Affordable Mono Cartridge For VPI Scout

I have a Shelter 501 with my scout/super platter, but I have several mono records and an interest in music from the 1950s. I am looking into getting a new arm wand to experiment. Shelter has a Mono cartridge, but the price seems ridiculous to me, at $1,750, plus I might as well take the opportunity to experiment with a different sounding cartridge. So far, I have been thinking about Lyra Dorian, Cartridge Man Music Maker, the Sound Smith Denon mods or one of the Benz mono cartridges. I'll upgrade my table when finances permit, probably a few years from now....looking for a cartridge that will be good for a long time, even with a better table (e.g, TW-Acustic). Any suggestions would be much appreciated. All the best, Mark
Regarding Shelters and VPI arms.. The new stainless steel one or the additional weight if you have the aluminum one will serve the cartridge better than another combination. Benz and Dynas are best in the aluminum one.
I am including a link , if it will go on, to a Denon 102 Mono on ebay by Yogi Comp. I have bought 2 cartridges from them and been very happy. It runs $175 so not too much invested, Denon makes some very good moving coils that are absurdly cheap by todays standards. Also available in high output.
Thank you for your responses. Does anyone know if the Denon DL102 would match well with a VPI JMW9 wand? The price seems right...
I have used the Denon 103 and 110 in mine, haven't seen a 102 in the flesh but it shouldn't be too different you would think.
I use that one

Good Sound, clever made, no hum, no overload and I would buy it again
According to this web site, it appears that the DL 102 was not actually designed for playing mono records but was intended for mono playback of stereo LPs in radio stations and transcription studios.

Denon DL 102 Instruction Sheet

This would seem to make it less than ideal for the best fidelity when used for playback of mono LPs through a stereo system. As there is a single mono output, it will work best with a purely mono (single channel) system downstream. Also, if the 102 is like the 103 family it is not the best match for the JMW arm.

I would suggest that a dual mono cartridge would be a better choice. Personally I would recommend the Soundsmith SMMC-3 mono setup for medium compliance. But there are other manufacturers that offer similar carts.
What are the differences between the Soundsmith SMMC-3 stereo and mono versions? Is the stylus tip different? Is there a different construction besides coil orientation?

I disagree on the efficacy of the Denon 102.

There is nothing in the design that provides that it is less than ideal compared to modern "mono" cartridges. Simply connect both channel leads to the pins for use in a stereo system. The mono signal will be passed to each speaker. Or, connect only one channel and use mono switch to output the signal to the other channel. One will receive the same effect as modern "mono" cartridges.

Most importantly, the 102 also has vertical suspension just the same as modern "mono" cartridges so that stereo era mono records can be played without damage to the records. Nearly every modern "mono" cartridge also has vertical suspension. Exception would be the Ortofon CG25 or the Ortofon for 78s, which are designed for mono records not cut in the stereo era where vertical compliance is not needed or preferred.

As far as single or multiple coils are concerned, the 102 is a true mono cartridge with only a single coil. This is something uncommon in today's market that is dominated by mono cartridges that are simply stereo versions with coils oriented to provide the same function as a mono switch on the preamp.

With all that said, I do agree that the 102 may not be the best match for the JMW arm. If Mark can find a mono cartridge to match his arm that is materially different than the stereo version, it might be worth pursuing. Otherwise, I believe he should use the stereo version of a particular cartridge with a mono switch or pursue older options like a Pickering or Stanton (older GE, Denon, Ortofon all likely not a good match).

If the aformentioned early monos are being played, it be worth pursuing a true mono cartridge that does not have vertical suspension and/or a mono cartridge that has replaceable stylii or the larger 1 mil stylus needed for these records.
Plinko, if you read the specifications for the Denon DL 102 it does have vertical compliance. This is what makes it suitable for mono playback of stero recordings. But this will also make it noisier than a mono cartridge that does not pick up information in the vertical recording plane.

From the DL 102 Instruction Sheet:
Unlike conventional mono cartridges, this one is most effective when utilized in mono replay during stereo recordings because of its ability to comply to appropriate up/down movements.
If it's working well for you, great. I'm sure that there are a lot of happy campers using the DL 102. It's a great family of cartridges. But for the OP's intended use (50's era mono recordings), my opinion is that the Denon may not be the best choice.

Can you answer my question regarding the Soundsmith cartridge?

Regarding the Denon 102, I don't believe you are correct.

