Review: Audio-Technica USA A-T 3482 Cartridge

Category: Analog

There are many good reasons today for hanging on to that old turntable you stored in the basement years ago. Not only has analog shown its superiority to digital under the right circumstances but there has also been a trend toward the classic "juke" look by manufacturers for nostalgic reasons that we...the consumer have given such companies for marketing such classic gear.

Just take a stroll over to Ebay on the web and you will fully understand what I am talking about here. There you will find newer copies of the old or original classics better than the new anyway in abundance!

It's not that the compact disc cannot show its superiority at times under the right conditions but as usual the industry has reached a point whereas to sacrifice true dynamics for the sake of mass production. Did this not also occur during the glory days of analog vinyl reproduction? Still the big full artwork of the analog record cover may be reason enough for one to get bit {so to speak} by this very nostalgic analog bug as I and many others have recently!

When reconditioning your classic analog gear...a precision oiler along with a bottle of Windex are certainly necessities but then you most certainly must examine your table's phono cartridge and stylus/needle. Here is where 99% of you will either choose to replace the stylus which may or may not be available or bite the bullet and purchase a new cartridge/stylus from the somewhat meager pickings currently available.

And what about those of you still fortunate enough to own one of the great Technics P-Mount turntables like myself. Very recently I had the good fortune of being handed a Technics SL-D30 direct drive turntable with straight low mass P-Mount tonearm. All that was needed was a proper p-mount cartridge. Everything else about the unit was still in tip top shape!

Enter the A-T 3482 cartridge with uniradial or conical stylus shape. Let's take a look at the specs.

Frequency response; 20-20000hz
Channel separation; 24/15 (dB at 1 kHz/10kHz)
Vertical tracking force; 1. 0-1. 5 grams
Stylus construction; bonded round shank; 0.7mil conical tip
Recommended load impedance; 47k ohms
Output; 5. 0mV at 1kHz, 5cm/sec
Channel Balance; 1. 5dB
Carbon fiber cantilever
Total Cartridge Weight=6 grams
Retail Price=$39
Actual Street Price=$20-$32

The A-T 3482 is offered from audio technica in two models...the A-T 3482P and the A-T 3482H/U. The latter is a p-mount cart offered with a standard half inch mount adaptor for standard tonearms while the former is offered strictly as a p-mount model minus the half inch mount adaptor.

The cartridge itself is downright sexy looking with its high glossy piano black finish and white lettering stamped on top. This is no run-in-the-mill A-T!

If one is resurrecting an old p-mount type turntable...either model can be purchased but if you own a standard tonearm type...only the H/U model will do unless of course you just happen to have a p-mount adaptor from another cartridge purchase stored in that old cartridge hardware scrounge box you saved {as I have} over the years.

I have purchased several of these A-T 3482's over the past five years from either Transtronic Lab in Bloomfield, NJ or Stereorama who mainly sells over the internet. The Transtronic models cost me $32 and included a small clear plastic container with instructions and black coated hardware for mounting in a p-mount tonearm should the original hardware that came with the turntable be missing. This consists of a screw and nut.

Some p-mount turntables have the female threads already bored into the left side of the tonearm such as my Technics SL-D30 negating the need for the small nut while others require that you use both screw and nut. In either is nice to have these items packaged with the magnetic phono cartridge just in case one has lost the original!

Stereorama models average at about $20 each minus the plastic case, hardware and instructions as this dealer receives his shipments in lots making the cartridge pretty much a generic replacement while further reducing costs. To this dealer's credit...shipping is absolutely free to the USA! In this'll very cleary need to have the original hardware that either came with your p-mount table or prior p-mount cart purchase on hand.

Audio-technica also offers a similarly priced, specified and constructed white model with bonded .7 mil stylus that is interchangeable with the introduction of its A-T 90CD but there are significant differences! One being the 3.5 mv output of the A-T 90 as opposed to the higher 5.0 mv output of the A-T 3482. The other is more significant but perhaps so easily overlooked.

The cantilever of the A-T 90CD is a thin alloy hollow tube that is so commonly found on numerous models from not only audio-technica but from Shure and others in this price range. The cantilever of the 3482 however is a dark-colored light rigid carbon fiber type.

Those of you who dabbled in the art of analog audio perfection back in the day will remember the advantages of purchasing a carbon fiber headshell. It lowered the mass of your tonearm/cartridge combo while eliminating unwanted resonances. This is precisely what the A-T 3482 accomplishes!

I cannot help but wonder if Shure was perhaps a bit premature in discontinuing their top-of-the-line V-15 Type VMxR due to the scarcity and high cost of Beryllium. Both materials are somewhat similar but the Be cantilever was susceptible to breakage and could become brittle. Could Shure not have considered carbon fiber as a low cost alternative? Apparently audio-technica has a real find here!

