"I am so enjoying the Woody tonearm. Really super. What is wrong with Art Dudley?"


Mike Bodell, Bend, Oregon 




"Art is a great guy, a great reviewer, and a beloved

fixture in the firmament of American Audio. He is

My favorite reviewer. Art got impatient in his

review of the Woody. He also failed to grasp

the key technical achievements of the Woody.

We should cut him some slack."


Pete Riggle 



Woody Tonearm Review by Art Dudley

Stereophile, October 2013 issue:

We asked Art Dudley to review the Woody. He is one of our favorite reviewers. We thought that he might be the major publication reviewer who would most "get" the Woody. We encourage our customers and potential customers to read this review, carefully consider what the reviewer says, and to form opinions of their own.

The review says some nice things about the Woody; but also provides some unusually harsh opinions and conclusions, a grumpy and impatient focus, nitpicking (based on incorrect notions of the physics involved) of the innovative technololgy employed, and disagreement with other reviewers and users who have found the Woody to be easy to use, wonderful sounding, and an advance in tonearm state of the art.

A manufacturer faced with a caustic review, salted with unfounded conjecture, has the choice of acquiescence or response with an objective point of view, as we are doing here.

You may find the review to be a roller coaster ride in which the virtues and innovation of the product take a back seat to the moods, biases, and preconceptions of the reviewer, who seemed to have more difficulty with the Woody than any other reviewer or user to date.

We found it interesting that in the March 2014 issue of Stereophile, reviewer Dudley introduced another tonearm review with the following statement. "In the wake of my October 2013 'Listening' column and its negative take on the Pete Riggle Woody tonearm, I was surprised and gratified by the offer of another new arm: a gesture of trust not unlike sending one's children to a sleepover at Casey Anthony's house." This is great humor, one of the reasons we love Art Dudley, and perhaps a touch of mia culpa on the part of our favorite reviewer.
Here are favorable comments from the October 2013 Stereophile review:

"a fascinating product . . ."

"timberally colorful, well textured sound, with notably excellent image depth."

"a lovingly made tonearm"

"The quality that makes the Woody mildly exasperating is also one that makes it worthwhile: The Woody . . . has to be the most adjustable tonearm one can buy."

"Pete Riggle is one of the very few tonearm manufacturers with the foresight to supply with his arm a simple overhang gage. Asi I discovered, by using that gage to set over hang early on in the setjup process, one needs to epend very little time and effort later on."

" . . . once the user is in the mood to avail himself of the arms many adjustments, and versed in the need for the same, it is not hard to appreciate the Woody."

- Art Dudley

If you wish to explore more favorable comments about the Woody tonearm, please click on the following link:

We don't want to waste your time, but if the Stereophile review has soured your outlook on the Woody tonearm, unfavorable comments from the review are balanced below with objective responses by Pete Riggle:

"Whatever the subject, reviewing should be temporarily off limits to people who are in a bad mood."

- Art Dudley

We agree. If the reviewer had taken his own advice, we might not be having this conversation.

- Pete Riggle

"And some elements of the Woody's design, it must be said, are workarounds. Kludges. The cartridge shims. The guidepost assembly that keeps the arm-mount structure from rotating during use. The stack of cork pads on the underside of the armwand, to help the cueing mechanism do its job."

- Art Dudley

Using a single thin cartridge shim placed between the rear of the cartridge and the headshell solves a serious and common problem . . . which is that many combinations of turntable, plinth, armboard, and cartridge result in a geometry which will not allow the cartridge to be sufficiently low in the rear to reach the optimum VTA. Users often just live with this. But they don't need to. Shimming as suggested is easy to do, and does not hurt the sound. This is a matter of common sense, versus blind adherance to convention.

The VTAF Guide Post Assembly used with the Woody is a neat (and patented) way to allow the tonarm assembly to float under the influence of gravity, resulting in excellent damping of the tonearm assembly, with surprisingly large sonic benefits.

The cork pads referred to are a simple way to augment the adjustability range of the lift/lower device (easily adjustable on the Woody, not so with most tonearms), to account for the fact that adjustable VTA systems often exceed the height range of commercially available lift/lower devices.

