Tonearm choices

hey all

newbie here but like many, I have been getting advice from you guys for years....and thank you:)

I recently had all my kit stolen including my TT. If you ever see a TW Raven One with a broken Jelco 10.5 and cantilever-less Benz Wood LP, it was mine :)

I was fortunate to have some a little 'windfall' which I used partly for a new/used Merc and wife and whatever left went to the audio. So I got myself a great deal on a TW AC and Transfiguration Orpheus, Whest Audio MC REF V Mk4 phono preamp, Ayre K5 and V5 pre-power and Wilson Watt Puppy 8.
The puppies they did not take!!! I wonder why?

I have spoken to a few people about arms but have now got it down to about 4 arms. TW Raven tonearm, Graham Phantom, Triplanar OR wait another 6 months to see what happens.

James at Whest Audio recommended the Graham and TW but favours the TW because it might take a while to get a Phantom (so he was told) and he has heard a lot of positives about the TW arm. My dealer recommended the Triplanar because he has one and feels it is MUCH better than the Phantom. A good friend and Phantom user recommends the Phantom but has not heard the other 2.

I like the Whest approach as there is no bias there.
I like the dealer approach as he is a triplanar user.
My friend is a nutcase but I believe him.

Which way do I turn? At present I'm using a modified REGA RB351. It's good but I think you all know what I mean. The amazing thing is the Raven AC/Orpheus/ Whest MC REF V/ makes the Rega sound quite stunning. But I tried an older Graham 2.0 and it just blew the RB351 out of the water.

So the question is has anyone compared these 3 tonearms or is there something else out these?


Call Jeffrey Catalano at High Water Sound in NYC. He is the imprter/distributor of the TW Acustic line and will steer you in the right direction: 212-608-8841
I have the TW ACUSTIC 10.5 arm on TW ACUSTIC AC tuntable wonderful arm great macro/ micro dynamics great sounstage bass speed etc.
Dear Grubscrew, you see - two answers and both show once more, that certain manufacturers and their supporters are much more "remote" Graham.
Personally I strongly advice to give each of the prospective candidates a listen over a few days with your favorite music ( and favorite cartridge ...) and - if possible - in a familiar set-up. You will spending a few thousand US$ and should only trust your own ears and not the "heat of the moment".
Enjoy the search.
Don't forget to take a Dynavector tonearm into consideration.
A friend of mine had both a Graham Phantom and a Basis Vector arm on a Basis table. He much preferred the Basis Vector with his Orpheus cartridge. I preferred that combination too, though this sort of judgment is very system specific. A friend in the industry (a distributor) also much prefers the Vector arm generally, and particularly with the Orpheus (he thinks the older Graham arms actually sound better-more alive).

Another friend uses the Orpheus in an SME 309 arm (with upgraded bearings and the dampening trough) and gets really good performance out of that combination. I also have an Orpheus (the more current low output version), which I have on a Basis Vector arm. It is a very good sounding combination, though I could say it is better than the Lyra Titan that I also have (the Lyra is a bit leaner and more open sounding on top, the Orpheus has a little more upper midrange presence).

I don't think that any reasonable generalizations are possible. While it is hard to actually get a chance to review cartridges or tonearms, actually hearing a combination in one's own system is really the only way to actually tell what is ideal for a particular system and particular taste. I have heard really nice vinyl setups with such a variety of arms and tables that I think one can make any reasonable combination work well. The choice of particular cartridge and phonostage makes much more of a difference, to me, than the choice of arm and even table(I have heard cartridge/phonostage combinations that, no matter what was tried, just could not be made to work together).
I have had 5 arms on the AC: triplanar 7, phantom 2, tw 10.5, davinci grandezza and dyna 507mk2. My preferences are tw 10.5 and dyna 507 for the carts I have used. I am not familiar with the orpheus so cannot really advise you specifically.
Thanks all.

