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  • Expensive tonearms - beyond the pale?

    Okay guys and gals, the Lineage arm is coming to fruition this spring, it is amazing and I am making it to show what a great tonearm you can build for normal prices. I have been rather disgusted with the prices for tonearms over the last two years, they are ridiculous and do not in any way represent what it actually costs to make an arm. This goes for any material used, aluminum, stainless steel, carbon fiber, Benelux, titanium, unavailium, etc. and it really poisons the business. It is a poison driven by magazine reviewers who constantly want more expensive and more expensive toys to write about. This goes for all the print and on line writers, I am singling out no one because none of them have any idea how you make something or they would write " Are you crazy with this price"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    No tonearm, no matter what it is made out of (short of plutonium or gold) should be more than $6000 retail, period, end of story, and most should be less than $2000. There is no manufacturing reason for any of this stuff to cost what it does, other than let's make money while vinyl is hot again, only to disappear as soon as it cools off, as it will. ...
    Harry Weisfeld VPI audio forum


    Those pesky reviewers, who are they to keep setting high tone arm prices. The populism of reviewer bashing (let's get 'em) always has been there from a segment of forumites, sometimes overlapping with the "how do they add up the cost of those parts and get that price" manufacturer bashers. It's probably over the line to bash mind-clouded-by-the-devil audiophiles who actually purchase five-figure tonearms. And suicide to take a swipe at margin-craving dealers. So Harry picked a relatively safe target to gin up in his marketing efforts.

    None of which speaks to the truth-value of HW's rant? The substance of which he fails to share. Who are those reviewers? And which 'arms go for such high prices demanded by reviewers?

    I can think of the Graham Supreme Elite (or whatever it's called) that comes on the TechDas table, the $36k Vertere Reference (you gotta love the "Find Store" link on their Web site ), the Clearaudio Statement TT-1 tangential, the bespoke $75k Durand Telos, not sure if the Kuzma Airline or Durand Talea are over $10k yet or what is the latest price for a Schröder Reference. What others are out there?

    Beyond what the market will bare and diminishing returns, do any of the expensive arms deliver sonics proportionate to their cost?

    [That seems like a reasonable question for ending my post here, but I'm still wondering about the cause and effect relationship between reviewers and tonearm prices.]


  • #2
    Maybe he's taking a potshot at the $28,000 SAT which is Micheal Fremers current favorite, not really sure. Maybe he's creating some buzz, no make that he's definitely creating some buzz. Interesting though.

    Comment


    • #3
      Maybe he has a point...?

      (I'll get my coat!)
      DIY TT w/ Transrotor mech, Roksan Tabriz Zi, SAE 1000LT
      Vacuum State JLTi phono stage, SAS B11a pre-amp, DIY 2A3 monoblocks
      DIY HD XMOS-based USB->S/PDIF converter, Danish Audio Designs 3-box DAC10
      DIY 3-way folded line speakers, DIY Open Baffles

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      • #4
        I can only say why I have the arm I have on my table now. I use an Elite by the way. I've been a Graham user for about a decade now. The number one draw is the ease of set up (I am not gifted with great manual dexterity) nor an abundance of patience. Each succeeding version albeit I've skipped every other one, has netted better sonics across the board. In a nutshell, that's how I ended up with the Elite. The price unfortunately has gone up along with the gains. Still, while a real record nerd, and admittedly have one of the more expensive tables out on the market (AF1), my philosophy is really simplistic. Embarrassingly so. Let my LP lay flat, give me a quiet table (because I use 99dB 7ft monsters with lots of power behind them), speed stability because as I former vinyl DJ I am very sensitive to pitch variations, and finally, please Lord give me a speed selector button and give me an arm that tracks like a Mutha********. Now give me carts to play with.

        Still, ease of use and set up really is a huge thing for me because I do like carts and while I've got a great set up guy that can help, I never know when the mood will strike to change. This is a tricky thing especially when you consistently get good sound anyway and none of my carts are really overtly colored. Let's say all of them are good all-rounders.

        Here's the thing. All my carts were chosen with compliance (arm matching) and output (phonostage matching) from the get go. I honestly can't remember what were chickens and what were eggs. Trapped in a conspiracy of my own doing!

        My question about the uber arms out there is, within the context of having medium compliance carts with medium outputs, what do they bring to the table? Pun intended. On a pristine LP the silence between tracks even with the volume pretty cranked has been likened not just by myself but a host of people that have been by as digital black like. No shortage of dynamics, tubes all over the place take care of tone. What would entice me to look at another arm unless I wanted to use a low compliance cart and explore the likes of an Ikeda or an older SME or whatever?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by JackD201 View Post
          I can only say why I have the arm I have on my table now. I use an Elite by the way. I've been a Graham user for about a decade now. The number one draw is the ease of set up (I am not gifted with great manual dexterity) nor an abundance of patience. Each succeeding version albeit I've skipped every other one, has netted better sonics across the board. In a nutshell, that's how I ended up with the Elite. The price unfortunately has gone up along with the gains. Still, while a real record nerd, and admittedly have one of the more expensive tables out on the market (AF1), my philosophy is really simplistic. Embarrassingly so. Let my LP lay flat, give me a quiet table (because I use 99dB 7ft monsters with lots of power behind them), speed stability because as I former vinyl DJ I am very sensitive to pitch variations, and finally, please Lord give me a speed selector button and give me an arm that tracks like a Mutha********. Now give me carts to play with.

