Unipivot vs Linear Tracking

I set up my first Unipivot arm night before last. It took roughly 5 hours to set up and I am still tweaking various parts and cartridge, what a work out. The arm is a Scheu classic with the Scheu Premier I turntable and a Scheu Benz cartridge.

Now I have two questions for the Audiogon club.
1. Do you consider linear Tracking superior to Unipivot?
2. Which would you say is harder to set up properly?
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Spl,I can tell you that, "without a doubt", a "very good" linear tracking/air bearing arm is going to allow a "musical presentation" unlike "any" alternative design type!!

I have extensive A/B comparative experience on this subject(with a half dozen different cartridges)as a dear friend(who's set-up I know probably as well as my own) had moved from a highly modified Air Tangent,to a 12.6 pivoting design.

In all honesty,originally I was shocked at the total loss of that "nice cushion of relaxed ambient pleasure" (the only way I can relate the signature sound,and it is still an incomplete description)when the move was made from air/linear to unipivot,but there has been a significant improvement in the pivot's set up,and the gap has closed more-so than I would have thought(to be fair and honest).....

Yet,and yet....IMO,once you hear a "superb system" that employs an "elite" linear tracking arm(preferrably air bearing)the experience is akin to "what is assumed" regarding being exposed to something like crack cocaine...

YOU ARE INSTANTLY HOOKED!!(also assuming you have been listening to LP's for a really long time,and know "their" signatures)

From my experiences,and taking my way of listening "into" a great set-up(which my friend "has" in spades),the linear/air bearing arm is simply an amazing instrument!

I envy those folks who have made the commitment to own,and operate one....The really good ones,are "that" amazing!!...."to me".

As far as maintenance/set-up goes...the pivot is a breeze,but the air bearing/linear arm required some maintenance consideration(the actual set-up was not too hard).This is mostly to keep the pump operating properly,and allow for there to be no build-up of moisture on the bearing.

Of course,there are more additional component parts to consider but once you become familiar with this,it's pretty easy to just "fall into a good listening session".The reason for having it in the first place!

Btw,I have absolutely no gripes regarding "many" of the pivoting designs(I have one myself),and you seem to have made a good choice,from reputation....

The only reason my friend moved on was he is getting a bit long in the tooth,and was hurting his wrists when doing some of the "infrequent" pump/component maintenance....He has his own very close-knit group of 12.6 arm fans,and they influenced him to make the change.

Actually, he is quite happy,as he should be....There are SO many unique ways to voice a system that, at least to me,it's really nice to hear all of different musical presentations,that each seperate hobbyist has gotten from his own take on a good rig!...The real reason I like to follow these threads.

Best of luck
Btw,forgot to mention,the "pivoting arm" I alude to IS a unipivot!

Sorry for not being more specific
Spl, are you asking about Unipivots or pivoted arms in general? Assuming the latter...

I have to admit being in the camp of true believers around linear tracking arms. I largely agree with Sirspeedy about the magic they can deliver if properly designed, executed and set up, and I've always used a linear tracking arm in my own system. At the same time, I've heard linear arms that easily are outperformed by any number of pivoted arms (anyone remember the Rabco linear?)

Over the years, my listening with well setup pivoted arms convinces me that "it's all in the execution." The sound quality from any of the top arms, whether pivoted or linear, can be stunning when properly set up, and the sound can be indifferent to atrocious when care and attention has not been given. As always, the magic is in the details (as Lloyd Walker is fond of pointing out).

As to setup, linear tracking arms do eliminate having to make a choice about tangency -- its either exactly correct along the entire tracking line or it's exactly wrong everywhere. A pivoted arms will always be correct in at least two points across the record, even if always off everywhere other than those two points. :-) I wouldn't say that either is easier to set up correctly than the other.

We moved a year or so ago, and I had to transport and then re-assemble my Walker Proscenium turntable with its linear tracking arm. I easily spent 10 hours over severaly days finetuning the setup of the arm and cartridge until I was satisfied. (Lloyd and Fred can do it in an hour or so.) I suspect I would have spent the same time with a Graham or Triplanar or VPI or Scheu.
i must agree with Sirspeedy when he says...

Yet,and yet....IMO,once you hear a "superb system" that employs an "elite" linear tracking arm(preferrably air bearing)the experience is akin to "what is assumed" regarding being exposed to something like crack cocaine.

YOU ARE INSTANTLY HOOKED!!(also assuming you have been listening to LP's for a really long time,and know "their" signatures)

From my experiences,and taking my way of listening "into" a great set-up(which my friend "has" in spades),the linear/air bearing arm is simply an amazing instrument!

it's not right to label my system as 'superb'.....that is for others to say.....but i could not describe the emotional reaction i get to my Rockport Sirius III with an air bearing linear tracking arm better than 'the Speedy one' has done.

there is a fundamental 'grounding' of the music; if you take the advantages of a 12" arm over a standard length.....and increase that effect by a few (many?) degrees. it is difficult to separate my particular arm from the whole of my particular tt, as it has been designed as a whole system.

