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How Phono Cartridges Work

Frank Dernie

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Do you think they're more of a rip off at the low or high end? Where is the price point of not a rip off these days?
I don't think it is to do with price point, it is to do with image and fashion. Back when I worked for Garrard they priced everything on a price + margin basis. The 401 was £72 iirc. The new wave of audio subjectivism was just starting with Linn and Naim being the thing to have here in the UK.
We had a Linn in the lab for evaluation at Garrard and it was excellent but the cost guys said it would be cheaper to make than a 401 but Linn were selling for £300 at the time, presumably priced according to what you can get for it rather than the old cost + model.
Edit: we also had both Sony and Technics highe end direct drive and they performed brilliantly but would cost a fortune to make, which was a big shock at Garrard who wondered how we could compete. My boss ended up buying the evaluation Sony from the scrap man and I bought the SP10 (for £12). I had to re-assemble it, which was easy enough and convert to 240 volts and away I went. I ended up putting it in a skip when I moved house :( :end edit
I think that is how it is now, with the highest priced items probably being the worst. I heard (ie it may not be true) that one manufacturer of high priced items here in the UK was told by his far east distributors that one of his product lines did not sell well because it was not expensive enough (the other products were ludicrously expensive).
A good record player is expensive to engineer well but does not need to be expensive to make. A good distributed mass dynamic analysis of the system placed on different supports and using different cartridges is possible but I am not sure many, if any, of the manufacturers use it. This is a "hairy-arsed" engineering product class nowadays with buzz-words and largely technically ignorant reviewers holding sway.
I think there are rip off products at every price point as well as good ones.
Your Technics suggestion is probably a good one. Proper isolated TTs are not much in fashion at the moment.
I like the Gyrodeck but it has a round section drive belt, and I am always suspicious of what other more hidden bits of bad engineering practice may have been chosen by a designer who chooses such a drive system on anything but the very cheapest deck.
The Well Tempered arm makes more sense than most others, from a vibration transducer pov, at its price point.
A sapphire pivot, like in a watch, is a very good and very inexpensive bearing and was used in most of the inexpensive Garrard arms. Now I see it being mooted as something special on an arm costing the same as a car. Makes my blood boil.
 
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watchnerd

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I could never live with that fugly speed slider. yuck. No DD's for that matter.
Give me a good old Linn, etc. Belt drive and suspended decks only need apply.
Hell, I'll take a beautiful old Empire fully rehabed and an upgraded arm, gorgeous!
(And real glass on the cover panels, not cheap plastic that scratched and turned yellow after a few years


While I am loathe to write off the direct drive technology, I agree about the looks of DJ decks.

Lots of springs and no dust covers (or cat covers) in my set up. Wondering if there is room to fit in a nice vintage Revox reel to reel:




Did anybody ever try suspending a turntable in water?
 

watchnerd

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I don't think it is to do with price point, it is to do with image and fashion. Back when I worked for Garrard they priced everything on a price + margin basis. The 401 was £72 iirc. The new wave of audio subjectivism was just starting with Linn and Naim being the thing to have here in the UK.
We had a Linn in the lab for evaluation at Garrard and it was excellent but the cost guys said it would be cheaper to make than a 401 but Linn were selling for £300 at the time, presumably priced according to what you can get for it rather than the old cost + model.
Edit: we also had both Sony and Technics highe end direct drive and they performed brilliantly but would cost a fortune to make, which was a big shock at Garrard who wondered how we could compete. My boss ended up buying the evaluation Sony from the scrap man and I bought the SP10 (for £12). I had to re-assemble it, which was easy enough and convert to 240 volts and away I went. I ended up putting it in a skip when I moved house :( :end edit
I think that is how it is now, with the highest priced items probably being the worst. I heard (ie it may not be true) that one manufacturer of high priced items here in the UK was told by his far east distributors that one of his product lines did not sell well because it was not expensive enough (the other products were ludicrously expensive).
A good record player is expensive to engineer well but does not need to be expensive to make. A good distributed mass dynamic analysis of the system placed on different supports and using different cartridges is possible but I am not sure many, if any, of the manufacturers use it. This is a "hairy-arsed" engineering product class nowadays with buzz-words and largely technically ignorant reviewers holding sway.
I think there are rip off products at every price point as well as good ones.
Your Technics suggestion is probably a good one. Proper isolated TTs are not much in fashion at the moment.
I like the Gyrodeck but it has a round section drive belt, and I am always suspicious of what other more hidden bits of bad engineering practice may have been chosen by a designer who chooses such a drive system on anything but the very cheapest deck.
The Well Tempered arm makes more sense than most others, from a vibration transducer pov, at its price point.
A sapphire pivot, like in a watch, is a very good and very inexpensive bearing and was used in most of the inexpensive Garrard arms. Now I see it being mooted as something special on an arm costing the same as a car. Makes my blood boil.
Excellent post:

Here are the turntables I think are actually decent value for money these days:

1. The new Technics SL-1200GR. Hate the looks, but bringing back a brand new direct drive TT for <$2k is remarkable. Nobody else could do this.

