London Decca Reference to Return

Dogberry

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Aug 24, 2022
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I have good news today from londondecca.com, from whence Stewart has written:
Yes we will manufacture the current Reference as well as a new version as well. hoping it will be ready in August.
I have recently put the Reference back into play, and it still feels like putting on an old favourite pair of shoes: it feels right. It doesn't have the warmth and richness of the LP-S, which I still enjoy, but it is plainly more honest about what is on the record, and still makes me tap my toes in response to transients like nothing else. I have never had any grounding issues with it, nor any mistracking. I used it for years on an SME Series V with the damping trough, but right now it is working just as well on a Series IV with no damping. I hope others have the chance to experience this cartridge again, as it is a bloody marvel!
 

matakana

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I have good news today from londondecca.com, from whence Stewart has written:

I have recently put the Reference back into play, and it still feels like putting on an old favourite pair of shoes: it feels right. It doesn't have the warmth and richness of the LP-S, which I still enjoy, but it is plainly more honest about what is on the record, and still makes me tap my toes in response to transients like nothing else. I have never had any grounding issues with it, nor any mistracking. I used it for years on an SME Series V with the damping trough, but right now it is working just as well on a Series IV with no damping. I hope others have the chance to experience this cartridge again, as it is a bloody marvel!
Thanks for this news, I do hope they get their retipping service on par with John wright also !
If you don’t mind me asking, how do you find the Nagaoka mp500 in comparison to your reference ? Thank you.
 

Dogberry

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Aug 24, 2022
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No problem! When I sent my Reference off for what seemed might be its last re-tip I panicked and explored other MI cartridges. The MP-500 was the closest to the sound of the Decca, and did that at just a fifth of the price. It still sits on a tonearm today, and I use it to play new discs for the first time, as the stylus is easily changed (and replacements are cheaper from Japan via:
https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/NEOACS-69258 ). The Soundsmith Sussurro MkII ES did not impress me at first, but when I finally used it through an SUT instead of the MC input of my phono stage I saw what people talked about. A good, neutral cartridge. I also bought a Grado Statement 3, and have found it the most confusing buy so far. I have played with loading via a Musical Fidelity NuVista Vinyl and can make it sound sort of good, but not like something that belongs alongside the Epoch 3 in their Lineage Series. I'm thinking that despite its high output, I should try it through the SUT too, and just turn the amp way down.
I currently run four tonearms (Decca Reference, Benz LP-S, Benz Ruby 3 mono conversion and the MP-500). The MP-500 is on an SME M10/309 with a replaceable headshell, and I have three alternatives: the Sussurro, the Statement 3 and a Kontrapunkt C mounted on headshells. I am planning to put the Grado in at some point soon and play with the SUT option.
But if you are looking at buying an MP-500, I have to say it is an excellent cartridge, especially for the price. It outperforms most cheaper MC cartridges in my view, and does so without you having to buy a new phono stage that can take an MC.
 
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matakana

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No problem! When I sent my Reference off for what seemed might be its last re-tip I panicked and explored other MI cartridges. The MP-500 was the closest to the sound of the Decca, and did that at just a fifth of the price. It still sits on a tonearm today, and I use it to play new discs for the first time, as the stylus is easily changed (and replacements are cheaper from Japan via:
https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/NEOACS-69258 ). The Soundsmith Sussurro MkII ES did not impress me at first, but when I finally used it through an SUT instead of the MC input of my phono stage I saw what people talked about. A good, neutral cartridge. I also bought a Grado Statement 3, and have found it the most confusing buy so far. I have played with loading via a Musical Fidelity NuVista Vinyl and can make it sound sort of good, but not like something that belongs alongside the Epoch 3 in their Lineage Series. I'm thinking that despite its high output, I should try it through the SUT too, and just turn the amp way down.
I currently run four tonearms (Decca Reference, Benz LP-S, Benz Ruby 3 mono conversion and the MP-500). The MP-500 is on an SME M10/309 with a replaceable headshell, and I have three alternatives: the Sussurro, the Statement 3 and a Kontrapunkt C mounted on headshells. I am planning to put the Grado in at some point soon and play with the SUT option.
But if you are looking at buying an MP-500, I have to say it is an excellent cartridge, especially for the price. It outperforms most cheaper MC cartridges in my view, and does so without you having to buy a new phono stage that can take an MC.
Many thanks
 

