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RMAF 2015: Tonearm porn, or Pete Riggle shows off his Woody in Denver

Riggle-arm-1

Pete Riggle with Jeff’s Place author and audiophile bon vivant Jeff Day in the Tone Imports room on Friday morning at RMAF.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Pete Riggle is a bit of a legend in the tonearm industry for his contribution to easy VTA adjustment for owners of Rega tonearms. And since there are probably more than 200,000 Rega tonearm owners, and Roy Gandy has no plans for ever offering VTA adjustment, because as he says “VTA adjustment is actually a neurosis NOT a technical adjustment…” Riggle has got a solid business model for decades to come.

The Rega VTA module he designed and built became his patented VTAF,™ or Vertical Tracking Angle on the Fly.

But we’re not here to talk about Riggle’s past work, we’re here to riff on his present stuff, and lately Riggle was seen toting around a lovely wooden tonearm at RMAF in Denver when I caught up with him in the Tone Imports room that Jonathan Halpern and John DeVore were hosting. He calls the new tonearm The Woody.

RMAF 2015 coverage brought to you by Noble Audio! Click for more ….

I only had 10 minutes to chat with Riggle, but I played some email tag with him over last few weeks or so and managed to get him to do a bit of a Q & A for me. Here’s some of it, edited somewhat for brevity:

PTA: You like to talk about the musicality of the Woody, what do you think contributes to that?

Pete Riggle: “Woody tonearms sound good because the materials used in their construction have good characteristics, 1)Because of the unique short string bearing, which is incapable of chatter and is rigid for good bass response, 2) Because the design resonant frequency is low, which reduces headshell vibrations over the entire audio spectrum, 3) Because of oil damping, 4) Because the widely used and highly acclaimed VTAF mounting system reduces armwand vibration and isolates the arm from the armboard or plinth, 5) Because the top quality tonearm wire provides a refined sound, 6) Because the tonearm wire is continuous from Cardas cartridge clips to gold plated RCA connectors, and 7) Because easy adjustment results in the best tracking geometry.”

Pete Riggle shows off his Woody tonearm in Denver

Pete Riggle shows off his Woody tonearm in Denver

PTA: The Woody appears to incorporate many different materials, can you talk about the what was used in the design and why?

Pete Riggle: “Wherever practical, the design employs wood as a structural material, particularly in the armwand. Brass, copper, and Delrin are also employed. These are inherently good sounding materials.
Headshells and headshell adjuster plates are provided in brass, aluminum, and wood. Changing the headshells and adjuster plates changes tonearm effective mass, allowing the arm to be set up to achieve the preferred arm/cartridge resonant frequency with any cartridge. The arm/cartridge resonant frequency affects the quality of sound over the entire audio spectrum, not just at the resonant frequency. We want the arm/cartridge resonant frequency to be around 8 Hz.

Arm wands are available in a variety of wood species, all of which sound good. However, I have moved the design toward low density woods, because they allow a greater range of tonearm effective mass, allowing the design to work optimally with most cartridges. Low compliance cartridges pose no problem, because we can easily add mass at the headshell (where we would like it to be). Low wand mass helps primarily with high compliance cartridges, and the few very good cartridges which have more body mass than can be sprung by their compliance.
The upper and lower platforms are Delrin, which is acoustically inert. The tonearm mounting post is wood sheathed in rigid copper tube. The VTA adjuster wheel is brass with a Teflon bearing surface. The heavy bushing which supports the adjuster wheel at the arm board is bronze with a Teflon bearing surface.”

The Woody Universal

The Woody Universal

PTA: From reviews that I’ve read, including Art Dudley’s, the Woody seems to incorporate the ability to carry out a lot of adjustments, why?

Pete Riggle: “Three important adjustments can easily made with the record in play. These are 1) Stylus rake angle, which varies as VTA is adjusted, 2) Azimuth, and 3) Anti-skate force. Being able to adjust anti-skate force on the fly truly helps in setting anti-skate force. Multiple counterweights are supplied, allowing easy adjustment of tracking force over a wide range of recommended tracking forces and cartridge weights. This allows a very wide range of cartridges to be used. The adjustment of alignment and overhang is easily accomplished. The effective mass of the tonearm can be easily modified to adapt to the mass and compliance of the selected cartridge. This is done using supplied headshells and headshell adjuster-plates in materials of three different mass densities. A table supplied with the Owner’s Manual helps the user decide which headshell and headshell adjuster-plate to use with which cartridge. Another Woody tonearm adjustment that is easily made is a height adjustment for the lift/lower mechanism. This allows the height of the cartridge above the record to be set to a preferred value.”

Close-up of the bearing assembly

Close-up of the bearing and mount assembly

PTA: How would you describe, or group the Woody’s design if you had to classify it?

Pete Riggle:  “The Woody is a constrained unipivot tonearm with a unique string bearing configuration.The string bearing is unique in that it is short. The string emerges from the bottom of a knob centered on the upper platform and terminates in a connector atop the armwand. It is more interesting than that, though, because four strings emanate from a rectangular pattern beneath the knob, converge in an inverted pyramid pattern to the pivot point, and then diverge in an upright pyramid pattern to the connector atop the armwand. Under the weight of the wand assembly and counterweight, and with only very light forces from stylus drag, the strings remain taught and rigid, assuring good bass response. I call this the StringTheory™ bearing. I am pleased with this design.

The term “constrained unipivot” implies that the armwand is free to rotate about its axis, but only a small amount, assuring that the arm handles like a gimbal bearing arm. An example of a non-constrained unipivot would be some (maybe all, I don’t know) of the VPI arms, which wiggle around a little while cueing. This is not a criticism of VPI arms or unconstrained unipivot arms, just a statement of fact. I have heard some very nice sound from a VPI unconstrained unipivot arm. The constraint incorporated into the Woody is integrated into the azimuth adjustment and tonearm damping system. This system provides three functions, constraint, damping, and easy adjustment of azimuth. I am pleased with this design, which provides three important functions in one mechanism.

The Woody uses the VTAF™ VTA adjuster as its mounting system. The VTAF itself is novel, providing easy adjustment of VTA with the record in play. The VTAF mounting system also does a great job of wiping out tonearm vibrations, and preventing these vibrations from persisting in the armboard or plinth, and returning back down the armwand to create delayed and distorted vibrations.”

Woody headshell assembly

Woody headshell assembly

Many thanks to Pete for taking the time to share so much information on his new tonearm. For more information, or to drop Pete a line, you can contact him directly.

–Rafe Arnott

About Rafe Arnott (291 Articles)
Editor and Creative Director for Part-Time Audiophile & The Occasional Magazine by Part-Time Audiophile

2 Comments on RMAF 2015: Tonearm porn, or Pete Riggle shows off his Woody in Denver

  1. Rafe Arnott // November 12, 2015 at 4:24 PM //

    Blah, blah contact Pete, he’s linked to at the end of the interview.

  2. Blah, blah…tonearm specs…How much is this thing!??

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