Graham 2.2 or even the older version are much better arm than the VPI.
Other excellent top-class tonearm will be the SME V tonearm.
Other excellent top-class tonearm will be the SME V tonearm.
IMO, the Graham is better than the 10.5. I think that the Origin Live Illustrious would be the best arm for either of them. Followed by the Origin Live Encounter. Then either the SME V or Origin Live Silver. I think that the Benz would be a better match on the Graham or the JMW, and the Helikon would be better on the arms I mentioned. I feel that the Graham 2.2 is the best unipivot, and the OL are the best gimbal-bearing arms.
It is not appropriate to claim 'best gimball bearing arm'...etc, unless one heard them all, plus the fact that tonearm is part of the equation between cartridge, mechanical setup, turntable, a lot of variants in the equation.
The OL arm may be OK, but how can you know it is better than Rega RB1000, Wheaton VI, Schroeder, Immedia, etc?
Unipivot, the AudioCraft AC-3300, has a hybrid design, with a new implementation of 'Dualpivot'. The Naim Aro, could also sound a lot more musical, and the Moerch....
There is also another extremely rare arm, the Breuer Type 8, and the Type 7 which has the stylus/bearing/counterweight at exactly the same plane. Have you heard a Breuer?
In fact, on very heavy table with plinth that can take massive energy transfer, a gimbal bearing could sound very good, but on a less massive table, a unipivot by decoupling the effect of plinth to the cartridge, could be better.
OL/Rega design with minimal arm base, and a very stiff energy parth, required a very stiff and tightly coupled plinth design (Rega P9, for example), hence, they may not be optimize say, on a VPI TNT.
I agree the Graham is the best of these. I owned three versions of it before moving up to the Walker turntable and it's linear tracking arm.
Interesting that Extremephono mentions the arms he does. Not only have I heard most of these, I officially brought Breuer into the United States from Lucerne (his home in Switzerland) in the late 1970's.
Last I spoke with him, he had moved on to manufacturing large format cameras and still later I understand another company took over the business and is now manufactured in another facility.
I still have many photographs of Breuer at his work table. My favorite taken in the failing light of day, just before we all left for dinner. The photo includes my wife looking on intently as he puts the finishing touches on the tonearm I hand carried back home with me.
After that, I imported at least a dozen more of these high end tone arms, most with his special flycut heavy counter balance and as many of his custom built moving coil cartridges to match. These cartridges began life as an EMT, then fitted with custom aluminum cantilever and a modified line contact diamond he had manufactured by Van Den Hul in Holland.
The Graham is a masterpiece in today's world and can perform with incredible resolution when set up properly. Which I might add is near impossible without a lot of experience.
Hi Sid (and everyone)...I did the test on both my cartridgers....Here we go! FIRST please understand...I am an tech "no-no". I can only listen well. Set up and adjustments must be very easy for me so that is key. Anyway: The Benz m2 passed #6.....on #7 is started to hum....so we know that was not good. Off went the cartridge and arm wand and on to the Helikon (here is where TWL will smile). When I put to stylus on track #6 the cartridge went sailing to the spindle. Yep!! Then I put on an album (MECO Star Wars album- great album and lots of fun)...well towards the end the cartridge started to skip...So if figured an anti-skate problem...... I go and twist the arm-cable and I try it again. OK it works....The I put on the HR-Test record...Well this time it stayed in the groove...but #6 hummed!!!!!
The funny thing is that on regular records, both cartridges sounds fantastic?
So this is why I am now considering a new arm or table or cartridge or all three. I plan to go to a dealer today and try the HR record there....I just want to make sure there is a set up that can negotiate these tracks....
Anyway........Can some one tell me (KISS-keep it simple((stupit)) what measurement numbers I should look for in an arm and cartridge that matches...in other words high compliance (what is the number????) High or low mass arms (what numbers indicate that) what cartridges work best with what arms??? TWL, you were very helpful, but I am unfamiliar with the Origin line and more familiar with VPI and Graham...so I lean towards them (but interested in your suggestion). I also love the idea that I can change arm wands on the VPI and (I believe ) the Graham. The VPI can also adjust VTA easily...(can the Graham??) Albert, your last comment about the Graham scared me.......!
Thanks all for your support and advice and I look forward to your comments....you have always been very, very helpful!!
