-3 sides but the longer I listened the more obviously annoying it got.

This $8K cartridge actually sounded excellent in every other respect, yet those reflected energies were clearly audible and - thanks to a uniquely misguided design - untameable by any tonearm. Prediction sadly confirmed.

In a more recent trial a much humbler cartridge started off okay, but I began noticing anomalies after half a side or so. There was a trail of diminishing echoes off the back end of every note (not soundspace echoes, artificial ones). I commented to Paul that it sounded *somewhat* like the echoes from that $8K disaster, though not nearly so bad. That was the limit of my diagnosis.

Paul listened for a few seconds and said, "I hear what you're hearing but they aren't mechanical echoes. It's probably electrical. This doesn't sound quite like a moving coil nor a moving magnet. How does this cartridge generate a signal?"

I was impressed, not for the first time. Anyone else would have been stunned speechless... Quite unprompted, Paul had correctly deduced that this was neither an MM nor an MC. It was a MI!

He knew nothing about this cartridge. He'd never looked at it. He didn't know what brand it was. Yet after hearing it for a few moments from the dinner table, a room away from the system, he identified its electro-magnetic functioning as something unusual. Measure that! ;-)

I read from the pamphlet about how this cartridge worked. Paul nodded and confirmed his suspicion that we were hearing hysteresis effects. Then he explained hysteresis. ;-)

Now if I could just bottle the ability to hear and identify hysteresis coming from a magnets the size of a pinhead ...


Regarding measurement and quantification, my sense is that arms, cartridges and setups present too many variables. Energy leakages from a cartridge vary with the tonearm its mounted on, the screws, nuts and washers, the tightening of the screws, etc. Once the energy gets into the tonearm, each arm varies in its ability to dissipate that energy rather than reflect it back into the cartridge. Further, each of these behaviors is a frequency dependent function. It seems to me that the applicability of any measurable "leakage factor" to a different setup would be questionable.

All fairly useless, but it's what I've got,

John Ellison over on VA invented a neat way to determine the actual resonant frequency of the tonearm+cartridge, by simply dropping the needle onto a disc whilst recording the sine wave that is thus generated using a computer program.
Lewm, the Feickert software does this as well. You should ask Mike for a copy of the graph I sent him, a PDF.

Thanks, Doug. It's clear from your treatise that one should not be bothered with vinyl. Like the bumble-bee, it cannot possibly "fly". (Kidding, of course.)

I thought you were going to tell us that Paul had picked out the sound of a strain gauge. To distinguish between MM and MI, now that is remarkable. I sometimes tell myself that MIs do sound "different", now that I have been playing with several of them.

Please continue to bother. Many bumblebees do fly, just not those particular bumblebees!

The SG was not one of those two examples, obviously, though FWIW Paul actually did predict its specific sonic character before we heard it at RMAF 2008. It met those predictions fully. Even I could could hear it. ;-)

You'll be further thrilled to learn that our new "worst ever $8K cartridge" does not have a name beginning with a "K". ;-)

I may try to cobble together some list of cartridges with our sense of how much energy they leak. Fairly bogus and certainly IME only, but maybe useful to identify the most difficult to tame.
If you heard the Schroeder in the Soundsmith room, it was not with a low compliance, heavy cart that would typically be associated with putting a lot of energy back into the tonearm, or "leaking" to use an unfortunate term of Doug's. As for his partner Paul possessing extrasensory perception, being able to smell whether a record is Decca, RCA or L"Oiseau Lyre, having sonar like a bat so that he can navigate the aisles of audio shows blindfolded, and other super human attributes, I can say that (here is the disclaimer- I represent Schroeder arms) what you heard is simply the superior quality of Frank Schroeder's work. Which comes from 30 years of making arms, and his background in watchmaking. I've not yet heard the Talea, but how someone who never made an arm until last year, and has no technical background (I've heard the Talea is the result of the engineering department at Joel Durand's University getting involved) can suddenly make the best arm in the world is beyond me. Not saying it's impossible that a unipivot with no special innovations (and I do not consider on the fly azimuth adjustment an innovation, as it is certainly not something I would ever use) can hit a home run out of the park, but I remain skeptical. Durand's cheerleading friends and early adopters seem attracted to Schroeder threads (VA, OMA Forum) like flies to you know what, but the upcoming RMAF 2010 shootout between the Talea and a Schroeder Reference should settle the question.

