Fidelity Research cartridges

Any FR cartridge experts out there? Raul? Dertonarm? Syntax?
I have had an FR-7 which I bought a while ago. I tried it ever so briefly when I got it on an arm I now recognize as not being able to handle that weight (close, but no cigar). I just now pulled it out for kicks and after getting it adjusted with the big counterweight, I am VERY pleasantly surprised. Actually, I'm feeling kind of bubbly. It does not dig out the utmost in detail, but it just sounds very right.

Are there any other FR carts out there which are real steals if still in good condition? I know the MC-702 and the FR-1Mk2 and Mk3f by name, with good reps being assigned to the Mk3 and the MC-702. Given that the MC-702 and the FR-7 look quite similar, and they were offered at about the same time, what is different? And is the FR-7 just an integrated headshell version of the FR-1Mk3?
Well, the Fr-702 is a interesting cartridge, when you are looking for the real special, grab a FR-7f when it is available.
Use the alternative Distance from pivot/spindle described in the "big thread"

You are on the right track with your opinion, it has a special kind of "Physical Presence" which is rare to get.

Happy listening
Thanks Syntax. Which 'Big Thread' is that? Based on the FR-7's performance, I will try to grab an FR-7f if I see one. Any idea how any of them are different from each other? The only explanations I have seen have been quite generic for each (taken from the original catalogs) and don't say much about the differences (and also show no specs to differentiate that way).

My understanding is that the FR-7 was introduced in 1978, but my understanding is that the FR-1Mk3 and the MC-702 were in the line-up later, and all three were in the catalog sometime around 1980.
Dear T bone: Yes, you are right the FR-7 was introduced in 1978 for 55K Yens, then the FR-7f for 77K Yens and the FR-7f/c for 100K yens and the latest FR-7fz for 80K Yens. With differences on stylus shape and output level.

I owned the 7fz and own the 702 which is very good performer specially on the Micro Seiki MAX, I try it through the Ikeda 407 and FR-66 but I prefer the MS MAX.

The FR-1MK3 ( that I owned too ) was in a different quality performance down level ( some people think that the FR-7 comes from it, I don't because its performance level was/is different. ), even its price was way down of the FR-7/702: 30K Yens.

Like Syntax posted: if you find a 702 or a FR-7fz go a head because are more refined ones and have all the detail recovery that comes in the recording.

Regards and enjoy the music.
This thread:

Prices of oldskool tonearms

The Fr-702 was made for Europe I think, it is quite rare. All those Fr-7 cartridges are around 0.19mV, 45 khz
The only exception is the FR-7fz, this one is about 0.24mV
Some have different needles (spheric-elliptical), all of them are worth to get them.
Based on their superior construction (sealed rubber) they don't get "old".
Fr-7 was in the 1. Batch called FR-1 MK7
T-Bone: Both the FR1 and FR7 were air-core MCs, so in a v-e-r-y general sense you could regard the FR-7 as being an integrated headshell version of the FR-1. In reality the 7 had a radically different coil former (cube-shaped), likewise for the magnetics (dual magnets, quad polepieces). IMO, the FR7s were by far the most interesting of FR's MC designs, but the 7's basic design concept dictated that they would always be big, heavy monsters, suited for relatively few modern arms. Even if FR had tried to make a non-integrated headshell version of the 7, the weight would have almost certainly remained daunting, and far heavier than any FR-1 variant.

My favorite FR-7s are the f and fz. I am not familiar with the 702, so cannot comment on it.

AFAIK, the FR-1 was one of the first stereo air-core MCs and can be considered groundbreaking as a result.

The PMC-3 is far less popular than the FR-1 or 7, but was influenced by the FR-7's thinking, and is certainly worth searching out.

FR also had quite interesting MM designs. I'm not too fond of the electrical characteristics of most MMs (nor how they sound), but the low-inductance FR-5E is a notable exception. FWIW, the later FR-6 doesn't sound nearly as good.

