TERMINATOR tonearm (Pt 4) – new arm mount

We all know that the small things matter in hi-fi.  Especially at the front end of the audio system – eg. the pickup cartridge and tonearm.

The Trans-Fi Terminator tonearm is constructed with a 6mm aluminium ‘L’ Mounting Plate.  It’s machined shape and necessary slotted holes, no doubt reduce its structural and torsional rigidity.

Would there be energy loss?

In my real job, I think a lot about structural  and construction matters, so I’ve been wondering for a while about this tonearm support.

I’ve been thinking that it could be beneficial to provide as much support surface as possible underneath the Terminator’s Mounting Plate.

The whole tonearm assembly is typically fixed onto the turntable on a tonearm ‘board’ or on a column/pillar.  The standard mounting column is a Delrin (acetal) or sometimes an acrylic round pillar, 36mm diameter – however it does not support the entire bottom surface of the Mounting Plate.

Does this matter?

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Terminator mounting plate

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Delrin pillar (on a Trans-Fi Salvation turntable).

Below is the Trans-Fi Salvation turntable outline showing the experimental new Arm Mount base (shaded), to fit the Salvation’s curved slate plinth below and the irregular shape of the terminator Mounting Plate on top.

Salvation-2

 

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The Salvation Turntable’s slate plinth.

Armblock 2b

This was the initial concept for the new Arm Mount base.

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The final engineering model – shown inverted and attached to a ‘fixture’ base ready for CNC milling.

My instinctive preference was to make this new Arm Mount base from hardwood.  However it is more practical to make accurate prototypes first in aluminium, when using a CNC mill in an engineering workshop.

I was fortunate to have access to some engineering assistance:

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Raw aluminium material for the fixture base and for the new Arm Mount base.

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Initial facing of the aluminium.

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Firstly, the ‘fixture’ base is machined, complete with fixing bolt holes and a datum hole for the irregular shaped Arm Mount part.

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2 x M6 threaded holes for the tonearm mounting screws and an M8 counter-bore recessed hole for bolt-fixing through the turntable slate plinth.

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Because of the complex final shape, a Ruby probe is used to reference positioning from the datum hole.

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The finished part (inverted), with smooth contoured ‘shoulder’ to support the tonearm base.

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Bead-blasting surface treatment was done as an experiment.

However, this part is quite heavy (430gm) and I was concerned about the added eccentric loading on the Salvation’s magnetic-levitation feet.  So we decided to return to the workshop to remove some metal from the underside of the block.

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After the ‘pocketing’ operation.

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(Final weight 350gms.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New Arm Mount and the original Delrin Arm Pillar (both 45mm height).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Main mounting bolt – new M8 stainless steel hex socket bolt with original Trans-Fi spacing washer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New Arm Mount base installed on the Salvation turntable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mounting Plate fixing – 2 x M6 stainless steel hex head cap screws.

The sound:

I really was unsure if all this work would have any effect on the sound of an air-bearing / pivot-point bearing tonearm. (Note, nylon pivot-points were installed last September.)

However, I was shocked.  Such was the dramatic impact, that my first thought was to change the material to wood instead of aluminium.

This is a significant change.  Sound jumps out of the loudspeakers and initially seems to be more ‘forward’.

On 105dB/W horn speakers, this is confronting.  I immediately tape-marked the floor & moved my listening chair backwards.

Then, you notice stronger deep bass.  Substantially increased bass ‘punch’ and impact.  More power and energy throughout, more ‘attack’ – eg. pizzicatos & ‘plucks’, but especially bass frequencies.

There is a ‘fatter’ tone and ‘body’ to instruments and voice, more orchestral ‘density’.  Orchestral power and dynamic range is at an increased level. (I became concerned about the loudspeaker drivers!)

More energy seems to be preserved or generated from the grooves.

The upper range also, seems more ‘brilliant’, more detailed, there is more ‘sustain’ and decay.

I am noticing more front-to-back separation, depth and a larger scale ‘sound picture’.

After adjusting to the initial surprise, I am now liking the sound – a lot.  The listening chair has returned to it’s normal position.

 

Update 5 Oct 2018:

We have developed a new, shorter, 27mm height arm mount, for Terminator tonearms installed on non-Trans Fi Salvation turntables.

These are straight-sided but again ‘pocketed’ underneath to minimise weight for suspended turntables (approximately 213 grams) and bead-blast finished.

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2 x M6 x 16mm SS cap screws (with washers) are supplied, together with 1 x M8 bolt/nut/washers. (Shown above is a custom mount with ‘truncated’ edge, to suit a Technics SP-10 turntable.)

