Why is the price of new tonearms so high

Im wondering why the price of new tonearms are so high, around $12k to $15k when older very good arms can be bought at half or less?
The engineering,development and marketing cost of the older arms generally was done at a time when product demand was ten to fifteen times greater then today. Current product has a small base of customers that the cost must be recovered on, hence higher prices. Manufacturing cost of the actual arm has never been very high. Given the laws of physics have not changed, most of the newer arms offer little in the way of improvement over the older ones. So, you get little improvement with a new, very expensive arm.
Which tonearms are you talking about? The Graham Phantom II B-44 Tonearm is $4700. The SME Series V is $5300.

Or am I mucking about in mediocrity here?
Those are very nice arms but Im thinking of Venomous prices like twelve Grand and more.
There are various reasons
the higher the price the more people think "it has to be good"
Mark up
The higher it is, the more dealers are interested to get it
Analog sales are not comparable to those 10 years ago
Today we have much better machines, more precise and cheaper in production *aehm* did I miss something?

I know most arms, or listened to them, most are not worth their high price (from performance in comparison to other but I am afraid, no one is interested in that).
Analog is on the way to become a "Boutique Product", it's nice to have, the next step of "My Horse-My House-My Boat and it is better to sell 5 units for a very high price than 30 for lower price, less work, less discussions and for final one can say:"Well, you know, it is NOT for everyone"

Price has -unfortunately- not a direct link to Performance.
Marketing has own rules :-)
Buconero and Syntax I agree with you, manufacture dont seem to be high. And the Physics shouldnt have evolved as much as electronics so old sound concepts should still aply. I just dont understand why nobody starts to manufacture the old(not all of them but the good ones) arms again?
One reason is because if someone has a $5000 tone arm and wants to upgrade he/she would need to have something to upgrade to. Thus the $12,000 tone arm. It is seven thousand better. The true problem arises however when someone with a $12,000-$15,000 tonearm gets bit by the upgrade bug. They soon realize that there is nowhere to go, they have hit the end of the upgrade highway and give up on audio. Or, they get a Mac and a DAC and take up golf.
The cynic in me says its because vinyl is trendy and you can get some really good sounding digital for a lot less if you prefer.
06-23-09: Perrew
Those are very nice arms but Im thinking of Venomous prices like twelve Grand and more.
You mean like this?
I visited an (audio) designer/engineers house/shop/showroom
last week. After an awesone vinyl demo, he took me into his shop where he was designing a new tonearm. I don't know if his arm will be $12k to $15k but looking at his gear (much of the equipment is used for making watches, ie watch lathes, etc), I can say that (1) he has spent mucho dollars on the equipment and (2) spends many thousands of hours working on his design. After listening to the arm he is convinced he will better, I would not question the price that he feels fit to charge. I may not buy it, nor do I have to, but do appreciate the investment he has made in his design, and would never criticize him or it for it. Having mentioned the watch making equipment, and being a watch buff, I must point out that there are $9,000 watches and $100,000(+++) watches. Yes, both tell time but both make very different statements.
if anyone knows how amway or avon or mary kay works...in ultra hi end, its the same thing....and yes the trade shows are like mary kay conventions with bald guys.
Hey Johnnyb53,

Thanks for the cool pic. Do you have a photo of the later upgrade model with the VTA adjustment?
06-23-09: Krusty2k
Hey Johnnyb53,

Thanks for the cool pic. Do you have a photo of the later upgrade model with the VTA adjustment?
It's built in. You just change the number of records under the one you want to play. Use RCA Dynaflexes for finer adjustments.
Economy of scale has to figure in here somewhere. If an auto company developed a car for a production run of 20, each one would be around $50 million. Make a couple hundred thousand and it spreads the R&D costs out to $5K per car. Companies such as SME, Graham, and Dynavector have been making tonearms for a long time and have a lot of experience they can apply to a new design for free. They're also higher profile makes who sell more copies of what they make. The price difference between a $12K Cobra and a $5K Graham may not necessarily indicate a quality difference if Graham sells ten times as many.

There's also the panache factor. If you're spending $50K on a Caliburn, many customers would expect to spend a proportional amount on a purpose-built tonearm rather than something off the shelf.
"Use RCA Dynaflexes...."

Wasn't RCA's move to Dynaflex the event that signaled the downfall of vinyl back in the day?

Nice to know they are good for something!!!
06-23-09: Mapman
Wasn't RCA's move to Dynaflex the event that signaled the downfall of vinyl back in the day?
That seems to be the conventional wisdom, but I don't buy it. I learned long ago from cutting an Archies single from the back of a cereal box and then playing it (it had the plastic groove laminated onto the cardboard, and had a marker for where to punch the hole) that as long as the groove is articulate and well-mastered, the record can sound good. I fully expected the fidelity of that Archie's record to sound like crap. Boy was I surprised. It sounded pretty much as good as a commercial record.

