why is a 13" tonearm design really superior?

we just mounted the SAEC WE-8000 on my Nakamichi and I can´t really believe what kind of fantastic sound this tonearm is able to reproduce. Is it because this is a very special 13" design or because of the extraordinary headshell design? I think it is the only tonearm with such a long straight alu-pipe. Am i right? Also the lift design is unique, this lift stops at every level you like to use.
Why are todays tonearm developers not anymore going for a 13" or 14" design?
The length of the arm in itself doesn't make it superior. There are many other factors to consider and as always, the performance is related to the characteristics of the particular cartridge it's paired with. Do some reading.
Tracking error is reduced with increasing length, but rigidity is reduced and weight increases. I use a 12" Shindo arm and love it.
Tbg, I use many 12" arms and I discovered that well built decent arms matched with the right cartridges are delivering a wonderful soundstage, also in the deep frequencies - very dynamical but also precise and detailed but not overanalytical.

When listening to the SAEC 8000 I really started to doubt my ears. Believe me I have some other items to compare with. Nevertheless this design is not only technically surprising but also in the sound quality it transports.
Therefore there must be some reason why there is no any other making a 13" design, or is there any?

when experimenting with so called old scholl arms like the FR-66s
Tracking error is reduced with increasing length, but rigidity is reduced and weight increases. I use a 12" Shindo arm and love it.
Dear Thuchan: I agree with Plato, there are several factors that make the " quality performance " of a tonearm/cartridge combination.

I know very well the 8000 ST tonearm and one of its signature characteristics is that is " alive " against other tonearm designs.
It is a very well made and with a quality control second to none. Something that help to lower distortion is to put some kind of damping material all over the arm lift mechanism, I use sorbothane at both sides on the arm lift base.
I like this tonearm that miss an azymuth mechanism and VT on the fly to be " near perfect " device.

I run it with several different cartrdges and one of them that makes a very good match is the XV-1 by Dyna ( not easy to mount in the SAEC headshell. ).
With which cartridges are you running it?

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Raul, we all know that there are several factors which make a good arm. this was not my question aiming at. But what you mention below is very interesting and I do agree with you on the missing features. I run it with a Titan i (see pic under my system) and an Eminent Ultra Bc. I am looking for another headshell to mount my XV-1s. Could you send me a pic of your sorbotane installation - thanks
"Why are todays tonearm developers not anymore going for a 13" or 14" design?"

I think this has to with cost, most people cannot afford the big tonearms. The 12" are more often then not well in the 4 figures.
The main reason for the extinction of long and super long tonearms our days is because there are a lot (expensive...) turntables out there which can not mount 13" and 14" tonearms at all.
There are already more than a few which have difficulties accommodating 10" and 12" tonearms (Basis Debut Gold, Linn Sondek, most plinth-type TTs - for instance).
Furthermore - of course - increased length is always a trade-off between rigidity and effective moving mass on one side and minimized tangential error and minimized VTA change during warps and uneven areas on the records surface.
ok that´s a limiting factor of course, understand.
Today a friend of mine showed me a pic of a 24" tonearm.
He listend to it and was overwhelmed. He will find out what manufacturer it is, I will report on it.
Maybe the headshell speciality with very long straight tonearms like the SAEC 8000 is also a kind of issue.
Thuchan, there is another solution, namely a straight-line tracker. There are many issues with it also. I did see a pivoting straight-line tracker at CES, which used a second arm to keep the headshell and cartridge always tangential to the grooves. I don't remember that name, perhaps because the arm cost $15k.
Tbg, I guess, it is the "Thales" Arm. Made in Switzerland.
YES it is
Yep, I loved the entire table, and it sounded great. Too expensive, however.
I'll see in detail that Thales at the table of an audiophile friend in northern Germany in August.
From simply looking at the principle and technical problems incorporated (1st bearing being very close to the cartridge, more moveable parts than usual, increased horizontal moving mass etc.) I am really curious whether the technical execution and fascinating idea will give improved sound regarding 12" top-flight tonearms.
The advantage in tangential error is there, but you have to pay for it with several technical drawbacks.
We'll see.
Here are some pics
Mathematical explanation:

The cartridge traces out an arc as the arm moves from the golder to the center of the record. When the arm is short this arc is very curved on the region between the holder spindle, where as if the arm is longer the arc becomes less curves. Now, when the arc is bigger and relatively less curved, it maintains tangency for a brief period just like the short arm, but the error dur to the curvature is minimzed. I suppose you can call it more tangent if that makes any sense.
I promised to report about the 24" tonearm I have seen on a pic - it is a design of German tonearm designer Fuchs. A friend of mine told me that it sounded very good. 24" inches - not too short...
We next aught to work on a 24'long, what say you?
Like a low resonace pool-cleaner tube?
Will like major minimise the tangent error, no?
Got to have some fantasie else things are not moving foreward here, I say.
at the High-End in Munich the Italian designer Horo presented a turntable in the figure of a long Steinway piano. He mounted a tonearm in the form of a violin bow, properly a 30" design... I never listened to it.
During my e-mail exchanges with Bob Graham when I recently upgraded my 1.5t to a Phantom Mk ii, he indicated that he is not in agreement on "longer tone arm length means superior anything" when viewing the tone arm a comprehensive whole.

