Rookie questions - toneam and cartridge

Hi all! I'm fairly new to the analog scene and I'm hoping I can get some good advice. I recently aquired an older JVC turntable. I know that's not a name that inspires any awe in the turntable world, but this model (QL-Y66F) seems very well built and in excellent shape. At any rate, it's just an experiment for me...

My first question regards the tonearm. The unit came with two tonearms - one S-shaped and the other straight. The manual mentions them both but says nothing about why one would choose one over the other. Can anyone give me some insight here?

My second question is about the choice of cartridge. Currently the unit has a Shure M91ED. I have no idea what the condition is, but I have found several place which stock replacement stylii for this cartridge, so it would be easy and cheap enough to freshen it up. The question is whether or not to bother. Is this a decent and appropriate cartridge for the turntable or should I look into another cartridge altogether? And if so (new cartridge), what would be a good suggestion in an inexpensive cartridge? I don't want to over-equip the turntable in terms of a high-end cartridge. If I decide I like analog enough, I'll likely dump this turntable in time and pick up something better.

Thanks for your suggestions,
'S' vs straight, cholcolate vs vanilla, well not quite but....
The big effect of the tone arm is to maintain a geometry across the disk, and to hold the cartridge rigidly and yet allow the 'system' to pickup all the nuances of the groove. There are many great tone arms of both shapes and ultimatly it becomes a preference, and a question of match with the table and cartridge.
W/ respect to the cartridge, I am not familiar w/ the shure; however insofar as you are new to this, re-tip it and try both arms, once you can tell the difference between them, start to look at different cartridges.....
Happy listening!
Welcome to analog, RLW. You are probably going to want to stick with MM cartridges for now as there aren't many low price point MC's that are worth fooling with. (Possible exception is the DL-103, but then you'd still need a high gain phono pre.) Somthing in the Grado or Rega line or some have reported liking the latest version of the Shure V-15.

For your purposes, a used cartridge might be the way to go if you could get some assurance of condition.

Good luck and let us know how it works out for you.

I don't mean to be harsh, but the M91ed is one of the worst sounding cartridges I can remember. If you are going to judge if, in fact you like analog sound by this rig I would follow the advice Jimbo3 gave you and go with at least the cheapest Grado in the line. It will kill the M91 for sound. I use the latest Sure V15 and I like it more than I had expected to after having some expensive and exotic MC units.Both of these can be had reasonably from MusicDirect or here on Agon.
Unfortunately, I can confirm Maxgain's note on the M91. Had the P mount version in my Technics TT, and before upgrading the 'table, replaced it with another cheap cart (Azden) and suddenly someone snuck into all my vinyl and inserted all these upper harmonics that weren't there before.

I am now trying to off the Technics in garage sales, but would agree the "M" in M91 must stand for "muddy".

Good luck, keep asking questions on this forum. I'm rediscovering analog as well and have gotten invaluable advice here on a number of different vinyl-related topics.


Thanks everyone for the information and your suggestions. I'll certainly look into getting a better cartridge. Fortunately, I have not yet heard this unit (and been turned off by the poor cartridge), since I first must get a preamp with a phono stage - but that's a whole 'nother story...

RLW- If you are happy with your pre-amp and just need a phono pre-amp, the $30 phono pre from Rat Shack will do for now. There are also some other entry level phono pre's from $100 to $300 on the used market. After you decide what you are going to do over the long term, you can investigate some nicer phono pre's.

There are only a handful of pre-amps that have a decent phono section, so you widen the potential field of pre-amps and phono pre's if you go with separates.

Jim - Well, that's what I meant by "a whole 'nother story...". You see, I'm kind of a minimalist kind of guy and right now I don't own a preamp. I have a CD player with a variable output directly connected to my power amp. I love the way it sounds and I'm loathe to change it, but obviously I must...

RLW- I think there is a way to hook up the phono directly to the amp and have volume control as you have done with your CDP. This may be a function of certain types of phono stages and might be somewhat expensive. I think there is also a simple switching method so you could switch between CDP and phono.

I have no real knowledge of this kind of arrangement, but vaguely recall hearing of such things. Maybe one of our bretheren could shed some light on this?

i believe that s-shaped lower-priced arm will certainly perform better than lower-priced straight one. it's more forgiving tonearm to the turntable quality and precision that more and more present when you start looking for better turntables. at the same the straight tonearm has better resonance control and who knows it might or might not work better, but i would bet more in s-shaped in your situation for the most of the records.
I'm a little reluctant to buy an used cartridge since I wouldn't know a damaged or worn out one unless it was obvious.

I did find a new Grado Reference Platinum for $175. I haven't purchased it yet, but I'm considering it...

(I find it strange that the body is made out of mahogany)

Any comments?

RLW- I don't see where you could go terribly wrong with the Platinum except that Grados sometimes hum on certain tables so you'd need to determine if that might be the case with the type of table you have. Ask around but don't get all wrapped around the axle about the hum issue as there are only a few tables out there that have that affect on Grados and even then it's a case-by-case problem. (It has to do with motor shielding.)

Agreed that a mahogany body is unusual in a $300 (list) cartridge. Don't know that it really improves sonics, but it looks cool!