Anyway, I bought LPs back in the days when RCA went to Dynaflex. I was a Buddy Rich fan (still am), and this happened when he was on RCA. Some of his records of the '70s were released on Dynaflex and they sounded fine. These days I get a lot of vinyl from thrift shops, and I have some RCA classical boxed sets in Dynaflex that are re-releases of Living Stereo recordings. They sound fine.

Two things: 1) I found that a record grip or clamp makes a thin record sound pretty much like a thick one--it takes the resonance difference out of the equation.
2) A thinner record does the same thing to VTA as raising the tonearm, which would increase the initial attack and thin out the body of the sound. So with my Technics' easily adjustable VTA, I found that any Dynaflexes that needed VTA compensation would then sound pretty much the same as a thick record.

Besides, if there's a vinyl shortage, I'd rather have a thin pressing on virgin vinyl than a thick one on recycled.
Johnny, yeah, like most labels, I've heard some good and not so good dynaflex recordings. It just seems as if a quality recording became more hit and miss in general towards the 70s as things headed more towards cost rather than quality control. If they could have only kept the Nipper HMV emblem on the label, I think that would have left a better legacy for those latter RCA vinyl recordings in general though at the time I suppose that was just too "old fashioned" whereas the Dynaflex branding was more "space age".
watches, cars, etc are not 'faith' based products. like it or not, much of audio and audio's claims are 'faith' based(and those 'companies' are not suprisingly privately owned). the audio companies which are publically traded (publically owned) give you the 'facts' and no claims they can't back up. "the greatest" is to audio what "home cooking" is to restaurants.
"Why is the price of some new tonearms so high"

How about some of the phono cartridges or worse, how about wire?...
06-23-09: Mapman
Johnny, yeah, like most labels, I've heard some good and not so good dynaflex recordings. It just seems as if a quality recording became more hit and miss in general towards the 70s as things headed more towards cost rather than quality control.
I have no argument that there was a lot of hashy-sounding crap in the '70s. I think it had more to do with vinyl quality, mastering, and pressing than recording quality. There was a lot of good stuff at the time, too, such as A&M records. Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" (on A&M) was the first pop/rock album offered as an audiophile remaster by MoFi. The original A&M wasn't bad, but it made some record buyers want better. I guess you could say MoFi found a market niche owing to the demand for better quality records of their favorite groups.

There were some labels and markets that were unaffected by this as far as I can tell. In jazz, the CTI, Atlantic, ECM, Pablo, and Concord pressings ranged from excellent to superb. There are symphonic records from the era that are near-iconic, such as the Zubin Mehta recording of Holst's "The Planets."

Whatever happened in the '70s, it seemed that the suits learned their lesson (somewhat), because I've found almost all LPs from the '80s--regardless of label or musical genre--to be excellent --Huey Lewis, Lyle Lovett, Robert Cray, Dwight Yoakam, The Cars, The Police, Men At Work, Stevie Winwood, John Mellencamp, Dire Straits, James Taylor, etc.
Cerrot, always nice with a nice watch although I think there more of a status item than a tonearm. I think a tonearm can be better or worse at reproducing sound than a watch at showing time.

My take is that the Physics was available many years ago and companies like Fidelity Research knew them and had big enough manufacturing runs to keep the price down, but why dont they produce those excellent arms again?
Good audio products are produced on a small scale. Small scale production is unfortunately quite a few times more expensive than mass produced items.

I there were a factory in China churning out Triplanar arms, 1000x an hour then that arm would have cost next to nothing. In the real world those arms are hand-built, one at a time and that is one of the reasons for their elevated price.

I briefly worked at a high-end amplifier manufacturer and my eyes popped open to see that it is a labour of love and nothing comes cheap.
Funny thread that is.
Just now we had: "Why are oldskool tonearm so expensive"
(thread got 'lost' during database cleanup - yes?)
And now this?
Next guy that talks about FR arms again, will get dumped.

Look there are very decent arms for less than what an 'old one' can cost you, else there was no need for a ~ 300 post long thread on that other subject, or?

If you need an arm that needs a compressor, and 'diamonds on the soles of it's shoes.." spend 12k or more.

As the other post mentioned, if you don't want e.g. a 'Breguet' watch
see: http://www.breguet.com/ for 100k plus, a 'Swatch' will also tell the time :-)

Horses for courses, no?

Axelwahl, I noticed that thread got "lost". Doesn't surprise me. It is a real pity that a lot of decent information/contribution/experience had to get disappeared because a couple of guys couldn't keep their elbows down in a crowd. It's not the first time that the same crew has been responsible for a decent thread with decent information getting disappeared.

