Air Tight PC-1 Coda and more options to upgrade my analog setup


There aren’t many reviews out there for the new Air Tight PC-1 Coda. I’m looking to upgrade my analog setup and it fits my budget and the overall reviews for the PC-1 are fantastic. Before anyone mentions it, yes I will be listening before I buy. I plan on listening to similar priced carts from Lyra, Kiseki, Koetsu, and more.

At the same time debating a phono preamp upgrade. Thinking about the Luxman EQ-500.

Current setup is Rega RP8 (waiting for the new P10 or P12), Ortofon Quintet Black cartridge, to Mytek Manhattan II w/ Phono stage, McIntosh C47, McIntosh MC452, B&W 802D3, with audioquest speaker cabling and ICs, and Nordost Frey 2 PCs. Room is quite well treated and rack is Symposium Osiris. Listening on vinyl is mainly 1955-1975, jazz, rock, and orchestral (Mahler, Strauss-not Beethoven or chamber). (Wider variety with Qobuz digital). Vinyl is all very high quality original or repressings.

Happy to hear any feedback on the setup. What am I looking for? A little more sparkle. Realism. Just more. Maybe a little more bass as well, as I’ve got the C47 set to push bass +3dB. (Tried a sub and it didn’t help in my space and prefer the overall sound of the floor standers by themselves). The system sounds amazing, I just want even more of this amazing. Thanks!
Ag insider logo xs@2xmayoradamwest
I wouldn't put an $8500 cartridge on a Rega, its like putting racing tires on a VW Rabbit.

You would be better off getting a better turntable first.
Spend the money on turntable upgrade & phono upgrade first, and keep the Ortofon initially. You would be building a better foundation for your analogue system by upgrading to the best turntable you can afford.


A few thoughts:

1. The Luxman EQ-500 phono preamp is a great sounding piece of equipment.
2. Rega tonearms are not a great match with low compliance MC cartridges, and the lack of easy VTA adjustment makes it difficult to optimize the VTA, which is crucial to getting the best from your cartridge. I agree with @dover and would recommend upgrading your turntable to something better and more suitable before buying an expensive cartridge.
3. Add EMT cartridges to your trial list.

I think you have a nice system. Your analog front end will only be as good as the weak link.
The weak spot is plugging into a built in phono stage.

$8500 for a cart seems like overkill, but it's your wallet. Maybe if you're gettting the Rega Naid for 30K AND a better phonostage?

You haven't heard what your existing cart can do with a proper phostage.
Thanks all. Great points! On the TT front, I’m open to changes but my preference is less fuss. I do this for the music, and love the minimal hassle of the Rega. That said, I am waiting for the new P10 or P12, or something else - at least according to the reviews and people I’ve spoken with, the existing RP10 is a pretty amazing table. So a TT upgrade is also in my future, yes. As for cartridge, these are all excellent points. 
The Mytek optional Phono stage is supposed to be amazing, but it’s fair that maybe that should be my first upgrade. I presume my Luxman choice is a reasonable one? I don’t know which others I could hear in a similar setup. 
I am unsure if the Manhattan built in phono is much superior to the lower offering Brooklyn or not?
I have to say the Brooklyn phono left me pretty cold, way to clinical and sterile and very tilted towards the top end of the spectrum.

It could not hold a candle to the Gold Note PH10 I had at the time ( note , I bought the Brooklyn for its DAC ability not the phono but obviously gave it a try out).

Now I am using a Manley Chinook SE tube phono which is a serious step up from the PH10.

I believe for  $2500 or less you can get a pretty serious upgrade on the phono stage side that will let you hear things from your present setup you did not know existed.

Just my musings.
The Manhattan Phono is totally different. The Phono add on alone is nearly as expensive as the Brooklyn (which I also own and also find it a bit cold). I’m going to see if I can try out the Luxman and compare side by side next week. 
Just to make sure you understand what people are telling you -- the cartridges you are considering are not a proper match to your tonearm and they are overkill for your phono stage.

