The latest edition of Listener magazine has a review of the Allarets cartridge.
20 responses Add your response
I would be interested to know the source of these cartridges. I doubt that she hand makes them, by hand winding the tiny coils, assisted by a microscope. They are most likely built under contract by a cartridge manufacturer that is already well known. If anyone knows the answer to this, I am interested purely from a curiosity point of view. It would likely be a hint at the expectations for performance.
Just a quick follow-up for those interested. I spoke to the importer, and Mr. Allaerts does in fact manufacture hand-made cartridges in Belgium. They range from $1500 (reviewed in the recent Listener issue) to $6000. He reportedly makes about 50-55 cartridges per year. Not sure for how long they have been produced, but they are (reportedly) gaining a good reputation in Europe. Any experience 'from the field' would still be appreciated.
Only a handful of phono preamps (the Progressive Audio Phono 1 when carefully set up, the Jeff Rowland, a few others) can successfully cope with the Allaerts cartridges. Be careful when purchasing these cartridges to be sure that you have an adequate phono preamp (the FM 122, for instance, does not have an appropriate resistance setting for the Allaerts; many other preamps will make the Allaerts cartridges sound noisy, especially between tracks). But if you find the right combination, the dynamics (both inner and outer), the bass response, and the spatial representation will be stupendous.
FYI for anyone following this thread - only the top-of-the-line Allaerts ($6000) has an unusual load requirement of 845 ohms. The remainder of the line has a 100 ohm requirement with 150pF capacitance. BTW I noted that the boron-cantilevered MC1 was the "editor's choice" in HiFi Choice magazine's directory. Didn't see the actual review.
Recently spoke to Simon Yorke (the maestro turntable builder) in England. His personal cartridge favorite is the Jan Allaerts which he describes as "rich and full bodied - like a good claret". It is particularly synergistic with the Yorke S7 tt. Jan Allaerts is characterized as "a wacky Belgian who is into cartridges, like NASA is into space". I have not auditioned this cartridge myself
Allaerts may be a fine cartridge, but be prepared to wait for ages if you do a service by Mr. allaerts... that happened to an friend of mine, and thats why i'm so happy with my Hopper ! usually the Hopper is returned by Mr. vd Hul within 3 weeks ! whatever repair or mod. Solution ? buy two Allaerts...
Man of facts, Musikdok blasted a "settler" to my previous post in the form of a fact about the Allearts' cartridges: Allaerts suggests 845 Ohms for the MC2 Finish (8400 DM in Germany, but one of the best six cartridges in the world). The MC1 Eco (2200 DM) has a "normal" 100 Ohm requirement. But both of these cartridges are low output. With "normal" amplification from a very good to excellent phono preamp, they will disappoint--because the noise of the electronics will be greater than that coming from the disc (except on extremely high-quality Japanese pressings). You need a superior phono-stage for these cartridges to yield a good Signal-to-Noise ratio on normal pressings. Marlec, how did you end up speaking to Simon Yorke? He is a great talker. He also has fresh ideas, and plenty of good warm words to dress them in. Did he actually say that Allaerts is a "wacky Belgian"?
I appreciate your continued input Slawney - it was never my intent to 'blast,' only to clarify. I must admit that my interest in Allaerts arose initially from my being a happy owner of a Michell Delphini, having read that much of the refinement of the unit was done via an Allaerts cartridge/Michell Orbe (can't recall the arm - SME-V perhaps). Since then I have found more positive references to the Allaerts line. I fully agree in theory your view that (presumably) such a high quality transducer cannot function optimally via a substandard phono stage (insofar as the phono hierarchy of table-->arm-->cartridge holds true) Have you perchance heard an Allaerts through a Delphini? If so, what is your opinion?
