Cartridges - The Pleasures Beyond...

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#1
I love the analog disc and there's no other playback system as rich and varied as a turntable. You can pick your spinner, choose your arm and tailor the sound for your pleasure with the cartridge. Swapping cartridges was a joyful and regular activity, everyone I knew had 5-10 cartridges. Why get stuck with one when there were so many great cartridge manufacturers, each with their own unique and wonderful house sound? It's really a no brainer when one can easily transform the sound of a system in a few minutes with great and varied pleasures. For the most part it wasn't even that expensive, cartridges didn't cost what they do today and the tonearm designers built them to simplify this natural activity. Unfortunately for most, somewhere in the 80's the western audio media and their drones came together and in their collective ignorance hatched the idea of "The Cartridge" and the "Fixed Tonearm". The 80's was also the moment that influence of these so called mavens peaked. The Chief Drones spoon fed the public their misguided, self serving agenda and force fed it to the industry. Sadly for all "The Cartridge" belief is stronger today in high end than ever.

I face a dilemma when asked about "The Cartridge" A vs B and the right answer is neither. Its almost taboo to recommend a great cartridge matching their needs but with a lower price to the man fixated with "The Cartridge". Strangely, the fixated audiophile is happy and willing to spend thousands on an unknown "The Cartridge" based on the say so of a total stranger but takes it as a personal insult to spend a few hundred and try it for themselves.

I have nothing against "The Cartridge" when the system warrants it and have a few of them myself but why limit the pleasure to one? If you want new Ortofon, Denon, Audio Technical and Shure all offer excellent products below $1k, you'll be surprised how close some of them get to "The Cartridge"! Then there's the internet our online treasure trove for vintage and used cartridges. You can choose from decades and decades of fine cartridges built by masterful people, some are real hidden gems by any standard. All you need to taste this great variety of rich flavors is a good arm or a wand (calling Bob Graham:)!) with bayonet, the rest is easy. Here are some of my favorites, most of these cartridges can be had for a few hundred dollars, nothing in silly money of today's high end.

I think that Ortofon's been at it longer than any other company today and with the most number innovations and diverse product lines. You won't go wrong with anything they made/make but its the SPU that stood the test of time. Its the Porsche 911 of the cartridge world, you can find as many different vintage SPU's and 911's from various era and like Porsche, Ortofon continues to produce and expand the SPU family today.SPU is known for its wonderful musicality and balanced, full bodied sound.


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There are varieties of SPU, here's a very rare mono & stereo pair designed by Andreoli of the Magic Diamond fame;



Magic-Diamond-SPU.jpg



Next is EMT, get yourself a stereo, a mono or two and one for 78's! A complete musical chain with the EMT arm. The can be called cousins of SPU but still different in character to warrant owning both. Set the arms once for each EMT category and swap out as needed without touching the arm again.



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Deccas are detailed light and airy, but very solid and natural. A totally different presentation than the latter two yet just as musical… You'll need a Decca arm or adaptor to play some of their early cartridges.



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Continued…
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#2
There's an abundant of different cartridge types and brands available for sale on the net, even some of the Japanese exotics can be picked up for next to nothing.



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Don't forget the moving magnets, many excellent examples can be found for next to nothing. They don't need extra amplification, track great, some are even as a good as some of the better MC ones.

Experiment and enjoy the abundance, everything to gain and little to lose...




