MONO cartridges

I bought a few Mono reissues and now I think about a proper cartridge for them.
But the information varies a lot, some write, for those reissues I don't need a mono cart., there would be no difference to a stereo cartridge, or the differences are not worth the price difference.
Next, are the modern mono cartridges only stripped down Stereo cartridges?
Half winding, half output?
How about the difference from the needle?
Are the "old" Monos the way to go? SPU?
I have a Lyra Helikon stereo running at the moment, that one is available as a Mono cartridge, or others too.... some experiences?
If you have funds and quite a few mono records the Helikon Mono is a jewel. It is low output so watch with your phonopre, but the output is higher than announced in the manual. A must for old mono records.
welcome to a new world!buy an emt or spu must however use these in conjunction with a variable eq phono stage.there is no going back!
I think if you are mainly playing mono re-issues, a Helikon Mono may be the way to go (if you have the funds.) Their sophisticated stylus may be a better match for modern cutting heads. If you are like me and have a bunch of old mono lps and 45's, an older design is probably the way to go. The Denon DL-102 is a good low cost option--if you have a substantial tonearm (it requires a good deal of mass.) I was happy with mine, but then I got a good deal on an SPU mono which I like quite a bit more. The SPU is more dynamic and more coherent, but I could happily live with the Denon. Other options are the Grado monos and the mono stylus for the Ortofon MM cartridges. I also have a GE VRII and a silicon damped arm, but I haven't mounted it yet. I figure this may just be the ticket for those beat-up 45's that I might not want to play with the rather dear SPU.
Thanks, I will think about it, the Arm for it would be Fr-64s. I saw the Denon, would be enough for a start I guess. 2 years ago I listened to a Shelter 501 mono, was a good performance.
Are the differences in mono cartridges similar to those stereo MC's from today?
you don't need a mono cartridge to fully appreciate a mono with any stereo pressing, results may very title by title, no matter what cartridge you use.
Hi Syntax, this info is copied from my reply to a similar question on VA. Hope it helps some. Good luck and report back.

Because I own several hundred mono LPs, I've done a bit of research and made a few purchases, but unfortunately have not put my own system together yet to offer first hand experiences. So all I can offer is a summary of my reading.

* Mono VS stereo cartridge - I think it will depend on how many mono records you own in deciding how much trouble you want to go to. Also, are they original pressings or reissues? Two considerations are styli size/shape and cartridge design.

Styli -- I believe you must first consider which records you will be playing before buying a mono cartridge. Note this applies only to 33.3 LPs, not 78s which have at least 3 mil requirements. Dates refer to master cutting, not date for performance. This is a function of the groove size/shape created by the cutter head.

Pre-stereo era monos (roughly '48-'57), select a 1.0 mil conical stylus.

Early stereo era monos (roughly '58-'68), select a 0.7 mil conical stylus.

Recent mono reissues (mid '90s to present), select a mono cartridge with a modern narrow stylus profile or a stereo cartridge if you have a mono switch. From my research, mono cutter heads are no longer available so mono reissues are now cut with stereo heads, thus modern narrow profiles are recommended for playback.

Lyra may have been the first to promote narrow profile stylus tips for better performance in mono cartridges. I think this may be true for playback of the modern mono reissues, but not as good for older originals. This is not to say a mono cartridge with a narrow profile stylus would not work on earlier pressings, it simply would not be optimal.

Design -- Another question where I have not seen agreement is the basic design of the cartridge and how the coils or magnets are wired. Most older mono cartridges pick up signals only from lateral movement. This is why they are claimed to be quieter in playback. Some current production mono cartridges are said to be stereo pickups that are simply strapped internally. Grados are mentioned in this regard for example. From what I know, this would be no different/better than a mono switch on your preamp or phono stage and a stereo cartridge.

* EQ for older recordings. The RIAA curve was approved by 1955 but not adopted by all record companies until the early '60s (a few in Asia did not comply until the '90s). So again, what you need will depend on what you have to play. All reissues for the past 15 years should have RIAA.

