Graham Phantom Anti-Skate. Is it effective at all?

I've had my Phantom Supreme over a year now, and for the most part it's been a pleasure. Beautiful build & sound; awesome VTA and azimuth adjustments. My main hangup had been the headshell; getting a Koetsu to sit flat on the 10" wand seemed impossible because the correct overhang pushed it all the way to the back, behind the main headshell points of contact. Finally I just used 2 plastic washers as shims to get a nice flat mount.

Now my main concern is the anti-skate. I'm not sure if all Phantoms are this way or if it's an issue with my unit. I can't seem to get an effective amount of anti-skate. My preferred method for adjusting anti-skate is to drop the needle in some dead-wax before the label (NOT into a lead-out groove) and adjust so that the stylus creeps *slowly* inwards. With my Graham, I cannot achieve always moves quickly inwards no matter how far out I set the weight. Even physically pushing down on the weight doesn't seem to have much effect in swinging the arm. To me, this seems like the mechanism is not effective, as if I'm running without any compensation. This is very unlike my experiences with a Fidelity Research FR64fx (weight and fishing line) and Clearaudio Magnify (magnetic) -- both have a very noticeably effective anti-skate mechanism, which I can easily dial-in as described above. In fact I just setup a was great!

On my Graham, the pulley & rope system seems to be correctly in place. But without a 2nd until to examine, I can't determine whether this is normal. Could other owners/users of Graham please comment on their experiences with its anti-skate? The situation is OK for now -- I burn hours on my good cartridges very slowly and sparingly -- but I'd rather not have my nice cartridge seeing asymmetric wear over the long-run.

-- Mike
It. ist effective and works. Never had such a Problem and I had every Graham Arm Model ...
Ok, well there is probably some user error here on my part. I gave it another go and was able to get "close" to the desired anti-skate compensation by having the counterweight dangling at the end of the stick (max amount). This is with a Koetsu tracking at 1.95 grams -- the manual states that the anti-skate range will support up to 3g (or more) of VTF. That's not what I'm seeing, but then the stock VTF counterweight should also be good for up to 13g cartridges, and that's also not what I've observed, unless my Koetsus are heavier than their reported 13g (and it's not close enough for mounting hardware to cause the discrepancy) -- I had to get the extra counterweight. As with that, perhaps I need a heavier anti-skate weight. Maybe the 10" wand is causing the discrepancies here? I know Graham recommends the 9", but I got the 10" due to reports of clearance issues with the 9" used in conjunction with a ring clamp. But now I want to try a 9" wand and see if that's a better compromise, overall.
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I agree that anti-skate is just not that important. DaVinci, who make great tonearms didn't even bother with it on the Grandezza model (I have one). VPI never put much into it either. I would use just enough to prevent the stylus from colliding with the first groove during setdown. Achieving that is no problem with the Graham (I have one)
Hi Benjie,
I've definitely set the correct pivot-to-spindle distance on my Clearaudio
(adjustable arm pod) for the 10" wand. This is made foolproof by the Graham,
with the spindle attachment and headshell cutout hole. I've also adjusted for
the correct overhang via the Graham headshell jig (each provided jig is
specific to a wand length, and I verified that mine has a "10" printed on it),
and that too is foolproof -- however I was surprised that this results in a
Koetsu sitting as far back in the shell as possible. These distances have been
re-checked multiple times. I'm just surprised to have to adjust a couple of
parameters to the limit, and figured this was a quirk of the 10" wand when
combined with a Koetsu. I assume that a Phantom with 12" wand would ship
with a bigger (or the extra) VTF counterweight, but not the 10" which my arm
was indeed shipped with -- this was not a used market mix-and-match job.

I know the anti-skate is a hot topic of debate, and that it's all an
approximation over the surface of a record. I prefer to err on the side of a
little too little. I just don't want the needle smashed up against the inner
groove wall (i.e. no compensation); I know whole-record perfection with a
pivoted arm is not attainable. The method I described was recommended in a
post by SoundSmith.
Here is the anti-skate post by Peter Ledermann to which I refer:

Benjie, your method sounds very good, but with a low compliance cart like the Koetsu (maybe ~ 10 when converted to the @ 10Hz standard used by your Benz) I think it will be harder than usual to spot deflections.
I just measured the distance from spindle-to-pivot as 230mm. Graham doesn't seem to publish this info (since well, the setup is so easy and does not require manual measurements), but at least this seems reasonably sane because this is exactly the published distance for my FR64fx, also a 10" arm.
Dear Mulveling & Benjie,
My experience with a MkII Phantom (9") echoes Mulvelings.