I am about to try out the Phantom and TW 10.5. I spoke to a 'friend of a friend of a friend' who uses a Phantom/Transfiguration Pheonix on a TW Raven and says the combination sounds GREAT!

We'll see. It now comes down to how soon these arms are available as I not going to wait 6 months for an arm!

The choice of particular cartridge and phonostage makes much more of a difference

I tend to agree with you about the cartridge and phonostage thing. I managed to get a VERY good deal on the Transfiguration Orpheus which is pretty much the reason I got it. The Whest Audio MC REF V was a must! I heard a few at this price level and the MC REF V was sooooo much better than anything else. I tried it with a Lyra Skala, Transfiguration Orpheus and Ortofon Cadenza Black and all sounded wonderful through it.

Which brings us nicely to the arm and the last part of the equation. I know that there are many here that will swear blind that there are major differences between arms but I am of the school that believes that the differences are not that BIG. I just want to end up with the better (overall) arm.

I've only heard a Whest phonostage once, and I thought it sounded pretty good. I currently use a tube phonostage myself (Viva Fono), though I've owned a few solid state units in the past (Linn Linto, the phonostage built into a Levinson No. 32). One of the very best phonostages that I've heard was the Lyra Connoisseur, which is a solid state unit too, though it is WAY up there in price and no longer made because the European RoHS recycling laws have made critical parts unobtainable. I am just curious, what other phonostages did you try?

You are very fortunate that you get to actually try different arms. I would bet that either would work out well for you. As noted earlier, within my circle of friends, the Orpheus was heard with a Basis Vector, Graham Phantom and an SME 309. The only "objective" measurement was tracking ability based on an old Shure test record with flute, bells and harp played at increasingly higher modulation levels. For this one test, the Phantom and Vector had comparable tracking ability; the SME 309 was better (tracked at one level up from the two). In any case, the tracking abilities of these arms/cartridge were WAY beyond what is needed for regular records. I have not had issues with tracking with the Orpheus, or with the Lyra Titan.

Keep us informed of your trial.
I have it on good authority from a audio enthusiasts acquaintance which owed a TW Raven AC which incidentally ordered it purley on testimonials of others.
After a solid year with it he kept the arms and quikly sold the Raven for top dollar thanks to all the internet support.

This notion among other Raven owners that paired a Graham Phantom arm to their Raven is a callous mistake.
In other words this arm is not a good match to the table at all.

Why oh why do raven owners continue to support and rave about this combination????
I have the Raven along other tables. I think the Raven supports the Graham arm at least as good as the other tables. I am just detailing my experience.
hey grubbie, you got lots of responses, do you read them all? i see all the choices you were presented with - are havy metal to metal, "robocap" like tonearms. did you say you got new merc and wife? do you listen to music with her (wife)? - some nice piano or baritone sax by fireplace?
-why not to consider artemis TA-1 tonearm? i removed my metalurgical JMW 10.5i from my Aries 2 and install TA-1 and got nothing but big smile ever since. my wife was agaist at first but when i got back from Artemis with TA-1 on table she loves it. i was thinking about new cartridge too, but you realy don't need to, anything you put on that arm will sound wonderfull. listen to vinyl and smile...
Thank you all for your responses and varied ones at that.
Well folks I've managed to listen to listen to 3 tonearms on my AC. The Phantom, TW Raven tonearm and a Jelco 10"

To answer a few questions first:

I'm not a fan of unipivots so the Basis was off the table. OK it is half a unipivot but it was still of the table.

Larryi -
I compared the Whest Audio MC REF V MK4 to the Boulder 2008, AR PH7 - not a contender, BAT P10SE - which was just OK, EAR 834 Reference - very good but not quite.
The MC REF V MK4 is building momentum out there. I was on another forum chatting to 2 MC REF V users in Asia. It seems that the MC REF V MK4 is big over there with their big Walkers and Continumm tables. One user also has the new Whest PS.30RDT Special Edition which he uses with his Raven AC/ Phantom / Ortofon A90. I can see why TW Raven users go for the Phantom - but read on.
I have been asked a few times about the MC REF V MK4 and all I can say is that it is a very very special phonostage and my last - no bullcrap, just solid design and resolution to die for, it makes the Boulder 2008 sound positively broken!

