Cartridge Reviews

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Malachi Lui  |  Feb 04, 2019  |  44 comments
“The next piece you need to upgrade is your cartridge,” my editor repeatedly reminded me for months. After receiving my Rega Planar 3 from a generous AnalogPlanet reader, I felt perfectly content with the pre-mounted Rega Elys 2 MM cartridge, as my new system (complete with AudioQuest speaker cables) was already a large improvement from my Audio-Technica LP120 turntable connected to a Panasonic home theater system. However, I researched cartridge upgrades nonetheless and came up with three potential moving coil choices ranging from $524 to $795, but I eventually settled on the $999 Ortofon Quintet Black S.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 18, 2013  |  33 comments
The listening has been completed to the nine moderately priced cartridges for this survey. The cartridges are: The Audio Technica AT95E, the AT 95SA, the Ortofon 2M red and 2M black, the Grado Prestige Gold 1, the Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III, the Audio Technica AT7V and AT150ANV and the Nagoaka MP300.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 22, 2013  |  88 comments
First of all thanks to everyone who participated. More did than we initially expected. This is a learning experience for sure. Future such surveys will feature “normalized” files so levels will be equal. I’ll be far more careful about clipped files too.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 06, 2020  |  53 comments
More than a few emails have arrived over the last few weeks touting the sonic excellence of Audio-Technica's $169 AT-VM95ML moving magnet cartridge. The $236 Ortofon 2M Blue equipped Fluance RT85 was here for review so why not procure a VM95ML and do a direct comparison?

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Malachi Lui  |  Jun 17, 2019  |  17 comments
Though my initial February review of Ortofon’s $999 MC Quintet Black S cartridge was quite favorable, one part of my system wasn’t best optimized for the cartridge: the Rega RB330 tonearm’s lack of adjustability meant that my VTA was off by two degrees (90 degrees instead of the preferred 92-93). To combat this issue, AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer and I installed Acoustic Signature shims underneath the back of the Rega tonearm. However, with sufficient shims installed to increase the VTA to 92 degrees, unless the tonearm was raised from the record surface, the dust cover wouldn’t close. Since in my house a dust cover is absolutely necessary, I sacrificed having ideal VTA and we only ended up installing a set of 1mm shims to increase the VTA by half a degree.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 05, 2021  |  13 comments
When readers ask why “they” no longer manufacture a really high quality moving magnet cartridge, I respond “Ortofon 2M Black” ($695). Its nude Shibata stylus delivers great detail, it’s an effective tracker at 1.5 grams and it outputs a generous 5mVs. Plus, based on years of experience reviewing the company’s output up and down the product line, it’s safe to say Ortofon delivers build quality uniformity at every price point. Oh, and the 2M Black is a sweet sounding, spectrally well-balanced cartridge.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 25, 2008  |  3 comments
The audio industry may have lost a legend and a prolific innovator in Henry Kloss a few years back, but it still has another affable, creative eccentric in Peter Ledermann. In the mid-1970s, Ledermann was director of engineering at Bozak, where, with Rudy Bozak, he helped develop a miniature bookshelf speaker and a miniature powered subwoofer. Before that, Ledermann was a design engineer at RAM Audio Systems, working with Richard Majestic on the designs of everything from high-power, minimal-feedback power amplifiers and preamplifiers to phono cartridge systems. He was also an award-winning senior research engineer at IBM, and the primary inventor of 11 IBM patents.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 22, 2011  |  1 comments
Strain-gauge phono cartridges are rarely made and seldom heard; for most vinyl fans, they are more myth than fact. Panasonic once made one, as did Sao Win, but those were decades ago. I've heard about those two models for years but have never seen, much less heard one.

As if he's not got enough to do building his extensive lines of moving-iron cartridges, preamplifiers, amplifiers, and speakers, Soundsmith's Peter Ledermann also makes a full line of strain-gauge cartridge systems available with a choice of six user-replaceable stylus profiles. I believe the Soundsmith is the only strain-gauge cartridge currently made anywhere in the world. Ledermann says it takes him a full day to build one.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 28, 2016  |  28 comments
Soundsmith’s Peter Ledermann has been designing and building “fixed coil” cartridges for many years, beginning when he was asked by customers to “back engineer” a B&O design used in that company’s “plug in” cartridge tone arms.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 20, 2019  |  19 comments
Any resemblance between Sumiko’s $899 “Songbird” high output moving coil cartridge and the rest of the Reference line’s “bird” cartridges—the $1249 Blackbird (available in both low and high output versions) and the new $1899 “open architecture” flagship Starling is strictly intentional. Sumiko has been in the cartridge business for decades and these are all made in the same reliably high-quality factory that I visited a few years ago.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 20, 2017  |  65 comments
Here are two great, "reasonably" priced, superbly built cartridges that I've chosen to review together while giving you the opportunity to "hear" both!

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2014  |  6 comments
The moving coil cartridge advantage comes in great part due to its far lower moving mass. A relatively light-weight coil moves and reacts faster than a far heavier magnet. The lighter the coil, the less the mass.

Over the past few years, thanks to improved magnets and coil and former materials as well as how they are implemented, designers have found ways to increase output efficiency. Thus fewer turns of wire are required to produce a given voltage output.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 20, 2014  |  7 comments
I reviewed the Transfiguration Phoenix for Stereophile five years ago. This is not really the same cartridge though it retains the same name. In 2012 the low output moving coil cartridge was updated to include larger gauge pure silver coil wire wound on the square permalloy core used on the now discontinued top of the line Transfiguration Orpheus. The revised Phoenix also shares the Orpheus's damping system and uses a variant of the Orpheus's yoke less, double ring magnet technology featuring a powerful neodymium ring in the rear and a samarium cobalt one in front.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 19, 2015  |  4 comments
California-based Triangle ART manufactures five gleaming chrome and gold plated high mass turntables as well as its own tone arm. The 'tables weigh from 40 to 850 pounds. Recently, Triangle ART introduced the Zeus MC phono cartridge, thus completing mechanical part of the analog playback.

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