Audio Technica AT-150MLX
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Thanks Wc65mustang. I'm a bit nervous of ATs as they have a reputation for being bright and sterile..? I guess I mentioned wanting to keep the budget down, but... maybe I need to step it up as the mid-life crisis has arrived and I don't see a Camero in my future. I'm not even sure id my set-up merits a higher end cartridge. I did really love the Decca but it'd a bit tough to live with. So, any other suggestions for a 12" Jelco 750 on a nice 401 into a Croft Micro and Eico 35s with Quad ESLs?
Send your Decca/London to John Wright for a rebuild with a Paratrace tip. You will be astonished how good it is. The Deccas prefer 33k loading according to John.
My Decca C4E is astonishingly good and i prefer it to my Allaerts MC1B. I posted a review elsewhere on the Decca and my TRON 7 phono stage.
Ditto on the Ortofon Black. I have been an MC fan for years, with the Lyra Delos my current MC, but recently I added a MM rig and chose the Black becuase it sounds so much like an MC with that incredibly good tracking shibata stylus. The Ortofon Bronze might be a strong second contender for substantially less $$$.
OK, after some delays in the mail the refurbished Decca Super Gold came back with a new Paratrace stylus (and tie cord).
Under the magnifying glass, the diamond looks very fine and thin after the rock that was there before. JW says it was 75% worn but honestly, despite using a magic eraser, it was playing pretty badly. Maybe the cord had stretched with wear - it was after all 25+ years old.
Anyhow, JW didn't return the mounting screws which was a bit of a pain as all the ones I had were a little too long. I had to add a brass nut between the bolt and the top of the headshell so the screw didn't punch the top of the can. The extra weight meant moving the balance weight a little further back on the arm.
There is one particular track that I use as a test for detail. Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen has some tinkling bells that are barely audible (they brought them forward in the mix for the remaster) at the start of the track. With the old Decca, they were barely audible. With the re-tip, they are crystal clear and hang in space. This is a good start! Julie Andrews "Before I Gaze At You Again" from Camelot on RCA 1960 is three dimensional with wonderful richness, a palpable presence in the room. This is a very dynamic recording but there was no evidence of sibilance or tracking error despite what Julie could throw at it. Interestingly, I really didn't pay much attention to set up. VTF 1.8gr, VTA -dunno tonearm is parallel to the record. SRA, no idea. Azimuth, looks fine by eye.
Next up, Loudon Wainwright "Hard Day on the Planet" from More Love Songs. This is a great recording with acoustic bass, finger clicking and piano, sax, xylophone adding a dynamic snap to the driving vocal. I'd call it post-jazz-blues! Great air and space around the instruments. I'm definitely noticing much better out of the speaker sound stage. Increased depth and layering and ... big and, despite an increase in surface noise, a way lower noise floor. The music is released from the groove like I've never heard before. Now, on the increased surface noise, it's not like before, it's a higher frequency and "faster" noise. Before the refurb, it was a broad spectrum "slower" noise -much more intrusive.
Talk Talk "Happiness is Easy" from The Colour of Spring is a great analogue recording from the 80s. You've heard people say "I'm listening to my records all over again"? I'm hearing stuff I've never heard before. This is not a review about how much more detailed the retipped cartridge is. It is about how the music, the interplay of musicians, the timbre of a bass, the aching pain in Janis Ian "At Seventeen" and Loudon Wainwright "Hosptial Lady" has been released from the recording. There is no coloration that I have yet to pick up on. Yes, it is a tiny bit bright and a little congested on dense material like the emsemble pieces on the 1966 RCA Victor recording of Show Boat. But it's only out of the box. Nevertheless, William Warfield's Ol' Man River is ear poppingly good. What a recording! The bass vocal is in the room and the acoustic goes well beyond the speakers. This cartridge is a significant upgrade. What of the Ortofon? Not in the same league.