What makes a good tonearm?

I'm entering the world of decent analog and believe I understand why the turntable design is critical (e.g., vibration isolation, balance and speed stability) but am scratching my head a little about tonearms. What makes a good tonearm good and a great tonearm great? The resulting sound is always the key, but what design characteristics contribute to that sound? Tonearms are a big investment and can be tough to change later so I'd like to understand more about them before I buy anything. Thanks in advance.

Showing 5 responses by ozfly

Buscis2, I have been looking at the Origin Live Silver, which is a heavily modified RB250 and favored by some Analog gurus here on the 'Gon. But, if some great used package deal comes along with a nicer arm, I'd certainly consider that too. Still looking. Thanks.
Great articles! Now I know enough to be dangerous! Thank you for the great reads. My objective is to get a relatively maintenance free arm and these article pointed out some ways to do that. The Audiomeca parallel tracker was also interesting. Thanks.
Thanks all. Right now, I'm seriously considering an Origin Live Resolution table with an RB-900 arm. I'd welcome feedback as to whether that will provide sufficient lower end punch for my taste. I've not decided on this nor have I decided on a cartridge. Some lower end Clearaudio systems are also available for a decent price (Evolution, Tangent with a Virtuoso Wood ii) as well an an Audiomeca rig (Romance, Romeo arm, Lyra Lydian). Any feedback would be welcome. Thanks again for the great advice so far.
I'm starting over since the Resolution is gone -- sold between the time I emailed the inquiry and I was able to see the response. Oh well. Punch is good. Opinions are welcome on an appropriate table. I would guess the arm would do the job, but if not, I'd love to hear about alternatives. Thanks
Thanks all for the great responses. You inspired me to research the heck out of this. I'm very excited to report that I completed my order for an Origin Live Sovereign turntable with the Origin Live Conquerer tonearm and the Dynavector XV-1s cartridge.

The Origin Live units have been getting great reviews (e.g., the latest Bound for Sound) and I was able to get a very fair price on this combo which is just slightly used. I'll be plugging that into my PBN Olympia fully balanced phono preamp (FET, separate battery power supply). I should be getting the whole rig in a couple of weeks and will report my findings.

Thanks again. I ended up spending more than I thought I would, but the price was right and this'll save me an upgrade later ... famous last words ;-)