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2020 Editors’ Choice: Tonearms Under $2,000

VPI JMW-9 Signature
Compared to the standard JMW-9, the Signature version offers worthwhile upgrades such as a stainless-steel bearing assembly, Nordost Valhalla wiring, variable fluid-damping, mechanical anti-skate control, and higher effective-mass design. HP praised the Super Scoutmaster Signature package for its “considerable dynamic jump” and “musical authenticity.”

Kuzma Stogi S
$1550 (w/Cardas copper wire)
The Stogi S is a hydraulically-damped unipivot with a simple string-and-weight anti-skating mechanism, dual underslung counterweights, and provisions for making both coarse and fine azimuth adjustments. In our reviewer’s system, this ’arm enabled a Shelter 90X cartridge to produce almost shockingly three-dimensional sound with rock-solid bass.

Origin Live Encounter Mk III
In the Encounter, PS’ reference Ortofon Windfeld displayed its peerless neutrality and near-peerless tracking, with outstanding bass and a rich and involving midrange. Highs, though smooth and extended, evinced a very subtle lack of detail or focus. The Encounter also allowed the Dynavector Karat Mk III to strut its stuff with virtually no cramping of its high-kicking style. It says volumes for the excellence of this ’arm that it could put two such different pickups through their paces so even-handedly. 

Ortofon TA-110
Ortofon’s flagship tonearm combines parts of a Jelco tonearm with Ortofon’s highest-quality bearings and 6N high-purity copper tonearm interconnect. The ’arm’s highly effective vibration control, derived from Ortofon R&D, keeps it from smearing low-level details and produces a wonderfully open, engaging sound. While super-arms costing three times more offer some ergonomic improvements—particularly repeatable, minute VTA adjustments—the Ortofon offers remarkable transparency, low coloration, and precise, natural soundstaging. 

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