Who needs a MM cartridge type when we have MC?

Dear friends: who really needs an MM type phono cartridge?, well I will try to share/explain with you what are my experiences about and I hope too that many of you could enrich the topic/subject with your own experiences.

For some years ( in this forum ) and time to time I posted that the MM type cartridge quality sound is better than we know or that we think and like four months ago I start a thread about: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?eanlg&1173550723&openusid&zzRauliruegas&4&5#Rauliruegas where we analyse some MM type cartridges.

Well, in the last 10-12 months I buy something like 30+ different MM type phono cartridges ( you can read in my virtual system which ones. ) and I’m still doing it. The purpose of this fact ( “ buy it “ ) is for one way to confirm or not if really those MM type cartridges are good for us ( music lovers ) and at the same time learn about MM vs MC cartridges, as a fact I learn many things other than MM/MC cartridge subject.

If we take a look to the Agon analog members at least 90% of them use ( only ) MC phono cartridges, if we take a look to the “ professional reviewers “ ( TAS, Stereophile, Positive Feedback, Enjoy the Music, etc, etc, ) 95% ( at least ) of them use only MC cartridges ( well I know that for example: REG and NG of TAS and RJR of Stereophile use only MM type cartridges!!!!!!!! ) , if we take a look to the phono cartridge manufacturers more than 90% of them build/design for MC cartridges and if you speak with audio dealers almost all will tell you that the MC cartridges is the way to go.

So, who are wrong/right, the few ( like me ) that speak that the MM type is a very good alternative or the “ whole “ cartridge industry that think and support the MC cartridge only valid alternative?

IMHO I think that both groups are not totally wrong/right and that the subject is not who is wrong/right but that the subject is : KNOW-HOW or NON KNOW-HOW about.

Many years ago when I was introduced to the “ high end “ the cartridges were almost MM type ones: Shure, Stanton, Pickering, Empire, etc, etc. In those time I remember that one dealer told me that if I really want to be nearest to the music I have to buy the Empire 4000 D ( they say for 4-channel reproduction as well. ) and this was truly my first encounter with a “ high end cartridge “, I buy the 4000D I for 70.00 dls ( I can’t pay 150.00 for the D III. ), btw the specs of these Empire cartridges were impressive even today, look: frequency response: 5-50,000Hz, channel separation: 35db, tracking force range: 0.25grs to 1.25grs!!!!!!!!, just impressive, but there are some cartridges which frequency response goes to 100,000Hz!!!!!!!!!!

I start to learn about and I follow to buying other MM type cartridges ( in those times I never imagine nothing about MC cartridges: I don’t imagine of its existence!!!. ) like AKG, Micro Acoustics, ADC, B&O, Audio Technica, Sonus, etc, etc.

Years latter the same dealer told me about the MC marvelous cartridges and he introduce me to the Denon-103 following with the 103-D and the Fulton High performance, so I start to buy and hear MC cartridges. I start to read audio magazines about either cartridge type: MM and Mc ones.

I have to make changes in my audio system ( because of the low output of the MC cartridges and because I was learning how to improve the performance of my audio system ) and I follow what the reviewers/audio dealers “ speak “ about, I was un-experienced !!!!!!!, I was learning ( well I’m yet. ).

I can tell you many good/bad histories about but I don’t want that the thread was/is boring for you, so please let me tell you what I learn and where I’m standing today about:

over the years I invested thousands of dollars on several top “ high end “ MC cartridges, from the Sumiko Celebration passing for Lyras, Koetsu, Van denHul, to Allaerts ones ( just name it and I can tell that I own or owned. ), what I already invest on MC cartridges represent almost 70-80% price of my audio system.

Suddenly I stop buying MC cartridges and decide to start again with some of the MM type cartridges that I already own and what I heard motivate me to start the search for more of those “ hidden jewels “ that are ( here and now ) the MM phono cartridges and learn why are so good and how to obtain its best quality sound reproduction ( as a fact I learn many things other than MM cartridge about. ).

I don’t start this “ finding “ like a contest between MC and MM type cartridges.
The MC cartridges are as good as we already know and this is not the subject here, the subject is about MM type quality performance and how achieve the best with those cartridges.

First than all I try to identify and understand the most important characteristics ( and what they “ means “. ) of the MM type cartridges ( something that in part I already have it because our phonolinepreamp design needs. ) and its differences with the MC ones.