Because of the number of mono LPs I own, I've purchased a mono cartridge (Denon 102) and a second tonearm to allow for dedicated playback once I finish building a custom plinth. I have not decided yet about additional EQ options (which can cost from $300 to $10K if you don't already own a vintage preamp). I'm trusting all this effort will prove to be worthwhile.
Great. Thank you, too.
Pryso, my experience with Lyra Helikon Mono (LHM) is the exact opposite: great results with old mono pressings ( jazz 1953-1959) and very little difference with stereo cartridges on more recent mono reissues. When I play original old mono with LHM the background is silent and dynamics far more improved.
Jaybo, A mono cartridge cancels vertical information. If you have an older mono record with surface scratches played with a stereo cartridge you will here a lot more surface noise than you would with a mono cartridge. I purchase the Beatles White album original UK release, It sound like sh.. with a stereo cartridge but sounded great with a mono cartridge. Since then I have purchase a few other mono records I would not normally purchase and they sounded great with the mono cartridge. I have the LHM and am very happy.
Jloveys, as Les McCann used to say, compared to what?

I'm not arguing with your results, merely trying to understand. Are you saying your old mono recordings sound better with your LHM than with whatever stereo cartridge you used previously, or that your old monos sound better than your modern mono reissues with the LHM?

If it is the first case, then it is understandable the mono cartridge is better. If it is the second case, it may be the old records are superior (assuming they are clean and in reasonable condition - but otherwise they would not be quiet).
All my mono records sound better IMHO with my mono cartridge than with my stereo cartridge, older originals or reissue. I am also saying that with older used mono records that were not very well care of will sound worse with a stereo cartridge because a mono cartridge cancels out the vertiacal information on the record and a stereo cartridge does not. When I pick up a used record I look at the surface of the record. If it is a stereo album and has all kinds of little scratches and is dull I know it is going to sound like shit so I will not waiste my time buying it. If it is a mono record it could sound great and I will take a risk and purchase it. This is what I am saying.
It would be nice to hear more about the Helikon. I have heard that Lyra does not believe that the microgroove (older) monos need a 1 mil conical or a larger elliptical stylus. Does anyone know the stylus profile and size of the Helikon mono? Is is larger than their other models?

A true mono cartridge does not cancel. It simply does not read in the vertical motion. A stereo cartridge strapped or wired for mono (ie many modern "mono" cartridges) might allow for some vertical motion to be imparted to the cantilever. This is not to say that those cartridges are worse than the true mono cartridges as it's the end result fo the system being evaluated.

For stereo cartridges strapped or wired (ie many modern mono cartridges...but not all), cancellation is probably not the best term. "+ and - Summed together with the possibility for a remainder" is probably better way to put it. Cancellation would be perfect if coils are matched and cartridge is aligned perfectly). Still, it's a huge improvement over a stereo cartridge.

I'm getting my Denon 102 retipped with a larger elliptical profile. Should be interesting to see the difference for older microgroove lps (pre, say, 1960)...
I have a Soundsmith SMMC1 mono version ($750) that is excellent. The cartridge has dual mono coils and plays both mono and stereo records, it can also be wired to play mono only. In stereo it is almost as good as my Miyajima Shilabe ($2800) as reviewed on 10 Audio. I have 2 arms and can compare. The Shilabe is also on the better arm.
Thats what I have read that the Lyra does not read any vertical info. I think in MF review they talk about cancel as it cannot be read. I would have to read the review again to be sure.

Here is the info on the Lyra that I have.

Type: Moving Coil, low-impedance, low-output, medium compliance
Output voltage: (using CBS STR-100 standard @ 5.0cm/sec) 0.25mV
Frequency Response: 10Hz-50kHz
Channel Separation @ 1kHz: N/A
Diamond Stylus: 3x70 um Ogura PA line contact
Magnet(s): Dual disk neodymium
Square Bobbin: 5N iron core & 6N copper coils
Cantileaver: 0.3mm diameter solid boron circular rod
Recommended tracking force: 1.6-1.75 grams
Dynamic compliance @100Hz: 12x10-6cm/dyn
Internal impedance: 3 ohms
Recommended load impedance Preamp direct: 100ohms-47kohms
Via MC transformer: 2-10ohms
Weight: 8.3g
Other features:
• Machined aluminum alloy, mono-block (nude) construction
• Cantilever mounting
• Direct-Flux, dual disk magnet system
• Full Protective, transparent cover
Pryso: it is the first case and the stereo cartridge is JanAllaerts MC2 Finish.
"Narrow profile stylus" isn't an accurate term to describe the stylus used on the Helikon Mono, as it isn't intended to be narrow. On the contrary, it is intended to "fill up" the LP groove as completely as possible without triggering difficulties in setup. "Long contact patch" is a much better way to describe it.

