Phono Cartridge Reviews

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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  |  2 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DL-103S is incredibly clean-tracking, with a light, airy high end, a subtle zizz on string tone, and a very slightly withdrawn quality similar to the sound of the Supex 900E, but not as overly rich-sounding as the Supex.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.
J. Gordon Holt  |  May 30, 2019  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1963  |  12 comments
The 880P is a moving-magnet stereo cartridge for use in transcription arms and the few high-quality record changers now available, such as the Garrard Model A and the Lesa units. It has standard ½" mounting centers, and the pickup requires the 47k ohm termination provided by most preamplifiers. The 8mV output, too, is about ideal for nearly all preamps.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 10, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1980  |  15 comments
A couple of issues back, we mentioned in passing that the Fidelity Research FR-1 Mk.3F was the only moving-coil cartridge we had heard (as of then) that we would give house room to. (The others had frequency-response problems which so colored the sound that their other strong points were not worth the tradeoff.) That first observation about the FR-1 was based on a couple of hours' listening. Now that we have had an opportunity to live with one of them for a while, we can essentially confirm that first reaction, but with a few added qualifications.
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.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 13, 2009  |  5 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  |  Oct 04, 2018  |  2 comments
The days were long, the strawberries ripe, but it wasn't quite summer. It was, however, a perfect night for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas singing the Lowell Fulson–Jimmy McCracklin classic "Tramp," on a 7" 45rpm single (Stax 45-216).

Otis: What you call me?

Carla: Tramp! You don't wear continental clothes, or Stetson hats.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 13, 2018  |  5 comments
I needed one black tiddledywink (not provided) to use Dr. Feickert Analogue's three-speed, two-motor, two-armboard Blackbird turntable. The tiddledywink was for covering the Blackbird's painfully bright power-on LED so that it didn't blind me when I cued up a record. The first night, in my dark listening room, this tiny indicator sprayed the wall behind and the ceiling above with more light than a bright-emitting 845 vacuum tube.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2019  |  4 comments
We were playing some old, cherished black discs when my partner, bb (the 6'-tall Aries artist), declared, "With records you hear touch, and you are not alone." Long pause. "Just holding the cover brings back memories—that's their humanity."
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 02, 2020  |  24 comments
My most cherished intangibles—love, beauty, glimpses of higher realms—enter my awareness only after I prepare my psyche to receive them. Extended bathing, lighting candles, making tea, and preparing food are ritual work forms that prepare my senses to accept both pleasure and illumination. In like manner, collecting LPs and storing them properly, setting up turntables, aligning cartridges, and cleaning styli are ritual actions that prepare me for the high moments of focused musical pleasure only a black disc can provide.
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.

Dick Olsher  |  Feb 13, 2014  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1992  |  1 comments
666kiseki.jpgKoetsu. Kiseki. Keebler. Products from all of these firms are shrouded in at least a bit of mystery. Do I believe that Koetsu cartridges are hand-built by an octogenarian samurai swordsmith, or that Kisekis are imported from the planet Vulcan, or that Keebler's cookies are baked by elves? Not really. But it does help to liven up the domestic audio scene.

"Look, son—see what Scottie just beamed down."

"Gee, Dad, it's big and blue with a gold spot on the front, and it kind of looks like a cartridge."

"Nice guess, son. No ordinary cartridge, this one. Let me tell you about the Vulcan analog freak in Hong Kong..."

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