2. The Michell Gyro (caveat: I own one). Round belt aside, this is a lot of metal for the money, time-tested, very user maintain-able, sounds good, and will likely outlive most owners.

3. The cheap U-turn and Pro-Ject belt drive models that are <$300. Yeah, they're cheap, and definitely "starter" turntables. But they're good enough for casual listeners and beginners, and they don't rip people off or pretend to be something they're not.

4. A refurbished Lenco idler drive, if you don't mind working on it. It will cost the same as the new Technics, has a unique drive system, looks better. Downside: it's the size of a beer cooler.

That's about it. The rest of the models as I think of as being "okay", but nothing particularly special (Clearaudio, Acoustic Signature), over-hyped by fans and having questionable engineering (Rega -- lack of adjustable tonearms and intentionally run fast, VPI - no anti-skate, no isolation of note, regular belt drive, pricey), or just batshit crazy expensive.
 

watchnerd

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AVID make some nice looking stuff. I have the opportunity to buy a Diva II at the moment (new version with aluminium platter). I'd have to choose my own arm but it seems like a nice table.

http://www.avidhifi.com/turntable_diva.htm
Personally, I hate the look of their cork platter surfaces. But that's just an aesthetic issue.

Objectively, their speeds are pretty inaccurate for the price, see:



https://www.analogplanet.com/content/avid-“ts-off”-low-priced-ingenium-turntable
 
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watchnerd

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100% agree in terms of the cork mat. The fact that it's glued to the platter is baffling and frustrating. Still, I think they offer decent performance.
Decent performance. But I wouldn't call it exceptional.

I have an issue with a multi-thousand turntable that has less speed stability than a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon SB at a fraction of the price.
 
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Decent performance. But I wouldn't call it exceptional.

I have an issue with a multi-thousand turntable that has less speed stability than a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon SB at a fraction of the price.
Does the Carbon SB have good speed stability? What about motor noise and no VTA being an issue?

Rega P3 with Neo PSU can be dialed in to exactly 33.3 and seems to have good stability. No VTA but spacers are an option unlike the Pro-Ject.
 

watchnerd

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Does the Carbon SB have good speed stability? What about motor noise and no VTA being an issue?

Rega P3 with Neo PSU can be dialed in to exactly 33.3 and seems to have good stability. No VTA but spacers are an option unlike the Pro-Ject.
It has very good speed stability, especially for the price.

Yeah, the arm is very basic and it lacks VTA.

But it's also dirt cheap.

Once you get into >$2k territory, I think you should be getting it all: good speed stability, fully adjustable arm and/or arm boards to fit other arms.

The AVID scores on arm flexibility, but is a let down in the speed stability area.
 

watchnerd

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FWIW, my Michell Gyro SE has the following speed measurements, measured and tested on my setup:

RPM range: 33.34 - 33.36
Speed Stability: +0.03% to +0.09%, a spread of 0.06%

That's a max deviation of +.09% (raw), about 8x better than the Avid that Fremer measured.

That's not as good as the new Technics SL-1200G/GR/GAE, but it's a lot closer than the Avid and the Michell is easier to tweak for different arms than the Technics and has adjustable suspension. So lose a bit on speed stability, gain a lot in terms of tweakability.
 
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watchnerd

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Does the Carbon SB have good speed stability? What about motor noise and no VTA being an issue?

Rega P3 with Neo PSU can be dialed in to exactly 33.3 and seems to have good stability. No VTA but spacers are an option unlike the Pro-Ject.
The Rega arms don't allow azimuth adjustment, though....that's a big miss, IMHO.
 
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Thanks for the info. The Michell has always been a turntable I've lusted after but unfortunately in Australia they are very expensive and hard to find on the used market.
 

watchnerd

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Thanks for the info. The Michell has always been a turntable I've lusted after but unfortunately in Australia they are very expensive and hard to find on the used market.
Same as USA; I bought mine off UK eBay for $900, had it shipped internationally.

I've put in about another $400-500 refurbishing / upgrading it, but still saved >$1000 compared to buying in the USA.
 