Jonathan Weiss
Oswaldsmill Audio

I suppose it all comes down to different flavors for different guys because there has never been a best of anything. Still, there are flavors that the discerning listener can appreciate and differentiate.

For interested parties, note that OMA does not represent my Saskia turntable, and has not for a year. The reasons may be obvious to the casual reader.

The turntable remains on the website, however.

While we're at it, is the Schroeder Reference still in production? I thought I read several months ago that Frank Schroeder had ceased to produce tonearms, except to fill outstanding orders, which was good news to a buddy of mine who has had a Reference on order for eons. The rest of the "story" was that, other than filling existing orders for the Reference, etc, Mr. Schroeder would in future only be supervising production of the tonearm that goes with the Artemis turntable. Can any dealers comment?

JWeiss makes a good point en passant: are cartridges that put a lot of energy into a tonearm by definition low compliance types as well? It would make some sense that compliance is but one determinant.

I am humbled to be able to represent 3 of the finest tonearms on the planet, manufactured by 3 of the nicest fellows I know – Frank Schroeder, Joel Durand, and Tri Mai.

That a few of my customers are switching to the Talea, should be taken for what it is – moving from one outstanding tonearm to another. Few audiophiles have the resources to own all three tonearms at the same time, and so (being a fickle lot that we are), we practice serial monogamy.

BTW, Frank, Joel, and I are finalizing plans for a fun, after-hours session on Saturday evening at this year’s Audiofest – playing with both tonearms. The next generation Stelvio (to be unveiled at the 'Fest) will retain dual arm capability, so we’ll have a great platform for our session.

I’m not a multi-tonearm sort of fellow, but my experiences with the Myajima mono cartridge convinced me that a second arm has its place.

Thom @ Galibier
Jonathan, I understand OMA doesn't represent Cogent anymore either. You must have to sell chunks of rock for turntables in bulk loads to keep that old, rundown barn in working order.

Hi everyone,
Wouldn't it be beneficial to quit speculating about the possible causes for sonic differences between tonearms or, more precisely tonearm/cartridge combinations(and ta/cart/table/phonostage combinations etc....) until we actually had an opportunity to compare two or, even better, more contenders under reasonably fair conditions? So I'm sticking with my original suggestion to get together at RMAF and allow interested parties to hear for themselves. I realize that, right after such a comparison session, some will come up with reasons for the results or debate the way it has been executed. Let me add a short story/my two cents, based on years of personal experience with individual, small or large listening panel based evaluations:
A little more than a week ago, I demoed the effects of various TT-drive systems(DD, with or without additional load, tape drive with two different power supplies) to a group of 15 "seasoned" audiophiles, including some industry members(speaker and amp designers) at the "Vienna Vibes" meeting . In the end most all of them heard the same things. But when it came to voting for their favorite, the outcome was 7 - 6 - 1 - 0. I'll spare you the "who liked what better", but what I found time and time again is that we all have individual preferences, pre-conceived notions and the current peer group that influence our decisions.
So pick what you like best, call crap by its name, but don't tell anyone that their preferences are any less valid than yours. The "best" exists only for the individual, not for everyone (think girl/boyfriend, wife/partner :-)

See you all in Denver,

With all due respect, Frank. I don't see "speculation" in posts from those who have experience with your arm and the Talea. Jonathan, on the other hand, has consistently chosen to go beyond his own speculation and resort to sarcastic attacks on anyone who voices an opinion contrary to his own. I really don't believe a fair and honest opinion is within his capabilities.
My comments and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the opinions of Durand Tonearms, Galibier Design, Doug and Paul, Jazdoc, Dmailer, or anyone else.
Dan_ed that was well said. I spend over 5 years with the Schroeder and the last 6 weeks with the Talea during this time there have been no other changes in my system. I must say that I am not speculating with my observations as I have spent considerable time with both arms. The Schroeder is a great arm and I am not trying to disparage it in any way. It is just that I found that for my tastes in my system that the Talea provided more dynamics and detail than I was getting without sacrificing the great midrange that I love about the Schroeder. Of course Frank was never here to set it up for me and maybe he can get the dynamics and detail that I never could. Of course another person with a different system and tastes may prefer the Schroeder to the Talea. I look forward to comparisons at RMAF. I think Thom is the lucky one among us as he gets to play with all these arms.
Hi Lew,

The Schroeder Reference, Model Two and DPS are still made by hand by Frank Schroeder in Berlin. OMA sells all of these arms, and can demo them to interested parties at our new OMA Showroom in Manhattan (Soho) or at Oswaldsmill in Eastern Pennsylvania. We also will have the first of the new long version of the TA-1 Schroeder arm, made to Frank's specs and designed by Frank, but built by Artemis in California. It uses a completely different bearing than the magnet and string system of the aforementioned arms.

