Woody Tonearm Review by Art Dudley
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
Here are favorable comments from the October 2013 Stereophile
"a fascinating product . . ."
colorful, well textured sound, with notably excellent image depth."
lovingly made tonearm"
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."
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
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
the way a 35 mm single lens reflex with several interchangable lenses can seem overwrought to someone who wants a point and
- 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."
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."
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
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
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,