Trans-Fi Terminator Tonearm: 2019 Update

In reading a few related posts on linear tracking tonearm, in general,  and Trans-Fi Terminator , in particular, I thought I would give a brief update of the Terminator.

I purchased the arm directly from Andrey in Moscow two months ago. From what I understand, Andrey has taken over production after Vic's retirement. What I received is the most up-to-date version of the arm with the carbon fibre wand and brass counterweights, the direct wire leads from cartridge to  phono amp, and a new brass manifold ( not evident from the main web-site). Both the wand and the new manifold are Andrey's contribution to the continued refinement of the Terminator.

Also,  please visit this site: This gentlemen from NZ has developed a new arm mount for the Terminator which advanced the arm's sonics even further. It was reading through the the development of this new arm mount that convinced me to order the Terminator after much prior research. I did not purchase the arm mount from NZ as it would not readily fit my Verdier La Platine, instead Andrey made a custom arm mount. It is in essence a two point support mount rather than a single point support rod that is commonly used. 

My previous arm was a SME V of 1990's vintage mounted with a ZYX airy. The Terminator is several notch above the SME V. All the accolades given to the Terminator seem justified. My main point in writing is that the new developments by Andrey, i.e. the carbon fibre wand and the newest brass manifold, seem to improve upon the Terminator even more ( see link above ). This is the news that I wanted to share with existing Terminator owners. I asked Andrey to start a blog on all the new stuff that is happening with the arm, but it seems that he is busy making 'things'!

Thanks for the update. Tempting. 
I was the first client to use the new Terminator with brass/carbon fibre manifold, actually Terminator 2019 is a collaboration of ideas by Andrey and myself and it was initially my idea to use brass in manifold design. Then Andrey took his thinking hat and went further and simply added carbon fibre under brass to add stiffness and the new manifold was born.

Thank you Andrey !

It´s a lamination, so now a stiffer and thus stabler construction. We both agree on its affect on sound quality and the Terminator is better than ever. And the lighter yet stiff carbon fiber wand is also a great improvement to this extraordinary design. All in all, Trans-Fi Audio airbearing linear tracker is still the most ridiculous bargain in modern audio.
Well, I´ve been quite busy listening to my fav records again and been enjoying of a sound quality and quantity never experienced before. Brass/carbon fibre takes arm´s performance to another level.
I´m using a heavy brass column under the arm and on heavy deck, there seems to be great synergy in the system. Everything just falls in place.

Just get the new Terminator and enjoy the ride : )

Hi Harold,  Congrats on your contribution towards the improvement of the arm. The lamination of different materials helps eliminate resonance, as I understnd it, as well better machining of air holes in brass. Frankly, I did not know that carbon fiber was used in the manifold. Very cool!

I did some further fine tuning of the VTF today. Not having a Fozgometer is a problem. But the adjustement really helped in solidifying the entire soundsatge, better imaging (quite amazing, actually! ), better separation,.....better all around. The point is that fine adjustments are so easily achieved. 

I feel that I have inherited all the incremental improvements of the Terminator over the years in one simple purchase. Harold,  how significantin in your opinion, are the improvements  of this most recent iteration of changes? I have followed the arm's development with much interest. BTW, I would highly recommend using a two point support arm mount. Apparently, it improves the arm even further.

@noromance you have such a lovely collection of vintages gears. The Terminator would be a no-brainer addition as it would work well with either of your tables.  And as Horold has mentioned, the price of entry is so low ( in relative terms ) that you kind of have nothing to lose. 
Harold,  I just caught a glimpse of your turntable on the Trans-Fi web-site. It must be a couple of generations prior to your slate plinth version. But I totally understand part of your turntable now, a heavily modified Oracle. It certainly has come a long way with so much work put into it.

Also, I just noticed the substantial brass arm mount you made for the Terminator. You probably had a sense that a single point rod type mount is not as stable. 
Ledoux, thanks for your kind words. Glad you have the new arm too.

