Decca London Gold cartridge nightmare

Having read so much about the Decca London Gold cartridge, I decided to try one. Time passed and I finally found one on ebay that was within my budget. Cartridge was guaranteed to work with good results by a seller with very good feedback. Physically the cart looked neat, and everything, except for the mounting screws, was intact.

I had intended to install the cartridge in a new Kuzma Stogi S arm on a LP12 turntable but since the arm is scheduled to arrive end Oct 2008, I decided to try the Decca on my Lenco L75, with the original Lenco arm. At least to make sure all connections were OK, if not for any other reason.

What happened afterwards was pure nightmare. The results were horrendous, to say the least!

Tell me where I went wrong.

I tried tracking between 1.5 to 3gm but the sound ranged from tinny to severe breaking up. Even more startling, the groove vibrations picked up by the stylus was transmitted to the entire headshell, so you could actually hear the sound of the grooves generated acoustically by the vibration, kind of like a diaphragm or a gramophone horn. Lightly placing my finger on the headshell while a record played confirmed this. The headshell was quaking! With the preamp gain down to zero, you could hear the headshell vibration from a distance of a foot and a half, maybe even further, I kid you not.

The cartridge that I am presently using on my Lenco is a low output Audio Technica MC, the AT-OC3. No problems there. Tracks pretty well too, but not great, considering the Lenco arm was not made for MC carts. But the results were definitely more sane than the Decca!!

What's happening? Help!

Thanks for any advice, suggestions, feedback.

Sounds like the suspension is gone.
MY guess would be that the problem is the Lenco arm. Decca carts, especially if you bought an older one, only respond well with certain arms and are especially suited to damped arms. The newer Decca's have a line contact cantilever/stylus and tend to be less fussy. I'm using a Jubilee with a Well Tempered TT and arm and it sounds fantastic. Your Gold should work much better with the Kuzma Stogi S. Warren Gregory, a Decca dealer from San Fransisco will not sell a Decca until he finds out what kind of arm you are using. I'm also working on a Lenco L75. I believe that the Kuzma arm will fit on the Lenco(211mm?). You may potentially have a Giant Killer with the Lenco/Kuzma/Decca combination.
Keep us posted please.
Zieman it doesn't have a suspension in the first place. Dubhouse, you're absolutely correct. Warren Gregoire wouldn't sell one to me (Super Gold Mk. VII) until I confirmed that I was using a damped unipivot arm (JMW 10.5). Mine has none of the problems the OP cites and is one of my favorite carts -- exceptionally dynamic, involving, and open, with excellent bass. My only real beef with it is that it has a tendency to emphasize surface noise on less-than-perfect LPs. And because of its suspensionless design, it really doesn't do warps. Good luck, Dave
I have a Super Gold too, that I purchased from Warren. You may want to call him and describe your problem. I had the same conversation with Warren as Dubhouse and Dopogue when I bought mine. I've tried mine on multiple arms (Rega RB300, Linn Ittok, Roksan Tabriz Zi) and have had good results in all cases, so I think the risk of a bad combination is relatively low, but as you have illustrated, a bad combination can be really bad.

I suggest you keep at it . . . it's worth it.
Dubhouse-Coincidentally, I was just thinking today how an undamped cartridge like the Decca London Gold would perform in an ultra damped arm like one of the Well Tempered's! Given the design of the WT arms, I'm sure a Decca and WT arm is a match made in heaven. I used to own the WTRP arm and TT, and definitely would not mind owning one again when the opportunity comes around.
I'm not sure about mounting the Stogi S on the Lenco L75. Thanks for the suggestion though.
Yes I'll let you know how it goes after I've got the Stogi on the LP12, and the Decca on the Stogi.
Thanks guys.
Just to echo the previous responses, the decca responds most postively to unipivot damped arms. I've been using decca cartridges for the last 20+ years and have become very familiar with all of the little nuances associated
with this cartridge. I'm currently using the supergold with a Keith Monks tonearm which was designed specifically for the decca. Decca's usually track best around 2 grams.
Well tempered arms have been known to work well with this cartridge.
Its always good to hear from other Decca fans! I think they are criminally overlooked and under-reviewed. Some of this is a result of QC and tracking problems back in the day. Dopogue describes them very well: "exceptionally dynamic, involving, and open, with excellent bass." They do many things that expensive Moving Coils don't. Listening to one playing a properly mastered and pressed UK record is, at least to my ears, getting close to what a master tape sounds like. My only complaint is that mine has a slight hum that I've been unable to identify the source. But everything else is so "right" about it that I'm able to live with it.
Eee3, have you done any mods or rewiring to that Keith Monks tonearm? I have often been tempted to buy one of those. Of course there's always the Decca International Tonearm!
Warren Gregoire is using Decca's with a Dynavector 507 and swears by that combination. I just read on another Agon thread that someone is using the Gold and the Reference with the funky RS Labs RS-A1 tonearm and prefers it to much more expensive tonearms/carts. This to me is very intriguing. The thread is here:

Steve, how do you use a Decca in the RS-A1. Both the "headshell" and the Decca mount have threaded holes. Frankly, it sounds like a marriage made in hell but after using an RS-A1 for a couple of months, I'm inclined to believe anything is possible. Dave
Dubhouse, I have not done any mods as of yet, however I have thought about it but you have to be careful about those kinds of things as the decca's can be notorius for hum if things are not done just right. My philosophy is if ain't broke don't fix it.
The Linn-Lp 12,keith monks and decca gold was a marriage made in heaven and as mentioned before, the keith monks was designed specifically for that marriage an after 20 yrs. of that marriage and this so called old technology, I still haven't heard anything sound much better and yes I've heard other systems. In fact my very good friend and audiophile buddy just came back home to decca after a short hiatus with some other cartridges(clear audio maestro)to name one because he just couldn't get that magical sound the decca has. He's using his in a sme v tonearm and truthfully it doesn't sound that much better than my setup and his sounds very good! Its just something magical about the Lp-12 keith monks decca combination, I can't explain it.
Just to let you know, I have the M9ba mkIII version and it sounds better than the decca international arm.
Dopogue- here's the quote from Robyatt:

09-15-08: Robyatt
I actually like the Gold better than all but the Reference. They fit great in the RS-but BIG experimentation, to stop gound hum! The Reference is an exact fit for the RS back holes, butslightly thiner bolts than normal are needed.

It seems that he used thinner bolts to bypass the threads. Maybe he will see this thread and elaborate. Sounds very promising. I do wonder what he did to eliminate the hum.

Eee3- Thanks for the info. Sounds like you are getting excellent results from vintage components which is very appealing. I didn't know there were different versions of the Monks tonearm. The Monks tonearms are still available NOS I think for about 300 British Pounds, sans the mercury as they had to dispose of that. Are you using a mercury bath in yours?

Go for a Fidelity Research 64s or 66s Arm.
Dubhouse, yes I'm still using mercury bath in mine.
I agree with the others. The Deccas work in unipivots best. I've got two Deccas - a Maroon and an original Garrott Brothers Gold rebuild - sublime! I've been using deccas since the late 1970s in a Hadcock and then later in a Schroeder Model 2.

Since acquiring an Allaerts MC1B, the Deccas have been retired, but they occasionally come out for a song or two.

Is it possible that the tieback is damaged? Sounds like far too much energy is getting to the headshell as the OP describes. Seems like more than arm mismatch or setup. Suspension was the wrong term, I hoped folks knew what I meant: that all is not well with this cart.
Actually not too big experimentation-I have NO hum with my (Decca)London Reference in my RS Labs arm! I use slightly thinner bolts that pass through the tapped RS Labs holes and bind on the tapered London tapped holes at the base of the tap! Try loading the London at 33k
Can the string that loops around the stylus tip of the Decca London Gold cartridge be adjusted for tension, say, if I wanted to pull the stylus tip backwards, or loosen it so it moves forward. In teeny increments, of course.
Teeny increments? I wouldn't recommend ever pulling the stylus tip on a decca backwards. That's asking for trouble.
If you look at the construction, you can see that its very delicate(flimsy) at best. Any attempt at adjusting, unless you are a qualified technician(of decca's)would be disastrous. IMHO
The worst happened. The stylus armature snapped off my Decca London Gold when I tried to blow some dust off the inside of the cartridge.

I had actually got the Decca working on the Lenco arm, using some blu tack as damping material. It could only track mono pressings though, as stereo grooves gave it the shakes.

Some of the mono LPs I tried out actually sounded great, particularly Traffic's "Mr. Fantasy" (pink label UK Island, ILP 9061). The Beatles' "Revolver" (Parlophone PMC 7009) was pretty good too. The quiet passages on Schubert's "Tragic Overture" (Nixa, NLP 913) was sublime. When the orchestra went tutti however, it was pure horror.

I was actually contemplating capturing some of the Decca Gold sound, when it behaved, onto MP3 files and sharing it with you guys. Sadly, that will not happen.

I've spent like less than 12 hours with the Decca Gold. But what I heard truly confirmed what aficionados have always said about the Decca—When it was good, it was very, very good. When it was bad, it was horrid.

I'm not sure if I will have the cartridge rebuilt, or use the money on a saner, more predictable, hopefully not boring MC like a new Benz Gold or something.

Thanks guys for all the feedback, opinions, suggestions. It was great while it lasted.
Tubemoose, what you say about the Deccas is right on with my 40 year experience with the Decca. I remember much tone arm interaction with the Keith Monks and Decca International being best. More recently I used the Jubilee on the Schroeder. It took much time and adjustment of the distance between the magnets to get it to work right, but it can be done with that Decca. Tracking is always the major issue. I do wonder whether you have sufficient tracking force. What is the recommended tracking force now for the London? I think I remember 3 or 4 grams.
Using the term suspension was incorrect, but there just had to be something mechanical wrong with this cart.
Getting into this thread late, but both the poor sound and the breakage of the armature suggest that there may have been prior damage to Tubemoose's Decca.

