How many times have you read a glowing review of a high quality, low compliance phono cartridge, only to find yourself bumping up against a ‘but…’. The ‘but’ in question being the caveat that, in order to enjoy the cartridge’s full performance potential, you’ll need a high mass tonearm. Yet for some decades the majority of tonearms on the market have typically been of the low-to-medium mass variety. What to do? UK audio brand Timestep has the solution.
“Times change,” says Timestep’s Dave Cawley, “and sometimes it can take us a while to catch up”. He is referring to the fact that our current leaning towards low-to-medium mass tonearms can be traced back to the 1980s, when high compliance moving magnets were the norm and moving coil cartridges were just beginning to catch on. “To accommodate the new moving coils, compromises were made, and to a large extent we’re still living with some of those compromises today,” Cawley explains. “But cartridges have evolved in the past 30+ years and many of the high quality, low compliance moving coil models need to be partnered with a high mass tonearm to perform at their best.”
Cawley therefore set out to make one. “I wanted to create a modern, cutting edge, high mass tonearm that was specifically designed to excel with moving coil cartridges.” Which he has achieved by taking some essential ‘DNA’ from the legendary Japanese Fidelity Research FR64S tonearm (from the late 1970s) and combining it with bang-up-to-date technology.
The development process has taken a couple years, due in large part to Cawley’s determination to source the best possible materials and components for the job. In fact, his quest took him all over the world on a hunt for companies who were able and willing to make his specific components to the requisite standard.
The result is the new Timestep T-609, T-610 and T-612: one tonearm available in three lengths (9, 10 and 12 inches).
The armtube is crafted from titanium and is a low resonance design. Bearing friction has been lowered thanks to a combination of a stainless steel bearing block fitted with ultra-fine tolerance ABEC7 ceramic bearings, which are washed and re-treated with a high quality lubricant. Internal wiring is pure silver, while the tonearm connector is a bespoke PTFE and gold design. Frictionless magnetic anti-skating allows for effortless fine-tuning and the headshell (not supplied) is fully detachable and interchangeable, with many possible options.
A superb quality arm, the Timestep amply succeeds in its aim of unleashing the full performance potential of a high quality moving coil cartridge by marrying key elements of classic ‘vintage’ high mass tonearm design with some very smart modern touches indeed.