THOMAS SCHICK TONEARMS

Introduction & Design Philosophy

 

Vinyl playback is still popular worldwide despite the fact that there are numerous digital formats claiming to be the ultimate source. I do not want to research the reasons for this, because if you are reading this, you probably already enjoy vinyl records.

For high quality analogue playback, record players from the 1960’s and even older are still very popular. As for cartridges, the choice is often a classic Ortofon SPU. Its design dates even back to the late 1940’s. 

Two major perspectives on sonic reproduction seem to have surfaced over time :

  1. First, there is the “romantic, sweet and pleasant” sound lover. This listener values most tonal colors, the reproduction of a musical event, nothing which disturbs this experience reproduced and replayed is allowed.

  2. The other listener is the detail lover who wants to hear all the details, even if the overall sound is missing the context it originally had. ​

  • Both of these perspectives have advantages and disadvantages when considering recorded material reproduction.

  • “Sweet sound” is often perceived as dull and boring, whereas the detailed sound often comes along with bright, unnatural, even annoying sonics, but not always, or all the time.

  • A customer summed it up like this: 'If I listen to xy, I need an Aspirin after 20 minutes.'

 

Best of both Worlds

 

How do I combine these two perspectives and get the most natural AND detailed sound?

To keep the high level of information and details, you have to start at my initial idea. How would I design a precise and sonically accurate tonearm for use with a very wide range of cartridges ? 

  • My chosen bearings , along with a lot of other careful design decisions, will reveal sonic musicality

  • The design appears simple, yet this consists of more than 50 parts.

  • Still it aims to maintain an elegant appearance uncluttered by knobs.

The Situation

A lot of audiophiles from all over the world fancy the vintage 12 inch arms from makers like Ortofon and SME. They are capable of producing a nice sound, but their ability to deliver details is limited.

  • The condition of the arms is mostly bad ... just think of their 40 years of operation.

  • Even if, and when, these arms are in the best of condition, the old bearings leave much to be desired. Forty years ago the bearing quality was much worse than today.

  • Even if we imagine the rest of the tonearm to be mechanically absolutely rigid, the bearings remain the limiting factor.

  • If the tonearm is therefore not stable, all the punch of the music is lost in the movements of the bearing.

  • The needle is supposed to work as generator, creating electrical signals from the movement of the needle.

  • If the arm assembly is able to move against that, this is hardly beneficial.

Here also lies a problem with most uni-pivot-designs – they are very sensitive to "rumble".

  • To work against that, damping is often applied which even brings in more negative influences rather than a cure.

  • Uni-pivot tonearms that drown their moving parts in silicone oil are not rigid, they are sticky, unable to react to subtle details.

  • Also, a knife bearing is loose by design. Imagine a knife that is in use for 40 years, the only thing cuttable would be hot butter.

  • The edge of the knife is a scratchy, uneven surface compared to the dimensions of the information stored in a LP groove.

 

 

The assembly holding the knife bearing of a vintage SME arm

 

shown below

Schick Arm Geometry

  • The Schick 12 and Schick 9 inch tonearms are designed to follow the Baerwald geometry.

  • This allows the smallest amount of tracking distortion over the whole record, for a given length.

  • However, to optimize an arm for one certain radius is just as possible -- as is the case if wanting to use Lofgren or Stevenson geometry --  this is achieved by changing the cartridge position in the head shell.

 

 

Schick Arm Length and Cartridge Compatibility

 

Tonearms are often advertised to match both SME, SPU G and SPU A size.

 

The connector might fit, but the geometry is different.

 

  • SPU-G has SME compatible length

  • The SPU-A is 22mm shorter.

      One tonearm can never match both

  • Left SME, SPU-G type head shell

  • Right SPU-A

shown below

As a result :

A pick-up arm has to be made in two versions in order to fit both of the size possibilities.

 

The Schick arm is made in two versions

  • Top: Schick arm SME & SPU-G compatible

 

  • Bottom: Schick arm SPU-A compatible

 

shown below

Conclusion

  • Although these design criteria are well known, I suppose, real high quality bearings are rarely used.

  • Or if they are used you can only find them in the upper price ranges.

  • Most designs available do not allow the use of the suggested heavy cartridges.

  • Against the trend of mass production, outsourcing, production in low wage countries etc.  ...

 

... my products are entirely hand made in Germany

12 inch Tonearm

Null at 66, 120,9mm

Baerwald

Mounting distance

304,75mm

Offset angle

17,11

Overhang

12,82mm

Effective Length

317,5mm

IN OUR STOCK NOW

  • 12" Black / Silver w/captive RCA cable

MAP    $ 1,995.00  

  • call for 12" arm / Graphite Head-shell Bundle Price ... or for :

  •  Arm + Headshell + Koetsu Cart Bundle

The new 9 inch Schick Tonearm​

Ho­ney, I shrunk the arm – the short version is here!

