Cartridges in general

The MM thread is in decline because the driving force Raul left his own thread. Besides the thread become to large so not easy to find whatever. Meanwhile J.Carr made the suggestion to extend the thread such that it would include electret , electorstatic and optical kinds in addition to the usual MC and MM kinds. J.Carr is invited to give some
kind of introduction to those 'strange kinds' of carts as the start for this new thread.
Dear Nandric: I suppose that I should contribute something to help keep your thread going.

Why don't I write a little about the Stax CP-X condenser cartridge, and add a few words about condenser cartridges in general?

Condenser cartridges possess certain clear advantages over their electromagnetic brethen, but there are also notable disadvantages (which I will discuss later).

Stax's CP-X cartridge is an RF modulation design, which has advantages even within the condenser cartridge family. Unlike electromagnetic cartridges that require the stylus to drag around a heavy magnet or coil, a big advantage of an RF condenser design is that the cantilever itself can made to serve as the electrode / sensing element. This translates into a very significant reduction in moving mass.

The condenser cartridge family also encompasses electrostatic and electret (made by Toshiba) types. With these types, a non-conductive charged diaphragm needs to be bonded to the cantilever, implying that there must be some additional moving mass, above and beyond the cantilever's own mass. Although this is a slight architectural disadvantage in comparison to RF condenser cartridges, the electrostatic / electret diaphragm can be a very thin sheet of electrically charged polymer, still with much lower mass than a magnet or coils.

Since an RF condenser design allows the cantilever itself to serve as the electrode / sensing element, the placement of the signal pickup point is quite free - it doesn't need to be some 5-7mm away from the stylus, back at the pivot. If the designer is able to package all of the cartridge components neatly enough, the signal pickup point can be located right on top of the stylus (it was for this reason that Stax's nickname for the CP-X was "Direct Pickup System"). The more the designer is able to concentrate the signal pickup point directly on top of the stylus, the more the cartridge's total sonic signature can be freed from the effects of cantilever flexure.

JVC's MC-L1000 was an MC cartridge that likewise managed to place the signal sensing coil right on top of the stylus, but the coil (although low mass) was a separate element from the cantilever. An RF modulation condenser cartridge can accomplish the signal pickup without anything other than the cantilever. Intellectually far more satisfying (grin).

Given Raul's fondness for MMs and MI cartridges, I've never understood his outspoken aversion to MC step-up transformers. True, a stepup transformer will increase the magnetic distortions of an MC cartridge, but the larger magnetic circuit of an MM or MI cartridge has the same effect. I don't see why one approach should be favored over the other.

Condenser cartridges are a different story, as they lack mechanisms that would allow magnetic distortion. Ergo, eddy currents and magnetic non-linearities cannot exist, thereby reducing distortion and improving transient performance.

Enough for today, I'll write more about condenser cartridges on another day.

kind regards, jonathan
Dear Jcarr, You are as always kind, polite and helpful.
But your 'help' is a mixed blessing. First of all I started
this thread to help you with YOUR idea to extend the MM
thread to more kinds of carts than MM and MC kinds only.
At high shool my best friend was , in my opinion, an
mathematical genius. But he was not able to imagine my
problems with math. He kept repeating: 'it is so easy,
you know'. I still have no idea how I passed math at high
school but my guess is that this had something to do with
my dad who was a bank director.
So many years later I am confronted with, uh, similar problem.
I see that my understanding of electronics is simialr to
my understanding of math. I hope you will not state:
'it is so easy, you know'.
I think that for us the mortals the best method of explication
is the comparison of what is known to us and
then from there lead us to the unknown (for us). After so
many years of participation in the MM and the MC 'subject
matter' we may be assumed to understand something about
those two kinds not only thanks to our better 'equiped'
co-members but also thanks to our own extended experience
with the mentioned kinds.
But I am sure that all our members are curious to learn
from you about and eventual try those for us 'exotic kinds'.

Kind regards,
A few people on other forums have mentioned the Stax 'condenser' cartridges as being about the best cartridges out there - pretty warm detailed and dynamic. That said I hear that they have a channel imbalance issue - is that an inherent design fault or something easily cured/fixed. Out of interest - given that they were supposed to be so good why has nobody done them again???
I have a Micro Acoustic 630MP. I have had several of the various Micro Acoustic cartridges. Their being this 'electric condenser' type is another one of those that also fall in the "What Happened" puzzle! Not about the company itself, but to the design!
Do the current cartridge manufacturers fall into different schools of basic design. Or do most of the manufacturers follow the same design principle but just use a different execution?

I am not talking about MM vs MI vs MC etc But say within MC cartridge design or within MM design.

