Phono Cartridge Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Sep 07, 2021  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2018  |  0 comments
A few years ago, Leif Johannsen, Ortofon's chief officer of acoustics and technology, was tasked with designing new products to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary, in 2018 (footnote 1). Ten years ago, to celebrate Ortofon's 90th, he came up with the radical A90 moving-coil cartridge, which used Selective Laser Melt (SLM) technology to laser-weld together microparticles of stainless steel, layer by layer, to produce a 3D-printed metal body whose shape would have been impossible to machine.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2021  |  6 comments
I don't like being pigeonholed as a reviewer of exclusively expensive audio components—because I'm not, as anyone who regularly peruses Analog Planet knows. So, to ease the pain of reviewing the half-million-dollar Air Force Zero turntable—you'll find that review elsehere in this issue—I figured I'd cover some more reasonably priced analog gear here in Analog Corner.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 09, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2018  |  7 comments
Despite one website's recent claim that "Vinyl's Revival Is Already Fading," Nielsen SoundScan recently announced that vinyl sales for the first half of 2018 were up 19.2% over 2017, led by Jack White's Boarding House Reach, with 37,000 copies sold so far (and we know that N/S misses a great deal of the action). While on the West Coast looking for business, a friend of mine who's about to open a major vinyl-pressing plant on the East Coast was told by everyone that they're experiencing "double-digit vinyl growth." No one was seeing a slowdown ahead.
Corey Greenberg  |  Jul 07, 2021  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1993  |  5 comments
In these waning days of Analog's Last Stand, it might seem absurd to review midpriced phono cartridges when this space could be given instead to the gear Stereophile usually covers—like $3000 OTL tube amps built by guys like that "Rainbow Man" lone nut who used to dance in the stands at Super Bowls before he took hostages in a hotel room with a .45 screaming, "MIT CAPACITORS!!! MIT CAPACITORS!!!"
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  17 comments
In my world, the quiet ritual of choosing a record and placing it carefully on the platter is always followed by a sequence of three rough sounds.

With the volume at listening level, I hear the bristle-by-bristle rasping of my stylus brush as it drags across the exposed tip of the cartridge cantilever. Next, as I dip the diamond in Onzow gel, I hear a little suction cup pop and feel the compliance of the cantilever's rubber-tire suspension. Finally, my brain registers that sizzle sound as the stylus contacts the grooved surface. These sounds are tattooed on my brain. They "cue up" my consciousness, preparing it for attentive listening.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 08, 2021  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2019  |  2 comments
How do you like your tangential-tracking tonearm: with a captured air bearing? If so, a stationary bearing and moving rail—or a moving bearing and stationary rail? A hovercraft-style air bearing? Trolley-wheel or servo-mechanical bearing? Or pivoted, with some kind of offset at the pivot or the headshell—or both? In today's crowded market of analog playback, you can buy whatever type of tangential tracker you prefer, from Bergmann, Clearaudio, Kuzma, Reed, Schröder, Thales, and others.
Michael Fremer  |  May 25, 2021  |  4 comments
Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I'm writing this—March 11, 2020—the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. If you weren't paying attention, maybe you didn't see it coming (incredibly, some still deny the pandemic's existence), but I had already canceled a March 14, 2020, flight to Atlanta to speak to the local audiophile society. I'd made the plans for that visit at the Florida Audio Expo a few weeks earlier. Remember hi-fi shows?
Michael Fremer  |  May 04, 2021  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2019  |  5 comments
Lately, there's been too much gear worth covering and not enough space to cover it in. So this time . . . less think-piece filler and more hardware!
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 26, 2021  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2019  |  1 comments
Something's definitely happening at the house of Yoshio Matsudaira. The legendary gentleman, whom I've never met or corresponded with, manufactures cartridges for his own brand, My Sonic Lab, as well as for others, including Air Tight. Over the past few weeks, more than a few readers have asked me to review or at least listen to the latest My Sonic Lab cartridge, the Platinum Signature.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 20, 2021  |  4 comments
"I got some Audio-Technica ATLP120X turntables in the other day, which had been back ordered for maybe 6 or 7 months, so I called to see if they had more. I was told there were 17,700 of that model on back order," a dealer I know told me recently in an email.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  22 comments
At the end of Gramophone Dreams #46, I was lost in the pristine beauty of Decware's 25th Anniversary Zen Triode amplifier driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. That was an extremely enjoyable system, and I was hoping to keep it intact for another month. My plan was simply to morph into my long-postponed opus on tube rolling using the Zen Triode as well as Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben headphone and loudspeaker amp. Both are single-ended triode, no-feedback designs and therefore perfectly suited for tube-swapping comparisons.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 09, 2021  |  First Published: May 01, 2019  |  37 comments
For a phono cartridge to generate current and voltage, something must move: a coil of wire (as in a moving-coil cartridge), or a magnet (as in a moving-magnet type), or a tiny piece of iron (a moving-iron type). In those rare cartridges that depart from the electricity-generating principle of the ones described above, it can be a displacement-measuring device in which a moving shutter modulates a light source to vary a supplied voltage (as in an optical cartridge), or one in which voltage is modulated when a tiny chip of silicon crystal is squeezed by a moving element, which varies the chip's electrical resistance (as in a strain-gauge cartridge). But regardless of what it is that moves in a cartridge, something has to.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 01, 2021  |  57 comments
I'm an audiophile and live in North America—seems like a perfect fit for the Facebook group Audiophiles - North America, right? Wrong!

On my first visit, I noticed that a group member had asked for speaker cable suggestions. Another member posted a picture of a 100' spool of 16-gauge lamp cord costing $14, accompanied by the suggestion "This is all you need." The implication: That's all anyone needs, because cables are "snake oil.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 01, 2021  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2019  |  6 comments
As I was doing a final edit on this column, I received very sad news from Leif Johannsen, the chief officer of acoustics and technology for cartridge manufacturer Ortofon A/S: Kim Petersen, described by Johannsen as his "right hand and new cartridge design and listening partner" and the company's "top cartridge expert," passed away suddenly at age 52.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2021  |  7 comments
I feel compelled to repeat here an eerie occurrence I related a while back on AnalogPlanet. I reviewed, in the February 1999 Analog Corner column, the Cartridge Man's Digital Stylus Force Gauge, which back then sold for $299.

I still have it, but a decade ago, the battery stopped taking a charge. I put it aside, planning to replace the battery someday.

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