Whenever I read articles or questions on this topic….the answer always seems to rest solely on finding the Resonant Frequency of the particular tonearm/cartridge in question? As long as it lies between 8-12 Hz… have a good match.

  • RF= 159 / sqrt ((eff. mass + cart weight + fastener weight) x (compliance))
  • RF: resonant frequency in hz
  • eff. mass: rated by tonearm manufacturer
  • cart weight: rated by cartridge manufacturer, but if accurate scales
  • exist, an actual weight value could be used
  • fastener weight: screws, nuts, spacers, washers, shims. They have
  • weight and add to the mass over the stylus
  • compliance: rated by cartridge manufacturer

But there are many problems with applying this formula…and there are questions whether the Resonant Frequency gives any guarantees regarding good sounding combinations?  Firstly….to apply the formula, one needs to know the Effective Mass of the Tonearm. Many tonearm manufacturers neglect to give this information….and it is very difficult to measure oneself?

The reason for this omission by manufacturers…is that the true Effective Mass is a moving target.It changes with the mass of the counterweight used and its relationship to the pivot (closer or further away) whilst arms with removable headshells are simply unknown quantities so that obtaining a reliable figure for a particular tonearm is difficult.

Cartridge Compliance is also problematic. What the manufacturer states….is a ‘designed for’ figure. Each individually produced example is likely to vary (however slightly) from this figure except perhaps in the case of hand-built low-production models whilst the figure changes with temperature, humidity, age and use.

The question of re-builds and re-tips muddies the waters further.  With these significant problems….it is no wonder that the ‘calculated’ figures for Resonant Frequency always differ from the ‘measured’ ones in any of the studies I’ve read?  But the importance of the ‘Resonant Frequency’ itself….I have never seen questioned?

As far as I can tell…..the only reason to keep the ‘Resonant Frequency’ between 8-12 Hz….is that record warps produce frequency output below 8 Hz so whenever warps are experienced…..the frequencies produced will not excite the resonant arm/cartridge frequency and produce tracking problems and/or distortion?

If the ‘Resonant Frequency’ is much higher than 12 Hz…it could possibly become excited by deep low frequency information in the vinyl grooves.  But what if warps are not encounted? What if most (or all) of your records are ‘warp-free’….or you have a vacuum hold-down turntable or employ a heavy clamp/weight and/or peripheral ring?

The ‘Arm/Cartridge Resonant Frequency’ then becomes an irrelevant figure?  Having experienced many tonearm/cartridge combinations….and tested many for ‘actual’ ‘Resonant Frequency’ using the Shure V15 TypeV Audio Obstacle Course Test Record….I have no evidence that the ‘Tonearm/Cartridge Resonant Frequency’ tells you whether a particular cartridge will sound well in a particular tonearm?  I'm certainly open to other's views on this?

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