Here is a webpage in Japanese that lists the Japanese-market cartridges that Isamu Ikeda was responsible for.

regards, jonathan carr
Thanks Jonathan,
That table is great. Very helpful. But it shows some ridiculously low impedance for the FR-7. I am at a loss at how to even think about dealing with a 2-3ohm impedance cart. Anything special required? My phono stage has the ability to choose 25kOhm, 50kOhm, 100kOhm and capacitance at 100pF, 200pF, and 400pF. I cannot easily amend anything else right now. It's driving a Jadis pre. I am at 100pF and 50kOhm default levels. Is there anything I need to do to optimize that?

Using a PUA-9 arm with the heavy counterweight allows me up to 33g. Just squeeking in - thank heavens it's a stiff armtube. Wish I had a 506/30 or FR-66s handy but I don't.

I will keep an eye out for the PMC3 (do you think it's worth 40k? Guess it sold pretty quick...) and some of the better FR-7 series carts.
Dear T_bone, no worries about the low source impedance of the FR-7 family carts. Some Kondo, Ortofon MC-5000 and many other low output MCs do have similar low impedances. However I strongly recommend using a low impedance matching step-up transformer to offer the FR-7's coil inductance a matching partner - that way you will fully appreciate its sonic virtues and only then its full potential sees the light of day.

I am using FR-7fc, FR-7f (special modified) and FR-702 in my FR-66s/B-60. This combination - together with a suitable step-up - gave peace of mind to me and the tonearm/cartridge-question.

And yes - among the 30+ FR-7-series cartridges passing through my hands in the past 20 years there wasn't one single sample with a giving in suspension. These beast do live forever!! My prime sample has by now its 3rd stylus and about 5000 hours behind in its 25 years since birth.....

The FR-64s is a much better partner for any FR-7 as compared to the 506/30. Second only - by a small margin and only in direct comparism - to the FR-66s.

And indeed - the FR-7 was first named FR-1 MK7 - I do have the original first flyer at hand. FR claimed that it was a direct successor to the FR-1.
Jonathan and others, this is off-topic but while we are in the mood for older Japanese carts...

Have you ever used/considered the micromini-voltage Micro Seiki MC carts like the LC-80W, which puts out something like 0.0mV? Was it any good?
T_Bone, I would easily be willing to pay up to the low 30's for a PMC3. At 40 I'd probably think about it, and buy it after all (grin).

The very low coil inductance of the FR-7 implies that loading can be fairly flexible, so I wouldn't be so concerned with the low impedance. Also, none of the FR-7s are overachievers in detail, and the top end extension is a little curtailed. so the downsides of transformer stepups won't be overly apparent. However, in consideration of the low coil inductance, should you choose a stepup transformer, I would look for a toroidal-core type.

I don't know the inductance data for the signal coils so cannot do any proper loading calculations, but I'd suggest keeping the loading capacitance as low as possible, and this includes the capacitance of the cable. 25kohm or 50kohm coupled with as little capacitance as possible sounds workable, especially if your Jadis preamp includes an RF attenuation network at the input.

I agree that the FR-66S would be somewhat better than the SAEC, but truth be told, I'm not overly enamoured of the "S" family either (and I say this as the long-time owner of a 64S with Elevation Base and Arm Stabilizer). The stainless steel is great to look at, but less great to listen to, and when I run mine I prefer to keep a compression wrap around the tube.

FWIW, I've known Isamu Ikeda for many years, and not once has he suggested that the FR-7 was any kind of successor to the FR-1. Even today he appears to remain proud of what he accomplished with the 7 (also the Ikeda 9), but the FR-1 hardly ever comes up in our discussions.

BTW, here is more eye-candy for the FR-7.
Drawing of interior structure
Drawing of cantilever with cubic core
One-page catalog

Here you can see just how huge the magnet structure is, and if you understand cartridge design, the uniqueness of the 7's innards will be very apparent. The magnet structure alone would spill over the body sides of any non-integrated headshell MC cartridge (at least that I am aware of), and underscores why FR never made a non-integrated headshell version of the 7.

From my perspective (that of an active cartridge designer), the closest thing to a non-integrated headshell version of the FR-7 was the PMC-3, but even this remained quite a way off.