Some people mess with Deccas and crack the tiny, thin steel armature where it does a 90-degree bend just below the vertical coil polepieces.

Deccas are not all THAT fragile if you only use a soft brush or soft pile stylus cleaner on them, and only stroke from back to front. I would not blow air into one to clean it. Don't FLICK the stylus (I know, nobody will ever admit to doing that, but be honest with yourself).

Some idiots have advised opening up a Decca's tin lid and tinkering with the tiny screws visible inside, to tighten up the string. Those screws do nothing of the kind. They adjust the gap between the vertical coil polepieces and thea armature. All you will do by messing with those is to mess up your channel separation.

Deccas prefer high mass arms and work well in damped unipivots such as the Keith Monks and Decca International, and in the Well Tempered Arm, which with its critical damping, simulates a high mass arm in many respects. The WTA's sand-filled armtube helps a lot, too. The Decca also has a synergy with the Rabco SL-8 linear tracking arm, which I run with a tubular arm wand filled internally with sand.
GP49, wow, you take me back many years. Do you still have a working Keith Monks arm? And a working Rabco!
Gp49, Your post made me smile. Some 20 odd years ago, a friend of mine and I each owned the then current version of the Decca London cartridge. We also had heard "somewhere" that fiddling with those little screws could improve the sound. I did this and found a sweet spot, where we both agreed that the cartridge sounded best. It took several weeks for us to figure out that we had converted the cartridge from stereo to mono. Maybe in a way the experience supports the aural superiority of mono playback.

"GP49, wow, you take me back many years. Do you still have a working Keith Monks arm? And a working Rabco!"

NO on one, YES on the other.

I don't have a functioning Keith Monks; couldn't find one when I was interested, and wound up building my own damped unipivot instead. I do have a working Rabco SL-8E with a homebrew arm wand. It's mounted on my Garrard 301, has a Decca in it, and I use it to play records regularly!

There was a Keith Monks on the infamous auction site last week. I don't think it got the reserve.
Tbg, I still have a working Keith Monks mounted on a Linn LP-12 valhalla with a Decca supergold. I've been using this combination for over 20yrs. and still haven't anything found anything that I like better. The Keith Monks was designed for the decca and is a marriage made in heaven.
I heard a few Deccss at the weekend on a Trans Fi Terminator arm the Jubilee was stunning the most alive Cartridge I ever heard no tracking issues the parrel tracking arm really coped well and they just created pure musical joy
Hi, talking about Decca cart combination with tone arm, I have an Audiomods type V (Hotrod mod based on Rega RB301 arm : and I would like to install a Decca Super Gold on it, but your comments on the bad behavior depending on tone arm are scaring me a bit.
Does anyone has a feedback experience on this kind of combination ?

Thank you for your help.
Warren Gregory is the one to talk to.
Decca is a great cartridge, but needs an arm that will not transmit the vibrations down the arm.... I've heard it in a number of very heavy arms and think the sound is quite good....different, but I can understand someone wanting it.
If you are talking about the original super gold, I have set up probably 15-20.
They are very arm sensitive. A lot of people ran them on Linn Sondeks/Ittoks in the 80's. The best I heard was with the Zeta tonearm. My feeling would be the Audiomods is not substantial enough for this cartridge. The new generation Deccas may be better.
The early Decca Golds were poorly built and the Garrott rebuild was essential.
The optimum set up required packing of bluetack between the top of the cartridge and the headshell and the impedance of the phono preamp needed to be around 22k. This tamed the top end shriek and dampened resonances.
If this is an older one I would suggest you send it to one of the rebulders such as Expert Stylus Coy for a check up and rebuild if required.
I have seen poorly set up Deccas destroy records with mistracking at end of records, so prudence and perfect set up is required.
Let us know how it works for you
I'm will be going through something similar in my setup
These are the cartridges Audiiomods recommend:

Try the Decca in your AM, it should work well enough. Track at 1.7 to 1.8.
Eee3, I still remember the difficulties with foam on the mercury and getting it off. But with my Decca London and on the Linn LP12, it worked great.
The Decca London Super Gold works beautifully on my Well Tempered Labs Turntable/tonearm -- like a marriage made in heaven.
My Super Gold was transformed when I got John Wright to fit a paratrace tip. Highly recommended. Works great in a 12" Jelco 750 on a 401. It was never happy in my LP12/ Ittok.
It is fascinating that this old cartridge still stokes such interest. It was over thirty years ago that I tried out three Decca Londons in the back room of what I think was called Stereophile on Chicago's near Northside. One sounded much better.

No one mentions the Decca Reference cartridge. Is it still made?
All the Decca cartridges are now still made under the London brand by John Wright in Bridgnorth, UK. The Reference is still made and they have now introduced a Professional cartridge for DJs with a spherical tip and front/back ties for the cantilever.