There still are many good cartridges available on the market that will
suit the precision close tolerance, low-medium mass arm of
SL-1200 very well. Some of the top cartridge manufacturers
include Audio Technica, Goldring, Ortofon, and Shure.
Remember to completely avoid cartridges intended for DJ use -
with spherical stylus tips that have very high tracking weights of over
3 grams. For hi-fi use only cartridges that employ
elliptical, or the more expensive fine-line, tips should really be
considered. Tracking weight should be around 1.5 to 2.0 grams.
The cartridge I use is the Audio Technica AT120E/T
which provides really superb performance at reasonable cost. I
recommend this cartridge very highly. It takes about fifty hours of
playing to run-in and perform at its best. From that point the finesse,
scale, presence, detail and sheer musical enjoyment is quite
staggering. Just as pleasing is that it does not cost a fortune.
Another fine cartridge choice could well be one of the excellent
Ortofon Super OM series (reported as discontinued) or the newer Ortofon
2M range such as the 2M Red. It is a
newer European design that has received many favourable reviews.
Read Felix Scerri's review on this site here.
The 2M series were
developed in conjunction with Danish designer Møller Jensen
Design. The 2M series of cartridges feature Ortofon’s trademark split
pole pins, an invention which enables moving magnet cartridges to have
a flat frequency response, as with a moving coil cartridge.
pole pins were invented by Ortofon, and were originally presented in
the 500 series and Super OM series. The 2M Red uses an improved
engine, which provides an increased output of 5.5mV. 2M red features a
tipped elliptical diamond.
|Ortofon 2M Red specifications:
Output voltage at 1000 Hz, 5cm/sec. 5,5 mV
Tracking force range 1,6-2,0g (16-20 mN)
Tracking force, recommended 1,8 g (18 mN)
Frequency range at - 3dB 20-22.000 Hz
Frequency response 20-20.000 Hz + 3 / - 1 dB
Channel separation at 1 kHz 22 dB
Channel separation at 15 kHz 15 dB
Channel balance at 1 kHz 1,5 dB
Tracking ability at 315Hz at recommended
tracking force 70 µm
Compliance, dynamic, lateral 20 µm/mN
Stylus type Elliptical
Stylus tip radius r/R 8/18 µm
Tracking angle 20°
Internal impedance, DC resistance 1,3 kOhm
Internal inductance 700 mH
Recommended load resistance 47 kOhm
Recommended load capacitance 150-300 pF
Cartridge weight 7,2 g
features a high efficiency, para-toroidal coil assembly and
dual magnet stylus assembly. It borrows many of the superlative
features of our top of the line models. The body is of high-density,
resonance free construction. The main difference from the AT125LC is in
the stylus assembly, an elliptical stylus on a straight pipe cantilever
instead of the tapered pipe. While inheriting the outstanding clarity
and minimised crosstalk of its more sophisticated mentors, a special
characteristic of the AT120E is its dynamic reproduction."
|Audio Technica AT120E/T
Stylus Shape: 0.3 x 0.7mil BiRadial (Elliptical) NUDE
Replacement stylus assembly: ATN120E
Cantilever: Thin wall tube
Tracking Force: 1.0 - 1.8g
Output Level: 5mV @ 5cm/sec. @ 1Khz
Frequency Range:15 - 25Khz
Load Impedance:47K ohm
Load Capacitance:100-200 pF
Channel Balance:1.0 dB
Channel Separation:29dB @ 1Khz & 20dB @ 10Khz
Cartridge Weight: 6.5 grams
To obtain the best performance from any cartridge it must be very
accurately and precisely aligned according to the geometry requirements
of the arm and turntable. See
The great advantage of turntables, such as the Technics SL-1210, is that its arm has a
removable headshell. Users could buy additional headshells
in which to mount alternative cartridges. Headshells
SL1200 series turntables are readily available and fitting a new
cartridge into one avoids the necessity of disturbing the sensitive
alignment of the existing cartridge – just carefully remove
first headshell and replace it with the second and re-balance the
arm. It would be a good way of comparing two cartridges with
minimum of fuss.
Without spending enormous amounts of money on a cartridge some of the
obvious choices might be:
||Audio Technica AT95E:
A budget cartridge with good sound quality that easily
accommodated and has a reasonable 4mV output. 0.0004" x 0.0007" stylus.
Larger photo (£36 approx in 2011) http://www.coolgales.com The
humble Audio Technica AT95E is a cartridge that has been around for
decades. It's a very musically enjoyable cartridge, although it took
quite a while to get used to a cartridge tracking at 2 grams, but it
sure does sound very endearing to me! The AT95E has a 'musical' quality
about it that the Shure M97xE doesn't and it does seem to mate very
nicely with the ESP P06 pre-amp.
||Audio Technica AT110E:
A budget cartridge with very good sound quality that easily
accommodated. With a 4mV output and 0.0004" x 0.0007" elliptical
(£30 approx in 2007)
Discontinued. See AT120E/T
||Audio Technica AT120E/T:
Highly regarded, smooth and sweet. Good 5mV output - a very
competitive price. Tracks extremely well. 0.0003" x 0.0007" (0.3 mil x
0.7 mil) stylus tip. (£79.00
approx in 2011).
lively and quite bright, but the overall
enjoyment is superb. http://www.coolgales.com
||Audio Technica AT440MLa:
High class cartridge with fine line stylus tip and reasonable 4mV
output. 0.00012" (0.12 mil) nude micro linear
stylus. (£159.00 approx in 2011).
