Tonearms: Ripoff?


If you search for tonearm recommendations you'll find an overwhelming amount of praise for $1k and less products. Audiomods and Jelco are the two most mentioned.

The Audiomods is just some guy making Rega-based tonearms in a workshop. Just some guy is putting out tonearms that compete with tonearms that cost many times the price -- from the likes of SME, Clearaudio, VPI, Graham, etc.

So the question is -- are tonearms just a scam? How is it that everyone loves Audiomods and Jelco to death and never talks about / dismisses high end tonearms? Is it because there's no real difference between one of these low-cost tonearms and the high end ones? Is an Audiomods Series V ** really ** the equivalent of a SME V? Some guy in a workshop equals the famed precision of SME? Is that once you have the math and materials worked out all tonearms are essentially the same? Or is it that most owners of record players online are dumpster-diving for vintage gear and simply can't afford to listen to better?

So, what's going on?
madavid0
Yup, I traded my tonearm (SME) for a signed first edition of "The Celestine Prophecy" and never looked back.

DeKay
Nothing wrong with using vintage tone arms! Denon, Fidelity Research, Grace, Mayware, SME all made excellent ones! I own examples from each of them! I particularly like the Ikeda-san FR29 and FR54 for use with mc cartridges. High-mass arms that lack anti-skate, yet sound fine!
And in my collection I have four Empire belt-drive TT's with Empire arms (high mass) that mate well with mc cartridges.
There is not enough material in any tone arm to justify such high prices. Though I could say the same about pricey cartridges!
You think that’s a rip off? Wait’ll you take a gander 👀 at cartridge prices. Things are tough all over.

In the case of the Audiomods arms, the designer/master machinist (he’s not "just some guy making Rega-based tonearms in a workshop". For one thing, his arms are NOT "Rega-based", they are entirely his own design and hand-made manufacture, and quite unlike the Regas. Yes, he buys the arm tube he uses from Rega, but that, and that alone, is the sole commonality between his and their arms) sells directly to the consumer. If he had a dealer network, the price of his arms would automatically be double what they are.

The Jelco’s are made in massive quantities, which allows for economy of scale. The more you make of anything, the less each costs.

And then there is the matter of diminishing returns. After a "certain" level of performance is reached (in all products), further improvements cost more per increment than below that level. Experienced audiophiles are searching for the "sweet spot" in the price/performance ratio continuum. Flush audiophiles are willing and able to pay for increasingly small and expensive improvements; good for them! The rest of us have to find products that reside in our own personally-chosen "sweet spot".

As David Coverstar once famously sang...."here I go again on my own"
You are like the guy who walked into the psychiatrist's office wearing nothing but Saran Wrap. I can clearly see you're nuts. 
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Warning....
Please do not feed the trolls, they do bite!

👹👹👹
I think once we figure out the design and materials of his posting design, we can spam the universe....

with heady questions about:

wine
violins
yachts
lotus sports cars
ducati bikes
78 records

any number of serious topics,,,

i will take aerospace billit fly rods for $1,000 please...
Why is this guy so paranoid about all things audio????
Give me a T. Give me an R. Give me an....
So no one wants to defend high end tonearms?
Defend them against what? Think about it. Most of these higher-end tonearms are built in relatively small numbers. Many by solo operators or small operations. Someone is staking their livelihood on making something that takes months of testing, months of building and discarding and testing and final completion. Precision instrumentation and micron-level bearing alignment is not cheap. Then it has to be advertised and dealers have to make money and returns have to be compensated and healthcare insurance has to be paid. Now divide all the hours put into that and divide by the number sold. Don’t parade your naiveté as if you were an authority on economics and engineering. By the way, if you want a taste of the "high end" for little money, invest in a Jelco 850 from George Merrill (best price) - it’s the cream of the crop.
Get a cheap tonearm and pretend it sounds as good as my TW 10.5 thats ok with me.Good luck!!
madavid0 OP
So no one wants to defend high end tonearms?
They don’t require any defense. The performance and precision of a high-end arm speaks for itself.
So far the only thing I've seen are recommendations for cheap tonearms. 

@noromance disagreed with me and then proceeded to recommend a Jelco.

