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RE: Souther SLA-3 Tonearm

olddude 55, in my opinion, if you have never even seen a product, as you clearly have not in this case, you should refrain from comment. You know nothing. Uninformed opinions are a dime a dozen and worth even less.

I have no experience with the Clearaudio version. I do have experience with your version. At one time I was very interested in the Souther arms. I researched them and came close to pulling the trigger.

Then, when I ran my high end repair shop I did a new install on the SLA-3 during which time I got to know the arm well. Not to rain on your parade, I hate the Souther. I'm really glad I did not buy one.

First, it does not use an air bearing. It uses conventional ball bearings for the cartridge carriage. The carriage is driven across the record directly by the stylus pushing against the carriage bearing friction.

I have several major problems with the design. There are MANY bearings that can and do rattle and resonate. This can be heard if you know what to listen for. If you don't, the resonances reveal themselves as short term raspiness, almost a low level high frequency clicking. Bearing friction is relatively high because of their sheer numbers, always undesirable. Perhaps, now that Clearaudio owns the design, the bearing problems have been overcome. I doubt it. It's inherently a bad design.

Next, the extremely short tone arm causes a lot of warp wow when tracking warped records. The very low mass arm makes cartridge selection difficult. Souther and Clearaudio had a long term professional relationship, one result of which was several special Clearaudio cartridges designed for the arm.

I have nothing against Clearaudio. In fact, I own their expensive Discovery cartridge. I wonder why they got involved with Souther.

I found the arm to be very difficult to set up. I also found it awkward to use. All in all, I consider it a kludge. The best I can say is it works....sort of.... sometimes. The arm is a resonating nightmare.

I do think it looks pretty sexy. If you want a linear arm, get an Eminent Technology ET-2 or, perhaps, a Rabco. Air Tangent is another posibility but it is very expensive. Or buy a good pivoted arm. I prefer linear arms but good pivoted designs can be very good and are simple.


Edits: 01/21/09

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