Phono Cartridge Reviews

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 08, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 1974  |  0 comments
The Decca Mark V is the latest version of that English firm's unique "tip-sensing" stereo-matrix-ing pickups. The "matrixing" apellation refers to the fact that the Decca pickups do not use 45°–45° sensing coils, but use instead a combination of vertical and lateral-sensing coils. There is a single coil for lateral sensing, with its pole pieces brought down next to the tip. This is the tip-sensing feature, whose major attribute is that the stylus motions don't have to be conveyed along the length of an armature before reaching the transducing pole pieces. Thus there is virtually no possibility of the stylus vibrations being modified through flexing of the armature prior to their transduction into audio signals.
J. Gordon Holt, Others  |  Jun 08, 2017  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1975  |  1 comments
This low-output moving-coil cartridge can be fitted with different styli. The basic DL-103 has a 0.5-mil spherical tip, the DL-103S a Shibata tip. As of the spring of 1975, the '103S is being imported by American Audioport, Inc., in Columbia, MO. the '103 is being brought in directly from Japan by a few dealers. Our '103 was loaned by Music & Sound of California, the '103S came from Audioport.

They are not too similar in sound. The DL-103S is incredibly clean-tracking, with a light, airy high end, a subtle zizz on string tone, and a very slightly withdrawn quality similar to the sound of the Supex 900E, but not as overly rich-sounding as the Supex.

J. Gordon Holt  |  Jun 01, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 1974  |  4 comments
The M15 Super is the first high-output pickup to come from Ortofon. Previous ones required either step-up transformers or a booster preamp, and it is only fairly recently that either kind of step-up device was available with high-enough quality to avoid a noticeable degradation of the sound. Early step-up transformers muddied the bass, and previously-available booster preamps added noise or hardness or both to the sound. Now that there are excellent transformers available from Ortofon and other sources, and at least one extraordinarily good booster preamp (the Mark Levinson, at an extraordinarily high price—$170), Ortofon's latest and best pickup doesn't require the use of either.
J. Gordon Holt  |  May 09, 2017  |  First Published: May 01, 1974  |  27 comments
The Shure V15-III is the latest of Shure's top-of-the-line "Super-track" pickups, earlier versions of which we scorned because of their dished-down response in the 6kHz range and their consequent "dead" sound. (We were unimpressed with Shure's suggestion that the pickup cable capacitance be increased to a total of around 300pF, since few audiophiles are equipped to measure either cable capacitance or frequency response).
J. Gordon Holt  |  May 02, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1968  |  3 comments
This is one of Shure's new generation of pickups with "trackability" that grew out of research on the Type II V-15 pickup.

At first glance, the V-15-II and the M75E are physically identical. They're the same size, the same shape, and almost the same weight (the M75E weighs 0.8 grams less); and both of them have the same neat little hinged cover that flips down to protect the stylus when the pickup's not in use.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 02, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2017  |  4 comments
My 0.56mV-output Lyra Atlas moving-coil cartridge ($11,995) has put in four years of heavy-duty use. But not long ago I began to hear some problems with sibilants from records that previously hadn't given me trouble in that department. Lyra's Jonathan Carr and Stig Bjorge suggested I bring my Atlas to the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, held last January in Las Vegas, where they would exchange it for a new one.
Art Dudley  |  Nov 17, 2016  |  7 comments
I'm a progressive who enjoys the company of his conservative friends, a Catholic who's thankful for his atheist friends, and a carnivore who cherishes his vegetarian friends. I'm also a vintage-audio enthusiast who loves his audiophile friends who aren't so inclined—so I was doubly happy to see, in the September 2016 edition of Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner," a hearty endorsement of Ortofon's latest SPU: a 58-year-old phono-cartridge design that, like the coelacanth, continues to thrive despite expectations.

Mikey is a longtime friend who harbors no love for vintage phonography—yet after playing his first record with the new SPU #1E ($659), he wrote: "I immediately, and much to my surprise, got what the SPU cult is all about."

Herb Reichert  |  Jul 26, 2016  |  17 comments
Which record player has achieved international acclaim as a musical instrument in its own right?

Which turntable is revered for its near-indestructible build quality?

Which disc spinner has played more records—and made more people drink, drug, dance, and make out—than any other?

Which turntable has sold over three million units?

Hint: It is not made in the US, the UK, China, or Switzerland.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 29, 2016  |  12 comments
"Hail, Neophyte!"

