Cartridge Database - what have you used/owned and your opinion of it

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TheChairGuy

Don't know why no one had not thought of this before...but this could be a nice resource for us vinyl-istas.

No bickering or fighting in this topic (tho I've found vinylista's to be a bit milder in temperment than the average audiophile)...it's all opinion and synergy, anyways.

Here's the start of my list:

ADC LM-1 - Circa 1977.  Attached to my JVC belt driver back then, I was too young a dumb to know if it was any good or not.

Shure M95HE - My next cartridge on the JVC, I don't remember it sounding any better than the ADC.  Maybe a bit better as hazy memory goes, but maybe not.

Grace F-9E - Pure pleasure with this one...either on my JVC or my next turntable, a Thorens TD-316.  It was so good I still have it, bent cantilever (no replacements now) and all.  I think I'll die with it in my pocket...pure musical pleasure for what was a lot of money as I remember it back then...over $100.00.

More to come as I can gather my thoughts and find more time in my day - everybody, please chime in on your fave, or dud, cartridges you've experienced  :)

Somewhat aside, if you are looking for quantitative information on thousands of cartridges, this website is invaluable:

http://www.cartridgedb.com/

Whoever runs it seems to keep up with it nicely, but could probably use help in filling in some blanks on cartridges he does not have firms specs on. You can fill in vital info on cartridges that you have specs on right online to fill in the blanks.

John / TCG
« Last Edit: 11 Dec 2006, 08:09 pm by TheChairGuy »

anal.log

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Some sort of Audio Technica with my Rega-don't really remember how it sounded.

Grace F9- came used with my Oracle sounded fine but was well used so I don't have a real good opinion on this one.

Goldring G1020-great cartridge fairly flat but a little light on the upper mids. Now has a broken cantilever

Denon DL-80A-high output moving coil, excellent budget cartridge very nice top end. Ended up selling it with my TT.

So now I'm stuck with an Ortofon OM5E- average-(came OEM with my Pro-ject TT)


bboru

Just a few hints:
I have owed/own the following and I only mention those which have been good - the following:
ORTOFON SPU/E:  Get rid of the works headshell and make one from the purest finest grain solid carbon.  And do glue with hard epoxy the leadout pins esp. if you use tight clips to the tonearm,,,the pins DO pull out and leave a very fiddly soldering job!!  These hints applie to ALL low imped./compliance MCs.)  A wonderful cartridge by any standards.
Fidelity Research 7 series.  Again excellent.
Original Kondo Audionote Io - This is my alltime favourite and has been back to Japan 3 times for refurbishment.
Probably the best was the Be Yamamura solid carbon specified Audio Teckne (Be MC1) but I also tried his sharks oil which rotted the stylus:cantilever joint!!
All of these were in either a highly modded FR64S or a home made carbon Unipivot and on a Technics SP10 (Highly modded) or GArrard 301.
No combination under £30,000 ($50,000) gets close with a good horn system for sheer emotion, impact, emotion.
Hon. also rans incl.  ADC 25, various earlier Denons, original Koetsu red but all were difficult....esp the ADC!!!

TheChairGuy

Shure V15VxMR- Tried only in my Thorens TD-316, I could not make that baby sing - ever.  Boy, did I ever try.  A complete waste of $208.00 (from J & R Music on sale) to me.

Ortofon X5-MC - My first stab at a moving coil, and not a bad one at that.  Very clear, amazing imaging, extended high frequencies...it does all the hi-fi things right.  Unfortunately, it is so lean that it doesn't make my head bop.  Good for classical, light jazz due to extra ambiance that moving coil provides, but let's down on the fun factor.  The stero separation is poor - probably due to the meavy mass tip (0.75g) - making it probably a great candidate fora re-tip in the future, tho. In all, not a bad cartridge for the $200.00 paid.

