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Tracking ability and relaxed, transparent presentation without noise are things that are important for a cartridge used for classical music, although really those requirements are important for lots of other music too so I am of the opinion that what is good for classical is good for everything.
Two standouts for me are the ZYX Universe and the Transfiguration Orpheus. Of course, to winnow the best out of any cartridge the tone arm is paramount, and the weight of the cartridge and the resulting effective mass of the arm interact: you need a mechnical resonance between 7 and 12 Hz for best result. The Triplanar works exceptionally well with these two cartridges.
I'm just wondering why there should be a "classical" music preference for a cartridge. It seems to me that all the same issues are in play to reproduce any kind of music...wide dynamic range, full frequency response, clarity, etc., etc. A cartridge that colors "rock" music will color all music. I want a cartridge that does it all - and is faithful to the recording. If highs are smoothed over so that one might find violins less wirey, I would look elsewhere in the system to find out where that wirey-ness is coming from and correct/replace that component.
Headsnappin, about the only thing I can come up with to answer that is that classical likely has the widest dynamic range of most recordings. Plus with natural sounds its a bit harder to fool the ear with regard to colorations. So the cartridge should be able to track that dynamic range, be uncolored and otherwise have the combination of output level bandwidth and detail such that the full dynamic range can be succesfully transduced.
But, as I mentioned above, any such cartridge that does classical justice will do the same for any other kind of music as well. Some of the ambient/trance/techno recordings in the last 10-15 years can challenge the best systems out there, so by **no means** is this something that is truly the purview of classical music only. Its just that its a good yardstick.
From my experience,my favorites..in no particular order(and Stingreen is absolutely correct)---
Transfiguration Orpheus(I own it....it is fabulous)...I'm basing my enthusiasm on vast experience with my friend's Orpheus(which I set up),because my analog rig is "down' until I iron out some damn gremlins.It does not seem to have any deficiency that I can "pick at"!
Lyra Titan i..my friend has it,and "HE" is a huge classical lover.Great cartridge!Does it all!!One particular aspect is stunning tonal color,where appropriate.
Air Tight PC-1...I have a few pals going "ape" over this,as of now.I have not heard it,but will eventually.
XV-1s..very dynamic,and superb(loved it).This "did" jazz to the max!Real bounce and swing to the presentation.The system it was in sure didn't hurt it.
Myabi..liked it alot,but it was a bit mopre restrained than the XV-1s,where I was able to A/B it on the same table.A tiny bit on the warm side,in direct comparison to the Dynavector,I felt(just opinion).
ZYX Uni...very detailed,but a tad light in bass.Superb though.Really great with stuff like "fingers on guitar strings",and incremental shadings.This was the cartridge that made me start to think about how I might "not" have done such a good job in my own arm/table's set up.
Allaerts,I did not hear the top model,but felt it to be a little too polite,for my tastes.
I've owned various Koetsus(four in all..Koetsu Black,Onyx,Onyx Sapphire,Urushi) and really enjoyed them.A bit pricey for what one can get elsewhere,but I have a friend who owns the Coral Stone,and both the Lyra Olympos and Titan i......He claims the Coral Stone "rules" on vocal music.He also is a huge classical LP collector.I trust his ears.
**** A VERY good cartridge,for not too much money(though far from cheap)is the "NEW Shelter 9000"....A classical loving,super critical) friend of mine has just gotten this,and is currently going "nuts" over it.I would not go on so much about it,but I know how "rediculously critical" the guy has been in the past.To the point of being almost arrogant,if he does not like something about your rig(and you thought "I" was too raw,two years ago?).So it kind of shocked me,that he likes this design SO much!Which he does.
ALL just opinion,so good luck
06-27-08: AtmasphereI absolutely agree. The cartridge that can keep the inner voices of an orchestra sorted out while presenting a cohesive whole, one that can make the big dynamic jumps for bombastic orchestral pieces, the one that presents the liquid, dynamic subtleties of a string quartet--also works for doing the same things in combo or big band jazz, and makes Dwight Yoakam and ZZ Top sound more visceral and alive as well.
There are some mighty fine cartridges mentioned in this thread, but down here at the trailer park, I'm enjoying a new Audio Technica AT150MLX mounted on an LPGear ZuPreme headshell on my Technics SL12x0 M5G. I got a noticeable improvement in all areas and in all genres compared to the DL-160 it replaced, and the carts I started with aren't even worth mentioning.
Also, the 8.3g AT150MLX mounted to the 12g ZuPreme headshell brings the arm/cart resonance to an ideal 10 Hz.
Dear Caspermao: IMHO all the cartridges you named and almost all the top " name " cartridges other people posted about are different in sound presentation but all of them are very good quality performers.
If any of those top cartridges is matched in the right tonearm/Phonolinepreamp ( everything the same. ) then it will be your " answer ": any of them.
Now if some one think that some of those cartridges ( other than Koetsu's ) are better with some kind of music over other kind of music IMHO I think that that people have an audio problem somewhere in their system other than the cartridge itself.
