Thales Simplicity tonearm review in Stereophile.

Michael Fremer's review of the Thales Simplicity tonearm in this January's Stereophile is pretty brutal. Are there any owners of this tonearm that would take except to his conclusions?
Whoops. Meant to type exception, not except. I could not edit my own post for some reason. Even though no one had posted to it yet.
For those who have not read the article here are the issues that Fremer brought up about the arm. The best I could do in my own words anyway.

First, the setup jig and instructions were confusing for him and he broke the first cartridge he tried to install.

Second, the jig as far I can tell is very imprecise. It had you aligning the cartridge without putting a load on the cantilever, and the lines were very thick and obscured the stylus. Hard to explain without the picture in the article. Even with the picture it is hard to completely understand how it works. He said "The alignment I achieved was, at best, a guesstimate".

Third, he found the bearings to have too much friction. After measuring the arm's antiskating deflection using his Wally Tools Skater (whatever that is?) , which suspends the tonearm by a thread, it revealed a serious problem. The Simplicity got stuck in whatever position he placed it in. He stated that a truly free bearing system would allow an arm to move freely.

Fourth, the Simplicity still has the issue of skating forces like normal pivoting arms because the headshell is offset. The offset changes as the arm moves across the record from 19 degrees at the outer groove to 7 degrees at the inner groove. The Simplicity uses a magnetic antiskate device. There are magnets between the counter weights that change the antiskate force as the arm moves towards the inner grooves. This is set at the factory and is not adjustable. As skating forces will change with different groove velocity, it would be nice to be able to adjust it for each record (this was my conclusion not Fremer's).

At the end he concluded that with it's high friction bearings and it's bright sonic signature, it was not worth the cost to achieve near tangential tracking.

I haven't read the review yet but while that is ONE negative review, there are MANY glowing reviews internationally. If I'm a potential buyer, I wouldn't let just one review to discourage me from checking out this unique design on my own. From the description of the review, the resulted sound can be possibly user error or Thales needs to do a better job of its instruction manual. I hope to hear from actual users' experiences here.

I agree with Hiho. . .it seems to me that Fremer botched this review based on all the other commentary available.
Not to rain on anyone's parade, but hasn't the Schroeder LT crushed the Thales tonearms, in terms of "simplicity", cost, and actual performance? The Schroeder does allow the cartridge to maintain tangency across the LP surface, just for starters. No skating force to worry about. And the bearings are low in friction. And it's easier to mount. And...
I think that the most significant point to Fremer's Review......was the fact that on digital recordings he made using the Thales and a normally pivoted was able to pick which recording used which arm?
This result is confirmed by my experience with many listeners to my normally pivoted tonearms.....who never seem to leap up and exclaim....."ahhh.........null point.....null point" when the cartridge happens to hit the spot just twice on each record's side? :-)

But then again.......on Fremer's digital recordings of his cartridge tests.......the vast majority of listeners preferred MM cartridges in a Mid-Fi arm and his $8000.00 LOMC Anna cartridge in his Cobra/Caliburn combination?

HighEnd mostly 'faith' based and led.....rather than logic, science and experience based......with a few notable exceptions IMHO?
Lewm, I hope you are correct about the Schroder LT, as I will have one soon. I was interested in the Thales arms in the past until I found out they will not fit on my TT. Even so the subject of tonearms interests me. Especially linear tracking arms, because they are even more of an engineering challenge.
Great that the principle of linear tracking is undergoing a resurgence with the Thales Simplicity and Schroeder LT. I'm a total convert with my Trans Fi Audio Terminator T3Pro air bearing linear tracker, a total giant killer at a tenth of the price of these models.
Henry, Don't you think that Fremer's results with digital recordings made with the Thales vs "normal" pivoted tonearms could as well indicate a failing of the Thales, in terms of its engineering? For example, someone wrote that it has an offset headshell and thus generates skating force. That right there is what you would hope to be rid of, if you are going to the bother and expense of establishing tangency across the LP. (I did not know that about the Thales and was disappointed to read it here.) I think much of the distortion that some claim to hear with pivoted tonearms vs LT ones is due to the constant variations in skating force across the LP, rather than to tracking angle distortion. Then too there is the issue of bearing friction.