Rockport did make a couple of linear tracking arms which could be purchased separately, the 6000 and 7000; but they are not at the level of the Sirius 3 arm.

linear tracking arms come in many different levels and degrees of quality. you will find many opinions on their relative performance. early ones were driven by motors, the arm would 'crab' across the record. some non-air bearing linear tracking arms have trouble with keeping the rail properly clean and are particularly troublesome to keep optimal.

it's is said by some that air bearing linear tracking arms are bass-shy due to the lack of a direct contact hard bearing. again; it is a matter of execution. no one who has heard bass from the Rockport in my room would say that.

i cannot speak to other linear tracking arms regarding the need for maintenance or tweaking. my arm is amazingly self sufficient; i can switch a cartridge in about 15 minutes including dynamically adjusting VTA. there is a groove in the platter which makes overhang a snap.....just line it up. once set it 'never' needs adjusting. when i'm in the mood i can easily adjust VTA for each record thickness, takes 5 seconds. my compressor (upstairs in the attic) has never needed any attention.

at the top of the food chain a pivoting arm and linear tracking arm are both great choices. there are many more great pivoting arm choices. if you get the right linear tracking arm and it's optimized for your turntable; it is very easy to live with. but that's not cheap and there are not many choices.

added note; regarding which is easier to set up. i have not seen an arm easier to set up than mine. the reason is that there are simply less varibles. you have no overhang question, no real azimuth question (in theory you do but not really). no anti-skating. the only issues are VTF and VTA. VTF is simple. i set VTA by ear dynamically; listen for 5 minutes, make minor adjustment and i'm done.

there is fluid filled trough for resonance control but it needs no attention at all.....the record is always perfectly flat and the isolation of this tt is pretty good.

all the pivoting arms i have used require about 4 times the effort to get you pretty close; then a few hours of small tweaking to get things right.

Great responses by all above. Of course it's important to note they're all talking about arms that cost far more than most pivoted arms (more than most complete vinyl rigs actually).

I haven't had the pleasure of working with a top level linear tracker, but I did own two of those Rabcos back in the day. Even those, crude as they were, were ridiculously easy to set up. Sonically they were at least the equal of similarly priced pivoting arms I had. Unlike everyone else on the planet, I never had a lick of trouble with either of them. I still have the ST-8 and it works fine.

My (pivoting) TriPlanar arm costs more than those Rabcos, the tables they were mounted on and all the cartridges I ever used with them put together. Is it better? Well, of course. In fact it's phenomenally better since, as noted above, any arm requires good execution and setup. But even with this marvelously adjustable device and plenty of experience, I can't dial in a strange cartridge in much less than 25 minutes, and a really good setup takes longer.
Linear trackers are based on the theory that tangency is the most important feature of the arm and that the linear tracking arm perfectly mimics the geometry of the cutting head of the master, whereas pivoted arms inherently display tracking distortion. However, the cutting head of the master is applying great force with a blade while a linear tracking tonearm is "dragging" the whole arm assembly across the record with a few grams of down force, quite a different situation. You could say that linear trackers are triumph of execution over practicality if they are done correctly.
I spent some time playing with one of John Elison's spreadsheets from vinyl asylum, plugging in values for tracking error for pivoted arms. I find it difficult to believe that a properly set up pivoted arm, even a 9 inch arm, has enough error to significantly "hear" the tracking error unless the arm is not set up correctly. I tend to think the audiophile imagination "knows" there is some tracking error and runs rampant to fill in the blanks to believe that 12 inch arm and linear trackers are audibly superior "because" of the geometry advantages. If somebody states they can "hear" the superior qualities of a linear tracker vs. a properly set up pivoted arm, I would be very skeptical.
I tend to believe that if linear trackers and 12 inchers sound better, it would be for reasons other than the geometry, either superior overall execution of the arm or better cartridge matching or higher effective mass etc. It is hard for me to believe that the "fumble factor" involved in a linear tracker would make it a better choice in every instance. The linear tracker seems to have many design disadvantages and pitfalls compared to a good pivoted arm. I hate to invoke the dreaded DBT, but that is one that I would like to see the results of.
I would have to concur with Cjfrbw, I've played around with the RS-3 rotary headshell vs a standard fixed headshell and from just casual listening, I cannot say that I can hear a difference in terms of tracking error distortion. But this is only from a casual 45min session when I first got the unit. I can say that I did not take any step backwards either. I hope to spend more time with it in the future. It is a new toy that has no instructions, so it will be trial and error to learn more about this rotary headshell.

you make some very good points. why a particular product sounds the way it does is always complicated. how would one elimiate all differencs between any two designs other than a pivot and linear tracking. the answer is not likely to ever occur. so you could never get to a point where you have sufficently isolated the issues to use DBT to prove it. even then, i don't personally believe DBT proves better....at best proves differences were proved to a particular person under specific conditions at a particular moment.

so we are left to assign characterisitics based on experience.....imperfect as that might be.

my personal perceptions about linear tracking on my tt may be as much as result of the eddy current direct drive motor, and the air bearing on that motor and the 60 pound platter. it may be the vaccuum hold down, or the 250 pound plinth. it may simply be the quality of build, and not linear tracking.

my opinion is that when you do go to the trouble to do 100% of all the things that can be done to make a tt perform optimally; one of those things is linear tracking.
The linear tracking arm is without doubt a better setup than any pivoting arm, but the friction of the arm when it travels has to be reduced to near zero. Most linear tracking arms use an air bearing which is complex and delicate, and the air compressor is noisy.

There is, however, another approach which is used by my Sony PS X800 turntable. The arm is moved by a servo motor, just like the arm which carried the cutting head when the recording was made. The movement speed is biased to match nominal groove spacing, and then that speed is varied to match the actual groove spacing as measured by any angle of the arm. The arm is not fixed perpendicular to the track, but can pivot slightly: the servo moves the pivot point. The servo is well designed and does not exhibit any of the problems that some folk fear (hunting, oscillation, etc). Tracking error is maintained at less than 0.05 degree. Note that the servo approach is equivalent to a completely frictionless bearing. There is no sideforce on the stylus...not even the tiny force needed to move an arm with an air bearing.
Personally I never went into my friend's home(the Air Tangent guy....Btw,his pump was highly modified,and the bass was amazingly good/deep/powerful...in case someone decides to "go on" about air bearings hurting bass)thinking about the business of "tangency" as it compares to a pivot,and "leaning" towards "wanting" to hear his set-up in "any" specific way!...

