Phono Cartridges

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by JK47, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. JK47

    JK47 Guest

    I see some good recommendations and comparisons in the turntable advice thread, so lets get cartridges there own thread.

    I have very little experience so far, but look to upgrade my set up in 2016. Most likely a VPI Classic 1, so any advice regarding cartridges and their sound signatures would be greatly appreciated. An Ortofon Red MM cartridge was included with my Project Debut Carbon DC, and I was immediately disappointed by the sound , and sought an upgrade. My Dad told me to give the Red a chance,as they need a chance to settle down. I gave the Red almost 70 hours, and I still didn't like it. More than A few people from various forums recommended an Ortofon Blue stylus be inserted into the Red's body. A nice and easy swap that didn't involve aligning the cartridge. So that's what I did, and I'll give you my thoughts on the two cartridges.

    RED : Right off the bat it sounded thin, dry, and unforgiving, even after almost 70 hours of use the dryness was still there. It also suffered from a decent amount of inner groove distortion. It reminded me of finger nails on a chalk board. I didn't like anything about this cartridge, it was very fatiguing for me to listen too.

    BLUE : This cartridge saved the day. It added body and smoothed out the treble. It flat out sounded more musical and engaging. The inner groove distortion was also greatly reduced. It sounds warmer, sweeter, and has a much nicer forgiving flow to the music.


    Lets hear your experiences with both MM and MC.
     
  2. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I think the AT440MLa is the best cartridge you can get for cheap. I've tried the Shure M97, the Grados, Ortofons and have stuck with the 440 at this point. There's something to the micro-line dealio. I couldn't tell you what it is but you simply get more resolution out of the groove.

    Only other one I would consider personally are the Denon cartridges. I've never put one on my deck but I've heard it and know it's really good. I'm considering a DL103 or DL110 next.

    You can go even further up the ladder to 4-figure cartridges but at the end of the day you're buying a wear item. The premium stuff might better but I think a cartridge should be reliable and disposable, as well as sounding awesome.
     
  3. Smitty

    Smitty Too good for bad vodka - Friend

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    The DL110 is good, but I heard a Lyra Delos once, and that kinda ruined a lot of stuff for me.
     
  4. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    From my personal experience with the 2M Red in my rather utilitarian rig, I don't quite hear it like that (not nearly as offensive, it's rather listenable and enjoyable anyway) but it could also be the rest of my gear...or maybe I don't know any better not having much experiences with other carts yet in my own rig :p I would like to venture up the Ortofon chain though, perhaps trying out a 2M Silver or Blue next. Your description of the Blue vs Red is intriguing, maybe that is the next stylus move for me...adding some welcomed refinement. I imagine both of those would to a reasonable degree.

    I have a few other recommendations on my list, including the AT440MLa - while I think those are technically discontinued, they still go for very reasonable prices. I'd say that one is most often recommended all over the webs, actually...perhaps I should acquire one of those for additional comparison!

    Edit: I have a refurbished Technics SL-Q3 with it's stock tonearm and stock shell, which should be fine with the 2M carts according to vinylengine's calculator.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  5. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    Cartridge + Arm matching resonance is uber importante IME (e.g. High compliance/Low mass, Low Compliance/High mass) so make sure you guys let us know what arm/table you have these on!
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Relevant information copied from another thread:

     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    It's like gas. How many dollars per hour or per revolution do you want to pay?

    There are some measurements on the Hoffman site with the 2M Black and different loading conditions. I ripped out the loading caps to just rely on wire and interconnect capacitance and decrease resistance to about 40k ohms. Running the standard ~ 47k ohms and 220pF did result in a very audible 10kHz peak. A slightly bump there is actually not a bad effect, but I could do without it.
     
  8. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    I think I am ready to move on from my Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge after listening to it for the last couple months. Its not worn out, more curious on how to get better performance from the cartridge and all of those inner groove details everyone is always talking about.

    I obviously looked at Ortofon 2M Blue per @JK47 rec above and natural progression from the Red, but the bronze isn't that much more money and apparently shares the same body as the Black. Anyone have any experience with these or other under $500 carts? Help a new guy out!
     
  9. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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  10. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    Another ~$500 cart that impressed me in the various online cart shootouts over the past couple years was the Goldring 2300.
     