Well, first than all is that are high output cartridges, very high compliance ones ( 50cu is not rare. ), low or very low tracking force ones, likes 47kOhms and up, susceptible to some capacitance changes, user stylus replacement, sometimes we can use a different replacement stylus making an improvement with out the necessity to buy the next top model in the cartridge line , low and very low weight cartridges, almost all of them are build of plastic material with aluminum cantilever and with eliptical or “ old “ line contact stylus ( shibata ) ( here we don’t find: Jade/Coral/Titanium/etc, bodies or sophisticated build material cantilevers and sophisticated stylus shape. ), very very… what I say? Extremely low prices from 40.00 to 300.00 dls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, well one of my cartridges I buy it for 8.99 dls ( one month ago ): WOW!!!!!!, so any one of you can/could have/buy ten to twenty MM cartridges for the price of one of the MC cartridge you own today and the good notice is that is a chance that those 10-20 MM type cartridges even the quality performance of your MC cartridge or beat it.

Other characteristics is that the builders show how proud they were/are on its MM type cartridges design, almost all those cartridges comes with a first rate box, comes with charts/diagrams of its frequency response and cartridge channel separation ( where they tell us which test recording use it, with which VTF, at which temperature, etc, etc. ), comes with a very wide explanation of the why’s and how’s of its design and the usual explanation to mount the cartridge along with a very wide list of specifications ( that were the envy of any of today MC ones where sometimes we really don’t know nothing about. ), comes with a set of screws/nuts, comes with a stylus brush and even with stylus cleaning fluid!!!!!!!!!, my GOD. Well, there are cartridges like the Supex SM 100MK2 that comes with two different stylus!!!! One with spherical and one with elliptical/shibata shape and dear friends all those in the same low low price!!!!!!!!!!!

Almost all the cartridges I own you can find it through Ebay and Agon and through cartridge dealers and don’t worry if you loose/broke the stylus cartridge or you find the cartridge but with out stylus, you always can/could find the stylus replacement, no problem about there are some stylus and cartridge sources.

When I’m talking about MM type cartridges I’m refer to different types: moving magnet, moving iron, moving flux, electret, variable reluctance, induced magnet, etc, etc. ( here is not the place to explain the differences on all those MM type cartridges. Maybe on other future thread. ).

I made all my very long ( time consuming ) cartridge tests using four different TT’s: Acoustic Signature Analog One MK2, Micro Seiki RX-5000, Luxman PD 310 and Technics SP-10 MK2, I use only removable headshell S and J shape tonearms with 15mm on overhang, I use different material build/ shape design /weight headshells. I test each cartridge in at least three different tonearms and some times in 3-4 different headshells till I find the “ right “ match where the cartridge perform the best, no I’m not saying that I already finish or that I already find the “ perfect “ match: cartridge/headshell/tonearm but I think I’m near that ideal target.

Through my testing experience I learn/ confirm that trying to find the right tonearm/headshell for any cartridge is well worth the effort and more important that be changing the TT. When I switch from a TT to another different one the changes on the quality cartridge performance were/are minimal in comparison to a change in the tonearm/headshell, this fact was consistent with any of those cartridges including MC ones.

So after the Phonolinepreamplifier IMHO the tonearm/headshell match for any cartridge is the more important subject, it is so important and complex that in the same tonearm ( with the same headshell wires ) but with different headshell ( even when the headshell weight were the same ) shape or build material headshell the quality cartridge performance can/could be way different.

All those experiences told me that chances are that the cartridge that you own ( MC or MM ) is not performing at its best because chances are that the tonearm you own is not the best match for that cartridge!!!!!!, so imagine what do you can/could hear when your cartridge is or will be on the right tonearm???!!!!!!!!, IMHO there are ( till today ) no single ( any type at any price ) perfect universal tonearm. IMHO there is no “ the best tonearm “, what exist or could exist is a “ best tonearm match for “ that “ cartridge “, but that’s all. Of course that are “ lucky “ tonearms that are very good match for more than one cartridge but don’t for every single cartridge.

I posted several times that I’m not a tonearm collector, that I own all those tonearms to have alternatives for my cartridges and with removable headshells my 15 tonearms are really like 100+ tonearms : a very wide options/alternatives for almost any cartridge!!!!!!

