The arche 5D headshell from Acoustical Systems – the true audiophile headshell design which sets an all new standard in versatility and sound quality. This headshell will allow you to hear the sound really engraved in your records, because it allows you to easily set every important cartridge alignment parameter – all at the headshell – but its unique trick is that Stylus Rake Angle (SRA) is adjustable quickly and easily at the headshell, without having to move the arm up or down. The premise is simple – if the stylus is accurately aligned in the groove, in all dimensions, you will hear everything recorded in that groove, with maximum fidelity and minimum distortion.
Maybe you think that this does not matter. Why pay this much when you can print off a free alignment template, set the tonearm to level, and away you go? When you listen to a perfect SRA-aligned audiophile cartridge, and hear all the tiny musical details and every nuance of energy extracted by the stylus, vinyl becomes a truly magical medium. It’s worth a bit of effort to achieve this, and the arché headshell helps you to do this with minimum effort. Quite simply, the arché headshell is the best link you will find between your cartridge and your tonearm.
What We Say
We were initially a bit sceptical about whether the very high cost of the Arche headshell was justified by its performance, so we set about a few experiments to set up our demo Miyajima Takumi in a Jelco SA-750D tonearm, with the Arche. First thing to note is that the Arche headshell fits the tonearm connector with much greater security than any other headshell that we’ve tried (and the Oyaide ones are already very good in this respect). Adjustment of overhand and azimuth with the Arche is precise and straightforward too – the azimuth adjustment in particular makes Jelco’s headshell’s collet look and feel rather floppy in comparison. So, what about the Arche’s claim to simplify Stylus Rake Angle (SRA) adjustment – is it an easier and better option than lifting or lowering the arm at its base? Well, yes on both counts. Acoustical Systems believe that SRA should be set to 92 degrees, since that reflects the most typical cutter angle – something that Michael Fremer has been banging on about for some time. We’ve always been of the opinion that you are best setting the headshell level using a headshell bubble level, then use your ears to find the optimum arm height at its pillar. This takes time and is best done with a good headphone rig.
It turns out to be very quick and easy to set SRA to 92 degrees (or very close to that angle) by first setting tracking force by the manufacturer’s recommendation, then placing the stylus onto the mirrored surface of the SMARTractor, so that the stylus can be seen against its own reflection. A cheap 40x jeweller’s loupe (eBay has plenty on offer) is enough to see the tip clearly. Adjusting SRA by moving the whole arm up and down is quite laborious, and each time you do that, the tracking force changes too (by enough to have an effect on the cartridge suspension and therefore the SRA). By contrast, tilting the Arche’s headshell mounting plate is quick, easy and accurate using the supplied hex key – all without influencing VTF at all. It really is very quick and easy.
Does setting SRA to 92 degrees get you straight to that ‘sweet spot’ setup? Yes, it does. We have to qualify that statement because there are cutting angle variations between LPs, but 92 degrees is a fine overall compromise and we feel that you should not get obsessive about suiting every LP. Setting SRA by examining the tip is fundamentally a better option that setting the headshell level and hoping for the best; and it really does not entail any great skill, nor fancy tools (not even a USB microscope which we find to be awkward and inconsistent for this application).
Notwithstanding its high price, we have concluded that the Arche headshell really is the finest sounding, easiest to use headshell available. Its mass is a highish 18g, so you do have to think about cartridge compliance and mass compatibility, but otherwise its’ a no-brainer. Use the time saved in setup to enjoy more music.
Available in these finishes:
- matt silver finish
- matt black finish
- high gloss silver finish, by Leica – £24 extra
- high gloss black finish, by Leica – £24 extra
SRA/VTA Adjustment at the headshell between 90 and 94°.
Overhang Adjustment: by 12 mm in total.
Azimuth Adjustment: +/- 2.5°.
Offset Angle Adjustment: +/- 4°.
– 3 metric hex wrench,
– 2 sets M2.5 brass screws and nuts,
– 1 polyrubber and 1 copper isolation ring,
– a pictured manual and a 6 month warranty.