(I did receive a report about an
AT440MLa that was rather sensitive to hum pick-up, but apparently this
particular cart' was from a faulty batch and subsequent manufacturing
runs are completely
faultless. Excellent! Read
||Ortofon 2M Red and Ortofon 2M Blue:
Brand new high quality cartridges released by Ortofon in 2007 which
shows great commitment to analogue replay by Ortofon. The cartridges
have high specifications, 5.5mV output; 1.6 to 2.0g tracking force;
0.0003" x 0.0007" elliptical stylus tip (Red), 0.0003" x
0.0007" nude elliptical stylus tip (Blue). Highly recommended.
Review by Felix Scerri
here > 2M Red approx £79.00 in 2011 2M Blue
£155.00 in 2011. http://www.coolgales.com
||Ortofon OM5E: 4mV
output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" stylus tip. The Ortofon
SuperOM series is
highly recommended by our reader Felix Scerri.
The OM5E is a lower spec OM5E
version which is available at a very competitive price of around
||Ortofon Super OM10: 4mV
output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" stylus tip. The Ortofon
SuperOM series is
highly recommended by our reader Felix Scerri. Each Super
can be upgraded by replacing the stylus with a higher model in the
range. i.e. if you have a Super OM10 it can be upgraded to a Super
OM20, OM30 or OM40 by simply installing the appropriate Super
stylus. (£80.00 approx) Also consider the lower spec OM5E
version which is available at around £49.00 (2011).
Also see 2M Red. http://www.coolgales.com
||Ortofon Super OM20: 4mV output. 0.0003" x 0.0007"
stylus tip. The
Ortofon SuperOM series is highly recommended by our reader Felix
Scerri. Each Super OM cartridge can be upgraded by
replacing the stylus
with a higher model in the range. i.e. if you have a Super OM20 it can
be upgraded to a Super OM30 or OM40 by simply installing the
Also consider the
lower spec OM5E Budget version which is available at around
Also see 2M Red http://www.coolgales.com
||Ortofon 510 MkII:
3mV output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" stylus tip. (£50
approx in 2007)
||Ortofon 520 MkII: 3mV
output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" stylus tip. (£90 approx in 2007)
Budget cartridge, but apparently has a clear and solid sound. provides
a good 5mV output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" elliptical
stylus. (£50.00 approx*). The Elektra seems to have become a
bit of a classic favourite in budget cartridges and a veritable bargain.
Goldring 2000 Series
Cartridges. A newer range of Goldring high quality moving magnet
cartridges. Starting at the 2100 (approx £95.00*), 2200 (approx
£110.00*), 2300 (approx £170.00*), 2400 (approx
£190.00*), 2500 (approx £225.00*). Could be worth
A highly regarded cartridge offering excellent value for money and with
a very healthy 6mV output. Elliptical stylus. (£126
approx*). (older range) http://www.coolgales.com
Very highly regarded cartridge with Gyger II (fine line) stylus tip and
a very healthy 6mV
output (£185 approx*) (older range) http://www.coolgales.com
specified cartridge with reasonable 4mV output. The latest in
long line of Shure
cartridges, but is it up to the standards of their
previous V15 line of cartriges? 0.0002" x 0.0007" stylus tip.
Could be well worth a listen:
Felix Scerri observes: Some love it and some hate it. One
of the regular forum member on AudioKarma ‘Jrtrent’, actually
emailed Shure about the rationale behind the design of the M97xE and
this was the official response he received:
"I am the Shure historian. The "x" versions were created because of
remarks from influential audio critics. The original V15V-MR was
considered "harsh" sounding in the high end, and sales suffered because
of the critics' comments. The "x" versions were engineered to soften the
high end of the V15V and the M97. This design was not used in the M92E
or DJ models. The "x" was not a cost reduction or a quality reduction."
So, the M97xE and the V15VxMR were ‘designed’ to have a softened high
end and a more ‘musical’ sound, the so called Shure ‘Audiophile’
response curve. The trouble is that being a high inductance cartridge,
excessive load capacitance will quickly roll off the upper treble,
making it sound rather dull. With the ‘right’ level of overall
load (shunt) capacitance around 250 picofarads, the M97Xe sounds as was
intended by Shure, and if one wants a more linear upper treble
increasing the phono stage input resistance (as I do to 62 k along with
low shunt capacitance), will achieve that nicely.
