Phono Cartridge Reviews

Sort By: Post DateTitle Publish Date
Michael Fremer  |  May 07, 2006  |  First Published: Oct 07, 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  |  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.
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.
Jonathan Scull  |  Aug 05, 2007  |  First Published: Jul 05, 1995  |  0 comments
If you think I burned out cartridge-wise at the end of my and JE's It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World cartridge survey at the beginning of the year (Vol.18 Nos.1 & 2), you're wrong. If you think I ought to burn out and give it a rest, you'll be disappointed. If you think analog doesn't matter anymore, you have my semi-sincere condolences. But if you think, as I do, that analog is enjoying a resurgence of epic proportions (twilight or no), and that LP playback has reached a new zenith of musical wonder, then hang on—here I go again!
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.
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.
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..."

Guy Lemcoe  |  Jun 04, 2020  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1989  |  4 comments
The Talisman S represented, ca 1983, the top of Sumiko's moving-coil cartridge line and shared its design philosophy and external appearance with the Talisman A and B, the remaining two cartridges in the Talisman family before the introduction of the Virtuoso line. The three differed only in cantilever material and stylus shape. The A, the least expensive, had an aluminum alloy cantilever and an elliptical diamond stylus.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 05, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1989  |  1 comments
666mc500.promo.jpgThe Genesis 500 ($650) is the baby brother of Monster Cable's top-of-the-line Genesis 1000 cartridge. It is almost identical in physical appearance, differing only in its use of green body trim (the 1000 sports red pinstripes). All of the functional differences appear to be in the stylus and cantilever. The cantilever of the 500 is a hollow sapphire rod tightly attached to an inner aluminum tube (the 1000 has a diamond-coated boron tube cantilever). Its stylus is a 6µm x 35µm line-contact (3µm x 60µm for the 1000). Monster claims a stylus life in excess of 600 hours for the Genesis 500, more than 1000 hours for its higher-priced sibling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sam Tellig, Anthony H. Cordesman, Michael Fremer  |  May 05, 2020  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1984  |  14 comments
I was all set to give up on moving magnets until the new Shure VI5-VMR (MR stands for Micro-Ridge stylus) arrived. In a word, it's terrific. I was slightly disappointed with the original V15-V: I just didn't think it was a significant improvement over the Type IV. What I missed was fine detail—especially in the high frequencies and during heavily modulated passages. The original V was not quite up to the sound of certain moving coils. Which is not to say the original V was a bad buy: moving coils cost twice the price and you need a stepup. I could recommend the original V without hesitation.
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.

Pages

X