IMO, a proper mono cartridge shouldn't pick up vertical information. A mono cartridge can be approximated by summing the coil outputs of a stereo cartridge together, but this is no better than using a mono switch, and the completeness of cancellation will be limited by any dissimilarities between channels (encompassing those caused by setup as well as build).

The stylus on the Helikon Mono isn't an Ogura PA, as the scanning dimensions of a PA are 3x30um, which is considerably narrower than what is actually used.

The prototypes of the Helikon Mono started out with a 3x30 PA, as that was the same as what was used on the Helikon stereo version at the time. We extensively tested a variety of stylus shapes on both new mono and older mono LPs (some of these dating back to at least 1953~54), and found that a custom variable-radius 3x70um profile was the most to our liking - on everything. And that is what was incorporated into the production version.

Later we found that the custom 3x70um stylus gave better results on stereo LPs as well, so we gradually shifted from the 3x30um Ogura PA to the new 3x70um stylus for all of our cartridges, stereo as well as mono.

The only exception is the entry-level Dorian, which uses a Namiki Microridge 2.5x75um for both the Dorian stereo version and Dorian Mono. I chose Microridge for the Dorian because it was the closest production stylus (meaning less expensive) to the custom 3x70 stylus used on our more expensive models.

FWIW, I don't believe that groove width means much for a wide, long-footprint line contact stylus. The important factors are groove angle and groove depth. The groove angle of a Microgroove LP should be 90 degrees, and as long as it remains 90 degrees, the stylus will simply keep its natural distance (as defined by the stylus shape) from the groove bottom, and should have no problem with remaining in full contact with the groove walls or tracking, regardless of groove width. If the groove bottom is shallow, however, or filled with dirt (not an uncommon condition with second-hand mono records), the tip of the stylus may "bottom out" if it is too acute and goes too deep.

Bottoming out was one of the primary reasons why we rejected the Ogura PA. Our custom 3x70um stylus retains a longer contact patch with the groove wall than the 3x30um Ogura PA (which is the essential thing for performance), but doesn't go quite so deep and therefore doesn't get into problems with shallower grooves.

hth, jonathan carr
I recently purchased a Lyra Helikon mono to play the many mono records in my lp collection. First record after break in
was excellent condition original Blue Note records "Art Blakley and the Jazz Messengers Vol. 2". Stunning presentation and detail even compared to my Airtight PC-l stereo cartridge. Several other Blue Notes produced similar results.
My phono pre is a balanced Einstein "The Turntables Choice".
I tried a Shelter 501 Mk 2 mono which has a single coil, but it's single coil design caused a low volume ground hum which is sometimes the result of using a modern phono pre with a single coil mono cartridge. Since the hum was pretty low, I was still able to ascertain that the Lyra presentation was clearer,larger,and more detailed and alive than the Shelter. Of course it's double the price too.
Got the same hum with my Einstein single ended phono pre
and my AHT Non-Signature phono pre [same design as the Walker phono pre without all the added tweaks,etc]
Be careful if you opt for a single coil pickup at the lower price point that it does not hum with your phono pre.
I have a question as to the best loading for the Helikon.
It's specs say 100ohms to 47k ohms. My Einstein has loading resisters of 40,85,100,150,300, and 940 ohms.
Is this cartridge load sensitive in anyone's experience?
What loading are the other owners using and the results?
None of the reviews of this cartridge comment on loading differences. The instructions talk about the potential difference, but I cannot clearly hear one in a quick initial comparison, but I didin't try very hard. Just wanted to sit and listen to the beautiful music I was finally hearing from those records. Waited a long time for this moment, so testing will have to wait. Thanks for any input.
I have mounted it on a Dynavector 507 Mk 2 arm on my TW Accoustic Raven one TT.
Jonathan, thank you for the additional information. That filled in several "gaps" in the previous information I accumulated.
hevak...i've got just shy of 600 lps in mono, most of which are original. for the most part the opened ones are in near mint condition and unless i'm wrong, all sound great. some of these lps i've actually owned since the mid sixties as well, and have always used a stereo cartridge with no sonic shortcomings.
I load mine at 1000 ohms.