Dan, you can hear the OMA AC-2 loudspeaker which uses the Cogent DS1428 field coil compression driver at our Soho showroom. You will be able to hear the new Imperia four way horn system at our soon to be open Dumbo, Brooklyn Showroom. We don't rep Cogent drivers any longer, as you can see from our website, but DO use them in our speaker designs. We found that DIY interest in drivers which cost as much as Cogent was very small. People want a complete system with such drivers, as very few people in the world have the ability to put together such a system themselves. You can also come visit Oswaldsmill, or perhaps you would have difficulty finding us, as you are looking for OswaldsBarn Audio?

Jonathan Weiss
Nope, Mr. Weiss. I am certainly not looking for anything you may have. Of that you can be certain. As I have posted elsewhere in A'gon, I would not let my dog piss on the side of your barn or your Soho shop. Actually, I'll reserve the honor of pissing on your Soho shop for myself, if I ever go back to Soho. Too many smug heads up their own asses in that place for me, so I can understand why your shop is located there. Do I need to tell you what you can do with your speakers, and your opinions, or can you figure that one out for yourself?
Heh. Mr. Weiss had no problem believing every word Paul and I spoke when we offered positive analytics in his room during RMAF 2008. No snide remarks then!

Today, in an ill-judged defense of his commercial positions, he disparages components he's never heard and ears he once admired.

Is it any wonder he lost the rights to one of the world's finest turntables? Will he long retain the rights to one of the world's finest tonearms?

Save us from empty compliments and emptier insults.

To address his only points of genuine content, we've heard Schroeder arms, every model currently available, in many rooms and systems and with many different cartridges before and since our Soundsmith visit. Frank's arms do indeed handle "leaked" energies (or whatever term one prefers) better than most other arms in their respective price classes. I could list a dozen arms, including my own TriPlanar, that the comparably priced Schroeder outplays in this respect.

And yes, the Talea does it even better. Don't believe or disbelieve. Listen.
Hi guys,
I wasn't refering to either dmailers or anyone elses assessment as "speculation", quite the opposite. I supported the concept of decisions based upon personal preferences/listening impressions rather than an attempt to (pseudo-)objectivly assign qualities or the lack thereof to certain design features(no hard feelings Doug, Paul).
I.e. a wooden armwand can resonate like crazy and a metal or carbon wand can behave in a very controlled and predictable fashion. Or vice versa...

So any assessment is valid and helpful as long as there are no sales pitches, badmouthing or hearsay infos attached.

And that's why I'm outta here again.
Please, Jonathan, don't advertize any of my (or related)products on this forum.
Please Dan ed, if you can't ignore Mr. Weiss postings, why try and top his non-constructive sarcasm? Nothing to win here.
The ratio between information content and ego war occupied space has long fallen below 1. And it seems that figure is getting smaller and smaller...

Cheers and looking forward to the RMAF comparison session,

I'm not trying to "win" anything, Frank, and I do regret that you have been pulled into this. The full picture is not on this thread. This is not about who's arm is better, or anything else having to do with audio. He can insult me all he wants. However, Mr Weiss has repeatedly insulted people who I consider my friends on this and other occasions. I will not suffer that in silence. I'm sorry you saw sarcasm in my responses. I intended to let everyone know exactly what I think of Mr. Weiss. Please let me know if I did not accomplish that.
The question of tonearm/cartridge resonance is a very complex one, as seems clear from some of the posts here.
What is referred to as "damping" usually refers to the combined action of two of the basic parameters that allow to identify the acoustical properties of a given material: internal friction (tan ∂, loss tangent) and elastic modulus. Density is often included in this equation, but in my experiments and measurements, it seems to be less relevant than the other two parameters, in the particular application of a tonearm tube (as opposed to, say, a sound board).
But there is actually more to this than just the properties of the material--the shaping of the tube is critical, and not just whether it's tapered or cylindrical. With wood, in particular, the orientation of the rings, and other such considerations need to be taken in consideration, together with the properties of the "raw" material. It's an amazing field of investigation and, to a large extent, not easily subjected to simple measurements--unless perhaps if you combine together a very large pile of data...
I'll be happy to talk more about all this at the RMAF, and I too am looking forward to the session.
Joel Durand
No reason for hard feelings between you and us, and happily there are none.