That's what members of the Smoky Basement Secret Audio Society would exclaim in unison at the end of each ceremony admitting a new devotee. It was called the Smoky Basement Society not because everyone smoked (though they did), but because its members believed that whenever an audio designer finally got a design dialed in just right, he or she had metaphorically "let the smoke out." They exclaimed, "Hail, Neophyte!" because they believed that the most important aspect of being an audio engineer was to have a fully open "beginner's mind." In Zen practice, this is called Shoshin, or beginner's heart.

Robert Deutsch  |  Feb 09, 2016  |  5 comments
For some time now, I've been thinking that my record player was due for an upgrade. My Linn LP12 turntable and Ittok LVII tonearm are about 25 years old, and my AudioQuest AQ7000nsx cartridge is going on 15. During that time, my listening has become increasingly dominated by CDs, but I am not yet ready to give up on LPs. Updating my LP12—for which I have Linn's Lingo power supply but no other upgrades—would involve installing the Keel subchassis, for $3250—for which price I could get another maker's new, current-design turntable and still have the LP12 to sell. The Linn Ittok can't be upgraded, and its replacement, the Ekos SE, costs $4950—out of my range. AudioQuest no longer makes cartridges. Examining my AQ7000nsx's stylus under a microscope showed no visible wear, and there was no obvious audible problem that could be traced to the cartridge's suspension, but age must be having some sort of effect. Taking all these factors into account, I decided to replace my entire phono front end.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 22, 2015  |  8 comments
In a typical phono cartridge, the stylus is at one end of an oversize cantilever (oversize in comparison with the cartridge's other moving parts), the fulcrum of which is nearer the cantilever's other end. That design makes possible a certain amount of mechanical compliance that, when the cartridge is lowered to the record surface, helps the stylus seat itself in the groove rather than bounce or skip all over the place. Without at least a modicum of springiness, cueing up a record would be more difficult, and jukeboxes and automatic record changers might never have been possible. Imagine!
Art Dudley  |  Nov 24, 2015  |  2 comments
Just as John Atkinson has a special telephone on his desk, by means of which the late J. Gordon Holt expresses his displeasure at this magazine's continuing decline into latitudinarianism, my own desk is littered with a dozen or so windup timers, each set to remind me how long it's been since I last wrote about this or that hi-fi eccentricity. Each timer has its own distinctive ring: The one labeled "LOWTHER" is a bit shrill, especially at certain humidity levels, while the one marked "QUAD ESL" can be heard to best advantage only when sitting in a particular spot—and even I have to admit that my "CARTRIDGE ALIGNMENT" timer seems to go off rather too often.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Sep 10, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1979  |  7 comments
The Shure Brothers have been making magnetic cartridges since the early 1950s (they had been exclusively microphone manufacturers prior to then), and their continuing R&D program has resulted in new, improved models every few years rather than every 6 months (as seems to be the rule these days). As a result, Shure has the appearance, to most audiophiles, of a stodgy, plodding, rather "establishment" manufacturer that can be trusted to make a solid, reliable product but nothing brilliantly innovative or—for that matter—nothing remarkably good either.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 14, 2015  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1989  |  0 comments
While the AT-OC9 bears the Audio-Technica logo, you won't find a sample of this moving-coil cartridge at your friendly Audio-Technica dealership. The US distributor of Audio-Technica products has apparently decided that their market does not include high-end cartridges. A quick perusal of the latest Audio directory issue (October 1988) lists the most expensive AT cartridge at $295, with no moving-coils in sight. When I first heard of the AT-OC9, the only reasonably accessible source, short of Japan, was Audio-Technica in the UK. A quick phone call and follow-up letter resulted in a review sample. Since that time, Music Hall in the US importers of the Epos loudspeakers, among other items) has begun importing the AT-OC9 (along with the less-expensive AT-F5). Mail-order company Lyle Cartridges also stock it, I believe.
Herb Reichert  |  May 27, 2015  |  3 comments
So, audiophiles, riddle me this: What does a DAC actually look like? I don't mean the box it hides in—I mean the little doodad that does the actual converting from digital to analog. Is it bigger than a phono cartridge? Is it made of rain-forest wood, gemstone, or porcelain? Do people show it to their friends, who gawk in awe and envy? Does it have an exotic, geisha-sounding name like Jasmine Tiger, Koetsu Onyx, or Miyajima Takumi? When it breaks, does a watchmaker type rebuild it for a not-insubstantial fee? Do people hoard them in vaults, like NOS tubes? Can you trade a DAC for a rose-gold Rolex Oyster Bubbleback ca 1945?

Pages