Felix Scerri vk4fuq. 240912.
||Grado Prestige Black or Green:
A good 5mV output. (£59.00 and £75.00 in 2011)
||Grado Prestige Blue or Red:
A good 5mV output. (£85.00 and £95.00 in 2011)
THE 'RED ED' - A Cartridge For Budget Conscious Vinyl Lovers:
The Red Ed from Ed Saunders is available in conical and elliptical
versions, they seem to be OEM versions of the Goldring Elan and
Elektra! Made OEM by Audio Tecnica (?) - Worth a look here: http://www.edsaunders.com/reded.htm
Most cartridges are
available from the huge range at Cool Gales: http://www.coolgales.com
Audio Technica: http://www.audio-technica.com
Ortofon 2M Series: http://www.ortofon2m.com/
Ortofon Super OM
Ortofon apparently discontinued its acclaimed range of Super OM
cartridges around 2008. The natural replacment being the 2M range
cartridges. In June 2011, however, Felix Scerri noticed that his
favourite cartridges were one again available for purchase.
Felix noted: "....after being
officially deleted a while back in favour of the 2M series, I've been
advised that due to popular demand the Ortofon Super OM cartridge
series is once again available (at least in Germany and possibly
elsewhere). The Ortofon website doesn't show them, yet they do in
the 'product' range. I'm glad, as they are a very fine cartridge!
Perhaps the 2M range has not worked out as well as expected. With
the Super OM series only the stylus was different, not so with the 2M
series, possibly a mistake all things considered!" See
Super OM range here: http://www.audiotra.de
Many of the popular styli that will be encountered will have an
elliptical shape. Some more expensive styli will have more
shapes such as the 'fine line' profile. Elliptical styli may typically
have measurements from 0.0002" to 0.0004" on the short axis
0.0007" on the long axis.
The finer the profile of the tip, the deeper the it can reach into the
record groove and therefore extract the maximum possible amount of
The measurements given by different manufacturers can be confusing as
some use imperial units such as mil or inches others use metric units
such as millimetres or microns.
Here are some handy conversion notes:
A mil is one thousandth of an inch i.e. 0.001" A mil is is sometimes
called a thou. The term thou is often used so as not to be confused
with the shorthand term that is sometime used for a millimetre - 'mil'
A µm is a micron and is one thousandth of a millimetre i.e.
0.001mm. Strictly speaking the word micron should not be used any more,
preferred word now being micrometer. A micrometer, micron,
is a millionth of a metre.
between metric and imperial:
To convert thou to metric multiply by 25.4. e.g.
0.001" x 25.4 = 0.0254mm (i.e. 24.5 microns)
To convert microns to imperial divide by 25.4. e.g.
0.008mm / 25.4 = 0.0003" (i.e. 0.3 mil, 0.3 thou)
A thousandth of an inch, 0.001" (mil) = 0.0254mm
i.e. 25.4 microns
A thousandth of a millimetre, 0.001mm (micron) =
Technica give the stylus measurements of their AT120E/T as 0.3mil x
0.7mil This is the same as 0.0003" x 0.0007" in imperial. Converting
metric gives 8µm x 18µm which is the same as saying
micrometers (microns) x 18 micrometers (microns) i.e. 0.008mm x 0.018mm
I hope that this is slightly clearer than mud
Alignment – Important for minimising distortion
The overhang measurement is the first critical setting – this
the distance of the stylus point away from the platter spindle (on the
opposite side of the spindle from the arm mount) when the arm is
positioned in such a way that the stylus point, the spindle and the
arm mounting point are all in a straight line. Sounds
– however Technics provide users of the SL-1200 series with a
cartridge alignment tool which makes to job very easy: Carefully remove
the headshell from the arm, put it in the little Technics tool and
align the stylus point with the mark on the tool. This will ensure that
the cartridge is positioned correctly in the headshell and
ensure the best tracking performance.
According to Technics once this has been set, then it's job done.
Cartridge alignment is always a compromise, since when a master record
is cut it is done so using a cutting head that moves in a straight line
from the outside edge towards the centre and, as we know, the arm of a
turntable will move the stylus in an arc across the record's surface
and therefore it cannot trace the original way the groove was cut
absolutely accurately, but if the cartridge is installed in the arm in
a way that complies with accepted standards then distortion can be held
to such a low level that it should be virtually inaudible.
If you are particularly pedantic then rather than rely on the Technics
tool, you could also align the chosen cartridge with a specialised
alignment protractor. I am assured that this is not
necessary, but it may be worth bearing in mind and I did align my
AT120E/T with a Baerwald gauge described below.
The cartridge can only be aligned so that it is parallel at two points
along this line known – these are known as the Null
The most commonly used pair of null points is 66mm and 120.89mm from
the centre, this is often referred to as The 'Baerwald' method.
There are other methods which use different null points, but
Baerwald seems to be the most widely used.
There are universal protractors available that will allow the
align a cartridge so that the cartridge body (and therefore cantilever)
will be tangential to the record groove at the two null points (in
essence the front face is absolutely parallel to the line drawn from
the centre of the record to the outside edge when the stylus point is
placed on the line.)
