Phono Cartridge Reviews

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Art Dudley  |  Sep 22, 2008  |  0 comments
Janet watched the record spin wildly, mildly awestruck. She nodded its way—a gesture that took in all the other 78rpm discs piled nearby—and asked, "How long have you had those?"
Art Dudley  |  Dec 28, 2008  |  0 comments
I'm old enough to remember when "Made in Japan" was an insult. As a child, I saw that phrase on only the cheapest or craziest toys—some stamped out of tin and cupped together by a tab with a fiendish edge, some molded from a distinctively smooth, brittle plastic. The latter included a wind-up bunny on wheels that my father brought home one day: my favorite toy, ever. (It came with a double-barreled dart gun that I seldom used, partly because I loved the bunny too much to shoot it, and partly because the suction-cup darts didn't stick to that kind of plastic in the first place.)
Art Dudley  |  Apr 26, 2009  |  0 comments
"Glory to the genius of Edison!"—Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Martin Colloms, Michael Fremer  |  Jun 20, 2012  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  0 comments
London phono cartridges still carry the famous Decca name (even if only in parentheses), but they are now produced by John Wright, a precision engineer and ex-Decca employee. Wright (not to be confused with his IMF and more recent TDL loudspeaker-designer namesake) was assigned the rights in 1989 by Decca's Special Products division (footnote 1), when the company's new owner, Racal, decided that they didn't want to be involved in the manufacture of audio equipment. Wright worked for 20 years in Decca's phono-cartridge division, where he gained a wealth of experience. As well as manufacturing the current range of London cartridges, he is also responsible for servicing and overhauling older Decca models.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 14, 2013  |  First Published: May 01, 2012  |  2 comments
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, I spoke with Lyra's Jonathan Carr about the Atlas. He told me that, rather than having started as a blank sheet of paper, the Atlas is an outgrowth of the Kleos ($2995), which I reviewed in January 2011, when I thought it Carr's best balanced design yet, even if it didn't have quite the resolution of the Titan i. Like the lower-priced Delos ($1650, reviewed in August 2010), the Kleos included Carr's New Angle technology, which mechanically aligns the coils to be perfectly positioned relative to the front and rear magnets when the stylus is in the groove.
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.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 02, 2007  |  First Published: Apr 02, 1996  |  0 comments
Scan-Tech builds low-output moving-coil cartridges for a number of companies, including AudioQuest, Linn, and Spectral (footnote 1). It also markets its own line, under the Lyra brand name (Lydian, Clavis, Parnassus), which is imported and distributed by Immedia out of Berkeley, CA.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 05, 2014  |  2 comments
Is the high-performance audio industry stagnating? Are designers simply repackaging the past? Cynics claim so, but to me it seems that making that case gets harder by the day, as a parade of veterans continue to produce their best work.
Michael Fremer  |  Jun 11, 2006  |  First Published: Oct 11, 1998  |  0 comments
What makes a phono cartridge worth $3500 or $4000? Pride of ownership? Snob appeal? Sound? Tracking ability? Exotic materials? Styling? Labor cost for skilled artisans? Special ether? Cool wooden box? All of the above?
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 18, 2007  |  First Published: Mar 19, 2007  |  1 comments
Back in 2000, when Lyra introduced the Helikon moving-coil cartridge, which replaced the then six-year-old Clavis D.C., the company inexplicably retained the Clavis D.C.'s retail price of $2000. This was inexplicable because the Helikon's revolutionary design was new from the ground up, and because audiophiles—like most, if not all, consumers—perceive price to be a reflection of quality and performance.
Art Dudley, Michael Fremer  |  Oct 28, 2010  |  First Published: Sep 28, 2009  |  0 comments
The unusual Miyajima Shilabe moving-coil cartridge ($2800) came to my attention through a friend, and I obtained one from the importer, Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio, a music lover and dedicated audiophile who imports gear as a sideline, and who lives nearby in New Jersey.
Robert J. Reina  |  Dec 08, 2014  |  0 comments
The call I received from Music Hall's Leland Leard surprised me: "Hey, Bob, I think you'd be the perfect guy to review our new Ikura turntable!"

Hmm. It had been four years since I'd reviewed a record player: Pro-Ject's Debut III, in the February 2010 issue. And with the surging popularity of vinyl—hell, Rough Trade NYC's enormous new record store, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, even sells turntables—the thought of a plug-and-play turntable-tonearm-cartridge combination for $1200 intrigued me. Sure, Leland—send it on.

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  |  Jul 02, 2010  |  First Published: May 02, 1985  |  0 comments
Although the idea of a $1000 moving-coil cartridge no longer shocks audiophiles, it is still not exactly what I'd call "Mainstream Hi-Fi." Audio magazine's 1984 Equipment Directory—the most complete such compendium published in the US—lists only 10 models in this price range, not counting the Kiseki Lapis Lazuli at a whopping three-and-a-half grand! I have not tested most of these, nor have I tried any of the current models from the Japanese Koetsu firm, which was first with the gall to put a $1000 price tag on a cartridge. But I have tested a couple of one-granders during the past few years, and was sufficiently unimpressed to be hesitant about testing any more samples of what were beginning to look like nothing more than monumental ripoffs. So when Ortofon sent us the MC-2000, I was naturally less than enthusiastic about trying it.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 10, 2006  |  First Published: Jan 10, 1988  |  0 comments
The Ortofon MC-2000 may just have been the most impractical cartridge to be unleashed upon the audio community for some years. With a high compliance (20cu) that made it ill-suited for most tonearms, it also had a preposterously low signal output of 50 microvolts, which gave new meaning to the terms hum and noise. Few MC preamps had enough gain to deliver adequate driving voltage to a system, and none of those that did had low enough noise to be usable with the 2000. If the problem wasn't hum, it was hiss; if hiss was acceptably low, there would be too much hum. At least Ortofon had the sense to be aware of the problem and to do something about it, in the form of their T-2000 step-up transformer, which is the only device I ever found that would allow the cartridge to be operated without a constant background of hum or hiss. Despite all this, I have used the MC-2000 as my reference cartridge for the last two years. Why? Because of all the cartridges I've tried, it is by far the most accurate.

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