Audio-Technica AT-440ML/OCC - Out of the box quite strident; needed 30+ hours to break in.  The line contact stylus profile was a bit tweeky, but once dialed in and given that 30 hours - more pleasure than I ever thought possible for under $100.00.  Absolutely stellar stuff - very clear, dynamic....marred only by a brittle/fake sounding treble and notable imaging deficit versus the Ortofon.  Otherwise, an amazing effort for under $100.00.  Better value than even the Grace of years back I think.

van den Hul re-tipped Sumiko Blue Point- My second stab at (HO) moving coil.  Not as clear as the Ortofon, with a more clearly tipped up treble response, and a bit lean.  A great $300.00 vdH boron cantilever is probably largely wasted on this cruddy cartridge.  No matter how it is dialed in on VTF, VTA, azimuth, etc. the same conclusion is reached: a better stylus cannot make a lousy cartridge sing. 

EDIT: the vdH Sumiko needed about 1.2 gram tracking force....the 1.6 or so I had been using was painful to listen to.  After adjusting it downward, it started to take on that MC 'magic' without undue strain....but it's still got zingy treble and somewhat unpleasant midrange.  Not among my faves, to be sure.   Further, the cartridge mounting tabs are so thin that they break easily...making good, sturdy mounting long term almost impossible  :(

Low output moving coil sounds kinda' interesting, but given my experience (both here in my room and at shows) with moving coils (too 'hi-fi, but not enough swing to them) I'll probably end up with a moving magnet next time.
« Last Edit: 11 Dec 2006, 08:08 pm by TheChairGuy »

djbnh

Don't know why no one had not thought of this before...but this could be a nice resource for us vinyl-istas.
John / TCG
Interesting comment.  :duh:  Please go to this thread for a nice cartridge database (plus a cartridge resonance evaluator). Also, check The Vinyl Engine for numerous cartridge comments.

Additionally, Arthur Salvatore's comments about cartridges are worth reviewing.

TheChairGuy

Here's another good research tool for pickups (and other analog gear):

http://audiotools.com/

avahifi

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I e-mailed the cartridge database a .pdf file about the Longhorn stabilizer bar modification including construction details.

What are the chances that they will actually try it or post it there?

In my experience, not good.

Frank Van Alstine

TheChairGuy

I e-mailed the cartridge database a .pdf file about the Longhorn stabilizer bar modification including construction details.

What are the chances that they will actually try it or post it there?

In my experience, not good.

Frank Van Alstine

I suppose they could add it...as Cartridge Man has a similarly re-engineered Grado listed there (albeit, with a new line contact stylus fitted)

I just bought my first Grado yesterday, a Green, and fitted the Longhorn stabilizer and damped the coils per Frank's suggestion immediately (didn't want to go thru hassle of AB'ing with and without...I know the modification works from other cartridges).

Only 3 hours or so on it, but quite nice already - none of the sibilance some speak of and tracking seems quite good (due to Longhorn and silicone damping trough, no doubt).

Oh yeah, and NO hum whatsoever, even on my 'shaker' table. Filled with 9 lbs of Plast-i-Clay inside and out, set up on quite effective deadening squishy puds on each corner, added silicone damping trough and damped the oft microphonic Grado internal coils...it's, in fact, as quiet a playback as any cartridge I've owned has offered up   :D

ohenry

Adcom SXC-VDH Out of production, but worthy of mention.  High-output (a little over 2 mv), moving coil, sapphire cantilever, and $450 twenty years ago.  Once in a while you may see one offered as NOS for sale, grab it and give it a try.  I really liked this one on a Sumiko MMT mounted on a VPI HW-19 (yes I still have the table :P).  Tonally balanced having great, tight and dynamic bass.  It just sounded right to me.  I wish I had another...

Redhanded

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You mean people remember?

First cartridge: A giant Stanton with a BRUSH attached to the front of it. It was huge and probably formed of steel stampings, but then, the tonearm I used it on was about the size and shape of a caveman's club. Together they ate records.

