Teres Illius Tonearm and the importance of the Tonearm in the analog reproduction chain


I want to share my experiences upgrading my Turntable System in hopes that can benefits others. In the last 5 years I have been trying to improve my Turntable system. Countless hours in the Internet lurking inside forums, manufactures websites, articles in the world Hi Fi press etc. Making the appropriate decisions regarding investing in audio equipment, especially for high fidelity (audiophile quality) can be very difficult, especially if you live in a place when you don’t have access to reputable dealers, and your budget is limited, like mine. In this case your judgement will depend basically on advice from others (Forums, Online Dealers and Manufacturers) or purchasing equipment “blind sight”. There are a couple of reasons for that, one is that music evaluation is very subjective. What is good for you may not be for another person and vice versa. That is just the nature of humans and happens with everything in our lives, food, clothes etc. The other is that in order to properly evaluate the merits of a piece of equipment against another you need to evaluate them in the same context. I can assure you that your Dynavector DV-10X5 cartridge will sound much better if mounted on the Tech Das Air Force One turntable and the Durand Telos Tonearm vs if mounted on a Rega P3 with the RB 303 tonearm. And make no mistake, it should sound better. So it is very difficult to make purchasing decisions based on other person’s opinion or experiences. The different circumstances in which a piece of equipment was evaluated and the broad range of opinions regarding a specific topic was overwhelming to me and can lead to big money loses and frustrations. For me, it has been a bit frustrating at times but overall an enjoyable experience. And I have gained knowledge in the process.

In my opinion, the most valuable part of this thread is that all the testing I’ve done was basically in the same context. From the beginning a realized that I will need a good set of speakers or headphones to properly evaluated the differences in sound. To this end I purchased a Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 headphones and the Beyerdynamic A1 amplifier which I maintained across all the upgrading process up to date. Unfortunately, the subjective part of the evaluation is unavoidable. I want to describe my preferences in sound so the readers can have the correct perspective when reasoning what I’m trying to present here, and what I mean by improved sound. First, I do not have a highly refined ear like some Audiophiles have (or pretend to have). I certainly cannot describe audio experiences using the esoteric wording you may hear from highly experienced audiophiles. Instead, I will present my audio quality assessment based on real life experience as a professional musician. I’m a Drummer/Percussionist with more than 30 years of playing at Pro/SemiPro level and I use my exposure to real instruments and live performances as a reference. And it is this experience what I’m trying to obtain from my analog playback system. Basically what I’m looking for and considered a “good” sound is the faithful reproduction of acoustic instruments and orchestras, jazz groups, latin ensembles etc., which can be roughly translated to a wide soundstage, excellent frequency extensions and outstanding resolution in all frequencies.

 I’m going to describe the upgrade path that I followed through the years chronologically:

  1. Scott 390R receiver with built in phono stage, Scott PS-97XV direct drive turntable with cheap cartridge (I don’t remember the brand).

  2. Same setup but with an ADC Integra Headshell with XLM-III stylus.

  3. Same setup with Funk Acromat.

  4. Same setup with TWW periphery ring

  5. Music Hall mmf 7.1 Turntable with Mojo cartridge

  6. Musical Surrounding Nova Phonomena Phono Preamp

  7. Rega P5 with RB 700 tonearm and Rega Exact cartridge

  8. Ortofon 2M Black Cartridge

  9. Added the Groove Tracer Delrin Platter with Reference subplatter to the P5.

  10. Rega P9 with Power Supply, Rega RB 1000 tonearm

  11. Dynavector XX2 MK2 Cartridge

  12. Michell Gyrodec (latest version) with Rega RB250 tonearm and Dynavector DV-20X2 High Output Cartridge

  13. Glass Turntable Mat

  14. Origin Live Zephyr Tonearm

  15. Whest PS.30 rdt Phono Preamp

  16. Teres custom 255 Turntable, Acrylic lead shot filled platter, Signature 3 motor.

  17. Funk Firm FX-3 Tonearm.

  18. Teres 3 point Illius Tonearm.

I’m not going to describe all the upgrades or changes in detail but will do if anyone is interested in a specific upgrade. To cut the cheese and go to the main point of this topic, the biggest improvement in sound quality was made by the addition of the Teres Illius tonearm and was not even close. I was simply astonished by what I was hearing. It transformed my system. No other single component made an improvement as the Illius tonearm did.

At the time I purchased the Illius Tonearm I already have the Teres 255 Turntable, the Dyna XX2 Mk2 cartridge, the PS.30 rdt phono preamp plus the OL Zephyr and the Funk FX-3 Tonearms. So, I compared each of the 3 tonearms, head to head, with no other change on the system. You can say that the Illius is a more expensive tonearm than the others and it is true. The Zephyr is a $1300 MSRP, the FX-3 is about $2000 MSRP and the Illius $4800. But I upgraded from a $1000+ Nova Phonomena Preamp to a $4000 Whest PS.30rdt and the improvement was not as big as the Illius. Make no mistake, there was a significant improvement from the Nova to the Whest but not as dramatic. I used the same LP through all of the testing from the beginning (Scott receiver and turntable up to date) and a specific track from this LP (Fania All Stars-Spanish Fever, Track-Coro Miyare), that I know extremely well. The song start with a deep “Thud” from a Tribal drum and from that moment I know it will be something special and indeed it was. Well regarded tonearm designers such as OL Mark Baker and Vertere Acoustics Touraj Moghaddam argued that the Tonearm is one of the most, if not the most important part (or weakest link) in the turntable system and after hearing my system with the Illius Tonearm I begin to understand why.

