Turning lead into gold ?

Ok I'll admit a lot of stuff we read about makes this claim,but how often are we less than satisfied by the results?

I'd make a wild guess and say that most of the time what we hope will make a huge improvement to our sound,never does ,or at least not to the extent we wished for.

Perhaps that's because most of us are not privileged to do a review of the gear in question with components that can reveal such improvements.

To put it simpler,move up to a better turntable, such as the SME10, Sme V arm,and pop in a brand new pricey cartridge and audio nirvana should be a given.

And I would agree, I've just done that.
Moved up to the SME10,SME V combo.
Not the brand new pricey cartridge however.

Where things have taken a turn is that while waitng for my new upgraded cartridge to arrive,I've had to sink a few levels low and resort to an old, well worn Grado Platinum.

This I thought would be like putting re-treads on a Porsche, and about as foolish as one can get.

Who has ever read any review of an arm or turntable where the reviewer ever used anything but the very best most pricey cartridge available?
Mikey are ya lisning?

But hey when you can eat steak everyday of the week, why settle for a hot dog if you don't have to?

So by all accounts the component in review has a best case scenario for a great review.
Most times this is the case, but some stellar casts of all star performers have been turkeys at the box office ,we've all been privy to these.

But I digress.

What I found out when I had to use the old Grado, was that, I didn't think the sound was bad at all.
It was much better than I had expected, and the new cartridge for 6 times the price should be a game changer, or it better be.

Surprisingly, I never heard in past tables and arms how good that Grado was.
It was always an entry level item, a step along the way,to a much better sounding one.
Or so I always thought.

I now have a new found respect for this old cartridge, and also for how great the Sme combo is.

So the whole point of this is to not just pass some time on a rainy day, like I'm doing with the SME/Grado combo.

It's to point out that the measure of greatness isn't just when all the moons align in perfect sync.

It's when you can add something less than stellar to an all star cast and not feel any less impressed by the performance.

Will the new MC cartridge outperform the Grado?
My guess is yes,and I'll be impressed,but that's just what the reviewers would tell you also, so no news there.

What impresses me most about the SME combo is not that it will make a two grand cartridge sound good, but that it has made a well worn $300.00 one sound so good.

Lead into gold?
I'm glad you like your SME....wait until you get the better cartridge in there, and then respond
I think 'Stringreen' will be displeased with me.

I have posted the following elsewhere, so I will shorten it.

30 years ago I was a student in London ont.. I went to London Audio, and was given an education in high end.

Straight to the punchline; The Linn LP12 with the top of the line 'tonearm', coupled to their cheapest cartridge "EASILY" outperformed the top of the line cart on the inexpensive tonearm. Case in point, the tonearm is wayyyyy more important then the cartridge. Do not expect a huge change, just a different one. By keeping your expectations low, you will be impressed.

My absolute best analogue rig contained the Zeta tonearm mated to the Koetsu 'Black'. Please realise this combo came into it's own when the Koetsu was near the end of it's life. A rebuild destroyed the magic.

It has been talked about a lot here. Synergy between arm and cart. is the trick. This is a crazy hobby. Don't be surprised if the grado/SME combo is more 'musical'.

Also remember; a well worn cart. is less susepticle to VTA and SRA. You 'will' have to spend a lot of time figeting with the VTA SRA Azimuth, anti-skate, etc. of the MC to get it perfect. Don't even get me started on the problem of album thickness's changing a few parameters.

Good Luck, and keep your expectations manageble.
The new MC is in the arm and after spinning the first lp, here's my initial impression of a brand new MC 6 times the price of a well worn Grado MM.

Faster, more inner detail,but a bit like a lite beer, definetly not for the warm and romantic types.

Is there 6 times the improvemnet?

Not at this initial stage of the game.

I'll have to say that at this moment in time,the brand new coil is not a great improvemnt over the MM, even after fooling around with the loading in the Steelhead.

I'm not being hard on the coil,maybe the Grado is just a fine cartridge afterall.

