What defines a good tonearm

I'm in the market for a very good tonearm as an upgrade from an SME 345 (309). Most of the tonearms I have used in the past are fixed bearing except for my Grace 704 unipivot. I dont have a problem with the "wobble" of a unipivot, and they seem the simplest to build, so if they are generally at least as good as a fixed pivot, why wouldnt everyone use a unipivot and put their efforts into developing easier vta, azimuth and vtf adjustments, and better arm materials. Or is there some inherent benefit to fixed pivot that makes them worth the extra effort to design and manufacture
For something a little different check out the Trans-fi terminator arm at trans-fi.com.
Synergy with the TT its mounted on.
Merriam Webster
Back when men were men and vacuum tubes ruled, the turntable/arm/cartridge setup separated the audiophiles from the mere consumer/wannabes. The hair shirts among us dared liner trackers and air bearings. Pickering even ventured a magnetically levitated turntable. Now you propose to simplify and rationalize the ultimate spiritual audiophile endeavor. Shame!
Synergy with the turntable is an interesting subject. Would someone care to elaborate?
"Back when men were men" is even more interesting subject but this forum is probably not the appropriate place to discuss it.
But we could discuss 'when women were women' in relation to synergy etc.
Synergy, adjustability and ease of set up.

And sheep were nervous?
Now that you mention it my wife and my tonearm have a lot in common. Both take a lot of maintenance and are fiddly to get just right but the results are well worth it. A great deal of synergy but adjustability and ease of set up? Not so much.
For a serious answer I have found that the execution of the particular arm is more important than the design principal chosen. Conventional arms, unipiviot arms, linear tracking arms, etc can all sound great [ or not!]. Every design principal has strengths and weaknesses and great designers can maximize the first and minimize the second. If one design principal were clearly better then we would not still see the variety of arms we do. Unless of course audiophiles were just mindlessly searching for novelty and the latest thing regardless of sound quality; what a ridiculous thought!
And I guess thats my point. I mean, there are DIY unipivot arms on the web using knitting needles with material costs under $5.00 that are being touted as being more than acceptable, so how much more does it cost to make a great unipivot that is priced at $5,000.00. I know they are beautiful, and the workmanship is superb, and they have adjustability and all that, but if unipivot is the answer, why bother with the difficulty of building a fixed bearing design. Or is there some deficiency in unipivots that the fixed bearing is trying to fix.
I remember using a Pickering table that had a unipiviot arm consisting of a large steel needle which fit into the bottom of a plastic cup on the tonearm. Did it work? Sure. Did it sound like modern arms? Hell no! The question is , what do YOU find acceptable! Just because it is a unipiviot does not mean that it the equal of a GOOD unipiviot. My Graham arm is a unipiviot and cost considerably more then $5, as do the VPIs that I am a dealer for. If you cannot hear the difference between arms then get the cheapest one you can. If you can get the best you can afford. No one can prove to you using logic that a good tonearm is a necessity, only your ears can tell you the answer. I am constantly amazed by what SOME of the DIYers think is acceptable; others are among the most sophisticated of audiophiles. Many of the expensive arms on the market were designed by individuals who were dissatisfied with the commercially available ones, starting with SME and on through Graham, Basis, etc. I am a great believer in saving money but an even greater believer in good sound; just like in every other sphere in life, while money is no guarantee of quality, good costs more than bad when everything is taken into consideration.
I'll vote with Sgunther for the Trans-Fi Terminator and submit the following list as ideal criteria for a tonearm:

1. Linear tracker for perfect tangency. It's disingenuous to suggest that small errors in tangency of pivot arms are of neglible significance. If this were so there would be no market for 12" arms. IIRC, extrapolating from a Bob Graham paper, the average percentage reduction in tracking angle error in going from a 12" arm to a linear arm, is greater than the reduction in error in going from a 9" arm to a 12" arm. You can hear this difference.

2. Low pressure soft air bearing(1-2 psi) eliminates bearing chatter created by air turbulence in high-pressure bearings of Kuzma, Walker, etc.

3. Wand is mechanically coupled by point bearings to a moveable carriage of sufficient mass to absorb excess cartridge body energy, while still being completely isolated from external plinth vibrations on an air cushion.

3. Separately adjustable vertical and horizontal inertial mass accomodates cartridges of widely varying compliance. As close as it can be to a universal tonearm.