It would be more telling if Fremer or one of us would do a double-blind digitized comparison of the Trans-fi or the Schroeder LT, vs a conventional pivoted arm.
Here is a foreign review that is easy to read.

It has some better pictures. I have to say I agree with MF about the setup jig not being ideal.
One of MF's recent blog posts showed a photo of his stylus/cantilever. It was totally mucked up due to improper/inadequate cleaning practices. Anyone listening to or measuring the output of a cartridge in such appalling condition would have no way of assessing its true capabilities.

Based on that post, it's apparent that MF either has not acquired or does not practice the basics of system maintenance required to be considered a credible reviewer.

Let's not dismiss the Simplicity so offhandedly. After all, Mr. Fremer gave a glowing review of Thales' top of the line AV model, which features even more complicated pivot bearings. Theoretically the AV (stands for Aluminum Version) offers the possibility of perfect tangency (I know the word tangency should be like pregnancy, either it is or it is not.) due to the geometry of the Thales semi-circle. The Simplicity, whose name is a response to the more complicated AV, using a tetragon solution that reduces the tracking error to a maximum of 0.008° and this value is probably too small to be of any interest. It's still a formidable design with the ease of headshell swapping and with a 230mm mounting distance that's suitable for most turntables. The embedded magnets on the split counterweights are also ingenious. Even if the resulted sound is questionable at least Mr. Micha Huber offers an fully pivoting alternative to airbearing or mechanical linear bearing a la Clearaudio, since the days of Garrard Zero 100.

I readily agree that the Schröder LT is a more effective approach to minimize skating force but I am certain Frank is willing to give credit to Mr. Huber's for his thinking out of the box design. In tangential tracking if the cartridge cantilever to the static pivot point form a straight line, there will be zero skating force. Frank's design, by his claim, minimizes it to such low level to be inconsequential. I guess the knock on the Simplicity and AV is that they behave just like most conventional pivot arm.

Just for fun, here's a German website that offers more than 50 digitized samples of three different tracks of various analog set ups with different tonearms, cartridges, and phono stages. However, the turntable is not listed so perhaps the German speaking members here can enlighten us. Sample #43 uses the Thales Simplicity arm and sample $44 uses SME V with same tune and same set up. Both files are over 150MB and are downloadable.

HiFi Statement Net Magazine Sound Library

English version via Google Translate

Sample #43, Thales Simplicity tonearm

Sample #44, SME V, the rest same as above

Any difference?

Lewm, you seem mostly concerned with bashing the Simplicity. Not sure what that's about. . .just sayin'.
the turntable is not listed
I guess they use a Brinkmann LaGrange with tubed power unit.
Thanks Hiho, for posting those links. I preferred sample 43 to sample 44 myself. Slightly more transparent.
Thanks, Hiho. I take your points. Have not listened to the many tracks yet.
After more investigating on the website, it looks like they are using a Brinkmann LaGrange TT for their tests.
Sarcher30: "After more investigating on the website, it looks like they are using a Brinkmann LaGrange TT for their tests."
Thanks for the research! It makes sense since the LaGrange allows two tonearms and the armpods are swappable which makes evaluating tonearms and cartridges a lot easier. Being a non-suspended table helps too. Just imagine evaluating all of that on a Linn....

I remember years ago, the British magazine Hi-Fi World did a turntable shootout of 6 or 7 brands including some vintage units using the Hadcock tonearm throughout since the armwand is detachable from the base (much like the VPI JMW models) so all the tables are mounted with identical Hadcock bases and then each set up mates with the same arm and cartridge through out, thus eliminating variables. Of course each signal path goes through the same phono stage, line stage, etc.. It's the closest thing to an objective evaluation. Still not perfect, of couse, as some turntables might not have the same "synergy" with the Hadcock. But I give them props for at least trying.