You can find several of these MM type cartridges new brand or NOS like: Ortofon, Nagaoka, Audio Technica, Astatic, B&O, Rega, Empire, Sonus Reson,Goldring,Clearaudio, Grado, Shelter, Garrot, etc. and all of them second hand in very good operational condition. As a fact I buy two and even three cartridges of the same model in some of the cartridges ( so right now I have some samples that I think I don’t use any more. ) to prevent that one of them arrive in non operational condition but I’m glad to say that all them arrive in very fine conditions. I buy one or two of the cartridges with no stylus or with the stylus out of work but I don’t have any trouble because I could find the stylus replacement on different sources and in some case the original new replacement.

All these buy/find cartridges was very time consuming and we have to have a lot of patience and a little lucky to obtain what we are looking for but I can asure you that is worth of it.

Ok, I think it is time to share my performance cartridge findings:

first we have to have a Phonolinepreamplifier with a very good MM phono stage ( at least at the same level that the MC stage. ). I’m lucky because my Phonolinepreamplifier has two independent phono stages, one for the MM and one for MC: both were designed for the specifics needs of each cartridge type, MM or MC that have different needs.

we need a decent TT and decent tonearm.

we have to load the MM cartridges not at 47K but at 100K ( at least 75K not less. ).

I find that using 47K ( a standard manufacture recommendation ) prevent to obtain the best quality performance, 100K make the difference. I try this with all those MM type cartridges and in all of them I achieve the best performance with 100K load impedance.

I find too that using the manufacturer capacitance advise not always is for the better, till “ the end of the day “ I find that between 100-150pf ( total capacitance including cable capacitance. ) all the cartridges performs at its best.

I start to change the load impedance on MM cartridges like a synonymous that what many of us made with MC cartridges where we try with different load impedance values, latter I read on the Empire 4000 DIII that the precise load impedance must be 100kOhms and in a white paper of some Grace F9 tests the used impedance value was 100kOhms, the same that I read on other operational MM cartridge manual and my ears tell/told me that 100kOhms is “ the value “.

Before I go on I want to remember you that several of those MM type cartridges ( almost all ) were build more than 30+ years ago!!!!!!!! and today performs at the same top quality level than today MC/MM top quality cartridges!!!!!, any brand at any price and in some ways beat it.

I use 4-5 recordings that I know very well and that give me the right answers to know that any cartridge is performing at its best or near it. Many times what I heard through those recordings were fine: everything were on target however the music don’t come “ alive “ don’t “ tell me “ nothing, I was not feeling the emotion that the music can communicate. In those cartridge cases I have to try it in other tonearm and/or with a different headshell till the “ feelings comes “ and only when this was achieved I then was satisfied.

All the tests were made with a volume level ( SPL ) where the recording “ shines “ and comes alive like in a live event. Sometimes changing the volume level by 1-1.5 db fixed everything.

Of course that the people that in a regular manner attend to hear/heard live music it will be more easy to know when something is right or wrong.

Well, Raul go on!!: one characteristic on the MM cartridges set-up was that almost all them likes to ride with a positive ( little/small ) VTA only the Grace Ruby and F9E and Sonus Gold Blue likes a negative VTA , on the other hand with the Nagaoka MP 50 Super and the Ortofon’s I use a flat VTA.

Regarding the VTF I use the manufacturer advise and sometimes 0.1+grs.
Of course that I made fine tuning through moderate changes in the Azymuth and for anti-skate I use between half/third VTF value.

I use different material build headshells: aluminum, composite aluminum, magnesium, composite magnesium, ceramic, wood and non magnetic stainless steel, these cartridges comes from Audio Technica, Denon, SAEC, Technics, Fidelity Research, Belldream, Grace, Nagaoka, Koetsu, Dynavector and Audiocraft.
All of them but the wood made ( the wood does not likes to any cartridge. ) very good job . It is here where a cartridge could seems good or very good depending of the headshell where is mounted and the tonearm.
Example, I have hard time with some of those cartridge like the Audio Technica AT 20SS where its performance was on the bright sound that sometimes was harsh till I find that the ceramic headshell was/is the right match now this cartridge perform beautiful, something similar happen with the Nagaoka ( Jeweltone in Japan ), Shelter , Grace, Garrot , AKG and B&O but when were mounted in the right headshell/tonearm all them performs great.

Other things that you have to know: I use two different cooper headshell wires, both very neutral and with similar “ sound “ and I use three different phono cables, all three very neutral too with some differences on the sound performance but nothing that “ makes the difference “ on the quality sound of any of my cartridges, either MM or MC, btw I know extremely well those phono cables: Analysis Plus, Harmonic Technologies and Kimber Kable ( all three the silver models. ), finally and don’t less important is that those phono cables were wired in balanced way to take advantage of my Phonolinepreamp fully balanced design.