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Looking for a bit of advice. I have a Nagaoka MP-110 and on certain records I get intolerable sibilance. I just bought a MFSL pressing of a Pixies album and the sibilance in unbearable. The cart has now been on two turntables (VPI Classic, Pioneer PLX-1000) and has the same problems on both. I have set it up using various alignment methodologies and have experimented with anti-skate and VTA/VTF with no changes. I'm almost certain it's a bad combination of stylus profile and dodgy pressings. However, I have owned a Benz Micro MC and Denon DL-110 and didn't have sibilance issues with these carts on the usual suspect records. So, perhaps the stylus profiles on the other carts were such that they could track these sibilant passages without issue and the Nag can't. That said, does anyone have any recommendations for cartridges around $300 that have a fine line or micro line stylus? The only one I have found is the Audio Technica VM540ML and I'm not sure if it will fix my issues.
 

restorer-john

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...about 8x better than the Avid that Fremer measured...
Measured? Ha. He doesn't even own a calibrated W&F meter. He uses that silly feikert app which is about as useful as a dog with no legs.
 

watchnerd

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Looking for a bit of advice. I have a Nagaoka MP-110 and on certain records I get intolerable sibilance. I just bought a MFSL pressing of a Pixies album and the sibilance in unbearable. The cart has now been on two turntables (VPI Classic, Pioneer PLX-1000) and has the same problems on both. I have set it up using various alignment methodologies and have experimented with anti-skate and VTA/VTF with no changes. I'm almost certain it's a bad combination of stylus profile and dodgy pressings. However, I have owned a Benz Micro MC and Denon DL-110 and didn't have sibilance issues with these carts on the usual suspect records. So, perhaps the stylus profiles on the other carts were such that they could track these sibilant passages without issue and the Nag can't. That said, does anyone have any recommendations for cartridges around $300 that have a fine line or micro line stylus? The only one I have found is the Audio Technica VM540ML and I'm not sure if it will fix my issues.
The MP-110 uses an elliptical stylus, probably the least finicky shape to align after a spherical.

If you're getting excessive sibilance with a simple elliptical, something is wrong with your alignment to such a degree that moving to an advanced sytlus isn't likely to fix it.

Which arm you using? What alignment? How are you setting azimuth and anti-skate?
 

Frank Dernie

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Looking for a bit of advice. I have a Nagaoka MP-110 and on certain records I get intolerable sibilance. I just bought a MFSL pressing of a Pixies album and the sibilance in unbearable. The cart has now been on two turntables (VPI Classic, Pioneer PLX-1000) and has the same problems on both. I have set it up using various alignment methodologies and have experimented with anti-skate and VTA/VTF with no changes. I'm almost certain it's a bad combination of stylus profile and dodgy pressings. However, I have owned a Benz Micro MC and Denon DL-110 and didn't have sibilance issues with these carts on the usual suspect records. So, perhaps the stylus profiles on the other carts were such that they could track these sibilant passages without issue and the Nag can't. That said, does anyone have any recommendations for cartridges around $300 that have a fine line or micro line stylus? The only one I have found is the Audio Technica VM540ML and I'm not sure if it will fix my issues.
If you look at the HiFi News cartridge tests you will see that some cartridges have a very exagerated response at high frequencies, I am not familiar with this particular cartridge, but it could be one of them. If this is the case your problem is in the cartridge not its setup. There is a HUGE range of frequency responses for different cartridges few are reasonably flat.
The most expensive part of a cartridge is the stylus with the complex fine-line shapes being by far the most expensive to grind, and then the most sensitive to alignment and cartridge precision of manufacture. I would be surprised if a cartridge in the price range you mention would have a well made, accurately aligned fine line stylus so it may be risky to look for one...
Some, if not all, of the highest regarded (in the audiophile press) cartridges have a response strongly rolled off at high frequencies. Notable are the Koetsus and the Tech Das which are both very expensive and nowhere near flat response. These will not pick up sibilance even if it is on the LP!
I don't know if there is a lower priced cartridge with such a response, but there may be. Sorry not to be able to make a suggestion, but pickup cartridges have a bigger variety of distortion and frequency response than any other hifi component.
 
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The MP-110 uses an elliptical stylus, probably the least finicky shape to align after a spherical.

If you're getting excessive sibilance with a simple elliptical, something is wrong with your alignment to such a degree that moving to an advanced sytlus isn't likely to fix it.

Which arm you using? What alignment? How are you setting azimuth and anti-skate?
Standard arm on PLX-1000 with Jelco headshell. Alignment is currently Baerwald but have tried Lofgren and Stevenson as well with no improvement. Arm on VPI was standard 10 inch JMW aligned using VPI gauge. Anti-skate is standard mechanism.

As I said previously, this is only on certain records. Other sound great which indicates to me this is record and cart specific as I haven’t had these issue with more expensive carts on the same records. I always use these records when testing a cart as I have experienced this sibilance with cheap MM carts before. I’m mainly just looking for a new cart at this point.
 

Wombat

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I have never had to set up a CD player laser head. :rolleyes:

There are recordings with sibilance and those without. If you have to ponder whether your expensive cartridge reproduces sibilance on the recording or produces it, your chosen reproducing medium is limited/flawed.

I wonder if audiophile anxiety will be categorised in DSM

Talk about putting 'anal' into analogue.
daz.gif



As time goes by this forum draws closer to those forums it was set up to differentiate itself from.
Devil.jpg30.jpg
 
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Sal1950

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