HELIUS DESIGNS: Geoffrey Owen, founder, owner and senior design engineer writes about the 1983 Orion tone arm

The trouble with being an engineer is that one is born with a natural tendency to look at the world through critical eyes and consider how differently you might have designed the things around you had been have been given the job.

But then, if ever you feel inclined to prompt such a discussion, most engineers are usually happy to explain the constraints placed on them as they’ve worked on their pet projects. Engineering is more than a profession, it’s an obsession, a state of mind, and one that comes with an inbuilt affliction - we just can’t leave a design alone.

No sooner do we get half way through building a prototype than we usually think of even better ways of doing things and want to modify the design.

I came to tonearms having already passed through the loudspeaker and turntable phase.

The earliest effort I’ve kept records for was a parallel tracking arm in which ceramic balls ran in the vee of two optically flat glass plates bonded together. The fixed rail had a steel rod underneath the glass, whilst the sliding arm was fitting with weak magnets that ‘sucked’ the two parts together.

Though I had eliminated tracking error and need for bias correction, I created the problem that the cartridge’s cantilever suspension bore the entire stress of pulling the inertial mass of the cartridge and sliding arm structure along with it. As the tiny ( and very delicate ) parts that connect the cantilever to the external mechanics within the cartridge are the only thing that provides any anchoring, the coils would always to be biased as it pulls the arm inwards. A second problem in trying to design an ( ostensibly ) frictionless movement was the it had to be absolutely horizontal – lest it should ‘fall’ inwards or outwards under gravity. Given also that .....