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Tonearm FAQs 2018-04-16T12:39:59+00:00

Origin Live Tonearm FAQs

9.5inch vs. 12inch Tonearms 2018-04-27T13:10:20+00:00

All our arms are offered in 12 inch versions: this option can be specified using the 12 inch option button that appears in the ordering process for any arm.

People often ask about 9.5 inch arms vs 12 inch arms? The answer is firstly that the reduced tracking distortion manifests itself in a more effortless and coherent presentation, bass weight also increases surprisingly and the presentation is generally smoother all round. On the downside there is a slight loss of speed and transient attack but overall the timing is more coherent and we prefer the 12 inch sound. Having said this, it is not a vast difference and the overall character of an arm shines through predominantly on both versions of the same arm. For example a 12 inch Silver would not outperform a 9.5 inch Zephyr which is one step up in the range and therefore has significantly better performance.

A longer armtube means that inner and outer tracks sound more similar due to lowered tracking distortion, however shorter arms can sound faster and so choice boils down to a matter of preference – some people just don’t seem to miss speed of transients.

12 inch versions look fantastic and have certain advantages that appeal to those who prefer their alternative presentation.

Overcoming Technical barriers

There is an argument that the extra tube length of a 12 inch arm creates additional resonance that does more harm than good. This logic no doubt holds true for some arms but it all depends on whether better resonance control can mean that the advantage of lowered tracking distortion outweighs the resonance effects.

Once the real secrets of armtube construction are realised, it is possible for 12 inch designs to render superlative performance without suffering effects commonly associated with a longer arm tube. As the first review of the 12 inch Encounter shows, you can gain significant benefits from the Origin Live 12 inch arm.

If ever there was a case of swings and roundabouts within a hardware comparison then the tonal differences between the 9.5in and 12in versions of the Encounter 3c were it. The 9.5in had a lighter step. It had finesse and style with fine detailing. The 12in provided more bass extension that in no way swamped the soundstage but just pushed the arm’s awareness into a new, lower frequency range, opening the door into a grown-up arena that sounded both adult and rounded. Both arms produced superb quality sound yet I feel that the 12in arm, on this system, provided a better balance. It relaxed more into the mix, making sound production effortless and more natural. It was a close-run choice, though.

Full Review of 12 inch Encounter Tonearm

If you have a Quick Question…


The Upgrades That Make the Most Difference 2018-04-25T13:59:15+00:00

Due to carrying out a great deal of listening to vinyl replay, we have had the luxury of listening to a vast array of equipment. The following information is intended to offer some help and advice on the many options and choices available with regard to upgrading priorities and allocating your hard earned budget.

We are constantly asked questions about upgrade paths along the lines of:
– “How much should I spend on my cartridge?”
– “Is it worth having my arm rewired for a budget turntable?”
– “Should I upgrade to the advanced DC motor kit or upgrade the tonearm or turntable?”
– “What level of performance does the DC motor kit add to my deck?”

Assessing priorities to upgrade your system is not always easy and so we are providing some guidance from the experience that we have acquired over the years. Much depends on your the level of performance you aspire to, coupled with your future plans (if any) and budget. For this reason the following guidelines are a matter of opinion and judgement.

Depending on the deck, the DC motor kit will add approximately £700 worth of performance to most turntables relative to the cost and performance of turntables. This makes it a very worthwhile investment, especially as increasing the performance of a turntable is vastly more effective than cartridge upgrades.

The motor upgrade is usually as effective as upgrading to a Silver tonearm but this depends on the quality of your current turntable motor drive.

The upgrades below are scored in terms of performance relative to one another.

Our Opinion on Component Significance

Component Performance Significance
Cartridge 5%
Phono Stage

Origin Live Turntable Rating

Turntable Rating
Sovereign 300

Origin Live Tonearm Rating

Component Rating
Renown ?
Agile ?

Origin Live DC Motor Rating

DC Motor Kit
Ultra 150
Upgrade Transformer
Why Do Origin Live Arms Not Have the Yoke Offset? 2018-04-26T16:26:12+00:00

Why do Origin Live arms not have the Yoke offset as other arms do?

In theory not having an offset of the Yoke yields slight azimuth errors on warped records – whether this is ever audible is doubtful. Theory tends to sometimes focus on measuring and calculating what the ear cannot hear and not what it can.

The reason we prefer a non-offset yoke is that it reduces bearing friction by reducing side force on gimbal bearings and dual pivots.

We don’t take the shortcut of guessing what is best as so many do, but rather we test, test, and test again. Our findings are that additional friction is far more important than azimuth errors. Theoretical dogma often blocks real progress and there are some who will no doubt take issue with this – the only answer is to listen to the results.

To prove the force argument is much more complex than appears at first sight and incorrect assumptions are often made about the forces in operation when side bias is also taken into account.

It’s worth adding that even the conventional offset of the yoke on most decks is still only theoretically correct at one point on the record and is compromised the rest of the time, in a similar manner to angular tracking distortion.

