Graham Phantom Elite

Ron Resnick

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Jan 24, 2015
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What are the sonic pros and cons of the 10.5 inch Graham Phantom Elite versus the 12" model?

What are the pros and cons of the Graham SME mounting base versus the standard Graham base?

Thank you!
 
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I can't say about pros and cons, but I do know in conversations with Graham he prefers the 10" arm to the 12".
 
I owned the 10.5" arm and found it to be quite pleasing. I have no experience with the Graham 12" arm. I can say that they retain good resale value as I had no problem selling mine and getting full asking price
 
Thank you, gentlemen. Very interesting!
 
Re the base question, and given the slotted head shell, it boils down to :

Is the p2s distance correct? Can it be adjusted in another way?

If yes then no need for a slide ' sme ' type base.
 
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I can't say about pros and cons, but I do know in conversations with Graham he prefers the 10" arm to the 12".

Were you able to discern or intuit why Bob prefers the 10.5" version?
 
Were you able to discern or intuit why Bob prefers the 10.5" version?

He felt the 10.5" had a bit more attack and immediacy than the 12" and mentioned he personally uses the 10.5" as he felt the 12" smoothed things out a little too much for his tastes.
 
Very interesting! Thank you!
 
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What are the sonic pros and cons of the 10.5 inch Graham Phantom Elite versus the 12" model?

What are the pros and cons of the Graham SME mounting base versus the standard Graham base?

Thank you!
10.5” is more dynamic and better sounding than 12”. Normally 9” or 10” arms perform better than 12” but I would go with the original design length of the tonearm. I believe it’s 10.5” for Graham Elite.

SME sliding base for Graham doesn’t exactly slide and has no benefits over regular mount other than enabling it to be mounted to SME cut outs. It adds SME plate additionally to the base so I would try to use original mounting base if possible.

Regarding Graham Elite I have some experiences I would like to share:

- Like most unipivot tonearms it too couldn’t hold cartridge steady at highly modulated grooves with bass notes (0-30Hz). That’s why it can not produce quality bass and as a result it introduces more harmonic distortion perceived as detail.
- It’s magnetic azimuth mechanism kills all the idea of unipivot design by adding horizontal bearings cause whole azimuth mechanism couples to unipivot assembly with magnets.
- It’s top of the headshell is not at the same plane with unipivot bearing’s top plate. That’s why bearing looks crooked when you aligned azimuth. It’s about production precision. It's hard to mention precision when you use pivot to spindle setting apparatus and overhang alignment jig.
- Anti-skating mechanism is a standard one and I believe even the lowest setting is too much for 2g VTF. Or maybe the azimuth mechanism is adding something up here.

I prefer a robust tonearm with zero play and zero friction on bearings which can start and stop the cartridge instantly.
 
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Thank you!

I appreciate the critique of the mechanical and operating aspects of the Phantom Elite. For me, this is an example of implementation trumps theory. It may have these theoretical design flaws, but why does it sound so darn good?
 
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Thank you!

I appreciate the critique of the mechanical and operating aspects of the Phantom Elite. For me, this is an example of implementation trumps theory. It may have these theoretical design flaws, but why does it sound so darn good?
For me it doesn't.
 
I prefer a robust tonearm with zero play and zero friction on bearings which can start and stop the cartridge instantly.

What would those tonearms be?

A zero friction bearing is an impossibility on planet Earth; very very very low, sure, but zero? Nope, or we would be building perpetual motion machines with them.

Even air bearings like TechDAS tables have some amount of friction.

I also presume the same goes for play; I can't imagine any production mechanism that could produce something with zero play, not even military aerospace contractors can pull that one off. (Yes, vendors claim it is zero play, but I bet if you broke out a micrometer you'd find some.)

Not trying to be snarky, just wondering what your ideal tonearm is then.

Personally, I think the Graham Phantom Elite sounds very good and so do many others, but then again I always liked the VPI unipivots too.

Now I'm more of a gimbal fan, but even the beloved by many Kuzma 4 Point is more of a unipivot on steroids; they even describe it largely that way (but use the "zero play" fallacy.)
 
What would those tonearms be?
I didn’t describe a specific tonearm but rather how it should be. For me any arm gets close to those ideal conditions is a good candidate.

Now I'm more of a gimbal fan, but even the beloved by many Kuzma 4 Point is more of a unipivot on steroids; they even describe it largely that way (but use the "zero play" fallacy.)
I wouldn’t call Kuzma 4P as unipivot.
 
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even the beloved by many Kuzma 4 Point is more of a unipivot on steroids; they even describe it largely that way (but use the "zero play" fallacy.)
The 4 Point is not a unipivot, but a knife-edge design that has been reduced to two contact points per axis (horizontal and vertical) by removing the central section of the knife edges.
Such a design can have similar horizontal and vertical stability as gimbals, with only a little more friction than a unipivot.
If a unipivot can be considered as having zero play, the same can be said for the 4 Point.
 
I didn’t describe a specific tonearm but rather how it should be. For me any arm gets close to those ideal conditions is a good candidate.


I wouldn’t call Kuzma 4P as unipivot

I thought you had one in mind that came closer to your ideal than the Graham or other unipivot designs.

My statement was based upon Kuzma's description (emboldening mine):

The heart of this new design is the unique 4-point bearing. Two points (which are similar to a uni-pivot bearing) allow and control vertical movements of the tonearm.

Kuzma 4 Point
 
I thought you had one in mind that came closer to your ideal than the Graham or other unipivot designs.
IME/IMHO Many comes closer to ideal than Graham Elite. Even Thales Statement (which I don’t like) with all little ball bearings doesn’t have a backlash and it can hold the cartridge steady at 0-30Hz. You can easily hear the difference if you compare two tonearms which I did. I mentioned Thales Statement as an example for two reasons. First; IOT be impartial cause I don’t like the sound of it, second; I measured and listened many Thales Statements but unlike Graham I haven’t come across a single one with a backlash or deficiency in bass and polluted highs.
 
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