Second: No memory whatsoever. It was a Dual 1229 I saved all summer for, cutting lawns. The identity of the cartridge is lost to history. Loved it, though. Even though I may not have known any better.

Third: On a beautiful rosewood Luxman D-D TT that never sounded all that good, I bought a then-fancy high-output moving coil, paying the ungodly-for-1981 price of $600 for it. I'm sorry to say I no longer remember the name of that one either, although I'm sure I should. (It ended up getting stolen.) The turntable itself (PD-272 maybe? Those letters and numbers arise out of the haze of memory) should be in a museum of industrial art somewhere--but in a static display, please.

[Skip first 15 years of the CD era, during which I had no TT.]

Egged on by Fremer et al. and the fact that my then-new integrated amp had a phono section, I bought a new Music Hall MMF 2.1 turntable with a cheap Goldring Elan cartridge. The table/arm/cart was rough but lively, broke up during loud passages but had a lot of...well, elan. Liked everything about the 'table, the cartridge, and vinyl.

Became a Convert.

Having decided on the basis of the MMF 2.1 that I wanted to get back into vinyl, I bought a beautiful VPI HW-19 Jr. with a Mk. III platter, AQ arm, and a custom walnut base (gorgeous). First I tried a Shure V15 on it (I forget the rest of the alphanumeric designation, but whatever was current in 1999). Totally hated that cartridge. Smooth, yes, but utterly synthetic-sounding. Might as well listen to music from inside a cardboard box. Next, again based on the vague consensus recommendation of the Zeitgeist, bought a Sumiko Blue Point Special. It was even worse than the Shure! More life and dynamics than the Shure, which isn't hard, but NO bass. What came out was "kin to music" but not very near kin. Tinny, harsh, totally a-musical. Sounded, in fact, very much like early CD. It's no wonder people got out of vinyl if they were listening to garbage like the Blue Point Special. I managed to damage it after excising it from my tonearm, so, unable to resell it in good conscience, I decided to back over it with the car. Smushed the loathesome little piece of scrap in my driveway like a wayward beetle.

Both of these "popular" cartridges are inferior to the cheap Goldring Elan, which had obvious flaws but at least was fundamentally musical.

Finally, remembering my experience with the Elan, I bought a Goldring 1042. It's an okay-sounding cartridge, but even very carefully set up it rides so low and close to the surface of the record that the cart body touching the record is a common occurrence, especially at the beginning of sides. The best way I can describe the 1042 is that it's sort of like a Toyota Camry. It aspires to modest competence and acheives...adequateness. But it's also inherently unexciting and never rises above its nature. I wouldn't buy it again.

And there you have it, a lifetime's worth of cartridge experience in ten pithy paragraphs.

shep

In for a penny...this is really a long senior moment! lots of the damn things (Grace, cheap Audio T's, a Fidelity Research something, Shure, a couple of decent Orthophone's, a Roxan Chorus Black (search me) and I especially remember a series of Grado Sig 8's, none of which would work or sound right. I drove Grado crazy sending them back. I think I was at fault. I was trying to make them sing on the infamous (and loveable) Souther linear tracking arm. That is a story in itself! No there was a gentleman of the old school.
I gave up, moved to CD, never looked back. Well...if you gave me ten grand I could be tempted. I know how good the damn records CAN sound but I'm getting to old to get off the sofa every 27 minutes to turn them over. (maybe if I just touch the VTA a little...help!)

NealH

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Many moons ago I owned a couple of the Fidelity Research cartridges (MC-201 and, 202) along with some others (Blue Point, Sure, Grado, AT, etc).  But, it's the FR that will forever be ingrained in my mind.  Seductively beautiful sounding, it produced a rich midrange and extended treble that defined the term "analog".  Not the most pronounced bass but, the moment the needle hit the groove there was never anything lacking.  Smooth, even, rich with a methodically continuous flow to the music that virtually left one in a trance.