          Still, ease of use and set up really is a huge thing for me because I do like carts and while I've got a great set up guy that can help, I never know when the mood will strike to change. This is a tricky thing especially when you consistently get good sound anyway and none of my carts are really overtly colored. Let's say all of them are good all-rounders.

          Here's the thing. All my carts were chosen with compliance (arm matching) and output (phonostage matching) from the get go. I honestly can't remember what were chickens and what were eggs. Trapped in a conspiracy of my own doing!

          My question about the uber arms out there is, within the context of having medium compliance carts with medium outputs, what do they bring to the table? Pun intended. On a pristine LP the silence between tracks even with the volume pretty cranked has been likened not just by myself but a host of people that have been by as digital black like. No shortage of dynamics, tubes all over the place take care of tone. What would entice me to look at another arm unless I wanted to use a low compliance cart and explore the likes of an Ikeda or an older SME or whatever?
          Yep - ease of set up is huge because getting it right is key. I don't know why every 'arm maker doesn't have something like the little level on the 'arm that Phil Graham has. And I'm vaguely recalling he provides an off-the-bearing alignment jig for the removeable 'arm + cartridge. Very simple azimuth adjustment by moving a magnet(?). All those things add up in user friendliness. Maybe price should correlate with true user satisfaction.

          Just two days ago mounting an Allnic Arrow I was wishing for a tiny robot I could attach to the headshell that took very specific instructions to move the cartridge this way or that by micro-millimeters against my alignment jig. (The upgraded model wouldn't require my eyes at all.) It always takes me two days cuz I come back to check my work after giving my eyes a rest. It's almost always worth while - day one gets things there and day two gets them dead nuts on.

          99db 7ft monsters - I'm thinking Soundlabs.

          Comment


          • #6
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            Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

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            • Garth
              Garth commented
              Editing a comment
              Put felt shoes on them and they are hired

            • Guest's Avatar
              Guest commented
              Editing a comment
              What a hoot! Those are RAF flight deck techs, rights?

            • MylesBAstor
              MylesBAstor commented
              Editing a comment
              That is hysterical!

          • #7
            I am sorry to say Harry is very out of touch. If he can say those things than today's level of engineering, quality of manufacturing and material science is way beyond his understanding. Hell, a decent cartridge costs more than that.
            Best Regards,

            Jonathan Tinn
            Blue Light Audio
            darTZeel - Importer
            Evolution Acoustics - Co-Owner / Founder
            Playback Designs - Co-Founder
            Wave Kinetics - Co-Owner / Co-Founder
            Wave Kinetics Records - Co-Owner / Co-Founder

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            • #8
              Yeah, Harry's out of touch and doesn't know what he's talking about. He just built a highly regarded company from scratch in the US, produces a line of turntables ranging from affordable to pretty much state of the art, produced the first 3-D printed tone arm and is introducing new improved products every year. How could he possibly say that tonearms reaching $10,000, $20,000 or the best part of $30,000 are overpriced. The unmitigated gall.

              ​Could it be that a $10,000 or $15,000 cartridge will be called overpriced next? The horror.


              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by Rust View Post
                Yeah, Harry's out of touch and doesn't know what he's talking about. He just built a highly regarded company from scratch in the US, produces a line of turntables ranging from affordable to pretty much state of the art, produced the first 3-D printed tone arm and is introducing new improved products every year. How could he possibly say that tonearms reaching $10,000, $20,000 or the best part of $30,000 are overpriced. The unmitigated gall.

                ​Could it be that a $10,000 or $15,000 cartridge will be called overpriced next? The horror.

                Truthfully -- and you may or may not realize it -- Jonathan is intimately familiar with the analog business too. He is involved with the design, sales and marketing of the highly respected Durand arms and Wave Kinetics turntables.

                Me thinks you get in trouble when one makes sweeping generalizations. Truth is, there have always been products that were overpriced for what they were over the years. But that was a real minority. Does anyone remember the screams of agony when Joe Grado came out with a $600 cartridge? Unheard of in its time.

                There have always been expensive arms out there. There was the excellent sounding $15,000 Air Tangent linear tracking, air bearing arm in 1990; that translates into about $28K in today's dollars and no one complained back then. In fact, the machining that went into that arm was unrivaled. An arm that was $3000 back in the '90s --and there were a few of them --would translated to almost $5500 in current dinero.