I have a lot of experience with Micro Seiki turntables and tonearms, less with the MC cartridges. However, I did own the LC-80W, and I recal the output as being around 0.1mV, which at least was less aggravating than the JewelTone ribbon cartridges. I last used my LC-80 during the late 80s (probably amplified by something like a Yamaha HA-2), so I wouldn't know how it would do on a current SOTA phono stage. The cool feature of the LC-80 was that the stylus was user-replaceable, but the funky aspect was that Micro relied on the magnetic attraction of the polepieces (yokes) to the magnet as the clamping mechanism. How the polepieces are secured to the magnet is a critical area for performance and sound, and the situation on the LC-80 was made even more tricky because the polepieces also carried the cantilever, the mounting of which is likewise a critical area for performance and sound. I rather doubt if a performance-oriented cartridge designer would have opted for these design choices, and it is entirely possible that these are why the 3-ohm LC-80W produced so little output voltage (compared to other cartridges of similar impedance). Still, the thinking behind the design was very interesting (and brazen!).

Ah, managed to link to a defunct Yahoo auction. This link is via Google's cache, so probably won't last long.

regards, jonathan carr
Jonathan, Once again, thanks much for all the interesting information.
Good thing about the Micro (that it's interesting) - just took a flier on one tonight (10k) and landed it.
Dear Jcarr, even if the FR-7 series do have little in common in physical appearance with the FR-1 series, it nevertheless was initially named FR-1 MK7 in the very first commercial product sheet/brochure FR published about its new cartridge.
The actual samples which were brought on the market were however always named FR-7 (guess they simply "dropped" the "FR-1"-destination and made the "MK7" to "7" to document the new series and new design).

BTW - you might - if you haven't already done so... - give your Titan i a test in your FR-64s. The combo gives astonishing good results - despite the less great mass/compliance combination.

Dear T bone: +++++ " Have you ever used/considered the micromini-voltage Micro Seiki MC carts like the LC-80W, which puts out something like 0.0mV? " +++++

Like Jonathan I can't say how good is this cartridge with a today whole analog rig, I heard twice at dealer shop a have no opinion on its performance but about cartridges with really low output ( The LC-80 is almost normal for the next ones. ) the lower I know was the Jeweltone that JC posted with 0.04mv and next to it are the Audio Note IO Limited and the Ortofon MC 2000 with 0.05mv, these two are great peformers, I still have the MC 2000 that it is not only a challenge because its low output but it is too a high compliance MC cartridge!!

Btw, I already posted about the FR-1 and FR-7 but I confirm and agree with JC: I own and owned those FR cartridges the quality performance on the 7 against the FR-1s is totally different, the 7s are way way better and like I posted its prices are way different too.

Agree too with JC on the FR tonearm quality performance. No I don't want to start ( again ) nothing on this tonearm subject.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Dertonarm: Yes, I am aware of that the FR-7 was referred to as "FR-1 MK7" prior to launch. But I am also aware that the marketing department (in many companies) can twist and turn things in a way that may be at odds with the intentions of the designer (grin). It happens all the time.

Admittedly I've made similar mistakes myself, like when I decided to name the Clavis and Parnassus successors as Clavis DC and Parnassus DCt, when in reality they had absolutely nothing to do with their predecessors (other than that the same guy designed them). In recent years this has become something of a problem for me, since the original Parnassus can be used as a donor to create an Olympos, but the later Parnassus DCt cannot. I sometimes receive letters from audiophiles stating that they have been able to buy a Parnassus DCt, and asking me what additional procedures are required to build an Olympos for them. I am forced to disappoint them, but it really pains me to have to do so. If I hadn't called the Parnassus DCt "Parnassus" but something else more in keeping with its radically different engineering approach, life would be easier today.

>you might - if you haven't already done so... - give your Titan i a test in your FR-64s. The combo gives astonishing good results - despite the less great mass/compliance combination.

Yes, I've already done so with the Titan i. Likewise the Olympos. I agree that the results can be quite OK - as long as you wrap a damper strip around the armtube or take measures to dampen it better. Otherwise the "fx" or "fc" variants are far more friendly to use. By the time Ikeda did the IT-345 and IT-407, he had gained a much better awareness of resonance control as compared to his FR days.

Apologies to T-Bone for derailing his thread.

T-Bone, I will be interested in hearing of what you think of the LC-80 when you get it, what amplification and/or stepup you find works best, and how you like the sound. At least you can't complain about the 10k price!