Blackburn – the TW AC/ Phantom combination really does work! Don’t take the word of someone else, listen for yourself!

JJmira – I don’t know the Artemis or where to even get one.

Now to the review:

I had to take my cartridge out everytime but that was Ok as the setup on all three, once you have spend the best part of 3 hours initially, was pretty straight forward.

I used my TW AC, Transfiguration Orpheus, Whest Audio MC REF V Mk4 phonostage, Ayre pre/power and Wilson Puppy 8.
I played the Jelco first as I was used to a Jelco based arm previously. This Jelco is a Jelco and quite unlike the Feickert 10.5 I had before. the 10" Jelco sounded brighter and less musical than I remember but then who remembers sound?

The TW Raven arm was next. I borrowed this from a friend of a friend. he was OK about it as he sat in on the dem. The arm is nice but has some no so good points. The arm lift I was told is not like any other. It's true. The arm clip is connected to the arm lift mechanism. So when you lift the arm, the clip raises also. It felt wrong and is wrong!
The TW arm is very good. A bit too tidy is some places but very nice to listen to. It is very quiet. Surface noise is not an issue with this arm and pops seem to be faster with it. With the Orpheus/ Whest MC REF V the combination sounded Germanic if you know what I mean.
I did like it bu really wanted to get to the Graham.
This took a bit more time to setup. The TW takes about 1/2 the time to setup.

The Phantom went on and again sounded very tidy and much like the TW arm. Not that they sound the same because they don't but I could easily live with any of the two arms.

So what differences did I hear. The Graham sounded bigger but definitely not as fast. The TW was quieter (geometry?) but not as deep in soundstage. The Graham if anything was a bit tiresome compared to the TW but I think that it was because the TW had the edge in the upper registers.

BOY was this hard.

Soundstage depth - TW
Soundstage width - Phantom
Bottom end - TW
Midband - Phantom
Treble - TW
Noise levels - TW

Well there the TW wins 4 - 2. But it's flippin' close. You can live with any of them. I would not say it's clearcut like listening to the Orpheus vs Cadenza Black or the Boulder 2008 vs MC REF V MK4.
It's more like driving the same car twice, swapping over the tyres made by 2 well known manufacturers inbetween drives.

I really like the TW geometry in that is allowed you to hear end-of-side much like a 12" but with the speed of a 9".

I think I will go the TW route as the waiting time is only a few weeks compared to the Phantom a couple of months.

NOTE: The VTA on-the-fly is a waste of time on the TW. You only ever use it once and lock it up. We all felt that a normal 'fixed' base would most likely sound better anyway.
If you are a dealer then I can see the purpose of the VTA adjuster, other than that...
The armlift on the TW was also weird. It needs redesigning. Having the arm clip move up-and-down is non-sense.

I hope that was an OK review or something like a helpful writeup. It was hard but I got there - I think.


Thanks for your followup reporting. I did not quite understand your comment about unipivots and why the Basis arm was out of the running on that account. The Phantom is also a unipivot arm. Both arms do not shake side-to-side, as is the case with some unipivots, because they both have mechanisms to stabilize the arm (magnets with the Phantom, and the arm leaning against a precision ball bearing with the Basis Vector).

Did you get to try the Triplanar? That is another very popular pivoted arm.
In my system TW 10.5 arm has bigger stage much better midrange bloom and depth.Arm is on Raven AC table.
Blackburn ,I am starting to wonder why you find it necessary to continuously knock TW products.Is this personal?
You state that you have it on good authority from an audio enthusiast as to the Raven AC.What does that (audio enthusiast)mean anyway?? Aren't we all audio enthusiast's.
I for one will be purchasing A TW turntable and arm. not because someone told me about it but because I heard it.
I ask what turntable/arm do you have that beats the Raven A/C and 10.5 arm combo ??
And now to the OP's question.All quality tonearms have their strengths and weakness' I currently have a Basis Vector 3.
Very good arm that works flawlessly on my Kuzma Stabi Reference table.Don't dismiss it because its uni-pivot

much more to think about. I have taken the unipivot thing onboard and will be listening to a Basis Vector but it will take a couple of weeks.