What do you note the first time you put your MM cartridge on the record?, well a total absence of noise/hum or the like that you have through your MC cartridges ( and that is not a cartridge problem but a Phonolinepreamp problem due to the low output of the MC cartridges. ), a dead silent black ( beautiful ) soundstage where appear the MUSIC performance, this experience alone is worth it.

The second and maybe the most important MM cartridge characteristic is that you hear/heard the MUSIC flow/run extremely “ easy “ with no distracting sound distortions/artifacts ( I can’t explain exactly this very important subject but it is wonderful ) even you can hear/heard “ sounds/notes “ that you never before heard it and you even don’t know exist on the recording: what a experience!!!!!!!!!!!

IMHO I think that the MUSIC run so easily through a MM cartridge due ( between other facts ) to its very high compliance characteristic on almost any MM cartridge.

This very high compliance permit ( between other things like be less sensitive to out-center hole records. ) to these cartridges stay always in contact with the groove and never loose that groove contact not even on the grooves that were recorded at very high velocity, something that a low/medium cartridge compliance can’t achieve, due to this low/medium compliance characteristic the MC cartridges loose ( time to time and depending of the recorded velocity ) groove contact ( minute extremely minute loose contact, but exist. ) and the quality sound performance suffer about and we can hear it, the same pass with the MC cartridges when are playing the inner grooves on a record instead the very high compliance MM cartridges because has better tracking drive perform better than the MC ones at inner record grooves and here too we can hear it.

Btw, some Agoners ask very worried ( on more than one Agon thread ) that its cartridge can’t track ( clean ) the cannons on the 1812 Telarc recording and usually the answers that different people posted were something like this: “””” don’t worry about other than that Telarc recording no other commercial recording comes recorded at that so high velocity, if you don’t have trouble with other of your LP’s then stay calm. “””””

Well, this standard answer have some “ sense “ but the people ( like me ) that already has/have the experience to hear/heard a MM or MC ( like the Ortofon MC 2000 or the Denon DS1, high compliance Mc cartridges. ) cartridge that pass easily the 1812 Telarc test can tell us that those cartridges make a huge difference in the quality sound reproduction of any “ normal “ recording, so it is more important that what we think to have a better cartridge tracking groove drive!!!!

There are many facts around the MM cartridge subject but till we try it in the right set-up it will be ( for some people ) difficult to understand “ those beauties “. Something that I admire on the MM cartridges is how ( almost all of them ) they handle the frequency extremes: the low bass with the right pitch/heft/tight/vivid with no colorations of the kind “ organic !!” that many non know-how people speak about, the highs neutral/open/transparent/airy believable like the live music, these frequency extremes handle make that the MUSIC flow in our minds to wake up our feelings/emotions that at “ the end of the day “ is all what a music lover is looking for.
These not means that these cartridges don’t shine on the midrange because they do too and they have very good soundstage but here is more system/room dependent.

Well we have a very good alternative on the ( very low price ) MM type cartridges to achieve that music target and I’m not saying that you change your MC cartridge for a MM one: NO, what I’m trying to tell you is that it is worth to have ( as many you can buy/find ) the MM type cartridges along your MC ones

I want to tell you that I can live happy with any of those MM cartridges and I’m not saying with this that all of them perform at the same quality level NO!! what I’m saying is that all of them are very good performers, all of them approach you nearest to the music.

If you ask me which one is the best I can tell you that this will be a very hard “ call “ an almost impossible to decide, I think that I can make a difference between the very good ones and the stellar ones where IMHO the next cartridges belongs to this group:

Audio Technica ATML 170 and 180 OCC, Grado The Amber Tribute, Grace Ruby, Garrot P77, Nagaoka MP-50 Super, B&O MMC2 and MMC20CL, AKG P8ES SuperNova, Reson Reca ,Astatic MF-100 and Stanton LZS 981.

There are other ones that are really near this group: ADC Astrion, Supex MF-100 MK2, Micro Acoustics MA630/830, Empire 750 LTD and 600LAC, Sonus Dimension 5, Astatic MF-200 and 300 and the Acutex 320III.

The other ones are very good too but less refined ones.
I try too ( owned or borrowed for a friend ) the Shure IV and VMR, Music maker 2-3 and Clearaudio Virtuoso/Maestro, from these I could recommended only the Clearaudios the Shure’s and Music Maker are almost mediocre ones performers.
I forgot I try to the B&O Soundsmith versions, well this cartridges are good but are different from the original B&O ( that I prefer. ) due that the Sounsmith ones use ruby cantilevers instead the original B&O sapphire ones that for what I tested sounds more natural and less hi-fi like the ruby ones.