BTW, are you familiar with the technical audio magazine "Rajio Gijutsu"? I believe that they were offering a rebuild and overhaul service for out-of-production cartridges, with the work performed by one of the former heads of Roundale Research. I have some recollection that the magnet on the LC-80 is Alnico. If so, the magnet would almost certainly benefit from a recharge, and you may get a bit more output voltage if you can have this done.

cheers to all, jonathan carr
Derail away gents!
I am familiar with the mag, though I have to say I have never actually seen copies for sale except at that tube thing which used to take place in the rajio kaikan in Ochanomizu in the fall, and maybe at the bookstands at the Intl Forum. I'll have to dig up a copy somehow.

I will try the LC-80 when I get it in a few days but I am not flooded with stages/SUTs/headamps on the best of days and currently my 'good' stage is at a friend's place. I am using a Sony HA-55 and its accompanying stage - not great, but certainly acceptable, and the Sony cart it was built for was quite low output as well, so it should be serviceable for the Micro.
Dear Jcarr: I assume you are talking on the Sumiko tonearm wrap device ( or something similar . ) that I used with very good results too with the long SAEC tonearms.

I understand that that product is out of production but was a useful " tool ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Jonathan; I also use a Titan I (and two FR-7f) in my FR64s. Could you pls describe exactly the modification you did to dampen the arm better? Many thanks, Marco
Dear Marco, you may simply use a good - solid - shrink tube and fit it over the armtube. It will dampen the armtube as will blue-tec or similar damping materials.
However - I still am sure, that the FR-64s does not need that special treatment. It will alter the sound - no doubt (already by increase moving mass). But that is always a matter of match with the cartridge in use.
Todays cartridges often tend to be very present in the top-octaves.
Here it might "tame" the sound.

Dear Marco: The one " tool " that I'm refering in my last post ( I know that you are not asking me . ) and that I assume JC was using is a short piece ( around 35cms long and 1cm wide. ) of a clear/transparent stretch material ( it is not a hard material but a flexible one that is very light/weight. ) that serve to wrap in " helicoidal " way/form the tonearm arm wand.

This device help a lot to lower the resonances/distortions on your FR66 along that you use the FR-66 in static balanced way.

Due that the weight of the device is really small ( I think no more tha 5grs. ) it increment maybe the tonearm effective mass by around 2grs that can't alter dramatically the cartridge resonance frequency in favor of better performance due to lowering the toearm/cartridge " distortions ".

Now IMHO if you want to achieve a better quality performance from your 7fs the Micro Seiki MAX ( with J arm wand ) is a lot better than the 66 or even,like JC point out, the Ikeda 407 will make better, I prefer the MS MAX and certainly too the 66 is not the best match for the Titan's .

The commercial job for that arm wrap was made by Sumiko some years ago and today ( for what I understand ) is out of production.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Well, probably it is depending on System colorations, but in my System I tried a Skala and a titan i with Triplanar, Phantom, Davinci, Kuzma airline and I got the best performance with FR-64s. By far. Now a Helikon is running and it is really good. Old Arms can have some merits, but I guess, my System alignment is better than others (heheh)
Dear Syntax: Maybe your system alignment like you say is better but IMHO I think that you like more the " higher " FR tonearm distortions.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Syntax: and nothing wrong with that because that's what you like it.

Back to our regularly scheduled thread derailment... an initial report back on the Micro LC-80W cartridge.

So far, with about a dozen sides under its most recent belt, I can say that it has a very smooth, and easy-flowing sound, and while some people will call that treble roll-off, I am sure that is not what I am hearing - the treble is really quite good. It gives an impression of a very, very small and delicate stylus (I have yet to look at it under a loup). It seems to have more detail than the DL103R and the FR-7, and the AT33PTG I recently purchased as a medium-high compliance cart, though it will not compete with the UNIverse for detail retrieval.

I will report back when I have a bunch more sides under my belt with it. In any case, it was a good way to spend $110 and I can highly recommend it at that price.
Dear Jcarr, dear T_bone, I assume that the Micro LC-80W is an OEM Nagaoka cartridge. Am I right?? Micro Seiki certainly hadn't put up a cartridge assembly facility of their own. Anyone out there with info about this?