The word "kludge," is an interesting and often pejorative term. As it turns out, most engineered systems, including phono systems, amplifiers, jet aircraft, cameras, automobiles, etc., have way more parts and complexity than we engineers would like. That is the way life is, especially when we try to accomplish much.

- Pete Riggle

"That which seems exhaustively complete and comprehensive to some eyes can appear inelegant and overwrought to others; candor requires me to throw in my lot with the latter."

- Art Dudley

Somewhat the way a 35 mm single lens reflex with several interchangable lenses can seem overwrought to someone who wants a point and shoot camera.

- Pete Riggle

"To put it bluntly, the entire arm is free to wiggle and wobble and rattle, and the arms pivot point to move, however slightly."

-Art Dudley

Of course the arm is not free to wiggle and wobble and rattle. The force of gravity prevents that. The reviewer sees problems where none exist.

The maximum amount of possible movement of the pivot point results in a maximum contribution to tracking angle error of .019 degrees, which is 1% of the 1.9 degrees of tracking angle error unavoidable in a pivoting tonearm of this length.

- Pete Riggle


"The installation and setup challenges posed by the Woody's adjustability are daunting in the extreme - or so they were for me."

-Art Dudley

This is a remarkable statement to be coming from a seasoned audiophile. Other reviewers and ordinary audiophile hobbyists have done perfectly welI in setting up and playing the Woody tonearm. An armboard was provided for the reviewer's Thorens TD124 turntable with the bushing and guide installed. Following the Woody instructions, all the reviewer needed to do was to drop the Woody into the VTAF Bushing and Guide, install the cartridge (which is a piece of cake with the long headshell leads of the Woody), set the overhang using the simple gage provided, use the simple azimuth adjuster of the Woody to get the cartridge body vertical, align the cartridge (with years of experience, the reviewer must be well versed in doing this), set the tracking force, rotate the counterweight until the arm is laterally balanced, and play music. I really have to believe the reviewer was having an off day. I can see no other explanation.

- Pete Riggle

The review implies that the Woody instructions and multiple options for performance optimization are too complicated, while failing to address the key fact that the multiple options for performance optimization, and ease of adjustment on the fly are features of substantial value to the typical vinyl lover; indeed, that in combination these features can not be found on any other tonearm, at any price, which makes them all the more remarkable in the price range of the Woody.

The review enters into conjecture regarding technical features of the Woody tonearm, such as incorporation of the VTAF (VTA on the Fly) and the AZOF (AZimuth On the Fly). The review conjures a view, apparently from outer space, that the VTAF and AZOF features are flawed, and must therefore certainly degrade performance.

Skepticism regarding the VTAF concept was not surprising 10 years ago when the product was introduced. But skepticism is particularly surprising now, given the overwhelming acceptance by the audio community of the VTAF, with many hundreds of happy users, and many testimonials regarding its sonic benefits when used on tonearms of both old-time and modern provenance. Over 750 VTAF systems have been put into play by our customers, with virtually no sour responses. A little homework may have revealed this to the reviewer. You can see many favorable VTAF testimonials at the following link: 

Also a little baffling is the reaction to the AZOF design. The AZOF design allows the user to tweak azimuth in a manner similar to that used by the two well received Durand tonearms. A difference is that the Durand arms are priced at 5 and 10 times the cost of the Woody.

The Woody uses an azimuth adjustment technique with almost identical physics to the Durand technique, but a different mechanical configuration.

The lower priced Durand tonearm, which sells at 5 times the price of the Woody, allows azimuth adjustment, but, unlike the Woody, not on the fly. The more expensive Durand tonearm, which sells at 10 times the price of the Woody, allows azimuth adjustment on the fly, like the Woody.

The reviewer also comments that the bass produced by the Woody is not as forceful as with his EMT arm. The effective mass of the Woody arm reviewed is comparable to that of EMT tonearms. No other listener has expressed a bass deficiency with Woody tonearms . Indeed the bass has usually been described as rich and deep and tuneful. Perhaps the reluctance of the reviewer to use one of the cartridge shims provided resulted in failure to achieve sufficiently low VTA. This could easily happen with the Thorens TD124 turntable (used in the review) which has a very low platter height. We use a TD124 in our listening room, with no listener observations regarding defects in bass performance.

