Phono Cartridge Reviews

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Paul Messenger  |  Jan 04, 2004  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2000  |  0 comments
Ten years ago, I'd probably have got pretty good odds from industry insiders on a bet that Stereophile would still be reviewing phono cartridges into the new millennium. Linn's Arkiv B may not be a brand-new design—I heard my first sample in mid-1997—but phono-cartridge technology is about as stable as anything in hi-fi today. This Stereophile review is long overdue.
Corey Greenberg  |  Jun 01, 2010  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1993  |  0 comments
If you asked me to name a single specific high-end audio component that could make or break a system, I'd name the Linn LP12 turntable. Of all the thousands of hi-fi products I've heard over the years, not a one of 'em—not a speaker, amplifier, or digital processor—has been able to draw me into the music, no matter what the associated componentry, like the LP12. I've heard the most highly regarded speakers/amps/processors fall flat in certain situations due to a lack of synergy with their surrounding systems, but I've never heard an LP12-based system that didn't put a smile on my face and make me green with envy.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 26, 2006  |  First Published: Sep 26, 1987  |  0 comments
Some six or so years ago, the Linn Asak cartridge set new standards for imaging and soundstage reproduction. I can remember the first time I heard an Asak in a system using Quad ESL-63s—I had never experienced such depth of soundstage and solidity of imaging from any system, and that with Quad amplification! The Asak was relatively quickly overshadowed in this area, however, and in any case, soundstaging precision by itself didn't seem to be a high priority for the Linn design team, who were apparently more concerned with dynamics and a musical integration of the sound across the frequency range.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 19, 2003  |  0 comments
Even poor people fly. You see them getting on and off planes with their NASCAR hats and their poor friends and their poor relatives waving to them at the gate. Flying is what everybody does nowadays, but it used to be just for the rich. It's hard to remember a time when the phrase jet set was charged with something other than irony.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 15, 2011  |  1 comments
I set out on a fishing trip but returned less than an hour later, empty-handed. You asked me, reasonably enough, "What happened?"

"I spent a half-hour digging in the garden for worms, but couldn't find any."

"You could have driven to Mr. Zetterstrum's farm, knocked on his door, asked his permission, and spent a few hours overturning the cowflops in his pasture. I'm sure you would have found one or two worms that way."

"You're right. I guess I didn't want to go fishing that badly."

Art Dudley  |  Feb 21, 2012  |  1 comments
Phono cartridges—along with mothballs, hobnails, laundry bluing, hot-water bottles, lighter fluid, fur coats, and typewriters—are among the most outdated of consumer goods: To most people who make their living in the world of consumer electronics, every new cartridge that hits the shelves is little more than a coughing spasm from the death-room down the hall. You can imagine, then, the welcome accorded new samples of the even more anachronistic pickup head, which combines phono cartridge, headshell, and barbell into a product one seldom sees outside the school librarian's junk drawer. New pickup heads, which tend to look the same as old pickup heads, are manufactured in pessimistically small quantities, and seldom get much attention.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 24, 2015  |  0 comments
"Too much Stokowski."—Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1940, reacting to a demonstration of a stereo recording of Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra

I don't remember when, but at some point during the past few years I realized that, in my home, mono cartridges outnumber their stereo counterparts. A few weeks ago, my collection of phono equipment took another step in the same strange direction: After receiving from Ortofon a sample of their CG 25 DI Mk.II mono pickup head ($902) for review, I was so impressed with its sound that I asked if I could buy the review sample. Now, having put check in mail, I own twice as many mono cartridges as stereo ones. Take that, multichannelism.

