sa750l

Jelco SA-750D Tonearm Review

Looking for one of the best bargains in tonearms? The Jelco SA-750D tonearm is a quality arm, at a good price, designed to fit a variety of turntables from the past and present. The SA-750D has, in various forms, been used in some really excellent decks over the years.

Jelco has also made and rebadged this great tonearm for many well-known manufacturers like Linn, Sumiko, Koetsu and Audioquest. Perhaps the highest-end version of this tonearm is from Ortofon – the RS-309 – an up-spec’ed version of the SA-750L. The RS-309 sells for thousands of dollars, way more than the Jelco equivalent.

I’ve worked on one of these arms and it’s really not that far removed from the Jelco. Ortofon also sell the TA-110 tonearm, which appears to basically be an SA-750D. The real difference is that the Ortofon branded arm is 1450 Euro! You know a product is good when other manufacturers re-badge and sell it under their name. This is even more telling with a company as prestigious as Ortofon.

Versions…

The SA-750D is the standard 9 inch version of the arm. There are also the SA-750E and SA-750L versions. The E is 10 inches long and the L is 12 inches long. You should always choose the longest arm you can fit to your deck, as this minimises the tracking error. There are of course other factors to consider, such as effective tonearm mass, which increases with length. Both the 9 and 10 inch versions of this arm qualify as medium-mass tonearms.

Compliance

The mass of this tonearm (between 15g and 20g, depending on what you read) translates to an arm that suits medium compliance cartridges. The compliance element is very important and often misunderstood when matching tonearm and cartridge. The compliance or ‘softness’ of the suspension that controls the cantilever becomes part of the mechanical cartridge/tonearm ‘system’ when the two are bolted together. This spring, combined with the mass of the cartridge/tonearm system, has a resonant frequency.

Bass notes will excite the arm and cart to vibrate at that resonant frequency. When this frequency falls outside a range of around 8 – 12Hz, three or four things can happen, all bad. For example, the arm can wobble from side to side so violently that the cantilever can snap clean off. Thankfully there are lots of good resonance calculators out there that need just two data-points: cartridge compliance and total arm and cartridge mass. Get this right and the combination will play bass properly and sound good.

Packaging and Testing

The SA-750D comes very well packaged, in foam inserts, within a sturdy cardboard outer. For your money you receive a quality Jelco HS-25 magnesium headshell and a very nice set of OFC copper Litz headshell wires. You also receive a sturdy acrylic arm mounting template, but you will have to shell out extra for a tonearm cable. I opted for the very nice Jelco JAC-502 tonearm cable, to suit my rig.

For the purposes of this review I have my Ortofon MC Jubilee moving coil cartridge mounted in an Ortofon LH-6000 headshell, with SME Silver Litz headshell wires, mounted to the Jelco SA-750D. All of this is mounted to my wonderful Kenwood KD-600, with custom-made MDF arm mounting base.

Performance

So how does the tonearm sound? Very good, excellent in fact, with only a few things to note at the price. This tonearm sounds smooth, tight, well-rounded, full-bodied. It’s never lean or thin-sounding, nor does it trade one thing for another. All areas are produced with similar weight and insight, with perhaps just a slight emphasis on the mid-bass. The arm exhibits low colouration, which is what we want from a tonearm.

Functionally the SA-750D is also excellent. You’ve got a really dense tungsten counterweight that moves beautifully on the threaded end-shaft. The engraved stylus pressure wheel is made from machined aluminium and this is just another example of Jelco’s meticulous attention to detail. The Jelco HS-25 magnesium headshell is a delight to use and of very high quality. The fact that is it included in the price is just icing on a pretty tasty cake. This is a magnesium headshell for goodness sake – just don’t try to light it!

The anti-skate operates perfectly and has a wide 3 gram range, as does the standard included counterweight. If you’re using a really heavy headshell/cartridge combination, you can opt for the heavier counterweight, obtainable from where you purchased the tonearm. It’s well worth mentioning that the arm height adjustment works very well. It’s a straightforward solution – a smooth steel shaft, clamped by a grubscrew, but this method works without problem due to the fine machining of all the associated parts.

Everything about this arm oozes quality, from the machining of the aluminium and stainless steel parts to the fit and finish of the headshell and that wonderful Jelco JAC-502 tonearm cable. Could the arm be improved? I doubt it, not without re-wiring it, perhaps with silver Litz straight through. You could maybe add a better headshell as I have done and some better wires, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

The SA-750D competes with others like the Rega RB-300 series of arms, the Project 9cc and Origin Live Onyx, but in many ways surpasses these products. Certainly they all have something to offer, but The Jelco is just such a complete package for the online asking price of around AUD$700. If you are in the market for market for a budget to mid-priced arm, or maybe an upgrade to an included tonearm on a Japanese or European deck, I really can’t think of a better quality tonearm for around a grand or just under. In short, you need look no further than the Jelco SA-750D.

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The smooth and well-damped arm lift mechanism, anti-skate adjustment and counterweight.

