While many UK audiophiles are still struggling to come to terms with the notion of 12” tonearms that resolutely refuse to mount on their LP12s, those driving this particular arms race are already moving on to bigger and (they assume) better things, with arms as long as 16” becoming if not common, them far from the unusual sights they once were. It’s a situation that makes Kuzma’s innovative, musically remarkable and thoughtfully engineered 4POINT, with its 11” effective length, look almost conservative. Combining easy, repeatable adjustability of all geometric parameters with the sort of physical integrity and rigidity more normally associated with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the 4POINT’s relatively modest 280mm effective length is coupled to an offset pillar that allows it to use the same mounting geometry as a standard 9” arm. This incredibly sensible arrangement keeps the effective mass manageable, even if the arm’s total mass is on the high side. It also contributes to a performance whose balance of virtues exceeds not just the other Kuzma arms (a range that includes both 12” and linear-tracking designs) but most other tonearms to boot, making the 4POINT a genuine benchmark product.
Given the high regard in which the design is held, together with the dogma that afflicts so many audiophile buying decisions) I’ve been half expecting a 12” version of the 4POINT for some time: what I wasn’t expecting was a 14” version! For what is already a physically big arm, adding another three inches to the arm-tube – along with the larger counterweight to match – creates an absolute monster. Effective length is now 353mm: effective mass rises to 19g, making this the preserve of truly low compliance cartridges only (despite differential horizontal and vertical damping) and overall weight is now 2150g. The good news is that mounting geometry is now 291mm, equivalent to many 12” arms, so as long as your turntable will take a foot-long tonearm, the 4POINT 14 should fit. Best of all, at £6,250 the 4POINT 14 might just be the best arm out there, and in a world where arms can now cost close to £30,000, it represents great value. But, is more necessarily better or, when it comes to tonearms, is it possible to have altogether too much of a good thing?
As I’ve already noted, the 291mm mounting distance means that the 4POINT 14 should mount on any deck that will take a standard 12” arm. Having said that, the offset mounting means that the arm’s bearing housing itself and in particular, its extremely long counterweight stub, extend well beyond most armboards/towers, so you need to make sure you’ll have enough room to accommodate the beast, not only when parked but when it swings into action. I used a pre-cut arm block to mount the arm on the Kuzma Stabi M – in place of a standard 4POINT – and getting the arm under the ‘table’s lid was a considerable challenge. Even so, I could only run it with the lid open, although the security offered while the arm was parked was still extremely welcome. The use of the pre-cut mounting saved me from the second practical challenge. Kuzma mounts look like standard Linn pattern six-bolt cutouts: they aren’t. The Kuzma mounting collars have larger diameter extensions (a full 40mm) than the Linn ones, so you’ll need to get a board cut specifically – a standard Linn mount won’t work, even if the geometry is correct. Once you’ve got the mount in place, you still need to set the pivot to spindle distance, which at 342mm exceeds the beam length of tools like the SMARTractor (although I have a special, longer beam on order). That makes setting the pivot point somewhat hit and miss, and also means that you are limited to using Kuzma’s own two-point protractor. Nothing wrong with that, unless of course you want to use something like UNIdin geometry as opposed to the Kuzma’s Lofgren A. Finally, we come back to the question of effective mass. Don’t assume that just because your cartridge is happy in the standard 4POINT, it will be equally at home in the 14. The Lyra Dorian, which is perfectly happy in the standard 4POINT proved marginal, helped by its own low mass, when installed in the 14 for comparison purposes. Even the Fuuga, with its stated compliance of 7cu (at 100hz) generates a fundamental resonance around a low but acceptable 9Hz. You have been warned… Fortunately, the 4POINT 14’s incredibly adaptable damping will solve many problems, but it’s another thing you may find yourself having to deal with. Ohh… and don’t go thinking that you can simply lift a cartridge and headshell out of the 11” arm (assuming that you’re lucky enough to own one) and drop it into the 14”: the headshells might look identical and they certainly fix in the same elegant manner, but the off-set angle is different (19.5° as opposed to 15.35° for the longer arm).