Or anything else,other than simply enjoying the plethora of amazing LP's he always surprises me with(an understatement).

I could care less about the technical aspects of the hobby(to a point)as it is with experience,and the "you just know it",from "that" experience which drives my own approach.....So,technically I am a little above clueless-:)

One thing I "DO" know is....a superb linear/air bearing arm(a "really" good one)just "lets" a great set-up "open into a listening room better"(to me)than anything else,which happens to be attached to the cartridge!....

Nothing too technical.Just simple,repeatable observations.Alot of 'em!

Yes,I definitely think that the issue of "resonant characteristics" is at play here(to whatever degree)....

The lack of any hard contact points(within the bearing),which is a bone of contention to me....This just "has to have some sonic signature"(whether unipivot,or fixed pivot)that is affecting the "flow of musical info",on a pivot of "any" type!!No matter how exotic the bearing material is....I definitely am theorizing here,but DO believe it,as one aspect/benefit of air bearing greatness.

That is "not" to say one cannot get "superb" performance from such designs,and "definitely" the "minutiae" of set up will definitely yield the "magic" we look for.....Btw,from what I have seen,many are all to easily fooled,because it is way to easy to get "good" as opposed to "great" sound.So they stop fotzing around with set up a little sooner than the "fanatics" do....

This I can understand,because of the "pain in the tush factor",with setting up to the "N'th" degree....I have been known to wear my tennis sweatbands during set ups,and I'm damn tired of it,to be honest.One reason why I "now" charge my friends two/five glasses of really good wine,for my setup services -:)

BUT, my ears tell me music is "more organic,more right" with a great air/linear design....Whether I am "thinking about" concentrating on the equipment in front of me,or not!...

For me,it's just the way it is!!

I even prefer my more modest linear tracking setup (LT-30 w/ zyx cart) than the Linn LP-12 I used before it. Setup is far easier and get a much more enjoyable sound. It's all there, detail, bass, sound staging, imaging and very intmate vocals. I can't imagine moving from the linear camp.
Now how about the Schroder, Graham, Breuer or Yorke ? Are these competitive with the ET II, Clearaudio TQ-1,Goldmund and perhaps further up the Linear chain? I've heard the top line Clearaudio, ET 2 and a Schroder at RMAF. Have not had one of these at home yet to audition. Would apprecite a chime in of any past or present owners of these wonderful arms.
Well, I have never come across an article or study which has compared an actual pivot arm with a linear tracker with a given cartridge and how they would measure on a test record compared to each other in a lab setting. This might not be the perfect guide as far as audible performance is concerned, but it would be interesting. If somebody knows of such a study, it would be nice to post it. I wouldn't necessarily regard it is a determinant of final listening quality, but it would be interesting to read. I would imagine that there is an averaging effect based on torsional flexibility in the cartridge stylus/suspension that applies to both tangency and variable azimuth that might make differences between geometries somewhat moot. It seems that theories assume that the cartridge itself is perfectly rigid and the stylus/suspension/generator assembly is always perfect and that you can tell what it is by examining the cartridge housing. This seems to be a very flawed assumption.
The usual caveats about testimonials tend to apply
1. It's better because it's mine
2. It's better, because my buddy has an extreme system and it always sounds good to me, therefore this one thing in his system means it is better than anything else.
3. I have audiophile hearing, so I can actually filter out the effects of systems, cartridges, setups, speakers, preamps, etc. etc. to make reliable judgments about specific elements in the chain, and I can also make judgments based on audiophile memory, even if all of these chain elements are different.
Everybody seems to do this, including me, but it again makes me very skeptical that you can hear arm geometries in the very specific way that a lot of audiophiles and audio critics claim.
Here's a minor "listening exercise" with a pivoted arm in a highly resolving system with excellent soundstaging... Pull out a record that can demonstrate excellent soundstaging (such as the Holst "Savitri" on Argo ZNF 6 or the Stravinsky "Firebird" on Mercury SR 90226 just to name two examples), listen to the overall sonic window as the arm tracks across that perfect tangency point.

In my listening experience (and that of some fellow listening companions), with a pivoted arm, as the stylus tracks across that perfect tangency point the soundstage snaps into sharper focus, everything is suddenly more sharply and clearly defined, more "solid" in presentation. Then, as the stylus moves past this point, the presentation shifts, ever so slightly, to be less solid and less definitive.

Is this a major shift? No. Do most people notice it? No. But once you become acclimated to the results delivered by a well set up Air Tangent, Rockport or Walker linear arm, the phenomenon is more readily noticed. (The Eminent Technology II arm delivers this soundstaging result as well, as I assume would the Kuzma linear arm. The B&O definitely did not as it crab walked across the vinyl.) And, I don't hear it in all pivoted arm systems, only in those where the entire reproduction chain is sufficiently resolving for the shift to be more apparent.

This is part of the experience of linear tracking arms to which Sirspeedy and Mikelavigne refer. That magical moment when everything snaps into focus on a pivoted arm is what a linear tracking arm is delivering across the entire playing surface of the LP.

Try listening for this the next time you have an opportunity with a superb pivoted arm based system playing back a superbly recorded LP with excellent soundstage reproduction.

OTOH, soundstaging is not something that pushes everyone's buttons. It does mine, but it just may not be important for others. In that case, enjoy not having one more parameter of sound reproduction to mess about with.
Well, my system is quite resolving, and in no way, shape or form can I hear the sound staging on my best record wander into a noticeable superior presentation around the tangency points and out again. I would imagine that there is a threshold effect that requires substantial distortion to begin hearing the difference to begin with, which would be significantly away from the tangent points, and to believe that you can hear the gradual transition as a continuum with the actual point creating a "snap" is really handing it to yourself and your friends.
Sorry, but no "snap" here. I guess I just have retarded hearing.
Cjfrbw,your post definitely smacks of condescending accusations....I think-:)
I'm going to assume you don't mean it,that way...but for the record,as it applies to my experience at a friend's home(who has a superb rig),I and others,have heard the differences between numerous component changes,"around the linear arm",as well as quite a few different "other" arms,and cartridges.Other component changes too.

