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VINYL HEAVEN PAGES:

Cartridges
Vinyl Heaven 2
.

Cleaning Vinyl
Vinyl Heaven 3
.

More...
Vinyl Heaven 4
.
.

Your Comments
Vinyl Heaven 6

.











Support Real Stereo
Real Stereo


Links
Technics Resources:

Panasonic Technics

Technics SL-1200 MkII

SL-1200 on KABUSA
KAB's -

visit Kevin Barrett's
website

SL-1210 at Superfi


Cartridges:


Cool Gales - suppliers of
cartridges, cleaning equipment & accessories. Very helpful

Excellent Serice (UK)

Turntables & Needles (USA)




Vinyl Care & Accessories:

British Audio Products Online -
record sleeves, care, cleaning (UK)

Cool Gales - suppliers of record care accessories

& cartridges
excellent service  (UK)




Sleeve City- record sleeves (USA)


More Links


Noteworthy Audio -
record care

Analogue Seduction -
record care

Technics SL-1200 on Wakata.cz




Technics SL-1200
Technics SL-1210 Mk2


Record Cleaning
Record Care & Cleaning







Amateur Radio
































VINYL HEAVEN PAGES:

Cartridges
Vinyl Heaven 2
.

Cleaning Vinyl
Vinyl Heaven 3
.

More...
Vinyl Heaven 4
.
.

More about Cartridges
and Other Things
Vinyl Heaven 6

.










Support Real Stereo
Real Stereo


Links
Technics Resources:

Panasonic Technics

Technics SL-1200 MkII

SL-1200 on KABUSA
KAB's Kevin Barrett is one of
the world's SL-1200 authorities

SL-1210 at Superfi


Cartridges:


Cool Gales - suppliers of
cartridges, cleaning equipment & accessories. Very helpful. (UK)


Turntables & Needles (USA)




Vinyl Care & Accessories:

British Audio Products Online -
record sleeves, care, cleaning (UK)

Cool Gales - suppliers of record
care accessories & cartridges

(UK)




Sleeve City- record sleeves (USA)


More Links

Noteworthy Audio -
record care

Analogue Seduction -
record care

Technics SL-1200 on Wakata.cz




Technics SL-1200
Technics SL-1210 Mk2


Record Cleaning
Record Care & Cleaning























VINYL HEAVEN PAGES:

Cartridges
Vinyl Heaven 2
.

Cleaning Vinyl
Vinyl Heaven 3
.

More...
Vinyl Heaven 4
.
.

More about Cartridges
and Other Things
Vinyl Heaven 6

.










Support Real Stereo
Real Stereo


Links
Technics Resources:

Panasonic Technics

Technics SL-1200 MkII

SL-1200 on KABUSA
KAB's Kevin Barrett is one of
the world's SL-1200 authorities

SL-1210 at Superfi


Cartridges:


Cool Gales - suppliers of
cartridges, cleaning equipment & accessories. Very helpful. (UK)


Turntables & Needles (USA)




Vinyl Care & Accessories:

British Audio Products Online -
record sleeves, care, cleaning (UK)

Cool Gales - suppliers of record
care accessories & cartridges

(UK)




Sleeve City- record sleeves (USA)


More Links

Noteworthy Audio -
record care

Analogue Seduction -
record care

Technics SL-1200 on Wakata.cz




Technics SL-1200
Technics SL-1210 Mk2


Record Cleaning
Record Care & Cleaning





Vinyl Heaven 2 - CARTRIDGES AND SETTING UP THE TURNTABLE

There still are many good cartridges available on the market that will suit the precision close tolerance, low-medium mass arm of the Technics 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 - particularly those 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 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.

Ortofon 2M Red phono pick-up cartridge

http://www.coolgales.com

http://www.henleydesigns.co.uk

http://www.ortofon.com

Review

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. 


Split 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



Audio Technica AT120ET phono cartridge
http://www.coolgales.com

http://www.konsbud-audio.pl        http://www.audio-technica.com

"The AT120E 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
specifications:
 
Stylus Shape:   0.3 x 0.7mil BiRadial (Elliptical) NUDE Diamond tip

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

http://www.coolgales.com

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 Below


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 for the 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 the first headshell and replace it with the second and re-balance the arm.  It would be a good way of comparing two cartridges with the minimum of fuss.


