Lyra Parnassus D.C.t phono cartridge Cartridge FAQs
In preparation for this review, I sat down with Scan-Tech's Jonathan Carr to ask him some general questions about cartridges, and about the Parnassus D.C.t in particular.
I was curious to know how these tiny, perfectly shaped and polished diamond styli are fabricated. Carr told me that the rough diamond is bonded to a larger piece of metal and that the entire assembly is then carved away, taking metal and diamond. Finally, the polished diamond is removed from the metal carrier and inserted in the cantilever's laser-bored hole using a microscope and a special jig. The more extreme the stylus shape, the higher the quality of rough diamond that must be used.
How long should a stylus last? Carr said that with perfectly clean records and properly designed arms (ie, rigid bearings, carefully designed anti-skating), wear can be a "benign phenomenon." The wear will occur, but it will be consistent over a long period of time and won't damage the record: all that will happen is the stylus tip will become rounder and rounder. Damage occurs when dirt makes contact with the edges of the stylus contour, causing a chip to flake off the diamond, which accelerates rapid wear. The resulting sharp edge creates the strong possibility of vinyl gouging and striations. Record and stylus cleanliness are the big determining factors. You have been warned!
I was curious to know how Yoshinori Mishima builds cartridges: one at a time, or in batches? Carr said he assembles in batches of 20 to 30 at a time, performing the same task on 10 at a time until the cartridges are finished. Then each is listened to on a special pre-aligned tonearm and spec'd. If the cartridge meets specs, it is then fine-"tuned" using music, and "voiced" by changing certain things that Carr did not want to talk about, but which must relate to tensioning the suspension and making changes to the rubber damping. All of this is done by hand and can be learned only by experience.
Does the sound of a cartridge change over time? According to Carr, once the initial break-in is complete, a properly designed and built cartridge should not change sonically for many years—assuming, of course, that it is handled with care the entire time.—Michael Fremer