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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    Hey, from a sound signature perspective, are Nagaoka carts generally regarded to be significantly different in sound signature from Audio-Technica MM carts? I like AT, but I'd like to find something else that's different for my collection that allows for stylus replacements. I've read on SHF and other sites that Nagaoka carts lean warmer, while AT carts are neutral/slightly analytical. Would prefer comments from SBAF community.

    I think keeping my V15 Type III clothed in JICO SAS stylii and focusing on A-T carts + Nagaoka might be a way to bring some structure to slowly building and expanding my cartridge collection. They are like what headphones used to be for me!

    Also: best place online to shop for Nagaoka??
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2023
  2. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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  3. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    From my understanding and hearing a few recorded samples of needle drops, Nagaoka’s tend to be fuller, richer, and sweeter than the more cutting Ortofon’s and Shure V15 III. So it seems if you want a bit more richness, go for the Nagaoka’s, or more clarity, go for the V15 III.
     
  4. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    AT’s are leaner and brighter, Nags richer and warmer. The MP-500 is the least warm of the Nagaoka lineup and veers closer to neutral.

    As Shane said, CD Japan has the best prices. eBay sellers from Japan can come close in price and may be able to ship sooner if a particular item is on back order at CD Japan.
     
  5. MyPetSasquatch

    MyPetSasquatch Friend

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    I noticed all Hana carts have been on sale for the past week at some pretty nice discounts:

    EL/EH for $380 (MSRP $475)
    SL/SH for $600 (MSRP $750)
    ML/MH for $960 (MSRP $1200)
    Umami Blue for $2k (MSRP $2.5k)
    Umami Red for $3160 (MSRP $3950)

    Does anyone have a comparison of the SL or ML against the Ortofon 2M Black or Denon DL301 Mk2? Unfortunately those are the only references I have, but I'd like to meet a middle way between the warmth of the Denon and the detail retrieval and extension and dynamics of the 2M Black (and somehow better). The SL sounds like it might be the right ticket.
     
  6. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I’m looking to buy another cartridge just to see what else is out there besides Soundsmith and Denon (what I own now). I’m probably going to pull the trigger on the ML since the sale is ongoing. From reading reviews and talking to a few Discord buddies the smart money seems on ML or EL. I’m personally reluctant to mess around with a shibata stylus do to some of my records are old and “well-loved” and I would like to lessen the surface noise if possible.
    For the $ the ML seems hard to beat. Did you end up buying @MyPetSasquatch? If so, any thoughts or advice?
     
  7. Bowmoreman

    Bowmoreman Almost "Made"

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    I’ll be “following”….. I was thinking ‘twas time to move up from my current Denon 301MkII, and back into the more “original” line along lines of AQ/Scantec/Lyra/Hana “house” sound (where I started decades ago).

    That said, and as an aside: having just 5 days ago upgraded my phono stage to a Schiit Skoll, my Denon has a VERY new lease on LIFE, and I’m no longer itching to upgrade it…

    Ever, and always, it’s the system as a whole… but, all y’all knew that.
     
  8. Polemarkos

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    Would be curious what your experience is if you end up going in this direction, as I was in the same position a few weeks ago coming from a Denon DL103 and a Soundsmith Carmen MK2. I ended-up getting an Audio Technica ART9XA because I found a great deal on a very lightly used item for less than the Hana ML at the new price. I'm extremely impressed, but it has a shibata stylus which you said you specifically want to avoid. FWIW I've had no issues with surface noise or tracking, but my records were mostly purchased new.
     
  9. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    That AT cart of yours looks great!
    I ended up getting a Hana ML and will definitely write something up after I receive and listen to it for a bit.

    In terms of Shibata stylus, I admit that I may easily be wrong about it revealing more surface imperfections. Maybe one of the cartridge gurus here can enlighten us.
     
  10. MyPetSasquatch

    MyPetSasquatch Friend

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    So long story: I ended up purchasing a Hana ML at the sale price but haven't even opened the box yet. I spent some time on YouTube listening to a bunch of needledrops of the ML and the MH and honestly something in the frequency response bothered me. Obviously a needledrop compressed by YouTube isn't the best representation, but at least to my ears what I heard was consistent across different songs as well as YouTube channels with different equipment. I decided the ML wasn't worth taking a gamble on for the price, so I'm going to return it. YMMV of course.

    However, I also (seriously) snagged an Audio Technica ART9XA on the used market after really enjoying what I heard from the needledrops I could find for that LOMC. It just arrived today and sounds amazing a few records in. Tonality it's not bright, but it is a brighter cartridge than my Denon DL-301 MkII at least at the top end of the treble. I'd wager it measures neutral except for a slight rising treble response. Timbre is spot-on and natural, the image is stereotypically holographic and sharply defined, the textures are realistic, and detail retrieval is quite impressive. Bass sounds neutral in quantity with acceptable slam and good definition, although not like the pounding you get from the 2M Black. The Denon's bass is a bit ripe and undefined at times in comparison, but I do love how lush and warm that cart is as well

    For reference I'm using an iFi iPhono3 Black Label and with the 72dB gain setting there's more than enough to annoy the neighbors even for a 0.2mV LOMC cart output.

