Acoustic Sounds
Supatrac Blackbird
By: Michael Fremer

January 29th, 2024



Listen to the Unique Supatrac Sideways Unipivot Tonearm!

full review will be published very soon

The Supatrac Blackbird is the world's only tonearm with a Sideways Unipivot bearing (hence Supa—sideways Unipivot Arm). This has numerous theoretical advantages over a vertically positioned unipivot bearing, the basics of which are explained in this video. A more complete written review will be posted here shortly.

This video shows you the arm and demonstrates its musical power reproducing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", a track from Gary Burton's album New Vibe Man In Town, "'Til the Rivers All Run Dry", the final fabulous track from Peter Townsend/Ronnie Lane's Rough Mix album, " I Can't See Nobody" from the Bee Gee's 1st album and finally a track from Zen Widow's newest album featuring percussionist Garth Powell, who many of you know as the talented designer of AudioQuest cables and power conditioning products. It's a new AAA release produced by "Tone Poet" Joe Harley.

The cartridge is Lyra's Kleos SL. The phono preamp is the new The Grail SX from van den Hul (currently under review) and the turntable is the OMA K3.

So check out this unique arm and please comment on how it sounds to you.


  • 2024-01-30 05:26:47 AM

    Mark Cherrington wrote:

    I love the sound of this setup--full-bodied with effortless detail, energy, and musical flow. It's hard to know how much of that is the table and the cartridge, but the combination is killer. The arm certainly is distinctive, but maybe not unique, at least not in general terms. The Well Tempered arms use the same idea, suspending the arm from monofilament. They differ only in the detail of how that suspended arm is steadied, with Well Tempered choosing a viscous silicon bath and golf ball and the Supratrac using the point of the "unipivot" (perhaps a misleading term in this application?). And the lovely sonic qualities I'm hearing here and very similar to what I hear from my Well-Tempered arm and table--though mine cannot compete with the PRAT of the OMA table. Thanks for doing all the work to set up this demo; it's really very helpful.

    • 2024-01-30 07:38:59 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      it is a "Unipivot". That point is the only contact so by definition it is a "unipivot".

      • 2024-01-31 05:56:30 AM

        Pdxsnap wrote:

        Only ‘contact’ might be a stretch. Might be better to identify only point of rotation is at tip of the sideways point. Threads holding up the arm are not part of the pivot.

  • 2024-01-30 02:27:40 PM

    John Thompson wrote:

    Yes it's an interesting video and yes it sounds good but that's it. There is no comparison. It's a £3k arm with a £3k cart on a £350k table going through a £25k phono stage. Now I grant that this isn't intended as a review in any shape or form but it would have been great to hear (like the 2 turntables comparison) a comparison with another arm. Perhaps Mr Fremer might be able to slot this in at some point. And yes I get the argument that it shows how good the arm/cart combo is in vastly more expensive company but, as an example, how does a Phantom sound all other things being equal?

  • 2024-01-30 04:35:05 PM

    Stereo wrote:

    Can you upload this as a FLAC please? Listening to this on Youtube is pointless.

    • 2024-01-30 07:44:07 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      At this point we don't have that ability but the YouTube video audio is still pretty good. Have you listened to it on YouTube streamed through your DAC?

      • 2024-01-31 12:34:00 PM

        Stereo wrote:

        I own that Marvin Gaye pressing too and listening to the Youtube video on my upper-end headphone rig it sounded impossibly smeared and dull compared to my vinyl. And no, I didn’t accidentally get the video on some low bitrate. Youtube is just a silly medium for these kinds of things.

        • 2024-01-31 06:24:17 PM

          Michael Fremer wrote:

          Interesting. Yours is the only negative reaction.

  • 2024-01-30 05:24:39 PM

    NLak wrote:

    It is a very interesting design that has been improved. Several people in my Linn Facebook group have installed or listened to this tonearm through an LP12 and have been mightily impressed.

  • 2024-01-30 05:45:29 PM

    David Tomsett wrote:

    Sounds very open and clear at the top end. And seems to track very well.given that the Marvin Gaye disc was quite warped. Like to have had a comparison to the SAT Mikey, which is sat next to it, although not very fair, given that the SAT is one of the most expensive arms available.

  • 2024-01-30 07:21:17 PM

    PeterG wrote:

    An interesting design, and I look forward to the review. But I have no idea how to interpret the video. Even if I took the time to play this through my system instead of my laptop, I'm trying to understand the impact of a single component in a chain I have no familiarity with, and with no other track to use as a competitor. OTOH...I now have an itch to drop the needle on Marvin

  • 2024-01-31 03:16:28 AM

    Michael Fremer wrote:

    I have removed all of the politically related comments. It got out of hand. I really do not like to censor opinions and free expression, but this site is about audio and music, not politics unless the music relates to it. In this case we have a unique product that is worthy of discussion, not the supposed or actual political opinions of the inventor. Thank you.

