schick 12 - 12 inch tonearm

Tonarme

This is the classic long schick 12 inch tonearm.

thomas_schick-231-final2

My tonearm’s components are available in three finishes:

The arm tube for all finishes is polished aluminum.

Gold, shiny

Black chrome matt

Nickel Pal­la­di­um matt

The standard version version compatible with almost all headshells and
cartrdiges is

SME, SPU G: with shorter arm tube.

For special applictions I can offer a longer verion for SPU A type
cartridges. Another custom verion is for the French Clement monaural
cartridge.
I deliver all tonearms with lift and Antialiasing mechanism. The user
can decide whether to use these features, or not.

The regular weight, for up to 30 Gramms headshell and cartridge weight,
suits most cartridges. 
The heavier weight should be used for cartridge headshell combinations above 30 gramms.
BBest known example for hevier cartridges is the Ortofon SPU cartridge range.
Introduction

Vinyl playback is still popular worldwide despite the fact that there
are numerous digital formats claiming to be the ultimate source. I do
not want to research the reasons for this, because if you are reading
this, you probably already enjoy vinyl records.

For high quality analogue playback, record players from the 1960’s and
even older are still very popular.

As for cartridges, the choice is often a classic Ortofon SPU. Its design
dates even back to the late 1940’s.

Two major perspectives on sonic reproduction seem to have surfaced over
time. First, there is the “romantic, sweet and pleasant” sound lover.
This listener values most tonal colors, the reproduction of a musical
event, nothing which disturbs this experience reproduced and replayed is
allowed. The other listener is the detail lover who wants to hear all
the details, even if the overall sound is missing the context it
originally had.

Both of these perspectives have advantages and disadvantages in
consideration of recorded material reproduction. “Sweet sound” is often
perceived as dull and boring, whereas the detailed sound often comes
along with bright, unnatural, even annoying sonics, but not always, or
all the time.

A customer summed it up like this: 'If i listen to xy, I need an Aspirin
after 20 minutes.'

Best of both worlds

How do I combine these two perspectives and get the most natural AND
detailed sound?

To keep the high level of information and details, you have to start at
my initial idea. How would I design a precise and sonically accurate
tonearm for use with a very wide range of cartridges.

My chosen bearings , along with a lot of other careful design decisions,
will reveal sonic musicality. The design appaears simple, yet the
consists of more than 50 parts. Still to keep the elegant appearance
uncluttered by knobs.

The situation

A lot of audiophiles from all over the world fancy the vintage 12 inch
arms from makers like Ortofon and SME. They are capable of producing a
nice sound, but their ability to deliver details is limited. The
condition of the arms is mostly bad, just think of their 40 years of
operation.
Even if in best condition, the old bearings leave much to be desired.
Forty years ago the bearing quality was much worse than today.
Even if we imagine the rest of the tonearm to be mechanically absolutely
rigid, the bearings remain the limiting factor. If the tonearm is thus
not stable, all the punch of the music is lost in the movements of the
bearing. The needle is supposed to work as generator, creating
electrical signals from the movement of the needle. If the arm assembly
is able to move against that, this is hardly beneficial.
Here also lies a problem with most uni-pivot-designs – they tumble. To
work against that, damping is often applied which even brings in more
negative influences rather than a cure. Uni-pivot tonearms that drown
their moving parts in silicone oil are not rigid, they are sticky,
unable to react to subtle details.
Also, a knife bearing is loose by design. Imagine a knife that is in use
for 40 years, the only thing cuttable would be hot butter. The edge of
the knife is a scratchy, uneven surface compared to the dimensions of
the information stored in a LP groove.

The assembly holding the knife bearing of a vintage SME arm

Tonearms are often advertised to match both SME, SPU G and SPU Asize .  The connector might fit, but the geometry is different.

SPU-G has SME compatible length, the SPU-A is 22mm shorter. One tonearm can never match both

left SME, SPU-G type headshell, right SPU-A

As a result a pick-up arm has to be made in two versions in order to fit both of the size possibilities.

top: schick arm SME, SPU-G compatible, bottom: schick arm SPU-A compatible

As an alternative an adaptor can be used on the SME SPU G tonearm to host SPU A and even EMT type cartridges.

