Should I try a MC cartridge and phono pre?

I have an older turntable, Technics SL 1300 with a Grado Prestige Blue cartridge. Would a moving coil cartridge and a phono pre be a worthwile investment to try to improve the sound? Or do these belong in newer, more expensive gear?
Some suggestions please, if you think it's a good idea.
Thanks, Sonny
Before I went the MC route, I would first buy a newer turntable (probably a belt drive), with a better tonearm. I owned the SL-1300 about 35 years ago when it came out. It's not a bad tt for your average MM cartridge, but I wouldn't put an expensive cartridge on it and then have to buy a MC phono stage. I don't think you'd realize the performance potential of MC that way. I vote: sell it on ebay and start fresh!
I agree that the usual mass market TT is not really suited for a good moving coil cartridge.
I would do a partial upgrade to the better separate phono stage with MC capability, and run the MM through that (making sure the gain is set for a MM cart. into your pre in a line level input.)
Then you will have ab etter Phono stage, AND the setting for moving up to a MC later...
Best compromise right now..
My $0.02
I'm not an analog guru by any stretch, but when I phoned Music Hall to inquire about the appropriateness of mounting a Sumiko BPS (MC) cart to a Music Hall MMF 2.1, I was told that it would not be a good idea because the bearings in the tonearm aren't made to high enough tolerance to bring out the best performance from a MC cartridge. The MMF 2.1 is a current entry-level audiophile belt-drive turntable, and while it's an unrelated comparison to what you're asking, it does speak to the suggestion of using a better MM cartridge on your table, or scrapping the lot and heading for higher ground.

As an aside, I've since redone my analog system and went to a better 'table (Michell Gyro SE), but I chose to stay with a MM cart (Shure V15 IV) just because I can replace the stylus - a re-tip job is too likely with the fumbling hands around my household (mine included!)
MC cartridge picks up much less EM noise than MM, has wider freequency bandwidth and can improve ANY turntable setup. Going with high-output version of MC cartridge is also benefit to MM in many cases.
Why not try it, and then if you don't like it, try another TT.
I agree with Plato, Elizabeth, MWilson and the people at MMF (who are to be commended for offering such honest advice). Putting a high end cartridge on a low end TT and arm is probably a misallocation of your resources. We're not saying you won't hear an improvement, you certainly will, but you won't hear anywhere near what the cartridge is capable of. IOW, you'll have paid for performance you cannot hear.

I upgraded my entire front end last year. By chance, my new cartridge showed up before my new TT and arm. Being as impatient as anyone, I naturally tried it in my old, low/mid-fi rig. It made a nice improvement, but when the new TT and arm arrived I entered a whole new universe.

Another point, if you choose a cartridge first you may restrict your choice of tonearms, phono stages and even turntables. The higher up the chain you go the more critical component-matching becomes. If you have no first hand experience with higher end vinyl playback, choosing the cartridge first might restrict your choice of related components in ways you don't understand until it's too late.

The upgrade path recommended by the most experienced vinyl guru's I know is: TT >> arm >> cart >> phono stage. My limited experience confirms that this is probably best. I recommend you review your budget with the goal of upgrading TT and arm first, with the cartridge to follow. If you decide to go this way and need TT/arm advice, search the threads or start a new one for ideas in your budget range.

Good luck whatever you decide!
When I went through the MC stage of life my TT was an Empire 598, and later a Sony PS X800. Neither are reputed to be SOTA, but in both TT the MC sounded great. I have since gone back to MM (for practical reasons) but the TT was never an obstacle to MC performance. On the contrary, the higher tracking force used with MC (at least the Ortofon I used) would tend to make it LESS sensitive to arm characteristics.

No offense, but during your MC days did you actually hear a more SOTA rig in your system? If not, how can you possibly know whether those limited rigs hindered your MC's performance? You never gave the cartridge a chance.

MCs are more responsive to low level input than MMs. That's what makes them better, but of course that also makes them more revealing of problems. The fact that MCs respond optimally at higher VTFs does *nothing* to isolate them from a mismatched arm or a poor table. The sloppy arm bearings and motor rumble of my old TT were *vastly* more audible with my Shelter 901 than with my ADC XLM MkII, despite VTF being 1/2g higher with the Shelter. As a matter of fact, higher VTF's will actually emphasize some problems. For example, if a TT is susceptible to stylus drag effects then higher VTFs will make things worse.

Maintaining well-matched components while upgrading is more likely to satisfy and less likely to cause problems than having one component that is head-and-shoulders above other, closely linked components.
Thank you all, I guess it's decision time. My TT is in a separate all vintage system, of gear that I purchased in the 70s. Everything still sounds great, but partly for sentimental reasons I wasn't planning to change any of it, except for cables, interconnects, and the cartridge. I would still like to improve the overall sound though, if possible. I was thinking about a modest improvement like a Creek pre and possibly a Denon 103R cartridge, or is there a MM that would sound just as good at this price point?
If I decide to get another TT, I would probably put it into the newer "digital" rig.
Thanks again, Sonny
If you want to keep the retro kick alive and go MC, the Denon is an appropriate choice. If you lend credence to the MM / matching argument in this thread, here's another suggestion: a Shure V15VxMR.

The V15VxMR is the latest in a legendary lineage that began in 1964... it's still an "editor's choice" reference MM cartridge, and has been improved in every new version. It's a very fine MM cart with great bass, trackability and toe-tapping pace. I happen to run an early '80s V15 Type IV cart (new stylus) on my Michell Gyro SE/Rega RB600. This is very much a case of the "upgrade order" suggested by Dougdeacon - I haven't bought a new 'cart since getting the new 'table and arm, I like the V15 just fine!

