Hear my Cartridges....🎶


Many Forums have a 'Show your Turntables' Thread or 'Show your Cartridges' Thread but that's just 'eye-candy'.... These days, it's possible to see and HEAR your turntables/arms and cartridges via YouTube videos.
Peter Breuninger does it on his AV Showrooms Site and Michael Fremer does it with high-res digital files made from his analogue front ends.
Now Fremer claims that the 'sound' on his high-res digital files captures the complex, ephemeral nuances and differences that he hears directly from the analogue equipment in his room.
That may well be....when he plays it through the rest of his high-end setup 😎
But when I play his files through my humble iMac speakers or even worse.....my iPad speakers.....they sound no more convincing than the YouTube videos produced by Breuninger.
Of course YouTube videos struggle to capture 'soundstage' (side to side and front to back) and obviously can't reproduce the effects of the lowest octaves out of subwoofers.....but.....they can sometimes give a reasonably accurate IMPRESSION of the overall sound of a system.

With that in mind.....see if any of you can distinguish the differences between some of my vintage (and modern) cartridges.
VICTOR X1
This cartridge is the pinnacle of the Victor MM designs and has a Shibata stylus on a beryllium cantilever. Almost impossible to find these days with its original Victor stylus assembly but if you are lucky enough to do so.....be prepared to pay over US$1000.....🤪
VICTOR 4MD-X1
This cartridge is down the ladder from the X1 but still has a Shibata stylus (don't know if the cantilever is beryllium?)
This cartridge was designed for 4-Channel reproduction and so has a wide frequency response 10Hz-60KHz.
Easier to find than the X1 but a lot cheaper (I got this one for US$130).
AUDIO TECHNICA AT ML180 OCC
Top of the line MM cartridge from Audio Technica with Microline Stylus on Gold-Plated Boron Tube cantilever.
Expensive if you can find one....think US$1000.

I will be interested if people can hear any differences in these three vintage MM cartridges....
Then I might post some vintage MMs against vintage and MODERN LOMC cartridges.....🤗
F047e6d3 4ab4 4f0d 81a3 1d06afd11319halcro
Fantastic! Thanks.

After two listens while driving and on iPhone with inexpensive Panasonic earbuds, but what the hell....

Victor X1:

The most “impressive”. The most dynamically alive. Probably heard as the most dimensional on a good system. However, a little “Technicolor” and with a bit of nasality in the upper midrange. Reminded me of the sound of some horn speakers. Tonal center of gravity toward the lower mid/ upper bass.  HF ceiling a little low, but it’s probably my earbuds.

Victor 4MD X1:

Definitely of the same family but not as resolved. Above comments apply, but softer textured with tonal details glossed over compared to the X1.

Audio Technica:

More distant perspective as if sitting further back in the room. The most linear and without the nasality. Tonally the most realistic. Colorless the way some Maggies are...probably too colorless; music has color. I want to say it’s my favorite, but the X1 is probably the most fun to listen with.

My two cents.
I must admit that your price suggestions are too optimistic :)
Victor X1 and AT-ML180 are way over $1k nowadays if they are in perfect condition.

While comparing cartridges on youtube is the last thing i wish to do, i have to say that i prefer X-1II over X-1 in my system (compared at least 3 samples of each model). Audio-Technica AT-ML180 OCC is unbeatable.

What i want to tell you @halcro is that my recent discovery was a shocking news for me!
Surprise. All you have to do is just to read carefully the description on the boxes of these two AT-ML180 versions.

