Opinion on Turntables- MM and MC cartridges

Upon seeing a lot of reviews on Turntables (TT), and MM and MC cartridges, I decided to try out a few turntables and cartridges for myself to see which I like better. And I would like to pass on my opinion.

I got back into Vinyl about a year ago. In the 1980�s I resisted CD for a long time mainly because they were too expensive, but finally made the plunge and never looked back. A few years ago a friend of mine keep telling me about his vinyl collection and how Vinyl sounded better than CD; but I had forgotten the sound of vinyl records a long time ago.
Last year I started to read about vinyl and turntables in various magazines, so I got curious and started to look for a turntable. I went to a stereo dealer and he had turntables from $900 to $30,000.00 I almost drop, I thought he was crazy. I remember when I could pick up a Technic TT for about $150 in the 80�s. So I went online and start to search and I saw units between $350 to $1000 that I was interested in. I decided on a Music Hall MMF 5 that came with cartridge. I continued to read reviews on TT and decided to try out the Marantz TT, I then got a VPI Scout to see if I could hear what the reviewers were raving about. I listened to all three for several months, then decided to keep the VPI. I like the bass it produce, and the way it looked. The Music Hall was my second choice, but I did not like the Marantz because of its motor; it squeaked when I turn on the TT. I later found out that it was a normal thing for that TT to do.

Next came cartridges. I read about Dyanvector DX20L/H, Ortofone 2M series, Goldring, and many others and decided to hear a few for myself to see if I could hear what the �experts� were saying when they did their reviews. I got the DX20H moving coil, Ortofon 2M Black, and Goldring 1042. I listened to all three for a while and decided that I like the front stage, and the punchy bass of the Ortofon. It also sounded louder than the DX20H. The Goldring is very similar to the Ortofon, but I did not like how it looked on my VPI Scout. The DX20H have a nice silky sound, good front stage, and bass but not as aggressive as the Ortofon. If were listening to classical music I would definitely stick with the DX20H. But I could not hear most of the things described by reviewers for these cartridges. One reviewer said this about the 2M Black: He could tell the position of the musicians that were playing, but he was a bit disappointed that he could not hear the music bouncing off the walls. What is he talking about? I don�t think I have bad hearing because I just went to the Audiologist to get fitted for an ear piece to use with my Etymotic EP4 head phone to use with my iPhone. So far I really like the Ortofon 2M Black and I am glad that I tried out a few cartridges for my self, and not just take the reviewers word. What I am saying, is that we all should do that sometimes. I rather take advice and make a purchase based upon real users like you, here on the Audiogon; than depending solely on reviews from magazines. I am not saying that reviewers give us bad information, but I think they go over board to fill up the space for their article. Even so, I do read them to get a laugh sometimes. Have any one actually compared these units that I have mentioned above? I would like to hear what you think.
To be honest, it's hard to know how to respond to your thread when one doesn't know anything about the rest of your system. Turntable/arm/cartridge performance is a synergistic affair with your phono preamp (and the rest of the system,) so it's hard to comment on your perceptions of cartridge performance. Seeing it sounds like you found the Dynavector gain limited, things probably aren't optimally compatible with that cartridge. Even the way your Scout is sited, what sort of support it is sitting on, is going to drastically affect the sonic signature of your vinyl system. I found my Scout to be very sensitive to this.
Photon 46 has made a number of valid and relevant observations. Your preference for one cartridge over another may have more to do with the cartridge compatibility with your turntable, arm and phono stage than it does with the relative performance attributes of those cartridges.

You have compared a high output MC cartridge (the Dynavector) with a pair of MM cartridges. The MM cartridges have output levels that are roughly double that of the Dynavector cartridge, which explains your observation that the Dynavector did not sound as loud. It might be that your phono stage does not have sufficient gain to pair ideally with the Dynavector cartridge.

Other factors to consider include arm/cartridge system resonance frequency and cartridge loading. Each of your three cartridges will combine with your tonearm to produce a different resonance frequency as a function of their different weight (ranging from 6.3g to 8.6g) and compliance (ranging from 12 to 22) specifications. As a result, your preference for one cartridge over another might, at least to some extent, reflect the relative compatibility of your tonearm/cartridge combination in achieving the ideal resonance frequency in the range of 9Hz to 11Hz.

Another factor that is even more important than system resonance frequency is the load resistance - and, for the MM cartridges, the load capacitance - of your phono stage inputs. Input loading has a significant effect on the sound of a cartridge and, again, might have led you to prefer one over another due to inherent system synergy factors as opposed to any real differences in the performance capability of the cartridges.

As for the comment that the reviewer made about imaging (i.e., the position of the musicians) and the reproduction of hall reflections (i.e., the sound of the music bouncing off the walls), these factors are affected by all the components that comprise the audio system, not the least of which is the listening room. You need to have a system that is capable of excellent imaging in order to determine the relative merits of cartridges in providing palpable, realistic images of the individual performers within the soundstage. Similarly, you need to have a very resolving system in a listening room with good acoustics in order to hear hall reflections clearly and to begin to discern the relative space and size of the original recording venue. This is a tough thing to achieve, and it is also dependent on starting with a good recording. Many of us have spent years developing our audio systems to a point where the system can begin to do justice to this sense of space, hall reflections, and original recording venue.

Almandog, if you provide us with some more information regarding your phono stage or preamp and the components that comprise the rest of your system, you will likely get some helpful comments from people who have experience with those specific components.
Thank you for your response. It seems as if the tonearm have a lot to do with the total performance of the system. My system consist of the following:
McIntosh MC 402 amp, McIntosh C2200 preamp, VPI Scout turntable with the standard JMW-9 tonearm, Ortofon 2M Black cartridge (I also tried out the Dynavector DV20H and Goldring 1042 as stated in the previous posting), Exact Power EP15A and SP15A power conditioners, Legacy Audio Focus 20/20 speakers, Audio Art interconnect, Audio Art bi-wire speaker cables. I do not have any special platform for the turntable, its just resting on the stereo rack. Over the weekend I experimented with a bi-amp configuration, using another McIntosh MC7270 amp and a Dahlquist crossover. That's because I want to move to a tube amp driving the mids/highs on the Focus 20/20 in the future. I made a mistake with the part number for the Dynavector in my first posting; its actually DV20H.
Nice System Almandog. With 40 db. of gain from your Mac preamp & 2.8mv of output from the Dynvector, you should have adequate gain. The high output version of the DV-20x is supposed to be ok with your 47k loading, don't know if that's optimal? I will say that I and many others feel a listener isn't getting maximum potential out of a Scout if it's just sitting on a typical rack. I was unimpressed with the sound of mine just sitting on my B.Bags rack (mdf top.) A Gingko platform or a thick maple plinth makes really substantive improvements in the sound. Much better bass extension, the sound "fleshes out" in a much more fulsome manner. Just so you know where I'm coming from, I've used a Goldring 1042, Grado Sonata, and Garrott Bros. Optim FGS with my rig. BTW, another Scout tweak I've been very impressed with is the use of a thin spacer of anti-vibration mat betwen the cartridge and headshell. The material is a damping sheet from SmallParts.com, part # VDS-0040. It really makes a noticeable reduction in sonic haze and increases resolution without any glare when used with my Garrott. Haven't tried it with the other cartridges yet.