My pick would be the Grace F9E.
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There is a lot of them. The Audio Technica AT 15sa or 20ss. The Azden YM-P50Vl. The Ortofon M20fl. The Signet TK7 or 10 series. The Empire 2000E/4000D series. The Astatic MF-100. The Garrott Bros. P77. The Technics EPC 100CM MK4. The previously mentioned Graces. I could go on and on. All that I have mentioned would give any, and I do mean any MC a run for the money, beating most of them. The cartridges that I have mentioned can be found hear on this site for $50 to $300. It's depressing to know that I currently own a $3500 MC (Benz Micro Ruby III), that can only sightly better a couple of the cartridges that I mentioned. I hav other MC's that can't beat ANY of them!
None mentioned are in production today. All can be found on this site or e/bay, either used or NOS. If you want to know of a MM that is currently being manufacture today and is as good as or better than any of the ones mentioned, then get yourself a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood. New, around $1000. Used, less than half that. I bought my 3rd Virtuoso used with a new Sound Smith retip for $400 last month. This cartridge will take a back seat to NO one. Just amazing!
Griff..., Thanks -- been there and done that. I've owned the CA Virtuoso and Maestro. The Virtuoso is very very good, BUT the Maestro at MSRP of $1250 is noticeably better -- if you can believe it. I recall one reviewer said the Maestro was the best MM on the market today. The open question was whether it was worth spending twice as much on the Maestro as the Ortofon 2M Black???
Well . . . I've owned them all. I originally mounted the Virtuoso and Maestro on my rebuilt Thorens TD 160. I thought the Virtuoso and Maestro sounded just great. I decided to take the plunge into "serious" vinyl and sold the Thorens and bought a VPI Classic. The Classic is built like a tank. Problem is the da*n JMW uni-pivot is a PITA. None of the cartridges I mention above were compatible with the JMW arm, possibly because the JMW arm uses an unstabilized uni-pivot architecture.
I moved on to the Sound Smith VPI Zephyr which works well with the Classic/JMW set up.
This post is obviously about vintage MM and MI carties that withstood the test of time. Notwithstanding my troubles with the Classic/JMW set up, I surmise that the CA Virtuoso and Maestro, and Ortofon 2M Black will join the list of venerable cartridges too, if they haven't already done so.
Griff..., do you think the Virtusos with SS retip sounds better than a stock Virtuoso out of the box??
Dear Bifwynne: IMHO yes. Mine coming from there but if you want the Virtuoso " glory " don't change the cantilever build material: aluminum.
Now, if you already own the Virtuoso and want to hear it again but with some improvement then you have other option: go to LPGear and buy a stylus replacement for the Audio Technica AT95-SA :
the Virtuoso is build by Audio technica and according to experts here on Agon ( Fleib and others. ) the used model was the AT-95 ( while with differences. ) and you can change your Virtuoso stylus for the AT and test it. I own the AT-95SA ( Shibata stylus shape against elliptical in the Virtuoso. ) and it is very good performer if not at the same Virtuoso level but the Shibata will help the Virtuoso ( this came with aluminum cantilever too. ).
This one could help you too:
If you decide to try it then we in the MM/MI long thread will appreciate that you share your experiences about with us, either: through AT options or SS re-tip.
Thank you in advance.
Btw, here you can read a Virtuoso review:
Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Griffithds: ++++ " It's depressing to know that I currently own a $3500 MC (Benz Micro Ruby III), that can only sightly better a couple of the cartridges that I mentioned. I hav other MC's that can't beat ANY of them! " +++++
that's what I found out 4-5 years ago and I never felt " depressing " but excited for the new " discover " and I can tell you that till today that kind of excitement still there. I can tell you that my MM/MI discovery was when I already invested over 100K only in LOMC cartridges. Now, I have two alternatives for my LPs, time to time I listen my LOMC ones and I borrow/ed latest LOMC cartridges from my friends.
Regards and enjoy the music,
I agree with Rauliruegas. The SS retip did improve what was already an excellent cartridge. We are talking hear the SS basic, $150 retip. Yes, there is 2 other options from SS for additional charges, but it requires the cantiliver to be change to gem stone instead of alum. Personelly, I would be afraid it would no longer sound like a Virtuoso wood. You might like it better, you might not?
