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Dunedin-designed Tonearm ain't your gran's gramophone

Classic vinyl record sales are booming, so it’s no surprise the radically-designed Wand Unipivot Tonearm is getting attention all around the world.

Created by Dunedin's Simon Brown of Design Build Listen, the Tonearm was a finalist in the 2011 Best Design Awards and got 5/5 for sound when reviewed by UK magazine HiFi World.

Brown says it's "not your grandmother's gramophone", representing a step change in design. 

"Tonearms are vital to good vinyl reproduction," he explains.

"A record groove is less than 0.1mm wide. The music signals are literally microscopic ripples pressed into the walls of the groove. So the arm supporting the cartridge must not move relative to the groove, even at the sub-micron level. Yet the arm must also move with perfect freedom across the record. Unsurprisingly most arms make significant unwanted ‘contributions’ to sound quality."

In the past, most arms have failed to achieve this balance, compromising on sound. Brown's design has a large diameter that makes it four times stiffer than a normal arm, so the cartridge can be directly attached to the armtube. 

Another differentiator between the wand and its competitors is reduced set-up time. A standard tonearm will take hours to set up correctly to ensure the best sound possible, but Brown says the Tonearm is fitted with a stainless steel alignment tool that makes the process much less painful.

The product has been continuously stripped and simplified until only the bare essentials remain. According to Brown, the leaner, meaner end result (which he has registered in New Zealand and is in the process of patenting in the US) produces better sound with reduced sonic and visual clutter.