4. Short wand for maximum stability and neglible mechanical resonance associated with wand composition. On this arm I've tried short wands using various custom wood, alloy, and carbon fiber constructions-- they all sound very close in character. Arms like Reed suggest that comparing woods is like choosing a golf club. The short arm takes this sport out of the equation-- which some owners may miss. The short wands are cheap and swappable--avoiding the mechanical impedance barrier introduced by removeable headshells or detachable arm wands.

5. Uninterrupted shielded wiring from cartridge pins to phono stage-- minimal signal degredation and virtual elimination of RFI/EMI issues. Anyone who has tried uninterupted wiring will also discover that many hum problems are introduced at the mechanical junctions of wiring. The best solution is to get rid of the junctions.

Most of the above points are outside the common vocabulary of discussion about tonearms. The only quibble concerns the matter of the short 2" wand. Since the Trans-Fi's short flat wand can be loaded for variable inertial mass in both horizontal and vertical planes, the issue is not about the short wand's dynamic behavior in combination with cartridge compliance. The matter boils down to changes in geometry over warps. IMO putting this little point aside, the Trans-Fi is the least burdened of any tonearm by the theoretical compromises that lead most designers to increasingly elegant and expensive workarounds.

Don't misunderstand me, I think the ingenuity and craftsmanship that goes into something like a triplanar or graham or schroeder or any of the other high end arms is well worth the money spent. Much like sophisticated medical or lab equipment, these low volume works of machine art are expensive to create and duplicate. This isnt stamping a shape out of a piece of tin, but real machineing of different metals pieced together to form a working product.
My question is more why is there two basic lines of thought on how to make a pivoted tonearm. Either unipivot or captured bearing and what is the inherent deficiency in each that the other is trying to fix.
My assumption is that a unipivot is more free to move in all directions, and is therefore more likely to track the groove accurately. I also assume that a captured bearing is less likely to allow a cartridge to chatter or bounce around outside where it is supposed to be. And then we have the Townshend silicone trough to damp all this motion, which does seem to work from my experience, although I havent tried it with a unipivot.
Is it your opinion that either of the two pivoting tonearm types is the right answer, and that the other type, while it can be made to sound great, has an inherent impediment to perfection, if that was achievable.
I think we had a similar thread which was deleted. Unfortunately, because it had everything, from the idea of an enthusiast with a knife in the left hand and a piece of wood in the right one up to engineered knowledge about geometry.
but whenever someone feels to make something, analog equipment is the future.
Personally I like those who did not sleep the last 5 years because they made research to serve the discriminated Audiophile. Unfortunately they don't do it for free. A pity.
All mechanical systems have deficiencies and designers take different paths to alleviate them. I disagree with your major premiss that one or the other arm designs MUST be superior to the other; the critical part of your statement is "if that were achievable". It is not! We do not live in Plato's ideal world but in one where the ideal does not exist. I have had , sold, set up , more arms than I can possibly remember and found that there are good arms of all major types. Worrying about which arm more closely approaches the IDEAL arm is much less fruitful than simply listening and deciding which one reproduces music in the way you think it should be reproduced.
That would also be Plato's ideal that we could all just sit around and have all this equipment available to audition and make our own decision. We dont. So another option is just to keep buying $4000 tonearms until we find one we like, but we will never know until we try them all, and then something new will come along. This thread was an attempt to narrow that focus down.
I am perfectly happy with the SME 345 I use now, and my system gives me the best sound I have ever heard. But I have to assume that it isnt the best sound available or even the best available for the amount of my investment. But since I am happy with the rest of my system, I was looking to upgrade my tonearm/cartridge starting with the tonearm.
And my premise is based on no two things ever being equal, so one must, by definition, be better than the other. Now, what is "better" is another question, but certainly there must be certain design parameters that are attempted for all tonearms, and each design accomplishes those goals differently than the other, with each having tradeoffs. My question is simply, which one comes closest to the ideal, mechanical and physical goal and why?
I repeat, there is no "best" arm. Attempting to judge sound quality by design parameters is impossible; what you are apparently searching for is a way to objectify a subjective judgement. If you like your present arm keep it until you hear something better or know why you are dissatisfied with it. Again your major premiss is wrong; there are not "certain design parameters that are attempted by all tonearms"; there is violent disagreement about pivot design, arm mass, straight line tracking vs pivoted and a myriad of other elements. There is a voluminous literature on all this that you can read at your leisure. The statement that if two things are different from each other then one must by definition be better is meaningless; the meaning of "better" will depend on external factors not defined. Ordinarily a million dollars is "better" than 10 gallons of water but not if you are lost in the desert.
Sorry Stanwal. I dont buy your argument. So I guess we can agree to disagree
Manitunc asked,
"My question is simply, which one comes closest to the ideal, mechanical and physical goal and why?"