Listening Tests:

I have owned too numerous to mention turntable/tonearms of both standard mount and p-mount design over the years. Most of my preliminary remarks about this particular phono cartridge were made when this cartridge was used with a half-inch mount adaptor in standard Technics and Dual turntables.

After the usual Break-In period of ten to twenty hours...I observed that the overall performance of the cartridge was at least very good. However...the real surprise came when mounting the unit in my recent find of a Technics SL-D30 direct drive p-mount turntable that was simply handed over to me in near perfect condition. All that was needed was a bit of TLC and a new p-mount phono cartridge. The A-T 3482 fit the bill wonderfully!

The idea behind the P-Mount system developed by Technics was to eliminate the chore of mounting and aligning the phono cartridge that so many of us found to be tedious. If all p-mount cartridges were made with the precise weight and with their stylus tips extended to precisely the same length...then all of the fuss and need for perfect alignment, tracking force and anti-skating compensation would be alas...all but eliminated! reality cartridge manufacturers DID NOT always follow these parameters to the tee and thus the reason for so many purists knocking the p-mount system. This is noteworthy as many P-Mount turntables had factory settings that were either very difficult to change or totally unchangeable by the consumer.

The Technics SL-D30 I own allows for some adjustment but I found the 1.25 gram settings for both VTF and anti-skating compensation to be perfect for the A-T 3482P. The VTA {Vertical Tracking Angle} was superior when mounted in the SL-D30's p-mount tonearm. I also liked the way the 3482P butted up with its rather flat back to the Technics 4-pin female socket before the locking screw was inserted from the side. Some Stantons allow for too much play and one is not always sure that one has the VTA right!

The cartridge is a first-rate p-mount design that weighs in at precisely six grams which is the recommended weight for p-mount carts...not 5.9 grams or 6.1 grams found on many other competing models.

Stylus replacement is the best and easiest of any p-mount cart I've ever handled. The new stylus simply snaps into place securely from underneath the cartridge body with little effort. This is extremely important and quite convenient as it is not necessary to remove the entire cartridge body from the tonearm.

This is most noteworthy for owners of the popularly priced ADC LT {Linear Tracking} turntables that sported cheapy nylon p-mount tonearm sockets that were very susceptible to damage when constantly removing and replacing cartridges. One would perceive a loud hum from one or both channels due to poor pin connectivity after awhile. This could become totally annoying and frustrating as the ADC's muting circuit would block sound due to this very poor connectivity!

Installing this cartridge permanently without desiring another model in the future and replacing the stylus while still mounted in the tonearm is absolutely essential for a pleasurable lifetime listening experience for the LT-55 and LT-60 models. I simply cannot emphasize this fact of life enough. Once installed correctly and permanently on these tables...the sound will be first rate and rival other classic linear tracking turntables such as the almighty Pioneer PL-L50!

I own a vast collection of both audiophile and non-audiophile pressings of all genres of music. The Professor Johnson test Lp I use for testing phono cartridge tracking ability and high frequency tracing was certainly used here. At its 1.25 gram setting the 3482P was able to track all levels to near perfection with the exception of some very slight clanging on the bells and percussion section that only first rate cartridges such as the Shure V-15 Type V can handle to utmost perfection.

Hum rejection with the phono input stage of the Yammy R-500 and a new ground cable with mini plug for the SL-D30 was excellent if not outstanding and the highly polished stylus assembly performed outstandingly with regard to groove noise. Bravo, A-T!!

Soundstaging with the 3482P in the Technics SL-D30 was excellent The cartridge rendered an extremely wide presentation with very good height and depth. Most noteworthy was the wide stereo separation which sets this cart apart from other entry level models as does its equally impressive handling of high frequency information.

As the Technics SL-D30 tonearm moved toward the inner grooves...there was little or no breakdown of the soundstage. This indicates to me excelent tonearm geometry along with first-rate compatibility with the 3482P. It also tells me that tonearm bearing friction is extremely low to non-existent. must be said that previous inner groove mistrackings caused by other cartridges were not in any way masked and were most audible. Such was the case when playing my 38-year old pressing of Neil Young And Crazy Horse's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" on Reprise Records. This is not to say that the A-T misbehaved but rather perhaps the cart is less forgiving than other conical types.

On the other hand...some clean inner groove detail was now being heard for the first time telling me that the cart's uniradial conical stylus is made extremely well and tracing a part of the groove wall that had never been touched! i could swear I never heard such subtle detail of the guitar pickin' on "Down By The River".

Cymbals and similar percussion werte less smeared and very clean sounding outperforming all other entry level p-mount types including the Grado Prestiges, the Shure M92E and Stanton L720EE although the A-T was definitely not equal to much more expensive carts in this regard.

The 3482P tracked loud orchestral and chorus passages with little compression that one normally hears with cheapy carts while maintaining much of the air and detail of all instrumentation...a tough task for any phono cartridge at any price point indeed!