What I learn other that the importance on the quality sound reproduction through MM type cartridges?, well that unfortunately the advance in the design looking for a better quality cartridge performers advance almost nothing either on MM and MC cartridges.

Yes, today we have different/advanced body cartridge materials, different cantilever build materials, different stylus shape/profile, different, different,,,,different, but the quality sound reproduction is almost the same with cartridges build 30+ years ago and this is a fact. The same occur with TT’s and tonearms. Is sad to speak in this way but it is what we have today. Please, I’m not saying that some cartridges designs don’t grow up because they did it, example: Koetsu they today Koetsu’s are better performers that the old ones but against other cartridges the Koetsu ones don’t advance and many old and today cartridges MM/MC beat them easily.

Where I think the audio industry grow-up for the better are in electronic audio items ( like the Phonolinepreamps ), speakers and room treatment, but this is only my HO.

I know that there are many things that I forgot and many other things that we have to think about but what you can read here is IMHO a good point to start.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Ag insider logo xs@2xrauliruegas

Showing 29 responses by dertonarm

Great thread Raul !
Unfortunately I do not have the time to read it from cover to cover, but I had several impressive experiences with the venerable AT-180ML back in the early 1990ies.
I even modified 6-7 samples (glued the cantilever-assembly fix into the mounting - this did greatly increase both resolution as well as dynamic attack).

I still hope that one day we will see a MM-cart with really low moving mass or a truly great executed field coil design cartridge.

I still believe that there is ample room for improvement with the MM, MI, or maybe one day a CCP-chip based cartridge.

Moving coil has enjoyed the majority of the enthusiastic research and development in the past 2-3 decades.

Maybe we will see soon something completely new in terms of transducer design in phono pick-up. A completely new approach.
Meanwhile I really would love to see a truly high-end MM-design - one that can rival the best LOMC in terms of resolution and low-level detail - seeing the light of day.

Dear Raul, I had seen several Atmasphere preamps the last years which were - apparently due to modification then - featuring cascaded tube/JFet phono-input stages. Cheers
Dear Lewm, it was Syntax who pointed my attention to this article - so the credits go to him.
Dear Halcro, your analogy
have never been able to listen to CDs played over a high-end system for more than about 1/2 an hour at a time no matter how good the CD player is and I am finding this same kind of inner-body stress occurring now when I listen to a moving coil cartridge?
I realize that the 'analogue' distortions my body is feeling with the LOMCs must be different to those in the digital domain, yet there appears to be a similarity which suspends the belief that I'm listening to 'real' music or 'live' musicians?
This feeling is emphasized when I switch to MMs and my body relaxes into the 'reality' of the music that pours forth.
is very interesting and intruding. There might be a lot of truth in there. As I know at least 3 different LOMC which do NOT have that effect to me, I wonder how a Takeda Miyabi, IKeda 9, FR-7 or FR-7f will ( one day ...) fare in your experience with the FR-64s/66s.
Use the LOMC the way it was designed by the engineers - and its inventors.
A LOMC is a moving coil. A coil has a source impedance (that it common knowledge) and an inductance. The source impedance likes to "see" a matching impedance at the phono input. Likewise the LOMC's inductance would like to see a corresponding inductance at the phono input.
Once you do so the "bad" synergy with "certain" phono input stages vanishes.
Use a step-up transformer whose coil shows the RIGHT FIGURES for the LOMC you prefer.
The moving coil was designed with a matching step-up being the 2nd part of the whole. It was used that way only the first 20 years of its existence.
Dear Halcro, yes - I think I know exactly what you mean and do share that "experience" with most LOMCs as well as with all digital equipment so far.
I however believe that it is a more complex phenomenon not just of the LOMC and tonearm, but of the following phonostage too.
Syntax pointed my attention to an old article on Stan Klyne's website and I strongly recommend giving it a read.
Maybe the "ease", "relaxed" and "organic" experience of the better MMs is in part due to the absence of an ugly by-product of the interaction between the input-stage of most phono-stages and the LOMC.
I will get into this a bit more over christmas.
However I do know a few LOMC (very LO MCs ...) which do NOT exhibit that problem at all. At least not with Klyne ss phono-stage or good tube-based phono-stages.
But maybe the MM takes some vital advantages here in the comparison with the LOMC due to a hidden by-product of LOMCs interaction with the phono-stage?
Did you ever notice this with high- or medium output moving coils ?
Lewm, the corresponding SUT to a given LOMC will have an inductance based on its primary's coil. That inductance will be in a ratio comparable to the matching impedance ratio vs the source impedance of the LOMC. Regarding the correct matching impedance, there are charts and technical explanations in all length and detail everywhere on the web and in technical audio books since the mid 1950ies.
Dear Raul yes, you already mentioned your preference of the MAX for the FR and Ikeda cartridges back in 2008 in a different thread. But I neither asked for it nor is it in any conjunction with anything posted here in this thread by me or anybody else.
Maybe you mixed something up here ?
Dear Raul, sure that is your opinion - it just has nothing to do with what is actually taking place technical-wise and is as such the plain common habit to ignore at least one inherent technical phenomenon of the moving coil.
But each his own....;-) ....
Back to the MM of the month.
Dear Raul, Jonathan Carr is involved in cartridge manufacture and as such his goal has to be to keep the prospective "field" of customers for his products as wide as possible.
Smart and logic.
Furthermore he does not concentrate on LOMCs either (i.e. - 0.2mV and lower output). Atmasphere does design and produce good hybrid stage phono input preamplifiers with high gain. As such he must be "located" - I would do the same in his position - by nature of the situation rather in the high-gain-hybrid-phono-stage-input "camp".
Again - absolutely logic.
If I remember right, you co-designed a high gain phono stage too a few years back.
So that automatically leads to..... ?
A technical relationship isn't depending on how many people do support it of how much it is favored by industry.
But I agree - back to MM ..........
Stiltskin, while I certainly enjoy your down-to-earth version of the english language, which apparently matches the level of your systems sound quality, I didn't meant the phrase "cartridge of the month" in any way negative.

