Phono Cartridge Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  May 25, 2021  |  4 comments
Almost exactly a year ago to the day that I'm writing this—March 11, 2020—the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. If you weren't paying attention, maybe you didn't see it coming (incredibly, some still deny the pandemic's existence), but I had already canceled a March 14, 2020, flight to Atlanta to speak to the local audiophile society. I'd made the plans for that visit at the Florida Audio Expo a few weeks earlier. Remember hi-fi shows?
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 20, 2021  |  4 comments
"I got some Audio-Technica ATLP120X turntables in the other day, which had been back ordered for maybe 6 or 7 months, so I called to see if they had more. I was told there were 17,700 of that model on back order," a dealer I know told me recently in an email.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  22 comments
At the end of Gramophone Dreams #46, I was lost in the pristine beauty of Decware's 25th Anniversary Zen Triode amplifier driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. That was an extremely enjoyable system, and I was hoping to keep it intact for another month. My plan was simply to morph into my long-postponed opus on tube rolling using the Zen Triode as well as Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben headphone and loudspeaker amp. Both are single-ended triode, no-feedback designs and therefore perfectly suited for tube-swapping comparisons.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 01, 2021  |  57 comments
I'm an audiophile and live in North America—seems like a perfect fit for the Facebook group Audiophiles - North America, right? Wrong!

On my first visit, I noticed that a group member had asked for speaker cable suggestions. Another member posted a picture of a 100' spool of 16-gauge lamp cord costing $14, accompanied by the suggestion "This is all you need." The implication: That's all anyone needs, because cables are "snake oil.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2021  |  7 comments
I feel compelled to repeat here an eerie occurrence I related a while back on AnalogPlanet. I reviewed, in the February 1999 Analog Corner column, the Cartridge Man's Digital Stylus Force Gauge, which back then sold for $299.

I still have it, but a decade ago, the battery stopped taking a charge. I put it aside, planning to replace the battery someday.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2020  |  28 comments
Someone once asked me, "If I buy your $90,000, 25W amplifier, what will I get that I am not getting with my $2000, 200W amplifier?" My answer was simple: "Goosebumps, tears, and smirking." Great, well-tuned audio systems, at all price levels, give their owners less of the annoying and distracting stuff and more of the exciting and engaging stuff. Great systems offer more opportunities for smirking pridefully while listening to great recordings.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 21, 2020  |  37 comments
Cavitation revolutionized record cleaning more than a decade ago, when Reiner Gläss's Audiodesksysteme introduced its original fully automatic machine. Mr. Gläss's innovative machine, which automatically spun the record in ultrasonically cavitated water, then dried it with fans, at first was plagued with reliability issues, and because it is sealed, it was not easy to repair.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 19, 2020  |  3 comments
How goes your quarantining? Honestly, my life hasn't changed much here. I'm locked in the basement as usual, happy to have a good audio system and overwhelmed by my musical choices. Other than minimizing shopping expeditions and wearing a mask, the biggest change in my life is a spike in requests from readers for upgrade advice. I've never been so busy answering reader emails.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 04, 2020  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2020  |  6 comments
Lately, current amplification–based moving-coil phono preamplifiers have gotten a great deal of well-deserved press. For years, Haniwa's Dr. Kubo has been designing and selling super–low-internal-impedance cartridges because such cartridges work best with such devices. He has also been designing and selling his own current-amplification phono preamplifier.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 02, 2020  |  22 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.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 07, 2020  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2020  |  2 comments
We're 30 years into a cartridge design revolution, particularly at the top end of the market, where manufacturers charge upward of $10,000 for their best efforts: prices that well-off consumers have amply proved they are willing to pay. There doesn't seem to be an innovation end in sight.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 18, 2020  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2020  |  54 comments
Lately it seems that the more Rega charges for one of its turntables, the less you get—and from Rega's performance perspective that's a good thing.

While some turntable designs pile on the mass, hoping to tame resonances and better isolate the record from the outside world, Rega has long advocated ultralow-mass designs. What's up with that?

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2019  |  4 comments
AVM Audio, which has been in business since 1986 (footnote 1), chose last year to enter the turntable market with two models that reflect the company's brushed-aluminum/blue LED visual aesthetics.

It doesn't take a forensic turntable scientist to figure out who manufactures both of those turntable models. Clearly, Pro-Ject does (footnote 2)—although some audiophiles might recognize only a few key parts. Other elements, especially the two different tonearm models, may appear unique to AVM, having been built to their specs.

Art Dudley  |  Oct 02, 2019  |  35 comments
Godzilla and I are precisely the same age: We were both born in 1954, Godzilla as an expression of the postwar fears of a nation uniquely aware of the horrors of nuclear armaments, I as an expression of the postwar comfort felt by an American veteran fresh from foreign wars. We both dislike being awakened from our slumber, and we're both unusually handsome.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2019  |  2 comments
Haniwa's Dr. Tetsuo Kubo is an interesting fellow. If you go to shows, domestic or overseas, you've possibly encountered him in his room a space known for being strewn, shrine-like, with LPs that once belonged to The Absolute Sound's founder, the late Harry Pearson: Dr. Kubo was a fan.

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