I found that slightly more bias force was required than I expected. So, for a 1.76g VTF I would have expected it to be <2/3 x MAX along the shaft but it was more like <3/4 x MAX.
There was still plenty of headroom so I didn't obsess about it.
Hope this helps :)
Thanks Moonglum,
That does correlate pretty well to what I'm observing, since I'm running a higher
VTF. Thanks for the sanity check! It would be great to hear from 10" wand
Koetsu users, but I imagine that's going to be very rare -- so it's great to get 9"
wand experiences as well.
Hi Mulveling,
Just to check my own sanity I had another look and it depends on where I take the reference point on the weight?

If the centre of the weight was ref it would be roughly 2/3. If the nearest face to the pivot was ref then it would be slightly less than 2/3 which, I guess, is "almost" accurate. This means that 3g might be feasible at the extremity (?)
All the best....
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Thanks for the warning on the Graham fixture...I'd started to suspect as much,
which is why I double-checked to ensure I didn't accidentally get the 9"
version (it is the 10" version). I have the AVID universal alignment tool, but
I'm not sure whether that's applicable for this darn 10" wand -- did a quick
check on the AVID (carefully aimed it at the arm pivot), and it wants the cart even
FURTHER back than it can possibly go (by a few mm), which can't be right.
Starting to regret that 10" choice. I guess it's time to look at a Feickert or
AccuTrack! And maybe a 9" wand -- I can be super careful with the ring clamp
for the sake of better alignment. Ugh, and now I'm not gonna run the system
until I get this figured out...bummer!
The Graham 10" and 12" are simply longer tubes than the 9" Standard with the identical drills for the Graham alignment System BUT (and this is important), Graham did not change the Arch Angle of these tubes.
The Result is: When you fix your cartridge with the Alignment flip, the adjustment is wrong. Wrong with 10" and ultra wrong with 12".
In all the pics/demos you see the screws are parallel (for 10" and 12"), that was done with the flip, when you do a correct adjustment the screws have total different positions. In the 12" version one is more or less at the top of the slot and the other one far away back. Look pretty awful when you look at it. Based on that fault, nothing is right when the cartridge is guided across the record. It was very disappointing for me to see such nonsense (the longer Triplanar has the same cost/brain controlled option)....
I sold them all.
Mulvling....good choice. I don't/have used a/s for years and never have found a reason to use it....however in your case, something is wrong, and I wouldn't subject a high priced cartridge to a wrong setup. When you get your arm working correctly, listen with and without a/s and make your own determination.
Highly recommend the Feickert or a Mint Protractor which is very precise and can be made custom for you arm/table.
... Graham did not change the Arch Angle of these tubes.
Whaaaat??? They offer longer armwands to reduce tracking angle error but neglect to reduce the headshell offset angle? If so, that's brainless.

All the more reason to follow Philb777's advice: get a Feickert or Mint protractor. I have a Mint. The improvement it made to my alignment and sonics was not subtle. It's a professional's tool. The jigs and protractors supplied by Graham, TriPlanar and the like are toys by comparison.

P.S. Agree with Stringreen and Psag. Anti-skating isn't that important, and in my system it clearly degrades sonics. The longer the armtube the less important it becomes... assuming of course that the cartrdige is actually aligned at the correct zenith angle (which apparently will not be parallel to the headshell... oy!)
Graham did not change the Arch Angle of these tubes.
Whaaaat??? They offer longer armwands to reduce tracking angle error but neglect to reduce the headshell offset angle? If so, that's brainless.

What Syntax is saying is simply not true. Maybe it was on old Graham arms. I have both the 10" & 12" supreme arms. The headshell angle is not the same for the 10&12 arm wands (angle reduced on the 12") and the alignment jigs are also different for obvious reasons. It time for Syntax to stop spreading around misinformation with regard to Graham arms.

It time for Syntax to stop spreading around misinformation with regard to Graham arms.