  11. deniall83

    deniall83 Acquaintance

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    I've owned the 2M Red, 2M Blue, Dynavector DV10X5, Dynavector DV20X2L and Benz MC Silver. The DV20X2L was the best sounding. Tracked superbly and heaps of detail without sounding harsh.

    I've always wanted to hear the high end MM carts like the 2M Black and Nagaoka MP500.
     
  12. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    Even with all the great advice above, I cheaped out and decided my first cart upgrade should be replacing the stylus with a blue (same thing did JK47 above) as they fit in the same body. JK47 gave me some pretty good advice, that the Debut Carbon table can only be upgraded so much before the fixed limitations set in.

    The increase in detail is well worth the $150 I paid. I didn't have the same problems with dryness in sound that were described above, but once I made the swap it was very apparent. The fullness of the sound is apparent, I didn't realize what I was missing (ignorance is bliss). I thought the Red might have been a bit bassier (?) but overall tone is much more even and cohesive.

    Where I am new to turn tables, what exactly is inner groove distortion and what should I be listening for?

    Blue Stylus.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2016
  13. JK47

    JK47 Guest

    How many hours on your blue stylus? It seems to only get better the more you play it.

    Inner groove distortion starts as the stylus gets closer to the middle of the record. The first few tracks may have been crisp and clean, while the tracks closer to the middle may have a bit of distortion gradually creeping into the song/songs.
     
  14. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    I've read of the break in period with the blue. I installed it Thursday and only have about 10 hrs of use so far. Probably way too early to be making the judgments I have already made! Looking forward to breaking it in all that I can.

    That is what I assumed inner groove distortion to be, but never looked into it too much. Thanks for clearing things up for me!
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2016
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    IGD related to cart alignment isn't consequential, particularly if you use an alignment that favors inner grooves (the VPI protractor does this for VPI tables). The inner grooves tend to suck because of the lower velocity of the needle and that the information is physically packed in tighter. I found that with better quality cartridges (better trackers), and proper alignment, it wasn't a problem. I do have some old records where the inner grooves were probably wrecked from bad alignment or mistracking from the use of poor quality turntables or carts. Otherwise I don't notice any major issues with records that I've kept in good shape.
     
  16. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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  17. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    I've since cleaned up my Technics SL-Q3 with Ortofon 2M Red cart and 2M Blue stylus and gifted it to my little sister as a graduation present. It'll be her first nicer table and I've been teaching her how to set everything up properly. So I got the 2M Blue stylus since last post and compared for a week with the 2M Red. It was a noticeable improvement in IGD performance, tracking and a tad smoother overall though the Red is still a pretty decent cart for the $80 I got it for originally IMO. With that, I've been refurbishing a newly acquired Technics SL-1700mkII and tricking it out, hopefully it'll be done by next weekend. I've taken my dad's original Stanton 681EEE (Moving Iron) cartridge body and acquired a JICO 6800-EEE-S shibata stylus replacement. I also picked up a Denon DL-110 and a Nagaoka MP-110 for comparison as well. My phonostage is kind of inbetween the recommended gain for MM and MC so it should suit the former two very well. The 2M Red is fairly high with output voltage and I had to stay lower on the volume knob, so I expect similar with the Nagaoka.

    *edit* Just to follow up, I've since sold that Stanton 681EEE + JICO stylus combo and picked up a complete NOS 681EEE cart/stylus instead. The Nagaoka was coming from Japan and had a shipping error, so I had canceled that and stuck with a Stanton to complement to the Denon on my now completed SL-1700mkII. I have intentions of finding one of the original MK-II or MK-III stereohedron stylus to try on the Stanton, but the standard EEE sounds excellent in my rig. :D One day I may check out one of the upper-tier Nagaokas.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2016
  18. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    I was just reading a review of an uber cartridge, an Air Tight Opus 1 Ermitage cartridge. This paragraph got my attention and sharing it with you guys:

     
  19. Mikoss

    Mikoss Friend

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    Found a used/re-tipped Lyra Delos for sale locally. Going for it! Plan on setting it up later this week... impressions to follow
    |\/|
     
  20. Smitty

    Smitty Too good for bad vodka - Friend

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    I've basically decided that I'm going to set vinyl aside until I can get a proper setup, and the Lyra line is something I'm eyeing as the main cartridge. Can't wait to hear your impressions @Mikoss !
     

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