Requests kept coming in, so Thomas made a shorter version of my 12 inch tonearm. The differences between them are as "small" as possible because bearings, material, damping, and cabling are identical.

Technically, the shorter arm-tube has advantages, including less resonance and lower moving mass. The geometric distortion rises somewhat, but the effective length of my design’s 9.6 inch arm (longer than most other 9 inch arms) keeps it well below sonic interference or degradation of signal.

The shorter arm has similar sonic characteristics as the longer arm. Additionally, with my graphite head-shell a very large range of suitable cartridges can be used, up to a compliance of 22µm/mN.

Azimuth, VTA (tonearm height) and tracking force can be adjusted as with all my tonearms. This 9.6" tonearm length allows direct mounting on most vinyl players, including plinth designs of HiFi furniture sets.

For those with EMT record players, the mounting distance allows plug-in-replacement without any modification.

 

Both Schick 9 and our Schick 12 tonearms contain the same parts and go through the same manufacturing process, thus have the same cost.

9 inch Tonearm

Null at 66, 120,9mm

Baerwald

Mounting distance

229mm

Offset angle

22,345

Overhang

16.8mm

Effective Length

245.8mm (9,6 inch)

Special Order only

MAP    $ 1,995.00

As an alternative an adaptor can be used on the SME SPU G tonearm to host SPU A and even EMT type cartridges.

OTHER SPECIFICATIONS & ORDERING DETAILS

  • Arm Lift and Base : The tonearm includes a lift and arm base.

  • Anti-skate : All tonearms are equipped with an anti-skating mechanism.

  • Connector and Cable

    • The arm has a 5 pin tonearm connector made by me. it consists of Teflon isolation and electronic test pins.

    • Otherwise, you can choose a fixed tonearm cable, with lowest resistance and capacitance, symmetrical cable with Neutrik RCA plugs. The cable is 1,1m long.

 

  • Conterweight :​

    • A standard counterweight is included​

    • A second, heavier weight for SPU and other heavy cartridges costs an additional $55, if ordered together with a tonearm. If ordered separately. cost is $75.

    • If you choose it as a single heavy weight there is no extra cost.

 

  • Cartridge Compatibility :​

    • ​The tonearms are suitable for any cartridge from about 6 Gramm.

    • ​The 12 " tonearm is suitable for any cartridge with a compliance value of below 20 µm/mN.

    • The 9 " tonearm is suitable for any cartridge with a compliance value of below 22 µm/mN.

    • That includes most cartridges on the market,

    • Excluded are only lightweight, and very soft MM systems.

 

  • Head Shell :​

    • ​A head shell is not included.

    • We recommend to use the  Schick Graphite Head Shell  --  see details below.

 

  • Finish Versions : ​

    • There are 3 finish versions -- all are included in the standard List Price.​

    • SILVER FINISH  --  nickel + palladium, matte finish

    • BLACK FINISH  --  black chrome, matte finish

    • GOLD FINISH

 

  • Ordering and Delivery Lead Time​ :

    • The Schick tonearms are handmade in Germany by Thomas.

    • They are custom built to the customer's specification.

    • When ordering, please specify tone arm length, finish and type of weight.

    • Delivery time is about 4 months for 9" and Silver 12" Arms. But we do have a few 12" arms  in stock.

PLEASE CHECK WITH US - WE USUALLY HAVE GOLD & BLACK 12" ARMS IN STOCK

The Schick Alternative & its Solution

Ball bearings were indeed used in very popular tonearm designs at all times.

  • Todays high tech manufacturing allows to create bearings with incredibly low tolerances.

Top quality ball bearings

  • The bearings used in the Schick arm have 0 (zero) positive tolerance and 7µm negative tolerance.

  • From a perfect ball the negative tolerance means ‘dents’ with 7µ depth.

  • Since there are many balls holding the construction the probability of really having 7µ tolerance is extremely low.​

The first key advantage of Low tolerance:

An extremely stable connection between the moving parts

 

Low tolerance gives the bearing another desired property:

Quietness

Obviously noise of the tonearm bearings would cause movement and resonances in the arm, that would cause a loss of information again.

The low tolerance surface is achieved by polishing, which makes the surface of the modern ball bearing very smooth and silent if turned.

It is possible to buy an identical looking bearing for a fraction of the cost. Turn them and put them to the ear. You can hear already metallic scratch noises, nothing you would like to have in the music signal.

 

Just turn a vintage arm horizontally and you know what I mean. There, just loose balls arranged around the tonearm's parts are used.

shown below

The low tolerance and smooth surface has a third important advantage : 

 

Low friction and low stick effect

  • The mechanical momentum necessary to start moving is very low.

