Pros and Cons of tonearm with removable headshell?

Johnny Vinyl

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One of the obvious advantages of a tonearm with a removable headshell is the quick changeover of cartridges. I'm fairly comfortable setting up a cartridge, but this would make it so much simpler and hassle-free.

I've also heard that it does allow for some restrictions on the availability of cartridges that one can use. Is this real or imagined? Are there any other disadvantages?
 

mep

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One of the obvious advantages of a tonearm with a removable headshell is the quick changeover of cartridges. I'm fairly comfortable setting up a cartridge, but this would make it so much simpler and hassle-free.

I've also heard that it does allow for some restrictions on the availability of cartridges that one can use. Is this real or imagined? Are there any other disadvantages?

I've been to 3 county fairs and two goat breedings and I have never heard that story before. The biggest disadvantage of having a tonearm with a removable headshell is that everyone who owns an arm with a non-removable headshell will try and make you feel that you have a compromised design because you have given up rigidity and there is another break in the tonearm wiring. There are plenty of really, really good tonearms that have removable headshells.
 

Johnny Vinyl

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I've been to 3 county fairs and two goat breedings and I have never heard that story before. The biggest disadvantage of having a tonearm with a removable headshell is that everyone who owns an arm with a non-removable headshell will try and make you feel that you have a compromised design because you have given up rigidity and there is another break in the tonearm wiring. There are plenty of really, really good tonearms that have removable headshells.


LOL...You crack me up Mark!

I did ask the question in sincerity however as I'm not experienced enough with tonearms to conclude an opinion for myself. Just trying to learn and obtain opinion from more seasoned audiophiles.

I won't ask about the goat breedings ....
 

hvbias

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Jun 22, 2012
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I don't think it would restrict your choice of cartridges. There are headshells that have adjustable sliders so overhang can be set correctly. Some very well regarded tonearms (ie Fidelity Research) have removable headshells.
 

audioarcher

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May 7, 2012
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The advantage of having a removable headshell is being able to swap different carts in and out quickly. You do still have to adjust for SRA and VTF of the different cart/headshell combination though. Another advantage is being able to use headshells of different mass and material to get the most out of any particular cartridge. I have never owned a tonearm with a removable headshell so I can't say whether it is compromised by the extra connection and lack of rigidity but suspect there is something to that. It would be interesting to play with though.
 

Johnny Vinyl

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I don't think it would restrict your choice of cartridges. There are headshells that have adjustable sliders so overhang can be set correctly. Some very well regarded tonearms (ie Fidelity Research) have removable headshells.

That's good to know, so thank you for your input. To be honest I have no idea as to how other people form these opinions, hence my question.
 

mep

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What restricts your choice of cartridges with any given tonearm (and never mind removable headshells) is the mass of the arm which will drive you towards low compliance or high compliance cartridges in order to have the resonant frequency low enough that it doesn't cause audible problems in the bottom end.
 

DaveyF

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Aug 1, 2010
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John, one of the biggest issues with a removable headshell has always been the fact that it requires another connector and therefore another area where losses can accrue. That, plus the fact that it is adding mass to the beam.
OTOH, one of the best tonearm's in the world... the top of the line Da Vinci Master reference Virtu, uses a removable headshell. According to DaVinci their connection topology is able to overcome losses at that area. I have not heard it, BUT according to others who have, it is revelatory.
 

TBone

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Nov 15, 2012
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I'm sit firmly in the "rigid" camp. A removable headshell on my titanium arm would have defeated the purpose.

The pro's & con's are mostly obvious as already stated ... however ... one MAJOR disadvantage of removable headshells; that's rarely addressed, is the rotational play between the headshell and arm isn't accounted for during attachment, causing azimuth errors, often severe.

I've often witnessed a change of cartridge w/removable headshell (at homes & in demos & shows) in which the author didn't relate/twist the stylus to achieve proper azimuth. Worse ... most didn't even care to try or were aware of the issue. Never mind small errors - often the cartridge is visibly offset. The sonic result is a very stressed and unfocussed sound, but instead of blaming their setup, they blame the cart. With line contact types, this is highly critical.

I'm consistently amazed at the number of times I've witnessed this happening by people claiming to be "knowledgable-vinylphiles". I once witnessed a Cart shootout demo using many expensive carts in which the author (a well respected audiophile) changed every cart without considering the obvious inconsistent azimuth per cart. I mentioned to him & his audience that his demo methodology was missing a very key element, and without that, the demo could be considered "useless" ... but like any self respecting audiophile with an audience ... he proceeded anyway ... (sigh)

Ironic, because, if properly realized & understood, the fact that the removable headshell can be rotated to attain proper azimuth means that you can set azimuth on any cart relatively easily.

tb1
 

puroagave

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i bought a 2nd wand for my graham 2.2 and realized i never use it because i listen to my carts one at a time and i dont have a dedicated mono setup. the other quandry is how do you store a headshell or wand with a mounted cart that has no stylus guard (most of mine dont) imo, its safer stored in its box. for me i dont save much effort/time mounting/dismounting a cart, its readjusting VTF/SRA/azimuth thats a hassle.

i guess if you have the scratch, removable headshell/wands are a moot point for those with more than one 'table some with mult arms.
 

