The Ortofon MC-2000 may just have been the most impractical cartridge to be unleashed upon the audio community for some years. With a high compliance (20cu) that made it ill-suited for most tonearms, it also had a preposterously low signal output of 50 microvolts, which gave new meaning to the terms hum and noise. Few MC preamps had enough gain to deliver adequate driving voltage to a system, and none of those that did had low enough noise to be usable with the 2000. If the problem wasn't hum, it was hiss; if hiss was acceptably low, there would be too much hum. At least Ortofon had the sense to be aware of the problem and to do something about it, in the form of their T-2000 step-up transformer, which is the only device I ever found that would allow the cartridge to be operated without a constant background of hum or hiss. Despite all this, I have used the MC-2000 as my reference cartridge for the last two years. Why? Because of all the cartridges I've tried, it is by far the most accurate.
I see a pattern taking shape: Roy Gandy's Rega Research offered their first CD player in 1996, which was 13 years after the medium was introduced to the public. Now, in 2006, some 50 years after Joe Grado designed and sold the first moving-coil phono cartridges, Rega has released one of those. The year 2016 may see the first Rega fluoroscope, or perhaps wire recorder. And it'll be a good one, I'm sure.
The audio industry may have lost a legend and a prolific innovator in Henry Kloss a few years back, but it still has another affable, creative eccentric in Peter Ledermann. In the mid-1970s, Ledermann was director of engineering at Bozak, where, with Rudy Bozak, he helped develop a miniature bookshelf speaker and a miniature powered subwoofer. Before that, Ledermann was a design engineer at RAM Audio Systems, working with Richard Majestic on the designs of everything from high-power, minimal-feedback power amplifiers and preamplifiers to phono cartridge systems. He was also an award-winning senior research engineer at IBM, and the primary inventor of 11 IBM patents.
Strain-gauge phono cartridges are rarely made and seldom heard; for most vinyl fans, they are more myth than fact. Panasonic once made one, as did Sao Win, but those were decades ago. I've heard about those two models for years but have never seen, much less heard one.
As if he's not got enough to do building his extensive lines of moving-iron cartridges, preamplifiers, amplifiers, and speakers, Soundsmith's Peter Ledermann also makes a full line of strain-gauge cartridge systems available with a choice of six user-replaceable stylus profiles. I believe the Soundsmith is the only strain-gauge cartridge currently made anywhere in the world. Ledermann says it takes him a full day to build one.
It was around 7pm on Tuesday evening when I bumped into Nicole and Ms. Little on Newark Avenue, in downtown Jersey City. The girls were on their way to Kristen's shop, Kanibal Home, for their weekly book-club meeting. (Or was it Writing Club? Knitting? Screen printing? Butterfly pinning? I can never keep track.) I was on my way home, not to read, write, or listen to music, but . . .
"Hi, honey," Ms. Little said. "Going home to play with your cartridge?"
I made a face, nodded, sighed. Sensing some sharp-witted remark forming in Nicole's filthy mind, I beat her to the punch: "Yup, that's what I call it."
A.J. van den Hul calls the Black Beauty a phono cartridge "just for friends." In a way, this Black Beauty was made specially for me—it's been tweaked for an undamped linear-tracking arm. Says so right here on the box: "Forsell Version." But before you explode, know that Mr. van den Hul will be pleased to do the same for you. He'll adjust the suspension of any Black Beauty– or Grasshopper-series cartridge for your arm and 'table. Or, should you specify, for "the preamp and load impedance, a particular brand of records to be played, the type of music generally played (jazz being more dynamic and classical more spacious and detailed), and other personal/sound preferences."
If you think I burned out cartridge-wise at the end of my and JE's It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World cartridge survey at the beginning of the year (Vol.18 Nos.1 & 2), you're wrong. If you think I ought to burn out and give it a rest, you'll be disappointed. If you think analog doesn't matter anymore, you have my semi-sincere condolences. But if you think, as I do, that analog is enjoying a resurgence of epic proportions (twilight or no), and that LP playback has reached a new zenith of musical wonder, then hang on—here I go again!
In 1962, when tennis rackets were made of wood, newspeople were known for challenging the government, and the off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks was in its second year (the show closed in 2002), Nippon Columbia's Denki Onkyo (or Den-On) division introduced to the professional audio world a brand-new moving-coil phono cartridge. Developed in cooperation with the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, the DL-103 was one of the first attempts at making a truly wide-bandwidth stereo cartridge that nonetheless could withstand the rigors of back-cueing. The DL-103 was a nearly instant success with broadcasters, and its popularity spilled over into the world of domestic audio.
My wife and I have this ongoing riff: We try to make each other laugh by sharing examples of words we've looked at too quickly and misread—mistaking offered for overfed, bagel for kegel, that sort of thing. All very subtle and dry and Garrison Keillor. You can hear the belly laughs from there, can't you?