Once we started carrying The Wand tonearms from New Zealand, we thought people would wonder why they are available in three lengths--9", 10.3" and 12". Why would tonearms be available in three lengths? Isn't there a specific length that works best with all turntables? Wouldn't a longer tonearm screw up the tracking angle?
Actually, it depends. Most turntables do require tonearms that have arm tube that are 9" long, or slightly longer. But some older turntables actually accommodated arms that were 12", and sure enough many turntable manufacturers started coming out with models that could be fit with the longer tonearms.
Basically, it's geometry. A longer tonearm is better at maintaining the right tracking angle for the needle as it tracks across the record. Theoretically, the longer the tonearm the longer it will maintain the correct angle.
There's a trade-off, though...a longer arm tube is less rigid and that also affects performance. That's why Simon Brown of The Wand makes a 10.3" arm--it's the best of both worlds, a perfect compromise between a better tracking angle and more rigidity. Incidentally, Simon chose the 10.3" length because it is the longest arm you can fit on both a Linn Sondek and a technics SL-1200.
At Tenacious Sound, we can help choose the right tonearm for both your turntable and your cartridge. The tonearm is a very important part of the analog playback chain--and we can help you get it right.