Without spending enormous amounts of money on a cartridge some of the obvious choices might be:

Audio Tchnica AT-95E - Good Sound, Good Value moving magnet pick-up cartridge
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.   
AT110E 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 stylus. (£30 approx in 2007)
I can highly recommend this cartridge - it may be inexpensive, but it sounds very lively.
http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue15/at110.htm    Sadly Discontinued. See AT120E
AT120ET Audio Technica AT120E: Highly regarded, smooth and sweet. Good 5mV output - a very good performer at a competitive price. Tracks extremely well. 0.0003" x 0.0007" (0.3 mil x 0.7 mil) stylus tip. (£79.00 approx in 2011).
I can personally recommend the AT120ET. It needs about 50 hours use to 'run in'. It is very lively and quite bright, but the overall musicality and enjoyment is superb.  http://www.coolgales.com
AT440mla 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 More Herehttp://www.coolgales.com
Ortofon 2M series 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 approx £155.00 in 2011.   http://www.coolgales.com
Ortofon Super OM10 Cartridge 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 Budget version which is available at a very competitive price of around £49.00 (2011).

http://www.coolgales.com
Ortofon Super OM10 Cartridge 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 OM cartridge 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 OM stylus. (£80.00 approx)  Also consider the lower spec OM5E Budget version which is available at around £49.00 (2011).
Also see 2M Red.
http://www.coolgales.com                           Discontinued?   See note  [Here]
Ortofon Super OM20 Cartridge 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 appropriate stylus. (£90 approx)
Also consider the lower spec OM5E Budget version which is available at around £49.00 (2011).
Also see 2M Red
http://www.coolgales.com                             Discontinued?  See note  [Here]
510 II Ortofon 510 MkII:  3mV output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" stylus tip.  (£50 approx in 2007)
Discontinued
520 II Ortofon 520 MkII:  3mV output. 0.0003" x 0.0007" stylus tip. (£90 approx in 2007)
Discontinued
Elektra Goldring Elektra.  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.
http://www.coolgales.com
Goldring 2000 Series Cartridges. 2100, 2200, 2300, 2400, 2500

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 considering!
http://www.coolgales.com

1006 Goldring 1006:  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
1012GX Goldring 1012GX:  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
M97XE
Shure M97XE: A well specified cartridge with reasonable 4mV output. The latest in a 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.

Prestige Grado Prestige Black or Green:  A good 5mV output. (£59.00 and £75.00 in 2011)

http://www.coolgales.com
Prestige Grado Prestige Blue or Red:  A good 5mV output. (£85.00 and £95.00 in 2011)

http://www.coolgales.com


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



Manufacturers websites:

Most cartridges are available from the huge range at Cool Galeshttp://www.coolgales.com

Audio Technica: http://www.audio-technica.com
Goldring: http://www.goldring.co.uk
Ortofon: http://www.ortofon.com/   Ortofon 2M Series:  http://www.ortofon2m.com/
Shure:  http://www.shure.com
Grado:  http://www.gradolabs.com

Ortofon Super OM Cartridges:
Ortofon apparently discontinued its acclaimed range of Super OM cartridges around 2008. The natural replacment being the 2M range of 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 the Ortofon Super OM range here:  http://www.audiotra.de

Stylus measurements.

Many of the popular styli that will be encountered will have an elliptical shape.  Some more expensive styli will have more exotic shapes such as the 'fine line' profile. Elliptical styli may typically have measurements from  0.0002" to 0.0004" on the short axis and 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 musical detail.

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, the preferred word now being micrometer.  A micrometer, micron, µm is a millionth of a metre.


Conversion 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)  =  0.000039"


For example:
Audio Technica give the stylus measurements of their AT120E as 0.3mil x 0.7mil This is the same as 0.0003" x 0.0007" in imperial. Converting this to metric gives 8µm x 18µm which is the same as saying 8 micrometers (microns) x 18 micrometers (microns) i.e. 0.008mm x 0.018mm

I hope that this is slightly clearer than mud now!



Cartridge Alignment – Important for minimising distortion

The overhang measurement is the first critical setting – this is 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 complicated – however Technics provide users of the SL-1200 series with a handy 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 should ensure the best tracking performance.

According to Technics once this has been set, then it's job done.

Technics alignment tool
Technics alignment tool


Pedant

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 absolutely necessary, but it may be worth bearing in mind and I did align my AT120E with a Baerwald gauge described below.



Protractor

The cartridge can only be aligned so that it is parallel at two points along this line known – these are known as the Null Points.  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 the Baerwald seems to be the most widely used.

There are universal protractors available that will allow the user to 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:

Example of an alignment protractor
An example of a  Baerwald_66/120.89mm alignment protractor
available from http://www.vinylengine.com

You can download such a protractor from www.vinylengine.com  Look for their amusingly titled “Stupid Protractor” on this page:   http://www.vinylengine.com/manuals_tonearm_protractors.shtml

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 you 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 found 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.  You 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 to catch 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 as 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.



