SOTA NOVA, HR-X VPI, Technics 1200G recommendations?
I am considering SOTA NOVA, used HR-X VPI and Technics 1200G TTs. I have an old SOTA STAR with vacuum, (and essentially a Jelco 750 arm-retipped Denon 103R) so I know its high quality and durability. Technics apparently has performance that far exceeds its $4000 price tag. For tonearms, I am down to Jelco 850M and old FR-64S. I am considering low compliance cartridges. For VPI, it would be JMW 12 or 3D. Changing the tonearms seems to be more of a hassle on VPI. What are your thoughts and recommendations?
The Technics would be an easy no-brainer for me. We designed an armboard that allows a Triplanar to be easily mounted on it- at that point you have a turntable that is very nearly state of the art. The Technics has a rigid and dead plinth, and employs 5 different damping systems. Its also one of the most speed-stable turntables made.
If you will buy Technics: It's not necessary to replace stock tonearm of the SL1200G, give it at least a year of listening and replace the arm only if the stock arm disappointing you for some reason (it's a very good arm for the money).
The only thing with Technics 1200G is that it doesn't have vacuum or peripheral ring for slightly warped LPs and better coupling. Even with a very old used Triplanar tonearm, you are already talking about >7K. How do I get an armboard for TP for 1200G?
I owned the SOTA Sapphire, V1. Hands down the best table I’ve ever owned. You could do nuclear testing in the room and that table never missed a beat. It was as close to flawless as I’ve seen. I don’t know about their current products, but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy well maintained older tables.
An elephant could stampede past my turntable with no Ill effects. It’s where and how you mount it that matters. I’ve never once heard a skip or a blip while it’s playing. Solid turntable shelf mounted on an equally solid concrete wall. A music hall mmf 9.3 or 11.3 would be my choice. Hard to beat either for the money.
Chung, once you are use to a Sota the other tables will drive you nuts. Just get a Noba Vacuum. Jelco is out of business and I think you are headed in the wrong direction with a low compliance cartridge. You just increase record wear. There are many medium to high compliance cartridges of the highest caliber. Just put the most expensive Origin Live arm you can afford on it. Stay away from unipivot arms!!
The FR64S won’t work on a SOTA - it’s too heavy and the B-60 (or Ikeda base - I have both and I like the newer Ikeda better) might not even fit in there anyways. The FR64S is over 3 lbs. A tonearm can be up to 2.5 lbs max on a SOTA Nova suspension, as I recall. The lighter FR64fx (2.2 lbs) on the other hand, works GREAT on a Star / Nova and is an ideal combination with a lower-compliance cartridge (Koetsus, Ortofon Cadenzas other than the higher compliance Black).
I had a Star III updated to Nova V specs. It’s lovely. But the new Nova VI series introduces a lot of serious technological & material advancements over the V. They could have just gone to labeling it "Series X". It's quite likely these tables are now highly underrated. It’s worth a long look, at least.
I too realized the value of SOTA’s suspension when I got a high-end Clearaudio Innovation table and observed just how UNHAPPY that new table was on a crappy rack that the SOTA had handled extremely gracefully. And I need either a vacuum hold down or a ring clamp to bust edge warps. I don’t get high end tables that don’t supply or facilitate this; that would drive me absolutely NUTS.
The HR-X and Technics are classics too, you really can’t go wrong any way here. Just continue to carefully consider all the considerations you’ve been considering :) I wouldn’t use any VPI tonearm with a lower compliance cartridge (maybe with the "dual pivot"...maybe). And in my experience there’s not much practical benefit to 12" arms other than it looks cool.
Yes, if you insist upon using a "crappy" rack, the SOTA suspension will help. And if you have a lot of warped LPs, vacuum clamp or peripheral ring will help. Also, if you are testing nuclear warheads in your listening room.
I have a good rack and I am the only one in the listening room. I have been reading about the Micro Seiki RX5000/FR64S combination. Some people love them, others not so much. What do you think? Are they worth the price?