    Oh and FWIW the ART9XA as mentioned above has a Shibata stylus and between that and the very low output of the cart (and the resultant need for moar gain), there's definitely a slight increase in surface noise and noisefloor in general. My 2M Black with Shibata could also be brutal with surface noise if not aligned correctly, so I might play around with the alignment more as it was a weirdly long cart due to the position of the screw holes in the body. In general I love the detail retrieval and bass you get with a Shibata, but it's a double edged sword sometimes!
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2023
  11. MyPetSasquatch

    MyPetSasquatch Friend

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    What a coincidence that we both ended up independently purchasing a used ART9XA within a few days of each other. I'm guessing you snagged the other one that I saw on both USAM and Audiogon? There was a weird amount of XAs on sale on the used market within a short period of time.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2023
  12. Polemarkos

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    I got the one from the seller (in CA?) who hadn't done a compliance check for the tonearm on his TD-124. Buying used carts (vs. rebuilt from VAS or the equivalent) gives me the heebie-jeebies but it looked perfect before I mounted it - cantilever was good, diamond was perfect and aligned almost perfectly to cantilever etc. with no damage to the body. I'm using it with a Bob's Devices 1:10 SUT into an Audio Note Kits L2 phono pre and I was unpleasantly surprised that there was way too much gain for my system. I thought I would have the opposite problem as that should only be 2 mv of output and most MM are 4-5 mv. I had to add a couple of 12db attenuators on the input to get a reasonable amount of play on my volume pot. The attenuators are sonically neutral to my ears and haven't induced any nervosa. Even with those in place I'm experiencing a higher noise-floor and less 'blackground' than I did with my Soundsmith cart but the playback is so superior I haven't once considered going back.
     
  13. MyPetSasquatch

    MyPetSasquatch Friend

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    Congrats, sounds like you got a perfect unit! I didn't love the idea of buying a used MC cart either, but seems like I got off lucky so far at least from what I can tell by ear, although I don't have a microscope to do a fully examination unfortunately. Do you have the appropriate equipment to check?

    I also was surprised at the output I got out of the XA. It's almost too much at the 72dB setting I'm using. The level of gain required is sort of a tweener with my pretty basic phono stage. The preamp has 60dB and 72dB gain settings, when realistically it needs to split the difference for the 0.2 mV.

    Like you, I notice less blackground (although it's subtle on my end luckily), but also like you I don't even think about it as soon as the music starts. The more time I put on this cart the more impressed I am. What a steal at the used price.
     
  14. Polemarkos

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    I used a jeweler's loupe under bright light, which isn't good enough to claim perfection but enough that things seemed more or less in order.
     
  15. Bowmoreman

    Bowmoreman Almost "Made"

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    So I installed the Hana SL in my system yesterday. A few observations first:
    1. IMPORTANT: the specs say this cartridge weighs 6gm. They lie. It weighs 5 gm. So be aware!
    2. This underweight created an issue for me, in that my SME309 cannot balance 2gm downforce with a cartridge that light; so I had to scrounged for a couple light, non-ferrous washers that could provide enough additional mass (off to shop for proper headshell weights I guess)
    3. My test records indicate my compliance point appears to be 12-13Hz, which is great, so the arm and cartridge are simpatico there
    4. Finding optimal anti-skate took a bit longer than usual, and was more sensitive to balance than in my past experience
    5. I adjusted azimuth by ear using in and out of phase test signals.

    Best loading on Skoll seems be either 150Ohms or 47K (can’t really decide yet), 250u for the capacitance

    Now on to the break-in process; initial thoughts are it is very revealing, much bigger and more realistic soundstaging, but a tad sibilant at the very top. Going to monitor that as I get some more hours on it.

    In hindsight, given the weight situation, should have just sprung for the ML.

    Anyone can point me to a good source of quality, dedicated headshell weights? Two small washers taped to top of headshell looks janky…
     
  16. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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  17. Bowmoreman

    Bowmoreman Almost "Made"

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    At a minimum, 2.5g… right now have two washers that total that amount, but might want a set so I can adjust to best optimize my compliance resonant frequency (I’d like to get it down a bit more)…

    Found a couple over at LP gear.
     
  18. dBel84

    dBel84 Friend

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    i bought a set of those screws from soundsmith = they are great

    ..dB
     
  19. Polemarkos

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    Have you done anything with VTA/SRA? In my experience Shibata styli are very sensitive to VTA. Took me a week working on it by ear with my Audio Technica ART9XA, but I subsequently purchased a test record from Germany that has a VTA program on it and used that to calibrate my Hana SL on a Technics table and then tweaked by ear.
     
  20. Bowmoreman

    Bowmoreman Almost "Made"

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    I haven’t (yet) gone to SRA; I want to get weight (and compliance) a bit better aligned first. I’m hoping that by adding 4-5g more mass on headshell end with weights, and then balancing it back out (with the now regained adjustment room since not maxed out on minimal balance force due to flyweight Hana SL) will shift the compliance point down from the current approx 13-14hz. I am currently having a devil of a time getting the anti-skate to where I don’t get breakup, and I’m positing that less than fully optimal compliance is why…

    from history/experience, I’ve found it critical to solve the bigs first: 2 point alignment, then compliance, then anti-skate, and then Azimuth, and then VTA as final adjustment.

    Any chance you can share a link to the VTA test record you mention?

    As an interesting aside. I recently purchased a WiFi picture taking zoom/microscope to take a strong look at my older cartridges styli… just out of curiousity, I went back to my OG AQ7000 (new in 1990!). I had replaced it after 800 hours *because* 800 hours. Well, when I looked at it yesterday (it’s hugely fiddly to use a zoom camera microscope on a stylus but doable with patience)…. Its stylus looks FINE. So I may just try a “reinstatement” and then a thunderdome versus the Hana SL.

    Anyone know where I might find (I’ve been looking for a while and they are hard to find) a good source to buy another OEM SME 309 Headshell? That’d make such an undertaking MUCH easier.
     

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