Firstly, I must point out that it´s an honour and a privilege to be a part of developing this extraordinary arm and I´m proud of my contribution but we must thank Andrey the Machinist for all this development come real. Indeed it has been a long way to getting to this point, for both of us.
  When I first saw Terminator and its unique design online in late Autumn 2008 I immediately emailed Vic and simply bought his arm and haven´t looked back. I have come thru all the improvements and now it´s time to enjoy the fruits of hard work and sit back and just listen to music.
The first time when sliding the saddle over a record before playing it I instantly noticed that the saddle moved more smoothly on air cushion. This means that less air pressure is needed and thus less resonances in the saddle. Well, this was Vic´s initial idea: only low pressure air flow will work just fine. Actually, I have never been exited about fancy and costly high pressure "solutions" and now they are totally futile.
And yes indeed all this is due to better machining of air holes in brass.  Brilliant.

As for Fozgometer and azimuth perfection, I have never tried but maybe I should because now we have reached a level where a minute adjustment may make a difference. The same with VTA. Small differences really, I think.
Yes even without help of meters I´m hearing minute but significant differences in sound quantity and quality. And the more capable the cartridge is the more nuances I hear.

But the first impression is bass response, more quantity and quality. Instant notice.
Secondly heard deeper space, also a bit wider too but not so much. Deeper space with more micro detail (nuances) in there.
And overall feel that music flows more freely, smoother than previously.

And you are right about the importance of the arm column, it needs be very stable and on my deck it MUST be very heavy. That´ll do the trick.

Harold, I can confirm all your listening impressions: pronounced quality and quantity of bass, deeper soundstage, more natural organic flow of music ( compared with my previous SME V ). What you are saying is that the new upgrades are not nuanced sonic improvements, but clearly audible from the previous version of the Terminator. I have been corresponding to another long time Terminator owner. He has very recently decided on upgrading, so he should be in for quite a nice surprise. 

Being such an early adopter of the Terminator without audition, there must something in the original Ladegaard Evolution , Vic's execution, ..etc that was more convincing than other linear arms. If you were to survey linear tracking arms, there is, dare I say, a 'simplicity' to the Terminator arm that even a novice like myself can comprend. I got it.

The barrier of entry for linear tracking arm has typically been quite high. The Eminent   2.5 and ClearAudio TT5 are the 'cheapest' ( MG1.1's are out of production ) and Airtangent is quite a bit higher. These are all 3x to 8x the price point of a Terminator. It is a testament to Vic, Andrey, and enthusiasts like yourself, that have pursued quality over price, and allow late comers like myself to enter the game. 
I've enjoyed reading here. This tonearm has been on my short list for years and now, reading of the latest refinements, it's very tempting. My only drawback is my decades long ownership of the ET-2.5 that I've been loyal to and have future plans for with Bruce's latest refinements. I've spent years and treasure acquiring the necessary components ( high-end compressor, etc....) We'll see..............
@slaw Finally, rumblings from across enemy lines! Hehe!

There are similarities between the Terminator and ET communities. It seems that we are buying into a ’project’ rather than a product per se. Tweeks, modification, experimentation....etc encouraged and assisted by the original designers seem the order of the day. Owners have invested much into the arms over the years, just like yourself.

Having said that, two main differences of the arms are the manifold and the wand. The inverted ’v’ shape slider and manifold requires constancy of air flow in one dimension, vertically. The tube and collar type requires 360 degree air flow constancy, a more difficult task. And the shorter arm wand of the Terminator reduces, in theory, resonances. Both differences allow the Terminator to work less against gravity. How that translate into superior sound quality, or not, is the question. It would be highly informative to hear from a long time ET owner about his/her thoughts on the Terminator. In fact, it would be fascinating.

After three months of use, there are two operational caveats of the Terminator. The manifold sits on top of the platter and does not slide aside like a Clearaudio arm. Placing records in and out will require some care. And the cartridge leads sometimes dangles the wand, causing the cartridge to skip. That will be avoided with more experience of use. But for now it still happens, albeit infrequently.

Please keep us posted if you do decide to switch.

What’s the air pump you use like for noise?
@parrotbee  I ordered the arm with  the Sera low pressure pump and surge tank. It’s placed in an adjoining closet as the hum is noticeable. However, the designer, Vic, placed the pump in a wooden enclosure next to his TT and stuffed it with insulating material. That seemed to work fine. 