Honey, I had Graham Arms before you even did know how to spell that name correctly .... Last week there was the High End Show in Germany and I saw these Arms and I even stacked them to see what was going on.
And let's remember that your so called "knowledge" is based on nothing. It was me who told you that your 10" Arm Alignment with your Clearaudio table was wrong. Before you got that information you told everyone how great that Performance is.
Maybe you have different wands, who knows, Fact is, there are others out there, even today (or until last week).
well I have two empty supreme arm wands...10" and 12". They don't line's not even close angle wise. Perhaps you should pull your head out of your arse and stop talking about your first hand experience with old Graham tonearms. It is 2014...your claims that the 12" angle is the same as the 10" head shell angle is patently false. Your supposed facts are sheet.
Syntax and Rockitman,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. It seems that some Graham armwands may be angled differently than others. That is useful information... caveat emptor.

That said, having these different experiences hardly justifies personal invective. As you're posting publically I presume you're hoping to sway opinions. Indulging in insults will do that, but perhaps not in your favor. Please stop.
Yes, I wish I could edit the thread. I agree, insults accomplish nothing. There is no hit and miss regarding these arm wands. The older arm wands with the elliptical headshell could very well be the same angle wise on the 10 & 12's. I have no experience with them. The newer "Supreme" arm wands do not. I should know...I have 3-10" and 2-12" supreme wands. Syntax has none.
Thanks to all who have contributed information thus far. I'm sorry things got a
little heated in a particular subthread-- to those participants, I respect both of
you and appreciate the posts/contributions you've each made to the various
online audio forums.

I do have a Supreme II model, so hopefully my alignment from the headshell jig
is not too far off -- though there is some wiggle room on that jig, which
accounts for a margin of error on its own. A Mint protractor is looking pretty
good right about now...
I have a mint LP for my graham supreme 10". After using it exclusively for 6 months, I went back to the Graham jig. Records sound better with the jig. The issue with mint is that the pivot to spindle distance is different than what should be used with the Graham jig. You can't use the spindle cup with the armwand cart un mounted(graham technique).. You have to get something like a fiekert with the nail jig and that nail must go inside the pivot housing. There is error there too. Stick with the Graham setup and you will be better off.
Rockitman, thanks for the super advice regarding the Graham. I had a similar situation aligning the Graham arm. In my case, I was using the Bavarian Uni-Protractor...the Graham jig was superior; IMHO, it was something to with the other's PTS quantitative scale, the Graham jig was spot-on.

I believe he fundamental difference between the Mint lp and the Graham jig is the alignment curves are different.
The Graham is his own and does not conform to the standard B,S or L alignments.

much like the VPI jig, the designer knows what they are doing the their jigs sound better imo.
As Downunder points out, comparing a standard Mint protractor (Baerwald) with the Graham jig (non-Baerwald) is comparing apples with oranges. Any sonic differences cannot reasonably be ascribed to the device, per se, but will rather result from the differing null points and the resulting tracking angle error differential at every point along the stylus arc.

That said, the Mint is several orders of magnitude more precise than the supplied jig. If one had both, in versions designed for the *same* alignment scheme, one's results with the Mint would necessarily be more accurate and repeatable.

Yip would make a Mint protractor for Graham's preferred alignment scheme (whatever it may be). One need only email him the tonearm mounting distance, effective length (or overhang) and the offset angle. The protractor's arc and the intended null points can be calculated from there.
Doug, the pivot to spindle distance is the difficult part to get right if you use a mint. Yip's distance is different from what Graham does with his spindle cup and empty arm wand. Like I said, for Graham arms, my experience has been better with the Graham jig vs. Mint. YMMV.
A while back I seem to remember someone mentioning that Bob favoured the Stevenson. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Graham jig. For example there is a popular belief that the graticule window weight corresponds to average downforce e.g. 1.8g. If this were true Bob would be inundated with complaints from those whose carts require lighter forces. Effectively it would destroy the suspensions on some of those carts, long term.

The reality is that the window only weighs approx. 0.5g (as stated by Graham distributor). The disadvantage of this is that it will necessarily incur a smaller deflection of the cantilever (less compression of the suspension than normal). This would cause an error if in a self-compensatory manner, the angle of the window is never horizontal and will tend to offset this error.
Before users begin to "freak out" the size of the resultant error is probably less than 1/3rd the diam of a human hair i.e. not the sort of thing that even the steadiest hand will rectify without making it worse (this assuming the cart dimensions are even as claimed!). Also, the jig itself has tolerances otherwise it would seize :) These tolerances may also work towards reducing this error rather than making it worse(?)