So what will a TW, SME, Basis, Graham, etc, give me that a Jelco or Audiomods won't?
So what will a TW, SME, Basis, Graham, etc, give me that a Jelco or Audiomods won't?
Maybe a lot, or maybe nothing.  Your question argues your fundamental understanding of high end audio and audiophiles and sounds more than a little judgmental.  Not everyone wants, needs or can afford a "high end" (aka expensive in your parlance) tonearm.  Those who do or can may be looking for features or adjustability that are not available in less expensive tonearms. 

Cartridge/tonearm/turntable matching is a complex art.  Not every tonearm works best (or at all) with every cartridge and every turntable.  Got a Lenco L75?  If so you are probably not going to try and mount a Thomas Schick tonearm on it.

Let's say that you want to run an Ortofon SPU cartridge.  You can do that on a Jelco (it will work but it's not the best choice, IMO).  But the Audiomods?

No.  I'll use another example: I enjoy the London Decca Super Gold cartridge.  The best cartridge/tonearm combination I have heard is with the Fidelity Research FR-66.  A great tonearm.  Is it worth $3,500+ for a 25+ year old arm?  Not to me, but every one that comes available gets snapped up pretty damned quickly.

Use what works for you and leave us to do the same.  Please.
I have heard is with the Fidelity Research FR-66. A great tonearm. Is it worth $3,500+ for a 25+ year old arm? Not to me, but every one that comes available gets snapped up pretty damned quickly.  

Where the hell you can find FR-66 for $3500 ? This tonearm price tag is over $6000 nowadays. 
Quote
" So what will a TW, SME, Basis, Graham, etc, give me that a Jelco or Audiomods won't?"


The Audiomod Arm is actually a very good arm regardless of price or your daft negative bs you spin on all things audio in these forums. Always the same negative content wrapped in the guise of a question. The apitamy of true ignorance, claiming to be seeking answers and knowledge in the darkness of a preconceived set of beliefs.

Experience through first hand ownership and use is king. Something many of us here have that your negative, narrow minded and pure opinion based idiocy lacks, sorely. There is a vast difference between an enquiring mind of those seeking information based on the experience and help of others and the internet troll who's threads ALL have a negative spin veiled in a question. Your not seeking answers at all , your attempting to make a statement you lack the testicular fortitude to come straight out with and lack any knowledge / experience  to back it up , .... and sadly thinking your clever and fooling members... 
A really good tone arm is a really nice investment- the bigger your record collection, the better.
The ability of the arm to properly track the cartridge is far more important than which cartridge you use. If the cartridge tracks properly then your LPs last longer- no breakup or strain when things get complex.
I've never heard a cheap tone arm really do that, although some are not bad (and are probably the ones that people say are alright when they promote older/cheaper arms).

I'm a fan of the Triplanar- nothing phases it. Tracks anything, never goes out of adjustment, One of the few that gets the deep bass right, the easiest arm to set up correctly as everything is adjustable. Has the hardest metal bearings made (which allows them to be perfectly adjusted- no slop, no damage to the bearing points; something you can't do with jeweled bearings). A damped arm tube. And so on- but its not particularly cheap. But that's OK- right now I have enough stupid rare LPs in my collection that I could easily sell it for over $100K (although it might take a while). When you have stuff thats irreplaceable, you think a lot more about doing it justice with good quality.
Maybe a lot, or maybe nothing.
If you don't know, you can just say "I don't know".

A Tri-Planar U2 costs $6k. A Triangle Art arm to go with my TA table is also $5k (although I'm sure they will offer me a discount because they never sell me anything at retail). But...I can get an Audiomods V with a VTA tower or a Jelco 850 for a fraction of the cost.

Let's say I want to move up from my TA Zeus to an Apollo? Maybe I'll take my bonus and go crazy with a Anna or above? THEN what will a premium tonearm give me?