Catastrofe. No. I have no beef with the Simplicity. Aren't we just a bunch of guys sitting around having a prolonged audio discussion? That's the way I think of this forum. I think it's a place where one can say what one thinks, so long as no one is personally insulted and politics are avoided. If I were a reviewer for a widely read audio magazine, I would temper my remarks accordingly, but I don't think anyone really gives a hoot about this discussion we are having, except us. Therefore, I asked out loud whether the Schroeder LT is not obviously a better design than the Thales. Why does that constitute "bashing"? For sure, the Thales products are beautifully made and the design is very clever. However, so far as I can tell from afar, the Schroeder approach is just a better way to do it. Now, Hiho has made some cogent remarks that would make me re-think my original position. Please see above where I wrote that I accept Hiho's counter-points. OK?
After more than a month last year with the Thales Simplicity tonearm and TTT Compact turntable home I can assure this is one of the best tonearms at any price.

Simply a great idea!!

If you know spanish check my review:

Review of the Thales Simplicity in Stereophile's January 2014 issue.

Page 29

Page 30

Page 31

Page 32

Page 35

The TTT-C turntable got a positive review but less so for the tonearm. After reading, I really wonder if the reviewer received an arm with faulty bearings...

Faulty bearings? Most likely. I have a Thales Simplitynand it had faulty bearings in the head shell that caused it to sometimes play the same groove over and over. Since it got repaired under warranty, it has been working flawlessly. How this could have passed QC I don't know?
Micha Huber has posted a response to the Stereophile review on his website:
I finally read Fremer's review. Why does that guy always harp on the notion that the vertical and horizontal effective masses of a tonearm should be equal? Why should they be equal? There is some advantage in having a higher effective mass in the horizontal plane, in terms of the reproduction of low bass frequencies, most of which information is encoded in the horizontal plane. I believe it's correct to say that Frank Schroeder pointed this out on another thread here. If Fremer has reason to adhere to this belief, I wish he would explain the rationale.
I red the MF review and I don't agree with this bright sound he wrote. Imho his tonearm was not working properly
01-04-14: Catastrofe: "Micha Huber has posted a response to the Stereophile review on his website:"
For full statement, click here.
Excerpt from January 2014 statement by Micha Huber:

"Unfortunately, it seems as the arm used for the review did not fit into these tolerances. This was definitely the case for the arm used at the RMAF. The reason for this turned out to be a combination of wrong treatment (modifying sealed screws for the adjustment of the head-bearing) by our very new distributor and the following troubles caused therefore."
In the particular case of this tonearm for example I couldn't fix my Lyra screws to the headshell, it only accepts the supplied.
I haven't read the review, nor have I heard the Thales arm. But, I do note that Mr. Fremer has certain views about design that essentially preclude even reviewing certain products. For example, because he thinks that suspended tables, at least in theory, swing under the varying tension from the belt drive, he will not review Basis turntables.

As to the issue of difference in horizontal and vertical masses, there is always a huge difference with designs like tangential tracking arms (much higher horizontal mass). Some arm manufacturers of conventional arms actually deliberately design arms with much higher horizontal mass for the reasons given by Lewm, above. The Moerch Anisotropic arm is another example.

I applaud reviewers, like Mr. Fremer, who will actually stick their neck out and do a critical review, and I think it is fair to speculate on a mechanical/theoretical reason why a particular design did not, in the reviewer's opinion, deliver the goods. But, my own experience is that there are all kinds of radically different designs and each can deliver both good and bad results so I would never, ab initio, dismiss something because of a particular design.
I agree with him in suspended turntables, I took some meditions from an Avid Volvere and they was horrible

I've heard the arm, own the arm and the TTT-C. Fremer was understandably annoyed that he totalled his Lyra, but really, if you turn the mounting tool upside down without the cartridge being secured by screws you'd have to be living on the space station if you didn't expect it to drop to the floor. Having said that, my arm moves freely, tracks brilliantly, is dynamic and has no trace o the inner groove distortion that I heard on my Kuzma Stogi Reference and with a 4 Point, that's why I bought it.
Apparently the US agent 'adjusted' every arm that he received and the bearings were then malfunctioning.
01-12-14: Proftournesol: "Apparently the US agent 'adjusted' every arm that he received and the bearings were then malfunctioning."
I wonder if this is the case in a review from a French magazine as the headshell is installed completely wrong; it's reversed! The funny part is that it got a glowing review!* That's just unbelievable! I wonder if their local distributor re-installed the headshell mounting plate and had it backward!