Typically, headshells that use the 3-point mounting system will be worse than this and won't have the capacity to offset angle for badly oriented cantilevers - they have to accept the cartridge condition, warts and all...
There are a lot of unknowns here so the best advice is to do your best with the alignment and be happy. :)

I genuinely hope this helps rather than upsets :)
My experience with the Graham fixtures for arm position and cart alignment was initially very trying. I have the 9" arm. To begin, arm position needs to be such that the spindle locator pin has no stress from any direction when the headshell receptacle is lowered or raised over it. Had to get some longer 4-40 cap screws and over-drill the arm-board to make that work on my Sota. After many hours of frustration trying to get the cart alignment right, I finally realized I needed to make a macro-fixture that would hold the entire arm/cart/alignment fixture assembly stable during the adjustment process while allowing free access to all the fasteners. Only then could I fiddle around with the alignment jig targeting reticle height to get it parallel to the cartridge body and arm. Getting the stylus alignment spot-on took a stereo zoom microscope at about 15 or 20x. The vertical weight issue on alignment is a red herring IMO; the arm is inverted when using the reticle and you will be adjusting VTA (or more precisely, as Doug would point out, SRA). Any deflection caused by differing weight is not realistically measurable. Double-checked with my Pro-Ject protractor, and it was dead on. Once all that was accomplished, setting the VTF, VTA, azimuth and anti-skate was a breeze. Very minor adjustments became clearly audible and I quickly got it dialed in to my taste.

Be advised that patience is essential. The whole process took me nearly 3 MONTHS. Much of that was due to the fact I live in the sticks and have to mail order everything, including things like washers and 4-40 socket head shouldered cap screws. I also encountered several unrelated failures along the way. Still, even if I'd had no failures, lived in a city and picked up all the stuff I needed in one trip, it would have taken a week or more. Ah, the joys of such a fussy, exacting hobby. Just rest assured it will all be worth it - the Phantom Supreme II is a marvelous arm.

Good luck & happy listening!
Has anyone ever just let gravity do the job? Maybe slightly tilting the turntable to the outer grooves. How much bearing damage could this possibly cause? I have used this method with great success. It does not have to tilt a lot. Just slightly. It makes a big difference in my tables ability to track. That way, no mechanical device is needed on the tonearm. I am sure many have done this
07-03-14: Tzh21y
Has anyone ever just let gravity do the job? Maybe slightly tilting the turntable to the outer grooves. How much bearing damage could this possibly cause? I have used this method with great success. It does not have to tilt a lot. Just slightly. It makes a big difference in my tables ability to track. That way, no mechanical device is needed on the tonearm. I am sure many have done this

A Turntable has to be level, otherwise it is like an unbalanced wheel. When you like that solution, of course it will make a HUGE difference :-)
Same is for Arm btw. Otherwise you will damage the cantilever but I think, most don't do anything at all, they rely on their dealer when he made the set up for them.
Normally leveling the table with the Cartridge Man unit and using a blank disc for azimuth is a pretty good way for carts below 2 gr VTF.
My table does not have an anti skate on tonearm. But isn't that what an antskate device does anyways? It is not tilted lot. Just a little.
Hey... I agree with Judy! I too have never done this. No kidding.

Tilting would put uneven pressure on the TT bearing. That would cause eccentric wear, impact speed stability and shorten the useful life of the table.

Realistically, this might not be a serious concern if you have a lightweight platter and/or an inexpensive bearing. My platter weighs nearly 40 lbs. and a replacement bearing would cost me around $1K... so it would be a foolish risk for me. Your Aries platter is lighter but the VPI platter bearing is fairly loose fitting, which would increase the rate of wear from an eccentric load. Tilting an Aries seems penny wise but possibly pound foolish.

VPI makes an optional anti-skate device for their JMW tonearms. If you feel a need for anti-skating, why not just spring for that?
Anti skate is not necessary IMO.

It varies with the complexity of the music, off center record hole, and offset alignment type.

It is a moving target that can never be completely compensated for.

Also the stylus vibration is 3 dimensional, and there is not significant asymmetric stylus wear to worry about IMO. Anti skate is the least important part of the arm alignment. Dust control, arm setup, and clean records, results in long stylus life.

Try listening without anti skate. I use no anti skate, and do not have any inner groove distortion on almost 100% of my 2000 records.
Agree with Don_c55.

The sonic and musical improvements from defeating (and eventually removing) the anti-skate device from my tonearm were considerable. The sound floor was noticeably lowered and micro-dynamics increased... more music with more jump.