                Now if Harry wanted to say manufacturers should be more transparent, that's another thing. But because of the reviewers? Maybe if SAT sold a couple of hundred, maybe a thousand arms possibly. But what does SAT sell? 50 arms? A hundred at most? How many does VPI sell? Easily 10X that amount? More? The SAT is the Ferrari of analog according to MF. As you said, Harry, Mat and VPI are known for delivering an excellent product and a lot of value. They can certainly rest their laurels on that. Maybe some day, SAT will be able to filter this technology down into a less expensive tonearm. (We can talk about how companies roll out new products and whether they should begin at the top or bottom of the heap. We know most start at the top and work down than vice versa.)

                And the price of a product--as in any other piece of audio equipment--isn't simply dictated by the raw materials, machining and building costs. There's the R&D costs that can add substantially to the end cost, particularly when a company is a one trick pony. Do they machine the arm in house or have some outside concern do it? Computer costs and software. Then there's the cost to pay people to build the arm. The warranty costs. The rent costs. The overhead costs. The box cost. The shipping costs. The cost to pay the companies credit line. The cost to reinvest and keep the company going. The advertising costs. Bottom line there's more to it than meets the eye at first blush.
                Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                ________________________________________

                -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                Comment


                • Rob
                  Rob commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Myles, the Airtangent was $3200 back in '90 no where near 15k even the motorized version was way less than half that.
                  Last edited by Rob; 04-18-2016, 11:20 PM.

                • MylesBAstor
                  MylesBAstor commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Rob I am almost sure that Sid paid 12K for his Air Tangent and the remote control VTA version was at that time 15K.

                • Jtinn
                  Jtinn commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Always so eloquent! Yes, of course Myles expressed my thoughts quite a bit clearer than did I.

              • #10
                That's interesting Myles--I knew Air Tight Jp did have a TT--the T-01-but cannot recall a Linear tracker-

                - would you be thinking of Leif Häggmark's Air Tangent ?

                ​S

                Comment


                • #11
                  Originally posted by Socrates View Post
                  That's interesting Myles--I knew Air Tight Jp did have a TT--the T-01-but cannot recall a Linear tracker-

                  - would you be thinking of Leif Häggmark's Air Tangent ?

                  ​S
                  Yes you are absolutely right; my brain is still fried from Axpona. Thank you!
                  Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                  Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                  ________________________________________

                  -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                  -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                  -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                  -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                  -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                  -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                  -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                  -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                  -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                  -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Just my 2 cents worth never met Harry so nothing I can add .

                    But in the world of Million dollar systems and even Million dollar speakers.

                    Why does a 30 to 50 thousand dollar start debate .

                    Tone arms last a long time, no circuits tubes to go bad little to repair unless damaged by miss use. ( unless I have been luckier than most )

                    Why is a Tone arm such a bad place to put money into .

                    10,000 for a cartridge and how many years will it last.

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by Garth View Post
                      Just my 2 cents worth never met Harry so nothing I can add .

                      But in the world of Million dollar systems and even Million dollar speakers.

                      Why does a 30 to 50 thousand dollar start debate .

                      Tone arms last a long time, no circuits tubes to go bad little to repair unless damaged by miss use. ( unless I have been luckier than most )

                      Why is a Tone arm such a bad place to put money into .

                      10,000 for a cartridge and how many years will it last.
                      You mean hours. 1000 minimum to 2000 hrs at most? But as J. Carr pointed out, it isn't as if the stylus will damage the LP. The stylus just loses a bit of its profile and footprint.
                      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                      ________________________________________

                      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Audiophiles, and in fact most hobbyists from any niche should have realized long ago that a product's engineering is not always connected to it's price. Top of the line statement pieces are made just to see what pushing the boundaries can do. Any attempt to reverse engineer these small volume pieces and assign value is quixotic at best.

                        I've spoken to a few tonearm designers/builder and each said the best arm wasn't their top of the line but the middle of the range as it gave 90% of the performance for much less money. Look around at a few different hobbies/industries and you see a similar pattern.
                        Tannoy Glenair, April Sound SET 50 monoblocks and LR phono, EMIA silver remote attenuator and Strain Gauge, Mono TT - AE 208 TT, Abis 1.2BCS arm Miyajima Premium BE, Stereo TT - Fairchild 750 Schroder Custom BA, Miyajima Kansui, Mac Mini w/ Roon, Bel Canto RefLink, Dac 3.5VB, Wadia 860x.

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          I am sorry to say Harry is very out of touch. If he can say those things than today's level of engineering, quality of manufacturing and material science is way beyond his understanding. Hell, a decent cartridge costs more than that.
                          Ahhh, I now know that Jtinn is Jonathan Tinn. My comments were more intended to be tongue in cheek than an outright criticism and a bit of a fishing expedition for the reasons behind his post. It is more understandable where he is coming from now. Nice turntable by the way.

                          Myles - Your subsequent posting was very well reasoned and presented, and I agree with your logical points on costing. Artisanal products do not have the same economies of scale as products produced in greater numbers.

                          That said, I do not wish to seem overly apologetic. Always looking to see if the emperor is wearing pants or not.

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