A linear tracking arm, because it tracks the groove perfectly.
If the first 100db suck, why continue?
I can only assume that you attended a school where the works of Aristotle still held pride of place.For most argument by definition is no longer valid.
I'm with Stan.

Having done this for 50+ years, I'm convinced there is no "best" tonearm. To think otherwise is quite short-sighted IMO.

I do, however, believe that some tonearms perform best with certain cartridges. One example is the Graham Phantom/Lyra Titan i combo. Absolutely killer. OTOH, in some tonearms the Titan i performs less than optimally due to the incredible energy it generates.


Dealer disclaimer
I am not asking for what is the "best" tonearm, as that is a much too subjective question, as the responses in any thread you look at on this forum would reveal. I simply believe that there are certain goals that all tonearm designers are trying to achieve, and since they are using different means to achieve those goals, they are likely to have different degrees of success. And certain of those common goals might be more difficult to achieve with certain design choices than others.
Any designer knows that when they chose a certain design theory, they are accepting that they have to deal with the inherent weaknesses in that theory and their ultimate success depends on how well they deal with those inherent weaknesses.

My original question was intended to be limited to pivoted arms, not parallel tracking arms as those design limitations are generally much different than pivoted designs, as Acoustat6 points out. I have an ET2 that I can use if I want to go that route.
Again, my original post was asking if there was some inherent benefit to a fixed pivot design that makes it worth the perceived extra effort required to design and construct them. It seems most of the more recent high end tonearms are unipivots or some variation thereof.

If the Titan generates a lot of energy, would it not be a good candidate for something like the Townshend Rock silicone trough headshell damping system? My use of that trough with other cartridges seems to result in a much cleaner, smoother sound than without.
If you have an ET 2 then you allready have the best tonearm. Any other questions, just ask.
Dear Manitunc, To respond to the closest thing to an answerable question that you have posed, with a unipivot there are issues related to not only adjusting azimuth but also maintaining a constant azimuth across the surface of an LP. The Graham and Talea unipivots have addressed this issue, but it is an issue nevertheless. With a unipivot one also has the question of the stability of the bearing. Excess vibrations disseminated from the cartridge could cause the arm wand to rattle, causing bearing "chatter". Many unipivots use some form of damping to eliminate or ameliorate this phenomenon. On the other hand, with a fixed bearing tonearm, there are issues related to bearing friction, maintaining constant friction over time, etc. Like someone else said, I have become convinced that execution of the design, not the nature of the design, is the major determinant of the performance of the tonearm. But this is pretty obvious, so I am not sure what you want to talk about in this thread.
i'm convinced that of pivoted arms, only a unipivot has the potential to work ideally. that's because anything not a unipivot will always be fighting itself to travel the groove correctly.

as always, reaching a theoretical potential is challenging, and a gimbaled arm might be enough better executed to surpass a less than optimal unipivot with more theoretical upside.

after observing the development process of the unipivot Talea 1 and 2 in the company of the Rockport linear tracker, and the Reed, among other gimbaled arms....there is absolutely no doubt that unipivot will rule the roost as time goes by....if not already.

all the issues of any cartridge instability in a unipivot will be overcome completely.

as far as defining a good tonearm, it's simple.

a good tonearm is one where you don't hear any tonearm effects, just music. all the tonearm distortion is gone.
lewm and Mikelavigne

Thanks, finally a response that answers my question. I do believe that a unipivot has the most potential, and now that the azimuth issues are being addressed, I expect they will only get better. It seems to be an elegant, simple solution to most of the issues related to a tonearm pivot. It seems the used of magnets to control azimuth is smart one. Doesnt the Schroeder do that? I also like the idea of the ball bearing pyrimad unipivot that I saw once, but cant remember if it was a helius or benech design.