 

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45mm height arm mount compared to the alternative 27mm height arm mount

 

147 thoughts on “TERMINATOR tonearm (Pt 4) – new arm mount

  1. Owen, you need to visit me if you make it to the UK again. I know it’s impossible to make any meaningful conclusions of a component from one system to another if the rest of that system is unfamiliar. But hopefully you’d get a reasonable idea of how special the Terminator is here from how well it performs over a broad range of lps. It’s quality, esp on Vic’s Salvation tt, and how it brings out the best in my heavilly-modded Straingauge cart, is testament to Vic’s true genius in air bearing LT arm design.

    IMHO, his arm is up there w the true greats in audio design, and at it’s price point, it is without peer.

      • Sure Owen, you’re v welcome. I’m not hearing any tt/arm combos at multiples of the price that are definitively more compelling. True giant killers.

  2. Owen, just spoke to a chap in Oz who is soon to install Andrey’s new Terminator on the upmarket Dohermann Helix tt. I believe you know him.

  3. I’m seriously tempted to try Andrey’s new carbon fibre slider on Terminator, but this will likely necessitate a whole new arm. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

  4. There is something mildly perverse about fitting a $40,000 turntable with a Terminator. The Gods ( Dohmann ) has descended to touch a mortal ( Terminator). Or perhaps we’ll find out just how brilliant the tonearm really is.

  5. Albert et al, yes I got chatting w Anthony on WBF. I believe he and Owen know each other, and I directed Anthony to Owen’s Al arm mount.

    His concern was whether Terminator would be duly disturbed by installation on a tt (the Dohmann) that has a spring-based isolation built-in, oscillating at 1.5Hz. That is, would a hugely sesnsitive air bearing LT arm be prone to skipping and misbehaving in any install other than a totally inert one.

    This was THE most pressing concern of mine when I was considering the Stacore Advanced to go under my Salvation. Springy floor, pneumatic isolation at 2.5-3Hz AND Rollerballs, plus the Mag Lev feet already on the Salvation.

    Well, my worries were unfounded. As long as I get Terminator installed dead level and the wire dressing not to snag anything, Terminator has behaved flawlessly. Now install completed with a 50kg slate stand below Salvation/Stacore.

    As to how Terminator will complement the Dohmann, well Anthony has a Schroeder pivoted to compare. I’m reasonably bullish our boy could see out the German interloper.

  6. Just spoken to Andrey. He’s abandoned carbon fibre for the slider. Now the manifold is Brass w Aluminium slider.

    He claims three advantages. One, discontinuity in metals prevents certain resonances.

    Two, Brass allows smaller air holes to be precisely engineered, so needing less pressure from pump.

    Three, Brass allows Nickel plating for an interesting aesthetic finish.

    He has one customer who has swapped original Terminator for the new one, and says SQ much impvd.

    • Thanks Marc – I have been communicating with Andrey recently & yes, his innovations are v interesting.
      I expect that the brass manifold would offer more mass, more ‘solidity’, to absorb any air flow/pulse energy. Importantly, Andrey says it sounds better 😉
      The carbon wand must be ultra-lightwt, but Andrey installs brass weights on the pivot points axis, for heavy cartridges – I would say that pivot point loading is beneficial for all cartrdiges. (see my Stop the Chatter post – https://darklanternforowen.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/terminator-tonearm-pt-iii-stop-the-chatter/ )
      I suspect that the improved sound from the carbon wand is not due to its low weight (because the horiz Effective Mass of the whole linear tracker slider is quite high at 80-100gms), but it is due to the more attractive resonant signature of carbon-resin vs aluminium metal.

      PS. I am familiar with some AU chaps, but with my unreliable memory these days, I’m struggling to recall Anthony + Dohmann Helix. The important thing for any TT with the Terminator, is ensuring that the manifold slider is level & balanced, before dropping in the arm wand / cabling.
      Thanks, Owen

  7. Owen, I’ve just spoken to my audiophile buddy who builds a lot of his gear and runs a LT air arm, and he 100% concurs w Andrey’s ideas on the resonance mismatch of aluminium on brass, and just that brass is such a good material for so many audio applications.

    Incl tonearms now, it seems.

    I’m just waiting for a possible customer feedback message from somebody who has swapped Vic’s original for Andrey’s new one.

    But I’m likely to go ahead. If the positive benefits of your arm mount and Andrey’s carbon fibre armwand can be taken significantly further by the new brass/aluminium arm, it could take Terminator’s reputation and really boost things greatly.

