Trying vinyl, need some help!


For the last month, I have been searching for a good cd player or transport and thought I had settled on a Mcintosh unit when I started looking and turntables. I found a Roksan Radius 5 with a Nima tonearm that was in my budget so I bought it.
Now comes the problem, the cartridge. There are so many to choose from and they are not cheap so finding one that would compliment the table/arm is a bit intimidating.
My Audio Research preamp has 2 inputs for MM, or I can purchase a dedicated MC preamp.
If anyone has any experience with the Radius 5 please let me know what you have tried.
drf24
I guess I should have said what my budget will allow, I would like to stay under 600 if at all possible, cartridge and preamp if needed.
I have read so many older posts about the Roksan and Nima arm and haven't seen a common cartridge. 
This Grado Sonata would be a perfect match with that tonearm with the mass of the arm of 11 grams!
https://www.needledoctor.com/Grado-Sonata-V2-Reference
Why not just stay with MM phono stage, but upgraded it to 100k Ohm with Vishay naked Foil Resistors? You can use some of the best MM cartridge with your phono stage without any needs for an MC and MC phono stage. Loaded your MM cartridge with 100k Ohm you will get an amazing sound quality compared to standard 47k Ohm. The cost of this upgrade is nothing. Those resistors available from Texas Components (USA) on ebay. This is the best resistors for audio available today. Highly recommended! 

BTW with your budget you can buy some killer MM from the 70s/80s era, something like AT20SLa or Grace F9
This Grado Sonata would be a perfect match with that tonearm with the mass of the arm of 11 grams!
Thanks for the suggestion. Taking a closer look at the Grado

Loaded your MM cartridge with 100k Ohm you will get an amazing sound quality compared to standard 47k Ohm.
Seems there is a lot more to learn about vinyl than just buyin a record and playing it.
@drf24 you can pay less to get much better quality if you will look for MM/MI cartridges made on peak of the MM boom (in the 70s). This is one of them with nude Shibata stylus tip.

Yes, the 100k Ohm option will open up the potential of almost any MM/MI cartridge, simply locate 47k Ohm resistors inside your phono stage and replace them with Vishay 100k Ohm resistors, it will take 15 minutes. Thanks to Raul and Lewm for this advice. 

There you go (you need two, select 100k ohm value): https://www.ebay.com/itm/Texas-Components-TX2575-Naked-Foil-Audio-Resistor-at-0-1-or-better-TX2352-v... 

@chakster Thanks again, ordering a set of the 100k right now. The SP-4 has 3 phono inputs, mine doesn't have the head amp option installed though. I can change one of the inputs to 100k and leave the other alone.
Found a few AT20SLa on ebay.
Thanks again for the info, very much appreciated!
The Dynavector 10X5 High output MC $650! This is the best $650 cartridge you can buy imo. This will work very well with your MM phonostage. The dynavector sounds very lively and dynamic, itll make you want to stand up and dance or at least tap your foot!


Matt M

If your just starting out I would not start by opening your pre-amp and taking a soldering iron to it (sorry chakster). stick with the proven and when you get comfortable then start experimenting. Most MM manufactures build for 47k ohms you would get more out of the MM cart by having selectable capacitance. MC you want selectable resistance (or as we say loading it).

I would also say as some others get a quality MC and add a Step up transformer or MC phono section. there are many out now for reasonable money (under$1k, even under $500) that will sound great.

the Dyna above is a good choice also look at the Audio technical carts they make many that are stellar performers for the dollar a few outstanding ones for under $500 (OC9 comes to mind).

@glennewdick

Most MM manufactures build for 47k ohms you would get more out of the MM cart by having selectable capacitance. MC you want selectable resistance (or as we say loading it).

This is not true, nearly ALL top quality MM cartridges are made for 47-100k Ohm preamps and this stated in the manuals for all the best cartridges made by Grace, Victor, Audio-Technica etc. If you don’t know this plz just search online. Nowadays nobody cares about MM cartridges that much like it was the the 70s/80s.

