Take a look at the Soundsmith line and order the one that you like in a mono configuration. You can also get the VPI 3gm headshell weight (which I did) to help those low compliance cartridges.
I have not taken the mono plunge yet, but many speak well of the Miyajima Premium BE mono. There is a less expensive version of the same cartridge without the "BE" designation, just called the "Premium". So far as I can tell, the only difference between the two is that the BE has a black ebony body, whereas the Premium uses some other kind of ebony. This is based on info at the Miyajima website; the US distributor once wrote that there is a functional difference as well, FWIW. I don't know what to think.
There is an AT mono cartridge always available on eBay for just under $500. Might be a place to start.
I am a bit confused now about mono LPs. I started looking through my collections and try to determine which is mono and I am having a bit of a problem. I understand that pretty much anything before 1958 will be mono. The problematic period is 1958-196? I understand that usually there should be a code or something on the LP/jacket stating mono or stereo.
I suppose listening to it, I should be able to tell but I think I am having some difficulties especially with piano recording. Does not seem very obvious sometimes.
Also somewhere I read that if it is a mono reissue after 1960's, ie recent reissue of Glen Gould Goldberg variation (1955 mono version), I should not use mono cartridge as it is now cut for stereo cartridge. Is that correct?
Reading about how mono cartridge may damage groove of stereo LP makes me a bit wary about trial and error using both my stereo and mono cartridge.
Thanks for your help.
If it is not clear on the record label or cover, the code on the cover's spine or label should allow you to figure this out. Check those codes at Discogs, probably the best place to look for pressing details. And as for buying mono, be sure you are clear on if a mono record is a fold-down (created from a stereo recording; less desirable) or true mono. Steve Hoffman forums and other spots can help you figure that out.
Thanks for the information. I started going through my collections and try to separate out mono recordings from the rest. However, I do have some recent reissues from Speaker Corners, Doxy that are mono recording and some even stated clearly so on the jacket. However, I assume that they are most likely cut on stereo rather than mono system, is that correct? So presumably, mono cartridge should not be used on these LPs!
Also. How about Seraphim, RCA Victrola and Odessey reissue of 78s and earlier mono recordings that were released in 1960s, does anyone have any experience with those LPs as far as using mono cartridge is concerned? I have quite a few of those in pretty good conditions and try not to ruin them!
Thanks for your help.
I emailed Testament asking about some of their mono reissue and asked my local dealer to ask Speaker Corners for me regarding their mono reissue and mono cartridge. Let see if they are willing to answer something.
I am interested in Miyajima Zero right now which has the same
conical stylus as its other mono cartridge (0.7mm conical). Googling stylus size, it looks like 0.7 size is common size for conical stylus. What I gather from one internet site is that for LP, conical tip radius is generally 0.7-1mm and 1mm is the standard size for mono records. I am not sure why Miyajima advises on its website about not using its mono cartridge on stereo LP as it may damage the groove. Anyhow, I also asked my local Miyajima dealer to check with Miyajima if its mono cartridge is good for all mono LPs including recent reissue just in case.
I have tried both a Shelter 501 Mono, and, more recently, a Miyajima Premium BE, which is still breaking in (I've had it set up for a few weeks). I have a better turntable and preamp now, so it's hard to make an apples to apples comparison. However, I can say for sure that the Miyajima plays with much less noise than the Shelter. In fact, many LPs that were noisy to the point of being unplayable on the Shelter play with basically no distracting noise with the Miyajima.
Seraphim was a Czech or Eastern European label which then may have gotten bought out by Angel/EMI. RCA Victrola are later re-pressings of music found on His Master's Voice 78's and RCA Red Seal (both shellac). Most RCA Red Seal recordings were re-pressed on the Shaded Dog or RCA Vault Treasure labels. Odessey is a classical budget label from Sony.
Recordings were often recorded in both mono and in stereo as more and more folks bought stereo systems. There are examples of recordings which were mono but artificially made into stereo and stereo artificially made into mono. If both mono and stereo recordings were in production, there should be either an M or an S next to the catalogue number.
The grooves found in mono records that date prior to the 1960's are wider. The microgroove record was an early attempt to get more play on the 33&1/3 and long playing 45's. Into the 1960's, the grooves were by industry standards more narrow and the grooves were cut deeper. Some mono cartridges like the Ortofon SPU's are ideal for the older and wider grooves.
From my understanding, the higher quality dual mono cartridges such as the Lyra's can play on both stereo and mono records just fine. I believe that those cartridges which are strapped stereo cartridges in order to make them into mono cartridges will be the ones that cause damage to a stereo record. I've never heard of any mono cartridge being un-playable on any mono record of any sort, although admittedly, those shellac records do make me a bit uneasy.
Mono labels that I typically collect are RCA Shaded Dog, Columbia 6 Eye Grey and Red, Epic, Decca, London, Melodiya, Monitor, Westminster, Archive Productions and Deutsche Grammophone.
Personally, I'd aim for either the Miyajima Zero or the Lyra (especially the Titan). Ortofon makes both the SPU's and the Cadenza. Benz micro gets good reviews. For entry level, Jonathan Carr recommended the Audio Technica AT 33 mono. The upper level Grado moving iron cartridges have gotten good reviews on some of the audiophile websites.
One last note is that the older 200 gram platters which date between the shellac days and the flimsy stereo days sound great to my ear/s but they will sound even better with a thorough cleaning.