Alignment Methodology:

Vinyl Engine notes that “the protractor has two grids and a hole:

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.”



Another Alignment Gauge

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 it seems to work very well.  Once you have installed your cartridge 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

Pro-ject tool from Cool Gales
The Pro-ject tool from Cool Gales



Other Adjustments:  Turntable Levelling, Arm Height, Downforce and Anti-Skating

Turntable Levelling

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 KAB clamp is also very useful for keeping records firmly positioned on the turntable platter so minimising vibrations and resonances.

KAB Record Grip with bubble level
Clearaudio Spirit Turntable Level
A Clearaudio level


Arm Height


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 to the surface of the record when playing a disc, or according to the cartridge specifications.  The arm height on the Technics SL-1200 MkII can be set accurately and easily according to the height of the cartridge body using the well engineered adjustment ring at the base of the arm.



Downforce

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 towards 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:

Shure SFG-2 Stylus Tracking Downforce Gauge
Available from http://www.coolgales.com

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.



Anti-Skating

Once the tracking force has been accurately set the correct Bias or Anti-Skating force can be set according to the manufacturers instructions.

Technics SL-1210 MkII Arm adjustments



Amplifiers and Phono Pre Amps

The output from the typical magnetic cartridge is only 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 also to provide the necessary RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) equalisation curve that will provide the proper audio frequency response.

RIAA is the Recording Industry Association of America which specifies an equalization curve that has been 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 was used.

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 20Hz).  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.
Representation of RIAA curve
The RIAA playback equalisation curve

In the diagram to the left the yellow line shows a representation of the RIAA 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 some other manufacturers.  

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 connected to one of the stereo amplifier's ordinary line inputs - e.g. the Aux input.

There are many external phono pre-amplifiers available.  Some are fairly inexpensive and three reasonably good ones to consider might be:



Pro-ject Phono Box II

Golding PA1

Goldring PA1 Phono Amplifier
The Goldring PA1 Phono Amplifier


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 amplifiers:  http://www.gspaudio.co.uk/



Graham Slee Phono Preamp
The Graham Slee "Communicator"
RIAA Phono Preamp
http://www.gspaudio.co.uk/

.


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 buy 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 project:


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 suppliers.


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:
 

More thoughts about Pre-amps and Cartridge capacitance loading
:


" Rod Elliott's site is excellent!  Rod is a genius, and his whole site is amazing......"

Our website's 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  It is interesting to note that the M97XE is now at the top of the Shure 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 preamp.  Moving magnet cartridges often depend of the resonant 'lift' provided by the resonant effect to boost the high end audio response .  The Shure M7XE is such a cartridge!  The fact that most (all?) phono 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 opinion!
 
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 the 'calculator' on the Hagtech site with different values of inductance and capacitance and see what the effects on the audio frequency response are!

I really love the Ortofon Super OM cartridges.  They are very lively, quick and dynamic sounding moving magnet cartridges.  The 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 suspect 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 modern 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 to 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

Visit: http://sound.westhost.com/project06.htm
ESP's High Quality Project 06 Hi-Fi Phono Preamplifier designed by Rod Elliott
Visit: http://sound.westhost.com/project06.htm

Rod Elliott's site is excellent!  Rod is a genius, and his whole site is amazing (have you seen his (very) extensive article on CFL's?).  The P06 phono preamp is incredible.  His use of 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 fact 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 stuff 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

Rumble Filter: I was also particularly interested in the high quality P99 Subsonic Filter design that  is published on the 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 incorporated the P99 circuit into my ESP P06 pre-amplifier. More

Ortofon Super OM10 magnetic cartridge
Ortofon Super OM10 magnetic cartridge
"I really love the Ortofon Super OM cartridges."
Visit Ortofon at: http://www.ortofon.com/

Here are some more fascinating thoughts from Felix:

WHY I STILL LISTEN TO VINYL  (The thoughts of one vinyl addict!) By Felix Scerri

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 spot 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 addicts 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 world, there 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, one of my favourite "spare time" activities is searching the second hand shops and markets for rare gems on vinyl.  My expanding classical 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 an 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 years, there has been a burgeoning market in "cheapish" turntables that look quite good.  Whilst these turntables are adequate for reasonable quality vinyl playback, closer examination will show that they are not suitable for really high quality playback, in my humble opinion.  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 wear.  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 lucky enough to purchase, second hand, a well made "PYE" turntable dating from the late 1970's in almost "as new" condition.  I installed a new drive belt and a new upgraded quality cartridge and away I went.  My feeling is that there are probably quite a few of these 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 cheap.  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 problem.  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 experience is that the phono preamp can have a very large bearing on the overall "sound" quality of vinyl playback.  Many of the cheaper turntables 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 equalisation.  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 we'll 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 out 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 any purely "analog" playback system, that every "link" in the chain can have an audible effect.  As an example, my two best cartridges (of 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 me that high quality vinyl playback produces a sonic "character" that is closest to the "real" thing.  Of that, I'm quite certain. 