Finally, you may find that the review comes off as gratuitously dismissive.

A great disappointment to us is the failure of Stereophile to include our Manufacturer's Comment, which does not give the review a free pass, but on the other hand does not savage the review.

Because our Manufacturer's Comment was not published in the issue with the review, it is included here below.

Manufacturer's Comment (submitted to Stereophile, but not published in the issue with The review):

Ouch! Art Dudley, my very favorite reviewer, seemed to be in a grouchy mood when he did the review. I sent the Woody(tm) tonearm to Art because, of all reviewers, I thought Art would "get it." Win some, lose some. Art is still my favorite reviewer. And maybe all press is good press.

As opposed to speculating on technical issues, I wish Art had played more records, and listened to more cartridges. I think then he would have gotten it. The perhaps overly complete owners manual seemed to get Art's goat. Some users want all the information they can get. Some do not. Not easy to please everyone.

Art expressed technical issues with the VTAF (pronounced vee-taff) VTA adjuster, which serves as the Woody mounting system. The VTAF(tm) is a well proven piece of technology. Hundreds of the 750 VTAF owners have expressed their amazement at the sonic improvement brought about by tonearm isolation provided by the VTAF.

Because the VTAF does not lock the tonearm down, the impression may arise that the approach is wrong. The hard fact is that the VTAF affects the mounting distance by no more than plus or minus .003 inches. This locational error translates to only .019 degrees of tracking error with a 9 inch tonearm, which is only 1% of the 1.9 degrees of unavoidable error during play.

Art was also grumpy about the AZOF (Azimuth on the Fly) system, which serves as an Azimuth adjuster, and as a damper and lateral snubber. I'm pretty proud of this system. It works really well. Despite Art's complaints, he commented favorably on the sonic performance of the damping system. For some unexplained reason, Art even conjured up the idea of mechanical binding of the AZOF system. I have no idea where that came from.

Art also did not like my suggestion in the Owners Manual that it is not absolutely necessary to have the tonearm in complete lateral balance for excellent performance. As it turns out, having the counterweight rotated +/- 5 degrees from a laterally balanced condition results in friction of +/- .07 grams at the stylus. And, of course, if one takes the time to properly balance the arm laterally, the arm becomes frictionless.

Finally, Art found the lateral balance beam to be ineffective. The Owner's Manual asks the user to rotate the counterweight for coarse balance, using the lateral balance beam only for fine balance. I love Art Dudley's reviews. He is the best. But I'm thinking we need a movie called "Grumpy Old Audio Gear Reviewers."

Love Ya Art,
Pete Riggle

Comments by Readers of the Stereophile Review:

Turntable Manufacturer (anonymous), Amsterdam, Netherlands:

I read Art Dudley's review of your arm. It surprised me a bit. I got the feeling he hasn't managed to get it right. I am now happy to order a 10.5 inch Woody tonearm, with headshells and adjuster plates for low and medium compliance cartridges.

George Moore, 12.2" Woody on Solid Audio PTP Lenco Table:

Hi Pete, I'm still loving the Woody. It has raised my system to an amazing level which I never thought possible. I have to admit I was a little angered by Art Dudley's review. Catch him on a bad week?

Benjamin Webber, Rega RB300 with VTAF, in response to Stereophile Review of the Woody:

Hi Pete, I was really excited when I saw Art Dudley had reviewed the Woody. However, once I read it, I realized he trashed it. My mind is still boggled by the demeanor, which didn't seem typical. Art has a lot of fans, and I have also been one.

Who knows, maybe this will all work out for the best. I wonder what Art's reaction would have been had something like the Woody been mainstream for years and what he owned . . . and then he reviewed something like his EMT? Maybe then he would say that the EMT lacked realistically layered sound, or was devoid of timbrally colorful, well-textured sound.

I was also surprised that the Woody was not "plug and play" enough for Art. I am one of the hundreds who knows that the VTAF works. And, yes, it is nice to be able to dial in the vertical tracking angle. I got much better at it over time. But, it was obvious to me that there was even more at work with the Riggle VTAF. I believe it is that the VTAF is held down by gravity alone. How else could I explain the additional resolution, whether I had the VTA dialed in or even quite a bit off. I immediately noticied the improved resolution during the first few seconds of playing a record at your shop after the installation of the VTAF. My initial impressions were confirmed when I got home.

