Turntable/arm/cartridge -


New member
Username: Borat63

Post Number: 6
Registered: May-10
When purchasing a new turntable, arm and cartridge how should
the budget be apportioned? Many people say the bulk of the
money should be spent on the turntable/arm but surely the
cartridge is a major influence on the overall sound. The following
examples are within my budget and are possible choices but which option is likely to sound better:
Michell Gyrodec/Tecnoarm/Sumiko Bluepoint Evo 3
Michell Tecnodec/Tecnoarm/Sumiko Blackbird


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17321
Registered: May-04

"Many people say the bulk of the
money should be spent on the turntable/arm ... "

Many people believe in UFO's, ghosts and the military superiority of a nation with sufficient destructive capacity to destroy the human race several times over. Don't do something just because many people tell you to do it or because many people do it without thinking through the why's of what they do and say. Take the time and make the effort to understand the forces at work and why one is more important than another.

Until 1957, when Edgar Vilchur created the AR1 turntable, there really were no consumer grade, high performance tables available. How Vilchur went about creating many of the AR products in those years was accomplished through a consistent thought process of throwing out most of the accepted "facts" regarding turntables, speakers and amplifiers - by throwing out what many people did and said - and beginning again with a fresh piece of paper where he could reason through the operation of the turntable itself as if no turntable, amplifier or speaker had ever been created before. Using this reductive, backwards engineering thought process he created the first suspended subchassis turntable simply because he grew to understand the turntable/arm/cartridge relationship as a closed loop system. As such, Vilchur worked primarily on the most influential portion of that loop - the turntable itself.

Slightly more than a decade later, seeing the financial success of Vilchur's efforts, the British based audio manufacturers took what Vilchur had stated as his design goal and refined it further by looking more deeply into the record groove than had Vilchur. Of course, by this time cartridges, pre amps, power amps and speakers had all increased in overall fidelity and many of those products Vilchur had used as his reference system were no longer viable in that function. We were also at the leading edge of computer technology were complex operations could be accomplished in less time and with highly accurate results that would have taken those early pioneers of audio working with their slide rules along with cut-and-try experimentation months if not years to accomplish. In the end, though, it eventually took the Linn Sondek L12 and its very brash designer "Ivor T." to push the thought envelope by offering highly dramatic demonstrations which suggested the cartridge would, in a closed loop system, always be the least important contributor to the quality of reproduction from an analog based LP system. I would think it should be rather easy to research the demonstrations and the logic Linn employed to make their turntable the most important part of any audio system in 1976. If you would like more than a forum type answer to your question, do the research yourself.

I'll try to keep the rest of this as short as possible but it is difficult when discussing turntables to skip over the microscopic details which are involved in LP playback. You want to put the bulk of your money into a table for the same reasons in most ways that you want to put the bulk of your budget into those things which precede your speakers. Both the phono cartridge and the loudspeaker are termed "transducer", they convert one form of energy into another form of energy. While the cartridge coverts the mechanical energy of the stylus/cantilever following the record groove's modulations into electrical energy, the speaker accomplishes the inverse. Therefore, what "many people" had believed prior to 1976 was the simplistic and incorrect assumption the transducers themself have the largest effect on system "sound" due to the very large errors and distortion components of the conversion process which they will introduce into the signal chain. Until the thinking was taken down to a more esoteric level of understanding regarding the factors which create those errors and distortions, many people bought cheap tables and cheap amps and connected them to more pricey cartridges and speakers. They were happy because they knew nothing better.

In the turntable arena, however, the "esoteric" thinking was of the turntable as a closed loop with the cartridge at the one end of the loop. With this placement the cartridge's dependency on the other two components of the loop became more obvious to most listeners; any error or distortion generated by or resulting from errors and distortions in the table and arm would be read by the cartridge not as an error or a distortion but as a part of the record groove it was responding to. Following that path of reasoning, if the table allows for any deviation from the constant, forward moving modulation of the groove walls into the stylus, there will be a degradation of the cartridge's output due to that deviation. Therefore, any exterior force which would act upon the table itself must first be filtered out of the loop. This thinking is what eventually led to the further refinement of Vichur's suspended subchassis design. Attention was then turned to the next most important and likely source of errors and distortions in a table; the motor and how it is coupled to the platter which in turn supports the LP as it moves the stylus/cantilever of the cartridge's motor assembly. Since even the finest motors move in a series of small leaps from one armature position to the next, any rigid coupling of the herky-jerky motor to the platter would be transmitted by the platter to the LP groove and then onto the stylus which would accept that input as signal. The platter would have to respond to these non-linear jerks, stops, starts and wobbles in the motor which was pulling it along as the platter needed some amount of freeplay in its main bearing. The jerking motor and the wobbling main bearing of the platter were noticed to be major causes of errors and disortions in how the stylus read the groove. Add to this the noise introduced by the bearing as its thrust plate was constantly being scraped by the bearing shaft and the resonance of the platter responding to the many impacts it would encounter along with a few dozen smaller and more intricate insertions of "noise" into the loop and it became increasingly apparent the stylus was in all cases responding to non-linear input generated by the table and arm. The only way to make a better analog playback system was to reduce the external factors which were generating these errors and distortions into the cartridge's motor. Looking at the tonearm, it must float freely without friction yet it must be be eminently rigid lest the cartidge will introduce energy/resonance into arm as it tracks the squiggles of the groove wall. It is the job of the turntable to absorb and mitigate those arm vibrations before they are reflected back from the bulk of the arm's bearing into the cartridge as unwanted, out of phase and time lagged signal. The more completely and accurately the table and arm accomplish their individual goals, the more accurately the stylus can read only the information which is contained in the groove modulations. So, the bottom line is, any other stylus movement other than that generated solely by the groove wall will be read by a higher resolution cartridge as "signal" - error ridden and distorted signal, but signal none the less.