Check out the pictures:

Page 1 - - - - - - Page 2 - - - - - - Page 3 - - - - - - Page 4

If the sonic impression was based on the performance of the arm in the pictures, it would've had ton of tracking errors and distortions.

* (I don't read French but used Google Translate to get the gist of the review.)

Yes, the French review photo has the headshell mounted back to front! Maybe it's better for playing records backwards and deciphering hidden lyrics?
Yeah, the alignment would be way off. On the other hand, if you could make up for that, by changing the P2S distance on a table with a pivoting arm board. Having the headshell backward would allow you to get to the cartridge screws, and you would be able to adjust alignment like a normal arm. Instead of using that funky alignment jig it comes with. Unless having the headshell plate backwards would throw it's geometry off. Which it probably would.

The Simplicity is an articulated tonearm so its geometry has to be exact to work as intended. The stylus has to be exactly below the pivot (on the left armwand bearing) on the headshell in order to be tangential tracking. Any misalignment will throw everything out of wack. It's not supposed to have overhang but the wrong headshell installation push the stylus about an inch forward so it creates overhang and would throw off everything. You cannot treat it like a normal arm because the headshell pivots and the armbase also has two pivot points which makes it a tetragonal geometry.

PS. I alerted this to Thales and the designer replied back saying the mistake was corrected before the sonic review but the photos were taken already so they printed it as he said "it's the French way of life..." A funny dig on c'est la vie!

With this headshell adjustment there is no right geometry and it's impossible to get any kind of good results.

Amazing this Thales controversy!
Hiho why do you say that? Just install the arm following Thales' instructions, align the cartridge in the easy to use alignment tool and don't tamper with the factory settings. It's quite simple. If you can manage those simple steps you have an arm that tracks very well and has no inner groove distortion.

Profitournesol, my post was referring to Sarcher30's comment above. He said:
"Having the headshell backward would allow you to get to the cartridge screws, and you would be able to adjust alignment like a normal arm. Instead of using that funky alignment jig it comes with. Unless having the headshell plate backwards would throw it's geometry off. Which it probably would."
He pretty much answered his own question. So bottomline is that when the headshell plate is backward, it is impossible to get the geometry correct.

The stylus has to be exactly below the pivoting bearing on the left wand to be tangent.

Michael Fremer is someone who no-one in the audio should take serious. Michael Fremer is just comic relief.
You can't aligne it with a standard protractor because of the rotation of the cartridge thanks to both arms. You need the original alignment jig to get proper geometry

Fremer used to be a comedian, and once put out a comedy record. LOL!
I listen carefully to Michael. I find that most of the time I agree with what he says he hears.
I'm sure that what Michael Fremer heard was accurate, however as the tonearm was damaged so what he heard bears little relationship to a correctly functioning Thales tonearm/turntable.
Another TTT-C/Simplicity owner and I have to agree with Proftournesol in that my arm tracks perfectly, really unfortunate that the arm Fremer received (& the one used at RMAF) had been mistakenly 'adjusted' after leaving the Thales factory.
I can't understand how he couldn't hear the absence of inner groove distortion unless the arm was generally tracking so poorly as a result of the bearing map-adjustment that it was just poor right across the LP surface. I know that Michael Fremer is not a big lei ever in inner-groove distortion, but the difference is just so noticeable compared to my (correctly aligned Kuzma Stogi Reference and also compared to a 4 point.
I just happened to come upon this thread. Pretty funny IMO! So many misconceptions about me, and about the Thales review.

It turned out the bearings in the review sample had issues. In fact Mr. Huber changed the bearing technology used in the arm after the review because I wasn’t the only one to have had the sticky bearing problem.

He also improved the set up jig. I did not "botch" the review. And I do keep a clean stylus. Also, the comment about my feelings towards suspended ’tables is ridiculous.

I haven’t reviewed any Basis turntables other than the big Debut, because AJ Conti has chosen not to send any for review.

My review of the Thales was honest, not ’brutal’. The problem is few reviewers actually review. Mostly they do publicity. Not what I do.

P.S.: I reviewed an improved version and it was far superior. I did my job.
Good work, it’s very refreshing to see a negative review.  Michael, I would be curious to hear your views on why horizontal and vertical eff mass should be similar.
Why can't I find this negative review??