Such protractors will have a grid at each null point that allows
the user to align the cartridge body such that its sides are parallel
to the grid box. You can see an example below:
You can download such a protractor from www.vinylengine.com
for their amusingly titled “Stupid Protractor” on
This is downloaded as a PDF file and includes both the Baerwald
protractor with the 66 and 120.86mm null points and an additional
protractor using the Loefgren method which sets the null points at
70.29 and 116.6 mm. Ignore the Loefgren protractor, unless
are keen on experimentation and stick with the 66/120.89mm Baerwald
pair for now.
The protractor must be printed out absolutely accurately so that the
dimensions are as specified. When using Adobe Reader I have
that when going to 'FILE' > 'PRINT' look for the section called
'PAPER HANDLING' and next to 'PAGE SCALING' select
'NONE' from the drop down box.
Once the page has been printed out ensure that the line scale AA is
EXACTLY 180mm long, if it is not the protractor will be useless and you
will need to print it again. If possible get this page laminated in
plastic using a plastic laminating pouch and a heat-sealer.
may not own a heat sealer at home, but chances are that there will be
one at an office at work or a laminating service may be offered in a
local shop, such as a stationary store.
Laminating provides a nice shiny surface for the stylus point to
easily slip over – dragging a stylus over paper will cause it
and may cause damage to the very delicate assembly.
Once the page has been laminated, cut out the Baerwald part and (VERY)
accurately cut out the hole for the spindle. The best way is
suggested by Vinyl Engine – that is use a pin to pierce holes
around the edge of the circle and then push out the tiny circle of
paper – helped with a very sharp modelling knife.
Vinyl Engine notes that “the protractor has two grids and a
The aim is to obtain a perfect alignment with the two sets of lines and
the cartridge body.
First use the grid closest to the spindle hole. Put the cartridge in
the middle of the headshell; twist the cartridge clockwise or
anti-clockwise in order for you to observe the alignment with the grid.
When it’s right, go to the second grid.
If the cartridge must be rotated clockwise (or anti-clockwise) to be
aligned with the second grid, move the cartridge forwards (or
backwards) in the headshell, then go back to the first grid. Align the
cartridge and check with the second grid; repeat until alignment is
achieved at both points.”
If you buy your cartridge from Cool Gales in the UK they usually send
out a rather nice little combined balance and alignment gauge made by
Pro-ject. It's not as sophisticated as the above method, but
seems to work very well. Once you have installed your
you simply send the gauge/balance back to Cool Gales in the supplied
return envelope, or you can opt to keep it by paying them
a nominal sum of money. This is an example of thr really
excellent service from Ivan Kursar at Cool
Gales. Visit Cool Gales at http://www.coolgales.com
tool from Cool Gales
A very important aspect of vinyl replay is ensuring that the turntable
is absolutely level. Make sure that the turntable is sitting on a solid
shelf or cabinet and then use an ordinary but good
quality spirit level (make sure it's
clean and dust free though!) to ensure that the playing surface of the
record will be level, both front to back and side to side.
Technics have, very thoughtfully, fitted the SL-1200 with adjustable
feet (I keep telling you it's the best turntable). Other turntables
without this useful feature may need to be levelled by using some
suitable packing material underneath the feet.
There are special turntable spirit levels available such as The KAB
record clamp which has a built in spirit level bubble. The
clamp is also very useful for keeping records firmly positioned on the
turntable platter so minimising vibrations and resonances.
Once the cartridge has been correctly aligned in the headshell then the
height of the arm (if it is adjustable, as is the case with the
Technics SL-1200 of course) can be set so that the arm is parallel
surface of the record when playing a disc, or according to the
cartridge specifications. The arm height on the Technics
MkII can be set accurately and easily according to the height
the cartridge body using the well engineered adjustment ring at the
base of the arm.
The correct downforce will be provided in the specifications
provided by the cartridge manufacturer, and is usually given as a range
and an ideal force, for example “1.2 to 1.8 grams –
nominally 1.6 grams” Too much downforce will obviously cause
unnecessary record and stylus wear, while too little downforce will
also cause unnecessary wear as the stylus will not be able to trace the
groove modulations properly and will be bouncing about in the grooves
causing audible mis-tracking distortion while also damaging the
record. Generally the recommended tracking force will be
the top of the stated range.
Most tonearms, with the notable exception of the basic Rega and Rega
based arms, have calibrated tracking force markings on the
counterweight. Using these calibrated markings and following the
manufacturer's instructions provided with the turntable / arm will give
a rough idea of the tracking weight being applied to your stylus.
However it is important to set the tracking force very accurately and
thus can only be done really effectively with a downforce gauge such as
the Shure SFG-2 shown below:
The Shure SFG-2 Tracking Force Gauge is a very accurate
beam balance individually calibrated, displaying
readings in 0.05 gram increments to provide a precise measurement of
stylus tracking force between 0.5 to 3.0 grams.