For clarity, please note that there is no conflict between attempting to "(pseudo-)objectivly assign qualities or the lack thereof to certain design features" and "personal/listening impressions". Nor should preference be given to one over the other, since both are required for real progress. The former is what scientists call a hypothesis. The latter is empirical evidence, which scientists use to test a hypothesis. Both are valuable provided one remains concious of the differences and relationships between them.

One problem with many audiophiles, it seems to me, is that we often perform each of these without proper regard for its counterpart. We accept hypotheses without testing. We hear something and try to emulate it without understanding. Many of us make both mistakes at the same time. This is not a formula for success, and asserting one or the other lowers that light:heat ratio.

The scientific method involves two stages of action:
1. the formulation of a hypothesis;
2. empirical testing to prove or disprove it.
Taken together, this is called an "experiment". Taken apart, it's called chaos. ;-)

Fortunately for me, Paul is a scientist. When he forms a hypothesis such as the ones I described above, it remains as such until we test it empirically. Conversely, should we hear something new we make an effort to understand how it happened (ie, form a new hypothesis).

It's easy to see how example #1 in my post above followed the scientific method. Paul hypothesized about how a certain cartridge would sound (based on design elements). We tested by listening. In this instance the hypothesis was confirmed.

Example #2 also followed the scientific model. In that case, anomalies heard whilst listening sounded more electrical than mechanical, which let Paul to hypothesize that this cartridge was neither an MM nor an MC. That hypothesis was tested by referring to the manufacturer's spec sheet, and was also confirmed.

Here are two other examples, one proved and one disproved. Prior to RMAF 2008 Paul formed a hypothesis about a certain cartridge and I formed a hypothesis about a certain turntable. Both were based on our "(pseudo-) objective assignments of sonic characteristics to certain design elements". In our targeted listening sessions Paul's hypothesis was proved correct (the cartridge misbehaved as predicted). My hypothesis was proved incorrect (the turntable, Winn's Saskia, did not misbehave as predicted).

I've always imagined that you, Joel and other successful equipment designers do not develop and improve your complex products by random trial and error. It seems likely to me that you also "(pseudo-)objectivly assign qualities or the lack thereof to certain design features", then build a prototype and test your hypothesis empirically. Some ideas work, some don't, but you learn from each experiment and advance by so much.

quite the heavyweight thread i've just stumbled across here....and entertaining too. :^)

i'm looking forward to hopefully observing the comparison session at RMAF 2010 on Saturday night. (i would expect that the demand for an opportunity to be present will far exceed the space to do so).

i have had all the above mentioned arms (Schroeder Ref SQ, Triplaner VII, and Talea) in-use in my room recently, and currently own and enjoy the Talea. i do share the perspectives of the other Talea owners in this thread on it's comparitive performance; but also look forward to the neutral playing field of set-up by each arm builder to reveal some clarity for enthusiasts that have not had the chance for direct comparisons (and the possibility of new truths being revealed).

i also own a couple of Reed arms and have had the Reed during my time with all these arms and feel strongly that it should also be included in this comparison.

in any case a comparison session such as this should be a great thing....and thanks to those who will put it together.

Am I glad I force myself to stay quiet these days -:)
With all due respect, Doug, forming an hypothesis about the sound of a particular type of cartridge and "confirming" it with a sample of N=1 is not good "science", nor are the other examples you give. But I do agree that lack of a scientific approach is endemic in these discussions. The problem always is that, if we agree that we each have different and unique test instruments (our ears and brains), all of which are equally valid as adjudicators, then "science" as we would like it to be applied goes right out the window.