+++++"that's what I found out 4-5 years ago and I never felt " depressing " but excited for the new " discover " and I can tell you that till today that kind of excitement still there"++++.
If I put a average price (found on Audiogon or e/bay), of lets say $150 for any of the past top teir cartridges we talk about, I could have purchased and been listening to 23 of them instead of just the 1 Ruby III. I doubt if either you or I could wear out 23 top teir cartridges in whats remaining of our lives. I could wear out the Ruby in a couple of years. That's the depressing part. And yes, I'm thrilled that we can still find the old gems and have NOS stylus suplies from people like LP gear, W. Thacker, etc.
Mentioned was the AT-95. this happens to be the same cartridge as the Linn K5 or the Clearaudio Aurum Beta S. I own all these incarnations, and I assure you that they are really nothing to write home about. They not bad, mind you, but they fall way short of mind blowing. I'll probably never mount them on a tonearm again.
Also, I failed to say in my previous post that the TRX3 was an ADC offering that was designed by the same man who designs the ZYX cartridges. If you ever happen to see one, grab it.
I don't think anyone has really understood the question posted here?
It is asking for a 'list' of 'classic' MM/MI cartridges which have influenced the audio world and have 'stood the test of time'.
Please read the thread on 'Great MC cartridges' started by Syntax for a definition of 'Classic'.
It is not solely what you may like?.....and certainly does not encompass modern designs like the Clearaudios.
Dear Halcro, no other agenda here as to separate the two threads indeed.
This is about the MM and MIs - Syntax' is about the classic MCs.
And - yes, there were a few MM and even 2 MI cartridges which did indeed influence me in my journey and which I "liked".
I left this thread "unrestricted" in the way that I did not start with a list (even if I would have a few contenders in mind) - I just want this list to develop itself free and following the minds of the contributors
To accompany my list.....I think I need to describe the state of high-end audio in Britain and Australia in the late 70s and early 80s.
Here in Australia, Britain was the 'heart' of the 'renaissance' in high-end audio.
The States were considered 'crude' and unsophisticated with no credible audio press....hence the need for 'underground' magazines like The Absolute Sound and Stereophile although we never saw or heard of Stereophile till much further into the 80s.
Ampzilla and Son of Ampzilla were about all we heard of America and a little later......Audio Research and Conrad Johnson.
There was a 'known' British sound to speakers....and an American 'sound' to speakers.......and the American was very much derided.
The British mainstream audio press (Hi-Fi Answers and What Hi-Fi) provided unbridled criticism and intelligent discussion into all things high-end whilst the names.....Linn, Naim, Rega, Wharfdale, Celestion, Gale, Kef, Quad, Mitchell etc held sway with all audiophiles and through their connections with cartridge and arm manufacturers in Japan.......the Japanese audio industry was interwoven with the high-end British.
Consequently......cartridges (most made in Japan) were very prominent in the British press whereas I can recall little discussion of those when we eventually were able to get our hands on The Absolute Sound issues.
With this history in mind, my list of Classic MM cartridges would be:-
Signet TK-3 series
Signet TK-5 series
Signet TK-7 series
I certainly agree that there is a good number of very good performing MM and MI cartridges out there.
What I am missing however are a few MM/ MI cartridges which do display greatness.
Is there any MM cartridge (or MI) out there were you would say:
"that's it ! I could live with this one forever - no need for any other cartridge no more."
If there is any such thing out there which didn't trigger my attention so far, I would honestly like to know.
Me myself musing since a long time about having a MM cartridge made to my specifications.
As I for one still believe that the possibilities of this design haven't been fully explored yet.
Do you mean.......be 'faithful' to a cartridge for the rest of our lives to the exclusion of all others?
This was not a condition of the great MC cartridges and I don't think it's in the nature of a true audiophile to be 'monogamous'?
Let me just say that I could happily live with only one of the MM cartridges on my list than any single MC cartridge I have yet heard.
Agree with Halcro.
I could live with the Signet TK7SU forever. With the right arm and phono preamp, it's a monster performer.