The alternative

Ball bearings were indeed used in very popular tonearm designs at all times. Todays high tech manufacturing allows to create bearings with incredibly low tolerances. The bearings used in the schick arm have 0 (zero) positive tolerance and 7µm negative tolerance. From a perfect ball the negative tolerance means ‘dents’ with 7µ depth. Since there are many balls holding the construction the probability of really having 7µ tolerance is extremely low. This gives an extreme stable connection between the moving parts.

top quality ball bearings

Low tolerance gives the bearing another desired property: quietness. Obviously noise of the tonearm bearings would cause movement and resonances in the arm, that would cause a loss of information again. The low tolerance surface is achieved by polishing, which makes the surface of the modern ball bearing very smooth and silent if turned. It is possible to buy an identical looking bearing for a fraction of the cost. Turn them and put them to the ear. You can hear already metallic scratch noises, nothing you would like to have in the music signal.

Just turn a vintage arm horizontally and you know what I mean. There just loose balls arranged around the tonearms parts are used.

The low tolerance and smooth surface has a third important advantage: low friction and low stick effect.

The mechanical momentum necessary to start moving is very low. Thus the cartridge will again track better. The super smooth surface also makes the friction very low. We are talking of values where regular grease would be like fixing glue. For lubrication a special very light synthetic oil is used that will last a lifetime.

A word to the life expectancy of the bearings. They are made to withstand really high revs. That will never occur in their tonearm life, but ensures their quality for decades.

Material choice

Apart from the crucial moving part of tonearms, another important issue are the resonances. Metal is usually a good resonator, which is bad. But metal is strong and rigid. In a mechanical assembly the resonances of the metal can be kept very low. If two ‘ringing’ pieces of metal are brought together and joined mechanically, they do not produce any sound anymore. So the use of a headshell is a very good treatment for arm resonances. The mechanical interface between the arm tube and the headshell connector also controls the resonances very good. The same applies to the pivot axis and the counterweight. All three elements are safely joined together in order to control the resonances.

Special care was taken with the damping of the tonearm tube. Three different materials in 9 sections are used here.

Arm Geometry

The schick 12 and schick 9 inch tonearms are designed to follow the Baerwald geometry. This allows the smallest amount of tracking distortion over the whole record, for a given length.

However, to optimize an arm for one certain radius is just as possible, as using Lofgren or Stevenson geometry by changing the cartrige position in the headshell.

12 inch tonearm:

Null at 66, 120,9mm  Baerwald

Mounting distance     304,75mm

Offset angle                 17,11

Overhang                     12,82mm

eff. Length                 317,5mm

9 inch tonearm

Null at 66, 120,9mm  Baerwald

Mounting distance      229mm

Offset angle               22,345

Overhang                   16,8mm

eff. Length                245,8mm (9,6 inch)

Conclusion

Although these design criteria are well known, I suppose, real high quality bearings are rarely used. Or if they are used you can only find them in the upper price ranges. Most designs available do not allow the use of the suggested heavy cartridges.

Against the trend of mass production, outsourcing, production in low wage countries etc., my products are entirely hand made in Germany.

 

I would be happy to make one for you.

The tonearm is available in three finishes to chosse from:

gold
silver (nickel + palladium, matte finish)
black (black chrome, matte finish)

There is a 12 inch version available as well as a shorter 9 inch (9,6inch).
The shorter version is a drop in replacement for EMT record players as well.

The tonearm includes a lift and arm bench, as well as fixed lowest resistance and  capaticance, symetrical cable with Neutrik RCA plugs.
The cable is 1,1m long.
Else you can choose a 5 pin tonearm connector made by me. Teflon isolation and electronic test pins.

All tonearms are equipped with an Antiskating mechanism.
A second, heavier weight for SPU and other heavy cartridges can be ordered additionally.

The tonearm is suitable for any cartridge from about 6 Gramms and a compliance value of below 20 µm/mN (22 for the 9 inch version).
That includes most cartridges on the market, excluded are only lightweight and very soft MM systems.
A headshell is not included. I recommend to use my graphite headshell.

For questions or orders please contact me via e-mail , see contact page.