Dogberry

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Aug 24, 2022
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A further breadcrumb from Stewart:
I was introduced to Decca in 1972 and have had many over the years. When I had heard the company was going to close It took about three days of conversation with John and I bought the company. While it hasn’t been without trails it has been worth every minute. The biggest issue is the lead time to have the parts built. Every part is custom made and I refuse to cut corners. After all this brand is more than one of the finest cartridges every made its a passion for all of us.
 

mtemur

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Mar 26, 2019
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I have never had any grounding issues with it, nor any mistracking. I used it for years on an SME Series V with the damping trough, but right now it is working just as well on a Series IV with no damping. I hope others have the chance to experience this cartridge again, as it is a bloody marvel!
Mistracking is usually associated with tonearm than cartridge. I can say that I have never seen a SME V mistracks and I have seen plenty over the years. Most probably same is true for SME IV.

I never used damping on those tonearms because it is unnecessary and killing dynamics, details etc. IMHO damping may only be necessary with very compliant cartridge. The last time I used damping was on 3009 series III now I wouldn’t do that.
 

Reimarc

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Feb 21, 2024
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I have an urgent question for members of this forum who have experience with the venerable London Reference cartridge and have compared them to current state-of-the-art MCs. I am currently using an Audiotechnica ART-1000 and am very happy with it. So happy in fact, that I just sold my dear and tried Benz LP-S. I was intrigued by the technical aspects of the ART-1000, trying to revive and better the old Victor design, or even more comprehensively: revive the original Neumann idea of mounting the electrical transducer (e.g. the coils) directly above the stylus, thus mimicking the disc-cutting geometry, and avoiding fulcrum-dampening of a regular MC stylus. Well, I have to say: the ART-1000 delivers in all aspects, but especially in the rhythm domain. Paired with my Lenco-revival PTP Audio TT and my uni-pivot Woody tonearm, this cartridge really delivers foot-tapping drive and very clear and well delineated performers on their respective wide-open stages.
But of course you all know how it is: while researching the design history of the Neumann geometry, I came across the London (DECCA) cartridge design ("direct tracking") and its enthusiastic following among audiophiles. The enthusiasm about the top-of -the-line London Reference seems to be as close to the Holy Grail of music reproduction as I have ever read in reviews of audio-fora, including this one.
My question below is based on an offer to buy a factory-new (John Wright) Reference (quite possibly the last one out there), while at the same time I am packing my suitcase for a trip to Japan, where I intend to purchase a ZYX Ex-Dynamic (taking advantage of the favorable exchange rate right now). In other words, I have the London Reference purchase on hold for now, which brings me to my question (sorry for the long-and-winding-road leading to this): In your experience with the Reference and other top-notch MCs (e.g. ZYX), is there another cartridge that you would prefer over the Reference? For example, I hear good things about the AirTight PC-100, but reading into the reviews I feel I had the same qualities in my Benz LP-S, which I happily exchanged for the ART-1000. What strikes me especially about all the descriptions of the London Reference ist its "naturalness", "realism" and "in-the-flesh" reproduction. I feel that my ART-1000 points into the same direction, but the reference seems still in another league. But: could I find another cartridge, preferably an MC, while browsing through the stores of Akihabara, which I personally might have never heard of, but which might bring me close to the Reference without having to put up with its obvious idiosyncrasies. Also, if you had the opportunity to listen to an ART-1000, what was YOUR impression? Or could you even compare the ART-1000 with a London Reference at one point?
Sorry for this long question, but I am really curious where I should place my investment most effectively, which means most enjoyably: thank you for your comments!
 