I have had one of the best Dynavector (high output) and Audio-Technica MC ART-2000 wich is much better than OC9. They are good cartridges, but all of them must be re-tipped and that’s not cheap. All those LOMC require an expensive MC preamp or an expensive SUT. High output MC are sensitive to loading. This is all too complicated and much more expensive than a decent MM cartridge!

And as i said when you change 47k resistors to 100k resistors none of those MC will sound any better than MM cartridge. Instead of spending $500-1000 for a SUT or to pay extra for MC preamp, anyone can spend $36 for Vishay Naked Foil 100k resistors first.

Instead of paying $500 for retip anyone can use replacement stylus for MM cartridges for less with the most advanced cantilevers (beryllium) and diamonds like Shibata. Styli for the AT20SLa still available.

Also your MC cartridges are mid compliance, while the AT20SLa is a high compliance cartridge with much better tracking ability.

The MM cartridge is the FIRST THING to try if the budget is limited and also must have for anyone who still believe that more expensive MC is superior. It will be not easy to find a multi thousands MC cartridge to beat reasonably priced MM carts like Audio-Technica AT-ML170, Grace F14, Pioneer PC-1000 mk2, Glanz MFG-61, Victor X-1 or X-1II ... just to name a few. And the prices for all of them are $600-1500 even if they are NOS in the boxes. Garott Brothers still makes great MM cartridges, i believe SoundSmith MI cartridges are also very good for those who would like to avoid any used cartridges.

It’s easy to ignore all that SUT game and LOMC stuff, additional cables, very expensive high gain phono preamps etc. The high output MC are inferior to the LOMC in most cases.

So what is the reason you’re recommending an average MC cartridge to a person with $600 budget? And why not to upgrade the phono stage if it cost just $36 for the best audio resistors ever made and 15 minutes of soldering time?

There is a lecture of Peter Ledermann of the SoundSmith online, he could explain better why MC should be avoided, he’s the one who repaired many thousands of them. https://youtu.be/F65mODzn4Gk

I don’t understand all that hype about LOMC cartridges even with my own experience with some of the "very good" LOMC such as Zyx Airy, Zyx Premium 4D, Ortofon MC2000, Fidelity-Research FR-7f, PMC-3 ... and various HOMC cartridges.

It’s much easier to make your MM cartridge sounds great first (and it is sounds great) before investing serious cash for LOMC, then it’s easy to be dissapointed about the whole myth of LOMC, compared to some nice vintage MM and MI.


I upgraded my old Grado masters series to a new reference master 2. Grado are amazing. The cart assists in isolation and is utterly transparent. It sounds better than cds and even hd playback imo. The Grado sonata is a solid place to start. they are an American company located in Brooklyn and make everything there. They invented the stereo cartridge in the 40’s? 30’s? and still hold the patent to this day. I believe they will also take certain of their carts back when you are ready to upgrade and will offer a discount on the new piece. No I don’t work for them just very enthused.
@brianmoriarty 
Have you seen this video about Grado Labs https://youtu.be/L2ZpJHGYMC8 ? Very interesting. 