So, thanks for the responses.
Well, in Tonearm Geometry two Problems have to be solved, the complicated ones and the simple ones.. the complicated ones for example Mass in correlation to Cartridge Compliance, standing waves in the Arm and what to do to avoid them,
The Bearing, Damping, skating compensation, the used wire inside, soldering....but nobody talks about the "simple" Problems like Geometry (the right Geometry!), the interaction from that in combination to tracking distortions...the modern Audiophile thinks, when he has the money to buy a tonearm he automatically gets a perfect Product..well, this is probably the mistake of his audiophile Life. Most today is copied from something, made cheap, sometimes wrong but always served with a high price and a nice finish. Arch Angle is for most "Designers" much too complicated, a top bearing much to expensive and "dynamically balanced Design" is in general a big question mark...but it is important enough that minimizing Tracking Errors is mainly based on that.
The "secret" is in reality no secret, B. Bauer and Dr. Seagrave analyzed the influence between Arm Geometry and resulting distortion of it in 1941, it is valid until today.
Another important view is, for what "Nulls" is the Arm calculated? Close to the last track, far away from it, or even close to the last grooves in the last track? There also also huge differences which shows the user that his modern Arm works great with reissues or records after 1990...but get problems when listening to old Mercury Living Presence LP's. Some Arms simply can't be adjusted properly, but the User will never discover it (the only judgement he can or will do is based on "when I like what I hear then it is good") Doing right geometry is same from costs than doing wrong but when the knowledge is simply not existing what can we expect? The Diamond touches both side walls from the groove, when there is something not absolutely precise, you get a time shifting in the channel reproduction, result is, the details are smearing. you hear that not with a female singer in the middle, but you can hear that easily with older classical records which have huge dynamic swings in parts of a second. And you can't correct it with Azimuth adjustments or similar, the error is in the geometry. This is the reason why some Arms sail through everything and some not.
Some Arms are calculated that they only work with cartridges which have a cantilever length based on that Design, some Arms have nothing, they have a so called "Do-whatever-you-want-Geometry" and all have their Fangroups.
Another interesting chapter is the development from vibration removal and what the result of that is...lot of knowledge is gone (real knowledge, not blabbering), today we have wood tubes which can be bought for $65 in music shops and the drill for it is another 15,--. Cocobolo, Cherry or whatever, nice polish, touched from a Music "enthusiast", kissed before sending it...For some this is good enough. The grail.
For some. Not all.

But even when done all right, do we hear it?
A good question, after 15 years I think, hardly or no. The real money or brain from the Designer is in the reproduction of high frequencies (the ultra silent signals which can open another window in the sonic puzzle). Most Phonostages can't do that anyway (they need a damping to avoid pain in the ears of the listner), most Turntables are not good enough from isolation and most Speakers go into clipping with higher frequencies based on mediocre chassis. This is one reason why average units become a rating to be a Standard. Even when you compare it, it is possible you will never detect it. It is like a bottleneck. This shifting of overall balance (idler fans call it PRaT) is in reality a loss, which is compensated in a different frequency areas (Bass for example). And that is what we have today. The compensation from something "weak" with this or that. At the end of day you can roll a dice, too.
Dear Mike,
You wrote, "anything not a unipivot will always be fighting itself to travel the groove correctly". I don't get that. Can you elaborate? IMO, the "issues" facing unipivot design are precisely those related to the possibility that the bearing allows movement in all possible planes. In a "perfect" pivoted tonearm, if one existed, some of this movement has to be completely prevented, e.g., you don't want the cartridge to "roll" on its axis with respect to azimuth as it traverses the LP. Yet this is precisely what happens with poorly designed and even some highly regarded unipivots. (I don't quite know how to classify the WT tonearms or the Schroeder, but I think of them as a variant of the unipivot. The WT tonearms do exhibit this instability of azimuth. Never saw a Schroeder in action.) Restricting tonearm movement to two planes, vertical and horizontal, is much more easily done with a fixed-bearing tonearm, not to say that is the only path to Nirvana.

