What is the “World’s Best Cartridge”?

I believe that a cartridge and a speaker, by far, contribute the most to SQ.

The two transducers in a system.

I bit the bulllet and bought a Lyra Atlas SL for $13K for my Woodsong Garrard 301 with Triplanar SE arm. I use a full function Atma-Sphere MP-1 preamp. My $60K front end. It is certainly, by far, the best I have owned. I read so many comments exclaiming that Lyra as among the best. I had to wait 6 months to get it. But the improvement over my excellent $3K Mayijima Shilabi was spectacular-putting it mildly.

I recently heard a demo of much more pricy system using a $25K cartridge. Seemed to be the most expensive cartridge made. Don’t recall the name.

For sure, the amount of detail was something I never heard. To hear a timpani sound like the real thing was incredible. And so much more! 
This got me thinking of what could be possible with a different kind of cartridge than a moving coil. That is, a moving iron.

I have heard so much about the late Decca London Reference. A MI and a very different take from a MC. Could it be better? The World’s Best? No longer made.

However Grado has been making MI cartridges for decades. Even though they hold the patent for the MC. Recently, Grado came out with their assault on “The World’s Best”. At least their best effort. At $12K the Epoch 3. I bought one and have been using it now for about two weeks replacing my Lyra. There is no question that the Atlas SL is a fabulous cartridge. But the Epoch is even better. Overall, it’s SQ is the closest to real I have heard. To begin, putting the stylus down on the run in grove there is dead silence. As well as the groves between cuts. This silence is indicative of the purity of the music content. Everything I have read about it is true. IME, the comment of one reviewer, “The World’s Best”, may be true.



For an MM phono stage, such as the one Mike uses, there is no option besides using an outboard SUT or other active gain device ahead of the stage, with a LOMC cartridge.  Thus the sensitivity of the EMIA stage to RFI cannot fairly be judged in this case.  Maybe Mike is comparing the EMIA devices collectively to the high gain phono section of his DarTZeel (assuming it has one).

@atmasphere 1++,  balanced cables are the only way to go with analog signals even with short runs.

yes; the EMIA phono corrector + MC Trio is a package deal; which then can be compared directly with the two high gain internal phono’s inside the darTZeel preamp.

the dart phono’s are very good; overall i prefer the EMIA approach. but then i might prefer it to any phono i have heard. the dart phono is certainly hard to beat at what it does.

my CS Port phono (which the EMIA Phono Corrector replaced) had three inputs; one of which was an internal SUT; the other two were MM inputs which required outboard SUT’s.

as far as balanced cables the only way to go with analog signals, that is a silly thing to say. who has heard all the non balanced choices? no one. i do respect the advantages to a balanced circuit and cables, but things are not so simple as that being the only thing that matters. it's just one aspect to the performance.

once you start creating Frankenstein cartridges, by changing or modifying cantilevers, styli, coils, suspension, bodies, etc, then opinions regarding the net SQ are even more useless than otherwise, not to say that comparing OEM cartridges without respect to different tonearms, turntables, amplification, speakers, rooms, listeners, is a worthwhile pursuit, beyond expressions of love, meh-ness, or hate.

Note: Frankenstein Cart, is a term used that is usually associated with claiming the end product is usually made from parts not selected by a Manufacturer, which then produces a scenario where a product is unpredictable and unique, with only limited persons able to offer an assessment.

As a Sub Context, Frankenstein is made of multiple unrelated parts and is destructive as the result.   

There are numerous Cartridges available that are produced using Trickle-Down Technology from Brands Flagship Models. Each of these Trickle-Down Models would be considered as an inferior model to the Flagship, but offer an essence of it.

It has been seen that a Brand offering a Trickle-Down Technology, where the intent is to produce a derivative version of a of a Flagship Cart', has chosen, not only to reduce the use of the sought-after technologies and design aspects, but also on certain models, include the use an Aluminium Cantilever in place of the more desirable and better performing options that are known off.

I find it hard to look at a Trickle-Down Technology Cartridge produced from this approach, as anything but a Frankenstein Cart'. The uniqueness of such a product in comparison to other options, being the offer of such a variant is available at a reduced fee to the Flagship Model, making the idea of usage more attractive to the mass of interested individuals to experience.

I have no beef with this as a Business Method, I have bought into this method myself. 

Moving on, Return of a Cart' to a Manufacturer for refurbishment.

The likelihood is that the small print is to state that materials will be used that are equivalent for the work undertaken. Equivalent can be very broad in its meaning and is pretty much a statement used with the intention of assuring the Customer there will be a Cart' produced with the Companies interpretation of an acceptable function.

There is not any Guarantee for the exact Cart' that was bought as being returned.

I can't help but interpret that accepting a service under these circumstances, a Frankenstein Cart' is to be produced.

Where it differs from the above is that, not many will be able to share in its uniqueness unless this specific route for refurbishment is chosen by a large number of the Cart' Model owners.

I have no beef with using this as a method, it is one I am yet to experience, but have heard enough to know there are happy customers.

Companies are making decisions for their product that are a derivative of a Particular Design / Model of Cart'. The Companies will be making decisions to use different Materials for Bodies, Different Magnets, Cantilevers and Styli and in some cases Coils to produce a Frankenstein version of their Flagship Cart'. 

Moving on, Third Party Technicians that Work on Cart's.

There are some from this field, who are with very valuable experiences and have worked for, or on behalf of Brands that many would have on a shortlist to own. From my end and in the circle of individuals I deal with regularly, there is nothing being made known that is to be concerned about, if the choice is made to offer a Cart' to a Technician that is known to carry out high quality work, it is viewed as a admirable way forward to let a trusted Third-Party Service sprinkle some of their magic dust on a Cart'. 

It is no secret; I have been an advocate of the method of using a Third Party rebuild service, I find the method totally satisfactory, and know there are numerous other that are satisfied too.

To some the idea of using the Third-Party Service route, is not to be encouraged and is seen to be purported in small groups, as being the least attractive method, and the one that should not be considered.

I can't find any place where there is reconciliation on this very restrictive advice, each individual has the right to experience a Cartridge in any guise as they wish.

There is no Guarantee a alternative option is the better.

What others think does not matter one iota and should not be an influence on a decision to be made.

To have a dialogue with a Company or a Third-Party Service and have a Cart' produced in a manner that considers your made known preferences is an experience that can be had a very fair asking price if options are investigated in advance.    



@pindac why are you ’wed to Ortofon'? If the following is true ( your statement ) then any cart having a few of the basic ingredients might be fine?

It is no secret; I have been an advocate of the method of using a Third Party rebuild service, I find the method totally satisfactory, and know there are numerous other that are satisfied too