You will have to decide for yourself however: FR64S while not perfect is a GREAT arm for the $ and also seems to bring out good in almost all carts which is unusual. I use one everyday...
RX5000...well have you found a good one, in great condition, that is affordable in context of your other choices? I have not had an RX5000. I did used to own RX1500 but it was easily eclipsed by the STST direct drive tables ( which I now sell - caveat ) Sounds like you are on an analog adventure :)
@mulveling , even the light FR arm is a tank and will be too heavy for many fine cartridges. Not only that but in reality they are not the best designs. Removable head shells are a terrible thig to strap a tonearm and cartridge with. Not only do they add unnecessary contacts but they add mass right where you do not want it forcing you add more mass at the other end of the arm increasing the arm's moment of inertia ruining it's ability to follow record undulations. It is easy to add mass to an arm for a stiffer cartridge, not so easy to take it away. It is always best to start with a light arm. They are static balance arm thus the VTF changes with elevation and the bearings are high above the record surface increasing warp wow. There are so many excellent arms out there now that have none of these problems, Origin Live, Reed, Schroder, Tri Planar and more. The Origin Live Encounter is an excellent arm at $1500.00
Mijostyn, I think you are a nice guy, and I enjoy sparring with you, but what does rankle me is your consistent tendency to draw scientific-ish relationships between or among disparate factoids that are very often not at all related as cause-effect or at least there is no proof of a cause-effect relationship except circumstances. Further, you nearly always fail to label your dissertations as "opinion". You’re certainly not the only one who does this, but you write with such certainty that it might actually perpetuate some of your erroneous beliefs among newbies. Putting aside our complete disagreement when it comes to suspended, belt-drive turntables (I generally don’t like them except for the Dohmann) vs unsuspended direct-drive turntables (I like some of the best ones), your polemic on tonearms above is full of holes. The only thing you say with which I would have to agree is that use of a removable headshell does inevitably require an extra set of physical contacts in the signal path. I was just as taken in by this teaching against removable headshells, that was foisted upon us audiophiles back in the 90s, that I avoided using tonearms with removable headshells for about 20 years, until 5-6 years ago.
You wrote, "Removable head shells are a terrible thing to strap a tonearm and cartridge with. Not only do they add unnecessary contacts but they add mass right where you do not want it forcing you add more mass at the other end of the arm increasing the arm’s moment of inertia ruining it’s ability to follow record undulations." What "mass" are you talking about? The mass of the connector, which cannot add more than a gram or two to effective mass? Even tonearms with fixed headshells must have a headshell of some sort, which always adds to effective mass per se. Actually, separatable headshells make a tonearm more adaptable to cartridges with various levels of compliance. For one example, the FR64S is a tonearm with high effective mass, especially when you use the FR headshell that comes with it. There are a few different ones made by FR, but they are all pretty heavy, weighing 20g and more (and many say they sound bad, but I wouldn’t know). But one can choose to use a much lighter headshell, such as any good carbon fiber type that weigh about 10g typically, or any of the light aluminum headshells made over the years by SME, AT, Denon and others that weigh much less than 10g. So for the putative disadvantage of those extra physical contacts, one gains tremendous flexibility. Now, can you adapt an FR64S, in terms of achieving an acceptable calculated resonant frequency, to some of the MM cartridges from the early days with VERY high compliance, e.g. an ADC XLM? Probably not. But you can adapt an FR64S to nearly any modern medium compliance LOMC, if resonant frequency is your holy grail. Whether or not you can "hear" those headshell contacts in the signal path is a question I would leave to each end user to decide. I advise a touch of a good contact enhancer. You also wrote, "They are static balance arm thus the VTF changes with elevation and the bearings are high above the record surface increasing warp wow." Wrong and wrong. I think the FR64fx is built just like an FR64S, only with lighter materials, but for sure the FR64S is a dynamic balance tonearm, not a static balance type. Moreover, the FR64S has a decoupled counterweight that hangs down into the plane of the LP surface, not "high above" it. It is a very modern design in that regard. I remember Herb Papier telling me he thought it was a big improvement, when he decided to re-engineer the Triplanar so to decouple the CW. Some guys don’t like the dynamic balance method for adjusting VTF; I just recently read that at least one FR64S aficionado ignores the dynamic balance feature and prefers static balance. Still others prefer dialing in some of the VTF by dynamic and the remainder by moving the CW. Using dynamic balance does permit one to get the CW as close as possible to the pivot, thereby minimizing its effect on net effective mass.