1) AT-ML180 has Boron pipe cantilever, but only OFC version (not OCC)
this LC-OFC version is from the 80s

2) AT-ML180/OCC has Beryllium tapered cantilever!
this is the latest OCC version from the early 90s


Both cantilevers are gold-plated and looks the same, but they are made of different material. Both cartridges are amazing.
That's amazing frogman.......
You absolutely nailed it.....👍
I didn't think those subtle qualities and differences would be able to be heard on the video.....and frankly.....I don't believe that even I can discern them when I play them on my iMac.
But you have described exactly what I am able to hear from my listening chair...🤗
The AT-ML180 I agree is probably "tonally the most realistic".....but both Victors just seem to give me more 'emotion' and 'magic'...
Some might say "more distortion".....🤪

For your uncanny hearing abilities......I present you with the inaugural 'Halcro Golden Ear Award'......👏👂

Regards
Henry
@halcro ,

You gave it away too soon. I'm still going to listen.
Well, gee wiz, Henry; thanks.  Please continue to post examples.  Regards.
Haha....
Sorry Slaw......but I didn't consider this a 'contest' 🤼‍♂️
I hoped....but wasn't convinced.....that the tiny, sometimes ephemeral differences between cartridges might be able to be discerned on the videos?
I was so excited when I read that @frogman had managed this feat....I couldn't reply soon enough....
Bear in mind, that each of us has his own preferences and biases when it comes to 'ideal sound' so that out of the 100 or more cartridges I have owned and the 40+ that I still do.....my favourites all have an underlying 'relationship' to my preferred tonal qualities.
The differences between them then....relate to their other abilities such as 'Soundstage', 'Transparency', 'Upper-Frequency Air and Extension', 'Depth and Control of the Lowest Bass Frequencies' and finally.....overall "Emotional Involvement' and 'Magic'....
These qualities are the most subtle and ephemeral and ultimately are the ones which elevate the 'favouritism' of one cartridge over another.

My hope was that some of these qualities would not be 'lost' in the videos so that they could be a viable form of demonstrating the sound qualities of vintage cartridges that Chakster and I have been promoting for years.
If these qualities can cross the 'divide' into the videos.....then I can demonstrate the fallacy of the 'MCs are better than MMs' debate and the greater fallacy.....'expensive' MCs are better than 'cheap' MCs.

At any rate.....being able to hear the sound of some of these cheap vintage MM cartridges, may convince those who might never have the chance....to 'take the plunge'....😎

Finally Slaw.....please DO listen and give me your thoughts.
I think they will be valuable....👍
Great shots as always Chakster.....👍
Fascinating information on the AT-ML180 OCC....but we have inadvertently uncovered a troubling anomaly as my ML180 OCC is described as having "gold-plated BORON cantilever" 🤪
Can you upload your Serial No which may tell us something....?
I can't find any Date on my package. Do you have one on your's?
My Package
My Stylus
Interesting. Love the Albinoni Adagio. The X1 reminds me of the older Decca C4. 
A couple of follow up thoughts, if I may.  While I was writing my previous comments, when listening to the X1 two things came to mind, good horn speakers and my Decca London.  I chose the comparison to horns beacause I was comparing the AT to Maggies and wanted to keep it consistent.  So, I agree wih noromance, similar to my impression of a classic Decca sound in some ways.  

The other thought was remembering a disagreement that I had on Raul’s MM thread.  I think the disagreement was with Raul, but herhaps Chakster (sorry, both).  I had made the comment that my ATML 170-OCC sounded, in comparison to some of my other favorite cartridges, a little subdued dynamically; not as alive sounding as others.  I realize that that ATML180 is a different cartridge, but I wonder about this possible family trait.
@halcro well, there is a sticker on your box with updated information that your OCC version has a boron cantilever. I think the box is the same with the only difference that i have all info about Beryllium cantilever right on the box, not on the sticker (there is no stickers on my boxes). Also the OCC box with computer code is definitely from the 90s, not from the 80s like the LC-OFC box without any computer codes. 

Styli are interchangeable, but visually those cantilevers are the same, because they are both gold-plated. 

Maybe AT covered any information about Beryllium after this metal was found toxic and prohibited? Maybe this is why there is a sticker. Also we don't know what is under the sticker, probably different information. 

Anyway, this information is a proof. OCC comes with gold-plated Beryllium tapered cantilever, LC-OFC comes with Gold-Plated Boron Pipe cantilever.  