Dear Syntax, In fairness to those of us who do like an idler turntable now and then and who also dislike the term "PRaT", I think the term was coined by Ivor Tifenbrun (sp?) with respect to the Linn LP12, which of course is a belt-drive.
hi Lew,

my perspective is that the most significant percieved and discussed weakness of a unipivot is actually it's biggest advantage, which is the freedom to wiggle. it is the micro and nano wiggling following the groove unimpeded that gives it the advantage over a fixed/gimbaled bearing pivoted arm which on the micro and nano level cannot follow the groove as well.

to take full advantage of the conceptual and theoretical advantages of unipivot is an engineering hill to climb. but along the way to the top of that hill i think the very best unipivots have already passed the best fixed/gimbaled arms.

i do think that 'back in the pack' it's hard to choose from different design approaches as execution is more significant than concept......and there are so many varibles in arm construction.

but at the cutting edge it's unipivot and then everything else.
So Mikelavigne, what do you think is the current state of the art in unipivot arms and why? And Lewm, the same question to you for fixed pivot arms. And is there an arm in either camp that you think gets it all wrong. These last few posts have been very helpful.

Part of the problem I see, as a hobbyist, is that we never get to hear what can ultimately be achieved by our systems. We only get what we think is the best our systems will provide and whether we like it or not. I guess that's why I do put some faith in reviewers like Fremer just because he has had the opportunity to hear the best, set up by the designer or factory tech, so he has some frame of reference as to what can be achieved, to compare to the item under review. Now of course, he has his biases, just like we all do, but he has a frame of reference that I could never have. So posts like yours are how I learn.
I am of course reluctant to start a new 'war' but our 'own' Raul and Dertonarm must have some very interesting ideas about this subject matter. They should be able to enlighten pros and contras of the unipivot, the usual steel bearings or the jewel kind of bearings. Not to mention the knife kind for obvious reasons.

So Mikelavigne, what do you think is the current state of the art in unipivot arms and why?

ok. but first, a caution that i'm an observer of performance and maybe even process, but really no technical guy at all. like anyone that is around all this nice gear i have some level of understanding of cause and effect but only 'some'. so me telling someone 'why' something does something is of limited value.

all that said; the very best arms i have heard are the Durand Talea 1 and Talea 2 in my system, in other systems, and at shows. i would also add the Continuum Cobra to these 2. i've heard the Cobra 5 different times at audio shows.

i cannot say whether the Talea 2 betters the Cobra or vicsa versa as i've not heard them side by side. but i do hear similar type things from both, and those things are unique. so i'd say these are the current state of the art. with these 2 arms you hear the least arm distortion.

the music leaps from the grooves without added coloration, note development is more complete, micro-dynamics are un-fettered, bass is deep and tonally rich, you have a vivid clarity and delicacy, the music gets in you and is experiential.

the Rockport Sirius III linear tracker approaches close to these arms in some ways, is not as close in some ways, is slightly better in a few ways.

why do the Talea and Cobra do what they do?

i think they have the correct design concept, and have considerable techincal development and quality of manufacturing and assembly to be more optimal of the concept than other unipivots i've heard.

these are simply my observations of the situation and my conclusions.
Dear Mike: +++++ " it is the micro and nano wiggling following the groove unimpeded that gives it the advantage over a fixed/gimbaled bearing pivoted arm which on the micro and nano level cannot follow the groove as well. " +++++

IMHO the one that " rides " the recording grooves are the cartridge not the tonearm.
The main purpose of a tonearm ( even if you see it as " ridiculous ". ) is to hold the cartridge because the cartridge alone can't play.

What next?, that the cartridge could ride-free. Do you think that a bearing friction as low as 4mcg. ( like in the Technics EPA-100MK2 ) permit that ride-free condition?, IMHO certainly yes.
Which advantage has any unipivot against a fixed bearing tonearm like that one ? , IMHO none other than disadvantages: you speak of " the micro and nano wiggling ... " and is that micro/nano work the one that unipivots IMHO not solve yet.
You siad ( or Lewm. ) that the azymuth subject and unipivot rattle at bearing is solved and yes a priori is solved because many of us can't detect distortions that came from there. IMHO these to subjects ( azymuth changes and rattle at the pivot. ) exist there and were " controled " at some level but does not disappear and IMHO still have its own influence ( at that micro/nano level. ) on the cartridge/tonearm performance.

These two issues ( in a well fixed bearing tonearm design. ) just does not exist.

Now, IMHO things are a little more complex that only unipivot against fixed tonearm bearing designs. Let me put you some examples:

everyone knows the Telarc 1812 recording ( that I use through my whole test process. ) that not only has a high velocity recording levels but that those recorded HVL were mainly at the inner grooves part of the LP.
I own unipivots and fixed bearing tonearms. Well the B&O MMC2 cartridge mounted on the Grace G-945 ( an unipivot and removable headshell design ) with a 15grs. headshell " pass " cleanly the 1812 recording.
The Audio Technica AT-20ss mounted in the AT-1503MK3 ( a fixed and removable headshell design. ) pass the 1812 test with applomb too.

