Is a good Cermic Cartridge an Oxymoron?

A wonderful Metzner Starlight turntable (circa 1950s) is terrible thing to waste. Yet, its induction motor throws out so much EMF that I’m afraid it’s a two-pole and therefore a death sentence for all magnetic cartridges.
While I’m going to try some heavy MuMetal application with it, I want to prepare in the event that all the transmissions can’t be shielded. Do any good ceramics carts exist?
Thanks, Mario
Long ago, about 1958 or so, someone (Stanton maybe) made an effort to market a ceramic pickup which was about as good as the magnetics of that time. However, ceramics had gained such a reputation for cheap low fidelity and high tracking force that no one would buy it. By the way, I can't see how you could make a stereo ceramic.
Thanks Eldartford,

If I can't make the MuMetal work, maybe I'll revert to a 78 player.

- Mario
"I can't see how you could make a stereo ceramic."

I don't understand this statement. There were lots or record players with ceramic stereo cartridges in the 60s and 70s. They weren't very good but they did exist.
Narrod...I'll take your word for it. I never used such record players. I just can't visualize the geometry of the device.
I remember coming across some while surfing the web, with the warning of ruining your records. Is this true, and if so why even make them?
I remember coming across some while surfing the web, with the warning of ruining your records. Is this true, and if so why even make them?

They were cheap and didn't require a MM phono stage.
Google "ceramic phono cartridge" and you will find a great deal of information (that I was unaware of). There is at least one respectable cartridge, priced near $80, that is said to track as low as 2 grams. Almost worth trying one just for fun.

Wait til the Idler Wheel crew hears about this!
Google first, ask second should have been my course.
Seems that Micro-Accoustics was making truly high end ceramics up until 1984 (well, high end back then)- with their top-of-line 830CSA Electret @ 10Hz-30kHz +/- 0.75dB freq. response and tracking at an amazing low mass of 0.75 to 1.25 grams with beryllium cantilever - $335.00
These Electret line of ceramic carts came with an internal micro-circuit to convert amplitude and reduce piezo velocity (the non-magnetic transducer material that made ceramics do their thing - made of lead-zarchonium titanate) so that output could be taken to the more prevalent MM input stage. Dang! Thought I could bypass a phono stage altogether.
Superb ceramic cartridges were made by Micro-Acoustics and Weathers -- very refined. A very good series of them was made by Joe Grado around 1962. I have all of these. They are low output cartridges, which allows lower tracking forces. For various reasons (decay, internal contact corrosion, lack of needles), none of these are a good investment today.

Stanton/Pickering never made any piezoelectric cartridges.

Piezoelectric (crystal and ceramic) cartridges were extremely common in low-quality record players. If you buy one of those junky nostalgia things advertised right now, it'll come with one: guaranteed. These have always been low-compliance, high output devices; generally ratty.

Medium-quality ceramics were made by Sonotone. The first stereo cartridge to hit the consumer market was by Electro Voice, a ceramic. All the cartridges I've listed were stereo.

Richard Steinfeld
Would a strain guage work?
"Piezoelectric (crystal and ceramic) cartridges were extremely common in low-quality record players. If you buy one of those junky nostalgia things advertised right now, it'll come with one: guaranteed. These have always been low-compliance, high output devices; generally ratty.'
Like undoubtedly everybody here, I look askance and smirk at those 'nostalgia' machines whenever I see 'em, although I do think it's pretty interesting (if unfortunate in ways) that these players have cropped up so profusely in department and discount stores over the last few years -- surely that says something about a latent demand for people to be able to play their records once again.

But I make excellent use of one of those very same cartridges in my battery-powered Numark portable that I always take along (with a pair of folding Sennheiser headphones) whenever I go used record shopping. And you know what? It doesn't sound like a crappy toy. For a plastic-bodied device that cost as little as it did, I can actually enjoy listening with this unit (provided it's thru the 'phones), and the needle doesn't sound or otherwise seem like it tears up the grooves either. Never have I heard it mistrack more than a slight bit, and most often not at all. Thing's saved me a ton of money in chances not taken, while the discard pile's become vestigal. Oh yes -- Eldartford, it is stereo, however it works. Hi fi? No. But it easily does the job, telling me everything I need to know about the music and playing condition of found records.
Zaikesman...Alright already! Back on 4/17 my posting was all wet. My relative ignorance about ceramic cartridges proves I am a real audiophile.
" posting was all wet." Now there's a colloquialism that's a little before my time! :-)
Yes. A strain gauge would work. The original Weathers variable-capacitor stereo pickup system was described as a strain gauge.


The Micro Acoustics 830CSA wasn't Ceramic. It used capacitive elements charged by electrets (the electrostatic equivalent of permanent magnets - they hold a permanent charge. As the stylus moved one plate of a capacitor formed using the electret as the other plate, the changing capacitance with a constant charge created a voltage proportional to the movement.

This is the same principle used by high quality condenser studio mikes, though most of thee use fixed power supplies instead of electrets.

STAX also had a line of capacitive cartridges back in the 80's that I couldn't afford.

There was also at least one strain guage cartridge on the market in the early 80's as well. It too was a high priced limited availability item.

The ceramic cartride was very common in cheap department store stereos. I had one in my beadroom in 1970 and listened to lots of Led Zeppelin, Cream, King Crimson, and other new-at-the-time music.

I'm heartsick right now. I recently mounted my old Micro-Acoustic 830 CSA mounted on an Oracle Paris table in a PT6 arm, and it was sounding great. It only had about 50 hours on it. I went to dust the table and ripped the stylus cantilever off the cartridge with my polishing cloth. I didn't buy a replacement stylus in the 80's when I could, and there are none in sight now......
Tea and sympathy for Ghostrider45 -- no good deed goes unpunished, does it? : (
I am sure that every single person who has played LPs has destroyed at least one stylus in this way :-( It was my luck to do it to a MC cartridge with non-replaceable stylus.

Ain't digital great!
Throughout the 1980s I used a Jeff Rowland strain gauge board and a Panasonic strain gauge cartridge. I think I paid about $300 for the board and about $35 for cartridges and maybe $20 for stylii. I still have some of each but I sold off my Rowland board a few years ago. It was quite inexpensive relative to the performance level.
Hey Ghostrider,
Thanks for the correction on those MA carts and sorry to hear about the trashing of your stylus.
I just purchased a low end MA from the classifieds here and mounted it to test with the Metzner - No Hum whatsoever! Very good frequency range - so-so tracking - but very, very microphonic - lots of surface noise.
Was your top end MA also microphonic? Does the fixed nature of the magnets in these carts somehow make them immune to the high amount of EMF transmitted by single-pole induction motor driven tables?
Thanks, Mario
No, my MA-780 had no noise or microphonic issues. It also tracked quite well. Perhaps it was because of its line contact stylus. The cartridge had great high end response but was just a bit bass shy. I'll miss it....
There once was a high quality, affordable ceramic cartridge, from Grado (Yes, THAT Grado). It was the Grado B series, from the mid-1960s. It fed a magnetic phono input, tracked light, 1.5 to 2 grams depending on how you set the user-adjustable compliance, and sounded superb. Unfortunately after a couple of years' use, the thing would break down, due to some problem with the ceramic element coming unbonded. Grado gave up on it and went to the magnetic Grado F, and never has looked back at the ceramic.

I guess if you HAD to, look for a Sonotone 9TAFHC-D77. It is a high output ceramic and can feed an AUX input, though a frequency-shaping network really should be used, otherwise it'll sound bass-shy. It tracks acceptably at about 2.5 grams, and that's about as low as you're ever going to get with ceramics these days.