Interestingly enough, it performs much better in one of my less expensive tonearms (Hadcock 242) when compared to much more expensive tonearms (Triplanar and Dynavector 507 MkII.). Given the Signet is a mid 1970's model, perhaps this is not surprising as the Hadcock is a much older design than the others. YMMV
**Mentioned was the AT-95. this happens to be the same cartridge as the Linn K5 or the Clearaudio Aurum Beta S. I own all these incarnations, and I assure you that they are really nothing to write home about. They not bad, mind you, but they fall way short of mind blowing. I'll probably never mount them on a tonearm again.**
What those cartridges share is the same housing and stylus plug. The generators are all different. The K5 has output of 4.5mV, the others are 3.6mV. The 95E has 2.8K impedance as opposed to 660 ohms for the CA. What is similar is the stylus/cantilever, cu, and obviously your listening conclusions. I suspect that if you put a different stylus assembly on the Aurum Beta S, you could equal or exceed the performance of a Virtuoso. The generators seem to be identical.
Dear Mosin: It is " weird " that with 100+ MM/MI cartridges you choosed those ones-
I own the three TRX models and I can't remember which one but one of them came with titanium cantilever just like the 205 you name it: pure coincidence?.
The 205 " family " is " orilific " that model I think came from the 70's, the one I own is the 205MK4 ( boron cantilever. ) and I have to say is very good performer as yours.
Dear Mosin: IMHO the 95SA version well matches tonearm and the right phono stage certainly it is not a " classic " one but a good one.
Btw, I don't know about the Aurum but the Virtuoso even that " came " from the 95 ceratinly is not the 95, the electric cartridge specs are way different and Clearaudio made the " fine tunning ": my sample has a better stylus than the stock one and is just great. I will test it with a shibata or line contact stylus because the Virtuoso can shows even better performance if we give it better " weapons ".
Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Halcro: +++++ " It is asking for a 'list' of 'classic' MM/MI cartridges which have influenced the audio world and have 'stood the test of time. " +++++
do you really/honest think that the AT, Signet, FR-5E, Empire 1000 or the Nagaoka ( at least those models ) really influenced the audio world? how? or it is because:
+++++ " It is not solely what you may like? " +++++
Regards and enjoy the music,
I am not able to understand the 'sense' of such list
of carts. One can describe the 'çonditions' or criteria which some carts need to satisfy in order to be on whatever list but the 'initial conditions' presuppose that the most of us
are familiar with the most of the carts. But the most people I know are familiar with, say, two or three carts.
So this is than some weird contest between persons who own
or owned an considerable amount of carts. I do not belong to those but even so I can add to the list of Halcro the Stanton 881 S and AKG P 8ES 'Super Nova' because I discovered those carts, say, by accident. From his list I
know Empire 1000 ZE/X and Signet TK 5 and non of the other.
So I am obviously not in the position to judge about the other on his list. Then I assume that Raul and Herr Professor own more MM carts than Halcro so Halcro is not in
the position to judge about carts which they own but he does
not. But if this is, say, the general situation what is then the sense of such a list?
+++"really influenced the audio world'+++
This is not what I understand, was asked at the opening of this tread.
+++"were able to hold their sonic standard against all fashions"+++
He asked for cartridges that could perform up to todays standards.
Holding sonic standard is not the same as really influenced the audio world?
Regards, Nandric: One purpose such reports serve is to reintroduce cartridges some (such as me) might consider of exceptional design.
Acutex LPM 320-111 STR:
Freq. resp./20-20k +- .75 dB.
Broadband resp. 20-45k Hz.
IM distortion 1.2%.
Channel bal. 33dB @ 1k Hz and 29dB @ 10k.
Eff. tip mass 0.5mg.
Statistics from the 1980 Acutex catalog.
Introduced in 1979, this is a tri-pole induced magnet system in which exists a single strong magnet housed in the body. Just ahead of the pivot block there are two armatures fixed to the cantilever in a "V" configuration, a third is a sleeve along the plane of the cantilever shaft. This third armature serves as a neutral to cancel any spurious crosstalk between channels, reenforces the base of the titanium cantilever and also aids in damping unwanted cantilever resonance.
The stylus is a tri-radial modified Shibata obtained from Ogura Jewel Ind. The diamond itself is rectangular with it's widest dimension oriented 90* to the axis of the cantilever and is a nom. 40% of the mass of a typical square shank nude stylus. It should be pointed out that the 1.2% measured distortion is within usual recording parameters.