Michael Fremmer, who is probably one of the most respected analogue reviewers on the planet and knows the theory of arms inside out, gave our Illustrious arm a superb review and never even mentioned the yoke offset. For over 10 years reviewers have never questioned the offset issue for the simple reason that the sound quality speaks for itself.

If people are absolutely paranoid about azimuth change on warped records then use a record clamp – you solve the VTA issues as well by doing this. Origin Live only recommend the use of a record clamp for really bad records as clamps tend to degrade sound quality.

Silver Wire Cable in a Tonearm Rewire? 2018-01-14T16:37:56+00:00

Silver Wire Cable in a Tonearm Rewire?

Don’t be misled by specifications – we’ve tried PTFE, silver plate, solid silver, etc. Getting silver wire cable to sound right is not easy and there are many silver wires that may sound transparent but also tend to be overly bright and incapable of producing low bass.

Silver is an important aspect but only one of many other aspects. On it’s own, silver wire is no guarantee of quality. For example, silver is only 5% more conductive than copper whereas the Harmony plugs we offer are 4 times as conductive as commonly used brass but nobody asks “what are the phono plugs made of?”. The fact is that there are critical elements of cable design that are not talked about and which have 10 times the influence on the sound than say PTFE insulation.

Without meaning to be vague, the information on the make up of our cables is largely confidential and not particularly meaningful as it’s almost impossible to pick out a high performance wire on such things as silver, PTFE, coaxial, balanced, etc. People can guess at the things that really make a wire tick but we don’t advertise them as it would give away too much to our competitors and not mean a great deal to the average person. At the end of the day one has to make a choice based on reputation and results rather than specifications which even the experts don’t fully understand.

In summary, our view is that a well designed copper wire will outperform a poor silver one but a well specified silver wire will outperform a good copper one. Lastly, it’s important to realise that although almost all silver in Hi-Fi is 99.99% pure, there is a vast difference in the way the silver has been processed. This alone affects the measured resistance, but is of minor significance compared to the differences in sound quality. Well processed silver is expensive as it takes real know-how, much longer production times and the right equipment.

Why Not Use Continuous Rewiring Cable? 2018-04-19T15:35:32+00:00

Why Not Use Continuous Rewiring Cable with No Joints in the Tonearm?

If a continuous wire is used for a tonearm from the headshell tags to the phono stage or amp, it needs to be very thin to avoid restricting the freedom of movement of the tonearm. This means it is automatically a non-optimal solution as wire characteristics are more influential on signal quality than solder joints.

There is a  common misconception that all wire joints are bad. In practice there is a vast difference between a mechanical joint and a soldered joint. Mechanical joints such as 5-pin DIN plugs are audibly detrimental as they put brass in the signal path and a mechanical joint is not good news either. Origin Live avoid mechanical joints unless specifically requested. Instead we use copper to copper wire joints using the highest grade solder containing silver and gold. This is a virtually inaudible joint and not to be confused or put in the same class as mechanical joints.

Internal wires must be very thin to avoid arm friction but this has the disadvantage of high resistance and non-optimal design for low level signal transmission (Approx 1000 times less than CD player). We want low resistance and other desirable properties, so the design of the much longer external cable is not thin wire, but wire designed for optimum performance.

These benefits have been tested and proven to far outweigh the benefits of avoiding a hard wired joint. It should also be added that the external wiring is 4 times as long as the internal and thus is more influential.

According to our rigorous listening tests, the no joint theory is true up to a point but on balance there are better solutions.

Whatever external wire is used, it is always best to hardwire it to the internal wiring as Rega do. 5-pin plugs not only introduce a joint into the signal path but more importantly they are made of brass which is only 70% copper. Brass has a poor grain structure for conduction and degrades signal quality. At the very low signal levels involved at the phono stage the aforementioned problems should be avoided as they are more serious than most people imagine.

Our external cable may not the most flexible on the market but there are advantages to having a slightly stiffer cable on suspended decks as it improves sound quality by reducing rotational movement of the sub-chassis.

Counterweight Position and Low Centre of Gravity 2018-03-20T10:16:14+00:00

Counterweight Position and Low Centre of Gravity

A common idea that should be questioned is whether a tonearm counterweight should be positioned as close as possible to the yoke for best performance. This minimises inertia and thus reduces see-saw effects over record warps. A variation of this theme is that low slinging the weight drops the centre of gravity and thus stabilis

es the arm, reducing bearing chatter and vibrational rocking. We will address these two concepts in turn as the principles involved are entirely different.

Counterweight Position

Frequently you find that observations on the performance of particular arms make folk jump to conclusions that miss the real causes of the performance changes perceived. Although the theory of decreasing the inertia of the counterweight seems very plausible, there is another more proven explanation. When the counterweight is positioned at the end of the stub on an Origin Live arm, you are NOT losing performance.

