Audio Technica AT430E
My previous cart was a Shure M97 xE and it made me think "What's all the fuss about Vinyl about???" Decided to tinker around and purchased the AT430 ( basically the older version of the newer 440....heard they sound identical..)
Build is nothing to rave about. A detachable body and stylus ( as per normal MM carts...). Plastic all around, but doesnt look cheap.
It uses a " new type of wire called PCOCC [ Perfect Crystal by Ohno Continuous casting precess ] ". Whatever the heck that is, it SHURE makes it sound better than my M97 xE ( harhar ) .
The high output ( 5 mV ) means that the AT is goes relatively loud. Also, it uses a micro stylus that is usually not found on cheaper MM carts.
Now on to the sound.
The 430 is an extremely transparent cartridge. It makes the Shure i had sound like it was 128 kbps encoded WMA. ( not even MP3 here. ) The moment the needle hit the plastic i knew i had stumbled upon something special here. Expect to hear cymbals and vocals go sparkling high without being over sibilant ( You might want to take note that the cart requires break- in , i did reckon give it more than 10 hours and you'll notice the highs being less strident and the bass tightens up quite abit. )
I've heard of cartridges having a certain sort of "Mid-range magic" and i dare say that the 430 has that in shovel loads. Listening to Sade's - "Diamond Life" her voice was smooth and uncolored, with the music having an overall coherency that was captivatingly musical. Saxophones were "throathy" and cymbals were addictively shimmery.
Moving on to Hendrix's "Band of Gypsys" , the AT430 proved that it could rock as well. It's transparency excelled here, showing that u can have a wall of noise without losing focus on individual performers. It does sound funky, but one must note that the AT430 isnt a cartridge for bass freaks. Bass is tight, but doesnt go deep. U hear the bass and it's a tuneful and tight bass that makes u aware of the bass, but what you dont get is the kind of chest thumping, window rattling, glass breaking kind of bass that some people prefer.
Several caveats though. If your setup is overly clinical or bright, i did recommend you avoid this as i have a feeling things are going to be overtly bright and sibilant. As i said previously, it's not a cart with alot of bass so one might want to take note of that too.
The Audio Technica 430 E is an excellent cartridge for the money. With it's brilliant transparency, lush mids and musicality and coherency, it's an ideal choice for beginners ( like me ) who want to hear that vinyl magic on the cheap.
Sun Audio 2A3
Lenco L75 with modded Rega RB300 arm on external aluminum outboard.
DIY phono stage with ard 41 db gain (MM only )
Vandersteen 1Cs ( pairs surprisingly well with the Sun )