Whatever you do, best of luck.
Dougdeacon...To be more precise, the limitations of my TT did not prevent me from hearing a rather significant improvement with the MC pickup. Perhaps the MC would have been even better with an exotic high end TT, but the MC in the existing TT was something I could afford, and was reasonable value for the money. The TT upgrade is for the "cost-no-object" folks.

Incidentally, the Shure V15MR is what I had before, and what I have gone back to now. Recommended for those who retain vinyl as a secondary source. Darned good sounding, practical, trouble-free, inexpensive.
From my experience in modding my Technics 1200 I can tell you that isolation and power delivery are your main priorities.

I would construct a base, either a sand box or air platform. I use a Dennensen air platform. I strongly suggest you replace the stock power cord for a VenHaus shielded (and cryo'ed) wire w/ a cryo'ed plug. Also, I would buy a small ONEAC isolation transformer/filter (like an 1102) from eBay for $15-20. This will improve the strength of the music as well as low level information retrieval. How so? Although the 1300 does not have the quartz locked speed sensing/correction mechanism the newer models do, it still has one. The less noise and the more readily power is available, the more speed/rotational stability the platter will have.

I would not concern myself about using a MC. With direct drives like yours I don't think it's that critical. The deck has enough torque to plow through transients. I do have two cartridges: an Ortofon X5 (MC) and a KAB modded Stanton Groovemaster (MM). I am using the Stanton and don't miss the MC at all.

You have not stated what your source equipment is, so I don't know if you have a receiver or a preamp. The most logical course of action for me would be to add a cryo'ed outlet and good filtration to your receiver/pre/whatever. That will automatically lower noise floor and add low level resolution, bringing out more music...
I still say try it and see if you like it and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.
Psychicanimal, Just to let you know, I'm using an SAE MK IX
preamp into a Marantz model 250 (until I get the Phase Linear 400 upgraded). Thanks for the info.
Rwwear, I feel like I'm being baited here, but the plan IS to try IT, as soon as I know what IT is. I thought that's what these forums were all about??? Still looking for a possible MC phono pre suggestion, got any ideas?
If you have a phono stage now that works with a moving magnet cartridge, it will work with a high output moving coil. But, I prefer low output models and they require a lot of gain that would be too expensive just to experiment with.

I agree with Rwwwear that a high output MC is kind of pointless. They give away the biggest advantage of MCs, low moving mass, which improves responsiveness, tracing accuracy and detail retrieval.

If you *do* decide to try a low output MC, many of us prefer to use a stepup transformer into a MM phono stage rather than a high gain MC phono stage. Some of the very best systems used by members here are set up this way, and mine is too! :)

The K&K stepup is available on VA for $200ish, and is quite well regarded. There are others too of course, mostly more expensive. You could try this without investing in an expensive MC phono stage, and sell it pretty easily if you decided to take another path. Does that help?

BTW, glad to see you're upgrading the PL400. Make sure you change all the caps. Like so many others, mine shorted out many years ago and took the speakers with them. I've still got the thing in the basement if you want it for spares. Also the 4000 pre.
Go with the K&K, I love it! If that's what you need, you can't go wrong.
Dougdeacon, you mentioned VA in your post, don't know what that is? Would the Denon 103R be a good choice with the
K&K? Price wise, these would be just right, for now.
The Phase Linear is actually still working very well, but occasiionally blows out the speaker fuse, when turning on. I have a friend that might be interested in your old PH stuff, I'll let you know. Thanks, Sonny
Use of a transformer is a good idea. I used one for a while, and thought that I would hear an improvement when I got a preamp with MC input. No so. Transformer was just as good.
Sonny, no matter which way you go you will need to address noise control--especially if you go for moving coils. Having a DD table I'd not be too concerned about MCs.

Sorry for the lingo, VA is Vinyl Asylum. Go to A link to K&K Audio is in the upper right hand corner. The FAQ's are VERY useful, or you can click on Vinyl for the discussion forum.

The K&K stepups can be set up to work with the the 103R just fine. That cartridge is pretty low output so you'll probably need more gain than some other cartridges would. Ask Kevin at K&K, he'll walk you through the whole thing. He may (should) ask for the gain of your phono and line stages, as I did earlier. He'll need to know this to choose the best turns ratio for the transformers. (The higher the turns ratio, the more gain you get from the transformer.)

Ask him about loading for the 103R when running through a stepup transformer also.

I'd certainly be willing to clear out 2-3 cubic feet in the basement by finding a good home for the PL stuff. I've even got the walnut cabinets. Have your friend email me if interested.
Psychicanimal, I guess what I am missing here is that the direct drive makes noise or hum that gets picked up by the more sensitive MC cartridges? Yes? I would still like to improve the sound anyway, up to a certain price point. Let the Law of Diminishing Returns control the $$$.
Not if the cartridge is shielded.
Iseekheils...I never had any hum problem. Actually, because the MC circuit is much lower impedance than MM it is LESS sensitive to magnetic fields that cause hum. Same reason why transistorized preamps, with 50 ohm output impedance are less likely than 600 ohm tube preamps to have hum pickup in interconnects.
In general the quartz digital drive has the least amount of EM noise compared to AC or idler-wheel DC motors. The only consern in DD tables is influence of the power supply EM noise that very often located inside the TT chassis and somewhat transfered vibration of the digital quartz clock to the platter. Depending on the design quality, DD table can even be more quiet than idler-wheel or AC- belt-driven ones. As I previousely mentioned, if you have MM and MC cartridge with the same output voltage, MC cartridge will pick up substantiall less EM noise and will have wider freequency bandwidth in ALL cases, thus will improve ANY turntable.