It’s funny how one thing leads to another. For example, collecting a set of speakers from a fellow “Wammer’s” house led me to buy a new tone arm.. Not just any tone arm, but a new model from Audio Note. It’s not every day AN bring out new kit, so it was quite surprising to spot a new Audio Note arms on said Wammer’s turn table.
The Arm Three is a mercifully simple affair, it comes with a Rega fitting which makes it able to fit most decks right out of the box, and can be made to fit most turntables with little fuss. There are Audio Note Arm One, Two and Three. Differences are copper wire, silver wire or better silver wire. This is reflected in the price and I have gone for the III for the review which is the most expensive retailing at around £1400.
It comes boxed with the counter weight, fittings and an Allen key, this one Allen key adjusts everything on the arm so very easy to set up. My only setup niggle is the lack of instructions, however, the dealer backup is excellent and any confusion is easily over come with a quick call. The arm is very easy to fit and the often tricky VTA is a cinch due to the threaded collar on the base of the arm which allows you to raise and lower in very small stages. The head of the arm is also slotted so it is easy to align the cartridge forward or back a fair distance, which allows for many different cartridges. Ant skate is taken care of through a hanging weight on an arm which again is adjusted in and out using the supplied Allen key.
The fit and finish of the arm is amazing, it really is one of the best I have seen, the arm tube and head shell is a single piece of machined aluminium. Machined in Austria the finish is flawless. It feels like a much more expensive arm and the design has obviously been thoroughly thought about as everything is easy and logical to use. All of the parts are unique to the arm too, no Rega base with a new arm tube here.
My turntable (Garrard 401) has a plinth cut for an SME fitting, so I got an SME to Rega adapter from Ebay which allowed me to swap between the two arms. I also used a variety of cartridges with the arm:
- Audio Note Io
- Benz Micro Glider
- ZYX R-100
- Cartridge Man Music Maker III
Initial impressions where extremely positive, from the very start I could hear significant improvements using the Io in the Arm Three over an SME V. The most noticeable improvement was the timing, this is pin sharp. Dynamics also took a leap forward bringing real presence when needed and an ability to stop and start notes in what seems an instant. This is very noticeable with percussion, symbols especially becoming amazing realistic with that “in room” sound. The Arm Three also helps the all too common, overly compressed recordings come to life by allowing what dynamics are there to shine.
Another difference over the SME V is detail at the edges of the sound stage, sounds at the extreme left and right of the sound stage became more obvious and detailed as if they had come in to focus. I can only think this is down to the ability of the arm to track more accurately and this was shown with the torture track on the HiFi World Test Record which this arm tracked with only minor break up, the SME V was unable to track it at all.
With further listening a sense of realism just kept coming through, regardless of the genre I was listening to. Also nice was that the dynamics were not “in your face”, I could listen for really long periods without fatigue.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the other cartridges as I expected the Io to work very well in the arm but was unsure about the others. Some tinkering and testing later and I was confident that the same improvements over the SME V were present regardless of Cartridge.
Having lived with this arm for a few weeks I am stunned at the accessibility of the pricing. Audio Note could probably charge two or three times the retail price and many would still think it is good value. I know this might seem a short review, but I have my SME V up for sale which should achieve the same price as the Arm Three new, I can’t say more than that really.
Discuss the review here