Decca Mark V phono cartridge Manufacturer's Comment

Manufacturer's Comment

We have not observed any relationship between measured separation and the listenability or musicality of Decca pickups, and we have probably listened to (and tested) as many of them as anyone in the US, as both checks are used to determine the suitability of all incoming Hark Vs for resale to perfectionists. Also, with regard to tracking force vs distortion, all Mark Vs are required to produce an undistorted 100Hz sinewave at between 2 and 4 grams in order to meet minimum specifications.

Over the years, much has been said about Decca's lack of quality control on their cartridges. Some of the blame for this must certainly be borne by the Decca factory, but it should also be pointed out that, just because the Mark V is such an accurate reproducer, small deviations from perfection, which would pass unnoticed in other pickups, seem magnified in the Decca. For example, as Stereophile pointed out, a good Mark V has exactly the right amount of brightness to make discs sound like their master tapes.

It is for precisely that reason that a frequency response rise of as little as 1dB in the 3—10kHz range is so easily heard. It is small differences in frequency response which account for the differences in sound between different samples, rather than distortion or the lack thereof. This phenomenon, combined with the fact that a tip-sensing transducer is extremely difficult to manufacture, explains why there is no such thing as "The" Decca pickup. We certainly cannot argue with your assertion that some other phono cartridges do measure better than the Mark V, but the whole point of Stereophile's testing philosophy is that audio components are made to be listened to, not just measured, and it is in listening quality where the Mark V reveals it superiority to pickups of conventional design.

Regardless of the slight differences in "brightness" from sample to sample, all Mark Vs have that remarkable quality of "aliveness" that you observed. Even samples which have barely passed our rigorous quality-control checks will make discs sound more like their master tapes than any other cartridge presently on the market.

It may be of interest to readers that there are five internal adjustments in the Mark V that allow our labs to trim up or recalibrate the performance of a unit. We must emphasize, though, for the benefit of would-be diddlers, that the adjustments are extremely critical and are mutually interactive, requiring special test records and a definite adjustment sequence. We therefore urge the consumer, as well as the dealer, not to attempt any such adjustments. In fact, any evidence of diddling will void all warranties on the unit.