But, if we take the Colibrí on the Grace one or the XV-1 on the AT one: no one pass the 1812 tests .

These examples tell me that we are on the cartridge " hands ", it is the cartridge the one that " stay " or not in the groove and not the tonearm ( of course that the tonearm is important in this and other regards but it is only an " slave " that works for what the cartridge commands. ).

I don't have a Talea on hand or other today unipivot tonearm design but for my whole experiences and in deep tests about I can tell you for sure that with some cartridges one or the other tonearm will pass that test and with others just can't.

Now, IMHO other than those two subjects that I touched at the begin of this post other issue is that in some way or the other is more easy to design/handle on production an unipivot than a fixed bearing one.

Anyway, as Lewm and Stanwal pointed out: a good design with the right execution ( either design. ) works fine but I prefer a dead steady tonearm design that has not fight against its inherent unstabilities that cause tiny distortions ( normally is better to go " along " the gravity's forces, especially when what is happening at stylus tip and groove level (micro/nano) is so complex and full of " fierce " tracking forces and even temperature. ) but this is only my opinion and as you and other opinions the preferences are different.

Yes Nandric, our tonearm design is not an unipivot one.

Regards and enjoy the music,
But it is the stylus tip that follows the groove, not the tonearm. If the pivot is not fixed, then energy transmitted to the stylus tip by the undulations of the groove wall, which is "music", can be lost via "wiggling". Ideally, the arm wand should be fixed in space at its distal end, IMO. Anyway, the point is moot where the very best unipivots are concerned, like the Talea, which blew me away at a local friend's house.
Mikelavigne: "the very best arms i have heard are the Durand Talea 1 and Talea 2 in my system, in other systems, and at shows. i would also add the Continuum Cobra to these 2."

Not to be nitpicking but I just want to point out the Cobra is not really a traditional unipivot because it has a secondary pivot/ball bearing, a sapphire "swash plate" that supports the second spike, much like a training wheel on a kiddie bike. Overall, it has TWO contact points, unlike a traditional UNI-pivot design. The Talea, from my own understanding, does not have a secondary bearing. The Cobra has no azimuth rocking at all. It belongs to a genre that includes tonearm like the Basis Vector, Continuum Copperhead, Graham Phantom, Nottingham Space arm, Holborne, SPJ, and perhaps precious few others. The Graham's secondary bearing is magnetically supported so it's compliant system which is a subgenre within a genre. If you think about it, this group of tonearms are closer in concept to DUAL pivot design like some knife edge bearing arms like old SME and SAEC, or dual spike arms like higher models from Origin Live--essentially two points sitting on a horizontal ball bearing. The Cobra and others are really a hybrid between pure uni-pivot and dual-pivot. A 1.5 pivot?? :)

Oh, the Simon Yorke tonearm uses a teflon sleeve over the bearing post acting as the secondary bearing but does not even use a ball bearing. Very unique and brilliantly simple.

It's debated among designers whether having some compliance or "wiggle" room in azimuth motion is a good thing. Basis' Conti argues that's not a good thing, hence his Vector design. But a rigid coupling is adding and extra contact point is not a good thing to Bob Graham. Which one is better is up to the user to decide but I sure enjoy the choices we can make. Personally, it's fun for me to think about these things and I have dog in this fight. Tonearm theories are so fun! I hope over time we will have enough data from users in the future to describe these tonearms' sonic traits relating to their designs.

Dear Hiho: You are right, the majority are dual points. The first two points design I know was the one from Audiocraft 3300/4400 from what born the Graham.

All what " surrounded " a cartridge playback is so imperfect that an unipivot ( true one. ) design can't hyandle. We have to think on the forces around LP off center holes along non flat records along what the stylus tip has to negociate on the grooves. A unipivot design is at mercy of all those imperfections along the tracking tip forces that due to its inherent unstability preclude as a " best " bearing choice. This not means it can't works because we have several examples that said it works but the penalties are additional distortions that a fixed bearing ones does not have because that regards.

The cartridge needs at least in the tonearm: stability, dead stability because it is surrounded for to many unstabilities elsewhere.

