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Right and Wrong Ways to Lift a Tone Arm

Paul Wilson compares different ways to lift a tonearm…

When I was about six or seven, my older brother, nine-years my elder, did what he was often prone to do, particularly when our parents were not around – he would pin me to the floor and wouldn’t let me up until I “surrendered.” Sometimes he made me say uncle or some other such nonsense. Brothers will be brothers. In retaliation one day, I did the one thing I knew would hurt him the most.

AR-Record-Player-Regular-Format.jpgAll summer one year, my brother saved his money for what in those days was called a “record player.” It was portable and could play both 45’s and LP’s. Self contained, all one had to do was turn it on, adjust the volume and play a record. It came with a spindle adaptor that would allow the play of a 45. More remarkably, this spindle adaptor allowed multiple 45’s, I think it was about five or six of them, to be stacked up and played one after the other. At the end of one record, the tonearm lifted up, swung back out of the way, the next record dropped down and it was played. This process was repeated until all of the records were finished. One could get lost for several hours listening to music, which my brother often did.

And my revenge for getting beaten up? I wrapped my hand around the tonearm one day, and well, yanked up and back and in one fell swoop, dismembered the tonearm from the turntable. I’m sure I was severely punished for this action, oddly enough I don’t remember that part, but breaking that tonearm did feel really good.

AR-Brothers-Fighting.jpgI mention this because of two things the turntable did that I really wish modern high performance turntables of today would do – lift the tonearm at the end of a record, and allow the play of multiple albums. And yes, I am very much aware of the problems such actions would create, not the least of which being record damage and VTA. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to have them though.

Anyone who likes analog must certainly, at some point in time, have found themselves comfortably settled in their listening chair, totally relaxed at marvelous music to the point of being “almost” asleep, and had to subsequently jump in horror upon realizing the stylus was millimeters away from the paper label. That realization, of course, stemmed from the fact that music had suddenly stopped and was replaced by silence. In times like those a tonearm lift – a feature most high performance turntables lack – would certainly be greatly appreciated.

Of course, this, and all the other peculiarities of playing an album are well known by audiophiles, understood, and accepted as being part of the program. Analog devotees overlook these minor disruptions because of one simple reason, they love the sound that analog provides – a sonic character not available from digital.

AR-Original-Brass-Tonearm-Lift.jpgOn some level, I tend to believe that with greater cost comes not only greater performance but also more features. I mean, buy a Rolls Royce and you get a slot in the car’s side to keep your umbrella! This and other unique features abound in such a car, and to some degree account for the sticker price.  So the addition of, at the very least, a tonearm lift doesn’t seem all so unreasonable when the cost of audiophile turntables is considered. It wouldn’t have to be something supremely glorious, just a simple device to lift the arm and keep the stylus from rubbing against the label while the listener snoozes in the easy chair. I should know, this happened to me not long ago, and instilled in me the quest to find a solution.

Not surprisingly, and I must admit to being amazed by the ingenuity of audiophiles, there are a number of commercially available products that can be mounted to a turntable plinth to raise the tonearm as it glides silently through the lead out groove. To my surprise, I actually found three of them. In case anyone might be interested, and anyone who may be somehow likely to sleep past the end of the record, here are three that I looked at:

The Q Up Tonearm Lifter $49.99

The Original Brass Tonearm Lift $99.95

The Little Fwend Tonearm Lifter $200.00

There may be others and as noted, the prices on these models vary. Depending on how well you can remain awake during a listening session, or pay attention when spinning an LP, a device to lift the tonearm may make life easier and protect your cartridge.

Of course that leaves the practice of playing multiple albums in succession. Think about it – it would be something akin to “converting” your turntable into a music server! I’ve looked, and so far, that one doesn’t look quite so promising. Maybe someone will develop one that floats each record down on a cushion of air while concurrently changing the VTA. I wouldn’t, however, excitedly get my hopes up over that one.

So the moral of the story – pay attention when you are spinning an LP. If not, maybe a tonearm lift might be in your future. What’s an audiophile to do…

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