Cartridges in the series include the 310e (elliptical), the 312STR (bonded tri-radial), the 315STR (nude tri-radial) and the reduced mass, nude mount and highly polished "Vital" 320STR.
The 320 is tonally accurate. A noticably neutral voice with a fast rise time and no audible overshoot is the first impression. Bass is well defined and decay/sustain is excellent, the cartridge is a confident and accurate performer. The 315STR with it's square shank stylus produces a prodigious bass foundation while still manageing to avoid evidence of excessive bloat or bloom. A sense of presence or immediacy is the hallmark of the LPM 3xx series but the 315 in particular offers a quality of presence I've not heard with any other pickup. The bonded and slightly less well polished stylus on the 312STR makes it an entertaining performer. Initial attack is slightly rounded but remains defined well enough so as to not seem confused in demanding passages.
I firmly believe that one, having listened to the 320-111 STR, would be pleased to add it to their complement of cartridges. IMHO & yada-yada.
Any other questions, Nikola my good friend?
Anyone care to recommend MM and MI cartridges which have great dynamics/attack (like a MC) with detail and tonality to boot? From what I gather, this is something only really good MC do well but thought there might be exceptions.
Someone mentioned to me Grado offers .5mv low output MI carts, and they can do dynamics like moving coils along with the hallmark wood body Grado vocals and tonality. Not sure if this is true though or folklore.
Maybe there are other mm that can pull off killer dynamics with normal mm output, though with all those extra windings I dont understand how its possible?
The Decca London is the only cartridge on my list which have neither owned nor heard.......and it's position at the top is certainly not meant to indicate any ranking.
The London had already achieved near legendary status in the late 70s with George Hadcock purportedly having designed his eponymous GH-228 unipivot arm specifically for it?
Together with the myth that no two samples sounded the same and a near continuous 40 year production history......it deserves to be on the list.
I agree with Timeltel that no list would be complete without the venerable Shure V15/III although again, I've neither heard nor owned.
Anyone care to recommend MM and MI cartridges which have great dynamics/attack (like a MC) with detail and tonality to boot? From what I gather, this is something only really good MC do well but thought there might be exceptions.It is not my experience that MCs possess any of those advantages over MMs. I realise that you are quoting an oft- repeated mantra by reviewers and others but I would really like actual examples to be submitted for peer review? :^)
Halcro, Yes you are right of course for the most part and I continue pursuing my education through Audiogon forums and with advice from seasoned audiophiles like your self and others here.
However, I can see plainly by looking at serious systems here on A'gon and high end magazines that low output MC's dominate in most of the big analog front ends (at least that is the way it looks to me).
There must be good reason for this, no?
In any event, here is a brief list of some analog I have recently had the chance to hear at a buddies house and my brief thoughts about the mm carts I heard during this time.
Rega P3-24 table
Rega RB301 arm and OL Silver arms
Dynavector phono preamp (cannot remember the model)
Ortofon 2M Black
Grado Sonata 1
Shure VST 15 III (I think?)
Good sound from the above but not sounding nearly as dynamic and punchy as presentation in comparison to the same setup using the mc carts below-
Dynavector 10x5 (HO MC)
Audioquest 7000 (? I think that was the one)
Van Den Hul Frog (I believe that was the model, a couple years older than the others if memory serves)
Please keep in mind I do not have the extensive knowledge of you and others here, I am just reporting my impressions of what I heard during these listening sessions.
Also, sorry everyone for not making this a new thread, that proabably would have more appropriate.
Dear Halcro, dear Timetel, actually I wanted to have this thread as "open" as possible. Many of the best MM and MI cartridges are long discontinued and their dampers (guess we all noticed, that "break-in" time of MMs is (if any...) much less than witlh most MCs) were not built to last for ever.
I am curious what MM cartridges might turn up here and maybe get to learn a MM which I have missed so far.
I follow a simple procedure when examinating a cartridge (in fact - this is my procedure in most any audio component I come along and which catches my attention) - I try to get as many technical information about it's design as possible to get an idea what are it's requirements, what are it's inidvidual design strength, what may be a technical/mechanical/dimensional foundation for a certain sound.