Thanks for all the information. For now, I settled for Miyajima Zero and should have it sometimes next month.
I would love to get Lyra Titan Mono but not sure if it justifies my current state of mono collections. However, it does have the appeal of not having to worry about mono or stereo cutting of mono recordings and such. Miyajima does warn about not using it's cartridge with stereo LP (so presumably mono LP with stereo track cutting). Not sure if it has anything to do with vertical axis stiffness like some older mono cartridge or other reasons. Since Miyajima did say that mono Beatles will sound great with its cartridge so it is probably not microgroove issue.
If I end up accumulating more mono LPs eventually Titan may make sense.
I am the North American importer of Miyajima Labs. I can tell you any true mono cartridge should not be used on stereo LP's as they have no vertical or up and down compliance! It is painfully obvious if it is a stereo LP when you play it with a mono cartridge. A good example is the re-issue Peggy Lee Black Coffee LP that has both mono and stereo tracks!
The Miyajima Mono cartridges play both original and re issue mono LP's sublimely. I suggest you read Michael Fremer's new review of the Zero he kept after the review (like the Premium Mono BE he used to use), and now uses on his vast mono collection. Nice thing is they have a 7 day money back trial. Arm matching used to be trickery but the Zero and Kansui make it way easier and now, even uni-pivots, like VPI are good! Harry Weisfield at VPI makes custom arm wands for the Miyajima's! He loves them!
>any true mono cartridge should not be used on stereo LP's as they have no vertical or up and down compliance!
I've designed mono cartridge both with and without vertical compliance, and can confidently state that the hallmark of a true mono cartridge is not in whether it has vertical compliance or not, but whether there is electrical sensitivity to vertical stylus motion or not (vertical stylus motion should result in no electrical signal output).
And if what you say is true, a true mono cartridge shouldn't be used on a mono LP either, as both stereo and mono LPs are made of the same PVC material, and the included groove wall angle is also about the same (88~90) degrees on both stereo and mono LPs.
The only meaningful difference is that the left-right wall shapes are the same for mono LPs, and different for stereo LPs. The groove may sometimes (but not always) be a little shallower on the mono LP. Although it is sometimes pointed out that a mono LP groove may be somewhat wider than a stereo LP groove, my experiments have shown that as long as the included groove wall angle remains at 88~90 degrees for both stereo and mono LPs, the groove width is a non-issue that does not affect the design of stylii for mono LPs.
Robyatt, thanks for your information. I wonder if you ever try modern mono reissue from Speaker Corners or Testament with Miyajima? The whole issue of using stereo system to cut LP instead of mono left me a bit confused and I am not sure how signifiant that is. Reading review of a mono record made by Classic Record that made a big fuss about using mono system instead of stereo system only made the picture murkier. I am not quite clear about what you said regarding Peggy Lee's reissue? I have some 1960's LP that said on the jacket that it can be played on both stereo and mono system. I assume that it is just a regular mono LP.
Look like it will have to be trial and error on some LPs. Hopefully the LP won't be too easily destroyed with one brief playing! Also thanks for information regarding VPI armwand for Miyajima, will check that out.
Jonathan, love your Atlas cartridge. Now I only have a handful of mono recordings. I have not looked much into earlier mono recordings but recently acquired some that sounded excelent, even with stereo cartridge which prompt me to explore other mono recordings more. Once I have enough LPs, I will definitely revisit Lyra's option.
Now I wonder how neccessary it is to consider phono with non-RIAA curve? It never ends :(
There appears to be a variety of theoretical constructs concerning ways of designing mono cartridges.
I wonder if all of these varying points of view will ever come together in agreement?
But as for now, my understanding is that a mono cartridge with both vertical and horizontal tracking will then make it possible for someone to play stereo recordings with that said mono cartridge.
I also understand how having both means of tracking could or would be an asset with a professionally designed mono cartridge.
What isn't clear to me however is why anyone would want to play stereo recordings with a mono cartridge or vice versa.
Aside from just being a purist; is there practical sense in playing strictly mono recordings with a mono cartridge regardless of whether its a Lyra, a Miyajima, a Grado or whatever?
Can anybody describe the improvements of the Miyajima Zero over the premium?
Also, the mono stepup Robin offers for the Miyajima looks interesting, but since my Pass xp-15 has 76db of gain would it be unneccesary for me?
Third question- Looking to expand my mono collection. Mostly looking for jazz and rock. I already have all the QRP Prestige reissues, Bob Dylan Mono set, and a few other old blue notes. Can you guys throw out a few more titles old or reissue worth hunting down? Thanks
I got Miyajima Zero recently and even with only about 20-30 hours of playtime so far, it has been impressive. Unfortunately I have no other mono cartridge to compare to since it is my first one. It certainly outperformed any stereo cartridges that I have playing mono LPs. I understand that Miyajima recommended using SUT with its cartridge. Unless you can reduce the gain one your Pass down to about 40 or 50 dB, SUT would not be a good idea. Currently I am using Dynavector SUP-200 with my Miyajima. Once I have about 100 hours on the cartridge, I will try other SUTs on hand for comparison. I don't have many pop/rock mono records beside QRP Bob Dylan's reissue, some mono Parlophone Beatles and am waiting for UK press of Most of the Animals to come in. A chunk of my mono LPs are operas with Thill, Callas, Bjoerling, Gigli, Furtwaengler, Walter etc. A bit of Julie London, Peggie Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday here and there.