Grado Model A phono cartridge

Originally published May 1, 1966

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the Grado A was introduced with some fanfare in the fall of 1964 (footnote 1) and then, for no apparent reason, was withdrawn just one year later.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.

This is (was?) the cleanest-tracking pickup we have tested to date, by a small but perceptible margin, and unlike most ellipticals, its high end is extremely smooth, with no audible rise at all. A slight, broad response dip centered around 5kHz gives it a somewhat soft, receded quality, while a pronounced low-end rise (apparently not just an arm-resonance peak) makes thin speakers sound fuller and full speakers sound bass-heavy. The rise hits its maximum at around 35Hz.

It is normally supplied with a dual matching transformer, to step up its very low output, but unlike the Ortofon SPU, the Grado's transformers are separate from the pickup. They plug in between the tonearm's output cables and the preamp inputs, thus holding the pickup's weight down to an acceptable figure for use in most tonearms. The Grado's output, without the transformers, is adequate for feeding a few high-gain low-noise preamps (like the Dyna PAS-3), and the sound is somewhat more transparent when it is so used. Under these conditions, transparency is about midway between that of the Ortofon SPU and the Decca Mk.IV. With the transformers, it's about on a par with the Shure V-15.

The original new price was $50. Don't pay it.

Incidentally, we phoned Grado Labs more than two months ago to ask if we could borrow a Model A and one of the new Model B units for comparative testing. They agreed to send them, but have not done so as of this time, despite an unanswered reminder (via the mails). This sort of thing makes us wonder.

We'll endeavor to borrow a Model B locally. Or, would some reader care to loan us one for testing? We promise to return it intact. Check with us first, though; we may already have obtained one.

Footnote 1: Grado Laboratories was founded in 1953. In 1959 Joseph Grado was awarded patents for the first stereo moving-coil cartridge.—Editor
Grado Labs
4614 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11220
(718) 435-5340