Wishing you the best.
Sincerely, Benjamin

Pete Riggle's response to Benjamin: 

"Like you and many others, I have been a big fan of Art Dudley. I am going to ascribe Art's negativity in the review to the combination of a bad day and a failure to understand the technology. I remain a big fan." Pete

John Hoffman, AKA "Mr. Pig" at, with 12.2 inch Woody Tonearm on Galibier Table:

Thought I should chime in here, and offer a bit of discussion on this subject. Now I am not a disinterested party as I bought in on the beta offering of the woody tone arm, and own Serial Number 6. I do understand how the arm sets up and performs, and have my opinions on it. I do also know Pete Riggle, and know a bit of his history, and can comment on it. For what it is worth, Pete was a mechanical engineer for his working life, and builds some analog products in his retirement time....but this is not a person who decided to build a tone arm on a whim. He is a solid engineer, and not an that is something to consider. Now he is also a wood worker, and this tone arm is based on a woodworkers perspective, and his solutions would be different than a machinist.

What is also interesting is that a Manufacturers Comment was written, but not included with the article. Perhaps it missed a publication deadline? Might it be included in the next issue? I don't know. But in the case of a review that worked out this way, you would think the magazine would allow for time for a Manufacturers comment to be written and included, as to offer a view of the other side of the coin.

Another point that is unusual is that this arm has been out for a few years now, and the comments tied to it from audio shows and other events are generally positive, this is the first harsh piece I have ever seen written on it. What is worth considering is that the points that are the negatives seem to be more theoretical in nature than anything else. From what I have heard, I was under the impression that this was supposed to be a multiple cartridge review, and it was stopped well short of that. I wonder if this piece went the way it did due to a conceptual disagreement of how a tone arm should be built and how it functions.

From my perspective this arm is a synthesis of technology, and not exactly ground breaking. String bearing like the Well Tempered arm...but more complex, twisting of string to provide anti-skate...a variation of tone arm wire leads providing anti-skate in uni-pivot arms, a pin and channel arrangement to provide initial set up of azimuth, a reservoir to hold dampening fluid and a pin/ to rest in it...provides dampening but also stiffens the string bearing much like the WT...and somewhat similar in thought to the Schroeder. The arm is adjustable in many ways, and that allows for proper set up.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect is the VTAF. Where the arm floats in a bushing and allows for a decoupling of the arm from the table. There is a price to be paid for that in terms of a slight bit of play. Some may object to that in principal, and that certainly makes sense to me. But a lot of people have used the VTAF on Rega arms and report positive results, so perhaps there is something to this idea. The way I see it, the Woody has a great deal of mass over the arm pillar, and it seems very stable to me, so i do not see it as an issue.

What I do know is that Pete Riggle is a pretty caring guy, and enthusiastic about his products...believes in them. He is also a very competent engineer, so I think his solutions have more than a little value. I know I enjoy my arm, and have no interest in replacing it. Remember this is a $1600 arm, not a $5,000 Schroeder or a $10,000 Durand. While $1600 is not a small amount of money, this arm costs a bit more than a tricked out Rega RB 300, and less than a RB 1000. I happen to also enjoy an Eminent Technology II arm, and the current 2.5 versions sells for more than $4K....even a used version of the II is $800 to $1000.

Perhaps my post is of interest to some people, perhaps not. I just thought to add a bit of a different perspective. Things may not be quite as cut and dried as it appears, and may require viewing from more than one angle.

Mister Pig

Ted Danowski, Woody tonearm owner for over one year:

Pete, Just wanted to let you know that I found the Stereophile review pompous and ill informed. I sent a letter to Art Dudley. Your tonearm is awesome. Thank you again for a great product. I've been in musical heaven for over a year now! Ted

David Brown, regarding Art Dudley's review:

I can understand how heart breaking a poor review by your favorite reviewer might be. That having been said, there should be no apologies for your tonearm. It is well-engineered and no more complicated than it needs to be. Art's review was the last thing that I read regarding the String Theory arm: sort of like watching a movie after you read the book. I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage turntables and your arm is an instant classic.

David Brown