Tonearm Reviews

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Malachi Lui  |  Oct 07, 2018  |  3 comments
The all-in-one turntable market has one gargantuan issue looming over it: the Crosley Cruiser. With everything an analog neophyte thinks he or she needs, these $70 “turntables” sell by the boatload, only to seriously damage records after but a few plays with their five grams of tracking force. Why are they so popular then? Because they’re small, inexpensive and the purchaser doesn’t have to think about piecing together an entire system; it’s right in front of them. Even so, it still feels extremely wrong to spend $100 on a vinyl box set and subject it to the evils of a $70 turntable.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 01, 2018  |  5 comments
Best known for its sexy looking Delphi turntable first introduced in 1979 and currently in its MK VI iteration ($8850), Canada-based Oracle Audio recently updated its lowest priced Origine turntable to MKII status.

The upgraded version includes a new “wall-wart” powered 16V AC synchronous motor (the original was 24V AC—customers with that motor can get a free upgrade, paying for shipping one way) and a new silicon damped cueing mechanism replacing the original’s “direct action” cueing system (which for original Origine owners can be upgraded for $85). It uses a knob rather than a traditional lever, that you turn to raise and lower the arm.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 06, 2018  |  15 comments
The amount of faux "controversy" surrounding the 10" arm Technics will supply with its upcoming SL-1000R turntable bordered on the absurd. Much of it centered on the pivot to spindle distance and effective length. It all began when the 'table arrived and the spec sheet listed the effective length as 239mm. That didn't make sense to me because that would be the effective length of a 9" arm!

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 30, 2018  |  137 comments
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show, Technics CTO/Chief Engineer Tetsuya (Tony) Itan, Yoshiyuki Sumida, Assistant Manager Technics Team, and Technics Business Development Manager Bill Voss brought over and installed the new Technics SL-1000R turntable and tone arm for a week's stay. While this was a pre-production sample and not suitable for a full review, I thought you would be interested in first impressions that is not a review.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 24, 2017  |  19 comments
Editor's note: AnalogPlanet (and Stereophile) policy is to review products as sent to us unless they are broken and/or clearly defective. In this case the speed was "off" but the 'table was neither "broken" nor "defective" so we chose to review "as sent".

The importer wrote to say the unit was sent with "the wrong pulley" and as stated in the review, we allowed for the possibility that the 'table had been previously used for reviews or for some other purpose. However, without trying to sound too harsh, if you're going to send out a product for review, it's important to check out its functioning before shipping and that would include making sure it's running at the right speed.

As the importer points out, the Kid Thomas previously reviewed ran at the correct speed but clearly this one did not and it was what was sent so there was an obligation to review "as sent" just as there was an obligation to ship a properly functioning review sample! I know this might sound "harsh" but I'm always thinking of the consumer who buys and uses without checking speed accuracy and ends up listening at the wrong speed.

AnalogPlanet readers' thoughts on this are most welcome.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 24, 2017  |  47 comments
The original Technics SL-1200 direct drive turntable introduced in 1972 enjoyed a thirty-eight year, six generation run. Technics sold more than 3.5 million of them. In October of 2010 just as vinyl was staging its unlikely comeback, parent company Panasonic pulled the plug on the SL-1200 Mk6.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 24, 2016  |  51 comments
VPI just announced a new, easy to accomplish modification for its full line of 3D printed arms that turns the unipivot into a dual pivot design that creates a fully stable arm that fully eliminates "wobble".

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 25, 2015  |  16 comments
For vinyl lovers, it’s important to know that Wilson-Benesch first began in 1989 as a start-up dedicated to building a turntable simply because it felt vinyl was a superior medium compared to CD. For that reason alone, the company should be venerated. W-B argued that new, emerging technologies like carbon fiber could further elevate vinyl playback.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 14, 2011  |  1 comments
Trends in turntable design shift back and forth over time, each "advance" turning out to be a mostly sideways move. Over its long history, VPI's founder and designer, Harry Weisfeld, has moved the analog goalposts back and forth as he's refined his thinking. His early turntables were mostly standard spring-suspension designs of normal size. By the time Weisfeld produced his fully tricked-out TNT model, which was originally designed to stably hold the heavy moving mass of Eminent Technology's ET2 air-bearing arm, he'd moved to a massive, oversized, sandwiched plinth with isolating feet at the corners. He first used springs and, later, air bladders originally designed to cushion a tractor-trailer's load, and which he'd found in a trucker's supply catalog. Via an O-ring, the TNT's outboard motor drove one of three pulleys that protruded from holes in the plinth, and attached to a T-shaped subchassis that, in turn, drove the other two pulleys via two additional O-rings.
Michael Fremer  |  May 24, 2011  |  0 comments
Brinkmann's 9.6 tonearm ($3990) resembles the German company's longer, more expensive 10.5 and 12.1 arms, which in turn resemble the legendary Breuer. The new arm includes the same headshell, armtube, mounting socket, and cueing device used in the other arms. The bearing system differs, though the Swiss-made ball bearings are identical.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 27, 2006  |  1 comments
The Graham Engineering 1.5 tonearm, originally introduced in 1990, was a thoughtfully executed design that logically addressed all of the basics of good tonearm performance—geometry, resonance control, rigidity, dynamic stability—with effective, sometimes ingenious ideas, while providing exceptional ease and flexibility of setup. Over time, designer Bob Graham came up with ways to significantly improve the 1.5's performance, including the replacement of its brass side weights with heavier ones of tungsten, an improved bearing with a more massive cap, various changes in internal wiring, a far more rigid and better-grounded mounting platform, and a new, sophisticated ceramic armwand. (The original wand had hardly been an afterthought: its heat-bonded, constrained-layer-damped design consisted of an inner tube of stainless steel and an outer tube of aluminum.) The arm's name changed from the 1.5 to the 1.5t (tungsten), then the 1.5t/c (ceramic), and on to the 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 20, 2000  |  0 comments
Andy Payor hurls a briefcase full of engineering and scientific mumbo-jumbo at in an attempt to justify the $73,750 price of the latest and greatest edition of his Rockport Technologies turntable, but really—isn't this all-air-driven design a case of analog overkill? After all, defining a turntable's job seems rather easy: rotate the record at an exact and constant speed, and, for a linear tracker, put the stylus in play across the record surface so that it maintains precise tangency to a radius described across the groove surface. By definition, a pivoted arm can't do that, so the goal there is to minimize the deviation. That's basically it. Right?
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 22, 2007  |  0 comments
Almost immediately on entering the analog marketplace in 1982, Franc Kuzma, a mechanical engineer based in Slovenia, then part of the former Yugoslavia, established a reputation for manufacturing finely engineered, high-performance products that sold at reasonable prices. Kuzma's early industrial designs, however, while serviceable, looked less than distinguished.
Michael Fremer  |  May 15, 2009  |  0 comments
Much has happened in the analog world since I reviewed SME's flagship Model 30/2 turntable for the March 2003 Stereophile (footnote 1). Back then, spending $25,000 on a turntable (without tonearm) was an odd extravagance intended only for those seriously committed to the format, and who already owned large LP collections. Although new LPs were being pressed in growing numbers, the resurgence of vinyl was still spotty, and the long-term prognosis for the old medium remained in question.

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