What "features" matter to anyone? Counterweight adjustment, VTA tower...that's pretty much it right? I can get all useful features out of an Audiomods V, so why do I need anything else? Isn't there a performance difference?
@madavid0I wasn't sure what angle you were coming from so I recommended the lower end of the high end, an area I have a lot of experience in. ;-)
The thing is this though, if you have experience of upgrades and the improvements wrought from them, then you'd get what improvements better gear brings, albeit, on occasion, at a higher cost compared to the perceived gains. In other words, better tracking which allows finer detail to emerge from the mix, and less congestion in busy musical passages. The greater the accuracy of the bearings, the more music retrieved. Add in improved build quality and the beauty of the craftsmanship, improved accuracy of VTA adjustments etc. all bring more to the listener. Of course, one has to be able to discern these improvements, and this may influence where you seek the best bang for your outlay.
Dear @madavid0: What needs a good cartridge from the tonearm?:

-  pretty decent bearing ( it does not needs the " hardest " one. ) design.
- very well damped
- first rate (silver ) internal wiring with very best  ( silver ) female cartridge connectors.
- accurate and user friendly cartridge/tonearm protractor.
- precise VTA/SRA/VTF, scating and AZ mechanisms
- non-unipivot design.

More or less those are the main targets a cartridge is looking for. Normally good tonearms  even almost all those targets and the differences in between can comes form te: executuon quality of the design, build materials used as magnesium, titatinium, wood, etc, etc,  arm wand shape as J or S type, type of damp used, build material used at the bearings: stell, tungsten, ceramic, etc, etc., effective length and effective mass.

In reality there are many individual characteristics that makes the differences but not necessarily for the price.

Could happens that a specific cartridge can performs better in a Jelco than in a SAT or Triplanar one and this not really tell you that the Jelco is better but only that the cartridge is a better match with the Jelco.

Obviously that as anything in audio reproduction is room/system dependent and dependent too on each one of us MUSIC/Audio priorities.

Never exist and " easy " way to explain the kind of questions you posted because so many parameters involved .

R.
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Fascinating...

Now DavidO is insinuating that he/she actually does have money and that he/she is an audiophile.

Not buying it, and I'm rich, famous and extremely sexy.

DeKay
Fascinating...

Now DavidO is insinuating that he/she actually does have money and that he/she is an audiophile.

Not buying it, and I'm rich, famous and extremely sexy.

DeKay


        LOL.....
…….I sure hope you typed that shirtless...….

        Your just tooooo sexy for that shirt,  so sexy
         it hurts...…  
Is shirtless typing a ripoff?

I tried it this afternoon, and I didn´t notice any improvement in performance at all! No matter which shirt I wasn`t wearing, even expensive ones, nothing really happened. 

Just goes to prove, not wearing cheap shirts is just as good as not wearing expensive ones.
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Where the hell you can find FR-66 for $3500 ? This tonearm price tag is over $6000 nowadays.
OK, but I was only thiiis much off.  I was trying to take an optimistic approach.

If you don't know, you can just say "I don't know".
Typically, you missed the entire point  of my reply.  Did you read anything after the sentence you quoted above?  As do many of us, I fins that a correctly matched tonearm to be invaluable to optimizing the analog experience.  Elizabeth, whom I admire greatly (now that I know she cruises for naked guys), apparently does not share this sentiment.  So YMMV.

Typically, you missed the entire point of my reply. Did you read anything after the sentence you quoted above? As do many of us, I fins that a correctly matched tonearm to be invaluable to optimizing the analog experience.
So high end tonearms are a ripoff?
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Dear @madavid0: Obviously you don't want to understand what other gentlemans posts including my last one explain to you becvause you still are asking the same no-sense question.

For you Luxury is a ripoff? : to live in a 20 million dolar house, two own two Ferraris and one Lamborghini, to drink day by day with your family food: Chateu Latour or Chateu Margaux or Chateu Laffite, to own an original partiture of the Beethoven 9 or a Picasso master work.

What's all those for you, ripoff? why?

Whom determines what's high end? do you know it? if yes then do it a favor and please explain it and if not then why are you talking of high-end tonearms ripoff?

The " ball " is in your specific " field " and don't try to pass that " ball " to other " fierlds ". Please gave us your answers to those specific questions.

R.
@rauliruegas You seem to be trying hard to say "high-end tonearms are a ripoff" but without hurting people's feelings.

@br3098 and others say that what matters is matching the tonearm with the rest of the system. "You don't need to pay a lot for tonearms" is implicit in that statement so it's essentially saying "high-end tonearms are a ripoff".

In regards to your house and car analogy, a 20 million dollar home will be in prime real estate with the best views and neighbors. The home will be large and offer a lot of room for the best decor to offer the most pleasing living experience. Having two Ferraris would boost by joy of driving tremendously. The experience of living like that could not be replicated if I lived in a $100k home and owned one Ford pickup truck.