The compelling thinking to date is the better the table, the more effective it is at its job of simply moving the groove past the scanning stylus. The better the table, the more effective it is at reducing the errors and distortions created by the tonearm. The better the tonearm, the more effective it is at reducing the random noise generated by the cartridge assembly itself. In order of importance then, first you buy the best table you can afford to make for the most quiet table you can afford with the least amount of errors/distortions which will be inserted into the signal chain. Next you place your importance on the tonearm realizing you can literally buy too much arm for any given table. Finally, you would put your remaining funds into the cartridge with the understanding that the superior table and arm will allow even the least expensive cartridge to perform to its ultimate capacity. Whereas, an inferior table and arm attached to a superior cartridge will only introduce more error and distortion ridden informaton into the cartridge's motor assembly which will be output as "signal".

And those ideas were the basis for the demonstrations which Linn performed back in the mid '70's; a superior turntable and arm using a baseline cartridge vs a cheapo table with a crappy arm using a costly cartridge. In addition, Linn also demonstrated the effect of a superior source used in conjunction with a lower quality system vs a lower quality source combined with a more "accurate" system. The sonic superiority of the former in each case began to convince the sceptics to the value of the table as being the most important component in an analog system. Boiling the logic down to more reasonable bites, whatever the table introduces into the signal output cannot be removed by any other component in the signal chain. And, more importantly, any signal lost by the table's functions will be lost to any other component in the signal chain which is incapable of recreating what it is never given.

Does that help?


Platinum Member
Username: Glasswolf

Columbia, South Carolina America

Post Number: 14768
Registered: Dec-03
you may be betyter off mentioning your budget and asking for suggestions.
many turntables come with the arm and pre-mounted cart already, or your choice of cart.

New member
Username: Borat63

Post Number: 7
Registered: May-10
Jan - thanks for your detailed reply. As for the Linn demos of "a
superior turntable and arm using a baseline cartridge vs a cheapo
table with a crappy arm using a costly cartridge" I'm sure they
would have taken this to the extreme by choosing a suitably
lousy turntable + arm to put with the "costly" cartridge, just to
demonstrate their point. When the difference in quality of the
various components is not extreme what is the best option may
not be so obvious.The reason I raised this question is because
of some recent conflicting advice - that was, rather than up
grade to a Michell Gyrodec with a Sumiko BluePoint Special
EVO 3 cartridge (I already own the BluePoint), better to spend
the money on a less expensive turntable such as a VPI Scout
and use the remaining money to purchase a superior cartridge to
the BluePoint.

GlassWolf - I am considering the Gyrodec, Well Tempered
Amadeus, Clearaudio Performance or VPI Classic and keen to
use my BluePoint. That gives you an idea of my budget.

Platinum Member
Username: Glasswolf

Columbia, South Carolina America

Post Number: 14770
Registered: Dec-03
My personal suggestion is to get the Gyrodec (great table by the way) and look at a cart like the Ortofon 2M black, which retails for about $800, but can be found new on ebay for about $400. It's "affordable" when not paying full retail, and it's pretty much the best MM cart I've ever heard. This also helps you avoid having to drop another $2000+ on a good MC phono stage.

Here's the nuts and bolts about a plinth, tonearm, and cart.. it's a mechanical machine. all turntables are. What this means is that the entire chain is only going to be as strong as it's weakest link. Cheap plinth/table? Won't absort resonance, and that resonance will transfer through your expensive tonearm from the cart, through to the speakers. Poor motor isolation or cheap shoddy construction on the motor? same result. Inferior tonearm? (by the way I love the SME3009 and similar) the tonearm will pick up the microvibrations from the cart needle, and resonate, carrying that feedback and vibration right through to the amplified stages of the signal path.. all of the mechanical components help to isolate the whole, so that the only vibrations carried anywhere, are those of the needle in the groove, and nothing else, being amplified and pumped to the speakers.
The cart, cantilever, and needle are equally important, because they are not only at the smallest stage of signal, they are the first stage. The type of cut of the needle (and I can link entire threads on this topic) be it oval, microline, or what have you, will determine how well the need;le tracks, how it sounds, and how it wears on the record (as does the downforce etc, of course) The cantilever material and design determine how well damped that component is so that it doesn't add any resonance, and color the output as well. The moving coil or magnet structure will add mass, but how much is often determined by quality. The quality of the cart also determines how tightly wound, and how fine the wire is for the coils therein, and so on, and so forth.

Anyway, short answer is all of it is important, so skimping on any part will affect the whole. You just need to determine where your budget allows you to call it as a law of deminishing returns.

Personally, I bought a Pro-Ject RM 1.3, and an acrylic platter upgrade for it, but replaced the stock Sumiko Pearl cart with the Ortofon 2M Black, which was utter overkill for that turntable, but I could afford the cart, and when I can aford something like a Gyrodec, then I'll move the cart to that table. I also built my own MM/MC tube phono-stage based on the Groovewatt design, which cost me about $400 to make, versus the price of about $2000 to buy one new and pre-built, and made my own fine-silver twisted pair low-inductance IC cables for the pre-amp.
To me, it sounds good now. I also have the TT isolated on a lead-shot and sand filled base to isolate the entire table from the output of the audio system.
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