supply and demand
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Perhaps part of the build process with the stereo version cannot be automated in the mono version? (or is not because of small runs.)
I am all for blaming greed.. but I think a real event is the cause, not greed.
Also, it may be a price deal for the stereo version (in quantity) is jusy not offered for the mono, and who would carry 10 mono, or 50, or whatever it is to get the price dealer discount?
With hand-built cartridges that are built by one person (as is the case with us, and I assume Shelter), the builder works most efficiently when he is building a single type of cartridge, in continuous production-line fashion.
Having different models in the lineup detracts from the builder's work efficiency, and results in less production capacity. But since a cartridge brand needs a variety of models, the normal practice is for the builder to work on reasonably-sized batches of cartridges all of the same type, with different cartridge models being made in individual production batches.
Usually a cartridge builder won't want to work on different cartridge models at the same time, as each model will require different parts, different tools and different procedures, which slows the overall building down and increases the likelihood of errors, and some of those errors can be expensive. For example, if the builder mistakingly puts stereo coils into a body that has already been silkcreened as "Mono" and solders the connections in, at the very least the cantilever and coil assembly will have to be thown away.
For cartridge models that are in high demand, having multiple cartridge models isn't so much of a problem, as each batch of cartridges can be large enough to keep the builder's efficiency high. But with cartridge models that are in much lower demand (as is the case with mono cartridges), the batches wil be small enough to not lend themselves to efficient building.
Also, the parts for a mono cartridge are different from a stereo version, and will be ordered in much smaller quantities (in consideration of the lower demand). The cartridge builder has to pay more for small-quantity items (and may have to wait longer for them to arrive), and mono cartridge parts definitely fall into this category.
All of the above means that for a cartridge builder, having mono cartridges in the product lineup is counterproductive for efficiency of time and cost spent, and therefore business. That's why a mono cartridge will be sold for more than its stereo equivalent (as would be the case with any semi-customized, low-demand model). The difference in pricing surcharges that various cartridge manufacturers list for their mono cartridges as opposed to the stereo equivalents will be tied to how negatively they each evaluate the reduced efficiency in time and cost.
Cheaper cartridges like the Denons aren't hand-made (AFAIK) and likely are made and sold in greater volume, and therefore the above may not apply.
cheers, jonathan carr
I really don't understand the hand made argument, if they are being made by hand then simply run off a dozen or so occasionally to keep in stock. Having come from the era when mono was turning into stereo I well remember all the arguments advanced for the increase in price for stereo ones. They simply have a harder task to perform than the mono ones and the mono can be intrinsically cheaper in material or at the very worst certainly not more. Twice as much seems out of line and an example of the old adage " When the market shrinks raise the price".
I forgot to add that I am a dealer for VDH and Dynavector and I have not noted any quantity discount on my price sheets. I seriously doubt if many dealers keep large numbers of cartridges in stock in these economic times. While I use to order 4 Supex 901s at a time to get the best price [87.50] that was long ago and far away.
Stanwal, no, what happens is that the cartridge builder is usually overworked with normal orders, and there won't be sufficient open time to insert orders that don't have clear customers for.
Also a dozen cartridges isn't enough for efficient production - you want to be around double that.
Your statement that "mono can be intrinsically cheaper in material" depends on the quality standards of the manufacturer. If the manufacturer is willing to settle for a lower level of quality for the mono cartridges as opposed to the stereo versions, the mono cartridge may be cheaper to make. But if not, and the mono cartridge is made to the same standards of quality as the stereo version, the cost of the smaller-volume mono will be higher.
Incidentally, the biggest problem with the hand-made MC cartridge industry in Japan is not enough builders - everyone that I know is fully booked and working well into overtime. Although the production capacity of an experienced cartridge builder will vary depending on the complexity of the designs that he is asked to build, and some builders can work at a faster pace than others, I'd say that the maximum number of cartridges that an experienced cartridge builder can make in one years' time is around 1000 - 1200 (and that includes everything - rebuilds and repairs as well as new production, and for all brands that he is responsible for). Since that number needs to cover world-wide demand, it doesn't take much sales to saturate the production capacities of a single builder. 4 cartridges sold worldwide a day will do it.
regards, jonathan carr
I owned the Shelter II mono for a couple of months. It exhibited a low hum with the 3 high quality phono stages I own. Finally discovered it was a single coil design [not in specifications or description anywhere]. Install instructions were meager. It sounded pretty good even with the hum which was only there during quiet passages. Tried everything to get rid of the hum. Learned of another owner with the same hum problem.
Bottom line. Most of todays phono pre's have grounding designs which will cause hum with single coil mono pickups.
I bought a Lyra Helikon mono which has a two coil design and great instructions. It easily bettered the Shelter in detail, soundstage, realism, tick and pop resistance and dynamics. Quality is excellent.
The Shelter is good too and I would probably would have been happy with it if I could have found a way to eliminate the hum. In my research into the problem, I found not much is known about mono playback component compatibility in the vinly community since very few are sold.
Incidently, I was floored by how much better my mono lp's sounded with the helikon as compared to my very expensive and highly regarded stereo cartridges. To hear a Blue Note original from 1959 with a Helikon mono is an amazing sonic experience.
I don't know if the other expensive stereo cartridges which have been converted to mono output are better than the Lyra. They were originally designed for stereo output and not mono and have been converted to mono through internal wiring changes.
It is easy to find forum input on the Helikon if you dig a little. It appears quite a number have been sold. You can also find some good magazine reviews.
Hope you will benefit from my input.
Perhaps they are just opportunists. Most carts are not expensive to make, although one would think so with their outrageous pricetags ! Remember good old Barnum, everyday they can run with the importers to the bank ! Suckers born to know it.
To think one pays 500 to 10,000.00 unbelieveable and to think I paid thousands for a Koetsu years ago, sure returned that one in a hurry !