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Nine Cartridge Survey Produces Audible Results?

Nine Cartridge Survey Produces Audible Results?
Below you will find ten 96K/24 bit FLAC files, each containing a version of “Spider And the Fly” from Myra Taylor’s double 45rpm album My Night to Dream (Analogue Productions APO 2017).

Each was recorded using one of ten different cartridges, nine of which were mounted on a VPI Traveler connected to a Graham Slee Era Gold Mk. V MM phono preamp.

The tenth is Ortofon’s $8499 Anna, which was mounted on the Continuum Cobra tonearm, Caliburn turntable combo connected to a Ypsilon MC-16 step transformer and VPS-100 phono preamp. That file is the “control” against which the others should be compared, except it will not be identified as such. None of the files, all created using a moderately priced HRT LineStreamer+ analog to digital converter, will be identified.

If you so choose, you can download the FLAC files and using a USB DAC, play them through your audio system. This will enable you to compare each cartridge’s rendering of the same song and your judgments without knowing which was which. Should you choose, you can vote for your favorite and in addition, in the comment section, we welcome your top three or top five favorites.

Listed from least expensive to most expensive, the nine moderately prices cartridges are:

Audio-Technica AT95E ($40)


Audio-Technica AT95SA ($149.95)


Audio-Technica AT7V ($159.99)


Grado Gold 1 ($220)


Ortofon 2M Bronze ($419)


Nagaoka MP-300 ($499)


Sumiko Blue Point EVO III ($499)


Ortofon 2M Black ($719)


Audio-Technica AT150ANV ($999)


All are moving magnet designs, with the exception of the Grado Gold 1, which is a moving iron and the Sumiko Blue Point EVO III, which is high output moving coil design.

While the cartridges are listed above in order of price, the files are not! The are organized randomly. Right click on PC or Control click on a Mac to download to your desktop.

Download Cartridge Test File #1 (68.8 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #2 (73.7 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #3 (71.8 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #4 (77.7 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #5 (71 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #6 (73.7 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #7 (74.5 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #8 (71 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #9 (75.6 MB)

Download Cartridge Test File #10 (71.6 MB)

In a few weeks we will reveal their identities. In addition, because I’m sure some if not many of you will not take the time to download and listen, I will review each from my perspective and include the specs (etc.).

In addition, if you like the track (I didn’t get sick of it and I listened dozens of times), HDTracks has generously given us a discount download code if you are so digitally inclined. Also note that the album is available on CD and SACD as well as on vinyl.

Special offer: Now through August 31st receive a 20% download discount on Myra Taylor's "My Night To Dream". Choose either the 88.2/24 bit or the 44.1k/16 bit version or both. Use promo code "compare20"

Choose your favorite sounding Cartridge Test File below:

otaku2's picture

When will the track's identities be revealed?

FETT1979's picture

We need to know !!!

SAllison's picture

Agreed I'm very curious!

terrybbagit's picture

Really would like to know

samhito's picture

Show us the results, please

harmony's picture

Thanks for posting these samples! I have been looking around for a cartridge. It is not easy but samples like these do educate!

On my part I wish they had all been recorded on the reference table! It is a good selection of music makers that deserved the honor! I volume equalized the samples (using software) and had a few listens! There are great bargains here.

I liked 5 & 6 (#6 a bit rolled off up top relatively) from first listen. I thought they had good tone , focus and even handedness. I especially liked the bass drive on #6. It is an inviting listen and anxious to find out what it is.

I thought #5 was the reference setup when I played it on a large system -good all around! Peeking at the wave form showed more evidence - almost dead quiet in the lead in groove!

Some seemed like the image was shifted to the left (#2 & 8)? Otherwise #2 was an easy listen. #3&4 seemed to have a 'shorter' image. Otherwise 4 was an easy listen as well. 1,7 9 tempted to do it all. However I thought they would tire (brass tone was off in comparison). #10 never seemed to raise enough interest (not 'clean' enough I wrote), yet peeking at th ewaveform showed it & #1 had the quieter ride in th e groove! Probably listener fatigue is a factor with so many to listen to!

Oh- #9 seemed to have the least and #8 & 10 the largest dynanimc range looking at the VU meters (after volume equalization with software)

Waiting for your revelation and the next batch!

marklind's picture

My favorites are 9,2,10,7. In that order. This is from my notes of July and on a single listening session. I didn't have time to go through the tracks again, and they were heard through an inexpensive dac (micromega my-dac). This being said; what I like, I like. And this will probably promote a new cartridge buy (at least as a backup). Please give us the results, and please pass this on to the cartridge makers. This kind of survey, in this time of lack of brick-and-mortar stores, is wonderful. Thank you.

sirnosedavoidoffunk's picture

First I have to thank Mr Fremer because he boldly did the right thing. He prepared something very close to a double blind test, something that really scares people who make and sell equipments. Anyway I usually do this with my turntables, my tonearms, my cartridges and styluses and it's very revealing. I started doing this a few years ago and found at an italian audioshow that Mr Fremer used to do the same as he was carrying a cd with the same vinyl rip I took just the month before him of a song from Louis Armstrong. Same song, different press, different equipment and obviously different sound. Strangely ;-) his sample was better than mine ... but as I see things must have changed because I really don't like any of these new samples and the amount of hum in them drives me crazy. Certanly they are better than the sound you can hear from the setups you usually meet at "audiots" show and it's great to hear in that lot a cartridge that can be bought for 25 euros in Germany but ...

Once I used to get mad at two of the preamplifiers I owned to get rid of the hum and it sounded softer than that and I ended up getting rid of one of the preamplifiers and completely redesigned the other. Is it the preamplifier or the connections or the cartridges or even the recording ... anyway the free sampler from HDtracks contains a song from Patricia Barber with an incredible noise maybe from a guitar effect and nobody seems to care. I do care. But still I'm happy that this thing has happened and I'm sure that Mr Fremer has started something that can open many eyes and ears. Keep up the good work Mr Fremer, be our Messiah! ;-)

Dif-tor heh smusma, oh well that's Vulcan for:

Live long and prosper.

Anton Giulio

Manolo's picture

Hello ... I downloaded all the files, into iTunes and played them all. Have the identities of the cartridges been revealed? I don't see anything in the comments section. IS there a link to some other place? Thanks!

Michael Fremer's picture