Product name: Technis EPA-100 MK 2
Produced around 1980
Availability: S/H only
Manufacturer: Technics - Japan
Approx cost: around 700 EUR for good samples (YMMV)
Reviewer: Hartmut Quaschik - TNT Germany
Reviewed: May, 2014
I always wanted this tonearm. VTA on the fly, flexible SME headshell, titanium arm wand, nearly frictionless bearings, the buzz words made this tonearm very attractive. With an effective length of 250mm (or 10 inch) and a mounting hole of 38mm diameter it is almost a drop-in replacement for my Fidelity Research FR-64S mounted in B-60 VTA base. Originally, the EPA-100 tonearm was to complement the Technics SP-10 turntable. This combination set up in an obsidian plinth was called Technics SL-1000 around 1980. Last but not least, it is well-known that Mr VanDenHul, the cartridge maker, uses such a turntable for his daily work. Having in mind, that a tonearm with VTA on the fly costs several thousand EUR when produced today, it is clear that an EPA-100 is a bargain, if and only if it works like intended.
When I watched the usual second hand marketplaces, I learned that I have to pay at least 700 EUR for this tonearm. Buying from USA or other marketplaces from overseas seemed too expensive to me, because I would have to pay around 25% import duties. So I had to wait for an offer from inside the European community. Finally, an EPA-100 showed up in Denmark, and I gave it a go.
History of ebay prices
On Mario Groezinger's tonearm repair website there are some interesting external and internal pictures.
Manual, product flyer, and more on vinylengine.com site.
Service & repair
Although the seller was firm in his view that the bearings and everything else was OK, what arrived at my place was not OK at all. The armrest was broken, the antiskating wheel was blocked, and the bearings had a certain feeling of discontinuity. Luckily, I had seen Mr Groezinger's tonearm repair page, and decided to send the tonearm for a complete overhaul. In diverse places, there are warnings that waiting for a repair can be very long at this place. Eventually, a second EPA-100 showed up in Germany, and I bought also that tonearm. Coincidently, that tonearm had been overhauled before by said repair workshop. After 5 weeks, my first tonearm came back from Mr Groezinger, which was much faster than anticipated. This tonearm came back with a picture documentation of defects burnt on a CD. Now I had two tonearms repaired by the same guy. I learned my lesson: ruby bearings are very fragile, but spare parts are available from Technics SP1210 tonearm, and thus tonearm service is possible and not that expensive. To be precise, said ruby balls had been replaced by stainless steel balls, so neither of my two EPA-100 can be called to be in original condition anymore.
Considering all that money spent and hassle with the fragile construction, is this tonearm worth the effort? Well simply, yes! The EPA-100 presents some sort of transparency and effortless musical flow, that only a few tonearms can deliver. Its performance from midrange to treble is just outstanding. Soundstage is precise and clear. It just does not have that bass impact that a vintage Fidelity Research tonearm can deliver. The EPA-100 cannot balance heavier cartridges or extra-heavy headshells, because the counterweight has only medium weight. Though, it is happy with moving magnets or standard moving coils which need up to 2p vertical tracking force. Excellent partners are Accuphase AC-2 or Linn Karma from the same years of production, while Koetsus obviously need tonearms with a bit more effective mass. If someone would ask me, which tonearm of today resembles most the EPA-100, well for me it is the Wheaton Triplanar. Sound character and convenience of usage are similiar, as well as overall performance.
This tonearm is not for everyone. It cannot be mounted in a plinth for 9-inch tonearms, it needs a big mounting hole and, most important, it needs to be checked by a professional tonearm service technician. If you are in the market for an EPA-100 tonearm, you'd better ask the seller for sending the tonearm to such a technician for a check up. If all things are fixed, the EPA is a wonderful tonearm, easy to use, and with excellent sound characteristics.
© Copyright 2014 Hartmut Quaschik - www.tnt-audio.com