The "jury",of other 'philes who've heard the system(over the years)absolutely concur with my "opinion".As it relates to "this" arm subject!

The truth is that my friend(and quite a few of "his" pals,whom I know quite well)are "raving fanatics",in the BEST sense!!Meaning not much....."except" that they are in the habit of A/B'ing the things that interest them.They do it alot.

There has been extensive A/B comparisons(at his home) of too many components to mention,but the "one" thing that is a fact "was" the consistant superiority of "that" linear/air bearing arm!...I have no ax to grind,on the subject(and I appologize if you did not mean to be provacative).

One reason I know this about the arm's superiority,is because it's NOT there anymore!...Everyone knows the missing ingredient,when "now" exposed to the "well it just happens to be a damn good system",but not as good as before!
Fortunately,there are more variables to good sound,so it still sounds superb...but NOT the same!

As to my own approach in posting "opinions"...I personally don't like to "word my impressions of musical satisfaction" through my own system,because I just think it a little too easy to infer how satisfied one is,with their own choices(sort of obvious,if you've slaved over a good set-up,and spent serious moola).

That doesn't mean I am anything less than extremely satisfied with the sound,but I believe one loses a little cred if they wax too much about how great their stuff is!

It also doesn't mean folks should not do it!!Many have been at this a long time,and spent a small fortune on the hobby.If they want to be enthusiastic,good for them.

In my case..if I mention that I believe something is "better",it's because it happens to "sound that way"...to ME!

Btw,my "opinion" regarding 12 vs 9.5 inch arms vs linear/air bearing.....

To me,the 12 vs 9.5 inch sonic differences,are a yawn compared to the difference between a really superb linear/air bearing,as it compares to the 12....

Just my opinion.


How would you measure tracking angle from the output signal? Or what does tracking angle distortion sound like?
OK. I'm suggesting a fun experiment. Get together a group of audiophiles and ply them with some beer. Hand everybody a pad and paper. Put up a clock with a second hand. Play the Holst or the Firebird and ask everybody, without copying one another, to write down the time at which they think the stylus has hit the magical spots. Put a piece of cardboard in front of the turntable, so that you cannot see the tonearm from the listening positions. Collect the times, play the record, and this time watch the tonearm and note when it actually does hit the magical spots (or at least comes close to them). Please report back, including what audiophile beer was used. Intended for fun and science. Jeff
My own observations tell me,that the more common posters on this forum are quite credible.Based from "following" their posts for a long enough time,to realise they know a little about good sound.How to help the masses to get there,if so inclined.

I am not being condescending at all. I have heard the Rockport turntable in a wonderful system locally, but there is no quality I could ascribe to it that had anything to do with the linear tracking tonearm, other than the overall superiority of the system itself.
I have heard other great systems with pivoted arms, and likewise, there is nothing I have heard positive or negative that I could ascribe to the tonearm.
A "white paper" analog system might state as a goal "perfect tangential tracking without compromise". There is no such thing.
A lot of seasoned audiophiles seem to drop out of the linear tracking game as drop into it, so it is hard to believe that they would do so if they really thought sonics were the issue.
Testimonials are great things from experienced listeners, but it doesn't mean that I or anybody else should suspend judgment based on common sense, especially when the context issue is completely ignored.
I have not owned one of the elite pivot arms but i really like the linear arms. i am using a maplenoll table that uses an airbearing arm. took a while to learn how to use it but after that it has been pretty easy. i find the linear arms are great trackers and eliminates inner groove distortion
Well,you are certainly entitled to your opinion!
Dear friends all of you: IMHO this tonearm subject is a very controversial one ( for say the least ) and very complex. Here in México we say " everyone talks like goes on the fair ".

Some way or the other I think that everyone can/could be right, IMHO there is non absolute answer to the subject only relative answers.

From pure theory ( and only on tracking error subject ) there is no doubt that a LTT is the best way to go like from theory a 12" pivot tonearm is better than the 9" one, but tracking error/distortion subject is only one of several other same importance level subjects than the tracking distortion.

Why a tonearm ( it does not matters pivot or LT ) performs better than other is the summary of several different parameters ( other that good cartridge match and set up ) that help to top quality performance or that contribute to a lower one: bearing design, bearing type, bearing tolerances, bearing material, bearing friction value, geometry design/choose, tonearm length, build material ( whole ), internal wiring, effective mass, damping type, design execution, etc, etc, etc, all these " parameters " and many others help to define the tonearm performance.

I have experience on tonearms over the years not only with pivot ones but LT too ( including the ones from Rockport/Walker ). It is true that the LT are something special ( specially on soundstage that it is not my top music priority, important but not critical. ) but the pivot ones too specially on both frequency extremes where IMHO no LT surpass them.
IMHO too there is no perfect tonearm design, pivot or LT, the best one is the one that match your trade-offs/music priorities.

In the last two years ( maybe more ) Guillermo and I were in deep whole tonearm research looking/building for a Universal tonearm ( the perfect one ) where we already made several live tests ( with our tonearm prototype designs ) to be near that almost impossible target: Universal/perfect tonearm.