There might be a version of the  AT-ML180 OCC with Boron too. 

At the moment i have only one AT-ML180, my version is LC-OFC with Boron cantilever.  


when listening to the X1 two things came to mind, good horn speakers and my Decca London.  I chose the comparison to horns beacause I was comparing the AT to Maggies and wanted to keep it consistent.

I agree the tonal balance of the X1 is reminiscent of the London Decca Reference in its seductive midrange warmth...but the LDR has a narrower soundstage than the X1 and its 'highs' are not as shimmering or transparent.
I will do an LDR comparison on the FR-66S tonearm shortly.

I've had a few AT cartridges (AT-155Lc, AT-20SS, AT-150ANV, AT-13Ea, AT-33MONO, AT-ML180) and they do share a 'House Sound' IMO....
Whilst they may indeed have a neutral, linear frequency response...I have never liked their high-frequency 'edginess'.
With their Signet branding for the US market.....they tamed this aspect of their presentation and produced (to my ears) a warmer, more 'emotional' overall 'sound'.
@halcro ,

I didn't consider this a contest either. My comment was made because of the fact that as humans, we can be swayed by lots of things, that may ultimately cause our perspective to be altered, not to mention, one could say, "Yeah since halcro said another was correct, of coarse you'll give the correct answer as well".
^^  Halcro. Yes indeed ! Now I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you the good old SHURE Ultra 500 cartridge ... Because that´s exactly what SHURE managed to achieve in their V15V-MR design and that goal culminating in the SHURE Ultra 500 in particular. No hint of `edginess´ and truly a more sophisticated HF presentation with more nuanced and yes a `warmer´ and if you like more `emotional´ (natural) sound. I discover that wonderful sound nearly thirty years ago : ) And sadly could not have managed to find a cartridge that could outperform my Ultra 500, in any aspect really, not to mention that HF area. I have AT-ART9 modern superb MC design, AT-ML180, Grace F-14/boron-MR, I had one special Dynavector... even that ASTATIC flag ship (Raul´s find) : ^)
And of course, the frequency response is linear with appropriate capacitance values, very low for the original beryllium cantilever and very high for modern SAS cantilever explained by David (dlaloum). And as David says, the Ultra sounds good everywhere, mediocre decks/arms and superlative TT compos/ designs `Ö´
Still, of course, the AT-ML180 is a superlative design with its miniature ML stylus tip giving a very low effective mass this is one of crucial things in the very finest cartridge designs, and this actually is the reason for the very best AT MM cartridge. Indeed this AT has a very neutral, very linear sound, and thus maybe even the most natural, for some people at least.

Halcro, I would gladly see an Ultra 500 in your collection hopefully in some day soon and hear your thoughts about ...

Very interesting thread indeed, keep them coming.

Best regards,
Glad you like the Thread Harold.....I'll keep them coming as there are many revealing comparisons to be heard 🧐
Halcro, I would gladly see an Ultra 500 in your collection hopefully in some day soon and hear your thoughts about ...

My first Shure was an ML-140HE which impressed me.
Somewhat later I tried a NOS V15 Type III which I didn't think was better than the ML-140HE....
When I tried it with a Jico SAS stylus however........I was mightily impressed 🤯
No hint of `edginess´ and truly a more sophisticated HF presentation with more nuanced and yes a `warmer´ and if you like more `emotional´ (natural) sound. 

Totally agree...
So much so, that it is one of my standard recommendations for anyone thinking of trying vintage MM cartridges.
Because so many were made.......it is very easy to pick up a V15/III body for $200-300 and then add a SAS stylus.
This combination will see off many of the high-priced modern MCs on the market.
If you've heard this combination Harold.....do you think the Ultra 500 will be better....?