I suggest you simply move up the Rega scale.  Start with an Apheta 2 cartridge and try it with and Aria phono stage.
I understand the feedback here yes. I am going to wait to see what the new high end Rega tables are before moving on that. I highly doubt the Rega Phono stage will hold a candle to the Manhattan Phono stage. (Look it up if you haven’t). That said, this is why I am considering the Luxman. I don’t want to half ass the upgrades. The Luxman is a class A component that I can audition and I have access to high end cartridges to audition on the same setup. The main thing I am waiting on is the TT. This is intentional. For cartridges, I don’t want to upgrade another $1000 every 6 months. I do hear loud and clear the TT and cartridge may not be matched. This is why I posted. This is good feedback to do more research and listening. 
I probably should have researched the Manhattan phono first too ... Lol.

It does seem as it should be fairly capable of holding its own until you hit serious phono stages and may let a better cartridge shine.

It's a tough world out there and trying to make the right decision both system wise and financial can be hard.

Of course you are always going to get conflicting opinions and views, human nature.

Good luck with the journey.
I’d like to echo these opinions:

I wouldn’t put an $8500 cartridge on a Rega

the cartridges you are considering are not a proper match to your tonearm

Rega tonearms are not a great match with low compliance MC cartridges, and the lack of easy VTA adjustment makes it difficult to optimize the VTA, which is crucial to getting the best from your cartridge.

The Luxman EQ-500 phono preamp is a great sounding piece of equipment.

I’ve never heard the phono card, so can’t comment, but it’s basically impossible to build an add-in card which performs to the standard of a dedicated phono stage. Hence I think that auditioning some top flight phono stages is even more important than chasing a new cartridge.

Along with the EQ-500, which is superb, I’d suggest you listen to the EAR 324, Manley Steelhead, ASR Basis Exclusive High Voltage and Air Tight’s own ATE-2 + ATH-2/ATH-2 Reference step-up. Or, if money’s truly no object, Air Tight’s new ATE-3011 + step-up and the Allnic H-7000V.
I’ve not heard the last two, but the five former phono stages are the finest I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.

From the PC family I’ve heard the PC-1 and PC-3, but none of the others. Fabulous cartridges and one thing that’s certain is that I would never put one on a Rega, be it an arm or a turntable. These cartridges really want a high mass design and a medium/heavy or heavy arm to shine at their brightest. High mass designs are generally also low fuss designs, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Personally I heard the PCs on a Nottingham Analogue Dais with a Kuzma 4Point, which to my ears was a match made in heaven.

There’s no shortage of high mass turntables, but my two favourites are the aforementioned Nottingham Analogue and Acoustic Solid. Obvious medium>heavy tonearms to partner them with for use with a PC-1 might be the Kuzma 4Point, Origin Live Enterprise or Agile, Helius Phaedra, Thomas Schick or the Dynavector DV-507 MkII.

Anyway, that’s my 7 or so ¢. All in my subjective opinion of course.
Any thoughts on the Lyra Etna SL on something like an RP10? All fair comments btw. I really appreciate them. I was already leaning towards the Luxman Phono stage. Kiseki and Koetsu seem to have some very good carts around 5k
You clearly do not understand the feedback you are getting.  The path you are pursuing will not be amazing.
Hmm, I’m pretty sure I do understand. The main point is the TT. I want to see what the new Rega’s are when announced (should be soon) before deciding on my next TT. It seems like the immediate feedback is to explore the Phono stage. (Also considering an upgraded preamp)
If you are completely set on a low mass turntable and know that's what you prefer, then by all means wait for the new Regas.  However, the new Regas will be no different from the old Regas, in that they will have the exact same philosophy and likely the exact same performance.

That being the case, in my opinion you will never realise the full potential of a top-of-the-line low-compliance cartridge on a Rega set-up.

If I was in your position, with a comparable budget, I would first get a phono stage, then a new arm/turntable and only then begin thinking about a cartridge upgrade.  The way you're doing it now seems awfully backwards if an optimal result is what you're after and can only unnecessarily complicate the process.

Again, in my subjective opinion.
Got it. I think that’s what I’ll do. I’m not opposed to a heavier mass arm. I just don’t want the fussiness. What I love about the Rega is that is sounds pretty darn good and I basically just drop the needle without worry. Phono stage first (and probably preamp) and then will evaluate other TT-Cart combos. 
I'm not sure where this fear of fussiness comes from, or in what sense a Rega set-up is less fussy than many, many others.  Sure, you can certainly put together a vinyl rig which is very fussy indeed, but conversely there are any number of combinations which involve no more fuss than anything Rega.  Significantly less really, if you count the ability to easily change VTA towards the unfussiness score.
I second others comments about upgrading the turntable before going to a cartridge that is vastly more expensive than the table. More is fine. Three or four times more is overdoing things.