Dogberry

Active Member
Aug 24, 2022
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I have not heard the ART-1000, but I do have a Reference and an LP-S. The Benz, when I first had it, I thought might have had the edge over the Decca, but eventually I realised I was being beguiled by the warm and friendly Benz house sound. I keep the Benz mounted and use it regularly, but mostly to prolong the life of the Decca. To that end, I also keep an MP-500 mounted for first plays of new-to-me disks. The MP-500 actually has a lot of the qualities of the Reference - speed and foot-tapping rhythm, but is a little generous with the bass compared to the Reference, and I keep a mono-converted BM Ruby 3 for mono recordings, and again to spare the Reference. Of course now that londondecca.com have taken over servicing of these cartridges there is no need for me to be so stingy with using it. I have had the Reference for 13 years with absolutely no desire for any other cartridge until I thought it was going for its last re-tip just before John retired. That what led me into the frenzy of trying to find something as good. It still sounds "right" to me, the way the music is supposed to sound. Perhaps that's just familiarity and being used to it.
You mention "obvious idiosyncrasies" but this is not like the flimsy Deccas of old. It has a solid metal body and is potted internally. I have never had any hum or mistracking with it. It has always been used on an SME V (damped) or an SME IV (undamped) and I can't say it is better on one or the other. The one thing that everyone "knows" about Deccas is that they hum and mistrack and they will tell you it is a terrible cartridge. But they don't own one or maybe they had a Gold or a Maroon back in the 60's. If you can afford the Reference (and it is cheap compared to some of the cartridges discussed here) you should give it a try, but be prepared to lose your heart to it. I would love to hear the ART-1000 as it seems to be an attempt to remove the so-called 'cantilever haze' by another means, and it might be as good or better than a Decca. I can't say, but I appreciate someone trying.

Chris
 

Bergm@nn

Member
Aug 14, 2021
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I have an urgent question for members of this forum who have experience with the venerable London Reference cartridge and have compared them to current state-of-the-art MCs. I am currently using an Audiotechnica ART-1000 and am very happy with it. So happy in fact, that I just sold my dear and tried Benz LP-S. I was intrigued by the technical aspects of the ART-1000, trying to revive and better the old Victor design, or even more comprehensively: revive the original Neumann idea of mounting the electrical transducer (e.g. the coils) directly above the stylus, thus mimicking the disc-cutting geometry, and avoiding fulcrum-dampening of a regular MC stylus. Well, I have to say: the ART-1000 delivers in all aspects, but especially in the rhythm domain. Paired with my Lenco-revival PTP Audio TT and my uni-pivot Woody tonearm, this cartridge really delivers foot-tapping drive and very clear and well delineated performers on their respective wide-open stages.
But of course you all know how it is: while researching the design history of the Neumann geometry, I came across the London (DECCA) cartridge design ("direct tracking") and its enthusiastic following among audiophiles. The enthusiasm about the top-of -the-line London Reference seems to be as close to the Holy Grail of music reproduction as I have ever read in reviews of audio-fora, including this one.
My question below is based on an offer to buy a factory-new (John Wright) Reference (quite possibly the last one out there), while at the same time I am packing my suitcase for a trip to Japan, where I intend to purchase a ZYX Ex-Dynamic (taking advantage of the favorable exchange rate right now). In other words, I have the London Reference purchase on hold for now, which brings me to my question (sorry for the long-and-winding-road leading to this): In your experience with the Reference and other top-notch MCs (e.g. ZYX), is there another cartridge that you would prefer over the Reference? For example, I hear good things about the AirTight PC-100, but reading into the reviews I feel I had the same qualities in my Benz LP-S, which I happily exchanged for the ART-1000. What strikes me especially about all the descriptions of the London Reference ist its "naturalness", "realism" and "in-the-flesh" reproduction. I feel that my ART-1000 points into the same direction, but the reference seems still in another league. But: could I find another cartridge, preferably an MC, while browsing through the stores of Akihabara, which I personally might have never heard of, but which might bring me close to the Reference without having to put up with its obvious idiosyncrasies. Also, if you had the opportunity to listen to an ART-1000, what was YOUR impression? Or could you even compare the ART-1000 with a London Reference at one point?
Sorry for this long question, but I am really curious where I should place my investment most effectively, which means most enjoyably: thank you for your comments!

Well the answer to your questions involves a bit of 'it depends'.

Reviews can be useful to some extent but of course include a whole heap of variables that can make them then difficult to translate into practical use. Different equipment, different music, different tastes and so on. So helpful to a point but to state the obvious - nothing beats hearing it for yourself in your own room, appreciating that this can be difficult to achieve with cartridges.

I'll qualify my comments as entirely subjective. I happen to like hearing music reproduced with a dynamic sound, almost palpable portrayal of instruments and voices, with an almost 'live' quality. I'm less interested in pin point sound-staging and other features that tend to come with a modern 'hifi' sound.

