Phono Cartridge Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  May 04, 2021  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2019  |  4 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  |  56 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.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2019  |  2 comments
Haniwa's Dr. Tetsuo Kubo is an interesting fellow. If you go to shows, domestic or overseas, you've possibly encountered him in his room a space known for being strewn, shrine-like, with LPs that once belonged to The Absolute Sound's founder, the late Harry Pearson: Dr. Kubo was a fan.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2020  |  28 comments
Someone once asked me, "If I buy your $90,000, 25W amplifier, what will I get that I am not getting with my $2000, 200W amplifier?" My answer was simple: "Goosebumps, tears, and smirking." Great, well-tuned audio systems, at all price levels, give their owners less of the annoying and distracting stuff and more of the exciting and engaging stuff. Great systems offer more opportunities for smirking pridefully while listening to great recordings.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 21, 2020  |  37 comments
Cavitation revolutionized record cleaning more than a decade ago, when Reiner Gläss's Audiodesksysteme introduced its original fully automatic machine. Mr. Gläss's innovative machine, which automatically spun the record in ultrasonically cavitated water, then dried it with fans, at first was plagued with reliability issues, and because it is sealed, it was not easy to repair.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Nov 13, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 1966  |  0 comments
One of the best pickups we've heard to date, the Grado A was introduced with some fanfare in the fall of 1964 (footnote 1) and then, for no apparent reason, was withdrawn just one year later. It is probably still available, though, either used or, discounted, as new stock at some dealers.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2019  |  4 comments
AVM Audio, which has been in business since 1986 (footnote 1), chose last year to enter the turntable market with two models that reflect the company's brushed-aluminum/blue LED visual aesthetics.

It doesn't take a forensic turntable scientist to figure out who manufactures both of those turntable models. Clearly, Pro-Ject does (footnote 2)—although some audiophiles might recognize only a few key parts. Other elements, especially the two different tonearm models, may appear unique to AVM, having been built to their specs.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 07, 2020  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2020  |  2 comments
We're 30 years into a cartridge design revolution, particularly at the top end of the market, where manufacturers charge upward of $10,000 for their best efforts: prices that well-off consumers have amply proved they are willing to pay. There doesn't seem to be an innovation end in sight.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 19, 2020  |  3 comments
How goes your quarantining? Honestly, my life hasn't changed much here. I'm locked in the basement as usual, happy to have a good audio system and overwhelmed by my musical choices. Other than minimizing shopping expeditions and wearing a mask, the biggest change in my life is a spike in requests from readers for upgrade advice. I've never been so busy answering reader emails.

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