Well done. thank you for making that effort and taking the time to write it up. Your writing is clear, concise and punchy. Not so easy sometimes.....
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Nice insight.This thread speaks to me. My time with the ART9 is nearing the 2.5 year mark. No regrets, but as any true audio geek, curiosity about other possibilities which include the SS MIMC & Aida is always present.
Your review sheds more light on my situation. Going beyond the ART9 with my VPI Classic may not be money well spent, vs. selling it for a used Prime, which you have.I see fantastic deals which would be offset with the sale of my Classic.
On on the other hand, I could just sit back and listen to another record...
Edit-upon close inspection, I see you have a special Scout, not a Prime. I'm sure it delivers the goods.
Wonderful writeup, Dodgealum. Thanks!
And your characterization of the ART-9 is entirely consistent with my own experience, also using a Herron VTPH-2 and Daedalus speakers (the Ulysses in my case, as you might recall).
I've had my ART-9 for about a year and a half, now, and I couldn't be happier with it. For the majority of the preceding few decades, btw, I was using various incarnations of the well regarded vintage Grace F-9E and F-9E Ruby moving magnet cartridges, including one that had been re-tipped by SoundSmith.
Also, I too settled on using the ART-9 with no loading plugs on my VTPH-2, having also tried 47K and 1K loads.
I use the cartridge, btw, on a tonearm having relatively low mass, a vintage Magnepan Unitrac.
Thanks again! Best regards,
ART 9 ($1000/18CU) would perform against two lower compliance contenders that might represent a better match to my new tonearm--the Ortofon Quintet Black ($800/15CU) and the Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC STAR ($2000/10CU).
Let me correct you in one important thing:
Dynamic compliacne of the japanese ART-9 is much higher that you expected, you are quoting 18cu, but this is 18cu @ 100Hz!
You have to multiply it on 1,7 to convert japanese system to american/european. Because the compliance of the american and european cartridges measured @ 10 Hz (not at 100 Hz) !
You know the difference?
In fact the real dynamic compliance of the ART-9 is about 30cu and if you’re using fairly low 10cu compliance (SoundSmith) cartridge with 30cu (Audio-Technica) cartridge on the same tonearm then most likely you have total mismatch with one of them. Not sure what’s the effective mass of your tonearm, but the high mass tonearm is not ideal for ART9.
Nice to hear that you are more impressed with the low output Moving Iron cartridge, but maybe it was just the wrong tonearm for ART-9 (at least not ideal).
Thanks, Chakster. I am not familiar with the discrepancies between the American/Euro and Japanese compliance scales. I do know that Audio Technica website specs for the ART 9 indicate a "Dynamic" compliance of 18CU and a "Static" compliance of 35CU, which is near the 30CU figure you cite. I don't have the specs related to the effective mass of my arm but it is certainly higher than the one it replaced, which partly explains my desire to try out a few cartridges with lower compliance to see whether they would offer a better match. While I don't think the ART 9 was completely mismatched to my arm (which is probably in the medium/high range of effective mass) you are probably correct in stating that better results might have been obtained in a medium/low mass arm, which somewhat clouds my comparative analysis. That said, the ART 9 still put in an exemplary performance that would, I suspect, only get better on an arm with a somewhat lower effective mass.
The key is what you see after CU digits, all Japanese cartridge compliance measured at 100Hz (and that’s clearly stated in the manual), i’m talking about Dynamic compliance (forget about static compliance). Japanese manufacturers measured dynamic compliance at 100Hz. But ALL American and European manufacturers measure dynamic compliance at 10 Hz.
So you’re comparing apples to oranges. First you have to convert compliance at 100Hz to compliance at 10Hz. That’s the basics.
ART9 dynamic compliance us 18 cu @ 100Hz
18 x 1,7 = 30,6 cu @ 10 Hz - this is the real dynamic compliance. This calculation is correct ONLY for japanese cartridges.
You can not use 100 Hz figure when you trying to match the tonearm effective mass and your cartridge compliance on paper in theory (without test records).
10 Hz is the key (not 100 Hz) and the problem is only japanese carts, all others are already measured at 10Hz (no problem with them).
nice thorough review, thank you. before I bought the ART9 I had both the Quintet Black and the MIMIC Star on my short list. Although the '9 is not perfect for me, based on what you write about the others I made the right call.
My main issues with the '9 are that it is a little thick and polite sounding. If the QB is more polite it would have been a disaster. And if the MIMIC star sounds more rich and less defined in the treble, it too would have been a bad direction.
