Phono Cartridges

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

  1. luckybaer

    luckybaer Friend

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    I also have:

    • Shure V15 Type III w/JICO SAS Stylus - Very polite presentation. Whenever I listen to it, I am left wanting more punch at times. Otello gives me the "punchiness" I like without being obnoxiously in my face - see Ortofon 2M Red, below. Replaceable stylus is a plus (considering purchasing a replacement w/sapphire cantilever when the time comes).
    • Audio Technica VM750SH - I like this almost as much as the Soundsmith. It is a bit more analytical than the Otello, but has enough smooth musicality to make me enjoy it. Replaceable stylus is a plus.
    • Ortofon 2M Red - Hot, in your face, aggressive, unrefined. Gets tiring listening to it for more than one side of an LP. Love the build quality and ease of set-up, though. I could buy a 2M Blue stylus, but I haven't gotten around to it.
    The downsides to the Otello (not much has to do with its presentation, though):
    • Although you can get it re-tipped for about $100, wait times are long - as opposed to just buying a replacement stylus for the other MM carts above.
    • Value is not really there initially. Bonded elliptical stylus on a $479 dollar cart? Ouch. And, although I know measurements aren't the be all, end all, the Otello's specs don't (on paper) measure up to the VM750SH - a cart that costs $80 less. To be fair, after the first re-tip/stylus replacement, the Otello's value comes through, as its re-tip costs $100 and a new Stylus for the VM750SH costs $279. Assuming I want to re-tip/replace instead of fiddling with something new.
    So... I'll stick with the Otello and re-tip it when the time comes (tough to beat $100, as long as I have something to use while I wait for the work to be done), but when it comes time to replace the stylus in the VM750SH, I'll need to think about it. $279 goes a long way to moving up in the MM world, or giving in to my curiosity and picking up a decent MC cart.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
  2. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    In my firsthand opinion & experience, by price range, a practical guide:

    $0-$119 - Sumiko Pearl
    $120-$499 - Save your money, all have significant flaws in some area
    $500-$649 - Ortofon Quintet Blue
    $650-$899 - Goldring Eroica LX
    $900-$1299 - Ortofon Cadenza Red
    $1300+ - Save your money, the improvements become so small it is no longer worthwhile
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
  3. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    Could you also include which other carts you've experienced in the price ranges mentioned? That would give some fodder to ask questions on why you preferred one over the other..
     
  4. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    some others I tried off the top of my head:
    Grado Prestige various colors (sounded flat)
    Ortofon 2M various colors (too bright, surface noise)
    Ortofon Quintet Black (A nice stylus but was nowhere near as musical as Cadenza red for a few bucks more)
    Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III (too bright - harsh even, royal pain to align, needle very exposed to possible damage)
    Ortofon Cadenza various colors (did not feel there was enough improvement for price going up the line)

    In the above post of carts I recommended, I felt there was a huge step up in each case and none of them had big annoyances or weaknesses in their price range:

    -sumiko pearl - nice well rounded, engaging sound without too much surface noise. A really great, musical sound for the price. Not the best in any one particular category, but no huge weaknesses either. If you are just looking for a decent sounding all-around cartridge you don't need to spend more than this IMO.

    -ortofon quintet blue - a clear technical step up from the sumiko pearl with less surface noise, better detail. Not the most musical cart in the world but no big weaknesses or offensive characteristics and a solid overall performer

    -goldring eroica lx - can often get a deal on this on ebay as its a "stock" needle on some music hall turntables, but is actually excellent sounding. A little rolled off on the very top but silky smooth and musically engaging sound, beautiful souind. The HD650 of turntable needles lol. A notable step up from the Quintet Blue - cheapest I heard that was both technically adept and good musicality.

    -ortofon cadenza red - this one i felt was the cheapest I tried that was truly transparent sounding / reference quality and thus felt no need to continue spending money. Beyond this, colors in same line just messing with the sound signature slightly instead of big improvements as you would hear getting up to his cost (noticed this with most of ortofons lines, big jumps going from line-to-line, but small within the same line despite large price increases).
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
  5. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    Not to discount anyone's experience, but I feel that the cartridge world is so huge and varied and performance is based on so many variables--arm mass, suspension compliance, set up accuracy, the type of sound you're going for, the condition of your LPs, etc--that I'd have trouble making too many generalizations. The DL103(R) family, for example, is considered by most a classic. But it likes a bit of mass in the arm/head shell to sound its best.