What like we at home?, IMHO it depends on what kind and level of distortions we accept, which kind of trade-offs we are willing to accept.
Of course that some way or the other we have to have an objective method/process to be aware of different kind of distortions and different level of those distortions.
Many of us are not aware of those distortions and like what we are hearing with out note that what we are hearing is full of distortions.

As I said I prefer a fixed bearing pivoted tonearm against an unipivot but this is me.

My take is that whatever happen between the stylus tip, grooves and record and recording imperfections the tonearm task is to stay steady and neutral to those " movements " adding nothing that put additional " problems " to the cartridge very hard task.

Lewm, lowering by design thgose unipivots issues does not menas disappeared or that has no influence, its means only that the problems are only a little better under " control " but its influence is always there.

The fixed bearing design is perfect?, certainly not nothing is perfect but is more cartridge's friendly and this fact makes an overall difference everything the same.

Regards and enjoy the music,

I meant to say "it's fun for me to think about these things and I DON'T have dog in this fight." I apologize for all the bad spellings and syntax.

Dear Hiho, I was looking for your dog. Thanks. But be careful using the word "syntax", or you will conjure up Syntax himself, that man of mystery.

Audiophile Progress in analog Research today
BEST Tonearm can only be.. when mated to "the" accomodating cartridge, mounted to "best" symbiotic table, matched to "correct" receptive Preamp, and owned "by" narcissistic personality type. The rest of us will continue the search....
Hiho,I auditioned the Talea 2 last week and it uses magnets to adjust azimuth. So it's not totally free floating either.

It was in a system completely foreign to me but from what I can tell it had a lower noise floor than what I am used to with my setup. Pops and ticks were less noticeable. I am using a VPI Classic 1 with stock arm now. I did bring my phono stage with me so I negated one variable.
Sammjohn and Inna, allow me to be King Solomon and harmonize your comments about when "men were men" and "women were women." You are both right. To talk about one and not the other is like trying to clap hands with one arm.

Now, as to the comments about the unipivot versus fixed bearing arm-- I've been involved with this hobby for 40 years. I've seen (although not owned) the old Rabco tangential tracking arm; pretty cool in its day), the fixed bearing arm and so forth. I used to own an old vintage Thorens TD 160 with an ultra low mass Isotrack arm. I currently own a VPI Classic with the heralded uni-pivot arm.

Sound quality and technical pros & cons aside -- I'll leave that discussion to the real audiophiles. As for me, perhaps just a simpleton, but I like to simply slap some vinyl onto my table, kick up my feet and google at Linda Ronstadt's album pic on Living In The USA. Back in the 70s, that lady really knew how to belt out a tune and was real cute too.

But I'd like to get to my point -- convenience and predictability. Yes, my Classic sounds pretty good. Yes, in retrospect, I learned a lot about DIY tone arm set up. But NO NO NO, it stopped being fun when I couldn't find a da*n cartridge that worked on that da*n arm. As I posted on other OPs, I tried the CA Maestro and Virtuoso and the Ortofon 2m Black.

For one reason or another, the cartridges were simply not compatible with my rig. It might have had something to do with tone arm/cartridge resonance in the case of the Maestro/Virtuoso, or unstable azimuth inherent in the unipivot set up not being a good match for the Shibata line contact stylus in the 2M -- or perhaps I later learned that some dumb screws at the base of the tone arm assembly were loose. Who know -- or cares.

After doing a ton of research and learning on A'gon, and exchanging numerous e mail messages with Mike at VPI, I finally settled on the DV 20X and the VPI Zephyr. NO -- I didn't need to stuff custom weights into the a*s of the tone arm; NO - I didn't need an oscilliscope to check tone arm/cartridge resonance; NO -- I didn't need a laser micro-meter to adjust azimuth in order to get the Shibata line contact stylus to track without distorting.

Instead, I simply slapped the DV and Zephyr cartridges onto that wiggly arm, eye-balled alignment, set VTF ROUGHLY in the specified range, then turned on the TT, pulled out my Ronstadt vinyls and enjoyed myself to some great music. I have no idea what the uni-pivot index of friction is compared to my old Thorens --- or care.

So, I apologize for this persnickety post. But IMHO I've been around enough years and seen enough come and go to offer my view. Long Live Thorens!! FWIW
my perspective is that the most significant percieved and discussed weakness of a unipivot is actually it's biggest advantage, which is the freedom to wiggle. it is the micro and nano wiggling following the groove unimpeded that gives it the advantage over a fixed/gimbaled bearing pivoted arm which on the micro and nano level cannot follow the groove as well.

