A brand new Rega branded RB-330 arm sells for $675. The OEM arm, the TA-3, which I include on my base Thorens TD-160 Super reproduction package, sells for about $100 less retail. At $575 dollars or so, one could very well consider buying a nice quality vintage tonearm like the SME 3009 Series II or II Improved. However, when buying a fifty plus year old tonearm, there are many potential pitfalls. First of all, unlike the Rega, the SME suffers from 50 year old wiring, including one of THE worst rca cable connectors ever designed (not only loose-fitting, but also oxidizes seemingly before your eyes.) Rewiring the arm at SME tonearms in Canada is $400 plus shipping minimum. Many customers who have sent their arms there report spending twice that once other issues are found. The other pitfall with the vintage SME arms is missing doodads that quickly add up. The stringed bias weight is $29, the acorn screws are $30 a piece, the oft-needed coupling rubbers are $40. Suddenly your $500 vintage arm is closer to costing you twice that. And it’s still not warrantied.
There are other vintage arms that also beat the price of the RB330 OEM arm, but they also suffer from potential issues. The old Linns have leaky counterweights. The Grace arms also suffer from missing doodads, and unlike the SME, these are no longer supported. The Black Widows, a sexy looking arm, are frequently a victim of breakage in the arm tube..and if you don’t know if it’s been repaired in its past, you discover you may never be able to achieve correct alignment at any geometry. So yes, when I started out in the early 2000s selling custom turntables, I was only including vintage arms. However, in the past ten years I have come round to appreciate a well designed modern arm with up-to-date wiring and a warranty. I have also come to appreciate these medium mass arms fit a much wider range of currently manufactured cartridges: Hana, Dynavector, and Ortofon all have a range of cartridges with matching compliance.
The custom turntables I sell have always been about great value. To me, pairing your Vinyl Nirvana restored vintage Thorens with a new warrantied Rega-made arm offers the best of both worlds. You have a turntable manufactured at the height of German manufacturing, restored by one of the most respected restoration specialist, paired with a British arm that has won a multitude of awards and pairs with myriad contemporary cartridges.