I also have an ART-1000! I love what it does in terms of giving a bit of that live feel without feeling forced. I also find it a pretty even performer top to bottom. For the money, whilst its not cheap, it is very capable and maybe if was under a brand name deemed more exotic then they could ask more for it.

Whilst I've not heard a Decca in the same system at the same time as the ART-1000, I have heard a number of them over the years and they definitely left a strong impression. If you like that live, almost electric, exciting sound then you'll love a Decca. Everything sounds just more real somehow and they really drive music along in an entertaining way.

Now comes the judgement, which is always going to be a personal one given how subjective preferences can be in how we like to hear music presented to us. For me the Decca is an ideal second cartridge on another arm set up. Its just not something I could live with every album and every day - maybe an example of too much of a good thing. For longer listening sessions then I'd look elsewhere and for me the ART-1000 (and a few others too) would fit that bill better than the Decca.

But for that one exciting album listen through the Decca there's little out there to match it at what it does best.
 
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Argonaut

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Sorry for this long question, but I am really curious where I should place my investment most effectively, which means most enjoyably: thank you for your comments!

I don’t recall you mentioning a finite budget for your project ? , therefore I would recommend that you also take a look at a DaVa FC-A1 field coil cartridge , which demonstrates several of the sound profile traits to which you make reference .

 
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bonzo75

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I have an urgent question for members of this forum who have experience with the venerable London Reference cartridge and have compared them to current state-of-the-art MCs. I am currently using an Audiotechnica ART-1000 and am very happy with it. So happy in fact, that I just sold my dear and tried Benz LP-S. I was intrigued by the technical aspects of the ART-1000, trying to revive and better the old Victor design, or even more comprehensively: revive the original Neumann idea of mounting the electrical transducer (e.g. the coils) directly above the stylus, thus mimicking the disc-cutting geometry, and avoiding fulcrum-dampening of a regular MC stylus. Well, I have to say: the ART-1000 delivers in all aspects, but especially in the rhythm domain. Paired with my Lenco-revival PTP Audio TT and my uni-pivot Woody tonearm, this cartridge really delivers foot-tapping drive and very clear and well delineated performers on their respective wide-open stages.
But of course you all know how it is: while researching the design history of the Neumann geometry, I came across the London (DECCA) cartridge design ("direct tracking") and its enthusiastic following among audiophiles. The enthusiasm about the top-of -the-line London Reference seems to be as close to the Holy Grail of music reproduction as I have ever read in reviews of audio-fora, including this one.
My question below is based on an offer to buy a factory-new (John Wright) Reference (quite possibly the last one out there), while at the same time I am packing my suitcase for a trip to Japan, where I intend to purchase a ZYX Ex-Dynamic (taking advantage of the favorable exchange rate right now). In other words, I have the London Reference purchase on hold for now, which brings me to my question (sorry for the long-and-winding-road leading to this): In your experience with the Reference and other top-notch MCs (e.g. ZYX), is there another cartridge that you would prefer over the Reference? For example, I hear good things about the AirTight PC-100, but reading into the reviews I feel I had the same qualities in my Benz LP-S, which I happily exchanged for the ART-1000. What strikes me especially about all the descriptions of the London Reference ist its "naturalness", "realism" and "in-the-flesh" reproduction. I feel that my ART-1000 points into the same direction, but the reference seems still in another league. But: could I find another cartridge, preferably an MC, while browsing through the stores of Akihabara, which I personally might have never heard of, but which might bring me close to the Reference without having to put up with its obvious idiosyncrasies. Also, if you had the opportunity to listen to an ART-1000, what was YOUR impression? Or could you even compare the ART-1000 with a London Reference at one point?
Sorry for this long question, but I am really curious where I should place my investment most effectively, which means most enjoyably: thank you for your comments!

i heard decca London reference regularly for around 5 years at a local friend’s who had it on the FR 66s. He also had a couple of Koetsus including the jade diamond, some SPUs, and we tried the etsuro Bordeaux and the AN field coil in his system on a brief demo.

the decca was sonically the best in his system but broke regularly, and had to be set up perfectly else would have tracking issues or sound bright. Ultimately it broke too many times and he now stopped using it.

if you wanted an exciting musical cartridge get the Dava field coil.

i have heard Art 1000 many times and compared it to Lyra atlas. It is good but not great.
 