Thanks, D.
I have not a clue. I dug around trying to find info on the cart but found little of use in Japanese or English other than the manual on vinylengine and a spot on a couple of lists.
Dear Dertonarm: It is hard to say if Nagaoka or maybe Supex was the builder.

In USA was marketed by SAE with a retail price of 400.00

I read that this Agon person: Topoxforddoc, own or owned the cartridge, maybe he has some information about: you can ask him.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,
also own the 407 but compared with FR-64/66 the 407 has less details and precision. Prefer the FR.
Dear Marco: All is a matter of preferences/priorities and different tolerance range level of distortions.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Found an FR-7f and have tried it out. It is, indeed, a bit nicer than the FR-7. It has, at first trot, more delicacy to it. I am not sure how else to put it yet. Both are very nice, but if I had to choose just one of the two to live with, I'd take the 'f.' More in a bit.
Does any one know if the MC702 have Alnico magnets?
The FR series look very similar to the Sony XL-55 series with the figure 8 coils. Who manufactured the FR and the Sony carts?

I don't have an FR series (yet) but I have three of the Sony XL-55/88 pro series and they give my UNIverse and Allnico Z a run for their money.

Hi Marco (Heradot): I didn't see your post for the longest time, apologies for the tardy response!

First, I removed anything on the arm structure that wasn't absolutely essential for playback. That means in particular the armlift, also the armrest. IIRC, I remade the armrest as a separate piece which was secured to the armboard/plinth. I normally have no need for an armlift, so I simply removed that.

I would have liked to have removed the horizontal plate that holds the armlift, but IIRC you would need to dissassemble the arm to achieve this, so I grudgingly left the horizontal plate in place. But I did use blocks of paulownia wood between the horizontal plate and the armboard (or turntable plinth). Paulownia is somewhat like a high-strength version of balsa - it is light and strong, internally lossy, and is also somewhat compressible (albeit less so than balsa). This will help control the ringing of the horizontal plate and will clean up the sound.

And as Raoul suggested, I use the Warren Gehl armwrap, which is far more effective than heatshrink. It dampens the resonances of the armtube by compressing it radially, and works on a similar principle to how you play harmonics on a bass or guitar.

The armwrap's radial compression of the armtube makes the 64S and 66S operate a bit more like Ikeda's later arm designs like the IT-245 and IT-407, although these added interference damping by force-fitting multiple concentric tubes of various materials together.

FWIW, from the resonance-control point of view, Ikeda's personal favorite among his own designs is the IT-345, which I believe has a three-way concentric armtube structure. The person who's been building these arms for the past 20-odd years is of the same opinion.

As an aside, I normally used a combination of dynamic and static VTF, and balanced the contributions of the two to achieve a sound that was subjectively most pleasing. Note, however, that the turntable that I preferred to use with the FR-64S was a Micro-Seiki SZ-1S, which has a vacuum clamp and therefore little LP warpage and little vertical arm movement to speak of.

Finally, the headshell has a major impact on the sound, but I am sure that you are well aware of that.

best and hth, jonathan carr
Steve, Jonathan may be able to shed some light on this but as far as I know, there was no business relationship between Ikeda-san of FR and Sony Soundtec. The magnet structure is different, and I thought the XL-55 and 88 have different coil concepts than the FR-7. The XL-55 is heavy, the FR-7 is even heavier; but lucky thing is, the FR-7 and the XL-55 have the same distance from headshell mount to stylus tip, meaning the FR-7 fits perfectly on tables/arms which take the XL-55 perfectly.

FWIW, I'd be happy to send you an FR-7 in exchange for your XL-88 if you ever wanted to...
Dear Perrew: Maybe not because according with this:

has only two magnets and usually when a designer put Alnicco use more than two.

Maybe Jcarr could have a more precise answer. Btw, why is so important to you?

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hi Steve, the XL55 and XL88 Pro cartridges are very interesting cartridges indeed. I had 2 samples of each during the past 6 years.
However - they do have little in common with the FR-7-series ( or FR-1 MK7..... I have found the original data-sheet with exactly this destination again - will make a photo tomorrow and post it) aside from both being an integrated headshell design and both featuring comparatively wide and hefty housings.

