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?

Showing 7 responses by chakster

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. 

Modern High-End tonearms are cheaper on used market, so everyone can find and buy them at least for 50% of the price someone paid for new one. And there is no loss in performance if they are used (depends on condition).

When it comes to a new tonearm the shop price is a manufacturer wholesale price + distributors margine + dealers margine + taxes ...

When you buy same toneam used, your price most likely will be almost the same as the distributor’s wholesale price. This is much better in my opinion.

The quality is not always for posh people, normal people can buy the same luxury arm used for 50% off and everybody happy.

So what’s the problem ?

Today many (not all) High-End manufacturers prefers to sell direct to the customers, in this case they can make their prices more affordable and still make profit.

Also we have some amazing vintage tonearms from the golden era, some of them are overpriced even today, but some of them are less popular (less known) and not as expensive as they were 30 years ago in the high-end shops. This is a great opportunity to buy great arms for very reasonable price (used or even NOS).

Personally, i have some expensive modern High-End tonearms like Reed 3p "12 Cocobolo which i bought used for a low price compared to the price in the shops. But i have more fun with vintage High-End tonearms, doesn’t matter $800 or $2000. At least i have to find the right cartridge for each tonearm, also i have to use the arm in my system to understand how good (or bad) this arm really is.

If it’s new arm i’d buy used/demo for less than retails price.
If it’s vintage arm i’d buy it only in perfect condition (or NOS in the box if possible).

I wouldn’t buy any new tonearm even for $4k, it’s too much for me.
But i would buy 4 different used tonearms for $1k each to compare them in my system, used stuff does not lose its value when you re-sell them.

Anyway, someone can easily afford brand new $5 tonearm and that’s fine, those people normally sell them later for 50% and that’s amazing :)


I am certain I cannot even begin. Two people die EVERY SECOND.. most ugly horrible deaths. Face it. While I typed ONE HUNDRED people died. How many did you save? Do you think you made a dent in DEATH?

I said "help" not "save", how many $50k tonearm have you bought in your life? You don't even know what the tonearm is and why people are buying them, according to one of your post. So chillout and play with your automatic turntables. Your feelings about human life is very well described in your post. 

P.S. At least i know for sure than Michael Fremer do charity, Peter Ledermann do charity too. But some rich audiophiles are mentally sick and need help too. I can not seriously discuss $75k tonearms or $200k turntables, this is some sort of illness and it has nothing to do with the love to music. 

@elizabeth I do worry about myself, i do not buy $50k tonearm or any audio equipment with this price tag, i am not rich and do not pretend to be elitist audiophile. I don’t drink "Château Latour" and don’t drive Ferrari car. But i am considering myself a music lover and record collector, i don’t need $50k to enjoy music, my whole system cost less than $50k with 6 first class tonearms in rotation and about 20 cartridges. When i watch reports from the modern audio shows all i see is uber ugly overpriced equipment and absolutely awful music reproduced on them, in my opinion these people have no taste (just money). I’ve noticed than many distributors knows nothing about cartridges, this industry with its marketing departments forced rich people to spend more and more on audio equipment, i am happy to ignore this nonsense.

These guys reminds me those record nerds who can spend $12 000 on one single rare record in VG condition to play it on $100 equipment. The only difference is that most of the audiophiles normally playin horrible music on their audiophile pressing LPs with $70k tonearms and $200k turntables. Those two group of people deserve each other in this crazy world. At least record nerds have great and interesting music. If it's all for the music, then the music must be great first and then everything else. 

If my posts are annoying for you for this reason then do not read it.

But i have no idea what do you contribute on this site, any usefull information about analog gear for others?

@elizabeth My choice of arms and cartridges has been listed here many times in different threads even with pictures, everyone who read this section of the forum is well know what i’m using and what i like when it comes to cartridges and tonearms. Even earlier in this thread i have described my philosophy (of choosing equipment). You have nothing special in your system, just good modern high-end as i can see, also you don’t use $50k tonearms and $20k cartridges, so you’re "normal", that’s good news.

I know people who can buy $12 000 record in VG condition to play on $100 turntable. I know many record collectors from all over the world, the rarity of the record is much more important for them than equipment. $300 for a rare 45 is an average price for them on auction or privately, but the "best" equipment they got is old SL1200mk2 with some worn conical styli (all for $300 on used market) connected to cheap dj mixer and a pair of crappy active monitors or average speakers. The value of their record collection is over million dollars, they don’t care about equipment, they are all about the music, believe it or not. Some of them are living in Japan where it’s much easier to find and buy some amazing audio equipment, but they don’t care. I know what i’m talking about, it’s not a fantasy.

At the same time the majority of the rich audiophiles with the most expensive systems are playin utterly bad music, and what the dealers playin at the high-end shows is rubbish, you can go from one showroom to another and all you can hear will be Diana Krall (same song). The new trend is to play some awful electronic music. Some of those elitist audiophiles have no taste as i said. Some of the most expensive modern equipment is simply the uglies design ever, so the designers have no taste too. The prices are insane.

Well, this is my private opinion, not to offend anyone.

A bit more resolving (or not) just for extra $10k (or even extra $50k) compared to the Technics EPA-100 mkII, Fidelity-Research FR-64fx and FR-64s, Lustre GST-801, Micro Seiki MAX series and many more highly regarded vintage high-end toneamrs.  

The next time you are in Japan, give these guys a visit, and then get back to us:

I’ve mentioned them earlier in this thread, the SoundHeights (link above) can ship overseas on request and reply on email request in english, but it is an exception. Normally japanese online shops do not ship internationally and don’t even speak english even if you visit them in Tokyo. About 5 years ago I’ve bought my SPU Spirit (limited edition) from them and they are good. When i’ve noticed miss tracking and became suspicious i have returned that new cartridge for full refund. Only 500 cartridges were made in this SPU Spirit series and mine was number 500 (the last one)! However, they are clearly explained me there is no warranty for buyers outside of japan. I would prefer to fix that cartridge under warranty, but it was impossible!