Once the tracking force has been accurately set the correct Bias or
Anti-Skating force can be set
according to the manufacturers instructions.
and Phono Pre Amps
The output from the typical magnetic cartridge is
between 3mV and 6mV and therefore cannot be connected to an ordinary
Line Level input that would be used for a tuner, CD player or cassette
deck - such equipment will provide at least 150mV output. A
special input is
required for a turntable not only to provide more gain
(amplification) to make the tiny output from a cartridge usable, but
also to provide the necessary RIAA (Recording Industry
Association of America) equalisation curve that will provide the proper
audio frequency response.
|RIAA is the
Association of America which specifies an equalization curve that has
adopted as the de facto technical standard for the accurate
reproduction of vinyl records. This standard has been used since 1954.
The equalization is used to
not only maximise the sound quality but and also allow longer playback
times. Its purpose is to limit the
physical extremes that a stylus would have to endure if no equalisation
Essentially, when vinyl records are recorded the amount of
treble sounds are boosted by an exact specified amount (+20dB at
20kHz), while the amount of bass sounds
are reduced by an exact specified amount (-20dB at
When the record is played back and exact opposite of this filter curve
is used: The RIAA equalisation in the phono pre-amp will boost the bass
frequencies (+20dB at 20Hz) and cut the treble frequencies (-20dB at
20kHz). This improves reproduction of two counts; The reduction in
treble energy helps reduce surface noise while the reduction is bass
output is necessary because bass
frequencies modulate the record groove to a great extent (lots of
vibration). Without equalisation the cutter and the pick-up stylus
would find it difficult to function properly due to the great amounts
of stress created and cause mis-tracking and distortion during playback.
The RIAA playback
the diagram to the left the yellow line shows a representation of the
playback equalisation. A boost to the low frequencies below 1000 Hz and
a cut to the treble frequencies above 1000 Hz is the exact opposite
equalisation to that which is applied when records are pressed.
Those were the days
There was a time when nearly all
serious high fidelity amplifiers had a built in Phono Pre-amplification
stage, sadly this is no longer true and there are some manufacturers
that omit a
phono/turntable input. Marantz and Yamaha stereo amplifiers, for
example, do still
provide a turntable input whereas such an input is sadly missing from
If there is no turntable input on an amplifier then all is not
lost, the problem is
quite easily solved
by using a good quality external phono preamp which would then be
to one of the stereo amplifier's ordinary line inputs - e.g. the Aux
There are many external phono pre-amplifiers available. Some
fairly inexpensive and three reasonably good ones to consider might be:
I have used the Pro-ject Phono Box with quite good results, but I
imagine that the
Goldring PA1 and NAD PP2 should make reasonable alternatives. Ivan
Kursar at Cool Gales stocks a number of different models: http://www.coolgales.com
However a turntable as good as the Technics SL-1200 deserves the best
amplification possible and in this respect Graham Slee of Yorkshire,
England,design and hand build a number of high quality RIAA
pre-amps ranging from the reasonably priced to the more expensive. I
must add that I have not personally heard a Graham Slee preamp, but I
understand that they are very good. My intention, however, is to build
the very high quality RIAA preamp shown below. See
the Graham Slee website for more information about Graham Slee
Build Your Own High Quality Hi-Fi RIAA Phono Preamplifier
As you will discover when you build the project this could be the best
phono pre-amplifier you have heard.
For those with a little experience in
assembling electronic circuits
and who want to build their own extremely high quality RIAA phono
preamp, then a visit to The Audio Pages of Elliott Sound Products will
be very rewarding. Rod Elliott, who runs ESP, has designed an extremely
high quality preamp and publishes the details on his website: http://sound.westhost.com
The project concerned is the P06 which can be seen on this page: http://sound.westhost.com/project06.htm
For those wishing to build this preamp the best method is to
the P06 printed circuit board (PCB) from Rod Elliott, whereupon he will
also make available additional and invaluable instructions and advice
for its construction. You can read more in the green panel below.
My own high quality ESP phono preamplifier with inbuilt subsonic filter
I have built the ESP RIAA preamp and sub-sonic filter featured on Rod
Elliott's ESP website. The purpose made printed circuit boards are
available from the ESP website and buying
Rod's PCB's is the most reliable and most convenient way to complete a
project and it is only fair to put your business Rod's way too!
I have published the results of this project here. The components used
in the project should be of good quality but
some of the values can be a little tricky to find, so I have also
detailed the important components and provided links to the relevant
It must be
remembered that the input capacitance of a particular phono pre-amp can
have a significant effect on the sound achieved from a given
cartridge.. With too a low shunt capacitance the sound of a cartridge
may be too 'bright' - i.e. too much treble which could make the
resulting sound seem 'thin'. See ++ below:
about Pre-amps and Cartridge capacitance loading:
Rod Elliott's site is excellent! Rod is a genius, and his
site is amazing......"
good friend Felix Scerri from Queensland has provided us with two
excellent links and a few more thoughts:
"G'day Mike, I just had a look at your site and noticed the very
extensive stuff on vinyl. You see I'm a vinyl addict too, and have been
for many years. I've also written the odd article on vinyl myself. [You
can read the article 'Why I Still Listen To Vinyl' below.]
