I do not own a mono cartridge, but I recently heard the top of the line Dynavector Mono cartridge on a TW Raven AC Table. I thought it was very good when used to play mono records. Worth the investment? How many mono recordings you own or are likely to own may give you the answer.
I agree with Elinor, it all depends how many Mono records you have. I have a mono switch on my K&K phono stage, it is a bit better with mono records. I am sure a Mono cartridge woulf be a bigger improvement, but think of the cost. Are you going to change the cartridge each time you want to listen? The only easy solution is a second arm, if your deck can accomodate it. Even a replaceable headshell, arm wand, needs VTA, tracking weight adjusted each time. The cost of doing it properly is'nt cheap.
Investment? It is a word that indicates appreciation, everything in audio world depreciates. A better phrase would be 'listening pleasure'.
I did not mean to imply that the value would increase. I am well aware that audio is not a hobby to make money on. I have a VPI 12.5 arm, so if I got another arm wand a second cartridge can be set up with proper vta, vtf, azimuth, etc, and then you just lift of one wand and replace it with the other. As for how many mono recordings I have, not that many. I would buy many more if I could get proper reproduction of them. There is a lot of great music that was only done in mono, and even many of the early stereo recordings pale in comparison to the mono recordings.
A good point about the wand. However, I would go for a complete arm so you do not need to adjust the vta etc. every time you change the wand. I had a VPI Aries with a 12 arm and was going to use it as a mono table. However, due to WAF, could not get it into the room, one table is all I am allowed. My next project is a TT that I can put two arms on, one stereo, the other mono. I have a VPI Aries with 10.5 arm but it does not have enough space to mount another arm, without putting an outboard rigger on it. So, I continue to look for a TT with two complete arms. I like VPI stuff. I am talking to Harry about this project but nothing finalized yet.
I have a table with two arms just for that purpose. One has my mono cartridge. Although I don't have a lot of mon records, the mono records definitely sound better with the mono cartridge than a stereo cartridge. If I had to swap headshells or arm wands to play mono reocrds, I wouldn't bother. Two arms is the way to go if you want to get a mono cartridge. It will cost you some bucks, but hey, what else is new with this hobby!
I am using the Graham phantom with one arm stereo Jan allaerts Finish and another with Lyra Helikon Mono cartridge. Swapping arms takes me 3 minutes.
Sound benefit with the mono cartridge is huge with records pressed before1960. On recent reissues of old mono records is less audible. So if you have original records mono they deserve a good mono cartridge, you will be surprised how good they sound.
Slowhand, if you have a VPI tonearm system it is even easier to swap armwands,all the settings are done only one time, so it takes 30 seconds to swap arms !
Slowhand - I appreciate your developing interest...I'm noticing the same thing as I get back into Lps. Those old 50's mono records sometimes sound really nice. But what a pain to collect! Finding them in decent condition, cleaning them, etc., and the results are all over the place. But some of the old Ansermet, Monteux, Toscanini...fun stuff! A mono cartridge is on my list, but I don't see how I can do it simply without a 2nd turntable, for which I don't have room. In support of Jloveys' comments, however, I've certainly heard from the "old hands" that mono cartridges help those old mono records sing!
I give an example: Miles Davis "Round About Midnight", Mono 1957 pressing "six eye" deep groove CL 949 . Record in VG condition, in not so good state.
Played with a top stereo cartridge you have a constricted dynamic range, a high background noise, ticks and pops. Same record with same system but with top mono cartridge : Big soundstage, Dynamics to die for and ABSOLUTELY QUIET (just some very little audible ticks from time to time).
So if you speek investment, if you buy a top flight MONO cartridge, you save alot because you can hunt for old mono records for cheap and enjoy them much more than those fake stereo reissues. Those are great sounding and musical records not to miss if you like jazz.
Another thing, playng a true mono record with a stereo cartridge with phonopreamp and amp switches on mono is a little better than stereo switch but NOTHING to compare with true mono cartridge.