@lewm, boy Lou to much coffee today? First, as for removable head shells, you not only have the mass of the head shell but the mass of the contacts the socket and the retaining lock ring on the tonearm. A situation like an SME, Reed or Schroder is obviously much lighter. This unnecessary mass, there only for your convenience is at the end of the arm where it contributes more to the effective mass of the arm and the arms polar moment of inertia making more difficult to move. This is not my opinion Lou but obvious fact in pretty simple engineering term. We seem to be confused on terms. A dynamic balanced arm has a counterweight that is set for balance then tracking force is added by a spring or similar mechanism. This has nothing to do with static vs neutral balance. A neutral balance arm which is the ideal has a line that goes through the center of mass of the counterweight through the vertical bearing and the center of mass of the cartridge. A neutral balance arm will not change VTA with elevation. When you position it anywhere vertically it will stay there. Examples are the Tri-Planar, the Reed 2G, the Schroder CB and some of the more expensive Origin Live arms. Static balance or stable balance arms if you draw a line through the center of mass of the counter weight and the vertical bearing that line will go above the center of mass of the cartridge. These arms will change VTF with elevation and if you position them high and let go they will hunt up and down looking for the balance point and eventually they will stop at a "stable" balance point. Neutral balance arms simply follow the record much better. None of this is my opinion. Ed Villchur had this figured out when I was knee high to a grasshopper. Why are you arguing about the vertical bearing being at record level? Warp wow is an obvious problem. If you don't think so take one of your test records and play a test tone with a nickel under the edge of the record. Pretty impressive! Not only can warps be a Nickle high but they are much more acute. Having vacuum clamping helps negate this problem. Raising the vertical bearing above the record surface makes warp wow worse. Again, not my opinion. The best tonearms pay homage to these design issues. The FR's may be nicely made but they are not good designs. Neither is the SAT arm for that matter. Go figure. I buy a tonearm for the best performance under all conditions. If that sacrifices convenience so be it. Heavy tonearms and stiff cartridges increase record wear and distortion during playback as the increased inertia causes the cantilever to move instead of the tonearm. I have seem oscilloscope traces showing this clearly. Some have hypothesized that this is the reason some tangential arm sound better because they are short, light and have much less inertia, following the record better, generating less distortion. Don't yell at me. Not my study and I have no idea. Makes sense though. If you ask Mark Dohmann what is the best sub $20K turntable on the market he will immediately tell you the Sota. He is just as allergic to direct drive tables as I am. His main claim to fame is turntable isolation, isolating the cartridge from vibrations generated by anything other than the record. A suspension is essential for this purpose. I personally would never buy another turntable without an adequate suspension. But, that is me. People buy turntables for reasons other than their performance and stability. Don't turn your turntable on and place the tonearm down on the record. Turn the volume up and have a look at your woofers or diaphragm in your case. A woofer will be not be motionless. Not sure about the diaphragm. Don't think I can see mine. Anyway, that woofer motion is environmental rumble. Some people call it room rumble but there are many causes outside of the room like the cement truck traveling down your street. A properly suspended table will be dead silent. No environmental rumble.
I am all for spirited discussion lewm, and there have been occasions where I have been dead wrong and I do not mind at all learning that I am wrong. It is a great way to learn right. I hope we can avoid getting bitter about such trivial things.
Yes, if you insist upon using a "crappy" rack, the SOTA suspension will help. And if you have a lot of warped LPs, vacuum clamp or peripheral ring will help. Also, if you are testing nuclear warheads in your listening room.