I tend to agree with you on the belt drive vs direct drive.
Years ago I had a very nice Dual direct drive turntable but it
developed a fault and died! My (two) remaining turntables are both belt
drive. One is a very solid AKAI unit from the early 1970's,
and the other a more recent, but still 1970's PYE belt drive
unit. They are both ok turntables although the PYE unit has a
rumble problem, since I changed the drive belt!
Interesting on the cartridges. I am a fan of the Ortofon
Super OM moving magnet cartridges series. You mention the
Shure M97XE. I have one of those, and in my opinion it has
been a big disappointment. It's not a bad cartridge, but very
bland and boring in sonic character, in my opinion. Being a relatively
high inductance cartridge, correct capacitive loading is very important
to brighten up the high frequencies. This site is quite
interesting reading. http://www.hagtech.com/loading.html
line now that the V15 series has been discontinued.
Personally, I don't think the M97XE does anything to enhance the Shure
cartridge reputation, sadly!
++ On the capacitance loading, it's a situation where the coil
inductance of the cartridge actually electrically 'resonates' (like a
tuned circuit) with the shunt capacitance of the preamp input cable and
other incidental capacitance in the input of the phono
Moving magnet cartridges often depend of the resonant 'lift' provided
by the resonant effect to boost the high end audio response .
Shure M7XE is such a cartridge! The fact that most (all?)
preamps designed for moving magnet cartridges are set at 47k
(resistive) input means that the resonant "peak" is quite well damped
and not too peaky. That value is actually well chosen, in my
When the shunt capacitance is simply too high, the effect is just
severe treble roll off, but just the right value of shunt capacitance,
as I mentioned before, "resonates" with the cartridge coil inductance
to nicely extend the high frequency response. This is why a
'range' of shunt capacitance is specified. Play around with
'calculator' on the Hagtech
site with different values of inductance
and capacitance and see what the effects on the audio frequency
I really love the Ortofon Super OM cartridges. They are very
lively, quick and dynamic sounding moving magnet cartridges.
Super OM range are very small and light and mate well with tonearms of
all weights. I don't know much about Grado's but I
that they are overrated. The Grado company have a very
'interesting' history. Did you know that some of their early
cartridges incorporated a pellet of exposed Radium, supposedly for
'static' removal. A very stupid and dangerous practice to
eyes, but perhaps back in the late 1950's they weren't too aware of the
dangers of radioactive contamination and ionising radiation
generally. I've got the feeling that the Grado company want
forget about that cartridge, as it's not mentioned in any of their
historical literature as far as I can see.++
The preamp stuff is very interesting. I have built my own,
the excellent Elliott Sound Products P06 phono preamp. It is
simply the best phono preamp I have ever heard, bar none, and so easy
to build. http://sound.westhost.com/project06.htm
Rod Elliott's site is excellent! Rod is a genius, and his
site is amazing (have you seen his (very) extensive article on
CFL's?). The P06 phono preamp is incredible. His
past active/ part passive equalisation is the key to its superb
performance. He does supply PCB's for quite a few of his
projects, although there is no obligation to use them. In
when I first stumbled on Rod's site, I built a quick lash up of his P06
phono preamp on a piece of single sided PCB material just to check its
performance, and I was very impressed! Then I bought his
PCB's. I've since built two P06 phono stages using his PCB's
along with two P88 preamps and several P05 and P05A power supplies, fed
by 16 VAC plug packs, and also a P99 sub bass filter. His
is very highly recommended (by me!).
Regards, Felix Scerri"
I very much
agree with Felix, Rod's ESP site is very absorbing and well worth a
visit. The P06 RIAA phono
preamp is especially interesting and I have built one for myself and
find it to be excellent. More
Filter: I was also particularly interested in the
quality P99 Subsonic Filter design that is published
ESP website; (http://sound.westhost.com/project99.htm).
I have found that I have a few records that seem to have been 'cut'
with some low level, but noticeable 'rumble' and others that are
slightly warped which
also produce some unwanted very low frequency output. Rod's subsonic
rumble filter design deals with this problem, and I
P99 circuit into my ESP P06 pre-amplifier. More
Super OM10 magnetic cartridge
"I really love the Ortofon Super OM
Here are some more fascinating thoughts from Felix:
STILL LISTEN TO VINYL (The thoughts of one vinyl addict!) By
I have always loved music and my passion for high fidelity has been a
long time obsession. In particular, I have long had a soft
for "vinyl" records, and in fact, my main stereo system, although
including "modern" program sources such as CD, DVD and FM tuner, is,
believe it or not, mostly geared towards "vinyl" playback.
Although I readily admit that "vinyl" playback has its limitations
(very obvious at times), I for one think that good old vinyl
recordings, when combined with a high quality playback system, can be
sonically wonderful. There are indeed many vinyl
throughout the world who continue to embrace and support this now
supposedly outdated and old fashioned recording and playback
medium. I am one of them. Even in the digital
is some grudging admission that in some respects anyway, ordinary CD's
"sampled" at the "industry standard" 44.1 KHz, are somewhat inferior to
vinyl, in terms of potential sonic resolution and detail. The
newish SACD's are an attempt to overcome these perceived limitations.