Have you tried a mono cartridge? Your mono's could sound better with a mono cartridge.
yes, i've 'tried' several, but never found it any more effective than a mono switch to enhance the fidelity. the capatibility debate has never been a concern for me. the cartridges I've 'had' were purchased because i had a spare turntable for experimentation, but were never a seminal purchase. playing a vintage mono lp. or a new re-issue on a 'stereo' is nothing for most to worry about.
Thanks for your response Hevac.
I will try mine at 940 ohms which is the highest loading I have for the pre without ordering new resistor plugs.
Did you try yours at a higher loading before making final load decision? They state the higher the loading, the more open the result.
I have used a Lyra Helikon mono for several years. The loading issue is a matter of personal taste. I usually start on 47k Ohm and work my way down until I hear no improvement. The nominal impedance for most moving coils is around 100 Ohm but this may be too low for the Helikon
In comparing a mono to stereo cartridge on the same record and by switching arms in the turntable arm mount, I can definitely tell you that the groove noise is virtually gone and the image depth improves greatly. If you have more than a few hundred mono lps, and can interchange tonearms easily, a dedicated mono cartridge is the way to go.
i've read all your answers and I would like to say 'Thank you' to all of you.
I went a step ahead.
May I ask, did someone comparisons among mono cartridges? Dorian to Helikon or Titan for example?Or with a SPU?
I have compared EMT TMD25 with Benz Glider mono version on some older mono records. Glider was incorporated into the EMT TMD headshell. The results were, I prefer the TMD25. My interpretation is that the difference lies in the stylus dimensions, the TMD25 being 1mil (25mM) spherical, and the Glider, I assume, having the same stylus, as their stereo version. However, the difference may well be elsewhere. Sorry, I haven't tried playing newer mono records. Maybe, the Glider will shine with them.
I recently found a Sony XL55mono. It is in an integrated headshell, like the FR-7, and is quite heavy (though not quite as heavy as the FR-7). It is a low output MC cart. I have not found specs but I would put it in the 0.2-0.5mV area. It is something of a strange beast - it has a very thin cantilever and appears to run very light VTF despite its heavy mass. I have not found any literature on it and would welcome it if anyone had it.

In any case, it sounds very nice.

Note: it has a headshell ring to stylus tip length which is several mm shorter than the FR-7.

You mention that the stylus is different on the Dorian mono than the Helikon. I have noticed that my Dorian Mono does not seem to handle surface noise that well. I have experimented with VTA endlessly to no avail and have just learned to live with it. I have read review after review and comment after comment about how great the Helikon is at ignoring surface noise and imperfections on older mono lps. This has not been my expierince with the Dorian.

I was wondering if you could elaborate on this at all. Does the Dorian perform differently than the Helikon in relation to surface noise and ignoring imperfections?

David Kramer
Hi Syntax,
can send you my Airy-3X Mono if you want to try a Mono cart on your FR64s.
Hi Heradot,

didn't know that you have such a cartridge. Great idea. Thank you
David: I don't think that the Dorian should be much worse than the Helikon when it comes to noise or sound quality. After all, although the Dorian doesn't use the custom stylus profile of the Helikon, it still uses a Microridge, which is one of the best non-custom stylus shapes that money can buy. And although the Helikon has more mass in its mechanical structure and is made of a different alloy, the mechanical concepts are one and the same for both designs.

But in general, my cartridge designs are intended to dump the vibrational energy (created by the stylus tracking the LP groove) into the tonearm in as direct and complete a fashion as possible, so a better tonearm may pay greater dividends than with other manufacturer's cartridges.