It's interesting that you should bring up the question of scientific method, because I was thinking about the same thing last night. Here's an experiment you and others who set azimuth by ear can do, and the results would be interesting:

Set azimuth be ear, and THEN use a Fozgometer or Feikert or Wally tool to determine what amount of crosstalk and/or phase error at 1kHz is preferred by the senses. (I choose 1kHz, because most test LPs provide bands at that frequency for setting azimuth.) Do this several times with different cartridges and tonearms, and see whether there is a trend, using one person as judge. Do it again with a second experienced observer who has been blinded to the preferences of the first. (I guess this belongs on the Foz thread.)
You're very right about the process--with one addition, perhaps a very personal one: I love accidents, mistakes and wrong turns. In musical composition (which many people don't see as rigorous, but actually is, just as much as scientific explorations, in different ways) as well as in tonearm making, I've often come to theoretical understanding after empirical discoveries resulting from unreasoned decisions (what if? oops! what did I just do? etc...).
Hypotheses sometimes get proven by testing, but more often than not, they just serve as jumping boards to jog the brain into action, to bring oneself into places one hadn't thought about.
If you get a better result than before, you try to reproduce the outcome again and start generalizing... until you find a new reason to move on and discard the theory you just established.
This is fun.
I'm not advocating setting azimuth by ear as necessarily the best method over any other one, but one thing I've noticed is that using only one frequency (1kHz, or another one) to measure crosstalk isn't terribly reliable. When I managed to establish a good balance at 1kHz, I measured that it was not right at other frequencies. Obviously, a musical signal is extremely complex because of the number of acoustic waves occurring at any given time, but also because of the way they interact with each other (addition, subtraction), to stay with just the frequency domain. I wonder if one could make a recording where, instead of just single frequencies, there would be "blocks" of stacked up sine waves in various groupings across the spectrum... But even that might not be realistic enough to parallel the complexity of musical signals.
From what I've learned about the Foz and Feikert's software I would expect this. The Foz would get one close, and the software package would get you pretty much dead on the theoretical optimum. If one can do it by ear, it gets to be much faster. I would ask how much deviation from the theoretical optimum can we tolerate?
Dear Joel et al, By choosing 1kHz in my little proposal, I did not mean to take the position that 1kHz is the sine qua non for setting azimuth. The goal of my proposed experiment would simply be to compare the outcome when a really good ear (like Doug's or Paul's or Tbg's) sets azimuth according to his/her preference vs when azimuth is set by a typical audiophile conventional electronic method ((based usually on a 1kHz test tone). I have no preconceived notions (i.e., no hypothesis). It's actually dangerous to design an experiment to prove an hypothesis. It's better to acquire some good data and then make an hypothesis centered on the data. Further experiments then test the strength of that hypothesis. If you can develop a way to use a set of frequencies to set azimuth electronically, rather than just a single frequency, that would be a useful improvement on the electronic method, IMO.
If one could determine what frequency range that crosstalk is most discernable to the ear. Then maybe there would be an ideal test tone to use.
I just don't get how one night of comparison at RMAF is going to tell anyone which arm is better. I do feel that Dan_ed's personal experience will be much more valid (especially for himself). But any cartridge I have ever setup (and a good setup takes time and tweaking, I don't care what expert you are - as VTF, VTA etc all need to be fine tuned over time) needed about 2-3 days to lock in all aspects. The best one will accomplish is an overall character assessment in some regard or other.

On a different note the art of setting up a Schroeder is long and painful but very rewarding in my case. Using different counterweights and different headshell weights all contribute to the final sound. As does the damping etc. I can't imagine many people getting to hear a Schroder at it's best. But, Frank - that is the curse of your arm. It is a setup nightmare and has been confirmed as such in the mainstream press. You should almost include a DVD. But when you change VTA you change VTF and you change azimuth. Anyhow it is as if I circle in on a point and as I keep refining the setup the circles get smaller and smaller until I finally get to the point, where VTF, VTA - damping, Azimuth etc are all locks in. Don't forget HTA as well. The difference I have observed of the Schroeder outside of the difficultly of setup is that the lack of a ball bearing does slightly change the dynamic and resolution in the bass. This is similar to an air bearing arm. But there is a musicality and dimensionality that exists with certain cartridges on Franks arm that has made that sacrifice worth it. Now if a different arm w. a unipivot bearing can combine the best of all worlds that would be great but honestly surprising. But no single night in RMAF will give the complete answer. Just a gimpse of what the possibilities are.
Dgad, you make great points. I, personally, am not really interested in a quest to find which arm is better than the other. I expect them to be very close in performance. If I'm wrong on this, I won't be the first time. :-) As is usually the case, I expect some may prefer one arm/cart combination to another as Frank pointed out before. For me this is simply a wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best.