He felt his standard Phantom Mk ii (which I believe is 9.5") is a world class tone arm - period. Bob indicated that he did develop the 10" Phantom Mk ii arm wand for the sole purpose of accomodating those TT owners who use a ring clamp of some sort, like the VPI super platter with ring clamp. I have a TNT IV with super platter and ring clamp. Without the 10" Phantom Mk ii, the ring clamp would grind against the Phantom - not good.

I do not understand the science behind these discussions, but I wanted to share the opinion of one of the "masters" in this area.

I like Graham arms, so for me, I will accept Bob's design decisions. For others, maybe not so much. That's the beauty of our hobby.

HAHAHAHAHAHA, LOL. Yeah there are trade-offs when the arm length becomes to large. The change in effective weight placed on the stylus proportional to changes in up and down vertical movement increase with arm mass. So yeah don't plan on using a flag pole as a tone arm just yet. Nonetheless, a slightly longer tonearm certainly does decrease tangency error for the reasons given above, it is simple geometry. The optimization problem is slightly more complicated as Baerwald was helped by 12 guys from nasa, as I understand it. Well, I have not found it to be too difficult, nothing a little calculus of variations and free parameter sensitivity analysis of some parametrically defined functions can't solve. IE> a slight bit beyond highschool calculus if you want to do it from scratch, and 9th grade math if you would like to use Baerwald's, Loengren's, or Stevenson's optimal null points tweaked for your turntable.
Flyfish - agree with you on your Phantom judgement. I did run the Phantom I (with some upgradings) against the "longer" SAEC 8000 on my Nakamichi - means on the same TT, same Crystal Dreamline cable to the KSL transformer, same Titan I cartridge. In my eyes the Phantom is one of the best tonearms you can buy at the moment - and it fits on most TTs. I like this tonearm very much. Nevertheless against the SAEC 8000 the matchpoint is on the SAECs side.
The problem of the SAEC 8000 is the headshell, which needs to be a very special one due to geometrial reasons. And they are hard to find. Phantom tubes are usually available.
One thing you all forgot, the 8000 has 1.25* tracking error at the lead in of a 12" LP which gets less & less as the arm goes toward the center of the record. At the lead out the tracking error is 0!!! No other arm on this planet does this!!!
Dear Antslappy, that was a common concept of SAEC with their top-of-the-line tonearms.
The SAEC 506/30 is very similar.
However - you can get that kind of alignment with most every 12" tonearm which allows for some alternation of offset angle and overhang.
It is not an exclusive built-in-feature of the two big SAEC tonearms only.
It is a matter of concept and whether you wish to align that way.
One designer(who makes 12 inch arms) told me that they didn't hear any sonic improvements above a length of 12 inches.
Hi Myles_B_Astor. The designer may listen to a WE 8000 and he will change his opinion quickly. Promise.

Best & Fun Only - Thuchan
Dfelkai, you suggested "Baerwald was helped by 12 guys from nasa".

I assume this was tongue-in-cheek since Baerwald was awarded his patent in 1939 and NASA was not created until 1958.

But then maybe you were simply following Thuchan's motto, best & fun only!
I believe Clearaudio does a 14" variant on one of their designs. Remember being quite surprised at the time.
Hi Thucan,

Hopefully someday will get around to hearing one :)

BTW, Bob Graham pointed out a while back that while a longer arm has many virtues, cartridge alignment is more critical in a 12 inch arm than a shorter arm. In simple terms, errors in aligment are amplified with a longer arm. That was why in part until recently, Bob didn't make a longer arm. OTOH, Bob has cornered the market on cartridge setup. It's too bad that he doesn't market his jig for other arms (once you've used it, there's no going back), but he doesn't want to give other arms an advantage.
Hi Moonglum,
yes Clearaudio offers a Unify in a 14" format. I never have listened to it.It is not that expensive...need to check.

Hi Myles_b-astor,
I think the market did not ask for longer arms, this is changing. So Bob responded to the market`s requirements and now is offering a good 12" Phantom. regarding antiskating you have some advantages on this longer designs too.

Best & Fun Only - Thuchan
Clearaudio also offers a 13" arm for their top of the line radial arm, the Universal. I have the 9". A fantastic arm. Perhaps I will get a 13" some day to put on my table's other arm pod.
Hi Thuchan...some interesting comments about the use of carbon fibre in this article (see the Wilson Benesch arm)


The author/s have tried as hard as they can to assess the properties of these tonearms. It's a good read... :o)
Hi Moonglum, thanks for the article. I do share the impressions regarding the ET 2.5. I do not know the Wilson Benesch arm but do respect the quality and musicality of Wilson Benesch products. Is it really the carbon fibre, who knows?

I like this material very much. Of course costly but light and stiff.

best & fun only - Thuchan
Hi Thuchan and Moonglum

This is an old article but still I would dearly love to try out and own all of the arms mentioned in the article.

Regarding the ET 2.5

It used a stock VPI MK IV which came suspended from VPI. I owned one - a MKIV with an ET arm. I have learned since that all ET arms need to not move at all to sound their best. A suspended platform moves and is therefore not recommended.

The article does not state how much pressure was at the arm - The ET 2.5 arm works best at 19 psi per testing by Arthur Salvatore members. Below that and you are not hearing all detail - above and you start to lose detail. It still sounds good with 10 psi but you are not hearing it at its best. To deliver 19 at the arm requires much higher from the pump source. Pretty sure an aquarium pump can’t deliver 19 psi at the arm – correct me if I am assuming wrong.

I am using a JMW 12” under an armpod and it is working out quite well. If I had a longer arm I would not hesitate to try it.

Cheers Chris