Automatic tonearm lifters are nothing new, having been around in one form or another for decades. Automatic and semi-automatic turntables were far more prevalent at the time these devices were first brought to market than they are now. Such devices however offered a way to add a little convenience to a manual turntable without the quality compromises of an automatic mechanism. For this reason they continue to be popular today, though demand is arguably greater than it ever was as automatic turntables are scarce beyond the budget sector.
These devices employ a couple of methods to achieve the same goal. One type of device uses a magnet adhered to the top of the arm wand, with a second magnet supported by a protruding beam. The two magnets align when the stylus reaches the runout groove and their attraction lifts the tonearm from the record. Clever in theory but not in practice, as the stylus is lifted abruptly from the groove and there is no device supporting the arm beneath, leaving it free to drop with equal abruptness from the magnet and back onto the record should the device malfunction or be improperly positioned.
Other designs feature a more traditional lifting mechanism and a trip antenna to raise the arm. A product of Norwegian origin, the unusually named Little Fwend falls into the latter category. Its lifting platform is far smaller than that of a standard cuing platform and straight rather than curved in shape. The platform is pressed down and gripped by a thin piano wire antenna. When the arm reaches the runout groove it nudges the wire and the platform is released, gently lifting the arm from the record and supporting it from beneath.
Though it must be reset after each use, this design is much safer as the arm is properly supported and cannot drop or slip once lifted. The device is beautifully machined in solid brass and nickle-plated with a high friction neoprene rubberised lifting platform and a magnetic base to keep it in place on the plinth of your turntable. It comes in two standard height variations – 32-49 mm and 49 – 82 mm – and can lift a tonearm with vertical tracking force of up to 7 grams, regardless of arm mass. A third ‘XHIGH’ model can be custom ordered direct from Little Fwend, supporting heights of 81-138 mm.
It’s packaged unusually in a wooden frame – unnecessary certainly, but clever and sturdy and well protected at least. A provided hex key allows you to remove a set screw to both remove it from the packaging and set the height during installation. Supplied too are a few 0.3 mm mild steel discs with an adhesive backing to be placed onto the turntable plinth. It is onto one of these discs that the Little Fwend sits, and is held securely by a N52 neodymium magnet, with room to swivel the device to fine-tune the antenna position. Two discs are provided in the box – one large and one small – with an adhesive disc also provided should you not wish to use the magnet at all.
Installation is as simple as positioning the device between your arm and platter, and adjusting its height such that with the platform lowered, it will miss the underside of the tonearm during play. It is recommended to measure the distance between the turntable plinth and underside of the arm with the stylus in the groove, and subtract approximately 1 mm from that measurement to ascertain the correct height. The arm is then positioned in the runout area of the record, and the Little Fwend positioned such that its antenna wire is just touching the arm. Correctly set the arm should trip the wire and be elevated above the record as the stylus approaches the runout groove.
Though care is of course required, the device is not at all difficult to install. You must however ensure that you have adequate space between the platter and arm (which most turntables do), and adequate clearance beneath the arm so that the lifter and arm don’t come into contact during playback. A Technics 1200 for example does not meet the last requirement with its stock arm, and as such is incompatible with the Little Fwend.
Does it work? Absolutely. Though a tad fiddly to setup particularly on a plinth where space is tight, the device was able to consistently raise the tonearm at the end of the record. It did so gently, smoothly and silently and never once misfired or inadvertently dropped the arm.
The Little Fwend is as thoughtfully designed as it is nicely machined. Setup correctly it does its job with no hassle and minimal user input, besides a quick push on its platform after each use. Expensive it may be, but it’s a terrific accessory and is therefore highly recommended. Get yours Here.