    • Hi Marc – I use only brass fixings for my cartridges – sweeter HF, warmer tone & broader overall bandwidth than SS (too taut, mid-focussed & band-limited) or aluminium (lacking warmth). Cheers – Owen

  8. Close to a decision to go w Andrey’s brass/aluminium arm. He supplies it w silver plated copper tonearm wire. But my idea is to use Ikeda silver wire, Cardas silver cart tags and massive Bocchino RCA plugs.
    About £2k total.
    The madness never ends LOL.

    • Hi Marc – if you are getting tonearm wiring, i would recommend the Eichmann / ETI Bullet plugs. These have minimal metal mass (without unnecessary brass bulk), solid copper or silver centre pin, threadless, jointless metal parts & non conductive outer shell – all of which promotes purer signal transmission.
      The WBT & Furutech connector designs adopt similar principle – but are much more costly.
      I use only Bullet Plugs.
      See todays post – https://darklanternforowen.wordpress.com/2019/08/16/consider-connectors/
      Cheers, Owen

      • Thanks Owen. I currently use a one-piece silver wire, from Cardas cart tags to KLEI Silver Harmony RCA plugs. Vic strongly prefers silver to copper, and he’s not a fan of splitting the wire ie into connector block and then RCA phono cable out.

        Indeed, I have no idea what the internal tech/material connector is in the block that splits the cables. But it seems plausible this break should be avoided.

        It looks like I’ll struggle connecting Bocchino RCAs to the Ikeda wire, so maybe I’ll just transfer my current loom across to the new arm, if it happens.

  9. My order goes off the Andrey this week. I spoke to co-designer (and Terminator enthusiast since 2008) Heino in Finland, and he offered his comments on the improvements w Andrey’s arm.
    Treble is more incisive, but not at the expense of warmth. Mids are much more spacious, this w treble gains leading to voices, esp female vocals, being way more realistic and in the room. Bass is both deeper and more articulate, again adding to realism. And these changes are not subtle according to Heino.

    So it looks like the combination of brass as a metal in it’s own right, it’s synergy w the carbon fibre armwand and maybe w the aluminium slider, produces a much more resolving sound but w no reduction in natural warmth.

    Smaller holes in the manifold also allow gentler and less turbulent air flow, thus less disturbance to armwand and cartridge. Less noise at the stylus means more music.

    Too good a potential improvement not to try it.

  10. Hi Marc, congrats on going ahead with the upgrades.

    When you have everything set up, please post some before-and-after observations. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    Thanks!

  11. Albert, my analog has already come a long way. I was hugely skeptical the new arm was worth the effort.

    However, hearing about the dual-metal construction, resonance minimisation, and air flow management, with the resultant SQ uptick, and I’m convinced.

    Very happy to post comparisons.

  12. Andrey’s New Terminator arrived. Hoping to install tmrw, Ikeda wire to come later. I have the potential to mod New Terminator with a bespoke silent air pump for better linear air flow, pwrd by specialist LPS. Hoping this becomes reality one day.

    Report on SQ to come.

  13. Basic install of Andrey’s New Terminator is complete. Still to optimise cart alignment, and yet to come is Ikeda silver tonearm wire w Cardas tags and Bocchino RCAs. But decided to install w my current silver tonearm wire/Klei Silver Harmony RCAs.

    Initial impressions are mightily impressive. Bass is huge and controlled, mids are precise and textured, treble is incisive and airy. Overall feel is of a sound way more carved out in space.

    My only caveat is the fixing arrangement. Andrey has changed the position of slots on New Terminator base plate, so that in my situation at least, I can’t use both fixing screws into Owen’s Al mounting block.

    Luckily one screw/bolt seems to be enough. Good thing too, because the impvt in SQ over Vic’s original Terminator is startling.

  14. Follow up thoughts after a day of serious intensive listening.

    There isn’t one area where Andrey’s New Terminator doesn’t improve upon Vic’s Original. The critical difference is in the bass. Low end is carved in space, more extended and more agile. There’s also less “time smear” allowing way more more microdynamics to emerge. Soundstage is less cluttered and imaging benefits as the vastly impvd bass performance allows more spatial and temporal cues to emerge unimpeded. Treble energy and filligree shimmer enhanced, way more air in the upper end.

    These differences are really significant, way beyond subtle. Yet the overall effect is of more subtlety, as Vic’s Original Terminator sound is still there, fully recognisable, but all aspects are enhanced.

    Over a decade into it’s life, New Terminator is an amazing step fwd, and it’s performance trumps arms 5-10x the price. Evolution and revolution in this fantastic product, still one of the greatest bargains in the high end.