A tone arm should not really follow the groove- it is the cartridge that must do that. The arm must keep the cartridge in locus. If you think about it, if the arm *really did* follow the grooves the cartridge could not make any sound! Thus we come to the idea of effective mass the the ever-important issue of mechanical resonance.

Unipivots however do not rule the roost by any means when it comes to freedom in the motion of the bearings. For example, the Triplanar arm employs an ultra-hard bearing that is so hard and so precise that Triplanar got investigated by the Department of Homeland Security because they were using more of these bearings than Boeing was. Triplanar maintains that a problem with all needle-and-cup bearings is that the bearings get damaged after only a small amount of use- whether gimbaled or unipivot design. That is why the bearings they use are so hard- 7 or 8 grades harder than the bearings in an SME 5.

The Triplanar has an adjustable azimuth system consisting of a worm gear that can tilt the arm tube. If you look at how a cutting lathe is built, its obvious that the azimuth of the cutterhead never changes- the cutter assembly rides on a extremely precise machined stainless set of tracks with stainless wheels. As far as I have seen, (and microscopic motion being the nature of LP reproduction) only a gimbaled arm can have the same kind of azimuth accuracy.
Thanks Ralph. So far, your explanation makes the most sense to me. Next time around, in my next life, I check out the Triplanar!


Unipivots however do not rule the roost by any means when it comes to freedom in the motion of the bearings.

Besides air bearing, unipivot does have the least friction and freedom in motion. I don't care what fancy gimbal bearing you have you cannot beat a needle on a dimple. On top of that, the bearing is preloaded by mass so I don't see how you can have bearing chatter and not to mention adding a drop of oil or lubricant in the reservoir. The problem with unipivot is, obviously, not about lack of movement but TOO MANY planes of movement, namely in the azimuth or torsional motion. Micha Huber of Thales tonearm boasts about the quality of his Swiss made bearing but admits it's still not as low friction as a unipivot. So let's not bring Department of Homeland Security into this. Let's just deal with the real issue of a unipivot.

There are many ways to deal with the azimuth rocking of a unipivot. Traditionally, designers place the counterweight or outrigger/side weights below the pivot point. Much have been written about this so I won't repeat here. In recent years, designers started to use a secondary bearing to assist the main bearing and sometimes, completely eliminates azimuth rocking which also render it no longer a true unipivot and it might not SOUND like a unipivot but I don't own a Basis Vector, Continuum Cobra & Copperhead, so I can't tell. As a unipivot user myself, I can sympathize with Mike's sentiment about the its "freedom to wiggle" that creates its sonic character whether that's an advantage over gimbal bearing or not is something debatable.

my perspective is that the most significant percieved and discussed weakness of a unipivot is actually it's biggest advantage, which is the freedom to wiggle. it is the micro and nano wiggling following the groove unimpeded that gives it the advantage over a fixed/gimbaled bearing pivoted arm which on the micro and nano level cannot follow the groove as well.

Since Talea uses magnet to control azimuth rocking, as I am told, I would have to place it in the same genre with the Graham Phantom. It's an interesting development in tonearm design. The traditional mass below pivot point of stabilizing has a weakness in dynamic due to its pendulum affect and I am curious about the dynamic performance of arms like Talea or Phantom. Mike can report that to use.

As far as I have seen, (and microscopic motion being the nature of LP reproduction) only a gimbaled arm can have the same kind of azimuth accuracy.

Gimbal arm does not guarantee azimuth accuracy. The Triplanar's way azimuth adjustment is placed before the offset angle at the headshell, unless the worm gear is angled accordingly--approximately 23°--that adjustment will affect VTA. Bob Graham brilliantly uses two side weights angled 23° at the bearing housing to prevent that VTA change while changing azimuth. Same concept in the Vector, Cobra, and Copperhead. Smart.

Again, a quasi-unipivot tonearm like Cobra, Copperhead, Cobra and precious few others, that use a rigid secondary ball bearing does NOT exhibit any azimuth motion at all. So let's not lump all of them together.

At the end of the day, all tonearms have some sonic traits that please you and some others don't, just pick your cup of tea or poison.

Thanks Hiho. So far, your explanation makes the most sense to me.
I used to bad mouth unipivots.

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