After a year of playing The Beatles remastered mono LP set I bought in September 2014, I bought the Audio Technica AT-MONO3/LP HOMC (mono, of course). Amazon sells these cheaper than anywhere else--$118.53 with free shipping
. It features a 0.6mil conical stylus. It is also "true mono" in that it only picks up the horizontal modulations. Dropping the needle on the record (a vertical contact) is dead quiet.
My tonearm accepts interchangeable headshells, so switching from stereo to mono is pretty quick.
It was a revelation. The remastered mono Beatles records were more focused, quieter, and dynamic. My enjoyment of these records jumped by 30%.
I soon discovered that I had some other mono remasters. One such is the Analogue Productions dual-45 rpm reissue of Nat King Cole's "After Midnight" abum from 1958. Another is "Drummer Man," a Verve mid-'50s pre-stereo hi-fi LP with Quincy Jones doing the arranging and conducting, and a reunion with Krupa's featured soloists, Anita O'Day and Roy Eldridge.
I knew this record like the back of my hand, but with this AT mono cartridge, the playback "popped" as I'd never heard before.
Given the really high prices of some high end mono cartridges, the Audio Technica cartridge for $118.53 is a no-brainer, and moving coil to boot. I like the conical stylus as well. Much less hassle in alignment and setup, and the stylus pretty much tracks the same regardless of what part of the record surface it's tracking. The only thing that might be better would be a Shibata, but for $118 I'm not complaining.
Later, I retrieved some true vintage mono LPs recorded and pressed in the '50s and '60s, acquired from thrift shops for 99 cents each (one is even an original Everest recording/pressing of Mozart wind ensembles). Played on my stereo cartridge, they were too noisy; I originally played'em once and shelved them. With the AT-MONO3/LP I pulled them out again, and--Eureka!--the surface noise was gone! Just pure center-channel music. And some of these mono LPs (Roger Wagner Choral, Vince Guarldi's "A Boy Named Charlie Brown) were made in 1969! Who knew mono production was active that late--a full 11 years after the introduction of stereo LP.
It's a win-win all around--cleaner sound, better dynamics, focused center channel soundstage, and way less surface noise.