This thread was initialized to somehow re-discover a cartridge design principle which was sadly neglected the past 30 years and has seen very little support by high-end designers.

There are a good number of useful informations in here, but in such a long thread - and with the path followed - there is a natural evolution into a kind of "what is the next MM "sleeper" we haven't discovered yet".
You won't have to go back any far in this thread to find very similar comments by some of the strongest supporters to the topic.

That the inherent humor escaped you isn't anybody's problem.
BTW - even if one could set the world straight (which I doubt for various reasons which are way too complex to explain to some) -he/she wouldn't.
Not because the "world" wouldn't want so, but as represented by you (I am certainly no philanthropist...;-) ...) it isn't worth the effort.
Dear T_bone, the opportunity to get any extra template(s) is a standing option for owners/users of the UNI-Pro to adapt to new tonearms they may add later to their collection.
Each Mint is made for a specific tonearm - I can hardly be blamed for offering the same.... ;-) ...
With the initial set do come 4 templates - FREE CHOICE by purchaser - of a total of meanwhile 30 individual templates for most all tonearms of today - and yesterday.
Any extra template is US$69 INCLUDING worldwide AIRMAIL.
Of course it can only work with the UNI-Protractor - it is part of a system which can only be used in conjunction with it's core parts.
Furthermore you get a true direct overhang template, a true vertical azimuth template, the 1st true center locator which is NO-touch-working AND works with round bearing houses.
And a few more benefits not apparent on first sight.
Dear Lewm, indeed. It's not tube vs transitors. Both can deliver top results. One can design a solid state preamp to sound romantic and "tubey" (ever heard an original Kaneda ss ? More romantic sound than you will ever hear from any tube based design). And there are triode and pentode preamps out there delivering ultra clear and super low distortion ( and only 2nd harmonic if at all) sound.
It is always about good design vs bad design.
Designing audio components is not a religion and it is not about a "camp".
Regards, Timeltel - while I don't share D. Rumsfeld's political points of view, I nevertheless absolutely agree that his summary was indeed brilliant.
IMHO everything - every minor sonic change and effect - in audio can be related to physical circumstances and explained by careful scientific research and measuring.
After all - this is physics.
Fact is, that so far we know a few things which should give certain figures for sure. Problem is, that we still don't know all the tiny distributors to sound in audio reproduction - i.e. we still don't know all what we have to measure and are unsure about how to judge a few measuring results (regarding reception and reflection in the human brain and that strange complex thing we call "hearing").
But - apparently we know that we don't know.
Which is kind of progress .......
Dear Raul, I will not take any side here, but I just want to recommend to everybody's attention once again the ultimate statement by J.W. v. Goethe regarding individual human preferences in all aspects of personal life:

"erlaubt ist, was gefaellt, was sich ziemt" (
from: "Torquato Tasso" by J.W.v. Goethe).