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Dogberry

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@bonzo75 "broke"? How so? I've had mine since 2011, and apart from expected servicing it has not broken once. And I'm quite certain I'm not an expert at setting up a cartridge but I don't suffer any mis-tracking. Maybe your friend's tonearm wasn't suited to it?

Chris
 

bonzo75

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@bonzo75 "broke"? How so? I've had mine since 2011, and apart from expected servicing it has not broken once. And I'm quite certain I'm not an expert at setting up a cartridge but I don't suffer any mis-tracking. Maybe your friend's tonearm wasn't suited to it?

Chris

no idea how. From what I understand FR in pivots and linear trackers are best suited to decca. Maybe it happened because he swapped cartridges often or changed settings more than you did.
 

Reimarc

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Feb 21, 2024
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I don’t recall you mentioning a finite budget for your project ? , therefore I would recommend that you also take a look at a DaVa FC-A1 field coil cartridge , which demonstrates several of the sound profile traits to which you make reference .

Thanks for your recommendation: I looked at the site and Googled the cartridge. I am not sure I understand how it works, as apparently there is a sort of power supply involved (?). Also, it seems everyone uses it with an SUT. I am no longer a fan of SUTs and sold my EMIA last year. My SUPRATEK Grange has an active phono stage, and I can dial in resistance loadings from 20Ohms to 10KOhms. Why would I need a SUT? I guess that's for folks who have only 47KOhms available? I also noted 2 FC-A1 cartridges for sale on USAudiomart, and I asked one of the sellers why he is selling, if it's such a great cartridge: no response yet, but maybe he is upgrading to the DaVa Reference. Are you happy with yours?
 

Reimarc

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Thanks for your recommendation: I looked at the site and Googled the cartridge. I am not sure I understand how it works, as apparently there is a sort of power supply involved (?). Also, it seems everyone uses it with an SUT. I am no longer a fan of SUTs and sold my EMIA last year. My SUPRATEK Grange has an active phono stage, and I can dial in resistance loadings from 20Ohms to 10KOhms. Why would I need a SUT? I guess that's for folks who have only 47KOhms available? I also noted 2 FC-A1 cartridges for sale on USAudiomart, and I asked one of the sellers why he is selling, if it's such a great cartridge: no response yet, but maybe he is upgrading to the DaVa Reference. Are you happy with yours?
I re-read the DaVa description and feel I understand now why it needs its own power supply (and two extra wires to the cartridge: the magnets are actually electro-magnets, not metal magnets (as in AlNiCo or any rare earth variety). Interesting concept; however, it makes me wonder about total mass, especially since it is concentrated around the tip of the cartridge. But hey: the proof is in the listening, and when so many of you feel that this cartridge combines the performance of the legendary Neumann without all of its draw-backs, so be it. I might have to give it a listening one day. I looked at the pictures of the DaVa and it seems the coils are right on top of the stylus, perpendicular to the cantilever axis, and look more or less identical to those of my ART-1000. I sense there might be a patent issue here, as Audio Technika makes a big deal about this configuration in their patent (especially their round air-coils vs. Neumann's triangular ones). So, my logical question would be: how can an active electro magnet outperform an AlNiCo in terms of sonic results, unless there would be a kind of feed-back from the PSU to adjust field strengths in response to grove modulation in real time. That would indeed be an engineering marvel, but I don't think this is what makes the DaVa sound so special. My very similar ART-1000 checks off all the critical points in my opinion and is very enjoyable: I would love to hear it in direct comparison to the DaVa, or the London Reference, or an Air Tight, ZYX, etc.
 

bonzo75

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I would love to hear it in direct comparison to the DaVa, or the London Reference, or an Air Tight, ZYX, etc.
I have heard and compared the Opus to other cats, Zyx upto universe premium level, and the decca London. Dava is quite an unique and exciting cart. You mentioned you saw two A1s being sold. There were 120 buyers as of last year’s January (2023, not 2024) even there was a one year wait time and orders were not being taken from October 2022 - May 2023 to go through the backlog. As to why people sell, it could be to upgrade to reference, or simply because some don’t want to take the pain on installing. Some like an easy fit cartridge, while here with the wires on the tonearm you have to tune it more than the regular non field coil cart.

the thread you were linked to is over 3 years long. Surely you could not have finished it already, you will see that there are a number of users with other cartridge compares, and various music and gear tastes.

it is heavy, but this year he is coming out with a 14g diamond micro ridge stylus that is medium compliance.

the Dava does not sound anything like the Neumann. It is that Darius was a leading retipper of Neumann. In fact Stefano Bertoncello of two good ears who owns different Neumann carts and their clones (and now Dava as well) used to recommend Darius for fixing Neumanns.
 