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This is a nice view of the gorgeous SME silver headshell wires that connect my Ortofon MC Jubilee to the Jelco arm. This is a great setup, producing spectacular sound.
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The LH-6000 is a beautiful headshell, perfectly designed for this series of Ortofon cartridges.

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Here you can just see the opening for the arm height adjustment grub-screw, on the base of the arm mount.
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This is the little chamber that holds the silicone damping fluid, accessed by unscrewing the knurled lid on top. The damping fluid just takes the edge off a lively cart or helps reduce tracking misbehaviour with an arm/cart combination where perhaps there are some resonance issues.
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Really nice magnesium (Mg) headshell. Beautifully machined and adjustable for cartridge azimuth. Very nice…

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You’d be happy paying $100 for this headshell, yet it comes standard with this tonearm. Don’t hesitate to buy a Jelco SA-750D, E or L – you won’t regret it!

Jelco SA-750D

Jelco SA-750D
85

Build Quality

8/10

    Features

    9/10

      Sound Quality

      9/10

        Scalability

        8/10

          Bang per Buck

          10/10

            Pros

            • Excellent build quality
            • Suits a wide range of cartridges
            • Silicone damping option is great
            • Excellent included headshell
            • Superb optional cables

            Cons

            • Not the last word in sound quality
            • Arm height adjustment is pretty basic

            15 thoughts on “Jelco SA-750D Tonearm Review”

            1. Hi Tim, I used MDF of the same thickness as the original adapter, so 16mm from memory. For all fasteners, I use a local commercial fasteners supplier. You will no doubt have probably several similar such suppliers near you.

            2. Well, I have received my own Jelco 750E tonearm & sucessfully removed the broken Kenwood arm from my KD 650. Now I feel the need to ask you Mike, what thickness of MDF did you use for your armboard? Also do you know of an online source for the very coarse thread screws which secure the particleboard base to the bottom of the composite concrete plinth? 3 of the 8 were missing from mine when I disassembled it (part of some obviously poor work by someone, the original power cord has been removed as well & replaced with a polarized female receptacle)

            3. Excellent review! I wish some time you analize the 12″ version or perhaps the analize vs sme v12
              Thanks

            4. Hi Tim, at the frequencies we are talking about and with the dimensions of the arm board, both materials are very rigid. MDF is more forgiving to work with and wood is often preferred for arm boards because of its self-damping properties. Aluminium has a tendency to ‘ring’ but either would be good in this case, as long as correct fasteners are used.

            5. Thanks for the reply Mike! I could almost cry when I saw the shipping damage done. Live & learn. Do you know if there is any advantage to using a more rigid armboard material such as 6061 aluminum ? (I have a nephew who recently acquired a CNC plasma cutter.)

            6. Hi Tim, great news on getting a 650, real shame about the damage though. I tell all my customers now to use an agent like Pack & Send, who will properly double-box and foam pack everything. People are really funny about packing and shipping. Yes, it costs a little more to pack something properly, but these are irreplaceable items we are talking about! Anyway, yes the Jelco arm will work, as will an SME, Rega or whatever else you decide to use. MDF is a good material to use for an arm-board, let me know how you go with it.

            7. Hi Mike, I scored another Kenwood table on Ebay fairly cheaply, a 650 this time! Sadly, it arrived damaged due to the platter not being secured for shipping & thoroughly destroying the dustcover & compromising that Kenwood arm I was so looking forward to owning. I guess I’ll try to put one of these Jelcos on it instead. Would you be willing to give me some pointers if I get stuck? I could Paypal you some sort of fee for your time if need be.

            8. Hi Jon, they must have changed the geometry and dimensions of the deck vs my 650, because the pivot to spindle distance is spot on 214mm or whatever it was meant to be – I don’t have details nearby but this sounds correct. Very interesting, look forward to hearing more when you’ve mounted the arm!

            9. Hi again, Jon again. About to drill pillar hole for the new 750d. Measured with plastic template @ 214mm. In your photos the edge of your collar is so much closer to the edge of the armboard then mine? All I can figure is your pivot to spindle is less than 214? Thanks

            10. Thanks Mike, the Kenwood 500 with Jelco 750D i bought is mounted with what appears to be the original arm board. The hole for the Jelco is directly centered in the arm board. Yours appears in the photo to be off center. It would seem mine is not ‘correct’? I haven’t set the table up yet, I’m waiting on a cart. It seems I need to break out the band saw to get a proper board made.

            11. Hi, yes I custom-made this one, each arm has different geometry and mounting arrangement and my Kenwood came originally with an SME arm. I still have the original arm and mounting board, but made this one for the Jelco. It turns out that you could fit a Jelco 10 inch arm on this deck as well, there appears to be plenty of room for that. Regards, Mike.

            12. Is that a custom arm board for the Kenwood? The geometry is different then a stock arm board when mounting a 750D? Effective length is 224mm? Thanks

            Thanks for reading, leave a comment and let me know what you think!