The notion that counterweight position affects performance has much more to do with vibration and lack of structural rigidity than inertia effects – in other words, on some arms it pays to keep the counterweight close to the yoke as it decreases resonance effects from counterweight waggle. On these arms the counterweight causes an increasing vibrational whiplash effect as it gets further from the pivot. Origin Live have gone over and over this with their arms and established conclusively that the counterweight position hardly affects performance at all on a properly designed arm. The idea that inertia is an enemy is also based on pure ideology – the fact is that without inertia the stylus could not read the record groove at all. Some systems add weight at the headshell to increase inertia as it is proven to be beneficial up to a point.

Calculations show that an 8g increase in cartridge weight will increase inertia four times more than having your counterweight position at the rear end of your arm stub.

Counterweight Low Centre of Gravity

Another case of observations drawing questionable conclusions is the case of low slung counterweights. Low centre of gravity IS important for unipivot arms but dual pivots and gimbal arms do not “sway about” and listening tests prove, all other things being equal, that it makes no audible difference to sling the weight low. As previously outlined, any beneficial observations are usually down to a heavier weight or different method of attachment reducing resonance effects on certain arms but not Origin Live arms. This is something we have tried and tested repeatedly.

Many low slung weights use varying methods of clamping themselves to the rear stub. This alone is very influential on the sound but the mistaken assumption is made that the difference is due to low slinging

We have probably experimented with counterweight materials and attachment more than anyone. Avondale Audio was the first company to modify Rega counterweights and they sub-contracted us to produce them, since then this has become a bandwagon of inferior copycat ideas.

Calculation of Inertia

The following calculations are given to try and give a sense of proportion to a rather intuitive but incorrect notion. Inertia differences are relatively insignificant. To get the weight closer to the pivot, the counterweight has to be heavier and this adds inertia – all in all a difference of 20mm or so is not a big deal.

To illustrate this using laws of physics – the moment of inertia is m x r squared where m is the mass and r is the distance to its centre of rotation. Say that a 130gram counterweight is 45mm away from the pivot – moment of inertia is 0.13 x 0.045 squared = 0.26 x10 to the minus 3.

Equivalent downforce can be achieved with a 235g weight at 25mm from pivot so—moment of inertia is:

0.235 x 0.025 squared = 0.146 x 10 to the minus 3. This is a difference of 0.000114.

Now compare this with the much higher increase in moment of inertia cuased by a 16g cartridge in comparison to the average 8g cartidge.

Inertia is 0.016 x 0.220 squared = 0.774 x 10 to the minus 3 (0.220 is pivot to cartridge distance in m) 8 gram cartridge is 0.008 x 0.220 squared = 0.387 x 10 to the minus 3. This is a difference of 0.000387–nearly 4 times higher than the inertia saving of moving the counterweight in.

Tonearm Dual-pivot bearing? 2018-04-19T15:35:33+00:00

Tonearm Dual Pivot Bearing

Why a Dual Pivot Bearing?

The Encounter, Illustrious and Conqueror tonearms are performance leaders, partly by virtue of their innovative dual pivot bearing. These bearings are attached to the horizontal axle (which governs vertical arm movement). This design is similar in many respects to uni-pivot designs-low friction and high decoupling which give excellent definition and transparency. However, uni-pivots can be difficult to set up. Dual pivots have all the advantages of uni-pivots but none of the drawbacks. Vertical movement of the arm is handled by the dual pivot and horizontal movement by highly specified conventional bearings.

Understanding Dual Pivot

The pivot bearings are designed to reduce friction to an absolute minimum. In doing this there is a fine balance between achieving both a long lasting, robust design and realising the potential of extremely low friction. In practice this means that the arm must have a tiny degree of movement due to a rounded tungsten point in a radiused sapphire Jewell bearing cup. The pivot points will “self-centre” by sliding into the bottom of the low friction cup.

Understanding the Clarity and Definition delivered by Dual Pivot Bearings

Dual pivot bearings are one of the many innovations which make Origin Live arms performance leaders. The design is similar in many respects to uni-pivots – low friction and high decoupling yield excellent definition and transparency. However uni-pivots can be fiddly to set up and exhibit only mediocre bass performance because of their relative instability. Dual pivots have all the advantages of uni-pivots but none of the drawbacks.  Vertical movement of the arm is handled by the dual pivot and  horizontal movement by highly specified conventional bearings.

Handles like a conventional gimballed arm

The arm functions and handles in exactly the same way as a conventional gimballed arm. In other words you do not need to worry about setting up azimuth.  The azimuth is set at factory (for those unfamiliar with the term, azimuth is the measure of headshell “twist” relative to the record surface).

How dual pivot works

[insert image/illustration here]

The above illustration of the dual pivot bearing shows the needle pivots resting in their cups and allowing the arm to pivot and thus allow vertical movement. The pivots are designed to reduce friction to an absolute minimum. In doing this there is a fine balance to achieve both a robust design whilst maintaining extremely low friction. In practice, the arm must have a slight degree of movement due to a sharp tungsten point in a shallow radius bearing cup.  The alternative to this is a very sharp point in a deep v-shaped cup (this would certainly restrain the movement of the point but would also increase friction and potential fracture of the tips).

The pivot points will “self-centre” by sliding into the bottom of the pivot cups.