Phono Cartridge Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Sep 30, 2007  |  First Published: May 01, 2007  |  0 comments
These are great times for analog, and I'm happy to have played a small part in the revival, but recently the demand for some products has outstripped supply; getting review samples has been next to impossible. I've requested an Audio Research PH7 phono preamplifier for literally years now, but ARC can't build them fast enough, so they don't need a review. The more they sell, the greater the buzz, and the greater the buzz, the more e-mails I get from readers asking for a review. It's not nice to not be needed.
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.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 02, 2007  |  First Published: Apr 02, 1996  |  0 comments
You know what's the first thing they teach you in dental school? Don't ever say "Oops!" Even if you stick one of those hooked teeth scrapers through the patient's cheek, you don't say "Oops!" "Don't move!"? Yes. "Oops!"? No. That's the big day-one lesson—and given the cost of medical malpractice insurance today, a damn good one.
Art Dudley  |  Sep 22, 2007  |  0 comments
The ceiling remains, but the floor has changed: Benz-Micro continues to offer a selection of rather expensive phono cartridges, including their well-established LP Ebony ($4700) and Ruby 3 ($3000) models. But in recent years, my attention has been drawn by the succession of budget Benzes: first, the Gliders ($795), then the ACEs ($550), and now the MC20E2-L ($199).
Art Dudley  |  Aug 19, 2006  |  0 comments
There are a thousand different ways to make a loudspeaker. A hundred to make an amplifier. And at least a million to make a piece of wire. But here's the deal with a moving-coil phono cartridge: stylus, cantilever, rubber grommet, tensioning wire, coils, magnet, output pins, and maybe a body. Done.
Michael Fremer  |  May 24, 2011  |  0 comments
The Brinkmann Pi cartridge's Benz-Micro heritage was obvious from the get-go. The motor is built to Brinkmann's specifications by Benz-Micro and includes a Micro-Ridge stylus. The cantilever material is not specified. The Pi's output is approximately 0.25mV, and its compliance is moderate at 15µm/mN. Recommended are a tracking force of 1.8–2gm, a VTA of 23°, and a resistive load of 600 ohms.

Helmut Brinkmann says he tweaked the Pi's design for a year and a half before he achieved the results he desired, including making the tiny set screws out of various materials. The Pi, with a body of machined aluminum designed to control the dissipation of resonant energy, weighs a hefty 14gm. Brinkmann supplies aluminum screws and titanium washers, which, he claims, in combination with special damping between the cartridge body and headshell, have been "sonically tuned to create a unique musical instrument."

Michael Fremer  |  May 21, 2015  |  4 comments
Clearaudio began making moving-coil cartridges in the 1970s, and only later got into the moving-magnet business. Moving-magnet cartridge designers must now be mindful that most of today's tonearms are of medium to high mass and that therefore, to be compatible, their MMs must be of low to medium compliance and of higher mass than those of the 1960s and '70s.
Robert J. Reina  |  Dec 22, 2002  |  0 comments
There is no better time than now to invest in audiophile-quality vinyl playback gear. I'll bet even Mikey Fremer would be surprised at the amount of new vinyl releases and reissues and used vinyl available to music-lovers today. And the choices available to audiophiles seeking turntables, tonearms, phono cartridges, and phono preamps is greater than it's been in a decade.
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.

Art Dudley  |  Oct 27, 2003  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2003  |  0 comments
The plumber's here, and he says we need a new hot-water heater because the one we have now isn't maintaining the correct water temperature, and because it's been in use for nine years. "And the thing is, this is a five-year heater." I responded by repeating his last six words, only louder, and with decorations. And I couldn't help thinking: I've had phono cartridges that lasted longer than that. And none of them have attacked me in the shower when my wife flushed the toilet, either.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 13, 2009  |  4 comments
In the early to mid-1980s, I read every high-end hi-fi magazine I could get my hands on. Among the consequences was my discovery that the Grado Signature Seven phono cartridge—which was better and cheaper than the Signatures One through Six—was the cartridge that God wanted me to have. So I cut back on all manner of luxuries, saved every dollar I could save, and a few months later brought a walletful of cash to Harvey Sound in midtown Manhattan, where an unpleasant man with a bad comb-over handed me a little pill bottle of a plastic tube.
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  |  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?
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.

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