We try 12",11",10",9",etc, etc and about tracking distortion I agree totally with Cjfrbw: you can't hear the differences at least differences that you could say: hey that is because lower tracking error!, no way. As imperfect is the playback analog rig as imperfect are the analog recording process and these facts preclude that the theory is on command.
. Btw, when we talk about lower traking error between a 12" tonearm against a 9-10" one we are talking of 0.8 degrees or less, with all respect to all of you : no one can hear it. The special soundstage performance on LT is more a result of its non mechanic grounded bearing that of the LT design.

IMHO it is more important a good execution design, cartridge match and good set-up that pivot vs LT subject.

Guillermo and I choose a pivot tonearm design over LT because we think ( maybe we are wrong ) that can/could be nearer to the Universal tonearm, we are really exited on the quality performance showed on our last prototype: very promised, we will see over the time to come.

Spl, don't worry about which is harder to set up properly there are many other more important subjects ( of course that a friendly set up is always desired. ) to choose your tonearm.

Regards and enjoy the music.
"The spcial soundstage performance on LT is more a result of it's non mechanic grounded bearing that of the LT design".------

I'm going to assume this means what I've been ststing about the lower mechanicl friction of the air bearing design.....something that surely must be a reason for the Schroder's apparent reputation!

Yes,I am more concerned with this attribute,as opposed to a few degrees of tangency!

With all due respect...the arm I had been exposed to(for ten years)was "absolutely" superior to anything else I have heard(including my own choice).,,..

Those folks in my little audio group consistently confirmed this,and have more credability(to me)than some naysayers,who were not lucky enough to be present.

Aside from the more relaxed stage presentation,there is more air/depth/space between instruments/and tonal attributes....

I'd love to see someone owning a well set up Walker,or a Forsell chime in,and state that if they "did" move to a pivot(for whatever reason),they got the impression that the air/linear "arm"(I'm not talking about the table)was NOT missed....

If you haven't lived with one,I understand the doubts(on the argued theory)...that's too bad,because these "instruments" can be a doorway to better analog sound!

Dear Sirspeedy: +++++ " With all due respect...the arm I had been exposed to(for ten years)was "absolutely" superior to anything else I have heard(including my own choice).,,.. " +++++

there could and can be several reasons why is that, one of them is that your music sound reproduction priorities are different from other people ( including me ) other could be that till today you never heard/hear the perfect pivot tonearm/cartridge combination.
Anyway what many of us have is a subjective ( estrictly personal like yours ) opinion and other people have a subjective/objective opinion ( I'm between these ones ).

Anyway IMHO I have to say again that the quality tonearm performance is a summary of many subjects where the tracking error is only one of them, sure it is important but in my whole tonearm experiences ( like I say ) it is only one more subject to take in count: the sum of the parts is the answer.

Regards and enjoy the music.
i have recently purchased three additional tunrtables, a Technics SP-10 Mk2, an SP-10 Mk3 and a Garrard 301. this is not any commentary on my Rockport; it is a matter of curiosity about all the excitment people are having with these vintage dd tt's when they install them in a modern plinth and add a state-of-the-art arm. i also want to have my other cartridges mounted and ready to play. i am currently contemplating which arms i will use; in any case each arm will be pivoted.

once they are all up an running i may not keep all three (rather the wife may not allow me to).....but i want to hear them for myself.

my agenda was not the linear tracking verses pivoted arm question; and clearly the Rockport and these other tt's will have fundamental differences.....but it should shed more light on the question of this thread too.

personally; i am much more a direct drive (or rim drive) guy than a linear tracking guy and think that properly applied it has more fundamental effect on the music than the arm approach. music fundamentaly is about timing. this comment is not to hijack this thread but more to put it in a bit of context.
Mikelavigne and Raulruegas are the guiding lights here. Technics applied more money, expertise and R&D muscle to the development of the SP-10 series than all modern turntable manufacturers combined will acces during their lifetimes. You have to remember that this was the mighty Matsushita corporation at the peak of their high end audio venture. The SP-10 was subsidized by the sale of millions of mass market turntables. No one will ever sell turntables in those numbers again. I went from a Well-Tempered Reference table to an SP-10 MK II and it was a leap upward in terms of stability, authority and even quiet. And let me say that very few of you currently own a quieter table than that WTT.

Raul's point about set-up is also very strong because the matter of which design is optimal becomes moot unless both comparative units are optimized. While you are amazed that moving your speakers an inch makes a big difference, you must then realize that moving your stylus forward .2 mm or rotating it one degree can make as big a difference. I have a Technics EPA 100 MK II tonearm with a variable dynamic damping system built into it. This allows adjustability in damping of the arm to accommodate a wide range of cartridge compliances. I've noticed that very small changes in my damping adjustment can affect the sound of my system in significant ways. I would guess that no LTT could match the performance of this pivoting arm without a similar damping capability unless the cartridge match was absolutely perfect.

Some while ago I started a thread about the relative merits of belt drive and direct drive. It went on for quite a while and generated some pretty emotional observations and banter. Ultimately nothing was really resolved but the same result became apparent there as what we are seeing here. People seemed to agree that implementation was more important than the fundamental design approach.

Many years ago I had the first version of the ET tonearm and I could use it happily today if it was a little more user friendly and convenient. I knew less then and maybe I'm being naive in my recollections about it but I mention it because I have experience with both. I've also owned the B&O 4004 LT table and a Yamaha PX-2. I don't really have a preference. I am starting to see, however, that a lot of the best products to come along in history were provided by manufacturing giants. Led by reviewers, we have tended to overlook them in favor of home based garage creations with gimmicks , panache or political connections. This old Technics stuff is absolutely killer.
If you have the time and motivation, set aside a long weekend with all the KAB 1200 modification kits and apply them to a factory fresh Technics SL1210MG5 one by one and you will be impressed at the outcome and with the changes of each along the way.
Well,first off my apologies if I seem to be attempting to convince anyone of "anything" being better than anything else....This "is" a hobby topic based forum,so I think I'm playing within it's parameters....