Regardless of "quality" arguments, in any case, why not have a good
playback system for vinyl, as there is still so much good music out
there on vinyl, that has never been released on CD. In fact,
of my favourite "spare time" activities is searching the second hand
shops and markets for rare gems on vinyl. My expanding
music vinyl collection is evidence of that! One of the nicest
things is that, "well preserved" vinyl albums can be purchased very
cheaply. Beware though, of records that have no inner
sleeve. I know of one particular second hand store who have
extensive vinyl collection, but alas, many of their records are without
plastic sleeves and are placed directly in cardboard covers, something
that causes many scratches, and is basically very destructive to vinyl
records overall. Be warned!
There is somewhat renewed interest in records as a result of CD
burners, and whilst this is admirable, this has led, to my mind anyway,
to somewhat unfortunate aspects. In particular, in recent
there has been a burgeoning market in "cheapish" turntables that look
quite good. Whilst these turntables are adequate for
quality vinyl playback, closer examination will show that they are not
suitable for really high quality playback, in my humble
In many cases, the "tonearm" assembly utilizes a cheap and nasty
"spring" counterweight mechanism, along with sloppy tonearm pivots and
rather heavy playing weights (around 3.5 grams), which is too high in
my opinion. My two cartridges track at a maximum of 1.5
grams. Any more than that leads to increased record
Also, the magnetic cartridges fitted to these turntables are also often
of mediocre quality, and cannot be changed.
However, sadly, these turntables may be the only really viable option,
as "real" high quality turntables, complete with good quality "arms",
and "cartridges", can be very, very expensive. A well made
turntable is a superb example of craftsmanship with unfortunately, a
price to match! Still, one could be lucky. I was
enough to purchase, second hand, a well made "PYE" turntable dating
from the late 1970's in almost "as new" condition. I
new drive belt and a new upgraded quality cartridge and away I
went. My feeling is that there are probably quite a few of
well made turntables out there that were put into storage when CD's
arrived, and could be put back into high quality playback service with
a minimum of effort and expense. Sadly, I also know of good
turntables that were thrown away (Ouch!).
High quality phono cartridges are still being made and just like the
turntables themselves, can be somewhat on the expensive side, however
good quality cartridges are "affordable", if not exactly
Fitting a cartridge to a headshell can be rather fiddly, involving
careful adjustment of "overhang" in order to minimise "tracking" error
and record wear. It's all "fun", but thankfully there is help
available. The internet is useful sometimes!
We're almost ready for "play", but there is the small matter of a phono
preamp. Many recent commercially made amplifiers no longer
include provision for vinyl playback and this presents a
For many years (since at least the 1950's, with some "variation") vinyl
recordings have been recorded in accordance with the long established
"RIAA" equalization curve which attenuates the bass frequencies and
boosts the audio frequencies above around 2 KHz, at a standard 6 db per
octave. Therefore, a phono preamp needs not only to provide
considerable voltage gain, but also "reverse" or "mirror" equalisation,
in order to provide a nominally "flat" audio response for feeding into
a "typical" line level input.
Actually, the subject of phono preamps is rather interesting, as it
requires a very good design to minimise noise and provide accurate
equalisation and good sonic performance. My personal
is that the phono preamp can have a very large bearing on the overall
"sound" quality of vinyl playback. Many of the cheaper
now available include an inbuilt "switchable" phono preamp, but these
tend to be of only average quality. I have built my own phono
preamp (the Rod Elliott P06 design), which is a very good and sonically
lovely design, utilising both active and passive
Some commercially made "outboard" designs can be, once again, very
expensive, and many "interesting" circuit designs abound.
I haven't even touched on the finer points of turntable installation,
such as optimal placement and record care etc etc. Perhaps
look at these things further if there is interest. As I noted
right at the beginning of this article, although I listen to other
sources as well, my great love is vinyl. I still get a kick
of watching the stylus tracking the record as I listen to the music
issue forth. It is perhaps the best and the worst thing about
purely "analog" playback system, that every "link" in the chain can
have an audible effect. As an example, my two best cartridges
the "moving magnet" type), are excellent cartridges, but each sound
rather "different", not to mention the sonic differences between phono
preamps themselves. All those subtleties aside, my ears tell
that high quality vinyl playback produces a sonic "character" that is
closest to the "real" thing. Of that, I'm quite
Regards Felix Scerri.
First published 19/2/05
Time For A
Once you have installed your amplifier, turntable and cartridge
correctly you will be almost ready to start playing your LP's. But read
this section first for best results: Cleaning
SL-1200 MkII >
Your Records >
Testament To The SL-1200 MkII >
More about cartridges & alignment >
Equipment Do I Need To Enjoy The SL-1200 MK2? >>
How To Digitize Your
Vinyl Records - i.e record music onto your computer >>
Of Page ^
Radio Pages >
Notes and Comments
Audio Technica AT440mla Cartridge -
Glenn Sadin Comments:
I thought you might appreciate some
the situation. During late 2007-early 2008, a batch of
left the factory with a shielding defect, which caused the cartridges
to hum, particularly as the tonearm moved towards the center of the
record (ie: over the motor). AT is aware of the problem and has fixed
it on the current production.