In my point of view, the Turntable (Turntable+ToneArm+Cartridge) is a system designed to convert information (Music) permanently stored in a media (Record) to an electrical signal (Cartridge output). Each of the 3 key elements of the system have an important task to perform. The turntable (platter, plinth, bearing and drive system) is a platform whose purpose is to appropriately support and rotate the media in such a way that it will allow the cartridge to operate without interfering with the information retrieval (stable rotational speed, vibration control, etc). The cartridge is a transducer that converts movement to an electrical signal. It is a very important task and in many points of view, including mine it is the most important element in the turntable system. Then…….enter the Tonearm (wand, head shell, bearings, cables etc), whose purpose is to provide the support platform for the cartridge to operate (mechanically speaking), without applying any limitations. In other words, the Tonearm can optimize or degrade the performance of the cartridge more than any other turntable component. If the Tonearm can affect the performance of the most important component then is almost as important as the most important. This theory was clearly proven when I installed the Illius Tonearm. In my opinion the big improvement in sound experienced was not the Tonearm itself but the optimization of the Dynavector XX2 MK2 cartridge performance due to a better cartridge support platform. Remember all other components of the system, included the Turntable, Cartridge, Phono Preamp, Interconnecting wires, Lp/Track listened, Headphones amplifier and Headphones were the same. Only the Tonearms were changed. Thus the other Tonearms limited the performance of the cartridge much more than the Illius Tonearm. How the XX2 MK2 cartridge will perform if I replaced the Illius with the SAT Tonearm ($25k)? Who knows. But I bet it will extract the last performance iota from it.

When I made the decision to purchase the Illius Tonearm, it was based on a couple of facts. First, having already the Teres 255 Turntable I know of the quality of the Teres products and Chris Brady commitment to excellent quality and design. Second, I study the design principle and theory behind some of the best regarded Tonearms in the Market like Kuzma (4 point), Durand, Reed, Origin Live and others. The Illius Tonearm design have most of the key designs elements as found in most of the World Class tonearms available today. And it shows in the performance. Details of the Illius design and specs can be obtained in the Teres website. I have no affiliation with Chris or the Teres brand other than a very happy customer.

I have not tested or have experience with similarly priced or more expensive tonearms so I cannot have the grounds to proclaim the Illius the last Coke in the desert, but by judging the difference in performance compared to the other tonearms I have (specially the Funk FX-3, which is no slouch), and the Tonearm design, the Illius may be a bargain from the Dollar/Performance ratio point of view. And most important, the installation of the Illius in my system allows me to clearly understand the importance of the Tonearm in the Record playing system.

I sincerely hope that my experience described here can be of help for others following a similar path like mine and please, my apologies for any grammatical errors as my first language is not English. Feel free to comment or share your experiences and if you don’t agree or think I was not correct express your point of view in a cordially and respectful manner. Keep listening!


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I love my Teres table. I have a solid acrylic platter -  I wish I could find a lead loaded platter. If anyone has one they aren't using, PM me!
Thanks for the well written and informative article.
I own a Teres 340 with Verus Rim Drive and have owned it for years.

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My experience has been that the arm's ability to track the cartridge correctly is far more important then the actual cartridge. To that end of course the cartridge and arm should be compatible which usually has to do with size and the resulting effective mass of the arm/cartridge system, which in turn results in a mechanical resonance that falls between about 7-12 Hz.

I use a Triplanar which is extremely adjustable (you can even adjust effective mass to a certain degree) and also has the hardest metal bearings used in any tonearm made worldwide.

I regard the trackability of the arm and cartridge as the most important aspect of LP playback.
I regard the trackability of the arm and cartridge as the most important aspect of LP playback.
Completely agree. In terms of the actual function of each component, the cartridge is the more important component since the actual conversion of mechanical movement to electrical signal is performed there. However, a bad tonearm design can significantly affect the cartridge performance, by affecting the trackability of the groove, in some case to a great extent. The truth is that any cartridge will perform better in a good tonearm than on a lesser one. The same for an specific tonearm, a good cartridge will sound better than a lesser one.

If I were to sell all my turntable system and start one from scratch with the goal to obtain the best performance possible, Ill start by buying the best tonearm I can afford, then the best cartridge, and then the best turntable. The problem is that you need all the 3 components in order to play a records. 95% of the people go for a complete setup like Regas, Music Halls etc. They are not interested in technicalities, just want to hear music. After all, that's the ultimate goal. But us "gearheads" wants to understand what is happening, the science behind and how the quality of sound can be improved. And for me that provide as much gratification as hearing the music.

lak, your 340 is a beautiful table and I'm sure it sounds accordingly. Ill upgrade to the Verus Rim drive system in the future. For know my Signature III motor is working good. 
@almart1; I know of Teres owners (through emailing) that prefer the  Signature III motor with a belt of their own choosing. When I received my 340 from Chris I selected to go with the Verus Rim Drive System. I never have heard the Teres with the Signature motor.