Also its unnecessary to spend what you're talking about on a phono stage. The Herron VTPH2A is close enough to state of the art a lot of us owners feel we are done. We might upgrade everything else, but not the phono stage. Pretty remarkable for around $3k.

Another one coincidentally for about the same $3k is a Swarm or DBA type subwoofer system. The one sub you tried failed because it was one sub. Four puts you in a whole new realm of immersive, articulate, extended, and seamlessly integrated bass. 

Of all the things you can do this is the one that if you do it you will be saying over and over again wish I'd done this sooner. If only I'd known I'd have done this long ago. Never knew what I was missing, wow. Etc.

Together you would still be under what you're talking for just that one cartridge. Bet you my next paycheck you would prefer what you have with the Herron and Swarm to spending 8 large on that cart.


Btw, I do appreciate all the discussion here. One thing I would note, is that while we all have preferences on table, and preconceptions, I don't want to let it slide that the Rega RP10 (and surely it's successor) is a Stereophile A component, and reviews for it are extremely positive. Just like I assume many of you may also have preconception about the phono stage in the Mytek, without having heard it.
You can make a light tonearm work with any cartridge just by adding weight until you get the right resonance frequency. Having said that I think the Lyra is more appropriate for a Rega turntable as long as you have a descent phono stage. So now you are spending money on a cartridge, a turntable and a phono stage. The best way to approach this is to find a dealer that carries all three pieces and work out a package  
price. Sit back and save until you can afford all three.
"You can make a light tonearm work with any cartridge just by adding weight until you get the right resonance frequency."

Making it "work" and making it sound good are not the same thing.

 "I don’t want to let it slide that the Rega RP10 (and surely it’s successor) is a Stereophile A component, and reviews for it are extremely positive."

That does not mean it will sound great, or will work well with any of the cartridges you have in mind. It will sound fine and function well with a Rega cartridge.
I mean, not to be too argumentative, and I am going to try other TTs and options, but being a Stereophile Class A component means they think it’s going to sound great, and they have better for this than I do. 
Here's what i would do -
The Rega P10 is actually pretty good, but its forte is pace and rhythm.
If you are keen on the Rega I would buy either the top Rega MC cartridge, which ensures an optimum match for the arm/TT, or if you want a more nuanced/balanced cartridge for orchestral the Van den Hul  Frog works very well. I have also heard the Benz Micro's on the P10 - it is a warmer sound. The Lyra's are too clinical for the Rega.

The Luxman phono is very good.

Why not try the Luxman first, then you can assess the Ortofon with a better phono, you could then buy the P10 and based on the results with the Ortofon/Luxman select an appropriate cartridge.

The only thing you have to watch is that the early Rega MC cartridges had unusual loading requirements. You need to check the cartridge loading requirements are met by the Luxman or whatever phono you buy.



I agree with all who suggest getting a new, separate, phono stage first.  It is critical if you are going to really get into vinyl and I would get a tube one. You can then roll tubes if necessary to compliment any cartridge. Make sure it can handle MM and MC and has lots of adjustability, especially for the cartridge you are getting. If you are going to commit to vinyl the cart has to match the tonearm. And there is not an easy solution to getting setup right. You have to get “messy” with it to realize full potential of analog playback. Good luck and have fun!
Current thinking: Linn LP12 (with the upgrades), Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Luxman EQ-500. Then possibly updating the pre-amp later.
"Linn LP12(with the upgrades),Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Luxman EQ-500."

mayoradamwest-you're not messin' around...If I had to choose between that and the RP10, I would go Rega. Nothing negative about the Linn, but If I wanted to simplify, the Rega w/Apheta seems like a no brainer. Plus, it does look cool.

Your existing setup-Mytek w/phono is certainly capable, but that Luxman should make you understand what the fuss is all about. 
It’s more about sound. I heard this setup today (though with a sweet Plinius class A amp) and wanted to take the system home. Really just perfect. I was a little skeptical about the Linn as well. Will do more research but the owner of the shop knows his stuff. Had plenty more expensive stuff and it’s what we both preferred. 
Linn is the other brand that seems to be loved or hated. Just like Rega, they wouldn't be around,long as they have, if they were doing things "wrong".