Yes lewm, if you insist on playing ruler-flat Diana Krall records at 75dB then you're all set - no need for clamping or a great rack or a SOTA that will filter out the energy of girls who are dancing vigorously around my setup while I play loud as hell rock music lol.
Not bitter at all. Just concerned to get the facts straight. What I am trying to point out to you, Mijo, is that you critiqued the design of the FR64S and fx tonearms without really being familiar with the design. The gurus who talked us all out of the idea of a removable headshell back in the 90s were and usually still are fixated on structural rigidity, not moving mass. You might make a case for greater structural rigidity of a fixed headshell, but please, don’t tell me that little knurled knob that tightens the headshell into place or that the ceramic socket that bears the contact pins is adding more than a gram or two in terms of effective mass. If you are so obsessed with that, then the only tonearm for you is an Infinity Black Widow, or the like. Also, one’s choice of cartridge and the screws that hold it in place and the headshell choice itself could have as much of an effect or more usually a greater effect on effective mass than does the added weight of the joint between tonearm wand and headshell. Your argument against removable headshells based on added mass of the joint structure is ridiculous; the arguments citing possible loss of rigidity and the necessary introduction of an additional physical contact in the signal path have more merit. Which tonearm do you think has lower vertical effective mass, any Dynavector, all of which have removable headshells, or a Reed tonearm with a nonremovable headshell where the arm wand is made from Cocobolo? (I am not saying the Reed cannot be superior to a Dynavector, but it won’t be so on the basis of minimizing effective mass. I am the happy owner of a 10.5-inch Reed 2A.) The distribution of the mass of a tonearm/cartridge, from the front end of the cartridge to the rear end of the spindle that holds the CW, defines its effective mass. That’s all been accounted for in the final figure. I am sure you know this. So if there is a gram or two extra mass in the joint, the calculation a priori has taken that into account. You speak as though the mass of the headshell joint is added in post facto. I am not sure what you are saying about the effects of structure on VTF, but if the center of mass of the CW is in the same plane as the surface of the LP, that will minimize changes in VTF due to record warps. What I am saying is that the FR64S does place the center of mass of the CW in the plane of the surface of the LP. What’s more, the CW is decoupled from the pivot. That reduces the effect of the CW on the inertia of the tonearm. Moreover, the stub that holds the CW on the FR64S is displaced at an angle to the pivot, such that a straight line through its center of mass is parallel to the long axis of the headshell and cartridge. Further, the FR64S has a side weight to provide for lateral balance.
"Heavy tonearms and stiff cartridges increase record wear and distortion during playback as the increased inertia causes the cantilever to move instead of the tonearm." The cantilever is supposed to move; that’s how an audio signal is generated.
I know all about your fondness for SOTA turntables. That’s fine. I hope you recall my mentioning that my Star Sapphire Series III with vacuum clamping was the most speed unstable turntable I have ever owned. I did not appreciate how obvious that problem should have been, until I sold it on in favor of a Notts Hyperspace and added a Walker Audio Motor Controller. That’s why I urge SOTA-philes to go for the Eclipse upgrade.Finally, I use various forms of shock absorbing materials under each of my five turntables; I do not use springs or a formal sprung suspension, but I never said that absorbing floor-borne vibrations is a bad idea. (Please don’t come back at me with airborne vibrations; I know about those too.)
TIME OUT!!! Round over. Everyone back to there corners. I can't bare to see this thread degrade. @chungjh , I may be somewhat unique relative to this conversation because I've owned close to all 3 of what you're considering. Over the last decade, my turntable has evolved from VPI TNT6HR w/12.5, 12.7 arm to Technics SP10MkII w/ Technics EPA-250 arm and now to Sota Nova Series VI w/Eclipse speed control package & Audiomods Series V arm w/micrometer. IHME, you've got two options, the Sota & Technics. Both I would rank far ahead of the VPI. Between those two, a number of valid points have been made, and it's gonna take some soul searching about your personal preferences to reach a decision.