I also appreciate your input Musikdok. It's just that a fact sometimes has more impact on me than an idea. Re. the Michell Delphini: I have only heard the Allaerts MC2 on two turntables: the Simon Yorke S7 and the Simon Yorke S9. Yes, it was "rich and full bodied" (on the human voice and acoustic instruments), superb at retrieval of low-level information, dynamics and room information--all given that the phono preamp can handle the cartridge (I know that I am laboring this point)! The editors of the German audio magazine Image HiFi have been searching for a suitable phono preamp for this cartridge for the last year or so: they judge nearly every phono preamp they review on the basis of how it performs with one of the Allaerts. A very, very few phono stages make the grade, because of the S/N ratio. I have heard the Allaerts set up with a Lavardin phono preamp (at a trade show), and not sound as good (even on expensive Avalon speakers). I have not heard it on a Michell Delphini, beautiful table that it is (I can understand why you are so happy). Musikdok, do you mean by "refinement of the unit" the "research and development that went into" the Delphini? If so, the answer is simple: buy an Allaerts. If the table was optimized in the lab to perform best with an Allaerts, then it will sound optimal with an Allaerts. What cartridge do you use now? The SME V would harmonize with the Allaerts; it does with almost all cartridges. I agree with your phono hierarchy (in most cases), but where does the phono stage fit into it? In the case of the Allaerts, I would say the phono stage is just as important. There is good reason to buy a new phono stage just to accomodate this cartridge. Marlec: the S7 is more than decent, its superb, in the same class as the Forsell, and the top of the line Maplenoll. The only two turntables that I think might be better (theoretically speaking, since I have not heard them) are the Simon Yorke Archive, and the Rockport. BTW I think that I saw Jan Allaerts at the last Frankfurt High End show--I seem to remember his Belgian accent. Yes, it is coming back to me. He was very impassioned, maybe even madly so in the refridgerator-like context of a German audio trade fair. He called the people who used his cartridges "connoiseurs." Yes, that is the word he used.
To any who may be interested, after a months-long wait, I have at last received my Allaerts MC-1 Boron cartridge, which I decided to buy sound-unheard from an off-shore dealer (having not imposed on either a dealer - [are there ANY in the U.S.?], nor the importer), and the sound is WONDERFUL, even right out of the box. VERY natural and musical to my ears, as opposed to the somewhat "mechanical" sound I experienced with Benz (in my system, to qualify that one). NO compatibility problems with the phono stage. Yes, YES - hand-made in Belgium in limited quantities, preferred by Simon Yorke. A long wait, to be sure, but worth it nonetheless. Forgive my extreme enthusiasm, but this is my first true *high-end* cartridge! If anyone is interested (Mr. Porter?), I'd be happy to fax them a copy of the spec sheet for the line. Cheers, -John
Welcome to the Allaerts world Musikdok. The Allaerts MC-1 Boron cartridge has an output of about 0.5 mV. It should have very little compatibility problems with a decent phono stage. The next step up--the MC MKII--has an even greater output of 0.7 mV. But it is the "Princess" of the line--the "MC 2 Finish Gold"--that has the low output of 0.2 mV. (I know that there are MC cartridges with even lower outputs than this, but somehow it is more difficult to get the MC-2 to run at its full potential with an inferior phono stage) The MC-1 that Musikdok obtained was a good choice, since the MC Eco (the cheapest Allaert) has a noticeable loss in high-frequency reproduction. The MC-1 also sinks a few dBs in the high frequencies, but not as much. All Allaerts cartridges are relatively flat, eschewing the 10KHz boost that some MC cartridge manufacturers (Clearaudio) tweek in to make their cartridge sound more detailed. I would be curious to hear about the specs of Musikdoks MC-1. They probably indicate channel separation between 50 and 60 dB (superb), THD of o.5% (the MC-2 is 0.1%) and a frequency range of 15Hz to 60KHz (amazing). Musikdok, the upgrade from the MC-1 to the MC-1 MkII will further increase your enthusiasm for the Allaerts, when the day comes.
Wellfed, I quantify a superior phonostage through timbre, dynamics, speed of transient resolution, overall quietness (to be tested by listening to the performance of the cartridge/stage combo while the cartridge is between cuts or in the run-off groove, or in extremely quiet portions of the record), capacity to reproduce space, low-level detail, and soundstaging. I do not care for maximum input ohm flexibility (achieved through complex sound-destroying switches, or mouse-pianos) as these tend to rob the fragile MC signal of some of its detail. I tend to like "minimal" phono stages like the Sakura, and the Greenwall over more complex stages like the Aesthetix or the Rowland more and more as I experiment with step-ups. Also, I have found that even sensitive cartridges like the Transfiguration Temper Supreme surprisingly do not change in performance much when switched between widely varying ohm loads. An "airy" (pastel-color) phono stage (like the FM Acoustics) is not to my taste, although I can understand the people who prefer this.
Thanks for bringing your erudition back to the thread, Slawney! Your previous comments regarding Allaerts played no small role in my decision to go "off the beaten track" in my quest for a true high-end moving coil. Your "estimations" of the specs regarding the MC-1 Boron are right on! I'm happy to report that there is apparent synergy with the Delphini. My modest system has definitely gone "up a notch" (or two). Thanks again, -John