Calling All Analog Gurus! What to do about my vintage Signet TK7LCa?



I just took a chance on buying a Signet TK7LCa cartridge on eBay to try with my new Allnic H1201 phono stage. I got it yesterday, checked the stylus (looks straight), and mounted it on my Well Tempered Amadeus. Unfortunately, the sound is dull, dull, dull regardless of what settings I use with the Allnic. I cleaned the stylus, so that is not the issue.

Am I correct in assuming that the stylus is just worn out and will need to be replaced? Are there other things I should try? What are my best options? What would you do?

Thanks in advance for any and all helpful tips. I continue to have high hopes for this cartridge despite this inauspicious debut.
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128waltersalas
The last place to buy a cartridge is ebay  good luck!! 
With a used phono cartridge, anything could go wrong.
Walter, if you bought the cartridge on the 24th, we at least know it is an actual TK7 stylus and not a aftermarket stylus. I would set it up with a positive VTA. Butt UP, cartridge down. 

The Signet TK7LCa is one of my favorite MM cartridges, and maybe your stylus is worn, but I do remember several  people including the former MM guru turned digital fan, Raul, saying they did not like it, and used the term "Fumigate" to describe  it. I think if you are used to the sound of most modern MC cartridges, it will sound dull. 

So work with the VTA and if you still don't like it, have it looked at by a cartridge rebuilder and go from there.



One more thing, If you bought the Signet on 24th it has a 30 day return. I would probably return it, if I did not like it.

Acman3, thanks for some useful feedback. I am going to give it another cleaning tomorrow, including the old Magic Eraser approach, and will also fiddle with the VTA. I have the VTF at about 1.5g--does that sound about right to you?

I didn't pay very much for the cartridge, so if I can send it to Soundsmith or the Needle Clinic for a more thorough cleaning or retipping, I would still consider it a good investment. The best way I can think of to describe the sound is "sanded off." I did not expect the level of detail I got with my previous Dynavector, but I cannot believe that the Signet is supposed to be this muffled.

In any case, I appreciate your tips and will give your suggestions a try.
This is the ad I was talking about. You can see some people really like the Signet. Does your stylus look like the one in the ad?

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/AUDIO-TECHNICA-SIGNET-TK7LCA-CARTRIDGE-AND-GENUINE-TKN7LCA-STYLUS-IN-CASE-BOX...

Nope. Here is the ad--and pics--of the cartridge I bought. I made an offer and got it for substantially less than the list price.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/252409337808?_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT
Hopefully I don't get moderated for this. :>)

http://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge_database.php?m=Signet&t=mm&mod=tk7+lca&sort=2&S...=
In some ways yours looks better than the supposedly new one, but really can't tell by naked eye. Make sure it is seated properly. Good luck!


The Signet TK-7CLa is nearly my undefeated 'World Champ' cartridge (of any genre)...and has been for 5 years.
The LAST word I would use to describe is "dull"...😱
It is smooth, sharp, detailed yet relaxed, transparent, exciting, neutral and sublime.
Most importantly...it projects all the 'emotion' contained in the vinyl groove that many cartridges simply do not.
Looking at the photos in the ad, it appears fine to the naked eye.
Here's one of mine
http://i.imgur.com/h0LXXHg.jpg
and another view
http://i.imgur.com/iDJntE7.jpg
Unless there's something wrong with the suspension (does it collapse when you lower it on the disc?) or the coils or dampener, it should not sound 'dull' even if you strapped it to a chopstick.....
Here is my other one without the original stylus
http://i.imgur.com/0HK9kQa.jpg
but an AT-155Lc implant. This shares the nude line-contact stylus in a beryllium cantilever just like the original and comes very close to the sound of the original.
Only trouble with this.....is it's no longer produced and is rather scarce and therefore pricy.
If you're patient, they sometimes come up on EBay or you can also buy the whole AT-155Lc cartridge if you can find one in NOS.
All the trouble you may go to in order to hear what this cartridge can deliver will be worth it...😎🎼

StereoNeedles has the ATN155LC listed for sale.  It might be a good idea to call first to make sure it's in stock.

The ATN150MLX (boron/ML) will fit on either of these bodies.  The cartridge has been discontinued and the stylus is now around $250. (Amazon, Lp Gear).

The new AT-150Sa has the same generator as a 120/440 and 160ML.  The stylus is tapered aluminum/shibata. 

If you want a lower inductance generator like the 150 (350mH), you can get a 5V at Lp Gear.  It's a 360mH motor but with lower resistance.  Any of these styli will fit. 


From the wording in your post it seems that you bought a used cartridge off ebay and that being the case it would be a shot in the dark at best, you also mention that the cart sounds dull no matter what setting you choose on the Allnic 1201. What other settings are available other than the moving magnet that you are trying? Hopefully you have access to another cart to try with your Allnic which is a very special phono stage. Good luck.

Assuming your stylus is OK, remove stylus and check if there's gunk where stylus connects to the magnets and clean it with alcohol. You can also dip your cartridge in alcohol bath.
I use microscope to ID the shape of stylus or you can download magnifier software onto your smart phone if you have one and visualize stylus tip wear. If it's dull, guess, it will sound dull and will need be replaced.


Problem solved! I started from scratch, raised the VTA a smidge, re-cleaned the stylus, and reset all of the connections. Whatever was wrong is now right. It is as if two thick blankets have been removed from the speakers and the cartridge is now singing beautifully. I've got a little hum issue I still need to work on, but at least now I know the cartridge is not defective. Far from it!

My sincere thanks to all who weighed in with constructive comments.
Dear @waltersalas : Good and good that you are " testing " the MM alternative. One important MM cartridge parameter to take in count for the " right " cartridge set up is the capacitance value where the MM always " react " to. So, making changes in MM cartridge load capacitance will change the cartridge quality performance levels and a must to try.

Regards and enjoy the music,
R.


Dear @acman3 : """  turned digital fan, Raul, saying they did not like it, """

maybe that is a misunderstood. I'm not a digital fan or analog fan but a MUSIC lover/MUSIC fan that recognise today that the digital experience is a true enjoying alternative to analog in more or less way the MM is a true alternative to LOMC one.

In reference to the Signet models what I said is that exist better vintage Signet model like the TK 10MK2 that it has better quality performance and that's all.

Regards and enjoy the music,
R.
Glad that the problem's solved Walter.
I don't run my VTF above 1.2Gm for the 7CLa. You should try lowering below 1.5Gm.....
Raul makes a valid point about Capacitance which you should try if it's easy to alter on your phono-stage and especially Resistance.
Maybe your particular system would sound better with the cartridge loaded at 60K Ohms? Especially if it retains some 'dullness' or lack of sparkle?
Good luck.