One of the best Grado MI i have ever heard is Joseph Grado signature XTZ model from the 80s, the price was $750 back in the days. I've managed to find NOS sample in the original box. This is a very special cartridge from Joseph Grado himself (RIP).  
Thanks Chakster, yes I had seen that before. What a great story of a family business producing headphones and cartridges that compete with the likes of sennheiser.
@glennewdick
If your just starting out I would not start by opening your pre-amp and taking a soldering iron to it (sorry chakster).
The preamp is already torn down. I am in the middle of cleaning, inspecting, and replacing any bad caps. The SP-4 has 2, actually, it has 3 phono inputs, 2 MM and 1 optional MC
I think what chakster is trying to say is, on a budget and just starting out optimize/play with what you have, keep the money to a minimum. Who knows I may hate the sound and never use it.
Get rid of that SP4! A bad sounding SS preamp - and an embarrassment for ARC! Get an SP6 instead - all tube and still a contender against today's multi-kilobuck preamps! I OWN one - a TRUE classic from the Bill Johnson era!
MC cartridges beat MM and MI cartridges for sound quality and information retrieval from those vinyl grooves - contrary to what the untutored say! My experience goes back 40 years! Limited budget? Try the Denon 103R on your Pioneer - I have the same setup! 
Your sp-4 is fine. I’m sure sounds great in your system. And good for you having to know how to replace the caps and take on the soldering with the resistors. It will probably take me a month of reading and YouTube videos before I took on such a task. Really anxious to hear how your project comes out and what phono cartridge you go with. I love a good mystery!
Correction, Grado holds the patent on the stereo moving coil cart. 
@ roberjerman Very opinionated aren't you? I picked up the SP4 for $300, a very quick look at SP6 prices puts it in the 1500-2000 range. I wasn't really looking for advice on my preamp, I was hoping to find someone with the same or similar turntable and what cartridge they were using. The sound of a particular piece of equipment is subjective. I am only trying to wade through hundreds of choices in cartridges to hopefully get lucky and find a cartridge that mates well with the turntable and plays sweet music!
@ brianmoriarty No clue what the SP4 sounds like yet, I tested it for functionality as soon as it showed up and began tearing it down to clean and modify. Oh and I looked at the Grado Masters, I am leaning towards the Grado for now.

Thanks to all for your input, help, and opinions. It has helped narrow a large choice down to 30 to 40!
I'm basing my opinion of the SP4 on The Audio Critic's test in 1977 (Preamp Survey). I recommend you read this report! And I only paid $800 for my SP6 (in original factory box!).                              Regarding cartridges: any of the upper-tier Grados will do! I still have my vintage G1+ mounted in a headshell as a backup spare!
You said your budget was under $600. The last time I looked the Grado Master was $1000!
@donvito101 Ah yes you are right, but I found one with about 50 hours of use on it for $600, so it is also in range!
@ roberjerman I guess from a performance standpoint the moving coil IMO would be the better choice. Less mass to accelerate/decelerate would give the cleaner more accurate information, I know this isnt always true in practice but I guess the only way to find out is to buy a MC and MM at the same price point and see which one I enjoy more.
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@drf24

I know this isnt always true in practice but I guess the only way to find out is to buy a MC and MM at the same price point and see which one I enjoy more.

The key is not the price point, but a quality of the cartridge, MM is always cheaper. Top quality MM at $700 (used) can beat $3000 MC with ease.

@roberjerman

MC cartridges beat MM and MI cartridges for sound quality and information retrieval from those vinyl grooves - contrary to what the untutored say! My experience goes back 40 years! Limited budget? Try the Denon 103R

Do yourself a favor, listen to Mr. Peter Ledermann’s (SoundSmith) speach about MI vs. MC in this video https://youtu.be/F65mODzn4Gk He’s the guy who refurbishing your MC cartridges every day for ages. If that’s not enouph read this thread and you will discover amazing MM/MI cartridges https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/who-needs-a-mm-cartridge-type-when-we-have-mc Another great article about how close is the MM to the master tape is here: http://www.regonaudio.com/Stanton881AudioTechnicaATML70.html
MC cartridges are not bad, just 3 times more expensive when it comes to a good ones (if they are used) and 10 times more expensive if they are brand new + the cost of the SUT or high gain phono stage (even for your cheap Denon 103). 

No, your cheap DENON-DL103R MC does not extract the information from the vinyl groove, because it has an awful conical stylus tip, more about styli here: https://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?t=22894 The truth is truth, even if you’re a beliver. This is just an entry level MC cartridge, designed in the 60s to play records on NHK Radiostation in Japan.


Why not do what I did, I bought a used MC cart (Lyra Delos) for a be price of a new MM cart and I have been very happy with it.
donvito1You said your budget was under $600. The last time I looked the Grado Master was $1000!

The Grado masters is a grand however the sonata is $600ish.
For the time being, I ordered a Sumiko Pearl until I make my mind up. I am hoping to be able to find a place near by to take some time to listen.
Thanks for all the input! It gets confusing but I am sure it will begin to make sense as time goes.
oops, so you ordered the worst :) 
It’s true the Denon 103r is not the be all end all but it is amazingly musical for the money. 
Then you can always take the upgrade path.