No one would say: "it's all about matching the home and car to your personal needs".
mdavid0,

I don't get it.  You ask a question and you receive several good replies, some agreeing with your postulate and some not, but all thoughtful and in the spirit of the purpose of this forum.  You then decide to crap on anyone who doesn't agree with your preformed conclusion.  What's wrong here?

Oh wait, I must be tuned into Fox News...
High end tonearms, perhaps even more so than almost any other hi fi item, are artisan crafted works of art. Yes, there is a science to the geometry of a tonearm, but once you have mastered that the specifics of a design come down to materials and the precision with which it is constructed. It's no surprise then that the particular manufacturer I favor (Joel Durand) is a professor of music and a musician himself. The selection of materials (woods and sapphire for example) and the precise way these materials are used in the design of a given tonearm are all critical -- even the size and location of tiny weights all make a difference that is easily audible once you have the system set up.

The economics of such a manufacture is the antithesis of mass production and economies of scale -- you are paying for a lone manufacturer producing in very small quantities. Are the prices justified? Are any prices for any high end component justified? Only if you believe that the improvements in sound you hear in your system are worth it -- personally they are for me (i.e. to be very clear I am arguing that high end tonearms are NOT a rip off in any way shape or form). 

My experience has taken me from Linn->Rega->SME->TriPlanar->Durand and at every step I have appreciated the improvements along the way. Ability to achieve optimal alignment and optimization of every variable is a given at the high end (and frankly one of the shortcomings of the SME designs btw) but there is so much more to that in the art (word chosen deliberately) of tonearm design.

There's another can of worms to be opened about the specifics of the design (parallel vs pivoted, unipivot vs gimbaled etc etc) but my comments about materials choice and specifics of design apply within any particular family witness the extensive threads on the optimization of certain parallel designs for example.
Dear @madavid0:  ""  Whom determines what's high end? do you know it? if yes then do it a favor and please explain it and if not then why are you talking of high-end tonearms ripoff? """

I told you that the ball is in your field and that before you want to pass to other field you must give answers to those very specific questions and you just dis not yet.

What are you playing with? because no one here ia an stupid gentleman as you could think ancertainly not more stupid that what you could be and I'm not saying you are an stupid gentleman.

"" 
So high end tonearms are a ripoff? """, those are your words not mines. I always say what I think and never is hard to me to say it.

Please give the answers.  Do it a favor and post your answers, it's a true favor for you not for us.

R.

br3098,

Check again. It’s probably CNN.
This is a troll thread.  If you don't want to spend money on an expensive tonearm, then don't.  Nobody is forcing you to purchase an expensive piece of audio gear.
@bpoletti +1

just like every thread from the OP 
OK, OK, OK...

All considered I might just be willing to trade my signed/first edition of "The Celestine Prophecy" for a "nice" Triplanar.

DeKay
@rsfphil I rarely ever comment on politics and I apologise to others on this thread. Fox is not in the same league as CNN no matter how often trump says it. Fox is an entertainment channel bankrolled by the alt-right to further a nefarious agenda benefiting dirty fuel profiteers and MIC stakeholders while subverting government of the people by the people. CNN merely spins their reporting to point out that fact.
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c'mon folks, let's leave the media politics out of this. It's a rabbit hole even worse than debates about CDs and vinyl.  
The isn’t whether I want to spend a lot of money on high end tonearms or not, the issue is if they are a ripoff or not. Do they offer audio performance above cheaper ones? This is NOT hard to understand.

So far there is ONE poster who says he’s seen an improvement moving up from cheaper tonearms to more expensive ones. The others have all refused to address the question or admit that they think high end tonearms are a ripoff.
Actually, @madavid0, the issue IS about whether you want to spend money on a high-end tonearm.  you have a conspiratorial mindset in which anyone who disagrees with you must obviously be hiding an uncomfortable "truth" about tonearms and audio in general. Since you won't actually trust anyone's word unless they're "on your side," this discussion is pointless. The only answer is for you to pony up the cash for a high-end tonearm and hear it for yourself. then hopefully you'll do something useful and post your (honest) assessment on this forum. 
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