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david
 
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TBone

New Member
Nov 15, 2012
1,237
0
0
#3
very impressive collection / post; at present I have but two working carts (benz ruby, nagaoka mp50s) and a damaged mm(shurev15mr5). I regret tossing many of my old worn carts - which I'd re-tip today.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#4
very impressive collection / post; at present I have but two working carts (benz ruby, nagaoka mp50s) and a damaged mm(shurev15mr5). I regret tossing many of my old worn carts - which I'd re-tip today.
Its cheaper to buy some of them in good used and original condition, or try something new, Ebay's a good resource. NOS V15 replacement needles regularly found on there too.

david
 
May 30, 2010
13,971
45
48
Portugal
#5
Really a lovely collection. Your advice about eBay sourcing rises a question - do you have experience with independent companies that re-tip and re-built cartridges, such as Northwest Analogue, Soundsmith , Van den Hul or Thomas-Schick?
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,276
17
38
E. England
#6
David, any thoughts on Straingauges? Either the current Soundsmith models, or NOS Panasonics?
I've gone 'round the houses, from the Roksan Shiraz, to Lyra Clavis, then Lyra Parnassus, followed by Transfiguration Temper Supreme and Orpheus, a sideways shunt to the Zu Denon 103, now settling on my current Soundsmith Straingauge SG200, powered by battery Red Wine Audio Black Lightning psu.
I find the Straingauge captures the warmth of the Parnassus, the verve of the Zu Denon 103, the accuracy of the Orpheus. Neutrality and involvement, enhanced by getting it off the grid via the batt psu.
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#7
Really a lovely collection. Your advice about eBay sourcing rises a question - do you have experience with independent companies that re-tip and re-built cartridges, such as Northwest Analogue, Soundsmith , Van den Hul or Thomas-Schick?
Thanks Francisco. I have purchased a couple of vintage Van den Hul refurbished Orotofons in the past and they were wonderful but different from the actual vintage ones but never sent anything in myself to any of the above. Basically a dead cartridge for me is just an opportunity to try a different one.

david
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#8
David, any thoughts on Straingauges? Either the current Soundsmith models, or NOS Panasonics?
I've gone 'round the houses, from the Roksan Shiraz, to Lyra Clavis, then Lyra Parnassus, followed by Transfiguration Temper Supreme and Orpheus, a sideways shunt to the Zu Denon 103, now settling on my current Soundsmith Straingauge SG200, powered by battery Red Wine Audio Black Lightning psu.
I find the Straingauge captures the warmth of the Parnassus, the verve of the Zu Denon 103, the accuracy of the Orpheus. Neutrality and involvement, enhanced by getting it off the grid via the batt psu.
No, I never had a Straingauge Marc but am familiar with some of the other ones you owned, you made some nice choices.

david
 
Jul 27, 2015
256
0
0
#9
I am sure its nice to be able to choose from different Flavors but due to financial restraints i have always had to put everything i have into the best cart i can afford. Still think this is the way to go for many...
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#10
I am sure its nice to be able to choose from different Flavors but due to financial restraints i have always had to put everything i have into the best cart i can afford. Still think this is the way to go for many...
I don't disagree and not everyone's interested in different flavors.
david
 

slowGEEZR

Member Sponsor
Sep 20, 2010
1,263
0
0
66
Round Rock, Texas
#11
Thanks for this great thread, David. I think I will purchase a couple more less expensive cartridges, now that I've read this thread. Another reason to have a few cartridges, rather than just one is that you won't be out of music if a cantilever gets bent. I have two cartridges sitting with bent cantilevers right now and I have no clue how they got that way!
 

ddk

Industry Expert
May 19, 2013
3,463
9
38
Utah
#12
Thanks for this great thread, David. I think I will purchase a couple more less expensive cartridges, now that I've read this thread. Another reason to have a few cartridges, rather than just one is that you won't be out of music if a cantilever gets bent. I have two cartridges sitting with bent cantilevers right now and I have no clue how they got that way!
You're welcome Steve. I feel one of the beauties of analog tt is the ability to enjoy different flavors at will. You don't always need the ultimate cartridge to have fun...
david
 

XV-1

Active Member
May 24, 2010
1,559
8
38
Sydney
#13
My two fave vintage Japanese mm carts.

Technics EPC-100 mk4 @ 1.2 mv hard to believe it's a mm. Measures literally like a straight line and sounds sensational. Now with a VDH stylus, lost a little of the original magic of

Audio Technica AT25 - beautiful and lively

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