Tonearm recommendations under $1500


Hi everyone,

Hope that you are all doing well.  I was hoping to get some input from vinyl veterans on a tonearm upgrade.  I have an Acoustic Signature Wow XL table, and I bought it with the TA-700 tonearm.  I used that for a couple of years, and then I switched to the Rega RB330 with the upgraded Incognito wiring about a year ago.  I have to say that I've been disappointed overall with the Rega arm.  Admittedly, it's more user-friendly than the Acoustic Signature arm, and my mounting hardware on the table has enough adjustability that I raise/lower the VTA as needed.  However, the Rega arm has a sort of glassy, hard treble that I've never been able to warm up to.  Everything else in the system has been swapped out at least once, and I've tried multiple cartridges all with the same result.  

So, I am in the market for a new tonearm.  I don't want to do any modifications to the arm board, so I am looking for something that is a drop-in replacement for the Rega (9") three-point mount.  Ideally, the arm would have a DIN connection so that I can use the phono cable of my choice.   Acoustic Signature has just come out with their new ("Neo") line of arms.  Unfortunately, they don't make  TA-700 Neo model, and the new TA-1000 NEO is $2300, which is a bit more than I'd like to spend.  

So, I'm reaching out to all of you for some advice.  I could always go up the Rega line, but since I haven't been happy with the RB330, I'm hesitant to make that jump.  The Audiomods arm has gotten great reviews, but the single-run silver cabling worries me as I've never liked silver cabling.  I may just wait a bit longer and go with the AS-1000 Neo, but if anyone has suggestions for an arm in the $1500 range that would meet my needs I would welcome your input.

Thanks for any suggestions you have!

Cheers, Scott
smrex13
I think AudioMods is direct replacement for Rega
What is your pivot to spindle dimension?

If it can fit, I’m very happy with my Jelco 850S MKII (9”), which I picked up right about that budget. 214mm. Check out USA HIFI (actually a Canadian co.).
I believe Origin Live is also a direct replacement. great bang per buck. Zephyr is about $1400 new I bought an illustrious 3 which was supposed to be a temporary arm. That was several yrs ago.
If you can get OL, go for it. They all as far as I know use a hard-wired phono lead. That in itself is reason enough to prefer over anything that calls for a separate connection. I am another one very happy with OL. 

Also if you read the info Mark Baker has on his site, OL are not fussy about compliance. I never even think about stuff like that with my OL. So nice to be able to just buy the cart that sounds the way you want without having to worry about will it work on your fussy arm. Read all the time and effort guys waste on this one thing and you will be glad you went OL.
Thanks for the responses.  I hadn't thought of Origin Live - will check them out.  
Do you still have the TA-700?
@vinylvin No, I only have the Rega arm right now.
Yes, 9" Origin Live arms have exactly the same geometry as the Rega arms. Don't think you can do better for the money. You might be able to mount a used SME IV or V. 9" Schroder arms use the same spindle to pivot distance as Rega arms. But I think a used CB would probably be more than you want to spend if you can even find one.
It is becoming quite hard to find decent non-mega buck arms now that Jelco has closed shop.  A lot of other brand tonearms were made by Jelco, such as the terrific Ortofon arms.  There still is Thomas Schick, but, I think that arm is now above $1500.  
@smrex13 -I have the Audiomods Classic (series 3) toneam with the beadblast finish and I can confirm it is very easy to install in Raga Turntables

Jeff (Mr..Audiomods) is a great guy and will ensure the arm fits YOUR specific turntable.

I bought it with the Micrometer VTA and the one piece silver harness.- which you can now get with the KLE Innovations Absolute Harmony RCA’s installed

The micrometer VTA is so easy to use and ensures correct alignment

The latest Audiomods models are are even better than the Series 3

Here’s my review
Audiomods "Classic" Tonearm Review | My Audio Alchemy (image99.net)

And here’s my review of the Absolute harmony RCA’s
KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plug - Turntable Review | My Audio Alchemy (image99.net)

Once the arm was installed I gave my Denon DL103 cartridge the Soundsmith treatment
- a ruby cantilever with the O.C. Contact Line diamond
- which was the icing on the cake

From what I am hearing I have no reason to look any further at arms or cartridges - the setup produces extremely fine details and precise imaging

My arm took about 6 weeks to build and a few days to get to Canada, but it was well worth the wait.

BTW - I’ve also applied some other turntable mods to the point where the only things Rega are the motor,  ON/OFF switch and the plastic cover.
Turntable Mod’s | My Audio Alchemy (image99.net)

Hope that Helps - Steve
That glassy hard treble you mention is the exact reason I got rid of my Rega Planar 3 with the RB300 arm many years ago.   
I have the regular WOW w/a TA-700 & Hana SH, sounds great.
No problem with treble or anything really.
@vinylvin Yeah, in retrospect I probably should have kept the TA-700, but I was just curious to try something else.  Oh well, live and learn.  
@williewonka Thanks for all the info on the Audiomods.  It does look like the top candidate for me right now.  Although several of the Origin Live arms look interesting, too.  I especially like the micrometer VTA.  I'll keep everyone posted on what I end up going with...  
Well, my WOW came with a cheaper Rega arm & I liked that also. I used
a Denon 110 on the Rega arm, It was a RB202.
@smrex13 
When I sold my Platine Verdier the buyer asked me to mount an Audiomods tonearm - it was quite a surprise, punches well above its weight in terms of price/performance. Pretty hard to beat at the price in my vie
+ However many for AudioMods arms.  I have (3) of them.  Jeff's fantastic and his arms ROCK!!!

IMHO, THE best buy in arms today...
I had not heard of the Audiomods arm. Just got back from his web site. Looks like a lot of arm for the money and it looks nicely made. Assuming the bearings are good and appropriately preloaded I can't think of an arm that would do better at the price. It is not an ultimate arm. It is not a neutral balance arm, VTA will change with elevation. It's vertical bearing is high above the record surface so warp wow will be an issue if records are not perfectly flat. It has no form of damping to keep the bearings from rattling and finally it's anti skating relies on an additional bearing adding friction. Magnetic or spring loaded systems are better. I would like to add that the $50K Sat arm has exactly the same defects meaning it should sound exactly like that arm. Boggles the mind doesn't it? Examples of ultimate offset pivoted arm include the Schroder CB and the Reed 2G
Arms that come close and in reality probably perform at the same level are the Origin Live Enterprise and the Tri-Planar. All of these are way above the OP's price limit. 
Seeing you already changed the arm once, maybe it's something
else. You didn't say anything about the rest of your system.
@vinylvin The treble glare started with the Rega arm.  I didn't have the issue with the AS arm, but I got curious to try something new.  At first I assumed that some break in time and getting the cart set up better would take care of things, but it just never went away.    
Rega arm popularity seems to be based on a cult following. I have never really heard one, or their modified off-spring, perform anywhere near the hype.

If you are truly serious about a great-performing arm without all the hype, try to find a Jelco TK-850 (if you can find one; BIG "IF"). Get an Easy VTA base. Makes changing cartridges much less painless.