Sota pros: Great personal support if you need it. That includes custom armboards for any tonearm you choose now and later. Fabulous wood cabinet options, if that's your thing. See my system pics :-) Vacuum hold-down & clamping system is proven, and hard to beat. The suspension is proven and hard to beat. Heck, after trying 10 clamps on my Technics, I ended choosing the Sota clamp. Upgradability to future enhancements protects your investment. Agree that the structural integrity improvements are worthwhile. Mag lev platter is a joy and not the exaggerated quirk some may be envisioning. Of course my comments on SQ reflect the arm & cart too...so YMMV, but I find it smooth, effortless, natural with great musicality. It totally gets out of the way and lets you focus on the music. Speed stability is great with the Eclipse controller & tachometer. Listening to Nick Cave - Alone at Alexandra Palace. It's so spooky and engaging, I keep pausing my typing because it's demanding my attention.
Sota cons: I don't love the interface UX design of the new buttons. One button toggles 33/45 with short press and also power on/off when depressed longer. It remembers the speed used last. Occasionally I find I've inadvertently switched speed. A minor quibble, but I'd prefer separate buttons for 33 vs 45, like some of the older models. Typical belt drive issues that plague them all; with belt wear over time, speed stability is at risk; the controller offsets this IMHO.
Technics pros(SP10mkII in Technics obsidian plinth) instant start/stop, high torque, rock solid speed stability. Big, fast, dynamic sound. The removable headshell on the EPA-250 made for easy cartridge switching if you're into that. I had a lot of fun experimenting & comparing many carts when I owned my Technics. If you're into tweaking, your efforts will be rewarded.
Technics cons: Really needs pricey/rare-ish aftermarket(e.g. copper) platter mat to sound it's best. Caution: your final platter height may affect your tonearm mounting as it relates to height/VTA. No suspension. Really needs high quality platform/rack and/or isolation. Aftermarket platter rings are not an option with stock platter, warped LPs may be an issue. Armboard fit/finish varies widely, depending on source. Overall materials look/feel didn't strike me as high end, if that matters to you; it's plain with looks that give no indication of its performance. It's a far cry from the gorgeous variants you'll see from Steve Dobbins or Oswalds Mill.
VPI - PM me if you want my thoughts. Let's just say I've owned them, set them up for friends, dealt with them over numerous setup/service questions and IMHO, they aren't in this day and age in the same league.
I have had two Sota Turntables over the span of 39 years. My latest is a Star Vacuum Series VI. It was a series V until the motor died. So I had them upgrade it. The speed is stable in terms of both setpoint and w&f. My older Sota Sapphire Series III with the Pabst DC motor had speed variation and I ended up modifying the suspension to reduce w&f which made it sound much better but it would still have a different set point every time I turned it off and back on. The Series VI is an A/C motor vs. the Eclipse being DC. I thought about going with the Eclipse but decided to keep cost down and also minimize the modifications. I’m very happy with my choice. But regarding the excellent isolation properties of the Sota turntables. Over these many years I discovered that the Sota turntable can still benefit from additional isolation. I wanted to share that. I also have tried using the points (or Cones) on the three legs but I went back to the rubber feet. I prefer the sound with the rubber feet. My new favorite isolation configuration is a carbon fiber plate on 4 ISO Acoustics feet. Wood boards work well too. Do NOT put the Sota on a granite slab. I thought that would have been a good thing for the extra mass, but the sound is terrible. The vacuum improves bass response and also makes the background blacker- at least I think so. But I also like the vacuum because I have a few records that are not perfectly flat and while the clamp alone helps the vacuum platter makes every record perfectly flat.
I want to clarify things about Technics SP-10 mkII:
-You don’t need that old and fragile obsidian plinth at all, you can make a bigger custom plinth with many blank armboards for whatever tonearm (including 12 inch) with any diameter of the mounting hole.