I would say the noise from the pump is easily manageable. 
I was an early adopter of Vic's arm also loved the sound but ultimately got tired of messing with the pump etc., so I went back to pivoted and could not catch the sound I had before with multiple tables and arms. I got all the way up to the Triplanars top 10" arm and it was very close then I came across the Thales products and found a Simplicity II at a decent price and now I have the sound I remember albeit at more of cost vs the Terminator. Great news it is back in production.
@jtsnead  The Thales’ are arms that I really like, pivot arms that can maintain tangentiality. FYI, Michael Fremer recently uploaded a video of his factory visit to Thales.  The fit and finish of the parts and the assembly process are more akin to watch making. 

A friend who is also considering the Terminator related his experience with the Thales ( not sure which model ). He was having compatibility problems btwn arm and cartridge, couldn’t stay tangential. We were musing if the EMT cartridges which Thales now produces  are a better fit. What cartridge are you using? No operational problems from your end then? My friend has since moved on to a Schroeder Reference which he is very happy with. And if you feel that a Terminator is comparable sonically  to a Thales Simplicity II, then not need for him to change to a Terminator.

For my part, the pump and surge tank as supplied are maintenance free so far.  I have read that different pumps affect sound quality. Although with a low pressure pump, I assume that was less an issue. What pump were you using back in the day?

@ledoux1238 the Simplicity arm likes heavier cartridges it did not like much Ortofon Cadenza Bronze so I got a Air Tight PC7 and it works very well with the arm, constant sound quality for the entire record. I can here how a pivoted arm affects the sound on different areas of a record.
I was using a good quality fish tank air pump I dont think that was the issue I feel the capalaries  might of needed to be cleaned but I never investigated it and just moved on
My interest in the Terminator was piqued by the fact that designer/builder Vic showed on his website a London Reference cartridge mounted on the arm. Now THERE'S a fearless man, an outside-the-box thinker! 
@bdp24 There aren’t many professional reviews of both the Terminator and Salvation TT. But the few that I have read seemed all to feature the Decca cartridge. Apparently when Michael Fremer reviewed the cartrigde, it was prone to mis-tracking and he recommended it highly...... as a back up cartridge! The truth may be that, as Vic demonstrated, It is a very good match with the Terminator, not fearless all.

Now that you have pointed this out, It has piqued my interest in matching the London Reference next with the Terminator!!

@slaw As a total aside, your mentioning the ET arm and Eminent Technology led me to something unexpected. In my other post, I had sought advice on electrostatic speakers. However, the planar LFT-8b may have been what I was looking for all along.
@bdp24  Found this post from 2010,

2,438 posts
06-06-2010 1:05am
If you are open to something different you might contact Vic at Trans-Fi. He mentioned to me that the London Reference is his favorite cartridge on Terminator Pro. To eliminate hum problems with this cartridge he developed a screened 4N silver IC that runs uninterrupted from cartridge to phono stage.

I recently re-read the Stereophile review of the LFT-8b and now have renewed interest.

@ledoux1238 and @slaw, two more excellent reviews (both raves) of the ET LFT-8b are those in The Absolute Sound (by Robert E. Greene) and Hi-Fi World (Noel Keywood). VPI’s Harry Weisfeld has sung the speaker’s praises as well, saying it has the best midrange of any he has ever heard, regardless of price. I have been mentioning the loudspeaker here for a few years (I have a pair), that mention apparently falling on deaf ears. More than that, Harry’s statement has elicited outraged indignation from some. Very few seem to be interested in the speaker, though it is a ridiculous bargain. Not "trendy" enough for fickle audiophiles? ;-)

Though the midrange drivers (an identical pair) are magnetic-planars similar in some respects to and inspired by Magnepan’s, they are unique (and patented) in a number of others. For one (an important one to me), there is no x/o in the passband of the LFT drivers---180Hz to 10kHz, with no x/o! A ribbon tweeter above that, an 8" sealed woofer below, with 1st order-filters. ET’s Bruce Thigpen is another outside-the-box thinker. Check out his TRW-17 Rotary Woofer---flat to 1Hz! A true "sub" woofer, designed for the bottom octave (20-40 Hz). And below!!