Raul,I am sure that though it is completely possible,and definitely probable that I have "not heard the "perfect arm/cartridge combination",I'm confident that "those" that I "have" heard were just as "viable" as any you have been exposed to -:)OK?

I'm totally happy to get off the apparent soap-box,some think I'm on,regarding the linear/air bearing subject.....anyone knowing me(from Audiogon threads)should realize that I like to "go on" about certain topical subjects....Those which appeal to my own "personal" thoughts....I DO admit to "loving" this subject.

I really don't have any vested interest in convincing "anyone" about "anything",and the subject of linear/air bearing designs came up,so you have my "opinion"....If anyone thinks it is ego driven,then I am truly sorry....'cause it is ONLY "hobbyspeak"!...ALWAYS WILL BE -- "JUST THAT".

Now,for the curious.....

A few months ago,Hi-Fi Plus ran a superb article/review comparing a few highly regarded 12 inch arms(they actually ran two seperate reviews,but I'm speaking about the latest article)....The review and "somewhat comparisons" included(from memory)the superb Brinkman 12 incher,a "way cool looking"(yet looks to be a Triplanar rip-off)Chinese Unipivot(the Tri is not a uni,but the resemblance to it is almost incriminating),another high priced pivot AND a comparison to a "very reasonably priced" air bearing/linear design("this air/LT arm was at least half the price of the pivots in the review)....

The reviewer(yeah,I know,don't believe all reviews)loved a few of the pivots,but what stood out to me,was his enthusiasm for the Linear/Air bearing "el-cheapo" design!They are not ALWAYS expensive.

His impressions(opinions)were to describe the "sonic signature" as they appear to anyone with enough exposure to the "flavor" of this type of analog instrument....Basically he loved it,and felt in the area of "lack of a resonant signature" it was magical....Not the exact words,but close enough....half the price of the other commonly preferred pivots(which are great arms,btw).

There was another online review of another very low priced air/linear tracker(I "think" it was on Enjoy the Music site),where the "exact same" enthusiasm was relayed to the reader,but "that" arm was even lower in cost than the first!I don't think it was more than around eight hundred dollars,but the owner is supposed to buy the pump,which as designed is not expensive at all(think aquarium pump pricing)....

Here we had two quite low priced LT/Air Bearing arms(they are not all priced in the Kuzma Airline range),where the enthusiasm of the particular hobbyist/reviewer was "way over the top" for the arms in question,and the comparisons to the "High Priced" pivots were eye opening....What can I say?....I'm sure there is plenty for "some" to nit-pick here.

My point is "ONLY" for those interested in persuing this type of arm(I believe the question "was" asked on this thread)....

Myself?....Well I have always been happy with my Graham arms,and have no interest in making any changes...but I can attempt to be open minded,and offer an "opinion",based on exposure....Like everyone else!

You can agree,completely disagree,or find some detail to nit-pick....

It's all fine by me! -:)


Dear Sirspeedy, Can you recall the name of the LT arm that was used as a comparator in that review, OR can you supply a reference to the article? Sounds like there was only one well recognized top quality pivoted arm involved, the Brinkmann. The one or two reasonably priced LT arms that are now currently on the market do interest me.
And by the way, what is the significance of all the quotation marks you use around single words and phrases?
The Cartridge Man is the first arm,I believe!I cannot remember the second one.Btw,I did hear the Brinkman this winter...thought it was beautifully made,and loved the sound of the system it was in.

Why the concern regarding my punctuation?
I did some research after posting. The cartridge man is one inexpensive LTer and then there is also another one that uses nested triangular girders. Can't tell what that one costs, but it would seem to be in the $1K range or less. If LTs at that level of cost could compete with top line pivoted arms, that would go a long way in support of any thesis that posits the inherent superiority of the design. But I don't think it would be the case.

No concern re your punction. Just curious.
Most is written about those arm, but Mikelavigne wrote something very interesting I discovered, too.
A linear Tracker is in my opinion very sensitive to the quality of the Turntable, or lets say it the other way, I think, a LT on a normal Turntable can sound good, but in a comparison to regular Arms the Listener can get the impression "so what?", same comparison on a top turntable can push the curtain. I thought, based on it's "Air Bearing" the Turntable is not that important, but now I think different.
Wow! How could I miss this thread?

On LTT and Unipivots: my personal experience is the LTT has the advantage and it is audibly superior to pivoted arms in general.

The most obvious difference is the soundstage. LTT throw a huge and wide 3D stage extending both laterally and depthwise. The pivoted arm on the other hand, has a soundstage which is somewhat "curtailed/curved" at the back.

The 2nd difference is in the dreaded end-of-side distortion, which though some good pivoted designs are able to reduce significantly, they cannot completely be rid of some mistracking. The soundstage may sound a little smaller or confused with pivoted designs, but this does not happen with an LTT.

The issue with LTT is associated with the pump. I run mine 24/7 outside the listening room so as to not interfere with the music. It is audible, especially if your system is quiet. Setup of LTT will depend on the design of the arm. Once the armbase is set, lining up a cart on a LTT is much easier than a pivoted - its either ON or OFF.

As to whether it is worth going for a LTT, if your budget fits, absolutely. That is not to say that the good pivoted tonearms don't sound good, they do and I could live with my Schroeder even if I didn't have the Conductor.
Dear Thomasheisig: +++++ " A linear Tracker is in my opinion very sensitive to the quality of the Turntable " +++++

to the inherent quality of the turntable it self or to the " TT arm board ( TT suspension and vibrations disippation. )?

regards and enjoy the music.
Cmk thank you for illuminating me to the audible difference between a LTT and a pivot arm.