I do have the remains of a destroyed FR-7f at hand. According to one engineer at Munich Fraunhofer Institue the magnets are Alnico indeed.
And they are VERY big compared to most other cartridges.
The FR-702 does feature a significant shorter cantilever compared to the original FR-7-versions and thus the moving mass is considerably less resulting in improved low level detail and recreation of tiny details in the sonic picture.
You should NOT interchange a FR-7 with a FR-702 WITHOUT checking the adjustment of the geometry. It may very well be the case, that now the stylus sits somewhere else as before with the FR-7..........
VERY similar in sound and output (despite the claim that it had the very same output voltage in the data-sheets, I found on the 4-5 samples I had that the output was rather 0.15mV ) to the FR-7f.

As I have used the FR-7f, I have come to appreciate it a fair bit more than the FR-7. Better treble and far better transient response in my set-up. In fact, it is one of the better carts I have ever tried for listening to jazz.

Furthermore, the other interesting news is that I have just picked up a Sony XL-88D (thanks Jonathan for pointing it out - I ended up picking it up). I am anxiously awaiting delivery and will report back.
T-bone, if you use your FR-7f in a FR-66s connecting it with a good phono silver cable (not the Kondo one but maybe the Crystal Cable Dreamline) and put it through a Kondo KSL transformer you will end up with a fantastic result.

Also the Titan i and the Olympos match very good with this "old Ikeda tonearm". I would say those are some of the best modern designs, the FR-7f is in my ears the "best old cartidge".
T-Bone, how do you think about the Sony XL-88D after testing it? I just received a FR-7fz and will compare it to the FR-7f. Did you consider using a flywheel for your blue star?
My XL-88D is out of commission. It was almost dead ("just resting") on arrival because of a softish suspension. I have another XL-88 which I may use as a donor motor and try to get the motor transplanted into the 88D, or perhaps more likely the 88D cantilever mounted onto the 88 motor.

I have not found an FR-7fz, but I am happily using an FR-7f on an SME long arm now.

I lost out on an auction for a Micro flywheel recently. Geez they are expensive...
Hello T_Bone, when you use a FR-7f then you are on the right track already. It is a very good System. The FR-7fz is not the last version (even when the "z" suggests that), it is a 7 series with a higher output, 0,25mV (easier for a lot of Phonostages, the other ones are below 0.2mV), 5 ohm Impedance, 7x10(-6) Dyne and is like all from this series a blind buy when you can get it. When you want to see the body, go to my System, there is a pic :-)
It has an interesting History, in Japan there a specially selected 7f* units made, too, custom order with specs you can even dream on 30 years later. I listened to one of those, it was the first time where I thought the description "You will eat your heart out" hit me. Unfortunately too rare to start a discussion about that, but I am absolutely sure, when a manufacturer today would build such cartridges again (with different optics) and the Hype which is made for average units today, it would be a revolution.
The FR-7fz is really great, what else did I expect? it is very dynamical but also transporting warmth and detail. T-Bone sorry for the auction on the flywheel. Try again, it is worth. I am just driving the brother of your blue star with a HS-80 now. Does anybody have a FR-7fc and will report on it? Thanks

Does anyone have any knowledge of the Fidelity Research MCX-5 cartridge. There is a seller of this cartridge and he claims that this is similar to the FR7 but without the integrated headshell. Can anyone shed some light on this subject??

Hi Ddriveman, the MCX-5 has nothing to do with the FR-7 series cartridges.
Not in terms of construction/design - nor in terms of sonic virtues.
This is however often claimed to be the case by sellers to get a higher price for their MCX-5 or MC-201/202.
The only other cartridge of the FR-line up worth getting and mentioning is the FR-1 MK3 F.
The MCX5 was in part designed by Ozawa-san who started Shelter in the mid 1980s after spending a few years at Fidelity Research. It came out (with the MCX3) many years after the FR-7 series and was designed for use with the XG-5 and XG-7 transformers. As far as I know, as Dertonarm suggested, it is not anything like the FR-7.

Jcarr above recommended the FR PMC3 as worth a listen. They are not easy to find.
T_Bone and Dertorm, Thanks for your inputs. Guess I will continue my search for a FR7F or FR702.