Regards
Henry
I think you are right about the sticker on the box Chakster......
I wonder if there is a difference in sound between the Boron tube and the Beryllium cantilever...🤔
My cartridge model preferences have overwhelmingly consisted of those with Beryllium cantilevers.
Because no-one can use Beryllium for their cantilevers
anymore.....modern cartridges just cannot compete IMHO and those who haven't heard vintage models WITH Beryllium.....simply have no idea what they're missing 😛 
Listen with headphones on.... as the recording setup is identical for each cart, it is possible to hear differences. This does not mean that it will sound anything like that when you get it home! 
Henry, I haven´t tried a V15/III so far unfortunately but with a modern SAS stylus it would be greater that it originally was. This is not my experience but a friend´s who had the original III, as he wasn´t excited of its high register performance, likewise you discovered.

Can this `newborn´ III outperform the 500... as many audiophiles say the III is better than the IV and the V... Well not really, I´m afraid of. The Ultra series 500 w/ heavy metal body is a very special design and the 400 series also is a different design. And to remind all, to get the best out of MM carts one needs to have the right/most appropriate settings for capacitance and impedance values.
And in general, it´s all about how the music flows... this makes the very best cartridges when the music itself takes over, no listening fatigue you just can´t stop listening your records over and over again.
Further comparisons would be very interesting.  Thank you, Halcro.

We all have somewhat different ways of describing certain characteristics of sound and it might be beneficial and more meaningful if there were, if not consensus, at least a good understanding of how others use certain terms/descriptions.  Speaking for myself and acknowledging that tonal characteristics do affect our perception of a component’s ability to project the emotion component in music to a degree, I tend to separate that ability from tonal aspects.  What I mean is that I find that a cartridge can be very “warm” and still be emotionally uninvolving, or “lean” and still be very “alive” and involving dynamically.  For me emotional involvement has less to do with ability with tonal issues and more so with dynamics.  A cartridge can be more “linear” and more tonally natural than another, but not as natural dynamically.  If forced to choose I will always choose the component that is more dynamically natural since I find that it is far easier to tweak for tonal naturalness.  

Interesting thread, thanks.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find it to be oxymoronic to be asked to judge the performance of anolog equipment over a digital platform. 
Yeah, it’s you 😉.  Kidding, of course.  Judging?  Hardly.  I don’t think anyone here will take any perceived traits or differences as being anything even close to the last word.  What IS interesting is how some traits and consistencies can be perceived in spite of the limitations of the medium or the technology involved.  In my opinion it can potentially serve as a starting point for judging, through logic or extrapolation,  what might be heard on one’s setup.  For instance, I had never heard a Victor cartridge before, but had read a lot of opinion about them and was certainly very intrigued.  All the attempts at describing their sound that I had read did not give me any indication of what might be a “family sound”; and I do believe most cartridges have a family sound.  I now have a not insignificant idea of how it might sound on my setup and I am even more intrigued.  
Frogman, there are so many variables that even when I hear a cartridge demo in an audio store, I am still at best only 50% confident (in other words, a crap shoot) as to what it’s going to sound like with my other components in my own listening environment.

I think you are kidding yoyrself.
I don’t think so; at all.  It’s very simple, really.  Unless it is a total coincidence that I heard certain sonic traits that are similar to what Halcro hears on his system, or Halcro is lying, then the exercise can have value as “a starting point”; especially in the absence of the availability of cartridges to actually try oneself.  Or, at the very least, it can serve as an interesting and potentially fun exercise that may surprise.
Frogman, life is short. 
That’s for sure.  Happy day after Thanksgiving!  
OK....this is an interesting comparison 🧐
A current US$10,000 LOMC Cartridge (The Palladian) against a cheap vintage MM (Victor Z1) fitted with a Jico SAS stylus.

The Acoustical Systems Palladian is one of the finest current LOMC cartridges I've heard, beating out....in my system.....Lyra Helikon, Lyra Titan i, Lyra Atlas, Dynavector XV-1S, ZYX UNIverse and lots of others.

ACOUSTICAL SYSTEMS PALLADIAN
Titanium bush-hammered body with Micro-Line Stylus on Aluminium Cantilever.
Running directly into the Halcro DM10 Preamp/Phonostage.