Do Lyra, Dynavector and van den Hul as example follow the same design principle or are the designed very differently even though they are all MC?
Have a look at a Dynavector Karat, Dr T, and Ke Taikora - all very different.
Koetsus appear to all appear to follow a similar design - but they do keep changing materials and bodies
I think Van Den Huls vary depending on the cartridge series.
EMT's follow the same design.
It all depends on each manufacturer.
Back to jcarr's comment about not understanding rauls aversion to SUTs, oftentimes I don't think Raul makes a lot of sense. I do enjoy his posts though, and one has to admire his enthusiasm. 
SUTs work amazingly well, if you have a good one. 
Re cartridges I would like to try a decca or non magnetic core like an AT art7
The ASIA audiophile market is BIG on SUTs, but not the western world. Most all Japanese MC cartridge manufacturers make, or made SUTs, for their home market.

For more info visit Asian audio websites.

I would love to have an old Cotter SUT with all the gain and strapping options to try.
My friend Dertonarm try to convince me to use a SUT 10 years ago. I was
scared by their complexity as well by my own perspective with my + 40 MC
carts because I thought that ech of them would need an special SUT.
The ''pudding methaphor'' crossed my mind recently so I started with the FRT-4
which can be used with the most MC carts . The price which was lower than any
of my MC carts was an added argument. I was so surprised with the result
of  proof ( aka ''the pudding'') that I asked myself what the result would be with
an more expensive SUT? This kind of questions ''explain'' my + 40 MC carts
btw. So I bought the Denon AU-S1. Build like a German tank but with the minimal wire connections possible. A kind of simplicity added to complexity.
There is no way back to exotic and expansive MC phono-pres. I should listen
to my friend Dertonarm 10 years ago.
nandric you found that the denon was better than the frt4?  
Hi analogluvr, Yes much better but I need to confess that I am a novice in
this domain with limited experience . I own only two SUT's  which I mentioned
while I started with the FRT-4 only 4 months ago. There are many members with
more extended knowledge and experince than me. They should provide better
information about comparisson between those two. The more expensive FR SUT's are made for specific impedance while the FRT-4 is made for ''all purposes'' with 3 , 10, 30 and 100 Ohm as well 3 input possibilities and bypass.
This imply many wire (aka ''soldering points'') and cheap (aluminum) switches.
The transformers by the Denon are direct connected with the output and input
connectors reducing '''soldering points'' to a minimum.

Given Raul's fondness for MMs and MI cartridges, I've never understood his outspoken aversion to MC step-up transformers. True, a stepup transformer will increase the magnetic distortions of an MC cartridge, but the larger magnetic circuit of an MM or MI cartridge has the same effect. I don't see why one approach should be favored over the other.

The reason you might want to avoid an SUT is simply that they are an added source of distortion with loss of bandwidth; ultimately an impediment to transparency. Also the loading of the output is critical for best performance (otherwise the transformer will not have flat frequency response and may also ring at high frequencies) and this will vary from cartridge to cartridge. Thus it is likely that most SUT setups are not optimized!

The flip side of the coin of course is if there is no SUT you have to have enough gain to deal with low output cartridges! In my system, even though we had the SUTs properly loaded, they were never as transparent as simply going direct. I found that if the SUT was in place I was simply less likely to play the system.

I am not saying SUTs can't be excellent- they can. I am saying that its possible to do better.
Nandric,  Is that you in the photo?  What is it you are drinking, or are you offering all of us a drink?  A fine cognac, I hope. In the tiny photo, you look a little like one of my favorite American actors, Martin Landau.

I've had thoughts of finding and buying the correct Ortofon SUT for the MC2000 that I bought from you and which I continue to enjoy.  Just out of curiosity.

Carr's post reminded me; is there not a new cartridge just recently introduced that places the coil (MC type) right above the stylus tip?  Can someone jog my memory?  Also, I hope Jonathan will stay on board with this thread, as he obviously knows more about this subject than any of us can imagine.  I would like to read a word or two on strain gauge designs, esp the vintage ones, if Jonathan is reluctant to discuss the Sound Smith product.

Lewm, it was Victor MC-L1000, also MC-1 and MC-10 with the same princible. If you read Japanese you will find more here.

Dear Lew, My photo is from the Facebook. I forget my ID but was

able to log in with my Facebook ID. I hope you will approve the wine

in casu: it was Barolo 2003. If I was as rich as Thuchan I would

offer the same wine to all of our members. But what I can offer

to you is the FRT-4 SUT so you can use ''my'' Ortofon MC 2000

with some real amplification(grin).

Dear @lewm : You are rigth, exist a new cartridge that puts the coil above the stylus. As you can see it's not a new " black thread " design.

I own the JVC L-1000 mentioned by JC and time ago posted about it in the MM thread and other threads too.