The more simplified english "each his own" comes close, but doesn't capture the full content.
As such, even the experience of "absolute sound" as well as "quality" is - unfortunately ...;-( ... - always in the eye, ear and mind of the individual beholder.
In other words - everyone of us is living in his/her/its own and singular universe.
Thuchan's position is as good and valid as yours (... or mine...).
None of us has any right to judge nor criticize the other's position or taste in sound.
Each a universe none of us can share nor fully explain to the other.
The dilemma of every audiophile striving for any absolute .....
Too bad.
Best regards, enjoy the music and fun only,
Dear Nandric, ...;-) ... "it is allowed what you fancy, what is accommodating" ...a good translation, if however Goethe's "was sich geziemt" includes not just what is accommodating, but what is legal, commonly accepted and ethically approved as well.
So the smart spirit of the 18th century took the safe road home in this phrase.
It goes in a different direction compared to Friedrich's "Ein Jeder werde selig nach seiner Facon".
Dear Halcro, dear Thuchan, there is a technical explanation why the FR-66s handles the MM cartridges so well despite the obvious "high effective moving mass vs high compliance"-mismatch. If you are curious, I am happy to explain that technical background in "personal message" -mode.
Prefer pm, - just to avoid raising any possible (and fruitless) "discussion" here....;-) ....
Dear Dlaloum, given my low enthusiasm in fighting windmills and little spare time, I restrict myself - and thus my comments - to the bare minimum.
The good support some high mass tonearms do offer for many MMs performance, has little to do with their mismatch in terms of high moving mass + high compliance = problematic resonance frequency.
The all apparent spring-mass-system is only one aspect - NOT the only one and certainly not the most important (if however the most widely known).
The answer lies within the construction of a MM cartridge itself, - it's high moving mass and it's (most, if not all MMs) tendency to emit mechanical energy due to it's construction and "convenience" (hint: easy change of stylus .....).
This is not an exclusive feature of the 1970/80ies steel tonearms by Isamu Ikeda, but points into the direction of any good, heavy (for obvious reasons following the above) and rigid tonearm.
That's it.
Dear T_bone, dear Nandric, indeed - that particular tonearm ( I shouldn't name because of known reasons ...) - is form-follows-function is the strictest sense of the term - as originally meant by the industrial designers of the early 20th century. Today in modern marketing phrases we would call it "reduced to the max".
Anything not explicit necessary to ensure full function - or not firmly fixed - in a tonearm ( but not only there) is a weak point of possible sonic distraction.
As few moveable parts as possible.
To the benefit not only of any MM's sonic performance.
This - BTW - has nothing to do with "damping" (damping in a tonearm is always an ultimately futile attempt to cure or heal a self-induced problem - but doing so, one is only jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire ...)
Dear Dlaloum, dear Timeltel, the ability to reproduce a clean square wave response - i.e. fast rise and settling time - is direct related to moving mass INSIDE the cartridge. By their very design, MMs and MIs do struggle with a much higher moment of inertia compared to most MCs. Or in other words: the low moving mass is one key advantage of a LOMC (I would say it is THE key advantage - construction-wise).
I for one would really love to see a really low output moving magnet - a LOMM - cartridge one day with say 0.2 to 0.4 mV output and very small (read: lightweight ..) magnets and resulting vast decreased moving mass.
Done right, it will give even the very best LOMCs a tough path to follow.
Dear Lewm, sorry, but I can't buy that from PL. Core-less LOMCs do have much less moving mass than even the lowest output MI ...
In any case my main intention was to express my interest in a true high-class LOMM design. Dearly hope that one day we see such a thing.
Might be well worth musing about ...... hmmmmm
Fleib, generalization is what it is - generalization. That includes exceptions from a general line .. ;-) .. no doubt, there are (have been ...) a few MI and MM cartridges with very low moving mass.
None of them however (did) set the all-time mark here.
Some MCs have ( had ...) only 5 or 6 turns of wire and the number of turns does not depend on the output, but rather determines it/contributes to it.
Cantilever (length, material/specific mass etc), tip, glue - all this is apparent in all cartridge designs - independent of principle.
Modern phono cartridges do (did) sport moving mass between 0.2 mg and 1.8 mg. The LOMCs (0.1 to 0.25 mV) however forming the major portion of the "low mass-camp".
Each will promote his favorite - who pays the piper, calls the tune.
The german proverb however - "wes' Brot ich ess, des Lied ich sing'" captures the point even better.