IME, asymmetric stylus wear is possible but the actual risk is slight. Many cartridges wear out their suspensions before stylus wear becomes an issue. With such cartridges, the theoretical risk of asymmetric stylus wear becomes irrelevant.

As previously discussed on this forum, anti-skating often becomes a liability for listeners who are keenly aware of the sonic effects of all tonearm adjustments. If you routinely tweak VTF and SRA by ear on an record-by-record basis (because you hear and appreciate the sonic results, not for the sake of tweaking), you may find that anti-skating is unnecessary for clean tracking. You may decide that hearing more lifelike musical reproduction is worth more than the theoretical risk.

YMMV of course. Results will vary with cartridges, tonearms, accuracy of setup and of course one's ears.
Just a little makes a world of difference in tracking, soundstage,everything. No need for anti skate control. I mean the line level and bubble level look almost perfectly level, just slightly off center, not much. Makes a world of difference.
I leveled turntable. It does sound better level. I
Listened to a dealer and I guess it we all hear differently. I just purchased a Benz ref 3 and was experimenting for the first 50 hours. A would agree with physics and the audiophiles on this thread. Level table is the way to go
Unfortunately, vinyl-philes can no longer rely on dealers to optimize their vinyl setups. Dealer knowledge has withered since the CD overturned the LP nearly 30 years ago. That withering will accelerate as physical media recede altogether in favor of downloads and fileserver storage.

The body of knowledge on forums like this exceeds that of all but a handful of dealers. Glad you had a good outcome!
I am surprised to read Don's and Doug's statements regarding anti-skate. If the reader is a neophyte, please take those statements with a smidgeon of skepticism. For any pivoted tonearm with stylus overhanging the spindle, there IS a skating force generated. Whether one likes it or not. No amount of fiddling with VTF or SRA will negate skating force. The fact that the magnitude of the skating force is constantly variable across the surface of any LP, and different for different LPs, does not necessarily give one license to ignore it. Well, actually, one can ignore it, but listen carefully, especially to the R channel fidelity, with vs without at least a smidge of anti-skate applied, before disabling the anti-skate device. That's my advice. Judge for yourself whether you want to apply anti-skate or not and how much to apply, by direct experimentation. It's very easy to do. In my case, I CAN hear distortions that arise when there is no AS, so I use the minimal amount necessary to cancel those distortions.
Good caution by Lew. There's no question that skating forces exist. I don't deny physics and I doubt Don does either. I suggested caution in my last sentence but Lew described the correct procedure.

Well, actually, one can ignore it, but listen carefully, especially to the R channel fidelity, with vs without at least a smidge of anti-skate applied, before disabling the anti-skate device. That's my advice. Judge for yourself whether you want to apply anti-skate or not and how much to apply, by direct experimentation.
Exactly right. I played many LPs while tweaking A/S and VTF from one passage to the next, learning exactly how much of each was needed for clean R channel tracking while optimizing sonics. With my favored cartridges on my tonearm, no A/S tracks cleanly and sounds best. I know others whose rigs, like Lew's, need a smidge for optimal performance. Very few rigs require more than a smidge.
Whewe....I have been an exponent of not using a/s for years on these and other pages, only to be rebuked many times over.. Vindication at last...others hear what I hear....improvement with no a/s. ..just to admit to setup deficiency on my part....I got an ap on my iPod touch that is called suface actually buzzes when it is perfectly horizontal. When I initially set up my table I used a carpenters level, and now realize that the little bubble may be off because of parallax error, etc. Anyway, with the aid of the buzzer crying out in perfection, and again using the FOZ to check for azimuth, I am rewarded with an even better picture to the musical event.....Vinyl requires great patience....
Hmm, if anti skate is so bad why do tonearm designers include it in their designs ?. I suppose some people don't mind a deflected cantilever and the sonic issues that may result. there could be some arms that can perform w/o anti skate perhaps ? Graham is not one of them, nor is the Clearaudio Universal arm which I have tried with and without anti skate.
Rockitman...A/S is included with tonearms as a selling point....when skating became the new adjustment of perfection, it was hard to sell an arm without it. In truth, A/S is very illusive...there are so many factors that contribute to it that there is just no way to adjust so that it does what intended. Most arms, when set according to directions apply WAY too much a/s . The constant outward deflection of the arm...when not needed...especially with too high a setting, exerts a force that inhibits the stylus and produces a side damping. One wants the stylus to be absolutely free to negotiate its travels.