Well Tempered Reference Arm and Koetsu Rosewood Signature Combination


Does anyone out there have any experience using a Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge in a Well Tempered Reference arm?  I have this cartridge and arm which is mounted to a WT Classic 'table.  I know this arm classifies presumably as a low mass arm. I bought the cartridge with a few hundred hours on it (circa mid 90's) and since then the suspension went kaput (tracking at 2 grams). I am seriously having Koetsu rebuild it. I really liked the sound of it in the arm before the suspension went south. Is there a better choice out there today for the same/ less money, across the board on all accounts, and is better suited for this arm if that's the case? I want to stick with my a moving coil.  I remember back in the mid-80's a dealer back then let me borrow his Onyx Signature (pre-platinum) for a few months.  I NEVER forgot that sound. It rivaled or surpassed any CD as CDs were back then for sound and quietness. The greatest surprise (and let-down was when I had to give it back to the dealer and put my Dynavector Karat Ruby back in my Grace 909 arm. That's when my jaw fell on the floor. It was quite heartbreaking.

If anyone has any experience with the combo above please chime in.



Since no one has responded, I'll add my limited experience with a Koetsu RSP and my Technics tonearm.  For me, it was a matter of adding mass to the tonearm to get the cartridge - tonearm resonant frequency down to around 9 to 10 Hz.

Adding mass is easy, removing mass is not.  I do not know anything about your Well Tempered tonearm.  Good luck.
Dear statman71, What is your question?  What are you thinking of changing, the tonearm or the cartridge?  My own opinion, which is just an opinion, is negative as regards the WT Reference tonearm.  My negative opinion is based on its tendency to change azimuth as it traverses the surface of an LP, because the bearing does not stabilize it in the left to right or right to left directions of rotation about the axis of the arm wand.  Also, it is heavily damped in the vertical direction of movement.  Perhaps the damping of tonearm is putting stress on the suspension of your Koetsu. So, if I were to want to keep the Koetsu, I would get a different tonearm. But if you are using the WT tonearm on a WT turntable, that may be easier said than done.  There are a few "surface mount" tonearms that might work, like a Dynavector DV505, Triplanar, or Reed.  None of those is cheap.

Mass vs compliance is a whole other thing.  You say nothing about issues with bass response, resonance, etc, so I assume the effective mass of the WT Ref tonearm is not a gross mismatch with the (low) compliance of the Koetsu.

Reply to lewm,

Thanks for you comments. In my post I left out a key word and that is, I meant to say that I am seriously considering having Koetsu rebuild it.
Let me point out that a WTRef arm tube has no bearing. It is also mounted to a WT Classic table. The pivot end of the arm has a shaft going from it down to a round paddle which is immersed in a cup of silicone fluid. As the for the azimuth, I would only occasionally need to tweak it in. It wasn't always going out of adjustment. Per my post, before the suspension wore out (?? read on), I was fairly content with sound in almost all aspects except bass output. This is a well-used cartridge with many hours on it when I bought it. I always remember the bass from that Onyx Signature that I had in my Grace arm (which had double gimbal bearings) way back then which was probably due, in part, to the cart. being mounted in that arm and not a WT. I think I may agree with you on the heavy damping in the vertical direction. I should be able to lower the damping by decreasing the depth at which the paddle sits in the silicone cup.This is done by turning the cup (which is threaded)  x turns or partial turn so that the paddle sits higher in the fluid. I'm just remembering this now as I type that I have this feature in the arm and need to experiment. This may be causing the cantilever to collapse perhaps(?). I will check this and try it out. I not very keen on shelling out for a Graham or Dynavector arm.

To answer your original question,  I would like to know if I could keep my WTRA and spend the $$ on the rebuild and tweak in this set-up OR keep the arm and with another cartridge more suited for this arm? I've read on another blog that a some Koetsu enthusiasts listened to old Rosewood Sigs  made by Koetsu senior and  newer stone Platinums by the son and the older ones sounded much better that the newer. They mentioned the bass was always deficient on them (which I disagree with in terms of the  stone Koetsus). What's your experience with Koetsu, if any, and opinion on this point? Looking at the gamut of decent to very good  MC cartridges out there, it seems the rebuild is priced about the same or less than most of them. 