I have a friend who really likes the Grado Sonata and he's fooled around with more pricey coils, and still prefers the Grado.

I think I know what he's talking about now.
Cartridges do need a little break in to reach full sonic potential. Also, you will need to optimize the SRA and VTF for the new cartridge. What is the " new " MC?
I don't wish to post the name of the new cartridge,that's not fair because it does need more playing time,but it is from a well established company with some truly stellar products that get high praise in all the major reviews.

I feel that there is nothing wrong with the new cartridge,it is doing it's job.

This post is about more than a cartridge review, it's about how our expectations can exceede our experiences.

In many cases spending 6 times the cash for a new power amp should provide quite the upgrade,as with most speakers etc.

When it comes to cartridges and cd players I'm afraid, things are not so straight forward.

I've listened to some very expensive digtal gear,some consisting of 4 pieces and costing just a few dollars from 100 grand, and yes it is great, but not 100 times greater.

Speakers, on the other hand,going from 1 grand to 100 grand, and things do change.

My personal take on this is that some things that we use really can't be improved upon to the extent that others can.
A cartridge is made up of only so much stuff, and only so many variables, setting aside craftsmanship,but in a cost to parts comparison, we are not talking about a lot of room for costly raw materials, certainly nothing like the parts cost of some of the top tier speakers.

The same goes for cd players, only so many parts makers and just a bit of juggling these around and re-badging them .Again like cartridges, only so much you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd.

I think the limitations inherent in the designs of each also makes so many of them sound alike.

If you can't tell one amp from another, then good luck with cd players under 10 grand.

Please, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking any high end products, it's not all hype or smoke and mirrors,but there aren't always nite and day differences either as you go up the ladder.

I can now see why some folks call it quits afterawhile and settle for where they are at.
Diminishing returns,yes,there seems to be a plateau when reached, it's hard to go any further in either direction.

I remember when I started out, there were nite and day differences, but that's typical when you start out,moving from entry level to higher end gear.

It's when you get to a certain level that the Julian Hirsch mindset kicks in and everything starts to sound the same or as great as the last piece you heard.

I am sure the measuremnts improve as the price of admission increases, but it's not always equated to the pleasure factor.
I believe it is impossible for most of us to make a totally subjective judgement after we have just spent a great deal of money on a new addition to the audio system. Just the fact that you've made the financial commitment will bias you to fall in love with the new at the expense of the old. I try to withhold judgement until several months and many hours of listening are under my belt. As to cartridges, I am absolutely convinced based on my own recent experiences that many relatively cheap MM or MI cartridges can more than compete with many very expensive MCs. On the other side of the coin, surely you did not expect that sonic quality would be directly proportional to the ratio of the price you paid for cartridge A to cartridge B (or insert other component in this equation). That never happens.
But it does happen, like I said, I've heard vast improvements in sound quality between $600.00 speakers and $60,000.00 + speakers.

No one would expect them to sound the same, or do the same things, and the difference is audible and it's not your imagination.

But cd players sound very similar even when you get rather pricey.

Turntables and arms can make cheap cartridges sound much better than you would expect however; at least in my most recent experience.
I used the same Grado on a VPI Scout,Rega P9 and then in the SME rig.

The Grado never performed as well as it did when in the SME 10 table SME V arm.

Inserting the pricier cartridge didn't change my enjoyment of the music or find any hidden nuggets.
It was just a subtle refinement of what the Grado was doing.

I'm not knocking the cartridge, as it needs more time,but if I were auditioning them side by side and faced to make a decision, the way things are now, I would choose the Grado on cost to performance.

So I'm wondering, if I would have sprung for the top of the line cartridge,would it have been that much better than the coil I did buy?

I have experienced more profound differences when I made upgrades to power cords for example, and never had to persuade myself that I had made a worthwhile purchase.

It's just that cd players and cartridges in my experience really don't elevate the sound as much as other components are capable of, and for me, it would appear that the wise place to spend your upgrade money is elsewhere.

I would definetly have to say that upgrading the table and arm is a more profund improvement than upgrading to an expensive cartridge on a cheap table.