I've been told that for an air bearing LTT arm, the air pressure has a relationship to the quality of the low end (bass) delivery.
I own the Scheu Premier mkII(80mm platter) along with the top of the line 9" Scheu Tacco unipivot AND the Cartridge Man Conductor linear tracking, air bearing, tonearm(HiFi Plus review). Both cost ~$3,000 US.

Unfortunately, I do not have the Premier with dual armboards(nor two of each cartridge), so it is impossible to A/B comparisons. Nor am I anything close to an expert at setup, so I have no idea if I have ever heard an optimal cart/arm matching in my system.

Which sounds better on the Scheu?

I really don't know. The amount of time between setups is so great, I would be lying if I even tried to venture a guess. I can say both knock my socks off when mounted and properly dialed in. So much so, that in the last year and a half, I haven't been able to get up the guts to sell either off.

Both have the advantages and disadvantages. Aesthetics go to the Tacco. Ease of use/setup goes to the Conductor.

Primary dowsides: As with all LT's, pump noise and air hiss is an issue to deal with, especially if your turntable is close to the listening position.

The Unipivot always causes stress/fear when cueing an expensive cart. Nothing like seeing it do it's version of a drunken jackhammer.
There just happens to be a NEW series II Graham Phantom out,as of now!....Supposedly some "serious" mods have been made to it!

If I'm lucky,I'll have it in about a week or two.Along with a newly modded pre/phonostage(new V-teflon caps and a new figamajig P/S....power factor correction circuitry)....

Maybe I'll feel differently about my previous experiences with my pal's wonderful LTT set-up.Of course I'd be shocked if I could match what I've heard in the past,but I'm confident I'll have a pretty acceptable level of performance.

Only problem is the 400 hour break-in of the new phonostage caps.I'm not one to leave something on continuously to break it in.

So,acording to the jabs I've been getting from my friends,I should have some meaningful feedback by Thanks Giving -:)

At least I'll be able to play LP's again.Something ALL of "you" guys have been able to do,that I could NOT for WAY too long!....

Hence,my angst!
Hello Raul, well I think, to the inherent quality of the turntable itself. The LT has - normally - are very wide soundstage and is very silent between the notes. This can be limited from the TT itself (from the construction, there are limitations in the music flow), probably these old Micro Seikis are better in that than most of todays designs.
Dear Thomasheisig: Thank you and one more question: that very close relantionship between a quality TT and LTT can/could show with any cartridge ( I mean the ones you own. )?

regards and enjoy the music.
With the Conductor, air pressure is not critical as much as volume of air flow since it is a low pressure design. There is some low level "hiss" from the air escaping the air beam, which is not audible from the listening position. Cleaning of the air beam should be using alcohol swipes, and avoid the small holes on the beam. There's also a dust filter on the air pump, which is a simple to maintain.

For high pressure designs - Air Tangent, Walker, Kuzma, ET, etc. the pressure, moisture/oil removal and the smoothing tanks are critical. I've only seen the Walker close up, and his latest design takes care of all these parameters for relatively trouble-free playback.

As to how pressure impacts on bass - my gut feeling is that this is rather a relationship between the air's mass and design, and the system's (tonearm/cart) resonant frequency, rather than the pressure. The LTTs I've heard have not lacked bass at all, in fact I think they reproduce bass more "accurately" since theoretically there's no bearing chatter. You'll be surprised how similar the Schroeder and Conductor sound, both carbon fibre arm tubes.
Regarding Mike Lavigne from 7-27-08

i have recently purchased three additional turntables, a Technics SP-10 Mk2, an SP-10 Mk3 and a Garrard 301.

Me too, sort of. I bought the Technics SP10 MK2 about 2 years ago and the Technics MK3 this month. I don't have to wait to decide what these table do, this quote from Macrojack says it all:

Technics applied more money, expertise and R&D muscle to the development of the SP-10 series than all modern turntable manufacturers combined will acces during their lifetimes. You have to remember that this was the mighty Matsushita corporation at the peak of their high end audio venture. The SP-10 was subsidized by the sale of millions of mass market turntables. No one will ever sell turntables in those numbers again.

I've owned the Versa Dynamics with linear track arm, the Air Tangent Linear track arm, two Rabco arms, the Walker Black Diamond linear track table and arm and also the Triplanar, Graham (three of them) the SME 3009, 3012, 312S and countless others.

My conclusion agrees with these statement
(1) Mike Lavigne
at the top of the food chain a pivoting arm and linear tracking arm are both great choices. There are many more great pivoting arm choices. If you get the right linear tracking arm and it's optimized for your turntable; it is very easy to live with. But that's not cheap and there are not many choices.

I think it's impossible to separate the turntable from the arm, particularly when some of the best turntables (Kuzma Stabi, Rockport, Walker, Versa Dynamics) all come with linear arm fitted during assembly and there is typically no way to fit a pivot arm on one of these to make a comparison.

I did make multiple comparisons with a Basis Debut Gold MK4 and MK5 with a Triplanar, two Graham arms and an Air Tangent 10B. All sounded different and in the end I abandoned the Air Tangent due to lack of a solid connection with the music, especially in the bass.

I am up in the air right now with turntable tests. I can hardly wait for Mike Lavigne to get his new (old) tables up and running and report on what he hears.
One thing I love about the approach of "so" many hobbyists,on this forum and from personal associations,is the desire to try and "push the envelope".

There are loads of amazing system approaches,and they all interest me.I'm not about to favor any one system approach as the best,mainly because I've heard alot of really good different set-ups.

So,this business of the "older tables" making a comeback,along with some pretty basic arms could be quite valid.It's fun too see how enthusiastic some guys are,and how far they are willing to go,to dig out the best from a viable component.