I think the Orpheus/TW Arm works differently to the Phantom/ Orpheus. The diffences we observed we wrote down (geeky). I wonder what the Phantom would be like with something else?

Why anyone knocks other products.... I always think they are either a dealer and they do not stock those items or another sinister reason. At this level you either like the product or you don't. The TW and Phantom are both excellent arms and I could easily live with anyone of them but I felt the TW had the edge in my system.

And that is the point at the moment. The TW had the edge in my system at this moment.
Grubscrew: In your comments comparing the TW 10.5 and Phantom arms you say, "The TW was quieter(geometry?)but not as deep in soundstage." Then, further down, in listing the evaluative categories you indicate: soundstage depth-TW. Please clarify, thanks.
I had Graham Phantom 2 on TW RAVEN AC 1 worked great wonderful combo however TW 10.5 arm was much better in my system with Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge.
I have not heard the Orpheus on a TW arm so I cant comment. On the Phantom I thought it was okay.When I heard it on the Vector I thought it really came to life.
This brings me to the TW 10.5 with a Dynavector,all I can say is WOW.I'm sure there are other arms and new entries that might give the 10.5 a run for the money but ,to date this is the best I have heard.
Grubscrew best of luck with your final decision.In the end its what your ears and your heart tell you.
I am confused about your arm lift / arm clip comment. Sorry, but on that I don't agree. I do wish it had a locking arm rest.

As for your VTA comment. Sorry, but get a cartridge that is a line contact or very fussy w. VTA and then you will wish you could dial in VTA with ease. Just a pointer.

I will also say (and most here won't admit it) that VTA is more audible than excessive perfect setup of the arm on the table in terms of null points. On this you just need to do the math.

I have the TW Raven One with the Graham Phantom II with the Benz LP and I love this Trio.. obviously tuned with MintLP.
I have tried the 12" Redd 3Q Ziricote Wood .. minted too .. but I have found this beautiful arm too warm for my BenzLP and I strongly preferred the neutrality of Graham Phantom MKII.
By the way the TW Raven One and the Graham Phantom make a great magical combo.

My cent!
interesting no one has mentioned the kuzma arms. Having owned an ekos on a linn and a sme 20 with the V arm(there is no contest between the sme 20/30 and Kuzma XL btw). The kuzma 313 12inch arm I use on the XL 4 turnable is better in every way to the above in terms of power, detail, bass, openness and tracking ability. Old (1969) and new test records have never been tracked as securely as with the 313 and Benz micro LP ebony. The ebony was also used in the previous arms, I have 2.
Yes I know we listen to music not test records, but one needs a benchmark to start from.
One example is neil young's unplugged, standard vinyl, played for years on the linn then the sme. Always sounded a bit distant lacking dynamics, better on the sme still not much bass, the cd probably sounded better. It now sounds startlingly real and live, although not voluminous the bass there is now an awareness of the lower notes.
The kuzma has a very ingenious azimuth adjustment which works superbly, I always seemed to have a slight imbalance between right and left channels before. Using my old oscilloscope I can adjust the azimuth perfectly. This has enhanced imaging as well as balance.
Franc Kuzma believes azimuth is more critical than fine tweaks in VTA or VRA which ever you favour.
Having said that I am now able to hear small adjustments in arm height which had not been clear before.
Having used turntables for about 40 years, built arms and various diy hifi devices, it has finally become possible to dial in what seems to be the optimum settings for vinyl playback
I have also read and ben told by dealers that the kuzma 4point is astounding, unfortunately I have not tried one.