Originally Posted by Publius
Kevin Barnes of KABUSA is very, very fond of the stock arm. He, and a few others, appear quite convinced that the stock 1200 arm is the equal or better of most audiophile tonearms, in that:
- The bearing friction is extremely low and may be superior to most low-end audiophile tables. Technics publishes their bearing friction numbers; nobody else does.
- The effective mass (13-14g including headshell IIRC) is not significantly worse (or better for that matter) than other tonearms. It's actually pretty low mass compared to some arms.
- It includes a built-in VTA adjuster that is not bad at all. This costs $$$ to add for every other tonearm, or doesn't even exist.
- Its acoustic properties are fine.
Well there is nothing wrong with liking vintage tonearms per se. A lot of people really rate the SME 3009 and having had a Series II improved myself I agree that it has a lot of strengths. It's beautifully made and looks very cool and sounds amazing with certain types of music but a lot less so with others.
The Technics arm is also very well made but it has a very definite sonic signature, as does the SME, which is down to the way it's been constructed. All the various joints and bits of rubber used to damp it have certain resonant modes which give it a certain sound.
When Rega and SME came along with tonearms of a single casting in the 1980's it revolutionised tonearm design. The humble Rega simply outperformed all the competition from the likes of Linn and Audio Technica, and has set the standard ever since.
The usual criticism of it is that it's a bit characterless, but this just means it doesn't stamp it's own signature on everything which is a good thing if you have varied tastes.
A tonearm has a very big influence on how a deck sounds, perhaps even the single biggest. It doesn't matter how much you spend on a cart if the tonearm isn't allowing it to perform to it's full potential.
I am not saying the Rega RB250 is the be all and end all but it's head and shoulders above most tonearms at this price level, not that there are that many these days.
I have a fully upgraded Origin Live Rega RB250 and this is a big improvement again on the stock version, although I am still not really satisfied with the way it sounds. It still has rough edges and probably these can only be solved by upgrading to something like an SME IV.
Or perhaps gimbal bearing designs arn't the way to go. I have been toying with the idea of checking out a unipivot
Soundsupports will supply a blank Technics mounting plate or one cut to any pattern you want so long as you can send them a mounting template, I imagine.