Art Dudley  |  Nov 24, 2015  |  2 comments
Just as John Atkinson has a special telephone on his desk, by means of which the late J. Gordon Holt expresses his displeasure at this magazine's continuing decline into latitudinarianism, my own desk is littered with a dozen or so windup timers, each set to remind me how long it's been since I last wrote about this or that hi-fi eccentricity. Each timer has its own distinctive ring: The one labeled "LOWTHER" is a bit shrill, especially at certain humidity levels, while the one marked "QUAD ESL" can be heard to best advantage only when sitting in a particular spot—and even I have to admit that my "CARTRIDGE ALIGNMENT" timer seems to go off rather too often.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 22, 2015  |  8 comments
In a typical phono cartridge, the stylus is at one end of an oversize cantilever (oversize in comparison with the cartridge's other moving parts), the fulcrum of which is nearer the cantilever's other end. That design makes possible a certain amount of mechanical compliance that, when the cartridge is lowered to the record surface, helps the stylus seat itself in the groove rather than bounce or skip all over the place. Without at least a modicum of springiness, cueing up a record would be more difficult, and jukeboxes and automatic record changers might never have been possible. Imagine!
Art Dudley  |  Nov 17, 2016  |  7 comments
I'm a progressive who enjoys the company of his conservative friends, a Catholic who's thankful for his atheist friends, and a carnivore who cherishes his vegetarian friends. I'm also a vintage-audio enthusiast who loves his audiophile friends who aren't so inclined—so I was doubly happy to see, in the September 2016 edition of Michael Fremer's "Analog Corner," a hearty endorsement of Ortofon's latest SPU: a 58-year-old phono-cartridge design that, like the coelacanth, continues to thrive despite expectations.

Mikey is a longtime friend who harbors no love for vintage phonography—yet after playing his first record with the new SPU #1E ($659), he wrote: "I immediately, and much to my surprise, got what the SPU cult is all about."

Art Dudley  |  Jul 27, 2017  |  3 comments
How can you tell a classic product from the hi-fi hoi polloi? One sure sign is when third-party developers spring up around the thing, offering parts and service intended to maximize its performance—or just to keep it on the road. Thus regarded, a few true classics emerge: Quad's ESL and ESL-63 loudspeakers. Altec's 802 and 806 compression drivers. The Linn LP12 and Garrard 301/401 turntables. The Rega RB-300 tonearm and its direct descendants.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 29, 2018  |  6 comments
On at least one occasion that I can recall—in 1996, in the early days of Listener magazine—a US publicist for the Japanese manufacturing company Denon told me that they planned to discontinue their DL-103 moving-coil phono cartridge, an enduringly popular model that had been in production since 1962 (footnote 1). At the time, neither the DL-103 nor any of their other cartridge models appeared on Denon's US price lists, and neither English-language promotional materials nor even a basic spec sheet was available to American consumers or press.
Art Dudley  |  May 22, 2018  |  4 comments
In the early 1960s, young people who were anxious see the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show had to first sit through a seeming eternity of bad comedians, bad puppet shows, and acrobats spinning dinner plates to the tune of Khachaturian's Sabre Dance. So it is here: Before I can get to the Miyajima Saboten L phono cartridge, I have to report on something I left out of my April 2018 column, which was devoted to Zu Audio's modification of the classic Denon DL-103 cartridge. And since this is information I've been holding on to for almost a year, I suppose I also left it out of my August 2017 column, which was devoted to the MusiKraft Audio's own modification of the Denon DL-103.
Art Dudley  |  Dec 06, 2018  |  32 comments
Although my house is now home to a borrowed pair of DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 loudspeakers—a loan I gratefully accepted early this year, when my 1966 Altec Flamencos proved a bit too large for my new listening room—it's a matter of pride that I own almost everything else in my playback system, cables included. So it's with no small discomfort that I acknowledge having nearly $30,000 worth of borrowed phono cartridges scattered around my living and dining rooms. (The former is where I listen to them, and the latter—the sunniest room in the house—is where I install them.)
Art Dudley  |  Feb 19, 2019  |  7 comments
Easy pickup: Art’s Dog, Chatter, cozies up to Leif Johannsen of Ortofon A/S and Dee Hustinova of Ortofon USA. (Photo: Art Dudley)

According to the 2018 edition of the UN's World Happiness Report, Denmark is the third-happiest nation on Earth, trailing only its neighbors Finland and Norway.

I heard that yesterday afternoon, on NPR. The reporter even spelled out the word used by Danes to describe their feelings of happiness: hygge. Apparently, at present, Denmark is positively rotten with hygge.

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