@lewm, I promise I will not come back at you with airborne vibration
Exactly, I did not buy the Infinity arm because it was not stiff enough. I got a Syrinx PU 3 which was not a neutral balance arm but it was very stiff and no removable head shell. The removable head shell and it's socket are unnecessary mass at the end of the arm and an additional set of contacts. Maybe it is only a few grams, still IMHO unnecessary. Although the SME style locking mechanism is very stiff you are probably right, a fixed head shell is stiffer. The arm tube on my Schroder is dampened carbon fiber BTW. A stable balance tonearm increases VTF as it goes up. That is why it hunts for the balance point. The easiest way to tell is lift up the arm just an inch and gently let it go. A neutral balance arm will just stay there. A stable balance arm will start hunting up and down. It is not enough to have the counter balance weight at the level of the record. The center of masses at both ends of the arm have to be in line with the axis of the vertical bearing. I have played with a FR arm. I do not recall the model. There is a lot you can tell about an arm by just looking at it. For instance an "S" tube arm is going to be heavier than the same arm with a straight tube. The straight arm will also be stiffer. An arm with a removable head shell is going to have more mass than the same arm with a fixed head shell. The Kuzma is a great compromise BTW. Mass at either end of the tonearm is more significant than mass near the pivot. This is what effective mass is all about. Like a seesaw inertia is affected most b mass at the ends. Inertia is different than effective mass. Tonearm design requires a bunch of tradeoffs. Is there one right balance? I doubt it. I prefer lighter arms and more compliant cartridges but there are limits as too how light you can go. Is the FR stiffer than say my Schroder. I seriously doubt it. IMHO the FR does not justify the added mass. For stiff cartridges I would rather add just as much mass as needed to the Schroder.
I didn’t damage any cartridge on Reed 3P (without removable shell), but it’s a challenge to swap carts on such arms. If you want to use just one cartridge then it’s ok. But I got many cartridges and many tonearms. I like and enjoy using tonearms with removable headshells and DIN connectors.
Some outstanding tonearms are: Ikeda IT-345, FR-64fx, 66fx, 64fx PRO, 64s, Lustre GST-801, Victor UA-7082, Technics EPA-100 mk2 and much cheaper Denon DA-401 for high compliance carts. All with removable headshells!
@chakster, for people who want to swap cartridges all the time removeable head shells are very convenient but, they are a compromise when it comes to performance. If I really needed a removable head shell I would not get any of those arms. I would get a Kuzma 4 Point 9. I have found that I only want to listen to one cartridge, the one I like best. With the exception of 78's the best cartridge is always best at all genres. I also do not mind setting up cartridges. I am not willing to compromise. I want the best performance possible considering the tradeoffs. Once I set up a cartridge it stays put for years, sometimes more than a decade. If comparing cartridges is your thing the best way to do this is with multiple arms. Unfortunately for me the only turntable I like that takes two arms is the Dohmann Helix which has not fully evolved yet and is currently out of my price range anyway.
I can't disagree more, because I'm still searching for the "best" cartridge and I tried over 60 of them (new and old, mm/mi and mc). Using 4 different tonearms is better than using one.
It was an illusion that I could use one great cartridge on one great tonearm, this is the reason why my Reed 3p "12 inch is not in use now. This is the reason why my most expensive modern LOMC are not in use now.
In my perspective I only discovered something more interesting, more involving and it wasn't a compromise in sound at all.
As I mentioned in my previous post, with tonearm (with removable headshells) like Ikeda IT-345, FR-64fx, 66fx, 64fx PRO, 64s, Lustre GST-801, Victor UA-7082, Technics EPA-100 mk2 and much cheaper Denon DA-401 ... no one can go wrong if they are in use with properly matched cartridges. I have all those arm and very happy about performance.
Chakster, Hasn't your journey revealed to you that there are many, many excellent cartridges and that the differences among the many very good sounding cartridges are in terms of nuances that may or may not appeal to any particular listener. That is what I have come to believe; there certainly is no one single Holy Grail of cartridges. The existence of so many very excellent cartridges makes it all the more obvious when you come upon a cartridge that is just plain ordinary or "bad". Those can be readily eliminated from the play list. I also agree that matching of tonearm to cartridge can really make a difference. I could only have come to appreciate that by listening to many different tonearms with many different cartridges, and swapping cartridges among them. In particular, low compliance LOMC cartridges really need high effective mass to sound best. I find high compliance cartridges to be less fussy, in general.