Btw, the " correct " SUT for the MC-2000 is the Ortofon T-2000 that was designed expressely/dedicated for that cartridge. Both Ortofon items appeared in the market at the same time and was the Ortofon advise to use it always together. I think no other SUT can even the matching characteristics of that combo.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I'd like to find a T2000 for sale, just for curiosity to hear how it would mate with the MC2000.  However, like you, Raul, I generally try to avoid SUTs altogether.  In fact, I don't own one. Nor have I ever owned one. On eBay one occasionally sees the Ortofon T3000, but not the T2000. We are going to visit our son in Japan in a month from now, and I intend to search for a T2000, among other items that interest me, in Tokyo. 
Dear @jcarr :  """  Given Raul's fondness for MMs and MI cartridges, I've never understood his outspoken aversion to MC step-up transformers. True, a stepup transformer will increase the magnetic distortions of an MC cartridge, but the larger magnetic circuit of an MM or MI cartridge has the same effect. I don't see why one approach should be favored over the other. """

I started to post in Agon about MM/MI cartridges  around 2006/2007 ( this is before the MM thread ( 2008. ). ) but everything started in 1999/2000 year when I decided to DIY an integrated Phonolinepreamp and for that joined Jose. I had very precesily targets and one of them was two separate and dedicated phono stages: one MC and one MM/MI where both cope each one cartridge special characteristics/needs.

When that project finished I re-started to listen my MM cartridges and started to buy many other cartridges and was the first time that I heard the MM alternative in a Phonolinepreamp dedicated in specific for MM cartridges and what I heard just loved and time latter I knew I have to share it with the analog audio community and present it as a true and real cartridge alternative to the LOMC one.
In the begening I was really exited and discovered somany cartridge audio " things " that I was thinking I was discovering the " black thread ". That's why that foundness you are talking about.

Now, why that history?. Well, you posted in the MM thread that even of our MM discoveries the MC technology was a superior one and you gave the reasons and in those times I posted my disagreement with you.

Years latter and when the " hurricane " of the begining gone and stay more " calm " I learned on the MM vs LOMC quality level performance ( through many tests with both kind of top cartridges. ) and I posted that effectively you was right and that the MC alternative was and is a superior one. No doubt about but even that the MM alternative in a dedicated MM phono stage is some performance areas a true challenge to the MC alternative.

In the other side, I have no aversion per-sé as you posted for SUT's as a fact I used SUT's just from the time I owned my first LOMC cartridge ( Denon DL-103. ) where I bought a Denon SUT and I'm still own 5-6 very good SUT's modified by me.

Things are that when we started the Phonolinepreamp my second target was a unit with active high gain: NO SUT down there. The final result was and is just astonishing for say the least.

A good SUT can't compare with a good active high gain stage Phonolinepreamp where its design copes with the LOMC needs ( only SS bipolars copes 100 % the MC needs. Unfortunatelly this cative devices are really hard to " handle " and that's why we don't see it very often on active high gain phono stage designs. ). Both frequency extremes are the issue and especially the low bass range.

One of my SUT's is the best Denon design ever ( 1000, this unit weigth is over 10kg. ) that I modified and with the right cartridge comes very near to my high gain stage. Its frequency response is really wide and started at 5-8 hz to over 110khz and is dead silent.
There are other very good SUT's as Audiocraft or Technics or Sony or Entré ( the owners and designers of Entré are the same guys of today very expensive cartridges/SUT's: My Sonic Labs. These same guys were at FR in cartridge/SUT designs and they designed the FR MCX-5 cartridge that for me is perhaps the best performer on those vintage LOMC cartridges. ).

A good SUT will be sound good if it's coupled to the right MC cartridge with the right low gain phono stage design.

So as you can see there is no aversion per SUT  and I still love the LOMC cartridge that as you is a superior technology.

Regards and enjoy the music,


The new cart with the coils attached near the tip is the new AT ART1000.

Limited edition - will cost $6K.

being rich on carts & SUTs is not a bad thing at all.
Using no SUTs is like having missed half of one`s (musical) life :-)
Greetings to NL & D.C.

Hi dear Thuchan,we missed your contributions for some time. I am glad to see
that I provoked you to react. Alas only a part of your statement is true. The one
about my carts(+ 50). I own since recently just two SUT's : FRT-4 and Denon AU-S1 . But I should listen to our genius friend Daniel 10 years ago. I forget
his argument but , if I am right, this has someting to do with 'mutal' relationship
between impedance and inductance of both components. This argument scared me to dead because in my interpreation this meant separat SUT for each of
my MC carts. You should be thankful because in this case I would need to lend
the money from you (grin).
Dear Nandric,
You remember very well. Yes, you need to find a perfect match. Nevertheless when you start engaging into this subject more deeply you will find SUTs which are variable like e.g. the Tango 999. There is a lot of literature on the web regarding this topic. Don't forget one coil faces the other. Good luck!