Truly the antithesis of digital.   

TheChairGuy

Hey, this is a fantastic resource I stumbled on recently...it's apprently from a hi fi mag in the UK some 25 or so years ago...in the golden age of vinyl.

Note the extraordinary amount of objective testing that went on back then - nowadays all you seem to get is opinion/subjectivity  :( 

Hope you all find something of value in this...I know I did:

http://www.vinylengine.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2224

marknoir

Hello, I' a newbi to this, but an interesting thread...

Been playing with vinyl since 1977, so had literally a ton of carts.

Inexpensive Shure in 1977, so-so, replaced by then current Grado - opened my eyes.
Then the following went in rapid siccession: Grace 9, Rega, Shure V (all were good in mid-fi systems that I had then). Then I met Steve Ziptser, who worked for Liryc Hi-Fi in Mnhattan (sadly, deceased), who introduced me to real hi-end, and... Money was gone as soon as it arrived... First I had Dynavectors 23R and 17D, both sounded very good with DB Systems step-up and preamp. Then I had a whole bunch of different Koetsus and Kisekis: big body Rosewood was seductive and as real as I could get then, but literally had zero tracking ability and had a huge over-the-top midrange. Later versions ( I had about three) were all better trackers and a bit more neutral). A couple of Koetsu Blacks - reasonably neutral but sort of "simple" sounding. Kiseki (Purple Heart) was sort of Koetsu sounding, but lucking excitement. My preamp by then was a Meridian 101. Then I switched to Paragon 12, and some step-up devises. Paragon souded great with a regular Shure V15VMR. That same time I also tried a Transfiguration Esprit (High Output MC) - excellent cartridge, if a bit light in bass area, and Glider H, which was also very good but not as smooth, and wanting in high frequencies. Then I got a Melos GK1+1, which sounded great with Blue Point Special. Everything in audio is about synergy, so Melos darkness worked very well with BPS brightness. Then I had a Melos 111B with Grado Sonata, which worked well together, but the other way! Then I finally graduated to an MFA Luminescence, a couple of different versions, and in a succession to Oracles Delphi Mk I, II, III, Premier, and, finally - Goldmund Studio, which was the best table I've had. Some serious listening was done. Regular Koetsu Onyx (good, much better than Rosewood, but also kinda deadish), Krell - specked Koetsu Onyx Sapphire - great cartridge, a bit too forward, but excellent otherwise, bad tracker as usual. Cello made by Ikeda, similar to Decca cantilever-less design, but MC. Hugely expensive, never could get it to work right, finally worked on my friend's huge FR-66 arm and EMT table. Cello Chorale, same as later Mark Levinson and Red Rose cartridges, built by Miyabi, excellent sounding, but can be bright in some systems. Problem - a low rider to the point of actually chirping on some albums' surface. Shelter 901 - very good cartridge but I was not as impressed as Arthur Salvatore. Monster Cable - -very nice, has to be loaded correctly or will have a reduced midrange and hot highs. Audio Technicas - never liked any of their MMs, OC-9 is good, but kinda bland and non-inspiring, excellent tracker though.

Now for the cartridges that I liked best:

1) a SECRET ENTITY, which I will not disclose until I find another one. It will sound rather bad into most phono stages, especially directly into MC solid state or into so-called High-gain tube units (like CAT). I personally had three of them before, actually attended a premier at Liryc 20ys ago and was not impressed. As I mentioned before, it all has to do with synergy, things have to fall into the right places. Right now I'm using it with home built step-up using two tiny vintage Beyer Dynamics microphone transformers, 3.2 ohm prymary, 3.7 Kohms secondary (no, not the ones on E-bay lately, and it was the only time that they really worked this well, and the only time a have heard this cartridge (or any other) truly open-up and present REAL music, not a bunch of frequencies), my trusty Lumi, and VPI HW-19 with MG-1 air-bearing arm, and I have NEVER heard anything like this in my room. I have a HUGE soundstage, with REAL instruments and people inhabiting it, it is never bright, it disects LP into multitude of different sounds, instead of congesting it (which manifests itself as nagging midrange and brightness), it has tremendows extention on top together with WEIGHT and color to cymbals, bass is full and yet delineated, so you can actually almost tell the brand of instruments being played. It tracks as well as Shure V, and surface noise is nearly null. I have to say though, that my sample seems to be a pre-production model with no serial #, so I have to investigate further...
 