VICTOR Z1/SAS
Next in line after the X1 in Victor's MM hierarchy, the Z1 is plentiful and cheap on the Japanese used cartridge market.
With a SAS stylus attached......its performance exceeds the Victor X1-IIE in my system.
Lisrened 3 times to each alternating between the recordings.
Initial reaction was:
1. Palladian - Where did the band go?
2. Z1 - Where did the strings go?
The Palladian sounded very syrupy while the Z1 had better air and sou ded cleaner. 

This time on iPad instead of iPhone; same earbuds. Was hoping to listen on my Stax Lambdas/tube driver but discovered that my mini plug to RCA cable is at my son’s place; maybe next time. Listened to Palladian then Victor.

Palladian:

There is a bass line at the very beginning of the song that shows right off the bat that the Palladian has much better bass control. On the Victor the bass sounds bloated and overly resonant. On the Palladian the bass is realistically tighter and the pitches of the notes are much more easily heard. There also seems (earbuds) to be better extension at the frequency extremes, both low and high. Typical MC trait, individual images seem more separate and distinct from each other, but are a little smaller and with less image density. While very smooth (too?) overall and a little bleached sounding tonally, the sound is more extended top to bottom.

Victor:

As Halcro has said, they certainly seem to have the midrange magic. While there seems to be less extension at the frequency extremes what is there is more tonally realistic in certain ways. It wasn’t until I listened to the Victor that I realized that the acoustic guitar might be a twelve string guitar. More of the instrument’s distinctive character is heard with more metal in the sound of the instrument’s strings. Likewise for the strings (violins). With the Palladian they occupy a more delineated and separate place in the mix, but they are not as realistic sounding and, if anything, are a little too smooth sounding. The Victor lets one hear more of the sound of rosin grabbing the strings. With the Victor there is more metal in the sound of cymbals, while with the Palladian they sound a little wispy and papery by comparison.

As much as one can tell listening this way, I would bet that the overall presentation is that of a larger soundstage with the Palladian.

Amazing that given the price differential the Victor is not shamed by the Palladian.  The Victor reminds me of how I feel about my Stax F-81’s. Midrange to die for, but the limitations at the frequency extremes are almost a deal breaker.

My two cents.

I posted about the Victor Z-1 in my first month at Audiokarma(look at the date in the post #8):

http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/the-best-moving-magnet-cartridge-opinions-please.10418/
I posted about the Victor Z-1 in my first month at Audiokarma(look at the date in the post #8):

That's a while ago Theophile......
I hope you still have that Victor Z1 cartridge as you won't believe how it sounds with a SAS stylus?

There are many more vintage MMs from my collection that you will hear on this Thread.
You apparently have the same desire for the 'realism' of MMs over MCs that a lot of us also share 🤗

Regards
Interesting insights once again Frogman....
I'm a little surprised by your thoughts on the Victor's 'lacking' in the frequency extremes as this is not noticeable to me in reality....?

For me.....this Joan Armatrading track shows a cartridge's ability (or not) to convey the 'emotion' buried in the vinyl.
Does the YouTube reproduction allow you to comment on that aspect?

Regards
@chakster 

as I read in all posts you do not miss anything really eh?  LOL
Halcro, I listened again a few times. Acknowledging the limitations of listening to music this way, the Palladian still sounds more extended at both ends to me. I get more of a feeling of air up top even if the Victor has that very seductive clarity in the midrange (particularly vocals) that perhaps makes it sound “brighter”. The initial impression given by the Victor is of more bass, but the Palladian sounds to me like it goes lower and is tighter with better pitch definition. The Victor sounds tubby in the mid bass range and I wonder if that obscures some bass extension. But I still don’t get as much of that deep foundation that I hear hints of with the Palladian. Re “emotion”:

For me the emotional component is expressed primarily in the area of dynamics just as it is in live music. I find that some listeners associate tonal warmth with emotion and I do acknowledge that tonal naturalness plays an important role; but, ultimately, expressive nuance is mostly about (micro) dynamics. Example:

The tune “Willow” starts with the drummer (on brushes) playing a four sixteenth note lead-in into the bass player’s downbeat, who then plays the bass line mentioned previously. The drummer doesn’t just play four “notes” into the downbeat, he plays each one progressively louder and with a sense of urgency, of going somewhere...the downbeat. To my ears, with the Palladian that dynamic crescendo by the drummer is more obvious, impactful and with more musical intent. By comparison, with the Victor it all sounds a little polite and when the bass enters the tubbiness dulls the impact of the arrival of both drummer and bass on the downbeat and the following bass line also sounds a little bloated in comparison. Same thing happens when the guitar enters in the fourth measure. I find that the Victor’s tubbiness dulls the musical impact of the guitar’s entrance which signals the entrance of the vocal and should sound more dramatic as with the Palladian. Likewise, the sound of the slapped bass which follows is rounder and not as incisive. All things that determine musical impact (emotion). Of course this is all a matter of degree and by comparison, and in no way am I suggesting that I think the Victor is not good in those areas. Of course, then you have that beautiful Victor midrange naturalness; and that beautiful midrange definitely adds to the vocal’s expressive quality.  There really is something special about these cartridges and I hope to find one.

Thank you for the posts.

Btw, what is that single very high frequency ring, like a very high pitched triangle, that one hears at :07 and again at :22, but only on the Palladian version?

I just noticed that the two cartridges are each playing in different arms.  Obviously doesn’t change what I heard, but.......
Fascinating Frogman........
You're obviously a musician and your insights are eye-openers for me 👁
I really appreciate your time in giving me this kind of 'feedback' 👍

I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the other cartridges yet to come....

Yes...there are sometimes reasons I have to use different arms.
And then again....you'll hear my other (belt-drive) turntable with altogether different arms entirely....😛

Regards
Henry
I just listened again Frogman.......
And I heard all the things you pointed out...🎶
I must admit that I don't really listen normally, from such an analytical perspective....but it's so obvious when you are 'briefed'....
Your descriptions are so much more insightful than the Reviewers' favourites:-
  • Attack
  • Sustain
  • Micro Dynamics
  • Macro Dynamics
Which frankly are totally meaningless to me....🧐

Thanks again...

Thank you for the very interesting thread, Henry.  Obviously, it’s not necessary, nor desirable, to always wear one’s “analytical” hat and instead just enjoy the musical ride.  Regards.  
Time to hear the belt-drive Raven AC-2.....
A classic vintage Ortofon SPU AE Gold with elliptical stylus (sorry Chakster) against the current SPU Silver Meister compared to a vintage Signet TK-7LCa MM cartridge with nude square shank Line Contact Stylus on Beryllium cantilever.

ORTOFON SPU AE GOLD
A taste of the delicious, renowned SPU legendary sound.

ORTOFON SPU SILVER MEISTER
Current production model among the many SPUs available today.

SIGNET TK-7LCa
35 year-old TOTL MM from Signet, a USA specialty off-shoot from Audio Technica.
From a quick listen on phone speaker.
MC is lush, sweet, detailed, and colored.
MM is clear, neutral, spacious, easy to follow.
Also after two quick listens. More to follow when I have more time (Aaargh! Some might be saying 😊). First impression: SPU Gold wins hands down. Why?