But this is not the point here at all.
Why not asking for a modern LOMM ?
We're lucky what we have?
A supermodest point of view.
I for one can't share that humbleness and would really love to see a MM exploring the thresholds of the principle.
So far I think that hasn't been done yet.
There may (still is ...) be ample room for improvement.
There have been some such attempts in the past, but none really going for maximum reduced mass and lowering output to the level of say 0.2mV.
Of course the healthy output is one of the - if not THE - strongest points of MM/MI cartridges as it eases the demands for the phono stages gain stage.
Nevertheless - maybe one day some dedicated engineer might grace the world with a true SOTA MM-design bringing the moving magnet cartridge to new heights.
As for the Lyra cartridge designs (most of which I like): as far as I know, the inherent cartridge design (generating system) is engineered by Yoshinori Mishima - not JC.
The Stanton/Pickering LOs have so much more problems in their design, that neither Soundsmith nor A.J.van den Hul could alter nor address all that with a new cantilever and stylus.

However - I have used and loved certain MM cartridges in the past. All of them had certain merits which still positively re-sound in my memory.
I vividly remember Joe Grado setting the pace (sonic-wise AND regarding price tag....) with his flux-bridging MI-variants in the late 1970ies and very early 1980ies.
While MCs have seen a great deal of attention by many great engineers/designers since the late 1970ies, I wished one of them would sit down now, with a good cup of tea/coffee - take a long deep moment of reflection and start to re-think and re-design the MM-cartridge.
I can't see anything bad in that - nor any lack of seriousness.
A truly great, modern, MM cartridge would be a huge success on today's market.
Dear Lewm, indeed - bandwidth is the key to a perfect square wave. Here however we deal with a electro-mechanical transducer which transforms mechanical declination into electrical swing. As you mentioned, the resulting bandwidth here is a function of several mechanical aspects (mass, polished area of stylus, velocity of damping, stiffness as well as inner resonance of cantilever etc.) as well as some mentioned electrical aspects.
Square waves of top-flight MIs (Grado ...) and top-flight MCs are VERY similar indeed.
In fact indistinguishable.
I have many cartridge square wave screen shots in my library.
A 0.6 mV Grado Reference's square wave looking just identical to a Sony XL-88D (with one-piece diamond cantilever/stylus and low output).
Sonic presentation did fortify this similarity (while the Grado was much better on human voices) - I happen to had both cartridges.
Dear Halcro, catching up on your comment to Thuchan .... what is the difference between a pessimist and an optimist?
The pessimist says "all women are wicked" - the optimist says "dearly hope so !".
Dear Halcro, your cardinal will be recognized one day as being a very good candidate for the next to-be-elected pope ....;-) ... despite the fact that in his heart a very short and tiny coil is moving.
Dear Thuchan, enjoy the sun. I certainly do not want to spoil your anticipation for the SPU w/inbuilt XFRs, but don't hang your expectations too high.
It is neither a pope nor a king nor a cardinal. Rather a wandering priest with little insight in the game as a whole.
See you for lunch at La Cucina in 12 days.
Dear Lewm, maybe withholding because it is made by Isamu Ikeda .... ?? Just joking ...
Back in 1980 the german high-end magazine HIFI-exklusiv (long defunct now) published an astonishing test result of the then current production SHURE V15MK3 mounted in a FR-64s tonearm. In this particular tonearm - obviously a "mechanic dynamic" mismatch the SHURE showed the highest trackability ( 100 µm !!) with the lowest VTF (0.85 grams !!) among all tonearms ever tested. The engineers at the test lab (the old HIFI-exclusive performed extensive laboratory tests with long test reports - sound was second rate in their tests) direct ascribed this phenomenon to the superb low bearing friction and: - superior energy transfer in the FR-64s. Furthermore there was little to no problem - although the resonance frequency was obviously in the "danger area".
The reason ? The FR-64s showed no torsion-resonances whatsoever.
Finally - the often claimed "high mass" of the FR-64s is largely due to the insane original headshell. Changing to a Orsonic AV-1 or AV-101 puts the FR-64s immediately from ultra-high in the medium-to-high class.
Technical-wise they gave the FR-64s a clean test sheet with outstanding guidability and superb rigidity.
This just to add some odd info from days long gone by.