I have heard a few of iterations of Linns over the decades, always nice. Just never drawn to own one. Their upgrades seem endle$$. The there's the Linn aesthetic...not that there's anything wrong with it...


Follow your ears.


totally. I heard several tables today, including ones much more expensive. Granted none had the Koetsu (though similarly prices). There was something just right about this setup. I’m going to try out the cartridge on the Rega first, before dropping like 30k on the upgrades I mentioned. I figured you all would be happy with this direction ;) I know it’s not an SME, but that was a bit out of my budget and didn’t find one to listen to. None the less, I’m not sure I heard a fault in the setup I heard today. It was a giant leap better. 
Btw the cartridge I heard and am considering is the Onyx Platinum. The rosewood is my backup if I need to save a little money. We’ll see how the stock market does they next few days!
The Onyx Platinum is a great cartridge; I had one on loan for a couple of weeks and it sounded lovely.  I wouldn't personally pick it over a PC-1, but that's entirely subjective of course.

What isn't, is that it's both heavy (12.5g) and stiff (compliance of 5, presumably @ 100Hz, so around 8 @ 10Hz).  Not in at all an ideal match for any Rega tonearm I would have thought.....
That’s why I really pushed for a new TT. :) I’m not totally convinced on the Linn, especially the aesthetics. That said, it sounded best to my ear, and reading a lot online it sounds like the higher end Linn (including the Ekos SE arm) truly is a top notch table. Still, open to feedback and suggestions. 
I have a Lyra Delos on a Technics 1200G as I write this. I honestly cannot see spending more as I feel I am at the point of diminishing returns. Sure, if I had an expert help me pick out and set up a 500K system and he recommended a 10K cartridge and felt I would realize the full potential of the system and the cartridge and I had extremely deep pockets, well yes then I might consider it and if you do have deep pockets, why not have an expert help you with your system and system matching. Could be fun!
Still, open to feedback and suggestions.

In terms of a potential change of turntable, my suggestion would be to listen to a high mass design .  If at all possible side by side with a different design.  Whether or not you'll find it preferable is anybody's guess, but given the $$$$ involved here it seems weird not to do so.  Particularly given the prevalence of high mass designs among the turntables generally considered to be among the very best.
I did listen to some high mass designs. As far as the 10k cartridge, I guess the price doesn't seem that outrageous to me given the rest of the system. All of the components are currently in 6-10k range, with 22k in speakers, and 15k in cabling. I'm confident my system is capable of exposing the difference between cartridges, and I plan on upgrading the Pre and amp soon as well. 
A couple of thoughts on turntables you might want to hear:

1. AMG Giro. Once you have it set up there is no reason to fiddle with it again. Sounds great. I have heard it a number of times with the DS Audio cartridge which is an excellent match. The other AMG turntables are better, but more expensive. http://www.amg-turntables.com/giro-turntable/

2. Dr Feickert Woodpecker or Blackbird turntable. Great sounding high mass turntable with lot’s of torque. http://www.feickert.org/index.php?id=2&L=1

It all comes down to personal preference. I like higher mass turntables that have torque to overcome stylus drag. I personally have a Garrard 301.

I owned a Rega before and heard a Linn, but not to my taste, although they have many fans.

Good luck with your search.
Interestingly, I heard an AMG (don't know the model, but it was very expensive) with a Lyra Etna and a Feickert Woodpecker with an Air Tight PC-1. Both on fantastic electronics and speakers. Both sounded great, but no where as good, to my ears, as the Koetsu on the Linn. Fair point that I could try the Koetsu on a different, high mass tone arm.
I’m going to see if I can find an AMG Giro to hear. Seems like it might tick all the boxes, with the same Koetsu cartridge. 
Do look into the Luxman turntable. It's a solid value, and the tonearm is adjustable.
It'll work great with either the Lyra or Air TIght PC-1 Coda, and the Luxman phono.

Mayoradamwest, If your set up is on a concrete floor the Linn, which I am not a big fan of having owned two of them will do ok. If you are on wooden floors just walking around will drive the Linn nuts. You will have to compromise and do a wall shelf or just get an SME or SOTA turntable
and put either an SME arm or a Kuzma 4 point 9 on it. You can jump up and down in front of either table and nothing will happen. Once it is all set up you will never have to do anything but play records until you change cartridges. Both tonearms will give you the flexibility to use any cartridge you like. If you really want no hassle get an SME Synergy. It is the full Monty including a Nagra phono stage and an Ortofon Windfeld Ti cartridge. Trying to do better than this would be an extremely expensive endeavor.   
I am intrigued by this discussion.

