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Graham Engineering Phantom Tonearm

The Phantom is the result of nearly two years of research into design theory, materials analysis, and extensive testing. This involved not only testing of the individual design components as they were being evaluated, but also comparing the several prototype models against our own Model 2.2 and the available competition.

In designing our newest tonerm, we knew it had to be far superior not only to other fine tonearms available, but also to our own Model 2.2. If it weren't, there would be no reason to continue the project.

The final result, the Phantom Model B-44, has exceeded even our highest expectations. In every way, the Phantom delivers an unsurpassed musical experience. The improvement is across the board, and includes deep, detailed bass extension, silky-smooth inner detail, and dynamic impact that can be startling when the music calls for it; also, a huge (but not exaggerated) soundstage extending both side-to-side and front-to-back. The Phantom delivers high-frequency response that is extended, detailed and sparkling; yet, it is exceedingly smooth, and not at all aggressive. The sound seems to float in space, just as one would have heard it at the recording session, and with a sense of ease and naturalness that is free from all sense of strain and effort, permitting hours and hours of pleasurable listening.

The reasons for these and other significant improvements are many, and are the subject of patent applications. In brief, however, we can cite a few design examples:

First, we've surpressed resonances at every conceivable point. This has been accomplished with exotic materials; for example, the Lorzig-ceramic arm tube, introduced with the Model 2.0, has been refined with a slightly larger diameter that is progressionally-extruded (to resist standing waves in the tube) and precision ground. A propriortary-process glass overlay, acting as extensional damping, is applied to further surpress resonances. (As a bonus, this black glass surface provide a fine-china appearance, complementing the other tonearm components).

The armtube itself, easily removable and using our patented alignment system, offers the safety, convenience and accuracy of off-turntable cartridge installation and alignment, as well as allowing quick interchange of multiple pre-mounted cartridges. It is significantly improved from the earlier armwands, and attaches to a nearly half-inch wide stainless-steel post-and-connector that supports the armwand under tension, resulting in virtually a one-piece armtube/pivot assembly with high damping.

The connectors avoid the use of common brass as the base material; instead, they use high copper-content phosphor bronze which, in addition to being a better conductor than brass, also has less "memory"; i.e., it won't deform as much with use, but will keep it's proper tension and mechanical strength over time. The internal wiring has also been improved, with purpose-made 4-nines silver incorporating both solid and litz construction, and with teflon and silicone insulation jackets for fast transmission speed.

Secondly, we've addressed the all-important (and often ignored) area of dynamic balance. Tonearms should have as little inertia as possible; yet, too often, as a result of the correct placement mass distribution being overlooked, they contribute excessive resisting forces in opposition to the requirements of the phono cartridge as it attempts to follow the ups and downs of a typical record. The Phantom, in spite of its robust appearance, has been designed with a very low moment of interia, so that the majority of phono cartridges can be used with ease and maximum performance.

-- At this point, a brief description of Balance Theory may be helpful: There are basically three types of static balance systems, Neutral, Stable, and Unstable. Stable balance, normally seen in laboratory scales, occurs when the CG (center of gravity) of the moving system is placed BELOW the pivot point. When this type of system is displaced from its preferred rest position, it will generate an immediate and opposing force which tries to return to that same position.

Unstable Balance, completely undesirable for any tonearm application, is when the CG is placed ABOVE the pivot point. A moving system with unstable balance will not have any stable position, and will exhibit reduced force as it's lifted.

The third, and most desirable system for tonearms, is Neutral Balance. With this system, the pivot point and the CG of the moving system are in the same plane. When the arm is raised or lowered, there is no opposing force trying to return the arm to a rest position; the pivoting system doesn't really know or care if the stylus is at the record surface level or a half-inch above or below it; as a result, there is no opposing force to the arm as it is traversing record deflection during play. The only downward tracking force is that of the adjustable counterweight, which remains a constant. --

Previously, all true unipivots - that is, those with a single contact point for the bearing and NO secondary stablizing surfaces, bearings, etc. - required the use of side weights or a significantly lowered counterweight in order to provide stability. (And even those with a secondary stabilizing guide generally require a displaced CG in order to provide constant contact with the stabilizer guide piece).

The drawback to both these conditions is that this design becomes a Stable Balance system, which is normally used, as mentioned, in laboratory scales for precision weight measurements. But laboratory scales have very different requirements than a tonearm. If Stable Balance is applied to tonearms, the arm will have a preferred rest position and always tries to return to this point; any change in tonearm height, as in tracking warped records, causes an immediate and equally opposing force that tries to push the arm back to its rest position. The higher the warp, the more counter-force is applied.

You can see that this force would work against the cantilever, deflecting it during warps and causing the magnetic system to be displaced. This, in turn, will certainly affect the reproduced sound, with diminished performance in all areas, including soundstage compression, loss of detail and dimensionality, not to mention record wear. This is why most tonearms must have their tracking force measured at the record surface level; any height change during the measurement will cause an incorrect reading.

A tonearm with Stable Balance can be identified by measuring the tracking force at the record surface level and again at a raised position above the record. If the tracking force INCREASES at the higher position, the arm has Stable Balance. Our own previous designs - the best we could make at that time - also had this limitation due to the use of side weights to provide lateral stability. We minimized the effect by placing the weights as close to the pivot as possible, but it was still measurable. Other unipivots with low-slung counterweights will also exhibit this force; the lower the weight, the more counter-force is applied. Although this technique is often promoted as a "high-stability" design, it does so at the expense of consistent tracking force. It actually results in varying tracking forces during play when traversing even small warps, accompanied by non-linear cartidge operation, and increased record wear.

If an arm were produced with Unstable Balance - although this approach should always be avoided in tonearms - such a design would actually cause the tracking force to DECREASE with arm height, and provoke serious mistracking as the arm is raised, as when negotiating warps.

Once Neutral Balance is chosen for use in a unipivot tonearm, one must remember that both the vertical and lateral planes will be affected the same way; without proper lateral stability, such a design would not have consistenent, proper vertical alignment, and the pivot would tend to flop over to one side or another (usually in the direction of the weighted cartridge offset angle mounting) and stay in the position it happened to find itself. Obviously this condition must be avoided. In achieving Neutral Balance for vertical pivoting motion of the Phantom, a means was needed that would provide strong lateral stabilization, while not adversely affecting Neutral Balance in any way.

The answer to this lies at the very heart of the Phantom's design and its unique ability to retrieve groove information unprecended in our experience. The key is a magnetic stabilization system which is the subject of patent applications, and which we have called "Magneglide" (TM). With this unique system, all lateral stability, and a portion of the damping, is provided by powerful neodymium ("rare-earth") magnets, placed in a horizontal line from the pivot point of the tonearm. Working as an adjustable system, Magneglide (TM) provides, simulatenously, the following: lateral stability, azimuth adjustability, damping assist, true vertical pivoting of the stylus tip with no rotation as the arm is raised, and easily adjusted anti-skate compensation.

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