One thing I will say that in all of my Talea listening to the present, I have not really fine tuned the setup (No MintLP protractor yet, for instance) of my XV-1s on the Talea. Yet the Talea clearly shows enhanced performance of the three cartridges that have been mounted when I was present compared to the Triplanar. I hate to keep saying this because I still love my Triplanar, but that is the best reference I have. I have heard a Schroeder Ref on several occasions but that is much different than my having hands-on experience.

As Thom mentioned above, the Talea is making me rethink my aversion to two arms on my Gavia.
Dgad's points are indeed valid - in fact, true optimization of the analog front end is a time consuming, laborious task that takes much longer than the optimistic numbers Dgad postulates (unless you happen to have a stroke of dumb luck, or you're sloppy). I believe the only caveat in his example is that all 3 designers (Tri, Frank and Joel) will be in the room, optimizing the setup of their respective arms. I would imagine that a common denominator, such as a Dynavector XV-1S, or a ZYX Universe will be present. All three designers are intimately familiar with the turntable in question; all three will be familiar in part with the rest of the system Thom will be using. I think the biggest variable will be the room and the overall system setup. So, while nothing is perfect, I do think the playing field is at least level. Will each arm be heard at its very very best? Probably not, but I think everyone present will hopefully glean something more useful than a mere 'character assessment' of all the arms in play. Of course, the potential and actual rarely meet, and Murphy is always lurking...
Sarcher, I believe human hearing would be most sensitive at between 500 and 2000 Hz (grossly speaking), and that's why we have 1kHz test tones and why crosstalk, distortion, etc, are usually measured at that frequency. Does the optimal electronic setting for azimuth vary much between 500 and 2K? I do not know. I would guess not.
Darn, this thread has taken off, and I plainly don’t have time to involve myself in the finer points of things analog.

I did want to take a moment to clarify a couple points of fact, as well as to comment about the Tri-Planar, which seems to be coming off as the red headed step child, even though this is unintended by the various posters. We have a tendency to try to read too much into each other’s written word, and sometimes this serves neither us, nor the product being discussed.

Our play session on Saturday night at this year’s ‘Fest (suite 1130 as always) is only now shaping up. Typically, Saturday evening sessions never start up before 8:30pm. We can never close the doors at 6pm on the dot, and the round-trip to dinner easily consumes two to two and a half hours.

Playing with two tonearms in this context is all that can reasonably be expected. In a short session like this (2-3 hours), the mind blurs, and we’ll no doubt want to try some different combinations. Frank typically brings some tasty cartridges to the show, so my guess is that there will be perhaps 2 or 3 setups on each arm.

As many have already commented, there will be no losers. Anyone who walks into this with an impression of a shootout, is sorely misguided.

Also, as far as involving Tri-Planar, Tri-Mai typically hosts some sort of event on Saturdays, so for this reason as well, we likely won’t bring a Tri-Planar into the mix. Don’t read anything beyond that into this.

As I work on the Stelvio II architecture, I’m wringing more and more out of the Tri-Planar along with every other arm. One of the key areas of improvement in the Stelvio II lies in the arm mounting architecture. I’m moving away from the pivoting armboard architecture, as I’ve wrung everything I can out of it. There will still be dual arm capability, btw.

Every arm I’ve experimented with on this new arm mounting architecture has benefited from it. Now, it just so happens that one of the Tri-Planar’s “weak” area lies in the upper mid/lower treble zone, where things can get the slightest bit bright. I hate writing this, because it is very, very slight. Keep in mind that I think enough of this arm to consider it (along with the Schroeder and Talea) as a reference. Still however, this upper mid/lower treble zone is *exactly* where most of the improvements in the new mounting architecture lie.

The other strength in this new architecture (I didn’t think this was possible) lies in the solidity and authority in the bottom end.

I didn’t intend this to be a sales brochure, but rather an attempt to bring a bit of fairness into the conversation about the Tri-Planar. Some of the observations about the arm seem to be a case of shooting the messenger. Where have we seen that before?

