Let’s not get too carried away by the ‘simple is best’ ethos. This doesn’t extend as far as the pithy maxim of Lotus founder Colin Chapman: “Simplify, then add lightness.” This is not a tonearm stripped back so far as to make it a fragile flower. The 4Point 9 still weighs 920g, has the bombproof build of Kuzma designs, and is still more than capable of taking practically any cartridge ever produced. However, compared to the significantly heavier 4Points, that does fit Chapman’s maxim after all!
Depending on your prior experience with tonearms, installation is either extraordinarily complex, or slightly more complex – but more accurate – than the norm. In other words, if you are used to fitting conventional arms (like Rega or SME designs), the process of setting up the tower then adding the arm might seem ornate and overcomplicated. On the other hand, if you come from a unipivot world, this is a robust dream of an arm. And, if you are used to parallel trackers, especially some of the more ‘homespun’ designs, this arm goes together like a clockwork jigsaw puzzle. Kuzma provides exceptionally good instructions and a good set of tools anyway. It’s not Ikea-easy, but if you can understand the manual that comes with your car enough to check fluid levels and change a headlamp, you can install the arm. This is, however, the kind of tonearm where you don’t want to lose the manual, and you should allocate several hours to both installation and fine-tuning.
Kuzma designed this arm to take any cartridge and sit on any deck, and as a consequence supplied the arm with a suitably high mass cartridge (the company’s own CAR 40 moving coil) to sit in that removable headshell, and a variant of the Stabi S turntable –the T-Shaped brass entry-level into Kuzma’s turntable systems – to provide a base of operations. Prior to this, the 4Point really was only considered suitable for the higher-end Stabi M and XL models, and this automatically trebles the price (or more). While the shape of the high-end turntable industry has changed of late (the days of using brand X’s arm on brand Y’s turntable are fading, as so many turntable makers now produce their own arm, and vice versa), the nature of the 4Point 9 brings it more in line with other arm makers.
Unless you’ve heard the bigger 4Points, the sound of the 4Point 9 is unexpectedly good. You would expect it to perhaps couple the best points of a unipivot (that sense of musical freedom and midband clarity) with the best of a conventional arm (the authority and extension), and it does that… with bells on! You almost immediately begin to hear where your old arm was letting the side down, and realise just what your cartridge was failing to extract from the record. Plucked double bass is an obvious draw, because suddenly you are hearing the finger-squeaks and textures of the plucking process (as you might when hearing the recording through a unipivot) but with the substance and intensity you can only get from conventional bearings. But it’s not just plucked bass; everything has less arm in the way. Records I’ve known and used for decades both as reviewing tools and for enjoyment were unveiling details lost to one form of bearing or another. More importantly, you don’t hear this in an analytical sense; you hear it as an absence of arm-sound, pushing the onus of the audio system performance onto the cartridge and its characteristics. I’ve only experienced such disappearing arm performance a handful of times, and they have usually been with arms that were significantly more expensive, significantly more fragile, or significantly more expensive AND fragile.
Naturally, I didn’t stay with the CAR 40 and played with a number of cartridges both suitable (Lyra Delos) and demanding (Ortofon MC7500) and in all cases the arm didn’t just acquit itself, it highlighted all that was good – and occasionally not so good – about the cartridge. Let’s put it this way, I thought I knew how good the Delos can sound, but I was hearing more arm than cartridge in a previous life. And the CAR 40 is no slouch, either. Put simply, the Kuzma arm gets out of the way so well it makes good cartridges sound better, and really good cartridges sound fantastic!
The limitation is although the 4Point 9 dramatically lowers the weight of the arm compared to its bigger brothers, it’s still a heavy arm by today’s standards. That puts it beyond the load-bearing capacities of the springs of many of today’s most popular suspended turntables, such as the Linn LP12. I’m not sure if this is even a limitation today as so many high-end decks are high-mass designs that eschew suspension systems, and the Linn fraternity tend to stay within a very limited set of tonearm options anyway (basically, Linn arms, second-hand Naim Aros, and the occasional Roksan Nima). In fact, the 4Point 9 is so good, you have to think those owners of suspended decks with springs incapable of coping with a 900g+ tonearm are missing a trick – a Stabi S or something like a Pear Audio/Fletcher Audio/Nottingham Analogue turntable coupled with this arm and a good cartridge will happily see off many of the high-spec bouncy-castle decks.
The Kuzma 4Point 9 is the four-point bearing concept stripped to its bare bones, without the longer tonearm and on-the-fly VTA adjustment. The performance of the Kuzma 4Point 9 is therefore a direct result of that bearing technology. And – stripped to its core – the four-point bearing is a real star. We already sort of knew that from its older brothers, but bringing this technology down to more real-world levels, it suddenly becomes throws the sonic limitations of conventional unipivot and gimballed-bearing tonearms into sharp focus. It also brings the absolute top-end of tonearm design down to a far wider audience. Finally, if you have a Kuzma Stabi of any vintage, and can’t quite make the financial or size commitment to the bigger 4Points, this is by far the best arm you can buy. Highly recommended, and a new reference point irrespective of cost – this might just be the best arm you can buy today.
Type: four-point nine-inch tonearm with detachable headshell
Bearing type: four pivot
Maximum cartridge mass: 35g
Effective mass: 13g
Effective length: 229mm
Arm-mount distance: 212mm
Spindle-pivot distance: 212mm
Offset angle: 23°
Armtube: conical aluminium
Bias adjustment: Yes
VTA adjustment: Yes
Arm mount: Kuzma
Wiring: Silver as standard, options available
Connections: XLR, 5pin
Total mass: 920g
Manufactured by: Kuzma Ltd
Distributed by: Audiofreaks
Tel: +44(0)208 948 4153