I haven't used either cartridge; I used a Grado Z2+ or similar many years ago and loved it; the Gold stylus is its recommended replacement.
However, here are 3 user reviews for the AT440ML
And here's a thread about the AT440MLa on Steve Hoffman's website: http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-80334.html
You are familiar with the Grado Gold; maybe the AT440ML reviews will help you decide which performance parameters are more important to you.
For a few more dollars I use the AT ML150 on my Rega 300 arm and it is a super good sounding combo, I have a couple other carts.both coli and magnet from Clear Audio and Dynavector and have no reason to mess with the table.
(other catrs are Clear Audio Beta S and dyna 20L)
I think that someone should buy you a free cartridge just for being able to mount an RB300 on an XA. I can't tell you which cartridge is better, and I do own a AT440MLa, as well as an older Grado Signature 8MX and a Grado Black. I can give you a bit of information though. The AT is a much better tracking cartridge in the Rega arm, when correctly aligned, as is the Shure M97Xe. I would never, NEVER select the AT if I could not adjust the VTA of the arm. The line contact stylus is very, very finicky and needs to be aligned in all three planes exactly so. Unfortunately, incorrect alignment will cause the cartridge to be very bright, and some people complain of this, though I think that it is mostly a set-up issue. The Grado is much more forgiving of set-up vagaries as is the Shure. When correctly aligned, the AT has more detail and focus, but is lighter in the midbass, which is to be expected as Joe Grado was an opera fan. The highs are more detailed on the AT, as well, but they are not as natural as the Grado, not really bright, but a bit flat and lacking in natural bloom and air. If you need a richer, more bloomy sound, the Grado, don't look back. If you want more detail and focus, and don't mind playing around, then the AT is the ticket.
Thanks for the responses. It looks like the AT440MLa is a nice cartridge but I don't know if I can align the VTA on my Rega RB300 (by the way I did not install it, it was installed by Merrill Audio, I bought the whole unit on eBay. At the time it had a Nagatron 350E cartridge, which I never heard of, so I installed the Grado Gold.) I am still not sure which way I should go. I'm thinking! I'm thinking!
Frankly I use my TT for transcribing to other media, most of the time. I tried a wood body Grado and have an AT440 mounted right now. I thought the Grado sounded great, but it picked up hum from the TT and did not track on the inside track all that well for me, despite fiddling with it. The AT may not be as refined as the Grado, but I found it played inside tracks with alot less distortion than the Grado and no hum problems. But now I am bored and gonna try a MC cart.
This response might come a bit late, as the thread's a month old, but in that price range the Shure M97xE is worth looking into. Its tonal balance is warm when it's new but gradually takes on a well-balanced neutrality. Best of all, it's known (and justly) for its tracking ability. The Absolute Sound just made it an editors' pick. There's a well-written review of it on this site, too.
Could someone please explain to me how this interchangeable needle overall schematics works. When you insert a new needle, you are getting new tip and cantilever? How are these attached to the magnet/coils? I am trying to advise my internet buddy on whether he should get a new cart or just a needle for his 30 yo AT cart. Please help!!
A new stylus includes all the moving parts of a moving magnet cartridge--stylus mounted to cantilever at the front end, suspension in the middle, magnets mounted at the other end of the cantilever, and the snap-in housing holding the whole thing together and aligned. The coils are permanently attached to the cartridge body interior.
So when you get a replacement stylus, you are actually getting the diamond stylus, the cantilever, the suspension, and the magnets. Getting a fresh suspension that comes with each replacement stylus should keep the cartridge fresh, although I suppose the coils might oxidize at some point, but I don’t know for a fact.
What is your buddy’s 30-year-old cartridge? I have had an AT150MLX for eight years and needed a replacement. AT was discontinuing the ATN150MLX stylus--gold-plated boron cantileverwith nude MicroLine stylus for the ATN150Sa--tapered aluminum cantilever with nude Shibata stylus. The few remaining boron/Microline stylii were taking on NOS prices; I got the Shibata version for $179.59 from Wal-Mart
online, of all places. Snapped it into place and it sounds wonderful--sweet, smooth, and detailed without being distracting.
@johnnyb53 Thank you!!! I have no idea where my young friend will end, our conversation started when he was outbid on my restored Teac cassette deck and now, almost a year later, he contracted audiophilia germ from me ;-)
I am trying to advise him on his first TT buy, his limit is just $100 and looking thru eBay offerings I realized that I know next to nothing about entry-level TTs. When I was his age (and in his financial shoes) I just bought whatever was sold at my local store and then switched to CDs the moment they came out!...
million thanks for your response, it always bothered me what is there inside a new needle. As they used to end the initial South Park series: Ive learned something new today! Thanks!!!
I had an AT440 that was simply too bright, and replaced it with a Sumiko Pearl. I still like that damn Pearl…even replaced the stylus recently.
Speaking of the Sumiko Pearl, I have a Shelter 201 that uses the same cartridge body. I think the US import price is a bit high at $310, but I got one from a Japanese vendor on eBay for $166.97 shipped
. At that price it's a total no-brainer. It's a marvelous cartridge, robust, full-bodied, rich, detailed where it counts, great tonal balance, and irresistably musically involving. Best part is that the replacement stylus--from an authorized US vendor--is only $100, so it's cheap to own, too.
WIth my all-tube phono preamp this thing has a ton of "jump factor" and a midrange that wraps you up like a warm comforter.
If he just *has* to stick to $100, then the two best candidates I know of are Wolf's Sumiko Pearl and the Ortofon 2M Red.
I'd buy the needle and see if it works....the cost is minimal.
Stringreen: Do you know which 30-yr-old Audio Technica cartridge he has?
Also, Sevs: Concerning your buddy's $100 upper limit for a turntable: I got into audio in 1972, which is right in that "golden era of stereo." $100 today adjusted for inflation would have been $17.35 back then. Hell, even a Kenner Close'n'Play for little kids was $39.95 back then.
The Pro-Ject Carbon DC with included $99 Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is only $399. That's equivalent to $69.25 in 1972, a largely plastic Garrard piece of junk. The Carbon DC, on the other hand, is a very nice-sounding unit, probably a lot better than your buddy even imagines an LP could sound like.