For a few decades, the TP was my only tonearm. Then when I started playing with several different turntables, I began to acquire and to listen to other tonearms. I bought the Reed, which borrows heavily from the TP, and I bought several tonearms with interchangeable headshells only reluctantly, because I was steeped in the propaganda against headshells that was in the air in the late 80s and 90s. Like you, I am now addicted to having several cartridges pre-mounted on several different headshells, so i can swap from one tt/tonearm to another with minimal fuss. Doing that is a very educational experience. With a fine quality headshell, I absolutely hear no degradation associated with the extra contacts in the signal path, so long as I am using a high output MM or MI cartridge. With an LOMC, I cannot swear that it doesn't make a difference, but I have stopped worrying about it. My Koetsu sounds its best in my FR64S, regardless of the fact that I must use a removable headshell with that set-up. Also, rigidity of the connection between tonearm and headshell matters much less with high compliance cartridges, because those don't put much energy back into the headshell/arm wand. With low compliance LOMC cartridges, there is a case to be made, I guess.
The effective mass of my SME 309 tonearm with removable headshell is less than the effective mass of the SME IV or SME V fixed tonearms. Hmm. Generalizations can be dangerous. I agree that fewer connections between the phono cartridge and preamp is better but unless you are soldering the tonearm lead wires to the phono cartridge pins and to the preamp input leads, it is somewhat of a moot point. 1.5 meters of litz lead wire has a resistance of about 10.8 milliohms,. Each connection has a resistance of 0.5 milliohms. My tonearm has 5 connections to the preamp vs 3 for the SME IV or V or 1 extra milliohm. 7.5% more resistance using a removable headshell. But a fixed tonearm with no connections- solder joints only would reduce the resistance between the phono cartridge and preamp by 25%.
I don’t think resistance, pure and simple, is the main possible issue with physical connections in the signal path. For one thing because each physical connection also has capacitance and/or inductance. For another, because very often the first gain device, tube or transistor, in a phono stage will be preceded by a series resistance in the 20 to 200 ohm range, to prevent oscillation. Such a resistance would swamp out any resistance of the preceding wiring system. Fairly high resistance ICs (Magnan, etc) were once in vogue, too. Yet I am agreeing that physical connections should be eliminated whenever possible and practical.
I must admit the comparison between a high class toneams is very subjective and should not be taken seriously (at least for beginner), unless a buyer compare by himself in his own system with his own records. The key point is a CARTRIDGE, it must be the same cartridge and turntable and each time it must be perfectly matched cart and tonearm.
TriPlanar, Reed, Kuzma, Schroeder, Durand ... are all high class modern tonearms, they are all must be great, the rest is personal preferences.
All these tonearm are extremely expensive!
There are absolutely amazing tonearms from the golden age of analog that cost 50-70% less compared to new high-end tonearms. Sometimes it’s hard to detect why they are cheaper than new high-end tonearms.
I remember I was in the situation like Jay many years ago, the starting point for me was Technics EPA-100 with ZYX AIRY III MC (and Technics MM carts like 205c mk4) and then modern Thomas Schick 12 inch tonearm and SPU cartridges (then some vintage MC and MM). Schick tonearm is so beautiful that it was hard to resist, the price was more than affordable. The next step was Reed 3p "12 Cocobolo (I don’t know any other tonearm in the universe that allow me to adjust absolutely everything on the fly including azimuth). But to get Reed for affordable price (demo unit) I decided to travel to Vilnius, Lithuania to meet up with the Reed Team in person! I bought their used demo version with huge discount! Normally I would never buy a tonearm like Reed, because official retail price was something like EUR 5000!
If the budget is not a problem my advice is to buy one modern and one vintage tonearm and compare by yourself with appropriate cartridges.
This hobby is about fun after all, there are so many great tonearms and cartridges out there.
It seems to me we are all coming around to the same place.
