Phono Cartridge Reviews

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J. Gordon Holt  |  May 11, 2022  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1970  |  2 comments
Superb tracking ability, very good imaging and extremely smooth frequency response, plus unusual freedom from mounting problems make this one of the best pickups available and, quite possibly, the best all-around performer we have encountered.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 27, 2022  |  2 comments
Let's get right to it: The best way to set azimuth, as I recently wrote in this space, is to measure crosstalk using either a high-quality voltmeter or a digital oscilloscope and a good test record like Analogue Productions' The Ultimate Analogue Test LP (AAPT1). The traditional, qualitative procedure—setting the headshell so that it's parallel to the record surface—assures only cosmetic satisfaction.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 29, 2022  |  6 comments
What? Suddenly a new Japanese cartridge manufacturer? That's what I was thinking when Mockingbird Distribution's Phillip Holmes dropped three cartridges on me from DYLP Audio. Never heard of them—but then I'd not heard of MuTech either when Holmes sent me one of that company's $4500 RM-Kanda (now Hyabusa) moving coil cartridges, which I reviewed in the March 2019 issue's Analog Corner. If that cartridge is not on your moving coil radar, you ought to put it there.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 08, 2022  |  First Published: Mar 01, 2018  |  1 comments
In 1964, Shure Brothers shook up the cartridge market by introducing the original V-15 moving-magnet cartridge, which then cost $67, equivalent to about $530 today. It came packaged in a deluxe, wooden, jewelry-style box—common practice for today's cartridges, but back then unheard of.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 08, 2022  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2018  |  4 comments
At Stereophile, we don't generally allow Mulligans—review do-overs. Usually, we take a second look at a product we've reviewed only when the first sample turns out to have been defective, especially if it was damaged in shipping—and we rarely do even that.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 11, 2022  |  First Published: May 01, 2018  |  35 comments
Peter Ledermann, founder and chief designer of Soundsmith, Inc., began his adventures in phono cartridges by reverse-engineering Bang & Olufsen's Moving Micro-Cross moving-iron cartridges for customers B&O had abandoned when it got out of the LP player business, and putting them into production. The B&O cartridges were of the direct plug-in variety; once they were no longer made, a worn or broken B&O cartridge would render a B&O turntable unusable.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 28, 2021  |  3 comments
Ortofon had hoped to introduce its new MC Verismo phono cartridge "in person" at one of last fall's North American shows, but those shows never took place. COVID necessitated instead an October 30 live Facebook introduction, the company's first such premier. The next day, AnalogPlanet posted an exclusive interview with Leif Johannsen, the cartridge's designer and Ortofon's chief officer of acoustics and technology.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 30, 2021  |  0 comments
So glad to be back in business with superclean electricity! Especially having spent the last few weeks listening to the remarkably pure-sounding Analog Relax EX1000 cartridge ($16,000).

The brochure asks, "Have you heard of YAKUSUGI Cedar?" No. I had never heard of Analog Relax, either. If you have heard of it, you're at least one step ahead of me.

Herb Reichert  |  Nov 04, 2021  |  17 comments
In the household I grew up in, telling a lie was a death-penalty offense—worse than murder or leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter. So, believe me when I tell you that way more than a year ago, Musical Surroundings' Garth Leerer sent me DS Audio's lowest priced optical cartridge, the DS-E1 ($2750 with energizer/equalizer, footnote 1). He said, "You need to know about this." Then every few months he would write and politely inquire how I was liking it. Each time I would write back saying, "I'm sorry Garth, I haven't tried it yet, but I'll install it right after deadline."
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 12, 2021  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2018  |  4 comments
Among the electrically connected, the phrase short circuit induces panic and horrific images of tripped breakers, blown fuses, acrid blue smoke, and melted circuit boards. Nonetheless, near short circuits are becoming popular among the analog set. Moving-coil cartridges of an inductance and impedance so low they're nearly short circuits are now more common, thanks to powerful neodymium magnets that help produce more and more electrical output from fewer and fewer turns of coil wire. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the Haniwa HCTR01 Mk.II cartridge, which has an internal impedance of 0.4 ohm and an inductance of 0.3µH.
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 07, 2021  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2018  |  0 comments
A few years ago, Leif Johannsen, Ortofon's chief officer of acoustics and technology, was tasked with designing new products to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary, in 2018 (footnote 1). Ten years ago, to celebrate Ortofon's 90th, he came up with the radical A90 moving-coil cartridge, which used Selective Laser Melt (SLM) technology to laser-weld together microparticles of stainless steel, layer by layer, to produce a 3D-printed metal body whose shape would have been impossible to machine.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2021  |  7 comments
I don't like being pigeonholed as a reviewer of exclusively expensive audio components—because I'm not, as anyone who regularly peruses Analog Planet knows. So, to ease the pain of reviewing the half-million-dollar Air Force Zero turntable—you'll find that review elsehere in this issue—I figured I'd cover some more reasonably priced analog gear here in Analog Corner.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 09, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2018  |  7 comments
Despite one website's recent claim that "Vinyl's Revival Is Already Fading," Nielsen SoundScan recently announced that vinyl sales for the first half of 2018 were up 19.2% over 2017, led by Jack White's Boarding House Reach, with 37,000 copies sold so far (and we know that N/S misses a great deal of the action). While on the West Coast looking for business, a friend of mine who's about to open a major vinyl-pressing plant on the East Coast was told by everyone that they're experiencing "double-digit vinyl growth." No one was seeing a slowdown ahead.
Corey Greenberg  |  Jul 07, 2021  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1993  |  5 comments
In these waning days of Analog's Last Stand, it might seem absurd to review midpriced phono cartridges when this space could be given instead to the gear Stereophile usually covers—like $3000 OTL tube amps built by guys like that "Rainbow Man" lone nut who used to dance in the stands at Super Bowls before he took hostages in a hotel room with a .45 screaming, "MIT CAPACITORS!!! MIT CAPACITORS!!!"
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  19 comments
In my world, the quiet ritual of choosing a record and placing it carefully on the platter is always followed by a sequence of three rough sounds.

With the volume at listening level, I hear the bristle-by-bristle rasping of my stylus brush as it drags across the exposed tip of the cartridge cantilever. Next, as I dip the diamond in Onzow gel, I hear a little suction cup pop and feel the compliance of the cantilever's rubber-tire suspension. Finally, my brain registers that sizzle sound as the stylus contacts the grooved surface. These sounds are tattooed on my brain. They "cue up" my consciousness, preparing it for attentive listening.

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