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'!


Showing 30 responses by terry9

Ten litre tank? Don't see how it could hurt. Why don't you try it and let us know?

Glad it's working for you - and yes, measure with the pump on. What happens is that the inboard end of the wand lifts, which lowers the cartridge end and puts more weight on the stylus. 
Actually, the Pz wand prefers 0.3 psi.

Overkill? Overkill? What is this word? Sounds like blasphemy to me ...
Here's another thought. Have you tried loosely filling the tank with cotton balls, or some such, to break up any sound waves from the pump?
Mostly filled, but neither packed nor compressed, to within a few inches of the outlet. The direct line between inlet and outlet apertures must be interrupted by cotton balls.

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'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!

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

@ledoux, my air bearing TT is DIY. New Way thrust bushing, custom spindle, 45kg platter.
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.

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!
Glad it worked for you! We're all in this together.

As for hose and fittings, talk to the folks at an industrial air shop. They have connectors with barbs for the hose on one end, and threads on the other. A cost-effective alternative is as Ledoux, our OP suggests: a 4" PVC tube with end caps, all glued up, a hole in each end which is tapped to accept the thread on the connector, and some hose. For long runs I use 1/2" - rubber is best, as it flexes a bit with pressure peaks, and so tends to reduce those peaks.

It's actually quite liberating to talk to the people at the plastics shop and get their advice, ditto with the air people, and ditto with the tool people (auto, fastener, general tool store), about what you need, and how to do it. And then do it. When I retired I had never tapped a thread, now I have a drill press, an oscilloscope and a whole damned shop. I DIY everything - hell, if Jimmy Carter can retire and make all his own furniture, there's no shame to making my own audio!

Best of luck! Enjoy the journey!

Why 4" PVC? It’s cheap. It’s good. It’s easy to tap threads. Wish I’d thought of it before. Thanks Ledoux.

I use HiBlow pumps. Bulletprooof, low maintenance. I even use one for a mid-pressure (270mm Hg) system.
Agreed, a filler is required. One way to break up air peaks and troughs is to run a perforated hose from the inlet, inside the tank. Just add cotton balls ... Another way is to put a precision regulator in front of the surge tank. I do both.
Ledoux, I use a precision regulator from Fairchild. Talk to one of the industrial air mail-order outlets for advice. I ended up with a model 10 if I remember correctly, but that was years ago, and now would probably specify a M4100A for the Terminator.

I second the need for a solid foundation. A simple pillar of 2" aluminum rod works wonders. And for cleaning. 99% isopropanol and a cotton ball is ideal.
I find that the air pressure changes the sound. Higher is a bit brighter and livelier. I prefer about 25 mm of mercury, or 0.5 psi for most records.

Also, a long line of air hose is equivalent to another air tank. My pump is nearly 50’ of 1/2" air hose from the Terminator. About 2 litres.
At the output of the surge tank, before the plastic hose. That's half inch hose, pretty thick stuff. Anyway, don't see why rigid is better - it seems to me that rigid would accurately send all the pulse information directly to the tonearm - when that information is exactly what we are trying to smother - it is smoothing that is needed.
Just finished my Panzerholz wand. It's more massive than the Tomahawk but that's for the (higher mass) Koetsu, so that I don't need to add weights and damping material all over the thing. I also use an aluminum disk (alloy 7075) tapped to mate with the threads from the cartridge screws in lieu of nuts and washers - tidier.

It measures better than the Tomahawk and is rather more revealing. On good recordings that's good, on poor recordings it's not. So far. This morning I'll be playing around with resistive loading and may have a different story to tell.
Ledoux, Panzerholz is a trade name for an exotic German plywood: half millimetre slices of beech hardwood embedded in a matrix of phenolic resin. It’s dead, dead, dead.

I built the wand out of blocks of 3/4" thick ply, epoxied together to form a stick, then shaped. Actually, I had that done for me because you need carbide tools and/or the kind of skill that comes from daily practice to shape the stuff without making a mess. The pivot was made from a 0.375" bar of Nickel Silver, and the screws were Vic’s nylon.

My Koetsu is the Rosewood Signature Platinum with diamond cantilever. Another thread discussing K’s leads to the conclusion that the diamond cantilever is the last big jump in the K line, not the stone bodies, which are fine, but relatively less important.

The Tomahawk wand is good, but wasn’t made for a 12g cartridge. It needs weights and damping material hanging off it, it looks plain messy. Also, on some recordings there appears to be some distortion which won’t go away, so I thought I’d try changing the wand. That’s not intended as a criticism of the Terminator, I still think that it’s the best deal in high end - just that I want the performance of a 70,000 Euro SAT.