@bdp24  The review by R Greene is excellent, lengthy and detailed. He insisted that reversing the polarity on the woofer wire leads yielded better sound. Can you confirm?

BTW, it turns out that your post on the LFT-8b was the one that lead me onto these speakers. Thanks! 

And going totally sideways on this post, I have to mention that Harry Weisfeld's recent favorite speakers are the Pure Audio Project, a DIYish open baffle system from Israel. That was a speaker system that sidetracked my electrostatic / planar quest. With the LTF-8b, I'm back on track.

I think there is a logic to the turn of discussion from Trans-Fi's Terminator to Eminent Technology, both arm  and speakers. Certainly it has to do with the respective designers, thinking out side of the box. But I think more importantly it is their, for a lack of a better phrase, business model. The pursuit of quality, the incremental advancements through continual modifications ( in the case of the Terminator ), and R&D being performed right in front of our eyes, without the associated exponential increase in price and/or hype. There is not a whiff of cynicism or arrogance. Having gone through the process of acquiring a Terminator, I can now say for certain that quality in 'high-end' audio can be gotten by producers of, dare I say, integrity. I certainly lust after a Airtangle arm, or a Dohmann Helix TT, or some other, to me, exotica ( and I am not implying a lack of integrity here ). But on the other price / hype  spectrum, serious designers / hobbyists are selling quality.  They do exist. And all the better for us!

Great post, @ledoux1238! I completely agree about the nature of the Eminent Technology and Trans-Fi business models (along with those of EAR-Yoshino, Music Reference, Pass, Herron, K & K Audio, Magnepan, Townshend, Kuzma, and a few others), and the nature of their designers/company owners.

Funny you should make a connection between the LFT-8 (particularly it’s woofer) and an open baffle loudspeaker. I don’t use the LFT’s woofer; in it’s place I have a pair of.....Rythmik/GR Research OB/Dipole Subwoofers ;-). There are a couple of very good reason for using a dipole sub with a planar loudspeaker, one of which Duke of 4-sub "swarm" fame has acknowledged. The rate of SPL "fall-off" as you move further away from a dipole is different than it is from a monopole. The balance established between a dipole speaker and a "normal" sub will be so at only one listening distance. Change that distance, and the balance changes.

The OB/Dipole sub has other, inherent advantages over normal subs, which is why Siegfried Linkwitz included them in all his designs. They sound ’leaner" than sealed and ported subs, less fat and "plump". Some hear that as lacking in bass weight, while others find it closer to the sound of bass in real life. I am intimately familiar with the sound of acoustic drums, guitar, and piano, upright and electric bass, and I count myself as among the latter. Each to his own!

I also am a proponent of having the wiring in a tonearm being an uninterrupted run from cartridge tags to RCA (or XLR) plugs, which, as you mentioned, Vic offered on the Terminator. I got his last length of the silver wire. Sorry, mates!


"Sorry, mates!"  Well at least you're willing to share brother!
Au contraire, @slaw! Vic made a run with the longest silver assembly he had left, but it's just long enough to reach from the table to the phono anp, which I place bassackwards right behind the table. A sent him a pair of KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA's to put on the ends.
Yeah, and I only have the regular copper run...  :(

@ bdp24 As for the LFT 8b’s, I’m gonna take it slow. Exploring OB subs would be the next phase, though your input is much appreciated. 

Of the audio companies you mentioned above some are unfamiliar to me, so more research.  But Townsend audio I’m quite intimate with. I owned a Rock V TT for many years, purchased based on, among other considerations, a review by Robert Greene ( again ). Innovative, good sounding, and not very expensive were some of attributes, kinda like the the Terminator.
I've been using the Terminator for 5 years now, for the last 3 on an air bearing TT. Interesting about the brass manifold - though I've never had a problem with the aluminum. I use a HighBlow air pump with a cotton buffered surge tank, precision regulated to 30 mm of mercury, which is about 1/25 atm or just over 1/2 psi. The saddle skims beautifully over the manifold just like any other high class surface over a high class air bearing.

It tracks fine at 10 mmHg, but sounds livelier at 30. Above 30, no improvement.

For the record, if you increase the mass of the wand with brass weights, you can run very low compliance cartridges, e.g. higher end Koetsu. Don't really know if silver cables are better, but you can't have mine!