Ideally I would want a cart that is a shade warmer than the Ortofon 2M black yet a shade more neutral then the '9. You have removed the QB and MIMIC star from the new list- still looking I guess.....
Avanti....glad my write up was helpful. To try and clarify, I guess some might consider the ART 9 a tad "polite" but my read is more "refined". It lays back just a touch but at the same time is very quick, detailed and dynamic. To me it just lacks the high frequency aberrations that some might characterize as being opposite of "polite". And in my system it did not sound "thick" in any way whatsoever. In fact, just the opposite. It was noticeably clear across the spectrum in my system. Of the two cartridges, the MIMC Star was the one I would call "thicker" though I would use a different adjective...."chunky", and I mean that in a good way. The MIMC Star just has great body and fluidity. There is definitely more "flesh on the bone" with the MIMC Star than the ART 9. But not in a way that presents as congestion--the MIMC Star is VERY quick with lots of detail. It just has a fuller sound to the ART 9's ever so slightly more austere presentation. Hope this helps.
I now have about 125 hours on my ART9, Sometimes it will be days between uses. This is when it really impresses. Spun several records today, a couple of common pressings and the new Tangerine Dream "Quantum Gate" LP. The TD record is just "wet your pants good. To confirm it was the ART9 causing the yellow spots, I took it upstairs to the Dual with a Jico SAS and while the bottom end was real good with the JICO , it was not even close to the ART9 across the freq spectrum. I wish I could hear this cart with one of the new MO-FI one step records. It is still getting noticeably better at each listening session. Very happy with my purchase.
Some good discussions here, keep it up. I am still learning.
Thought I'd stop back and provide a quick update. I tweaked the set up a tiny bit on the MIMC Star and the cartridge now has broken in a bit more--I only had 10 hours or so on it when I wrote the review. I don't have any major changes to report however I would say that the MIMC Star sounds more similar to the ART 9. The MIMC Star has retained that density of color and texture but now is a bit more refined sounding. The presentation is also a tiny bit less forward and more three dimensional (in terms of depth--width of stage was always fantastic). I would also say the high frequency response is slightly cleaner and more natural sounding, with leading edge transients more convincingly portrayed. Overall, my appreciation for this cartridge has grown over time. I love the color and texture it provides and it sounds more seamless than it did when I first mounted it several weeks back. In my system, which leans a little to the warm side, I still think I prefer the ART 9 by a very small margin. But the MIMC Star is a better match for my new arm and sounds every bit as good in nearly all respects. The ART 9 is now on its way to a new home where I am sure it will be greatly enjoyed. I'll miss it for sure but am extremely happy with the performance I am getting from the MIMC Star. Both cartridges are fantastic performers and for the money the ART 9 is likely very hard to beat.
Great job on the review. One of the best really.
I'm still enjoying my ART-9. It completely disappears and never calls attention to itself. At this point, the only other cartridge I'd consider would be a giant upgrade to the ART-1000. Five grand for a cartridge at this point is a little too steep for me though. If needed, I'd go with another ART-9.
OK, last update now that the MIMC Star is fully broken in--I've got at least 50 hours on it now. In addition to all the positive characteristics I pointed out in the initial review and subsequent update, one thing I have noticed as the cartridge has broken in is it's speed and inner detail. I am hearing more nuance in difficult passages (acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano) than I heard with the ART 9, which is very quick in its own right. The result is greater inner detail and more realistic dynamics--both superior to the ART 9 in my recollection. I'm also hearing an increased coherence--the cartridge speaking with one voice and getting out of the way--that is a trademark attribute of the ART 9. All in all, very happy with the MIMC Star and would recommend it highly to anyone shopping at this price point who needs a lower compliance cartridge.
Hey Garth—I’ve sold my VPI along with the MIMC Star and do not have much direct experience with the 103. I understand the stock 103 is quite good and the modded versions move the bar up further but I’m sure you have read the same online. Looking back, though I enjoyed the rich tonality of the MIMC Star, it did not have the same thoroughly engaging musical flow as the ART 9 it replaced. I’m now using a Charisma Audio Signature One (on a different table/arm) and it checks all the boxes—particularly in the ability to sort out musical lines to convey the dynamic flow of the music. In talking to Bernard Li of Charisma, he feels very passionate about the MC-2 in his lineup. If it is anything like the Signature One I would suggest you explore as an alternative to the SS. At $1500 it is in the same price range and may be better than either the MIMC Star or the ART 9. Bernard also provides excellent support and rebuilds or retips when the time comes at a reasonable cost, like SS and unlike AT. Good luck!