For the record, the room is shaping up as follows:

Galibier Stelvio II / Dyna XV1s or Artisan Cadenza (aka Benz LP S-class)
Atma-Sphere MP-1 Preamp
Atma-Sphere M-60 Amplifiers
Green Mountain Audio Speakers (new model, yet to be named)
Cables – either Audio Magic, Discovery, or Marigo

Thom @ Galibier
dear Thom,Frank and Joel: I know that in that night there will be not a shoout, there are not the best conditions/enviroment to do it but any way will be really interesting not only to hear it but to meet you and these great tonearm designers and of course all Agoner's.

Even that is not a shooout maybe you could take some ideas about if you can think could help to the whole purpose of that night:

- that both tonearms have the same kind of wire from cartridge pin connectors to phono stage. This sole factor IMHO preclude fair comparisons especially when attend so many " customer experts ". Frank and Joel could agree in which one for both.

- that both tonearm designers choose and agree in six-seven LP's tracks to make the listening test. Of course that after we heard that test will be a " free " listening/tracks/recordings time.

Anyway, looks like a great fun to come and a learning audio exercise. Good.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Doug, I am thinking that I sounded snotty when I was preaching about scientific method. I apologize.
Does anyone know how the kuzma 4p or the Kuzma 313 tonearms fit in the ladder of superior tonearms? Here in Australia the Kuzma tonearms are well represented so there a few of us have them. Unfortunately the tonearms that you guys speak of have no distributor here.

Would love any feedback on your experience on the Kuzma arms.

I always enjoy our discussions. Being challenged forces me to think more clearly and I need that. (If you knew Paul you'd appreciate how practiced I am at having my thinking challenged, successfully!) Your gracious apology is accepted, though certainly not expected or required.

I'm sure you appreciate that we're not going to subject ourselves to n=1,000 samples of crap just to statistically verify the crap we heard from n=1. Even reviewers don't do that and we're music lovers, not reviewers, even if one of us has a weakness for babbling on forums.

Completely agree that variables between systems and the ultimately subjective nature of music listening limit the extent to which scientific method can be applied when evaluating audio equipment. Subject to those limits however, as I think you agree, one can usefully apply a few basic scientific approaches. I suppose that's all I was trying to suggest.


Interesting suggestion regarding tonearm wire. Whether the two designers will adopt it might depend on whether either of them offers their arm with different wire as an option. I imagine Joel and Frank each plan to demonstrate a tonearm that's actually available! If they don't offer the same wire to customers and if having different wire confuses the assessment of other performance characteristics during this (non) shootout, then so be it. :-)

Of course if they do offer the same wire your suggestion makes a great sense.

Dear Dougdeacon: My suggestions were trying to eliminate factors that per se makes a difference if we minimize those factors that has clear influence in the quality performance ( differences ) IMHO we can have a better idea of each one tonearm " real " performance. In this way the main tonearms difference ( yes there are other design factors that makes difference. ) will be the bearing type design.

Anyway just a thought.

Regards and enjoy the music,
You are right about trying to minimize the factors between tonearms. However, I agree with Paul about the important fact that using a wire that is not offered to customers would be a serious problem in any type of evaluation. Nobody would know what the "real" tonearm would sound like.
I don't think Frank and I use the same type of cable.
Another aspect of this is that, to a certain extent, the tonearm is "tuned" with the cable I'm using. If I used another wire, I might have to modify other things to get to the sound I want. In that sense, the cable is as important in the global sound result as, say, the wood I use for the armwand, or the material I use for the counterweights, and so on. Any change anywhere modifies the delicate balance between the elements. It can bring the whole thing to a higher level, of course--I'm not implying that I currently have the perfect recipe--and when that is the case, I adopt the change.
I think we understood that but thanks for clarifying.
IME you can have 2 identical cartridges in 2 identical tonearms with all parameters being the same. The chance of the sound being the same is very slight. Depending on the break in period, amount of warm up etc the exact same cartridge will sound slightly different.
Dear Joel: Yes I understand what you mean and about the tonearm voicing.
I along my friend Guillermo are for the last three years in a self tonearm " universal " design an think I understand every single " subject " about.

Anyway I don't want to go " inside " no more in your tonearm design or Frank's one. We can agree overall but I know each one of us have some very particular " ideas ".

Regards and enjoy the music,