Bergm@nn

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Aug 14, 2021
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I re-read the DaVa description and feel I understand now why it needs its own power supply (and two extra wires to the cartridge: the magnets are actually electro-magnets, not metal magnets (as in AlNiCo or any rare earth variety). Interesting concept; however, it makes me wonder about total mass, especially since it is concentrated around the tip of the cartridge. But hey: the proof is in the listening, and when so many of you feel that this cartridge combines the performance of the legendary Neumann without all of its draw-backs, so be it. I might have to give it a listening one day. I looked at the pictures of the DaVa and it seems the coils are right on top of the stylus, perpendicular to the cantilever axis, and look more or less identical to those of my ART-1000. I sense there might be a patent issue here, as Audio Technika makes a big deal about this configuration in their patent (especially their round air-coils vs. Neumann's triangular ones). So, my logical question would be: how can an active electro magnet outperform an AlNiCo in terms of sonic results, unless there would be a kind of feed-back from the PSU to adjust field strengths in response to grove modulation in real time. That would indeed be an engineering marvel, but I don't think this is what makes the DaVa sound so special. My very similar ART-1000 checks off all the critical points in my opinion and is very enjoyable: I would love to hear it in direct comparison to the DaVa, or the London Reference, or an Air Tight, ZYX, etc.

Given that all those cartridges you mention sound very different to each other I think this is one of those moments where there is no substitute for first hand experience. Ideally it would be good if you could get opportunity to have a listen for yourself before deciding.

Enthusiastic recommendations are all well and good but less so if your taste differs markedly from the person providing them. I don't tend to believe in absolutes in audio and cartridges especially are a personal and subjective matter of preference.
 
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mtemur

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I don’t think you need to change the cartridge. I rather think you need to enter the world of SUT+MM tube phono stages. If you don’t want to deal with tubes or SUTs you can try not great but ok sounding CH Precision P1 or other phono stages with current mode. Your AT-1000 cartridge has low enough impedance to benefit from current amplification.

Second important thing is perfect setup of turntable, tonearm and cartridge. Many times I heard how sound changes with perfect alignment or misalignment. Benz LP-S, AT-1000, top Air Tight, Lyra are all good cartridges. Probably DaVa is as good or better than those. I haven’t put my hands on it yet. You can extend this list. For example MSL.

A person can live with one cartridge and one alignment or 100 different alignments thinking that he knows the sound signature of the cartridge but he doesn’t. It can be 100 wrong alignments. There is no perfect alignment in 30 minutes or swapping headshells while keeping perfect alignment. Over the years I witnessed lots of times sound signature and preference flipped for cartridges after a good alignment. So, what makes a cartridge great, better than the others? There is no short answer to this question but a great cartridge should have boron or better cantilever and micro ridge or equivalent modern stylus. Of course there are exceptions but you can narrow your search with this.
 
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Bergm@nn

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Aug 14, 2021
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i have heard Art 1000 many times and compared it to Lyra atlas. It is good but not great.

FWVLIW I've owned both of those carts and for my ears and in my set up the ART-1000 was significantly better.

Audio Technica have probably sold a decent number of ART-1000s and its interesting that you rarely see one on the second hand market*. Maybe this indicates that a. they're happy with its performance, and b. it performs well enough to not be upgraded from?

*Update: Typical - I've just looked and there are 3 available within the UK but these are ex-demo dealer reduced.
 
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Reimarc

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I would love to get in line with Darius for a DaVa Reference + power supply. Unfortunately, I cannot find any contact information. One person gave me a contact already, but I have lost it. So, here it is again: I need the contact info for Darius for a DaVa Reference order, please. BTW: I am going to Japan in two weeks and will probably come back with a ViV Rigid Float tonearm. There is a following for this highly iconoclastic arm describing it with similar enthusiasm like the folks on this thread for the DaVa. I wonder if the two will make for a match made in heaven.
 

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