  • Thus the cartridge will again track better.

  • The super smooth surface also makes the friction very low.

  • We are talking of values where regular grease would be like fixing glue.

  • For lubrication a special very light synthetic oil is used that will last a lifetime.​

  • A word to the life expectancy of the bearings. They are made to withstand really high revs. That will never occur in their tonearm life, but ensures their quality for decades.

Material choice & Resonance

Apart from the crucial moving parts of tonearms, another important issue are the resonances.

  • Metal is usually a good resonator, which is bad. But metal is strong and rigid.

  • In a mechanical assembly the resonances of the metal can be kept very low.

  • If two ‘ringing’ pieces of metal are brought together and joined mechanically, they do not produce any sound anymore.

  • So the use of a head shell is a very good treatment for arm resonances.

  • The mechanical interface between the arm tube and the headshell connector also controls the resonances very well.

  • The same applies to the pivot axis and the counterweight.

  • All three elements are safely joined together in order to control the resonances.

  • Special care was taken with the damping of the tonearm tube.

  • Three different materials in 9 sections are used here.

Schick Tonearm - Close Up

THE SCHICK TONEARMS

SILVER FINISH

nickel + palladium, matte finish

BLACK FINISH

black chrome, matte finish

GOLD FINISH

SCHICK GRAPHITE HEADSHELL

With head­shells you can tune the sound of your turntable in a very easy way.

 

The family of ma­te­ri­als is graphite, but just as wood or plas­tic, it comes in many vari­ants.

 

I have cho­sen a high de­nsi­ty type, that is al­so oil soaked. No, I have not done it so as to get their hands dirty. It is of cour­se fi­nis­hed so you can touch it wi­thout pen­cil marks on your fin­gers.

 

With this type I gained the most favor­able sound re­sults.

 

The sound is very de­tailed, but keeps the right tim­ing and tim­bre. A re­al good match for top MC sys­tems.

 

The de­sign re­sults in an ex­treme­ly rigid and res­o­nance-free head­ shell, which ba­si­cal­ly en­sures an ex­tend­ed pre­ci­sion in sound.

RSP    $ 325   /   Special   $ 295

SCHICK "DAS MM" MOVING MAGENT CARTRIDGE

A tonearm would be useless without a pick up cartridge. In this field one has a broad variety of choices.

 

Here I offer retipped and, or modified complete cartridges, that are a very good match for my tonearms.

A cartridge repair for any type of cartridge is not offered.

 

  • At the moment there is a very interesting Moving Magnet Cartridge available.

  • Originally used as DJ cartridge it has a whopping 8mV output.

  • Unusual for that type (and price range) of cartridge it has an elliptical needle tip.

  • I offer this cartridge with a modified needle assembly.

  • The plastic around is being cut away. This makes a very big difference, even to glued assemblies, which is a common ‘trick’ to improve systems with removable needle.

  • Glueing does not eliminate the problem of the massive amount of thin walled plastic at the needle assembly,it dampens the effect a little. Once cut away the problem is eliminated.

  • Also the colored dot on the needle is removed, reulting in a lighter cantilever.

  • Then there is the new housing from the same material I use for my plinths.

  • Very good sound properties here as well, as the cartridge is fitted without any cavities, as opposed to the original plastic case.

 

The already dynamic sounding original cartridge comes with a lot of refinement, too once modified.

 

Certainly not a competitor to top MC systems, but so appealing in character that it delivers a lot of listening fun.

 

Maybe a silly (and not quite precise) food comparison helps you get the idea :
 

If your High End MC cartridge is Champagne and 5-star cuisine, then this MM system is Whiskey with a BBQ Steak.

 

The modified cartridge is available only together with our Graphite Head Shell.

 

The cartridge is pre-mounted and wired on to the head shell.

MAP    $ 535.00

WEIGHT

Cartridge 8.8 gr

Headshell 15 gr

STYLUS

Aluminum cantilever with bonded

elliptical 0.3 mil diamond tip

FREQUENCY RESPONSE

20-24.000 Hz +/- 4 dB

OUTPUT

8,0 mV (5 cm/sec)

CHANNEL SEPARATION

> 18 dB (1 KHz)

CHANNEL BALANCE

< 2.0 dB or less (1 KHz)

COMPLIANCE

6,0 x 10-6 cm/dyne

TRACKING FORCE

2.5 – 4,0 g

VERTICAL TRACKING ANGLE

20°

RECOMMENDED LOAD RESISTANCE

47 kΩ

RECOMMENDED LOAD CAPACITANCE

400 pF

MUSIC

PLAYER

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