To my ears, you just aren't going to hear what you paid the extra cash for.
understand better what you are saying. I used to use a dual 721 for many years with a shure cartridge, sansui reciever and (dont laugh) bose 601 speakers. For a young guy with limited funds, (though the dual was a pretty pricey in its day)I was very proud of the system and it did not sound "bad". This was back in the mid to late 70's and then hear a set of Klipsch Lascala and Klipschorns in two different systems, one with a technics table and one with a thorens and just got blown away. sure i heard pretty good "club" systems with JBL's but for a home system, the klipsh speakers just was so much more than the bose. (the 601's had two 6 inch woofers and 4 tweeters) After that i upgraded my speakers, (got an intial set of Klipsch kg6.6) and from there i have continually upgraded my system to the current version. I do recognize the differences between the entry level equipment and the mid fi and hi fi equipment. When i finally got a michell gyrodec and my first MC cartridge i once again was "blown" away with the upgrade. Then i got an old vandersteen MC step up that boosted my old rotel phono stage and got to play around with cartridge loadings and once again got a big boost from my old MC cartridge. I do have my final system (only because i am old enough that i got to think about retirement and that "fixed income thing") . I know there are probably better systems than my Marantz amp, Maplenoll Apollo, zyx UNIverse, ZYX phono stage and Klipschorn speakers but i love the sound and now really focus on the music and tweaking my maplenolls. (they are tweakers paradise) Now interestingly, maplenolls are full of lead. so i guess i made lead into gold!
Here's an update,the Talisman V2 Gold now has bass.

Did I hit the magic burn in hour?

Can't be sure about that, but what I do know is that I got bass after I disconnected the tonearm ground leads from my steelhead phono stage.
There was a bit of hum with them connected.

I no longer feel that the Talismann is a weak link in my chain, and that it has all the body and warmth of the Grado, with added definition and detail.

The vinyl part of my system now trumps the digital section again.

But that Grado did sound nice for a $300.00 investment.

The sound now is great, but not six times better.
Dear Lacee: +++++ " Surprisingly, I never heard in past tables and arms how good that Grado was.
It was always an entry level item, a step along the way,to a much better sounding one.
Or so I always thought.

I now have a new found respect for this old cartridge " +++++

well this is nothing short of what I found out several years ago with several humble vintage MM/MI cartridges and was on that time that I started a dedicated thread to share experiences incredible experiences on those humble MM/MI cartridges. Today that thread has over 7K posts related and as you many people now have " a new found respect for those old little gems ", I always say that those are : " the missed link ". Fortunately we found out and now we have a " new " realy fine analog alternative.

+++++ " What impresses me most about the SME combo is not that it will make a two grand cartridge sound good, but that it has made a well worn $300.00 one sound so good. " +++++

IMHO a cartridge is only a half-terminated item and its other half is the tonearm.
Whe a tonearm and cartridge performs as two items this means that tonearm is not helping for the cartridge showed at its best. When both performs as one integrated item then all shines. cartridge performance quality level depends in firt instance with which tonearm is mated: synergy here is the name of the game.

+++++ " I would definetly have to say that upgrading the table and arm is a more profund improvement than upgrading to an expensive cartridge on a cheap table. " ++++

well: " in a cheap tonearm ". That is the same experience by Cousinbilly1:

+++++ " with the top of the line 'tonearm', coupled to their cheapest cartridge "EASILY" outperformed the top of the line cart on the inexpensive tonearm " +++++

I never heard the Talisman V2 but I own the Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood ( non stock cantilever/stylus. ) that under my Agon Virtuoso review outperformed ( in my system ) the Goldfinger LOMC top of the line Clearaudio one and ( if you go and read through the latest pages on the MM long thread. ) one Agoner prefers in his sytem his vintage Technics P100CMK4 over his Lyra new top of the line 9K+ cartridge:

and I own some very cheap and humble MM/MIs that outperform almost any big big Kdollars cartridges out there.

