Myth Statement
The Tonearm Is The Weak Link, Replace It.

If you have been in this long enough, you know that the '1200 has come along way in terms of overall critisism. Why, at one time it was an accepted rule that the '1200 was not worthy of quality reproduction on any level, plinth, motor and arm. Well, times have really changed and as more learn what the 'table is all about, and more serious people use it and approve of it, the things left to criticize get smaller. These days it is down to the tonearm and in some cases just the wand wire.

Just like a turntable, the toneam is not a monolithic entity. When you read declarations like "Tonearm X is much better than tonearm Y", you should be skeptical and at least want to know more of what was truly compared. When you look at a tonearm, you have a the following items:

  1. Headshell
  2. Arm Wand
  3. Bearing Sytem
  4. Arm Base
  5. Internal Wand Wiring
  6. Interconnect
  7. Phono Cartrtidge

There are certain things an arm must do well or else it will have an impact on the sound.

  1. The arm wand must not produce a resonant tone. This is easy, just taper it or curve it at 2 dissimilar distances. A simple test of tapping the wand with a paper clip, while in a stationary groove will let you hear the "sound" of the tonearm.
  2. The wand wire must be sonically neutral. Most of what people hear in the upper registers can be layed at the feet of the wand wire. For the '1200, in the MK2 and MK5 models, this is a tin plated fine strand and is truly the achilles heal of the arm in the upper registers. the M5G uses OFC fine strand and is significantly better. Our Cardas rewire is likely to be the best overall choice for neutrality. Once the arm wire is neutralized, then you can concentrate on the true item of color, the cartridge.
  3. The bearing system must do 2 things well, provide low friction and provide a good mechanical ground. The '1200 arm has friction specified at 7 miligrams. That may be the lowest friction specified in an owners manual. The gimbal type bearing has 2 mechanical grounding points. one on top, one on bottom. We believe the gimbal offers the best overall technical performance. Non gimbals produce higher friction and less mechanical grounding.
  4. The Interconnect is important to the extent of distributed capacitance. If you are using a MM cartridge, this capacitance adds with the preamp to effect the response of the cartridge. It needs to be known.

When you look at improving arm performance, fluid damping is another key element. Fluid damping eliminates shock resonance. that is the woofer pumping that occurs on even the slightest warps. There are other ways of dealing with this like choosing an arm with high bearing friction or choosing a very low compliance cartridge, both of which are poor solutions in our opinion. Fluid damping is not a bandaid, it is a key element in good tonearm design. The more you stabilize the arm, the more still the sound picture that develops. Fluid damping does not increase arm friction and so does not increase groove wear.

Of course there are alot of non technical reasons to want to try a different tonearm. My only comments regarding that approach is, know what the technical or functional limitations are and don't do anything that cannot be reversed. Here is some food for thought:

The cost to add fluid damping and Cardas wire to a stock 1200 arm is $318.00. What other tonearm at anywhere near that price will give you that and all the flexibility of a '1200 arm?

Read online reviews of DIYers who rewired their arms with Cardas and see what they say about it. Is there any reason to doubt that if the '1200 arm was rewired in that way, it would benefit any less?

At KAB it is all about value and performance, you can spend lots of money on a monolithic item that someone else says sounds great, or you can break things down into their component parts and analyze what is really going on . It is your hobby. Get more involoved in what makes it go!

Myth Responded To.