Thanks again, 


Statman71, I’m going through some similar questions as you have posted. I also own a WTA ’Black’ version. The arm is excellent in most areas. Matching it up to a Koetsu is also a question in my mind. I think that the answer is that the Koetsu will work well in the arm, BUT you will still have a lighter weight bass response. ( My guess). Due, i suspect, to the fact that the arm seems to be a limiting factor ( somewhat ) with deep bass response. Possibly I would guess due to the low mass of the arm tube. OTOH, the arm is a real champ in the imaging dept ( I believe due to the liquid bearing...no bearing noise whatsoever!) and i suspect will outclass most arms in that area. So, what is the solution? I would certainly consider having the Koetsu re-built and then seeing what you think of the SQ. I use and am pretty happy with a Benz...they have a similar sound to Koetsu’s, although depending on model...perhaps a little less able in the mids??? Tough question...and no easy answer.
 I have a well tempered arm and at first I agreed with Lewm regarding azimuth. Since then I have fiddled with things and experimented with differing amounts of fluid and I believe I have things working well. I just absolutely love the arm now! I have a Lyra helikon  on it and things have never sounded this good! The bass is very deep and tight.  Things just sounds very musical and right.  
 I believe my lira has a compliance of 12 but unfortunately I have no experience or knowledge of the Koetsu's 
Speaking to azimuth and the original Well Tempered turntables Player, Classic, and Reference models. The platers have a slightly concave record surface. Along with a an assortment of threaded record clamps the combination is intended to address warped LPs to some degree by preloading the disc from the outer edge downward at the spindle.

The Classic and Reference forked arms are equipped with anti-skate and azimuth on the fly adjustability. Using the Fosgate Fozgometer and the Clearaudio azimuth test record its simple to get a reasonably accurate azimuth setting.

In my experience the fly in the ointment is the irregularity in the thickness of the vinyl in the label area and weather or not the clamp is all the way down. This can affect the Fozgometer reading slightly. Audibly, I'm unable to hear the difference.

Another observation. I've found changing the tonearm cup fluid with 100,000 cst polydimethylsiloxane fluid from Turntable Basics at least yearly has had a noticeably audible affect. Two 10ml syringes should be enough for the job if the paddle is properly located.  

I have no experience with the Koetsu. I've had Benz Micro Wood Lo and the 10.7 gram Ruby Z, compliance 15, tracking at 1.9 grams.

IMO the biggest improvement in LP playback is ultrasonic record cleaning.  

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade.  If you like the WT Reference tonearm, that's fine.  But I do take issue with the bit of propaganda put forth by WT to the effect that it has "no bearing".  Because it pivots, it MUST have a bearing, by the very definition of the word.  It's fair to say that it does have a very novel bearing, the likes of which is found nowhere else.  Whether that makes it a great bearing in terms of function is where I might disagree with its adherents.  Also, I am not including the Amadeus tonearm in my comments, because I never worked with an Amadeus.  On the Reference tonearm that I did use, the azimuth could be seen visually to change as the tonearm traversed the surface of the LP; I don't think that is desirable.  If that is not happening with yours, that's great.

I have a Koetsu Urushi which is a modern product of the company and therefore almost certainly was not made by the senior Sugano.  I like it a lot.  Since one can never hope to buy a Koetsu made by the father, why worry about the difference between the old and the new, at all?  I would judge the cartridges based on what they are now, and in doing so I would ignore the testimony of those who say the cartridges made by the elder are so wonderful.  A lot of cognoscenti seem to love the stone-bodied Koetsus, albeit they are very expensive.
Lewm, regarding the Well Tempered forked tonearm I, for one, understand and agree with your point regarding the semantics around the word bearing.

My concern is the issue that would have allowed you to visually notice a change in azimuth as well as the over damping. A few things that come to mind:
If the plane of the paddle was too far out of relationship with the cartridge mounting surface this might have created an azimuth issue. I've seen arm wands that have spun within the paddles T support which cause this. If the paddle had contacted any part of the cup during its arc across the LP it would have caused similar problems. 

A difference in vinyl thickness and or a variability in how the record was clamped down to the platters concave could have been viewed as a misadjusted azimuth. This is one of my personal dissatisfactions with the early Well Tempered system.

Over time the viscosity of  the tonearm damping fluid increases which is just as unnoticeable as the wear of a vacuum tube. The difference isn't noticed until its been replaced. Some have used the much more viscous platter cup fluid in the tonearm cup. Some have even admitted to using automotive additives for these fluids. 

In any case there may have been an issue with the setup of your Well Tempered tonearm. All the best with your current collection of spinners, very nice.
The WTR in question was not mine. It belonged to a very close friend who lived in my area. He purchased it way back in the 90s for its list cost of nearly $10K. In his later years, he developed dementia. When his symptoms were still rather mild, I went to his house to help him mount a new cartridge. It was at this juncture that I noticed the problems with azimuth, excessive damping, etc. Prior to the onset of his illness, he was a very knowledgeable audiophile with an engineering background. I doubt that he mistreated the tonearm, but it is fair to say that I did not have continuing use of the WTR tonearm and so cannot say whether it was in tiptop operating status when I played with it. Sadly, I doubt that he ever got to use it again, even after I helped him with setting up his new cartridge that evening.

