Technical Measurements Aren’t Everything
Tonearms appear quite similar, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. There are various schools of thought on how to tackle the design challenges presented. The most popular theory is that energy is best absorbed by damping, so there are manufacturers who go to great lengths to use this plausible theory to “prove” superior performance by comparing technical measurements.
The big problem with this approach is that technical measurements have proved time and again to have their limitations. Suffice it to say, there are many well-known examples in audio history from CDs low-distortion figures to speakers with perfect frequency-response that sound terrible.
High Speed Ripple Effects in Tonearm Structure Cause Unwanted Cartridge Movement
We noticed that tests conducted on tonearms which gave better technical figures for damping did not always give better results in subjective listening tests. So whats going wrong?
- Actual deflection and angular rotation of the tonearm in vibration–this measurement is in our view more important than resonance figures
- The recovery speed–the speed to get back to correct position.
- The speed of energy transmission and the locations at which damping or energy loss occurs is not measured. These factors introduce timing issues and energy reflections
- The measurements given are usually in only one axis which leaves 5 more, equally important ones totally unmeasured. One-axis measurements are not at all indicative of what the rest are like
Tonearms bend microscopically out of position under load and need to recover quickly. But this is overlooked as it conflicts with the more plausible need for damping. You actually need the correct balance of both high speed recovery and damping which is why we test exhaustively to achieve this.
Is Build Quality the Answer?
Build quality with underlying design flaws is a waste of money and does not deliver real results, however pretty it may be to look at and admire.
For example, a side-bias mechanism with a beautifully engraved spring dial may look to have better build quality than the thread and weight that we use – the problem is that the spring mechanism invariably rattles in micro-vibration and the degradation is clearly audible when amplified 8000 times. We have exercised a steady refusal to be seduced or pander to these flawed values which mitigate against true sound quality. A multitude of similar instances soon start to add up and eventually a very significant performance lead is built up.