As said earlier - I am musing since a long time about having a MM cartridge manufactured to my specifications.
I for one hope to get new inspiration from a few of the contenders mentioned by others here.
BTW - yes, I have found 2 LOMCs in my long journey, which I can (and most likely will ...) live with happily ever after (within a certain "team" of tonearm/SUT).
I yet have to find a MM cartridge I can include in that elusive small party.
So forme this is really a valuable source and I perksonally especially welcome posts like Timetel's which are accompanied by technical parameters.
Dear Daniel, I understand that you wanted to 'cut -away'
some reading in the MM thread and invented your own way out. I am aware of your lack of spare time. But you could ask me to ask Raul this same question. Assuming of course
that Raul has no vendetta with me? Besides he as a curious
person with his learning curve should be interested to know
more about some 'mutant' with possible some added brain capacity.
Dear Nikola, I didn't want to ask any specific person about this - I wanted to get the information/recommendation as eclectic as possible.
There was no reason to direct the question to someone in specific.
Furthermore - I'd rather intended to direct certain contributions away from the "Greatest MCs ever"-thread.
Certainly no intentions to hi-jack any posts from Raul's "who needs MM"-thread - and I can't see any danger for this either, as that thread long developed in certain directions.
I do see my question above going to a different direction anyway.
So far I am still certainly not in the fan-group for MMs and MIs.
I had many encounters with them and I liked quite a few.
But I draw a strict line between "I like it" and "I can live with it".
There is a wide gap between that camps.
I am very interested in the technical aspects of moving magnet cartridges - especially so, as I believe that the topic isn't fully explored yet.
When power restriction was an important point in PA audio, speaker development saw quantum leaps. When the "power issue" was solved in the late 1960s speaker development concentrated on reducing magnet/frame weight.
I see a similar analogy in MM design history.
There is no need/market call today for top-flight (= high priced) MMs - and there isn't since a long time.
Aside from Grado and Decca/London the high-price department is LOMC only.
Would really like to see a few gifted designers to return to an old "field" and trying to bring in an all new harvest of previously unknown quality from MM.
I am sure, that the very best possible MM hasn't been designed yet.
Dear Professor, The nomenclature of many MM brands is not
easy to understand much less to remember. The LPM 320;315;312 we refered to as 'long nose' in order to distinguish them from the earlier models with the same numbers but different looks. I noticed that the 'long nose' got more than the 'nose lenght' of advantage in valuation. I owned the earlier 315 and 312 but alas without original styli and,speaking about styli and the nomenclature I bought 3 wrong styli for them. Because of this 'radical' difference in valuation I assume that the 'long nose' contains some important innovations in comparison ? Would you care to explain?
With pupil's regards,
Regards, Nandric: AFAIK, with the M3xx (square) carts, output impedance is 2700 Ohm instead of the 610 Ohm with the LPM 3xx carts, or the LPM 4xx carts with 710 Ohm output impedance. IIRC, the "M"'s are also higher output, 4.0mv compared to the LPM's 3.5mv. I've no exposure to the "big block" Acutex's but under the circumstances would expect the mids to be brighter/more forward & would anticipate cap. requirements to be in the 300-400pF range. It's possible the diamond on the LPM's are of better (Ogura) quality, Acutex stressed the quality of LPM styli. Just a guess. Or three.
The terminal 4xx series (available for only several years as Acutex dropped cartridges from their catalog in 1992) differ in apperance by their translucent grips, specific grip fitment and mechanically by a redesign of the neutral or negative third armature. This was modified from a sleeve on the cantilever to a lighter tab afixed to the base of the cantilever. There is a very slight trade-off in improved clarity (reduced cantilever mass?) for the very pleasing presence heard with the LPM 300's. One must listen closely to hear any difference.
BTW, out of curiousity did a search of VE's cart database, there's a pantheon of well regarded carts with Ti. cantilevers. The majority wore LC, Shibata, VDH1/2 or ML styli.
Dear Professor, thanks for your kindness and technical explanation. May I deduce that the actual situation is/was even more complex than I assumed ? Ie three versions with
nearly the same nomenclature? Those, as you call them 'big
blocks', are still to find on the German ebay. I must confess that I thought that those are better because they are much bigger...What a pity that Acutex needed to quit in 1992.