    I quite like the 2M Bronze, and it has the advantage of needing only a MM phono stage.

    I also like the Ortofon SPU #1E (which has arm matching needs) in the below $500 range. It sounds best with a well-matched step-up transformer. (Yet another variable in this complex world, in which I'm still learning, I confess.)

    For less than $1K, I've gotten great deals on lightly used carts--Koetsu Black Goldline, AT-ART9, the Denon. The ART-9 can be had new for just over $1000. I like the Koetsu considerably. The ART-9 is a more detailed cart, beloved by many; I found I like a little darker sound. It's a very personal thing.

    Anyway, again, not to discount anyone's experiences, but I think the cart world is almost like the tube world. Your mileage will vary considerably, and equipment matching, tonal considerations, and set-up are quite important. And I have found that, for me anyway, price and performance do corollate.

    A very safe place to start is the DL103(R), but be aware of its needs.
     
  6. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    The 2m bronze is pretty nice sounding but IMO loses out in technicality and finesse vs the MC Ortofon Quintet Blue which is almost the same price

    And yeah the bronze only needs an MM stage but if you are spending $400+ on a cartridge alone what are the odds your phono stage is MM only / can't afford upgrade to MC stage?

    Also note majority on the above comparison I posted were compared on the same arm or similar arm (9cc evo or 10cc evo, acrylic platter)
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
  7. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    Fair point, and good to hear a good report on the Quintet Blue. I do feel that the 2M Bronze is a nice choice for, say, someone with an integrated that only has an MM input, which seems fairly common (Arcam and Yamaha integrateds, for example). A good plug-and-play solution and decent sounding, too.

    I just find it hard to make blanket statements about cartridges, given all of the variables at play.

    I'll add that a lot of people seem to be enjoying Hana carts in the $500-1000 range. And I keep an open mind, too, about the more expensive carts out there. Maybe the likes of VdH and Miyajima really are just expensive audio jewelry and only that, but I bet they do rock. I'd love to hear all of them, but that's hard to do even in the best of times. Anyway, with admittedly limited experience, I've found that, for me, cost outlay and performance in the cart world have been very much linked. No doubt there are exceptions and unusually strong performers (and some stinkers) in every tier of pricing.

    Whichever way, I find that it's good to harvest the reports of others and keep a really open mind and, especially, do a ton of research about matching cart to arm and phono stage/loading.
     
  8. deniall83

    deniall83 Acquaintance

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    Does anyone have any thoughts on the Grado Opus 3 or any of the wood body carts in the Timbre range? Looking to try something a bit richer and less sterile than AT carts.
     
  9. Gallic Dweller

    Gallic Dweller Acquaintance

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    A long time ago I bought cheaply from another WAD forum member a Pickering 7500 Mk11 and it's UK made pre-pre phono. The stylus is effectively NOS and is nowadays unobtanum. It's a low output moving magnet I'd forgotten all about it. When I've renagged my whole system I shall try this against my excellent AT 33EV which is a low output MC.

    These LOMM cartridges have been really liked on Audiogon. Replacement styli are available but simply don't compare with the real thing.

    I'd really like to buy a Soundsmith Zephyr but the price outside the USA is a rip-off. The AT MCs easily compare with cartridges 3 x the price. The ART 9 appealed along with the Zephyr but there have been quality issues with the ART 9. There is a plus point with Soundsmith cartridges, the styli can be replaced at a good price unlike MCs.
     
  10. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    I wanted to add here something I found interesting that some of you may already know.

    The Denon MC carts, RE: compliance

    So I posed a question in the General Advice Forum to replace a vintage stylus or go with a tried and true vintage of the likes of a Denon DL-103 on my SL-1200. It was said that the compliance of the DL-103 was too low compliance for my tonearm and get something more suitable. Now, my friend used to have a Denon DP-500M, which is the Denon OEM Technics SL-1200 mk2 (or mk3) in a wooden plinth...essentially. It's all Technics, just look at it. Anyway, the DP-500M came with a DL-160 cart originally from the factory, which is also a MC cart. Wait..what is going on here? Same tonearm mind you. So why would Denon put a low compliance cart on a lightweight tonearm? Easy...the specs are not what you think.