Here I agree with Sringreen.
As you can read you can/could have so many answers like so many different people/system posted here.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I thought the same as Stringreen, that cartridges at thia price, should be able to do it all and make the coffee, answer the phone. It seems though the higher you go into the high end, the more specialised, the more optimised, for a particular source, genre of music etc, a system becomes. A tad depressing really. Having said that, having used a Koetsu Rosewood signature and Zyx Airy 3, the latter has a greater neutrality, that seems to suit classical better, though both are woberful.
I have a few carts that sound wonderful on small combo acoustic recordings but dont deliver on large scale orchestral recordings or really slammin big band. That is why I would characterize some cartridges as being better for classical. Obviously solo piano and string quartets would sound good on these other carts as well. Mabey the thread should ask "favorite cart for orchestra" although issues of tonality are also at play.
It seems though the higher you go into the high end, the more specialised, the more optimised, for a particular source, genre of music etc, a system becomes.
My experience is that it has to do with intention, not cost. IOW if you know what you are doing you can do very well on a budget, and if you don't know what you are doing it can be a disaster if you **don't** have a budget, you have to know what you are doing. Loading the cartridge, doing a proper tone arm setup and all the little details done right can have a profound effect. In my comments I assume that these things are taken care of.
The sonic objectives may be very different for classical and rock or jazz music playback. Reproduction cannot better (or even come close to) original music event. So, everyone has to choose his own set of compromizes. Any particular combination may be good/acceptable for rock and unbearable for more copmlex kind of music and vice versa. More details may be pleasing for rock, but it is very annoying combined with inadequate timbre rendering of individial instruments within symphonic orchestra. I much prefer my walkman over main system CD player for clasical beacause it gives you at least general idea about music/performance, while complex symphonic music on "big" CD is a complete lie. The same walkman just drives me mad with "glassy" cymbals playing jazz. Generally, so called "classical" music is more demanding for playback system. It's more difficult (by order of magnitude) to reproduce more or less adequately painting of Velasquez, than Matisse's picture. I like Matisse very much, but things shall be put in right perspective. To my mind the main goal of any playback system is simple: reveal as much emotional/intellectual content of the musical performance as possible. More "content loaded" music demands sometimes painfull compromizes (like sacrificing attractive colorations/excagerrations), in order not to loose the main musical idea.
Hi Raul. You single out Koetsu, but I couldnt really understand what you mean. Are you saying the other cartridges more consistent with different types of music?
I use a Koetsu and have been for many years now; most definitely enjoy the Koetsu family sound. I listen mainly to opera and jazz (mostly afro-cuban but other types swing, smooth, big band also) and acoustical. I found the Koetsu to keep its character with all the music I listen to.
Admittedly I have not had the opportunity to listen to the cartridges mentioned by Caspermao in any level of depth, only at shows or at an acquaintance for short periods. Hence my question.
Also, what part of the Koetsu sound do you feel gets lost on some music types?
Dear Paul: +++++ " Are you saying the other cartridges more consistent with different types of music? " +++++
Not more consistent but with a better ( top to bottom ) overall tonal balance specially at the frequency extremes range.
The Platinum ones are a lot better than the other Koetsu's in that regard. Now if you are hearing the Koetsu cartridges over time then your ears/mind are already " equalized " to that quality performance ( that is a good one ) and only through a " shoot-out " against other cartridges in your own audio system could explain what I'm saying about.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I think that many of us are saying essentially the same things but using different words. I agree with the common theme here, which is that large scale classical music is perhaps the most difficult style of music for an audio system to convincingly reproduce. An audio system has to "do it all" in order to get this style of music right. As Atmasphere said, you need full range frequency extension, you need wide dynamic range, and you need very accurate tonal balance to capture the natural timbre and harmonics of all those acoustic instruments. In addition, the system needs to have a very low noise floor and a high degree of transparency in order to present pianissimo passages at something approaching the level of quiet and nuance you experience in a concert hall. On top of all that, all the components in the system have to be able to handle the complex, peak passages with a sense of ease (i.e., lack of strain) that is faithful to the sound of live acoustic music
That's a very tall order. Once you have a music system that is doing all these things at the highest level, you have a system that should do well with literally anything you can throw at it - whether that be chamber music, a cappella vocals, jazz, rock, etc.
However, as we all know, audio is about compromises. And the reproduction of large scale classical music is not at the top of all of our lists when it comes to system priorities. My SET audio system is an example of a system that I specifically designed for small scale music, knowing that complex, large scale music does not play to the strength of simple MTM two-ways or low-powered SET tube amplification for that matter. Similarly, there are a lot of systems out there that do a great job with rock music but quickly expose compromises/shortcomings when you ask them to reproduce subtle acoustic music that demands timbral accuracy and many of the other attributes cited above.
Coming back to cartridges for a moment, I agree with Raul that all the cartridges mentioned in the original post that started this thread and most other top-of-the-line cartridges are capable of the ultimate challenge if the rest of the system is up to the task.