Read this link and in particular, the last paragraph below (if this is not clear, examine the's the same author as the link you provided):

"As can be seen in this photo, the cartridge consists of a single solenoid wound moving coil mounted between fixed parallel pole pieces.

The pole piece faces are oriented at a 90° angle to the horizontal axis of the cantilever resulting in the cartridge producing its maximum output from lateral stylus motion, as is required for mono reproduction.

Stylus motions with angular displacement other than 90° to the horizontal axis, produces progressively diminished output, with a distinct null when the stylus motion is vertical"
Plinko, I will try to answer your question and address your comments to the best of my limited ability.

1- re: the Soundsmith cartridges - I do not believe that there are any differences besides the coil detail. Having said that, since Soundsmith is also offers a premier cartridge re-tipping service there are opportunities for customization. One can select between a variety of stylus tips.

2- I think that we can both agree that the DL 102 was designed to output a single channel (mono) signal. As you have suggested, the common practice is to connect both channel leads to the single signal pin on the cart. The problem with this, of course, is that by passing the high output of a single channel to both channels of a stero preamp you are effectivey reducing the output by half. So it then becomes necessary to increase the output of the phono stage, by either increasing the gain or the volume at the preamp. This leads to more noise. This same problem exists if you utilize a mono switch on your preamp. The dual-coil design of the Soundsmith (and other) mono cartridges mean that you have a seprate mono signal generator for each phono stage channel. This would not be preferred if you were using a single-channel (true mono) system.

3- re: the DL 102 page - I saw the same text that you copied. I can't explain it because I didn't write it, but it seems to be in contradiction to what Denon claims is the intended purpose of the cartridge (mono playback of stereo LPs). Also, if there is no output in the vertical plane why does Denon bother to publish a vertical compliance figure for the cart?
I use the 103 in both the 9" and 12.7 VPI arms, the recommended arm mass for the 103 is 6-16 grams, both arms fall well within this range. When it was tested by HiFI Choice in 1985 they estimated the actual compliance as 13 both lat and vert., which is higher than the figure of 10 or so often given. I doubt that they have changed the construction in the intervening years.
Stanwal, as I recall we (and others) had a discussion about this subject a few months ago. All I can tell you is that I did not find the DL 103R to be the best match for my original JMW (10") tonearm. Admittedly, I have not tried a DL cart on a 9 or 9.5 arm. But in general I find that the JMW unipivot arms seem to do better with lower mass cartridges. But I am glad that it's working well for you.

1. Good point on customization. SMM3 with larger stylus profile of the period might be something to try!

2. What is louder? Two speakers with each speaker having half output or one speaker with full output? I don't have any gain issues using the 102 this way into my MM stage. I do not use a step up transformer.

3. Because the 102 has vertical compliance. Since you read Murray's site, I'm sure you know that the published specs by Denon for the 102 are an afterthought and/or incorrect. For example, the 102's frequency extends well beyond 10Khz yet Denon says this is the limit.

I have yet to read about the reasons why Denon offered this cartridge to radio stations. My only guess would be that in the advent of the stereo era, AM and other radio stations did not need to broadcast in stereo and the Denon 102, with only one coil, was cheaper to produce and thus a cheaper option for the radio stations yet it had vertical compliance to allow for stereo lp playback. Also, during this time of transition, producing a cartridge that was mono but could play stereo lps without damaging was a logical development from a marketing standpoint.

I'm not sure this is of any interest to Mark so I hope we didn't get off track.
Miyajima has a newish mono cart out for just less than $400. Their $1000 model has reviewed well, and their stereo carts are considered to be very good.