    • 2024-01-31 04:03:04 AM

      bwb wrote:

      No, thank you

    • 2024-02-01 01:36:27 PM

      Bill Bird wrote:

      Anthony Cordesman R.I.P. knew the principle of the separation of sound and politics as a eminent writer in both spheres. Sadly noticed his passing in the news yesterday.

  • 2024-01-31 06:07:43 AM

    Pdxsnap wrote:

    Have this arm and am really quite struck by how great it sound. On top of that my hats off to just how unique this offering is. A good few arms (or even audio products of any category) come along each year and will introduce some new thinking in an aspect (possibly two) but this arm really out does them all as far as I can see. Not only is the pivot unique but also the arm lift and arm tube so so different to anything else. This really looks like a design approach that the designer did not let any existing norms cloud their creative possibilities. This arm is sounding incredible and I have only just now started to tinker with ability to gently alter pivot height relative to stylus which is looking like a key adjustment (not available on any other arm I have). Excited for review!

    • 2024-03-09 08:09:51 AM

      SUPATRAC wrote:

      I'm thrilled that you're enjoying your Blackbird! Thanks for your kind comments.

      Please don't "tinker" with "the pivot height relative to the stylus". There is one correct height, where the pivot makes contact on the straight line between the lowest flex points of the two hoists. Any other height provides no advantage and will produce worse performance when navigating non-flat records. Please set the pivot to the correct height as described at length in the manual and keep it there!

      I hope you have now enjoyed Michael's full review and that you have a long list of loved and new records to work your way through. Thanks for your report - hearing that others are enjoying their arms is the greatest satisfaction of this crazy job!

      Cheers, Richard

  • 2024-01-31 06:51:08 AM

    T68 wrote:

    Wow, that sounds excellent. Thanks for posting, Michael! But I am not at all surprised. I have been running a couple of diy versions of the sideways unipivot tonearm the last two.years, and considering how great my ham-fisted attempts work and sound, the real deal must be stellar!

    I believe the big guys in the tonearm business should worry. This is a game changer.

    And kudos to Richard who has been very transparent, forthcoming and helpfuk with us nerds in the diy community. Exactly the right way to bring a new exciting product to market and get the buzz going.

  • 2024-01-31 08:45:29 AM

    Thomas wrote:

    Unfortunately, I have to disagree

    Firstly, it is a very clever design and certainly a good tonearm. But strictly speaking, it is a four-point bearing and not a unipivot. Unipivot bearings remain impossible. The rear box for the counterweight hangs from a thread that supports the entire structure, which is attached to the box at two points on the left and right and hooked into the top of the tonearm column. This results in the first three points. This holds the tonearm at a defined point, while the tilting and rotating movement can be made possible with the needle. This results in four points that are necessary for this bearing to function and must be part of the tonearm bearing, otherwise it would not work. Ultimately, only two points are directly involved in the movement, where the thread is hooked in at the top and where the box is pressed against the needle. Furthermore, it is a negatively balanced tonearm, I only prefer neutrally balanced tonearms, which always provide a significantly better performance. With this construction of the tonearm bearing, it remains open whether the tonearm could also be neutrally balanced. Nevertheless, I think this tonearm is a clever design that knows how to minimize the friction of the bearing. I am looking forward to your sonic assessment.

    • 2024-01-31 09:08:38 AM

      Thomas wrote:

      But on further consideration, it might be true that it could be a neutrally balanced tonearm. Since the counterweight is approximately level with the bearing needle. If you could measure this, I would be very interested in the results. Otherwise, the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is an exceptionally good design. With this bearing, the tonearm should certainly provide a very good performance, hats off!

    • 2024-01-31 06:28:05 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I'm not tied to "neutral balance". The SAT is not, and the Kuzma 4 Pt is actually negatively balanced but both offer outstanding mechanical and sonic performance. One needs to be careful about setting tracking force for sure...

      • 2024-02-01 09:07:01 AM

        Thomas wrote:

        It may be true that these are probably the best tonearms on the market. But if there is no 4 Point or SAT with neutral balance, it is impossible to determine whether these would then possibly perform even better. Designers are not gods, no matter how much competence and authority they exude, they are just people who, like all of us, are not perfect. I have been building tonearms for 30 years now. During this time, I have constantly improved my designs. The versions with negative balance have significantly poorer resolution than those with neutral balance. This is because the differences are immediately apparent, especially with the finest and most sensitive components. Even if the smallest detail is not right, the performance drops significantly. Negative balance means that the cartridge rarely maintains the optimum VTF due to warped records of varying thickness. If the tonearm maintains the exact VTF at every height position, this can be heard very clearly, at least in my case. This is because only then are the coils inside correctly aligned with the magnets. This is the reason why Lyra has patented its New Angle.