@lewm, I handily agree that if things like contacts and stiffness are going to be a problem the are certainly going to be worse with a stiff, low output moving coil cartridge. This says nothing about record and stylus wear. I myself have migrated away from stiff low output cartridges and am using more compliant MM and MI cartridges. I also have to admit that many of my concerns are academic and I really do not know how much they affect the experience with the exception that lighter setups do outperform heavier setups. the oscilloscope traces I saw were more than convincing. A tonearm with a detachable head shell may sound exactly the same as a tonearm of similar effective mass, without a removable head shell and with the same cartridge of appropriate compliance. As you say the most important issue is that the cartridge match the tonearm. I also agree that the differences between excellent cartridges is nuanced, not dramatic at all. Which makes me wonder why someone would pay $16,000 for a cartridge? Then again why would someone pay $250,000 for an amp? Crazy hobby.
1) Most of the LOMC are low or mid compliance (very few MC are high compliance like Ortofon MC2000 for example)
*A low compliance cartridges must be used with superheavy tonearms.
2) Most of the MM/MI are mid compliance or high compliance (very few are low compliance like Nagaoka for example).
*A high compliance cartridges (in theory) must be used with very lightweight tonearms.
There are limits in every category of cartridges, and using a mid compliance on mid mass tonearms is not always the best solution. A compliance alone will tell you nothing about sonic characteristics of a certain cartridge. It can be a perfect tracker (high compliance), but boring as hell. A low compliance MC also can be boring.
Chakster is right, compliance tells you nothing about the sonic characteristics of a cartridge. The problem is the resonance frequency of the moving mass of the stylus/cantilever/coil, magnet or iron assembly and it's suspension. You have to keep it up over the audio band or you get bright peaky performance. The heavier the moving mass, the stiffer you have to make the suspension. Because moving coil cartridges usually have higher mass assemblies their suspension has to be stiffer. There are some moving coil cartridges with very light moving masses now using plastic crosses for the coils instead of a metal and very powerful rare earth magnets. They tend to be very expensive, read overpriced. IMHO moving magnet and MI cartridges tend to be a much better value. Some would argue their performance can be better than moving coil cartridges. In terms of signal to noise ratio and therefore dynamics there can be no argument that they are better. Other qualities it depends who you talk to.
The phono cartridge and tonearm combine to make a spring mass system. The phono cartridge and tonearm must compliment each other to yield the ideal system natural frequency. That ideal system natural is between 8 and 11 Hz. Once you decide on a tonearm then you must narrow your selection of phono cartridges to compliment the tonearm you have selected. You can use this equation: Resonant Frequency= 1000 / (2 x π x √ (M x C)) or easier to use the cartridge resonance evaluator available on various websites. Take my SME 309/Soundsmith Zephyr combo for example. Tonearm has an effective mass of 9.5g. The Zephyr has a mass of 12.2g. I add about 0.5g for the screws for a total mass of 22.2g. The Zephyr has a compliance of 10 micrometer/millinewton or 0.00001 cm/dyne. Use the magic calculator or plug these values into the formula and my tonearm/cartridge system has a resonance of 11 Hz. Right in the ideal zone. The Zephyr comes with some ceramic rods to add mass if needed. So, if I wanted to lower the resonance to 10 Hz, for example I could add 2 grams of mass to the headshell. Why is the resonance range so important? The 8-11 Hz range keeps the tonearm away from the music lower limit of 20 Hz (the modulating grooves can excite the tonearm) but also above rumble frequencies. If a tonearm/cartridge system is mismatched poorly you can actually experience your tonearm moving up and down and cartridge skipping. From the equation you can see that a low mass tonearm/cartridge needs high compliance (spring rate) and a high mass tonearm/cartridge needs low compliance.
Remember, the first rule of Engineering is to watch your units. Well, we had a professor in college that said the first rule of Engineering is "You can't push a rope." But if your units are mixed you can get into trouble very quickly. Also note that a warped record will have a rotational frequency of 1.8 Hz. If the tonearm/cartridge natural resonance is down below 5 Hz, exciting things can happen when it tries to track over that warp.