Micro Benz of Switzerland has long been a driving force in Moving Coil phono cartridges. From their entry level to their exalted reference phono cartridges, the Benz name has just about said it all. Each model represents extraordinary value versus price/perfomance and resources spent to attain a Benz cartridge.
This review will deal with the MC Gold from Benz, now priced at $375.00 USD. Low output moving moving coil with ellipitical stylus. Lets get the nuts and bolts out of the way with the specifications as supplied by Benz.
Cantilever: Aluminum Alloy Tubing
Stylus: Elliptical Diamond
Stylus Tip Radius: 0.3 x 0.7 mil
Coil: Cross Coil
Weight: 5.7 grams
Output Voltage: 0.4 mV at 3.54 cm/s rms
Internal Impedance: 20 ohms
Frequency Responsel: 20-25,000 Hz
Channel Balance: Better than 1.2 dB
Channel Separation: Better than 50 dB at 1kHz
Tracking ability at 315 Hz at a tracking force of 2 grams: >60um
Dynamic Compliance: 15 um/mN
Set Up Instructions:
Recommended Loading: 200 - 47,000 ohms
Recommended Tracking Force: 1.8 - 2.2 grams
Optimum Tracking Force: 2 grams
Vertical Tracking Angle: 23 degrees
Recommended Tonearm mass: medium to high
Optimum Working temperature: 23 degrees c
Break In period: 30 hours
Warranty: Two years manufacturing defects.
Okay with the obligatory specifications out of the way, we can get down to the LPs used for evalauation:
Vinyl LPs for Evaluation:
Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)
Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia CS 8192)
Paul Desmond - Self Titled (Artist House AH - 2)
Ahmad Jamal - But Not For Me - Argo LPS 628
Bill Evans - At The Montreux Jazz Festival - Verve V6-8762
Bill Evans - At Montreux II - CTI 6004
Sunken Cathedral - American Gramophone - AG 361
No Bass Hit - Concord Jazz Label - CJ-97
Oscar Peterson - Night Train - Verve V-6 8538
Gerry Mulligan Reunion Chet Baket - Pacific Jazz ST 90061
This represents some of the vinyl played by the Benz MC Gold, although many more LPs were used. But this gives an idea of what was used for evaluation.
Turntable used is a Goldring GR 1.2 essentailly a clone of the Rega P2 with Rega RB 250 tone arm.
Preamp is a Threshold SL 10 fully updated with Black Gate caps and other modern day parts. Has on board MM and MC phono section with cartridge loading.
The Benz MC Gold is my first return to low output moving coils since the Denon 103R of a few years back. And no this review will not be a heads on comparison to the Denon 103R.
Between the Denon 103R and the now present Benz MC Gold, I've been using high output Moving Coils such as Sumiko and Denon with very good results.
The existing cartridge was the Goldring Electra MM that came with the Goldring GR 1.2. After 18 months of about 30 hours per week of use it was decided to put it out to pasture so to speak.
After hearing a friend of mine Benz Glider on a VPI table a few months back. I had made the decision to give a Benz Micro a try.
I contacted Gene Rubin and we discussed the Benz lineup. I was initally going for a Benz ACE low output. Due to the many hours I use a cartridge and because I get records from many used sources, Gene advised that the MC Gold would fit my needs precisely. How about that I was going to spend more money and he advised something less costly! Now how many audio dealers would do that now? I happily admit that his advice was spot on and I could not be happier with his recommendation.
Installation was a breeze, and for once mounting screws supplied were the correct length, no going into the parts bin to find the correct length screws. Set the arm balance and the tracking force to 2 Grams. The VTA appears to be spot on without the need to add spacers. About 45 minutes of installation time.
Benz recommends about 30 hours of break in time for the cartridge to fully develop its signature, for me thats about a week.
Straight out of the box upon first playback the MC Gold is a stunner. The MC Gold has pace and speed that belies its modest cost. Sonically pleasing throughout the entire frequency range. It has more than enough bass response for my needs and the mid range is just lucid with detail and transparency that is the hallmark of the Benz name. The upper registers of the Benz Gold are revealing and defining with out being over analytical or overly sharp. For instance an anvil strike one of the hardest to reproduce accurately, the Benz MC Gold reveals the total essence with attack and decay, the best I have heard in years. Jazz Trio settings such as Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson are just mesmerizing to listen to with the MC Gold. The Benz MC Gold does full justice to piano jazz recordings. I dare say if Bill Evans was with us today, he would be using a Benz Micro phono cartridge. Overall I could not be happier with a phono cartridge than the Benz Micro MC Gold. For me it does everything just right and at $375.00 it has to be the biggest steal out there in a entry level low output moving coil. There are indeed few low output moving coil cartridges with the price/performance ratio of the Benz MC Gold. However keep in mind this is not a Benz Glider in sheeps clothing. The ACE and Glider is next step up. But for me the Benz MC Gold is a rock solid stellar performer that will have very long use in my system. One can certainly spend more and get less than the Benz MC Gold.
It is remarkable that a company such as Micro Benz exists today. A small niche enterprise that is only in analog. One can easily understand that Denon, Audio Technica, Shure, Sumiko and others that produce phono cartridges, because that is not their only product and no doubt by the sales of other product they can subsidize the narrow analog market.
And when one really look at the sale of vinyl today. Vinyl records are just a small scratch on the surface when it comes to total album sales--only about 0.2%, compared to 10% for digital downloads and 89.7% for CDs, according to Nielsen SoundScan--but these numbers may underrepresent the vinyl trend since they don't always include sales at smaller indie shops where vinyl does best. Still, 990,000 vinyl albums were sold in 2007, up 15.4% from the 858,000 units bought in 2006.
Though vinyl LP sales constitute only less than one percent of new music sold in America each year, that percentage is growing as more record companies press new albums into vinyl. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl sales have doubled in percentage of music sales since 2000 to become a $110-million-dollar industry. Since that same year, overall music sales dropped to $12.2 billion from $14.4 billion, a plunge that the vinyl industry escaped without a scratch. Of course sales through Record Shows and the internet are not tracked. For sake of argument lets say another 990,000 Lps are sold through those venues. Nonetheless vinyl sales represent a clear market, but nowhere near what they were in vinyls golden era.
My hat is off to Benz for embracing such a market and continue to deliver a line up of excellent Moving Coil phono cartridges for all of us that remain in analog and for those that newly discover or return to analog playback.Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products
Denon, Audio Technica, Dynavector, Audioquest, Clearaudio, Sumiko, Ortofon,