I have a fabulous digital front end audio system. After a lot of thought, I’m finally ready to invest in phono.

I decided a long time ago to buy the best I could afford rather than trading up numerous times.

Trade up systems in the end cost way more, plus I don’t have cast off gear I’ll never use and can’t sell stored in my garage.

I completely agree the entire system should be balanced and of comparable quality. It all must work together as a unit.

The Air-Tight PC-1 may be a good, great, or a superb cartridge, but I don’t think that is as important as the compatibility issue. Does it fit in with the system?

And this begs the question – what is the best cost/benefit for your system. Spending $8,500 on a cartridge makes sense if the rest of the system is of comparable quality – this often means comparable cost.

Incidentally, I am considering the PC-1 too.


I'm going to hear a bunch more tables and carts tomorrow, but the PC-1 was disappointing in the setup I heard it. It was a Feickert table and all air tight electronics. That said, it may not have been the best match on table, or maybe it was the speakers. It's clearly supposed to be a wonderful cartridge. I found it a bit harsh, with an overemphasis on surface noise, but I again, it's a complete package, so I couldn't specifically blame the cartridge for that.
"the PC-1 was disappointing in the setup I heard it. It was a Feickert table and all air tight electronics. That said, it may not have been the best match on table, or maybe it was the speakers. It's clearly supposed to be a wonderful cartridge. I found it a bit harsh, with an overemphasis on surface noise, but I again, it's a complete package, so I couldn't specifically blame the cartridge for that. "

The Dr. Feickert turntables usually come with a Jelco tonearm which is a good, entry level tonearm. The PC-1 on the same turntable with an EMT, or Ikeda tonearm would have been a different and likely much better experience. The Dr. Feickert Blackbird with an EMT tonearm and cartridge is an excellent matchup.

IMO the importance of the tonearm in the analog system is usually underestimated.

Good that you are continuing to listen to different things so you find the right combination for yourself.
Basically the only things I will not sacrifice: my speakers and any degradation in the digital path. It’s a complicated balancing act making sure both digital and analog sound great. Right now, digital sounds spectacular on my system.  
Alrighty. Here is my current thinking after a great listening session today. 
AMG Viella turntable
Koetsu Onyx Platinum or Lyra Etna cartridge
Luxman EQ-500 or Boulder 508 Phono stage

thoughts? My biggest concern with the Boulder is the lack of options. I did listen to it and it sounded fantastic. With limited listening, could not hear a difference to its bigger brother. 
Today the rest of the equipment was Spectral pre and amps. Wilson Sasha Daw speakers. 
Also contemplating a preamp under 10k. Luxman C-700u, used ARC Ref 6, PS Audio BHK, used Pass XP-30, something else?
Don't know if anyone is still following along on my journey here, from an RP8 with a PC-1 as my initial thought. I ended on something much more expensive, but I think it's going to be wonderful.

AMG Viella V12 Turbo (I'm a Porsche guy, myself) w/ Koetsu Onyx Platinum Cartridge -> Boulder 508 Phono stage -> Audio Research Ref 6 Line Stage. 

Will update the amp and doc next round (thinking dCS Bartok and Luxman M900u).
I think that combination will be far better than initial plan. Doing the research, in terms of listening pays off in the long term. What are your thoughts on the comparison between the Lyra and Koetsu? Did you listen to a DS Audio optical cartridge?

Best Regards,

Jim Perry
mayoradamwest- 

Another serious combination is top dog Soundsmith carts on upper end VPI's  Strain gauge to my, ears worthy of being in the contentious "best" group.

Check it out if possible.
I heard the Lyra and Koetsu on totally different systems so I don’t think it would be fair to compare them directly. Both sounded wonderfully detailed. At least in the system that I heard the Koetsu is was incredibly rich and musical. Mids for miles without giving up any clarity. My thinking here is limiting the components that color the sound. The Boulder 508 and ARC Reference 6 receive rave reviews for their transparency. The Koetsu and my currently Mac amp will add warmth. Eventually, I expect the M900u will do the same but with even better detail.