When I purchased my AT440Mla in May, it was one of the bad ones. I made
a quick phone call to AT and found it extremely easy to work with
AT’s service department. They shipped me a new replacement
cartridge within 24 hours of receiving the defective one. The
replacement is dead quiet, and performs fabulously with my SL-1200MK2.
I highly recommend the Audio Technica AT440Mla.
Lexington, Massachusetts USA
While visiting your website, I noticed a comment about the "hum"
problem associated with the Audio Technica AT440MLa
cartridge. While others had
same issue, it was more than likely caused by a defective batch of
cartridges. Those who
dealt with a
reputable retailer/distributor were able to return their cartridges and
were said to receive one that did not have the hum
problem. So with that said, the
AT440MLa is an
excellent cartridge, but be sure to buy it from a retailer who would be
able to replace it in the event of a defective one. (and here
thought that GRADO was the only cartridge with a "hum" problem
.......though GRADO says if there's a hum problem, it's the turntable,
not their cartridge that is the problem ....Yeah, right! .....Speak no
Grado, See no Grado, Hear no Grado).
A word of caution: for those out there who are buying such a
cartridge as "new-old stock" and "as is", be wary of the AT440MLa, as
any such inventory might be from this "defective
batch". Additionally, the
manufacturer may not
guarantee it if it wasn't purchased from an authorized (authorised)
retailer or distributor. On the
other hand, if
one is purchasing such a cartridge for less than the price of the
stylus (and for the stylus alone), then it might be a deal worth
Additionally, the AT440MLa
stylus (p/n ATN440MLa) will function in several other A-T cartridges,
such as their AT120E, AT125LC, AT130E, AT140LC (or ML), AT155LC (or
anything that cross-references to Pfanstiehl part number prefix "208").
......Added example of caution (and how it could pay off): I
personally purchased a batch of "new-old stock" inventory of "OEM"
brand cartridges made by Ortofon (branded as "Digitrac", model "200NE")
for $20 each (the styli alone were worth more, since the equivalent
Ortofon styli are closer to $100 each).... Of the 6
cartridges purchased, only two were functional (the other four were
defective - two with a dead channel and the other two completely
dead)... Even still, the remaining two cartridges
usable, and the remaining 4 styli will serve as spares.
Best of all, this "special deal" would be great for someone who already
has a Digitrac cartridge with a worn stylus (since purchasing the
stylus separately is sure to cost far more than the closeout deal on
the new defective cartridges which contain new styli). So if one is
to take the risks associated with a potential great deal, it could pay
off in the end.
......Paul (York, Pennsylvania, United States).
A Note About Cartridges For DJ Use
Something else you may like to note on your cartridge pages is that the
"norm" for a DJ is to replace the cart and styli at the same time! It
was common place for an engineer to carry several genuine Technics head
shells with new Stylus and carts fitted in his stock for a quick and
easy replacement. Something that the manufactures got wind of, and
capitalised on. They all produced replacement carts and styli that did
away with the headshell or came fitted to the head shell.
So why did we replace the cart? Lots of DJs would tamper with the
headshell and put the cart out of alignment and it was common practice
back then to put coins on the headshell to "weigh them down", it was
also not uncommon to find the weight had been removed from the arm and
put back on back-to-front, again to add more weight to the tonearm.
That is why we would replace the whole lot.
On a personal note I was a big fan of the Stanton 500AL MK1 a cartridge
that spent more time on head shells than any other in the world. Sadly
Stanton did away with it and replaced it with the Stanton MKII and
finally the 500.V3. IMHO It was a poor business decision. Many DJs now
prefer the Shure M44-7 which is a shame as the Stanton was the industry
standard, and back in the day you didn't get much change out of
£80 for two new styli. Compared with the new V3 which comes
styli pre mounted for £20.
Interestingly Stanton released the 680HP, and so far as i can tell it
performs like the 500AL, looks like the 500AL and sounds like the
500AL, and costs around the same amount as the 500AL but the Stanton
680HP doesnt carry the "el-cheapo workhorse" badge of its 500AL
predecessor. Now a lot of the fancy HiFi magazines wrinkle their noses
up at "Dj" carts/styli however some of them should be included in those
reviews and the Stanton 680 should be there. They have a warm sound
without colouring it, they have plenty of low end, and the top end
isn't too brash. The odd thing is if you play them side by side with
Stanton's flagship the Groovemaster Pro Gold, they make the Pro Gold
look like the marketing gimmicks they are. The unfortunate thing about
the Groovemasters is its alignment. Mount them on Technics 1200 and the
alignment is way off.
Anyway I'm gonna quit now because this is turning into an advert for
All the best,
P.S loved the article on the ladybird
book. brought back a lot of memories.