  • 2024-02-01 02:46:41 PM

    mtemur wrote:

    I wonder if you noticed in the video almost all new pressings are warped but an old one (TML cut) is flat. Why we get warped records while they can press perfectly flat records 50 years ago.

  • 2024-02-03 03:50:06 PM

    Billy wrote:

    I'm a huge fan of this arm! My daily driver is 12" Blackbird and at the moment I'm using a London Decca. It's a great combo. Fast and dynamic and wonderfully textural.

    I'm excited to hear what you have to say Mr Fremer.

    • 2024-02-03 03:53:37 PM

      Billy wrote:

      Did I mention that it does PRaT and deep, solid bass. I love it!

  • 2024-02-05 07:19:00 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    I bet a lot of tone arms will sound phenomenal on that OMA Table!

    But thanks for bringing us the video. Because you can only please some of the people some of the time. You will never appease certain thinkers.

    I enjoyed listening to the music, but unless I can hear it in my person system in my personal house, it means nothing. But that is a topic for another time.

  • 2024-02-06 05:09:30 AM

    bwb wrote:

    How can you say that the "point is the only physical arm contact"" when we can clearly see it is connected to the tower with 2 strings? The strings obviously contact the arm and hold it up. It isn't floating like a magic carpet.

    • 2024-02-09 04:48:51 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      By 'point' he was referring to the bearing contact point, not the other mechanical connections. 'Unipivot' still applies.

      • 2024-02-09 08:51:24 PM

        bwb wrote:

        I'm not saying anything about whether or not it is a unpivot, it is..... he said the "point is the only physical arm contact" ..... This is plainly incorrect. . . . There are 3 points of contact, the pivot point and the 2 points where the 2 strings attach.

        • 2024-02-09 09:36:16 PM

          Ian Southall wrote:

          I would like to support both bwb and Mark Cherington, the first poster in this thread, in the way they characterise the arm bearing. As in the Well Tempered arm, the main bearings are the two threads. They are flexure bearings that bear the weight of the arm and allow it adequate free movement in the necessary plains.

          The pointed rod rubbing against the metal plate, the so called “horizontal unipivot” is a secondary plain bearing. It does not interfere with the free movement conferred by the threads, but it does not bear the weight of the arm. It is simply there to stop the arm tube being pulled forward along its own axis, that is to limit one particular movement.

          It may appear that the arm is pivoting from this point, but that is not the case. Try a thought experiment: mentally remove the “unipivot” - the arm would still function after a fashion like a Well tempered arm without the damper mechanism.

          Now put back the “unipivot” and mentally cut the two flexure bearings instead……..

          There are “good” arms - ones that act as fairly neutral carriers for cartridges, without imposing too much of their own character, that have gimbal bearings, unipivots etc. It is likely that if this arm is a “good” arm it will have less to do with the bearing system and more to do with the resonance signature of the arm tube itself.

          • 2024-02-23 09:17:04 PM

            Michael Fremer wrote:

            I believe the direction of the pivot and how it operates contributes to how well it performs in the groove. It's in the plane of play and not at a right angle to it. My issue with the Well-Tempered is the time it takes for the cup to settle in the silicone "goo". Azimuth is not precisely set. Yes the resonant signature of the arm tube is critical and clearly it's been well-addressed. However something else is definitely going on here based upon what I (and everyone else) hears!

            • 2024-03-09 07:51:17 AM

              SUPATRAC wrote:

              While the criticism of Michael's precise phrase is fascinating, he described the mechanism and showed it clearly in his video. This seems like nitpicking. Perhaps he should have said something like 'only hard contact' instead of 'only physical contact' - but we all know what he meant.

              As regards the claim that the character of the arm, insofar as it has any, is due to the armtube construction rather than the patented bearing, there is a 100-page discussion on Lencoheaven which illustrates over twenty widely heterogenous implementations of the sideways uni-pivot bearing concept, with all makers reporting similar experiences and revelations. I myself made several prototypes with different arm tubes, and they have all sounded more or less the same: superb tracking during crescendos, breathtaking dynamics, unprecedented instrument separation and insight into harmony, exquisite timing and exposition of beat, syncopation and subtle rhythm, deep clean tuneful bass and a mesmerising portrayal of the energy of the performance. I'm confident that the bearing design is 90% of what makes it sound special.

              If you think you can get there by using this arm tube on a traditional cardanic/gimbal/ballrace bearing, I suspect you will face a long hard struggle. The contact surfaces in all those bearing designs are primarily parallel to the principle dynamic forces on a tonearm and are not well oriented to oppose them.

              I'm not sure that many people appreciate just how inappropriate automotive-type bearings are in this application.

              Above all, the sideways uni-pivot bearing all but eliminates the need for high precision and cost in manufacture, which is why it is competing with far more expensive arms.

              How you define terms for the bearing is not the point. The point is how you get closer to the music. SUPAs are the point of music™.