Mike Lavigne

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I'm firmly in favor of solid tone arms, and even continuous phono cables from cartridge to phono preamp.

Everything matters. And the higher the performance, the more everything matters.

Eliminate variables, improve performance potential.
 

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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I'm sit firmly in the "rigid" camp. A removable headshell on my titanium arm would have defeated the purpose.

The pro's & con's are mostly obvious as already stated ... however ... one MAJOR disadvantage of removable headshells; that's rarely addressed, is the rotational play between the headshell and arm isn't accounted for during attachment, causing azimuth errors, often severe.

I've often witnessed a change of cartridge w/removable headshell (at homes & in demos & shows) in which the author didn't relate/twist the stylus to achieve proper azimuth. Worse ... most didn't even care to try or were aware of the issue. Never mind small errors - often the cartridge is visibly offset. The sonic result is a very stressed and unfocussed sound, but instead of blaming their setup, they blame the cart. With line contact types, this is highly critical.

I'm consistently amazed at the number of times I've witnessed this happening by people claiming to be "knowledgable-vinylphiles". I once witnessed a Cart shootout demo using many expensive carts in which the author (a well respected audiophile) changed every cart without considering the obvious inconsistent azimuth per cart. I mentioned to him & his audience that his demo methodology was missing a very key element, and without that, the demo could be considered "useless" ... but like any self respecting audiophile with an audience ... he proceeded anyway ... (sigh)

Ironic, because, if properly realized & understood, the fact that the removable headshell can be rotated to attain proper azimuth means that you can set azimuth on any cart relatively easily.

tb1

I completely agree with this post. I had a removable headshell on my SME 309 arm and was surprised at the range of rotation and how difficult it was to repeat the azimuth setting when the headshell was replaced. This option does allow for azimuth adjustability while the one piece SME armtubes do not.

This azimuth issue is rarely discussed when championing the ease of cartridge swaps. The other issue with SME arms is that when cartridges are swapped using the removable headshells or the fixed arms, the overhang needs to be readjusted for proper alignment by sliding the arm base in or out because of the fixed mounting holes in the headshell. Different cartridges can have different stylus tip to mounting hole distances, thus different overhangs. So, at least with SME arms, swapping cartridges with the removable headshell still requires a complete realignment effort as well as all of the other variables like azimuth, VTA/SRA, and VTF. This seems like a lot of work and is perhaps why SME uses a fixed headshell in their top of the line V and V-12 arms.

Of course, non SME mount arms don't have this overhang issue.

I prefer listening to one favorite cartridge firmly mounted to a rigid headshell/arm. Fewer variables.
 
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TBone

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This azimuth issue is rarely discussed when championing the ease of cartridge swaps.

Considering that proper SRA won't sound "proper" unless you attain proper azimuth ... well ... to me it's obvious that azimuth setup, esp w/more aggressive LC stylus, is thee most important aspect of PROPER stylus orientation. If that's not taken into consideration when "easily-swapping" cartridges ... well ... perhaps ignorance is bliss?

I prefer listening to one favorite cartridge firmly mounted to a rigid headshell/arm. Fewer variables.

Once properly dialed-in ... it remains dialed-in.

tb1
 

RBFC

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I've heard a few stories where owners with tonearm wires that aren't enclosed within the arm tube have experienced unexpected anti-skating forces, etc. This may not apply directly to the issue at hand, but is yet one of many other factors that can surprise us.

Lee
 

puroagave

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I've heard a few stories where owners with tonearm wires that aren't enclosed within the arm tube have experienced unexpected anti-skating forces, etc. This may not apply directly to the issue at hand, but is yet one of many other factors that can surprise us.

Lee

i take it you havent owned an early JMW tonearm, Harry's solution for addressing antiskate was to intentionally add a twist to the cable exiting the arm before it enters the termination box.
 

mep

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i take it you havent owned an early JMW tonearm, Harry's solution for addressing antiskate was to intentionally add a twist to the cable exiting the arm before it enters the termination box.

And I always thought that was a funky way to achieve antiskating. How do you calibrate the twist on a wire?
 

puroagave

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And I always thought that was a funky way to achieve antiskating. How do you calibrate the twist on a wire?

if you asked Harry he'd say antiskate isnt necessary but if you must, twisting the lead out wires "just so" will provide enough opposing force to accomplish the same thing. thats VPIs charm point, no real instructions you just kind of figure it out yourself.:rolleyes:
 

mep

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I have owned several VPI tables and arms over the years and I was never a fan of not having antiskating.
 

Johnny Vinyl

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May 16, 2010
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Thank you all for your input and opinions on the pros/cons of removable headshells. When the time comes to a) either change the tonearm on my Nottingham, or b) buy a better TT, I'll stick with the solid one-piece tonearm.
 

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