Voices are reproduced very well and here the 3482P showed its superiority over former A-T p-mount entry level models and others. It is so cool how there is no raspiness to this cartridge and sibilant Ssss-ssss-ss sounds are handled effortlessly for the most part...very unusual for a conical stylus.

The cartridge's stereo separation spec of 24db is easily met and I cannot ever recall hearing a similarly priced p-mount unit even coming close to matching it. What has A-T done to the uniradial stylus? Necessity is the mother of they say and with the increasing cost of making elliptical and more ambitious stylus designs that so perfectly form to the stereo groovewall...well perhaps A-T now leads the pack when it comes to less costly conical stylus shapes that can trace accurately.

In Conclusion:

Is the AT 3482P mounted in a Technics SL-D30 as good as my recently reviewed AT ESCMG29 "Red Ed" mounted in a Pio PL-518??? Absolutely not! Nothing can equal that great combo but rather the A-T/ Technics duet renders a much better than expected sound quality so much more musical than one could ask for from a second-rate format such as the p-mount system. In this light...the 3482P and SL-D30 are model citizens.

The audio-technica A-T 3482 Uniradial Magnetic Phono Cartridge is quite frankly...a valiant effort by this audio giant! It maintains a high quality sound characteristic although admittedly...not quite equal to the best of the best.

For those of you whose last encounter with vinyl and phono cartridges was in the late 70's or early 80' may remember the A-T 10 {red}, 11E {green}, 12E {blue} or even the company's entry level hand picked Signet models. You are indeed in for a most pleasant surprise!

The latter models had a tendency toward powerful clean record reproduction whereas the former showed its strength in reproducing transients at lower price tags but with a slight tendency to emphasize upper midrange frequencies resulting in a somewhat noticeable honk or shrill "Japanese sound" so typical of its day.

By comparison...the A-T 3482 is extremely neutral in its sound yet surprisingly extended in the upper end of the musical spectrum while maintaining warmth along with powerful reproduction of dynamics and excellent transient response the company is so famous for.

With the introduction of this phono has taken the uniradial/conical stylus shape to the max. This is no surprise I guess since AT is the only remaining cartridge manufacturer with such an extensive line.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt...the A-T 3482 whether in its P-Mount form..."P" or its universal offering..."H/U" is simply a hands-down best buy for its meager price tag!

Associated gear
Yamaha R-500 Natural Sound Receiver
Technics SL-D30
Polk R-30 Towers

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"Is the AT 3482P mounted in a Technics SL-D30 as good as my recently reviewed AT ESCMG29 "Red Ed" mounted in a Pio PL-518??? Absolutely not! Nothing can equal that great combo...". I think I was being a bit sarcastic here and the Technics SL-D30/A-T 3482P combo is sounding every bit as good as my Pio PL-518/"Red Ed" combo as the break-in period progresses. Yeah...I know...P-Mount arms are not supposed to accomplish this but the truth must be told. Incidentally...I am more and more impressed with the way this duet handles severe warps and transients!
Just a little update...Since using the A-T 3482P with my new TC-160LC Phono Preamp...the news gets even better! Guitar pickin' has really become something special and I am appreciating the subtlety aspect of this nice cartridge even more. For you old myself...remember when you owned your first Dual turntable way back when and for an extra twenty bucks you received that great Shure Hi-Track M91E??? Remember when once aligned properly with Dual's little plastic great transients sounded...and how clean...Clean...C-L-E-A-N those Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, 4 Seasons, Neil Young, Beatles and Joni Mitchell LP's sounded???

Well...this is precisely what I'm getting with the A-T 3482P/Technics SL-D30/TCC TC-160LC combo. By comparison and just for the hell of it...I recently substituted the A-T 3482P with the company's slightly higher priced A-T 92ECD model which features an aluminum cantilever with .003 x .007 elliptical stone. Remembering how well the A-T/Signets with a similar stylus shape sounded back in the day...I expected much more than what I received from this cart.

I found myself immediately yanking the 92ECD out of the Technics tonearm while putting the 3482 back in its place. Whew!...I was just happy to have that CARBON FIBER CANTILEVER BACK AT THE HELM AGAIN.

The 3482 has a nice way of staying detailed and dynamic even on inner passages but it must be said that the Shure M97xE does perform slightly better in this regard. The M97xE is also two to three times the price of the A-T 3482. Funny how I find myself listening to the Technics/A-T rig quite a bit lately. Man...THAT GE-EEE-TAR P-I-C-K-I-N'!!!!

So...ole you is your modern day Shure M91E least in P-Mount form...Peter
Thanks for this review -- it's very good!
I also have a Technics SL-D30 What brand and model can I use? this is my first turntable.Ive heard of Grado Green and Sure, any advice??
you can add a new elliptical stylus from LP Gear for a nice improvement. But the original conical/carbon is a very friendly sound.