In the case of the Air Tangent Arm,my exposure tells a different story than yours, Albert.Yet,I totally "know for sure" you know what you are doing,and have been at the hobby for a long time.

I feel you've known abouy my enthusiasm for this arm from past posts,just as you've mentioned, in times before this one, that you were unhappy with the bass from the arm.

I got it!

My point being,that as it is understandable,and viable,to take the older tables(like the Garrard etc)and try to get the most out of them(some folks re-wire/re-work an older "classic" pivot arm too),many have passed them by as well.Many speaker designs are also seeing a comeback,with new approaches to componentry.

As in the case of the Air Tangent,I had two friends owning the arm.I was much friendlier with Sid,who collaborated with friend B.
They were not so inclined to move past the initial loss of bass quality(not an accusation,btw)which was definitely there,in the stock arm!I'm sure you tried the options available to you.

As I've mentioned in past posts,about the arm(because I loved what it was ultimately able to allow a cartridge to retreive)BOTH Sid and friend B went to the extent of finding a significantly different pump.They scoped out "quite a few" before coming up with the final one.What can I say?It worked.Too many folks were as amazed as me!It does happen,from time to time!

This was expensive,and took up rediculous amounts of room.Not to mention the noise(it had to be in a different room,and in between two pillows,in a closet).You really had to laugh(in a good way)upon seeing this commitment(not unlike the things you currently do,which I love,btw).

Far more air pressure,and there were most likely other little tid bits,I was not privy to.These guys are as serious as you!

This was a "profound" improvement in bass and overall performance.It is "this" change(mostly) that made that arm as fabulous as the many folks who've heard it felt(some you probably know).It was consistantly confirmed that it was in another league,now.

I had always been bowled over by the organic quality of the LP reproduction,especially in the bass.

I like to bloviate about this(sorry),because I simply loved the system with it in use....but sadly it is gone.I don't think I am crazy....maybe a little -:)

Don't get me wrong.I'm not denying your impressions,but just as you go to the lengths to rework a crossover(it must be superb),others are willing to take some components to the max,as well.

In the case of the A/T I heard it too many times,in a very high res/full freq set-up to think I was dreaming -:)

THAT's one of the things that is so much fun about the hobby...you just never know for sure .....

What "Riply" stated would apply here.

Dear Sirspeedy: I respect your point of view but IMHO it is almost ridiculous try to compare the LT arm of your two friends ( the only ones in the world ) against stock pivots and stock other LT, specially with out having it in your own system.

+++++ " at the top of the food chain a pivoting arm and linear tracking arm are both great choices. There are many more great pivoting arm choices. If you get the right linear tracking arm and it's optimized for your turntable; it is very easy to live with. " +++++

IMHO there is no winner here.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul,who said there has to be any winner here?....You're reading too deeply into my comments,especially in lieu of my previous explanation of why I am enthused about "so much" of the componentry,and different approaches in the hobby.

Also,it is completely valid for me to appreciate the performance of "any" component in a friend's set-up,since I've heard it as much as my own system,and have had enough opportunities to compare to others.

BTW,I am not trying to compare any LTT arm with any pivot(I "DO" own a pivot,as you know).Where did you come to that conclusion?

All I am doing is giving my impressions about a particular LTT arm.Set up a specific way,which gave a contrary performance to well respected,likeable hobbyist's experience....I'm not trying to be argumentative at all(learned my lesson a long time ago) -:)

One of the "original" questions asks if LTT is superior to a unipivot?Being that I have owned and liked a few unipivots,and having a load of exposure to the AT/LTT(as set up in a system I knew well)I am offering an opinion that is contrary to Albert's...

My intent was to draw a similarity to other well known,but not always appreciated components,that some hobbyists "were" able to get "more" from.Like it's NOt possible?

No intent to denigrate anyone!!!!!I LOVE reading everyone's opinions,and personal experiences.

Just my own answer to "one" of the two original questions.Just my opinion,that...."I consider LTT superior"!

Btw,I can "easily" see how this can seem a bit defensive,on my part,so I'll just shut up and take my lumps should any come my way -:)

I think linear tracking is theoretically superior. However, it seems plain that, for whatever reasons, pivoting tomearm designs have more thoroughly exploited their inherent potential than their linear tracking counterparts so far have. It is entirely possible that some company could develop a $300 LTT that would make all of us forget about pivots.
But it's going to have to be funded by massive grant money as a senior thesis at Caltech or, more likely, some school in the third world. The probable market size for such a product is not going to inspire the venture capitalists.
In any case, it hasn't happened yet, and pivot still rules the roost among off-the-shelf offerings.
Dear Sirspeedy: Clear like water!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul,this is the "ONE" time(in almost ten months) that your "Enjoy The Music" signature expression may apply to me!

I "MAY" finally be close to getting my system operational again.Awaiting the updated pre/phonostage,and "another" new Phantom series II....

If you don't hear from me for awhile it will mean one of two things..

1- I am able to listen again,and am having fun voicing the st-up!

2- I am still having system problems,and have decided to shoot myself(or a particular mfgr,and dealer, both who'll remain nameless...."for the time being") -:)

Enjoy "your" music!
Dear Sirspeedy: Sounds great! ( 1 ).

regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, "Sounds great"(great sound) is something I haven't heard for a LONG time!...

If I'd had a simple answer to a basic question(from a clueless dealer),or a piece of info in the instruction sheets of a "new" product I got,I'd have had NO problems at all!!....

Of course the "issue" cause failure in other components,that I was able to turn into an upgrade,but the wife is "peeved",and thinks I ought to send the bill to the mfgr!

Of course this isn't something I'd do,yet ya just don't want to get the little woman too pissed off -:)

Best...enjoy your(and all others)music.