    • Thanks for the excellent reports Marc…
      To summarise, what are the design changes incorporated in this latest Terminator (aside from the carbon arm wand) – nickel-plated slider, brass manifold…?
      Cheers, Owen

  15. Hi Owen.
    Yes, brass manifold, thinner and lighter aluminium slider, both nickel-plated. Carbon-fibre slider. Some minor tweaks to design.

    The critical differences are the material disconnect of aluminium in slider on brass of manifold (and as it happens on brass of manifold on aluminium of your arm mount), and obviously to the carbon-fibre armwand too.

    How true it is that this makes a difference theoretically, I can’t say w any certainty. But I do know brass is a favourite of audio designers everywhere for it’s resonance qualities.

    Where there is more certainty is the fact that brass has allowed Andrey to machine the air holes in the manifold to be smaller and more uniformly-shaped. Andrey claims this results in lower pressure of air flow needed, and more uniformity/less turbulence.

    This latter function seems v plausible. And the result is as you might expect from that outcome, a more ordered sound, less clutter, flutter and smear. From a rock solid unwavering foundation the soundstage emerges w more clarity and stability, allowing way greater micro dynamics, verve and warmth and incision.

    Total triumph.

  16. Arm bedded in, cart install optimised, and my analog is rocket powered. The most fantastic solid yet lithe bass foundation, totally stable unwavering imaging, and warm incisive treble.

    Just ordered a length of Audio Note AN-AI 99.999% pure silver tonearm cable. Apparently annealed for 20 yrs, and treated to minimise skin effects. To be terminated w Cardas tags and Bocchino RCA plugs.

  17. New Terminator continues to amaze. The initial uptick in bass articulation, lack of fuzziness, clarity thru mids into treble, is now being added to by a vast upswing in texture, and imaging/dimensionality.

    Soundstaging, width and depth, is off the scale. Voices are locked in space w realistic air around them. Instrumental placement is carved in space. Any imprecision or wavering in the image is wholly banished.

    My system has never been the epitome in this respect, so the transformation here is really ear popping.

  18. Hi, I’ve just bought a salvation /terminator from Vic and he showed me his which has the aluminium arm mount. I am keen to get one of these. Do you still sell them? Cheers. Jonathan

      • That’s great, thanks. Let me know and I’ll send payment etc. Any other bits that may help that you might think are a good idea. All advice welcome.

    • Hi Jonathan – the GBP has gained some strength. The arm mount will be GBP 95 +12 airmail. The mount is supplied with a M8x100mm SS hex bolt for fixing through the slate plinth & also 2 x M6x16mm SS cap screws for fixing down the Terminator baseplate.
      (As per the the tall version arm mount in the last 2 pics above.)
      You should re-use the thick alumin. washer from your existing arm pillar, under the slate plinth.
      Your Terminator arm base should resemble mine above – concave curved, with 3 slots as pictured.
      Feel free to ask any Qs – you can email me at oyoung@orcon.net.nz
      Cheers, Owen

    • Hi Graham – yes we have both tall ones (for Salvation TTs) & shorter versions (for most other TTs) – what TT do you have? Let me know also in which country you located & I will provide a price + airmail.
      Cheers, Owen

      • Hi Owen,

        my friend Jörg and me are going to buy two Terminator tonarms and we would be happy to use your arm mount, both 45mm.
        Are you offering these arm mounts anymore or can we order it from Andrey direct?
        We are located in Germany.
        Nice greetings
        Lutz

  19. Hi Lutz – thank you for your message.
    I will reply soon with full information.
    Andrey appears to be doing a great job & yes, we supply our arm mounts directly to any Terminator owners who want them.
    Regards – Owen

  20. Hi Owen, can you send me details of how to order one of your arm bases for the T3 please? I’m using mine on a Salvation with the Resomat, so it would be the 45mm version. I’m considering buying one of Andrey’s new versions of the T3. Are your arm mounts also compatible with his version of the arm?
    All the best,
    John.

    • Hi John – yes, I will email to you a price. We use Paypal.
      I am assuming that you are in USA, exchange rate is v favourable for you right now & USD pricing will be reduced.
      Our mount should be fully compatible & although we supply 2 hex screws, there are 4 tapped holes, allowing up to 4 fixings if you wish, for super-solid connection.
      Very little fore-aft adjustment is required normally, if any, & if necessary, a small amount of arm rotation is possible.
      Regards. Owen

      • Thanks Owen.
        In fact I live in the UK, not far away from Vic, as it happens. No doubt exchange rates will be less favourable as a consequence!
        All the best.

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