I would suggest trying a different arm with a less resonant mechanical structure, and/or one with less bearing play(IME, less bearing play means more for sound quality than low bearing friction). A more compatible tonearm can also help address any sense of brightness or leanness with the sound. As another tweak, you could try to add some weight to the headshell. The Dorian is a few grams lighter than the Helikon, and sometimes a heavier cartridge and headshell combination works better at controlling vibrational energy.

The other obvious factor that can affect the perception of noise is the phono stage. Pops and ticks are very close to impulse signals, and you can hear a big difference in how different phono stages deal with them (and RF interferance). Normally I don't recommend loading down our cartridges so heavily, but sometimes it can be a useful tool if the phono stage has performance/stability issues at ultrasonic frequencies. I'd suggest around 300 ohms if your phono cable has low-capacitance, but be willing to move down to perhaps 150 ohms if your phono cable has higher capacitance.

hth, jonathan carr
Thanks Jonathan for the response. I am currently using a VPI 9" signature model with viscous damping applied. I have also used an RB300 as well. The cartridge does perform incredibly considering I paid $700 before the price increase. I just have not had the experience with the surface noise that I thought I was going to have. I use it with an old CJ pv6 as the phono stage and use transformers to step it up. I have tried loading through the transformers at both 150 ohms and 10 ohms via resistors. Honestly I think I prefer the 150 ohm load through the transformers but right now I am using an old pair of altec trannies, the green ones, with resistors loading down to around 10 ohms. I do not use any capacitors in my step up transformers.

I will continue to tweak. I will try the head shell tweak as well.

I bought a Titan Mono on Audiogon and I am very pleased with the results in my Airline on the Micro SX8000II. As I am new to using a Mono catridge I must admit that it provides a very lively and intense sound than using a Mono-switch at the Boulder 2008. I never thought that Monos could sound such good!!
Is it not the case that playing stereo-cut grooves (including mono material reissed the last 30ish years) with a "true mono" cartidge like a VRII damages the grooves? Caveat emptor!
I spoke with a few people about Mono cartridges. Some say, they have a kind of hum with their Mono cartridges, no way to avoid it. But some have low efficient speakers, no problems but a few have 98dB++ designs, they told me, they think about special Mono Phonostages...
Any idea, is this hum based on design or manufacturer?
I am posting a reply that I made to another recent thread on the Shelter 501 mono cartridge.

06-10-09: Sabertouch
I owned the Shelter II mono for a couple of months. It exhibited a low hum with the 3 high quality phono stages I own. Finally discovered it was a single coil design [not in specifications or description anywhere]. Install instructions were meager. It sounded pretty good even with the hum which was only there during quiet passages. Tried everything to get rid of the hum. Learned of another owner with the same hum problem.
Bottom line. Most of todays phono pre's have grounding designs which will cause hum with single coil mono pickups.
I bought a Lyra Helikon mono which has a two coil design and great instructions. It easily bettered the Shelter in detail, soundstage, realism, tick and pop resistance and dynamics. Quality is excellent.
The Shelter is good too and I would probably would have been happy with it if I could have found a way to eliminate the hum. In my research into the problem, I found not much is known about mono playback component compatibility in the vinly community since very few are sold.
Incidently, I was floored by how much better my mono lp's sounded with the helikon as compared to my very expensive and highly regarded stereo cartridges. To hear a Blue Note original from 1959 with a Helikon mono is an amazing sonic experience.
I don't know if the other expensive stereo cartridges which have been converted to mono output are better than the Lyra. They were originally designed for stereo output and not mono and have been converted to mono through internal wiring changes.
It is easy to find forum input on the Helikon if you dig a little. It appears quite a number have been sold. You can also find some good magazine reviews.
super. Thank you very much. You confirmed my thinking about that.
Has anybody listened to a Dorian Mono?
Got one.
Don't have many - old - Mono Records, but after 10 years buying Reissues it is a Revelation. No ticks, no pops,no distortion and Dynamics 2die4.
Really cool.

I have a Benz Ebony LP Mono. Does anyone know how Benz-Micro designs mono cartridges? I beleive they use the same stylus as the stereo. Also the same motor and coils, but turned 45 degrees, so that one coil is 100% lateral, and the other coil is 100% vertical. But then what? Is the vertical direction wired to cancel? Are the vertical and horizontal then summed into both output channels?