FWIW, it is a shame that the moderators could not do something like the Audioasylum moderators do and just move the offending thread line to a different thread in a "dead end" category (make those threads permissioned so that they only show up on the "My Threads" list of those who posted the offending remarks).
Axel, the naming must be pure coincident:-)
Dear T_bone, I assume that the "Oldskool"-thread was shut down because of the verbal insults between Raul and Bob. A pity indeed. I doubt that we will ever see again that much information about tonearm-geometry and set-up piled together in one thread here on Audiogon.
Well, as for the original matter of this thread: - marketing and the fast dollar. There are no other reasons for the current prices asked for top-flight tonearms. Material and construction as well as manufacturing costs can't justify the asking prices.
what in your opinion constitutes a good tonearm?
Dear Perrew, in no particular order:
- dynamic balanced design (I consider this a must !),
- adjustable overhang and azimuth,
- very rigid construction - resulting in good energy and vibration handling,
- 10" minimum effective length to get below 2 degrees error,

I believe these are among the few key features of any great pivot tonearm design. All truely great pivot tonearms do have these 4 in common (except the Graham Phantom - which I would include in my list).
Maybe because people think if it costs more it has to be better.Manufacturers use this ploy to the hilt to maximize profits.Just my opinion,feel free to disagree.
" Why is the price of new tone arms so high?"

Someone in the market for say the Goldmund Reference Model Two at $300,000.00, or even any number of other tables on the market for $40,000.00 and up.
What starting price range and available brand of tonearms would someone with this kind of budget choose?
Whats the best known performing cartridge on this tone arm a $5,000.00 brand or a $20,000 one?

I don't know what your perception is of people in this hobby like this are, myself, what ever makes you happy.

However someone that spends $70,000.00 plus on speaker wire alone, bi-amp pair and 20 feet of it, this is where my view of them changes.
06-24-09: Dertonarm
Dear T_bone, I assume that the "Oldskool"-thread was shut down because of the verbal insults between Raul and Bob. A pity indeed. I doubt that we will ever see again that much information about tonearm-geometry and set-up piled together in one thread here on Audiogon.

Hi Dertonearm, I seriously doubt that my and Rauls little tit-tat had anything to do with the thread dissapearing. So please don't blame me or Raul. Both Raul, I am sure, and myself can handle ourselves and our differences. Though Raul does seem rather peeved at me, I can't understand why.

Well, - after all the high-end audio is a classic luxury market. Same as high performance cars, luxury swiss watches (or german Lange & Söhne...), or any similar passion.
We are talking the extreme top-end of consumer elctronics here, thus the "value" - as well as the "beauty"... - is purely in the eyes (..ears) of the individual beholder.....
There is no reason behind this - other than it is in most cases easier to sell a $15000 tonearm than a $3500 tonearm.
The top end has to be prces today in a region where the buyer can show off his financial abilities as to gain some "face"(far-east) or status (western).
Its indeed a strange world we are living in - isn't it??
Dear Bob, well - there were hard discussions in that thread already back in march/april, - but between you and Raul some hard and direct words were exchanged and I can see no other reason for the shut-down of that thread.

I have talked with 2 seasoned and very experienced A'goners and they both agreed that the exchange of direct personal insults were the raeson why the thread was shut-down.
I do not blame you - I think it is a pity that the parts which did not meet the criteria of the moderator weren't just removed and thus the thread could have go on.
Thats all.

I thought that thread was a delight to read but I was thinking along the lines that some manufacturer was not so well represented and therefore the thread was "lost"?

D. in your four points you mention "dynamic balanced design" and "very rigid construction". Would you say the Schroder arm exhibits these traits?
>>> D. in your four points you mention "dynamic balanced design" and "very rigid construction". Would you say the Schroder arm exhibits these traits? <<<

Wat is sis? A leading quesion?
Opening another Pandora’s Box?
Dear Perrew, I am very sorry, but the tonearm you mentioned is a design I will not comment for obvious reasons.
Some of those reasons were just mentioned by you in your last post......
Ok, lets not go there then. Ill approach from another angle.
Lets say we have a good cart like the XV-1s, I believe will match with a medium mass arm from its 8x10Dyne, if we have a heavy arm, say 30g like the 66s, wouldnt the performance be worse than in a less "rigid" but lighter arm?
The XV-1s is 10x10 Dyne not 8.
As for my "beloved" FR-66s - its effective moving mass can be reduced considerably by using a lighter (- Orsonic etc.) headshell. The DV XV-1s does perform outstanding good in both - the FR-64s and FR-66s. This is due to the extreme rigid design of these tonearms in conjunction with their tight bearings. This allows for exceptionell power transmission from the cartridge through the tonearm and away into the base.
These mechanical facts do give a very detailed, transparent yet ultra-dynamic sound with a very convincing "physical presence" of the sound.
Thats why almost all - save for the very lightweigt and high-compliance - cartridges do perform surprisingly well in the heavy FR-tonearms.
So - yes, the FR-tonearms are NOT ideal matches in terms of compliance, but their mechanical advantages do outweight this one non-compliant detail.
In general, the "heavy" tonearms do have plain advantages (some a bit - some a lot) in power (read: vibration emitted from the cartridge during playback) handling. This is due to their usual heavy duty (compared with lighter tonearms) bearings and to the use of steel and similar materials for the armtubes which do allow fast transient transmission.
In the very end, a tonearm performance comes always down to and is always rooted in its mechanical and geometrical cornerstones.
In any comparism, always take care that the cartridge is aligned to the very same geometry in all the tonearms under survey.
Hi D.,
>>> In general, the "heavy" tonearms do have plain advantages ..in power (read: vibration emitted from the cartridge during playback) handling..<<<

