The latest entry into the Rega counterweight market is the Tecno from Michell. Originally designed to complement their modified Rega arm, theTecnoarm, the weight is now available as a DIY kit for owners of the RB250, 300, 600 or OEM equivalents.
The kit came in smart retail packaging and immediately impressed with its high quality finish. Along with a replacement rear stub the kit contains two stainless steel weights to accommodate different cartridges, a nice touch that shows an attention to detail. The Tecno follows Expressimo Audio's lead by lowering the weights centre of gravity, but moves this in line with the cartridge by extending the weight outwards rather than downwards. In theory this helps when tracking heavily modulated records as the tracking force will remain constant as the arm rides the waves. The weight also sits closer to the pivot point helped by the hollow stub and lightweight aluminium rear adjuster. This should lower the arms effective mass and improve its compatibility with higher compliance cartridges.
Unlike the Origin Live modification which uses a threaded insert into which the replacement stub is fastened, the Tecno's stub screws into the armtube in a similar fashion to the original. Being only finger tight you could argue that this is a failing of the design but the original Expressimo Audio design worked well on the standard Rega stub so maybe this isn't so crucial after all?
The final touch that differentiates the Tecno from all other Rega weights is the integral stylus balance. To the rear of the counterweight is an aluminium adjuster with markings at 0.1g intervals. Balancing the arm is achieved by rotating this adjuster which pushes the counterweight forwards. Once correct balance is achieved the VTF is applied by rotating the correct number of marks (eg 1.5g = 15 divisions). Unfortunately rotating the adjuster counter-clockwise doesn't move the weight rearwards, this has to be done by hand, but compared to some other designs it's a pleasure to use. Once VTF is set the counterweight is locked in position with the supplied allen key and ideally the weight should be held in a horizontal position while this is done to prevent it twisting on the stub. An electronic stylus balance showed the Michell scale to be reasonably accurate and easily as good as a £30 Shure balance.
(1) Using a piece of rubber or rubber gloves for better grip, remove existing counterweight and stubshaft from rear of arm by unscrewing stubshaft anti-clockwise. Grips may be used if neccasary.Many parts of the arm are delicate and require careful handling. Ensure tonearm is in parked position and held securely when removing stubshaft.
When fitting counterweight to RB300 and RB600 rotate the Rega arm tracking force adjustment knob fully clockwise to a setting of 3.5. This allows cartridge tracking force to be set using the Tecno counterweight only.
(2) Open Blister pack and remove stubshaft and finger adjustment assembly. Unscrew finger adjuster from stubshaft.
(3) Using the piece of rubber or rubber gloves, screw new stubshaft clockwise into rear of arm, finger tighten. DO NOT use metal grips, they will damage stubshaft.
(4) Remove scallop weights and slide tube from blister pack. The smaller scallop weight is for cartridges with mass weight of approx 3g - 6g, the larger 6g - 13g. Determine which size counterweight is appropriate for cartridge being used. Locate slide bush onto scallop weight. Using allen key supplied lock grub screw in scallop weight making sure slide bush is central, and locking grub screw in slide bush is vertical.
(5) Locate slide tube and scallop weight assembly onto threaded stubshaft. Screw finger adjuster onto threaded stubshaft only one or two turns, slide scallop weight assembly back against the finger adjuster, lightly lock assembly with allen key.
(6) Ensure Bias slider adjuster knob is set at zero.
(7) Loosen grub screw on slide bush making sure counterweight assembly is back against finger adjuster; rotate finger adjuster clockwise until the arm is floating with the stylus approx 1mm above record surface. The cartridge tracking force can now be achieved by further rotation. Each dimpled division is equivalent to 0.1g tracking force; therefore for example a cartridge requiring tracking force of 1.5g requires rotation of 15 divisions.
(8) Using the allen key tighten the locking screw on top of slider bush making sure the scallop weight is visually horizontal, do not over tighten. Finally gently tighten adjuster against slide bush to prevent vibrating loose.
(9) Set the bias adjustment knob to the same number as the cartridge tracking force. Note this setting is not critical and a figure of 1 - 1.5g will normally be suitable for moving magnet cartridges and 1.5 - 2.0g for most moving coil cartridges.
Installing the Tecno was trouble free apart from removing the original Rega stub from my 15 year old RB300. The arms internal threads had become heavily corroded over the years and it took quite an effort to convince the stub to let go. I'd had no trouble on a newer one when fitting a Heavy Weight so this is unlikely to be a problem unless your arm is getting on a bit. If you have any trouble removing your stub then you may be better off asking your local dealer to complete the work for you as undue force may damage the delicate bearings. Once the stub was off the new parts went on very quickly (no messing around with inserts) and the finished result looked very good on the arm.
Setting up was a breeze compared with my fiddly Heavy Weight and once I'd dialed in the correct VTF I ran through the HFN test disc to check the bias setting; despite what Michell claim I found that fine tuning the bias does help reduce tracking distortion. Fitted with my favourite Goldring 1042 cartridge the arm passed all but the 'torture test' (as expected) and pretty soon I was spinning a few old favourites to try and get a feel of the sound of the Tecno. Compared to the standard weight the bass lines had more impact and definition which made them much easier to follow, the driving bass guitar in The Screaming Blue Messiahs 'Tracking The Dog' was handled brilliantly and literally had me on the edge of my seat. On more reflective material like Ben Watt's 'Some things don't matter' tonal colour (not a Rega strong point) was improved with acoustic instruments sounding much more realistic. At the same time as sounding more weighty, the Rega's presentation had gained a little more finesse when it came to the higher frequencies and sounded like it was better able to control the cartridge. This is what a good Rega should sound like!
On my Technics SP10 I use an RB300 with an Expressimo Heavy Weight and as I had a spare armboard I spent an afternoon switching between the two to see whether the Tecno could compete with my current setup. Going back to the Heavy Weight I was disappointed to find that what had previously seemed a vivid and exciting portrayal of music now sounded a little unsubtle in comparison. The Tecno meanwhile banishes the rather 'grey' reputation of the standard Rega while sounding more refined and even handed then the Heavy Weight. Don't get me wrong, the Heavy Weight is a big improvement on the standard Rega but to my ears the Tecno is a better all rounder and, in the UK at least, it undercuts the price of the Heavy Weight by a significant margin. I'm currently evaluating other Rega mod's and the arm will definitely be Tecno'd when I do the listening tests.
Note It's been pointed out to me that the method used for supporting the tonearm tube for removing the rear stub could promote bearing damage. While the included text is from Michell's leaflet, not mine, they clearly state that the arm should be held securely while removing the stubshaft. Obviously this means the tonearm tube not the base but I think the passage 'parts of the arm are delicate and require careful handling' pretty much covers this. If in doubt have a reputable dealer install the kit.
Michell Tecno Counterweight SRP £67.99
Michell Engineering ltd
2 Theobald street
020 8953 0771
installation text © Michell Engineering ltd