Myself... I run a denon DL102 and a Decca 78c for my 78s for mono.
Here is another one.
As I said before - Denons and the S/S VPI 9 arm is a great combination....Harry himself says that.
I really appreciate all of these comments. I had a conversation with Soundmith, but I'm still researching this issue. Since I have a Shelter 501 stereo cartridge (which the mono cartridge will be going up against), I'm leaning toward getting one of similar price/quality...the Soundsmith folks seemed to steer me towards the SMMC1 or SMMC2 as significantly better than the Denon (for more $$$). I had thought that Soundsmith might have steered me towards Denon mods, but they didn't. In this crazy world of high end audio, I'm thinking of roughly $1,000 or less (including discounts). I'm not sure...but my impression is that after this price range of $700 to $1000, one starts to get diminishing returns in cartridges...not sure. The most expensive thing to do in audio, however...I think is getting a case of upgrade-itis. I'd rather spend a little more than the Denon so that, within the next five years or so...I don't feel the need to upgrade as I move up to a better table. Seperately, I like the idea of getting an MM cartridge...just for the sake of getting a different sound...should be fun. Has anybody tried the Cartridge Man Music Maker?
Look at it this way, get one of the $175 cartridges. Then 1, you like it, you have saved $800. 2. you don't like it, you sell it as mint for $125, you have lost $50. I think those are good odds. Despite having a totally ridiculous amount of money invested in audio I use Denon and AT cartridges because I find they work very well and I am not convinced you get more with higher price. If spending more makes you feel better fine but sound quality and dollars spent are not always in direct correlation. Hmm, if enough people feel this way I should change the name of my business from Alternative Audio to Stan's Spa and stress the regenerative effect of audio expenditures.
miyajima premium mono is fresh and wide open compared to the denon 102 but it cost eight hundred more.
i have had the 102 and bought a zu 102 from someone on this sight and they were both were metallic and rounded compared to the miyajima.
The following is from the site.
Pickups and stylii for the playback of Mono LP records
Modern stereo records have use a groove that is about 18µm, earlier mono microgroove records however had a groove width of around 25µm (usually slightly more than this or up-to 28µm), the difference is small enough to mean that you can usually play a mono LP with a modern stylus but for optimal results it's best to have a stylus especially cut for mono lp's and a true mono pickup (not rewired or a plain stereo pickup) and indeed a few companies make such pickups and stylii. Ortofon has the OM 10 Super repackaged with a 25µm stylus for the playback of mono LP's as the OM D25M, note that this is still a stereo cart and that this stylus is available separatly and will fit all OM, OM Super, OMP, TM and Concorde type pickups from the company. There are also SPU variants for this purpose and those are true mono pickups, namely the SPU Mono A, the SPU Mono GM, the slightly cheaper Classic SPU Mono CG25Di and the Classic SPU Mono CA25Di. Audio Technica has the AT-Mono 3/LP, it's a variant of the AT-33 like the 3/SP but has a full frequency range. Lyra offers the Helicon Mono MC pickup with a stylus for Mono LP's, it's a true mono unit and My Sonic Lab has the My Sonic Lab Eminent Solo which is a true mono MC unit as well. Expert Stylus has 25µ stylii that can be glued onto any cart (I belive they have variants for used with worn mono LP's as well). Note that while Grado offers at the least 2 mono pickups these use 10µm stylii and are thus usable with mono records but not optimal like the pickups here above, these are also not true mono pickups but rather stereo models wired in series.
I am no expert but much of what you just posted from Audiotools is incorrect...with all due respect.

The SPU and Lyra cartridges have two coils and are wired or oriented internally for mono use. They are not true mono.

The CG25Di (there is no SPU CG25Di) is a true mono cartridge with a single coil. The design hasn't changed since 1948. The Denon 102 is also true mono but with vertical compliance.

Additionally, the Lyra mono cartridges along with other modern offerings use the same stylus as the stereo version. I'll leave it up to everyone to determine whether they believe such mono cartridges are worth purchasing or better to use a mono switch on their preamp.

It seems nearly every modern mono cartridge is equipped with the smaller .7 stylii than what was used during the 50s (1 mil or larger elliptical). My personal preferance has been for 1 mil for less than perfect early monos and smaller .7 mil stylus does indeed work well for my monos that are in great condition or mid 50s or later into stereo era (whereupon, stereo cartridge with mono switch is used).

The Shilabe design appears to be very different and interesting.
Someone on audio asylum recently bought a Benz mono and really likes it. True mono and likely a good match to VPI tonearms.
I have never had a mono cartridge, started with a mono system but a stereo cartridge so do not claim to be an expert, was led to that site by thread on another forum, all opinions expressed by them are theirs and not mine. Correct info appears to be hard to get, one site has a mono version of the Audio Techina 33, the AT 33 mono for $375, on another site there is the apparently identical AT 3 mono for $175. As I said I played my monos with a Stereo cartridge starting in 1962 and can't remember anyone making a big fuss about it in the days when mono LPs were common. Some time ago I posted my disbelief that mono cartridges should cost twice the price of the stereo version. Despite the considerable outcry at my ignorance of such matters I persist in it.
I'm using a Benz Ace mono low output cart with my Scoutmaster and it sounds great.