I’m also going to try a more exotic captured bearing design, which should allow very fine adjustments to be made easily. That’s in the future, but I’m having some parts fabricated now.

Wish me luck!
Don, thanks for the thought about CF arm. I associate CF with lightness and rigidity, but not mass and damping. Depends on the design, obviously, and equally obviously I should have tried that first.
Ledoux, the stone bodies are at the apex, but according to one of the K connoisseurs on this site, stone is a marginal improvement over the platinum rosewood, while diamond cantilever is a big improvement. He should know - he’s done a lot of auditioning and owns several stone bodies, including a d/c.
Actually, my KRSP is 12 g , not 9.

My lady bought the KRSP with diamond cantilever for an important birthday. My first Koetsu. Yep - luckiest man in the galaxy.
Well, I take all my reservations back. The Panzerholz wand is very fine indeed with the KRSP.

There is no obvious vertical or horizontal resonance from a test record. Maybe it's outside the range, but listening tests do not reveal that either. Not to say that it tracks everything perfectly. There are some problem records, but nothing tracks worse, and everything sounds better overall.

Considerably more detail, considerably less HF hash than the aluminum Tomahawk. Those who love CD's would be very disappointed - they would find it dead. What I hear is more smoothness, more delicacy. Dialect is especially revealing.

My tests have included solo voice, duets, trios, massed choir, small orchestra, large orchestra. Everything sounds better than the Tomahawk with the same cartridge. To my ears. YMMV
Ledoux, the difference between Baltic birch and Panzerholz is huge. I use both (when I can’t afford Panzerholz) like the sub enclosure for HT. The Panzerholz wand is very rigid; I wasn’t sure if it would need a 7075 aluminum lamination, but it doesn’t.

Good idea about fastening the Terminator at two points. I’ve found that really helps.

Given how successful the Panzerholz was, I suspect that I’m at the limit of the Terminator design, so I’m designing and building an arm with a fully captured air bearing at the pivot. Trick is going to be to make it as adjustable as the Terminator, which is perhaps T’s strongest suit. But doubt if I’ll have much to report for many months.

25 cm - what's it for, the Bismarck? (Just being pedantic. Think you mean mm - that's the danger with the metric system, one makes order of magnitude errors).

I agree about stability, at least to some extent. But after aging my 19mm for a year, it didn't seem to shift at all. Not that I've measured it. After sealing, I should think it's as good as any wood laminate. 

For the record, I laminated 7 pieces for my wand, much the same solution as yours. It's made from 7 pieces of aged 19mm epoxied together so the wand is constructed from 150 or so wood/phenolic laminations front to back.
dnicol, I went much the same route. One way I added mass was to put a nickel silver disk (copper alloy: 770?) on top of the cartridge, and tap two holes for cartridge mounts (#3-56). The disk acted as a great big nut for the cartridge screws. But like my KRSP too much to switch.

ledoux, I will try to clarify. (1) start with a sheet of 19mm Panzerholz; (2) cut 7 blocks sized 25mm x 50mm; (3) glue the blocks together to obtain a bigger block 25mm x 50mm x 140mm. Note that the ’grain’ in the Pz block runs from side to side, so that vibration from the cartridge must pass through, not along, many layers of wood and many layers of resin, and consequently across hundreds of boundaries.

This block is then shaped into a wand, which further restricts resonance by changing dimensions: wider and thinner in front, narrower and thicker at the pivot. Obviously would have been easier to cut a 50mm x 140mm piece out of the Pz sheet, but vibration would have been conducted down the sheets of wood. Constrained layer damping works best when vibration has to cross boundaries.

Hope that helps.
Pz is not really cost effective for the wand. Each one takes hours, would have to charge too much to be friendly.
Interesting about the new wand. I don't think that it should work, because the cartridge is not rigidly connected to anything but the plate, which is suspended by O - rings from carbon bars.

I say should - but the final word is empirical evidence, that's just science. I trust Vic to be pretty careful in his experiments, so it's definitely something to take seriously.

That design could address the 'equivalent mass' issue in cartridge matching. Just need to change the plate to higher mass. But I'm still concerned about maintaining precise registration of stylus to record, especially tangentiality.
Thanks for the update, Don. One gets so used to high quality playback with the Terminator that it’s useful to hear of a direct comparison against a very good arm.
Pz wand continues to impress. A record which was having tracking/distortion issues with the Tomahawk (Renaissance Lute music on BASF label) is now just plain good listening. Five hours yesterday.