Gorgeous and very seductive sound. I agree with noromance, very sweet. At first the Silver gives the impression of more HF detail, but check this out:

On the Gold “track”, one hears, three times, at precisely 1:06, 1:08 and 1:11, from a keyboard (synthesizer), a right hand “tweet, tweet”. It’s very clearly heard on the Gold. Where are the “tweet, tweets” on the Silver or Signet? Completely gone. Fascinating. More to follow.
Very mystified that those “tweets” should be so obvious with the Gold (they are not that far back in the mix) and totally absent with the other cartridges.  It’s so glaring that I thought: is it possible that they are extraneous sounds in Halcro’s room and not in the recording?  Is Halcro messing with us? 😉 His “test”?  Unless it is the result of the unlikely coincidence that, as is the case, the pitches of those “tweets” both fit the harmony of the tune and are rhythmically accurate to the rhythm of the tune, I’ll stick with my original comment that the Gold reveals them and the others do not.  
I listened to the track on Tidal and the tweets are NOT there. I think it's his phone!
Hysterical!  Talk about coincidences! Halcro has a very musical phone; in tune and with good rhythm 😊. Thanks for clarifying, it was seeming more and more implausible.  
I listened to the track on Tidal and the tweets are NOT there. I think it's his phone!

Bingo Noromance.......
It IS the phone...😛👍

Sorry I couldn't organise it to ring at the same place with the other cartridges Frogman.....🤗

Regards
Henry

LOL. 
Keep 'em coming. Love hearing these.
The truth is that a great table and arm will make inexpensive cartridges sing. 
The truth is that a great table and arm will make inexpensive cartridges sing.

👍
Just returned from a short trip expecting to read Frogman's promised impressions of the SPUs and Signet......
Where are they....??!!
Frogman......where are you?
I need your spot-on analysis to show me what to listen for......🎶😎

Regards
Soon, I promise.  It’s been a little busy.  Probably tomorrow.
Haha. No one is going to hear a difference in those smartphone mic videos with the room echo going on.
Where does one find an SAS stylus for the Victor Z-1 ?
Sorry for the delay.  Some thoughts on the latest trio of cartridges.  This time I listened on my Stax Lambda Signatures with SRM-T1S tube amp fed by my iPhone.  

I should preface my comments by pointing out that while I like and use MM’s a lot, I am not in the camp that feels that they are inherently superior to MC’s; or viceversa.  I have used enough examples of both persuasions to feel that neither type, as a whole, is superior to the other in the ways that matter to me.  I know some will disagree, but I feel that there are certain sonic qualities that are shared by all of either type; and each type generally has certain specific strengths relative to the other.  In my experience MM’s excel in the area of timbre and tonality and MC’s excell with dynamics.  By dynamics I mean the feeling that the music is alive and the musical interaction among the musicians is realistic.  In a nutshell, that summarizes for me what I heard as the differences between the two Ortofons and the Signet.  I get seduced by the full, saturated and realistic tone of a good MM, but end up missing the immediacy and rhyhtmic definition of a good MC.  That has been my experience with the gear that I have owned over many years.  Other details:

SPU Gold:

Beautiful and rich midrange tone.  Sweet.  Seems to be weighted toward the lower mids.  Good feeling of immediacy and clarity.

SPU Silver:

Noticeably brighter sound with even more “clarity” in the mids and highs.  Sounds like it probably does a better job than the Gold of fillling and enveloping the room.  But there is a glare throughout that range that is annoying.  Seems to play slightly louder.  Again, great feeling of immediacy.  

Signet:

Darker, fuller and thicker tone as well as thicker sense of rhythm; not as lithe.  A little more clarity up top would probably be a good thing.  There is less of the sound of metal from the sleigh bells one hears throughout the beginning of the tune compared to the SPUs.  Great realism in the sounds of midrange instruments, but the music doesn’t flow with quite as much natural flow as with the SPU’s.  At times the music almost sounds like it is being performed a tiny bit slower.

There is a cowbell that enters @1:57 - 1:59 (depending on which clip) and plays on every beat.  It’s way in the background, but can be heard.  With the SPU’s one can actually hear or sense the feeling of forward drive that a player can coax out of the lowly cowbell.  On the Signet track the cowbell sounds like the player stuck a towel in it.  It sounds muffled with less definition on the beat and this diminishes the sense of forward drive in the rhythm of the tune.  

They each have strengths and I’m sure all three sound great on Halcro’s system.