About your appliances - if you do decide to move, let me know if you want to sell your compressor. I've been thinking of upgrading mine.

I have a Fozgometer, but don't use it. For me, it's both easier and more effective to set azimuth by ear. YMMV 

@terry9   Pray tell which air bearing TT?

The Terminator seems more sensitive to all the adjustment variables, VTA, azimuth..etc,  to a degree that is previously unknown to me. I seem to be adjusting  VTA much more frequently. Different records really do sound differently without fine adjustments. It is certainly more sensitive than my previous SME V, to a point that I question if I had ever set up the SME correctly!

I also don't have a Fozgometer. But through a few simple adjustment of the twin pivot bearing at the wand, you could hear distinctly the altering of  channel separation , sound-staging, and imaging. I am in effect setting azimuth by ear. However, I would like eventually to get a hold of a Fozgometer  just to verify.

The way the pump affects the sound is something I will have more questions on in the future. But thanks for sharing!

Regarding the Fozgometer: I found it useful with the ET arm as it’s nearly impossible get repeatable and dead on  settings because of the nature of the arm. With my Funk Firm or Vpi arms, I just set by ear.
If I remember correctly, the Fozgometer helps to equalize channel separation. This is helpful on cartridges which do have equal channel separation, but not on higher end cartridges which might be quite different. Peter of SoundSmith writes about this, and points out that it is better to have 40dB on the left and 45 on the right than 35 and 35.

Since the Fozgometer helps to set for equal channel separation, you can seriously mis-align a higher end cartridge. At least, I did.

Bottom line is that I would not assume that the Fozgometer will give you a better azimuth setting than your ears.

My procedure is to start dead level, with three screw threads visible on each side of the wand. Then play a record which distorts badly in one channel. Reduce this distortion to almost nothing by adjusting azimuth. Play a record which distorts on the other channel. Adjust as above. Repeat.

It helps to adjust by using only the screw nearest the spindle, as this is most accessible, and it's harder to get confused. Once you've done this, you have a very fine level of adjustment which is stable and repeatable, and amenable to really fine adjustments when you get around to it. I get about 2 minutes of arc.

Good luck!
@ledoux, my air bearing TT is DIY. New Way thrust bushing, custom spindle, 45kg platter.
A Fozgometer is a passive measuring device. When paired with an appropriate test LP and on the correct tracks, the device can take the measurements of the left and right channel output of the cartridge. With the read out, one adjust the azimuth accordingly. If Ledermann of SoundSmith recommends that his cartridge be used with a 5db left / right differential, then a Fozgometer is a much. I certainly don’t know what a 5db differential sounds like. And I couldn’t find info on why SoundSmith’s cartridges would sound best that way. Weird Science? Might need to be enlightened.

@terry9 Thanks for explaining your azimuth adjustment procedure. Adjusting the pivot on the spindle side makes a lot of sense. Do you do it with the wand in-situ? You must be a watchmaker! But then again, you measure your pump pressure to within 20 mm Mercury, way ahead of the game than me. Kudos!
Sorry Ledoux, I seem to have misled you about the Fozgometer. Ledermann suggests that matching L and R output may not be appropriate for all cartridges. This mirrors my experience. That's all.

Yes, wand in situ. No watchmaker, but I abstain from caffeine and alcohol for a few days before attempting a setup. It's easy to measure pump pressure with a sphygmomanometer, used to measure blood pressure. I use a Fairchild precision regulator and set to within 2 mm Hg. Nothing to it.

@terry9 I love your setup ritual: abstinence from caffeine and!
If not a watchmaker, then surely a zen master.

Wondering @slaw if the ET 2.5 is as responsive to VTA and azimuth adjustments?
I am now looking at the ET arm through a very different set of lenses having acquired a linear tracking arm myself. A lot of the fear factor is gone. I am better able to understand the workings of the arm, though still unsure of the ease, or not,  in maintaining a high pressure pumps? Are there condensations in the tube to contend with? Is it always left on?

With the low pressure pump of the Terminator, condensation is not an issue as humidity is a real problem where I live. And I switch it off when not in use. All good, so far.