2) Goldbug Mr. or Mrs. Brier
3) Ortofon 2000
4) Cello Chorale
5) Koetsu Onyx Sapphire


Some general thoughts that I gathered from my experience (others may disagree)

1) MCs are better than MMs
2) the lower the output of MC, the better it will sound (generally speaking), provided you have enough gain
3) loading either cartridge itself or transformer in parallel with existing 47K (or other value resistor already in the phpno stage) is NOT recommended, IMHO
4) excellent tracking ability is a must


Hope my gibberish will be useful to somebody... :-)))

marknoir

OK, so I got another one, so Mistery Cartridge that I like the most - Madrigal Carnegie One. There!

movingcoilguy

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Hello, sure no problem Sorry! BUT for reference out of all the vintage mc cartridges I collected and listened to last year by far the best of the lot was the Spectral MCR signature. The soundstage is very complex and huge with great depth and dimension. The instruments are very nicely spaced out in the music or soundstage making one feel that the musicians are right in front of you. Notes from chimes and other instruments linger in the air  very well as the music continues like no other cartridge I have heard. It tracks better then anything else I have used except for my Highphonic MC 15D. Its extemely fast and can attack passages like you wouldn't believe. Mated to the Spectral 10 preamp set to 47K its truly wonderul. The MCR seems to play well at all settings. Apparently it even sounds better nude but I have yet to tackle taking the body off, but maybe in the not so distant future. Its worth a listen if you can find someone who will part with theirs? I have had Koetsu's but the older Rosewoods will put you to sleep as they a are very warm , Monster Alpha Genesis 1000 -2000. AC3 was a great cartridge, I also like very much the Transfiguration Spirit, Lyra Clavis, ANd though some my find this odd but if you want to take a ride and experience a cartridge that has something that cant be explained look for a Shinon RED Boron as it has the ability to play music with a punch like very few others! Its very 3 diamentional and has great imaging,its effortless to listen to and the way it attacks music is just plain fun. Sorry if this is a bit of untechnical but I 'am really not up on my reviewers terms but I know what I like.movingcoilguy
« Last Edit: 1 Feb 2007, 05:05 pm by movingcoilguy »

marknoir

Miscellanious ramblings.

My favorite cartridge status has shifted from Nadrigal Carnegie One to ZYX R1000 Airy 2. It is an AMAZINF tranzducer! BUT (there's always a BUT): It absolutely shines on great records, but bad ones are somewhat unlistenable... Always a trade off, but what it does on excellent records is simply amazing.

Something about MC step-ups: While ZYX shines with a VAC MC transformers, it is only good with my home - made Beyer Dynamics. On the other hand, Carnegie is at it's best with Beyers and only so-so (as usual) with VAC.

TheChairGuy

As of 2/12/07, this is my pecking order of the cartridges I now own:

1.  Grace F-9e (with Plast-i-Lator)

2.  Grado Green (with Longhorn, damped coils and Plast-i-Lator)

3.  Ortofon X5-MC (with Longhorn)

4.  ADC TRX-1 (with Longhorn)

5.  Audio-Technica AT440ML/OCC (with Longhorn)

6.  vdH re-tipped Sumiko Blue Point (with Longhorn)

beachbum

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  • Vinyl Delivers all of the Music
been playing lps since the mid sixties. moms fisher console started my turntable life. then i went with a dual 1218 audio technica cartridge, uncle sam sent me to europe thank god and there were audio clubs with super deals on the air bases, picked up a thorens td 125 sme 3009 two arm, i had that table till katrina took it, i was still using it and it still played great,
had a list of cartridges i used with it, a number of ortofons, a moving iron decca london red this was in the mid seventies. b and o sp 6 and 8, i had a blue point special on it when the water came in, i use the platter for manual lp cleaning put it on a lazy susan and spin away.
when i started my rebirth system got a music hall mmf 7 with the included goldring eroica ho cartridge. that was ok but i wanted more,
vpi aires three 10.5i arm first cartridge was dynavector 20xl a sweet cartridge with great sound.
i wanted more zyx airy three xsbl, this was a huge upgrade to the 20xl resolution, and air is what zyx brings to the table along with mr mehran one of the best people in audio.
had a problem my cause with the airy 3 and mr mehran made me a very happy man with a zyx universe xsbl the most out standing cartridge my ears have had the pleasure to hear, detail, micro dynamics, imaging, and that famous zyx air and soundstage. expensive but well worth it.
the most important thing you can do if you are taking vinyl serious clean clean and clean, it does not touch the table until i use my disc doctor manual cleaning system. thanks to chair guy i have a KAB EV-1 coming going to see if it beats my manual method, cleaning your lps and using a dry brush after each side along with magic earaser will extend cartridge life.
                                                                                     mike

TheChairGuy

Thought I'd re-visit this as I bought (or have been graciously loaned) a bunch of cartridges over the past 4 months....

1.  Pickering XLZ-7500-s mk. II (requires step-up, etc.)

2.  Grado Green (with Longhorn, damped coils and Plast-i-Lator)
2.  ADC XLM Mk. III Improved

3.  Grace F-9e (with Longhorn, damped coils and Plast-i-Lator)
3.  Grado G1+ (with Longhorn, damped coils and Plast-i-Lator)

4.  Ortofon X5-MC (with Longhorn)
4.  Benz-Micro MC-3 (requires step-up, etc.)
4.  Denon DL-160vdH

5.  ADC TRX-1 (with Longhorn)

6.  Audio-Technica AT440ML/OCC (with Longhorn)

7.  vdH re-tipped Sumiko Blue Point (with Longhorn)

Holy crap - I now own 11 cartridges.  They multiply like rabbits around here.  One more on it's way to me soon...a Stanton CS-100  :o

Price has little to do with performance for me (or MC vs. MM vs. MI, I think).....I could have stopped at the Grado Green for $60 (a damped arm and Longhorn are essential) a year ago as it turned out and been pretty happy. It actually sounds a bit more like music than the Pickering....but the Pickering pips it in resolution/clarity, lack of confusion during vibrant, strong passages (tracking performance and reduced coil/wire saturation allows more signal thru) and a bit more transparent (lower inductance = less veiling).

The ADC has better front to back imaging...the Grado has better soundstage width.  Depending on phono pre used, one can sound better than the other. Channel balance off by 2db on the ADC...which tells me quality control was probably an issue...so, I might just have otherwise gotten a good unit from the manufacturing run (except for the channel balance issue)

Seems to me that during the years between Prestige and G-series Grado cartridges there have been motor and or mechanical changes for the better.  As the G1+, with superior Shibata tip, doesn't sound quite as vibrant as the Green does.

Swapping out the Shibata tip for the Green's standard (cheap) elliptical helps tracking performance a bit, the treble is a bit improved....but it's still deficient to the Pickering in key electrical areas (impedance and inductance) and one can't really get around that.

A cartridge is mostly an electrical device...yet it's mechanics and one's subjective opinions can sway the final results  :D

Again, all of this boils down to my tastes, so please don't look at this as any definitive guide if your a newbie (or, returnee) to vinyl.

Peace / out,  John