One main characteristic where the MM/MIs take advantage over its LOMC " cousins " is that the MM/MI are better tracking cartridges and this not only means lower distortions but more music information that is in the LP grooves that the LOMC can't " read " because instead to always been in the groove are jumping ( microscopic level ) due to its low compliance design.

Anyway, very good experience you had with that Grado and now with your Talisman V2.

Regards and enjoy the music,
This experience has me wondering how good the Grado Statement Ref would sound.

I have a friend with the SME 30,V arm and listened to the Stradivari and then the Goldfinger cartridges, however not at the same listening session.

The main reason I went for the Talisman V2 gold, was because of the way the top Clearaudios worked in his system.Also, the fact that it was in my price range.

I haven't used a coil since back in the late 1970's,80's -Fidelity Research MK13f, and Dynavector Karat Ruby.
Back then the table was an Oracle Delphi mk3 and an ET2 linear arm.

A bad experience with the Dyna(snagged the ruby on my sweater)led to years of digital only and then when back into vinyl, the Grado Platinum seemed like not too much to loose if I had another accident.

I used the Grado in my Rega P9 but it never performed like it did in the SME.

I should add that a friend now owns my P9 and uses an old MC and I never heard that table sound so good.

Like everything else, it's about combinations that either work together or they don't.

I suppose somewhere there must be a list of tables, arms and cartridges that folks have found to work well with one another, and a list of combinations that don't.

If there isn't, somebody should start one.
How many hours did it take for break in & bass to come alive?
Hi Cousin.....Why would I be displeased with you.? In my experience, all components create a synergy with each other toward or away from Nirvana. Personally, I was glad to be rid of my SME V since it didn't work with the cartridge I had in it at the time....although I've heard that arm sound fine with other cartridges with which it just gets along well. I knew Joe Grado well...he sang at the Met in New York, and know well, that he knew what real music supposed to sound like. I suspect that the Grado here works well with the SME...all to the good. My experience, or should I say my appreciation is for the nuances that a more refined cartridge can contribute to the party. I remember the SME being a bit bloated in the bass, and not as refined and extended in the highs....I remember the Grado I had (I think it was the Sonata low output) was bloated in the bass, and not as refined and extended in the highs. Isn't it interesting that the op liked the Grado/SME.....not to say that the op's idea of real music in real space is flawed... I just think that synergy is everything. High end audio is loaded with unexpected pleasures and trolls.
I've grown more accustomed to the sound of the Clearaudio cartridge.
Just as I had to the Grado in a different turntable set up.

I pretty much changed my whole system , the only constant was the Grado.It never sounded as good on the P9 as it did on the SME 10/V set up.

When I sold the P9 to a friend,I never heard that table sound as good as I guess it is capable of sounding .He was using an upscale MC on it and it was very good.

The Talisman has perhaps broken it, the tonearm wires (Nordost)have not.

Maybe I like bloated bass,and the Talisman will have nothing of that.

Real music in real space.

That's a concept that I find is past it's due date.

Unless I sit in exactly the same spot as Stringreen,my experience of live music in a real space won't be the same as his.
Where is the best seat in the house, the one that has the magic?
I also doubt our ears will be exactly the same, and give or take a few dozen other differences, has made me quite aware that no two real music in real space experiences will ever be the same.

We are dealing with recordings and the way the gear reproduces those recordings, which is an illusion afterall.
Listening to recordings thru our gear is all about our own preconcieved ideas about the way things should sound.
These systems are all flawed and it's a wonder that we even like them at all, seeing as they are so far away from real music in a real space.

Even if the microphone was in the exact same spot as your seat,I know for a fact that after all the electronics, it will not be anywhere near real music in real space that you remembered from that seat.

It's a great myth that we like to believe in that keeps our interest in this hobby, but I gave up on trying to achieve that absolute sound years ago.

I have never once heard reproduced sound come anywhere close to what I experience when I play live music.
And that's from one of the best seats in the house.
Not from lead but certainly from copper. See, for exaple,
the Nord Ost prices.