Rwd, I think the Graham is a fine arm, and is worthy of your choice, if you want to stay with a unipivot. It is IMO, the most stable of the unipivots, and has a much better chance of performing with these low compliance cartridges. It is pricey, but has a wonderful performance record.
If you wanted to try an OL Illustrious, I would bet that a OL dealer would be accomodating, in providing one for evaluation. They do not have much exposure, and the dealers would likely be happy to let you try one out. You would have to get an arm mounting board that is suitable for it from VPI, to try it out however. I think that they use the same cutout as the Rega arms. Perhaps an OL dealer that also carries VPI would have one of these along with the arm. That could make it possible for you to try one of these out on your table and compare it to the Graham. I would be very interested in hearing about a comparison like this, using the Helikon. If you decide to try this, please let us know about your impressions.
The other thing I would like to mention, is that the Helikon is known to have some tracking issues, and may never track as well as the Benz, no matter what the arm. It is also known to be a little "lean" in the bass, and harmonic structure, which may be exacerbated by the unipivots, of which none have the bass response comparing with something like the SME V or Origin Live arms. So I am additionally concerned that pairing the Helikon with a unipivot will be "leaner" in bass response than it would in other arms. If your system has any tendency towards "lean-ness" of bass, or "brightness", at all, this may not be the best combination of products for you. The Graham is better in this aspect, but it will not equal the bass response of something like the SME V. Unipivots excel at midrange and some in the high end also. Bass response is not their strong point. Pairing them with a "lean" cartridge is potentially problematic for this reason. With a Graham arm, I think that a ZYX R-100FS Fuji would be an excellent combination. The Fuji has a higher compliance that would stress the arm less, and has better overall frequency balance, better detail, more delicate, and costs about the same as a Helikon. And does not have the tracking issues of the Helikon, nor the "lean" tonal balance. This would be something to try out, IMO.
So I recommend the Graham arm and ZYX Fuji as one possible combination. And the Origin Live Illustrious and a Shelter 901 as another combination. One is a unipivot combo, the other a gimbal bearing combo. I believe that either of these combinations will noticeably exceed the performance you have gotten thus far. Each of these combinations is properly matched for resonance and compliance suitabilty, and will perform at, or very near, the best possible performance from any analog arm/cart combos. One of the OL dealers advertising on Audiogon, is a OL and Shelter dealer.
Thank you ALL for your advice.....
First off, Sid, I can't recall how many times I twisted the arm wire but it is now in a non looped or curved design (I assume this is what VPI want it to look like?)? Anyway, I tried track 6 and it worked.....Track 7 did not.
As to TWL's comments, my system is a bit warm and has deep base so I think we can go with the Graham/Helikon. I will, however, investigate the Origin arm that you suggested.
I do have another question to you all...I believe Basis is coming out with their own arm (Vector????) anyone know anything about this????
I have another question, but will probably start another thread on it tonight (got to go Christmas shopping)!!!!
The JMW is a very good arm, much better than any arm I have used before. Vinyl play back technologies have really advanced in recent years. The behavior of the Helikon that we experienced, especially the track skipping on 8, seems to indicate that the Helikon may have reached its tracking limit. I am not sure how much improvement a new arm will bring. The Graham is a super arm, no doubt, but it might not be able to give Helikon the ultimate tracking that you are looking for.
Having said that, I want to make a point for the readers who are on the fence thinking about getting into vinyl. You might be wondering what the hack these guys are doing. How come a $6000 TT setup cant even track a test LP? How much money do I need to spend to get a decent system? I want to tell you that those test tracks were recorded at pretty high levels. Very few vinyls were recorded that loud. I have a few hundred records in my collections, so far I have played about 100, most of them were from the 70s, some were new recordings and remasters I recently bought, and none of them showed any tracking problem.
It might be psychologically satisfying to know that my Helikon could sail through all the test tracks with easy, but I am not going to worry about it until the upgrade bug bites. For now, I just want to kick back and enjoy the music. I still have a lot of LPs to clean; they have been locked up in the basement for over a decade.
Sidssp, you make a very good point. Those test records are designed to be just that. Test records. They have more torturous stuff on them than you will most likely encounter in normal playing. The gauge is to find where your system fails, not to make it play every cut on the test. When you find out how far you can get on the test, it lets you know the relative capabilites of the rig, in terms of maximum stress.