Regards Felix Scerri.
VK4FUQ 
First published 19/2/05


Resource Links:
Rod Elliott's main ESP website: http://sound.westhost.com
Rod Elliott's P06 RIAA Phono Preamp: http://sound.westhost.com/project06.htm
Rod Elliott's P99 Subsonic Filter: http://sound.westhost.com/project99.htm
Ortofon OM5E available from sources including Cool Gales: http://www.coolgales.com

Vist my own page showing my P06 Pre-Amp and P99 Sub-Sonic Filter project Here >>
.


Time For A Spin

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  >>

Next Page >



The completed RIAA Phono Preamp
ESP 06 - High Quality Pre Amp
Vinyl Heaven 5




Ortofon 2M
Alignments
Vinyl Heaven 7


More About Cartridges and Other Things Here >

Technics SL-1200 MkII >       Cleaning Your Records >

Another Testament To The SL-1200 MkII >

Build A Hi Quality RIAA Phono Preamp >

Comments >

More about cartridges & alignment >



What Other Equipment Do I Need To Enjoy The SL-1200 MK2? >>

How To Digitize Your Vinyl Records - i.e record music onto your computer >>



Support Real Stereo
Real Stereo

LINKS

More about cartridge alignment here:


Hi Fi World : Cartridge Alignment: http://www.hi-fiworld.co.uk/hfw/featureshtml/cartridgealign.html

Vinyl Engine : Protractors: http://www.vinylengine.com/manuals_protractors.shtml

Vinyl Alignment: http://www.vinylalignment.co.uk

Technics Headshells and other alignment issues: http://www.turntabletech.com/diy.htm

Cartridges, in particular Ortofon: http://www.bluehaze.com.au/vinyl/tech1.html


Phono Pre Amps and Copying Vinyl To Digital formats:

ESP RIAA Preamp project: http://sound.westhost.com/project06.htm

ESP Subsonic Filter project: http://sound.westhost.com/project99.htm

How to copy LP's to Minidisc: http://www.minidisc.org/lp_to_md.html

Vinyl Sound Quality: http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=Evaluating_Vinyl_Sound_Quality

KAB Rumble Filter from KAB Electro Acoustics, USA: http://www.kabusa.com/RF1.HTM

Precision Audio Restoration - rumble filter: http://www.precision-ar.com/rumble.htm


More Useful Links:

Technics Repair - www.technics1210repair.co.uk

Audio Technica Website: http://www.audio-technica.com

Goldring Website: http://www.goldring.co.uk

Ortofon Website: http://www.ortofon.com/

Shure Website: http://www.shure.com

Grado Website: http://www.gradolabs.com

Pro-ject Audio website: http://www.project-audio.com
 
NAD Electronics Website: http://nadelectronics.com

Coolgales- vinyl specialists- website: http://www.coolgales.com
K
KAB USA - Technics specialists - website: 
http://www.kabusa.com

Vinyl Engine - extensive resource centre: http://www.vinylengine.com


For DJ's:

For DJ enthusiasts - a new microproccessor-based plug-and-play reversing module, developed and designed
to be fitted to TECHNICS SL-1200 and SL-1210 turntables and their many variants.: http://4thstateaudio.co.uk/



...

Notes and Comments

Audio Technica AT440mla Cartridge - Hum Issue:

Glenn Sadin Comments:

I thought you might appreciate some clarification on the situation. During late 2007-early 2008, a batch of AT440Mla’s 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.

Regards,

Glenn Sadin
Lexington, Massachusetts USA
(August 2008)


Paul Adds:-

Hi, 

While visiting your website, I noticed a comment about the "hum" problem associated with the Audio Technica AT440MLa cartridge.     While others had encountered the 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 we 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 considering.      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 were 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 willing
to take the risks associated with a potential great deal, it could pay off in the end.

......Paul   (York, Pennsylvania, United States).
(November 2008)



A Note About Cartridges For DJ Use


Hi Mike,

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 with 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.

http://www.amazon.com/Stanton-Groovemaster-II-Phono-Cartridges/dp/B00006FXG7

http://www.amazon.com/Stanton-680-HP-Phono-Cartridge/dp/B00011SHW6

Anyway I'm gonna quit now because this is turning into an advert for Stanton!!

All the best,

Stuart.

P.S loved the article on the ladybird book. brought back a lot of memories.

(August 2008)

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