A question: What about, the higher the mass, the bigger the "acoustic capacitance" leading to a 'smearing' in time of information?

Energy is "stored" longer and released later with higher mass involved. An accepted principal with dynamic drivers, etc. (also note what REGA's Roy Gandy has to say about that regarding HIS arms and decks...)

What say you?

I don't think that applies to tonearms since a tonearm does not produce any signal. The tonearms job is to provide a robust platform for the cart and stylus, which together produce signal. Stiffer styli require a more massive tonearm/platform (more inertia to overcome) in order to produce the best signal. That is typically measured as cart/stylus compliance I believe.
Hi Axel, - I am sorry, but I do not need to comment on "acoustic capacitance" as understood by some audio designers and the theory that high mass does "store" energy "longer".
I do not have to give the answer - the answers are in every middle high school physics book.
Please - honestly - give me a break! - this is no high physics.
Just try a light, fragile and low mass tonearm and tell me it gives more detailed and dynamic sound than a FR or SAEC or MAX or Exclusive - I am in for a good laugh.
After my experiences with the bearing friction thread I am simply no longer in the mood to discuss plain nonsense or "audio physics".
In general, I think a rigid light tonearm will track poor quality records better and a more massive tonearm may not have to be as rigid and will provide a better platform for the cart and stylus to do its job better in general. All arms must compromise between these two extremes to do their job accurately and reliably to some extent and some will do it better than others.
Hi D.
:-):-) thank you, funny how one can disagree, no.

I get, you just also 'sunk' yet another highly regarded tonearm: The Breuer and the derived Brinkmann, right on, I say :-)

Now to this other 'storage item', "the tonearm does not produce any signal" oh yes?
Any exited resonance actually does produce it's own signal, unless D. find this to be otherwise in this physics book also :-)
And PLEASE do not forget the cart signal, e.g. in the case of an MC is amplified by some 10'000x (60dB).
No driver membrane is subject to that, and by the way, it also does not 'produce' the signal it ONLY resonates with it.

What other arms can we 'wipe out' then in favour of the heavy weights?
All new SMEs, all Regas, Origins, Moerchs, even the Dynavectors, etc. etc.
Then all that left is FR, and some others of the old guard?

If you need more mass for a THAT low compliance cart (4cu?) why not blue-tack a penny on the head-shell --- used to work great I'm told :-)

But why is the 66s six times the price of a 64s? If the 64s is not far behind it must be a bargain?
Dear Perrew, the FR-64s is indeed the ONE BIG bargain in todays 2nd hand audio market regarding tonearms. It would still be if it were fetching $3000. The FR-66s is simply so rare. Production numbers of the FR-66s are less then 1/30th of the FR-64s. Its rarity. The performance is on a par with very slight differences only notceable in direct comparism.
Hi Axel, lets make it simple: buy a FR-64s and simply compare it with careful set-up with some of the other tonearms you mentioned (I already did...).
When you've done so, we can talk that subject and the "facts" which are not in "my physics" book again.
But then, it won't nessecary any longer....

D. :-) :-)
why, we ARE always good for a laugh.
Have you ever had an 'Empire S1000 ZE/X' in your FR 66?
That would be telling, --- before I go shopping from Schroeder to Brinkman and back to what not.

Now it bedtime, nighty night.
It is all about marketing. Brand name has value because it is a reputation built over years. But these days, the wall street types push that "value" to the limit. Every generation of brand name product released comes with a 25% increase in price. Manufacturing costs continue to decrease as more products are outsourced to China. So profits have to be at an all time high. Gives new meaning to High End.
I see the resell prices of used products showing the real value of a product. A lot of high end products take substantial equity hits on the used markets.
"I see the resell prices of used products showing the real value of a product. A lot of high end products take substantial equity hits on the used markets"

Has anyone actually heard either of the Continuum arms? Your thoughts would be appreciated.