For a short period in the late nineteen seventies, this was the best value tonearm money could buy. Thoroughly conventional, it was basically a cost-cut Acos Lustre arm without its height adjustment facility. The latter of course was a silkily finished and well-engineered Japanese arm offering nothing remarkable – just solid build with decent, low friction bearings. The Rega version, also made in Japan, lost the height adjuster and gained a slightly better headshell. For this, you needed to pay the princely sum of £46 in 1978.
The R200 came in two grades; they were tested for tolerance and the better ones ended up as commercially available through Rega dealers, and also fitted to the Planar 3. The less well toleranced ones were fitted to the Planet, and then the Planar 2. In truth, both sounded very good at the price, with an expansive soundstage left-to-right, albeit rather curtailed in terms of depth. Bass was decently tuneful, and treble crisp – with pleasing amounts of detail and a nice, rhythmic flow to the proceedings.
The arm was utterly conventional, at a time when the world was moving to ‘ultra low mass’; the introduction of the SME Series III in 1978 seemed to be the writing on the wall for the R200, with its effective mass of 16g. However, it soldiered on and the rise of low compliance, high mass moving coil cartridges at the end of the decade began to see things moving back to higher mass arms, after all. It was duly replaced in 1983 with the seminal RB300, about which we all know much!
These days, the R200 is a bit of a curio – it’s a nice old arm with a retro look, and if you rewire it, it’s capable of half-decent sound – but shouldn’t be taken as a rival to a good modern design. They’re in relatively plentiful supply, but as ever be careful to try before buying and don’t expect the world for the £50-£100 or so that leaves your wallet! Partner with a medium mass moving magnet like a Goldring G1042 and you’ll have fun!