    Denon's MC cart compliance is rated at 100hz, not 10hz. So, not the same. Now, there are a few of you that know more about this than me, but from what I read, it means to match that at 10hz, double the compliance. So...

    DL-103: 8.5g, 5 x 10-6 cm/dyne @100hz, is actually 10x10-6 @ 10hz ...plug in all of that into the compliance calculator for 1200 arm =

    10.97 hz resonance
    Do the same for the DL-160 which is half the weight, but double the compliance...sure =

    8.55 hz resonance
    and you want to stay within the 8-10hz range, right? Note that if you actually put in the compliance numbers rated at 100hz, the resonance numbers are 15.52hz for the DL-103 and 12.09hz for the DL-160 on a SL-1200 arm given 12g effective mass and .5 for screws. Which I will admit, looks terrible.

    I just learned this myself about compliance specs and I thought I would share. Others, feel free to chime in if this is off or if there is a better way than doubling.
     
  11. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Other Japanese manufacturers do the same thing (compliance at 100 Hz not 10 Hz), and the 2x multiplier is not hard & fast - somewhere between 1.5 & 2, and it can be different even between different models from the same manufacturer.

    Also, remember to take all the mounting hardware into account: the mass given for the cart usually doesn't include the bolts (and nuts, if it has them) nor any extra plate that might be included; those have to be added to the cart & tonearm figures to get the effective mass of the whole system.

    I like this chart (Ortofon, so compliance at 10 Hz).

    The best way to find the resonant frequency is empirical, with a record that has test tracks of the relevant frequencies. I have a Feickert one with 5-15 Hz at 1 Hz intervals, and my DL-110 - RB300 system shakes most at 9 Hz, suggesting the multiplier for that cart is c. 2x when including the nuts bolts & weight plate.

    Edit: Ah, I see you did mention screws; read too fast.
     
  12. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    That Ortofon chart seems to follow my numbers. So looks to be right on.

    The other calculator I used that allowed you to enter Faster Mass. For my calculations, I used the default 0.5g.

    http://www.mh-audio.nl/Calculators/RF.html
     
  13. Gallic Dweller

    Gallic Dweller Acquaintance

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    deniall83 - ther's nothing sterile or bright about the better AT MCs, that's only true about the cheapo ATs.

    rtaylor 76 made a very good point to include all the mounting hardware. To that end I bought alu nuts and bolts but buying gear to build my Stereo Coffee I needed some stand-off gear for the boards, so bought some nylon nuts and bolts I have used these with the second h/shell to mount the Pickering 7500. As I'm in the middle of renagging all my gear it will be interesting to see how using these will or wil not affect the sound.

    In theory using these nylon nuts and bolts should eliminate any resonances travelling in either direction. I can't see why they should loosen at all but I will have to keep checking to make sure.
     
  14. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    Im looking for an upgrade from the Nagaoka MP110 I've been using for a while now. I originally figured I'd go down the (LO)MC path from here but I'm not yet there in terms of spending the money for a SUT and so on. So I'm looking for something in MM land for now.
    The chain at the moment is a Clearaudio Concept -> Schiit Mani (will be upgraded very soon. Multi phono shootout at home incoming) -> Saga -> Vidar -> Dynaudio Special 40

    I'm looking for something that brings more detail and life. The Nag is smooth and dark, which is a bit too much in my system. It's also maybe a touch too bassy? It's hard to tell what's the cart and what's the phono at some point.
    A preliminary search found me looking at things like the AT VM540ML, which seems to work with the Clearaudio verify tonearm (9.5g mass). Are there other recommendations for me here so that I can explore a few candidates before going ahead?
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2021
  15. luckybaer

    luckybaer Friend

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    That’s the sweet spot in that particular A-T product line. I’ve got a VM750SH, and I like it a lot, but it doesn’t receive as much love as the cart your’re looking at. I’ve not heard the Nagaoka cart you have, but I have seen it described on other forums exactly as you describe it here.

    I would bet the VM540ML sounds similar to the VM750SH. I think it is a balanced sounding cart - great channel separation, articulate bass, detailed mids, and highs that don’t sound crispy or shrill. It should be a noticeable improvement over the Nagaoka. At the very least, it would offer a much different experience!