I should add that I "heard" the WTR many times at the home of my friend, over many years when he still had all his faculties.  He owned 6000 LPs.  My overall impression was that it made most LPs sound "good" or "pleasant". Perhaps this state of grace could be described as euphony.

To lewm's point:

The 'bearing' in either the original WT arm or the WT Reference arm or any of the current WTLab arms amounts to an arm tube and paddle assembly suspended by two mono-filament lines (fishing line) which are immersed in a cup of silicone fluid. This assembly acts as the
'pivot' point. I think I determined that having a Koetsu Sig, is more the culprit than the arm, reading several other commentary on this cartridge and going to Koetsus which have platinum magnets will make a difference in bass output.

To m-dB's point:

I remedied the WTT concave platter issue by going to my local hardware store (Do It Best) and spending a grand total of ~$1.29 (?) for a rubber (pliable) disc about the diameter of a 45rpm adaptor and ~2-3mm thick which just happened to fit perfectly in the center silver spindle area of the platter (on Classic table). No cutting to size required.  This effectively elevates LP label to just at (or VERY near) the same height the record is at at the outer edge of the platter.  Consequently, when I tighten the record clamp down, the vinyl is not oil-canned in at the label area (which would cause skating problems otherwise.   

As just a regular old guy with an Amadeus GTA (mk 1) , who may want to return to Koetsu, any thoughts on the synergy??? (-:


From another regular old guy... I would say that using that arm with a Koetsu might work out ok as long as it is a Platinum and not a signature because as I found out, reading around the web, the Signatures can't play the frequency extremes regardless of the arm it's in which I found to be quite the truth. The platinum cartridges also have the platinum magnets which are bigger and produce another 200uV of output. I'm not too familiar with the Amadeus but I just read the literature on it at the WTLabs website and Bill Firebaugh says that the golf ball cannot be submerged in the silicone fluid more than 30%.  In my WTRef arm that equates to no more than just over the paddle, otherwise the arm will be way too damped and cause the cantilever to really bend (with a VTF of 1.8g). I would submerge it only a little. As I've read elsewhere on the 'Gon and elsewhere,  I agree with 100ohms of loading. I tried several values between 33 and 1K and it seems 100 ohms to best for what I want to hear. -Statman71

To the elderly but well tempered. Wishing you all a fine Holiday. Whether you end up in that semi-comatose state of being that we've been practicing our entire lives to do elegantly. Or you fall back on the, 'I'm old WTF do you expect,' All the best!

statman71, "2-3mm rubber disk"? Thanks for the tip, I'm down like four flat tires to try this. I'm not familiar with Do It Best hardware, I'll try the internet-but do you recall what department you found this material in?   

Statman71- Thanks for those Stats (-:  I just heard the Rosewood SIG (non-Platinum), and while it wasn't great at the frequency extremes, there is this organic, involving quality that is addictive. I have owned in the past, both a Rosewood (non-SIG), and RSP. The latter was indeed better at the frequency extremes, and quieter in the grooves. I do follow Mr. Firebaugh's suggestion with regard to how much damping the Golf Ball should have. I run an Amadeus (standard MDF plinth), and a GTA now, and would love to return to Koetsu. The thought is even though the arm is low-med mass, maybe because of the damping, it would work well. Cheers -Don 

I've had the original WT table since it was first introduced. There's tons of mods you can make to it to improve SQ.  Here's one of the best of the mods ... Get a new custom belt from:


Everything improves ... better dynamics, bass, mids and top end. 

Thanks oregonpapa, I appreciate that. I am not sure this would be the right move with the string (filament) belt on the Amadeus. I will check with Mike P on that though. Does the Classic series use the thin string belt like the Amadeus tables? 
I had an original Well Tempered Arm and used it with a Koetsu Black Gold Line and the combination was marvelous. That was back in the day when the arm came out and the Well Tempered Turntable had not yet been invented.

Life comes full circle and six months ago I aquired another original Well Tempered Arm, this time with a SOTA Sapphire. I’m using it with a Klipsch/Hibino MCZ-7 Boron and a Kiseki Purple Heart Sapphire. Great sound, though I do find myself listening to my LP12 a bit more, though my system is more sympathetic to that table.
If your azimuth drifts on an original WT arm--the one with a paddle, not a golf ball--check to make sure the screw that holds the paddle securely in place is tight. It is a bit of a pain because it is underneath the paddle in the silicone. I speak from experience :-)