    Good luck in your search.

    FWIW, I run my VM750SH on a stock Technics headshell (exactly like the one that comes with the SL-1210GR).
     
  16. StageOne

    StageOne Friend

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    I’ve heard the MP-110 on a few different tables including the Sol and it’s pretty good, lots to like. But if you are looking to upgrade the preamp now, I might wait till after you try those. I just compared 3 preamps and I was amazed at how a budget cart, AT95EN, can scale. Same with the Nagaoka, you might really like it with a different preamp.
     
  17. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    I agree; that is what I originally had in mind, but I had the fear that the Nagaoka may be past its prime since I recently read that they recommend replacing it after 150-200 hours. I've also been hearing more surface noise recently, so I do think it might be time.
    I didn't like the idea that this could colour my preamp upgrade experience/choice, and I think 200 hours is way too low for a cart. Thus I decided to remove the higher-end Nagaoka carts as candidates in my upgrade path and started to look around for other options to also explore.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
  18. Gallic Dweller

    Gallic Dweller Acquaintance

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    Stanton and Pickering did some very good cartridges in the 70s'/80s' The bodies are not to hard to find but original styli if you can find NOS are around $500.

    Last year I came across a retipper in the US on ebay and emailed him because about 15 years ago I bought a virtually NOS Pickering 7500S. I was worried that after so long maybe the internals would be very suspect. He assured me that he had never come across a Stanton or Pickering that had any problems.

    I tried in vain to find him on ebay.com and couldn't. By chance on Stereo Net au and on a thread about arm/cartridge suitability I mentioned that I couldn't find this particular retipper and up popped someone who had a cartridge retipped by this person and had his email address and yes he was still in business and he was very happy with his work. On his ebay site he had a 100% record. I think his retips are from $190-249. A lot of people prefer these LOMM to very pricy MCs

    The retipper is Joseph Long - email is: [email protected]
     
  19. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    I’m looking for a new cart experience. Currently I have used a Dynavector 10x5 on two different tables over the last few years (VPI Classic 2SE and now a 55th Anniversary Technics 1210GAE). This is the 10x5 with elliptical tip and aluminum cantilever (not the MKII). On both tables it kept the same signature of a slight but pleasant U shape.

    The two things I’m looking for in my next cart to do better are resolution and slightly better filled in between 150-200hz (this could be my room versus cart though) while maintaining a neutral balance. While I describe the 10x5 as a slight U, I do really like the treble response. I also think the Dynavector is a bit overly pricey for what it is.

    I can consider MM or MC. I’m assuming a more modern tip, like Shibata, and a boron cantilever will help with the resolution. I’d say my hard upper limit on price is around 1300 or so but would prefer to spend less, hopefully much less but don’t want to rule anything out. I want it to be an upgrade not just a sidegrade. I also know price means little and the selection is pretty overwhelming out there. I don’t plan to buy until end of summer, so I’m not in a rush.

    Ortofon MM and Audio Technica in general worry me due to sizable treble rises/spikes I’ve seen in the few frequency measurements and consistent impressions about brightness, sizzle, etc. Funnily enough the much cheaper AT-VM95SH or ML variants seem to measure really well; much better than their moderately more expensive brethren 540/740 brethren.

    I like the design of the newer Nagaoka’s like the JT80BK but they seem pretty pricey for elliptical tips and aluminum cantilevers. Seems like a ticket to a 10x5 sidegrade.

    I have zero experience with LOMC carts. If I go for one of these at the higher end of my budget, I’d want it to be something I can get retipped in the future by the manufacturer, like Van den Hul and Soundsmith.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
  20. Gallic Dweller

    Gallic Dweller Acquaintance

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    Been running an AT 33EV fort some years, nothing bright about this cartridge at all, I've seen it described as 'dark', I don't find this at all. Really good across the sound spectrum and on all types of music

    I will in the near future go for the AT 33SA, this has a Shibata stylus. If your in the USA look out for special deals on this cartridge, sadly I live in the EU where prices are always much higher. I'd love to find an honest person to buy one of these for me and repackage andf ship to France. I did have a good friend in Florida who saved me a fortune but sadly no longer with us - so it goes.
     

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