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Pioneer PC 3MC 5MC

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Pioneer PC 3MC 5MC

Postby RED_One » 23 Mar 2007 20:09

Reading up a bit I found that Pioneer made these carts (akin to Satin)

the PC 5MC was supposed to be equivalent to the Satin 117G elliptical

advantage being replacement stylus

Anyone know anything about them & how they compare to say Denon 103 or 160 ?

So happens I have a Satin 117G hanging around so I will have to fit it & see if I like it .. but stylus are no longer obtainable so the Pioneer looks like a better longer term bet
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Postby desktop » 13 May 2007 16:25

Actually the Satin and Pioneer cartridges you mention are radically different from each other. I have both. The Satin 117 (should be a Z on the end) has an odd coil harness that will accept a cantilever put into its small rounded "sockets" and then the movement of the cantilever right behind the diamond stylus is transmitted through this relatively stiff harness to coils in a magnetic field.

The sound of the 117 was bad. As long as there were no drum beats or other large movement signals on your vinyl the tracking wasn't too much of a problem. But with any loud passages, the mis-tracking was horrible. The stylus assembly was designed to be less breakable than than the excellent Satin 18bx, because while those had a similar harness assembly the cantilever was rear supported and often broke off. So on the 117 the stylus was resting on a rubbery support, but this support made the 117 into what could be called a zero compliance cartridge.

I rebuild them with long 78 rpm stylus assemblies and with enough tracking force (4-5 grams) they play 78s very well. The system has potential but was carried off badly, and there is almost nowhere to go for styli. I was considering making a stylus with a rear support like the 18bx but then thought, "Why bother when there are so many other cartridges that will be so much better no matter what I do with this Satin 117 stylus assembly". As it comes from the factory, this cartridge was one of the high output MCs that gave high output MCs a bad name. In spite of having a replace-able stylus, the Satin 117 was a real loser.

The Pioneer 3MC is the lesser model of the group but the 4MC with it's elliptical stylus has some possibilities. The 3MC-5MC series cartridges came on Pioneer's reasonably nice radial arm turntable. I have had a dozen of these turntable come through my hands and they come from people who think that stock, the turntable and cartridge sound terrible and they are right. But they get sold by me to people who modify the (cartridge and table) into something that sounds very good.

But the cartridge concept, problems and fixes seem to be what interests you. Yes the 3/4/5 MC cartridges had replace-able styli. But the stylus mount was a type of thin plastic that was so susceptible to vibrations and resonances that it made it hard to hear the music in the sea of noises that eventually vibrated the stylus and cantilever. The easiest fix was lead golf tape. Very, VERY carefully some of the people who modify these units would put a few layers of lead golf tape all over the replace-able stylus assembly, and right along the seam where the stylus assembly "locked" onto the body they put very thin 2 sided cello tape.

The lead tape resisted the tendency of the stylus assembly to ring like a little plastic bell when the acoustic waves from the stylus tip came up off the vinyl and struck the stylus housing. The lead tape also held the stylus assembly more firmly in place with mass damping at the end of the tonearm (this works best with really flat records on the Pioneer radial arm TT, because with so much mass on the end of the tonearm it doesn't track warp wow up-and-down well at all). Finally the 2 sided tape in the snap-on stylus mounting track holds things much more firmly in place all the time.

These styli are designed to be replaced although an upgrade to a Line Contact stylus from the 4MC's elliptical will improve the sound to be quite pleasant. The 3MC is a bad spherical stylus and is okay with old 45s but not worth the effort (IMO) that the 4MC is worth. You can find replacement 4 and 3 MC styli on the internet all the time. The Pioneer radial arm turntable can accept an easy to make silicone bath and then the overall result is pretty good (with flat records). If you are willing to go through all the hassle the Pioneer 4MC and possibly the 3MC are decent MC high output cartridges with replace-able styli that can still be found on the net (Pfanstiehl bought quite a few directly from Pioneer and packaged them up for sale through their retail network.

I glue 3 mil 78rpm styli to lead-modified 4MC models with worn styli and they work very very well at 3-4 grams tracking weight.
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Pioneer 3-MC...

Postby Blue Angel » 13 May 2007 18:16

Hhhmmm... desktop

Let's see. Brown and cream bodies & square pins at the back. Plastic bodies as flimsy as ricepaper and brittle as play glass. All is very low meltingpoint plastic too and heaven forbid a broken coil wire. Some time ago, I picked a twig for my own rear when I tipped-off a friend who wanted a starter mc. Both were kaput and both were repaired by me as a present for my pal's birthday. Both got fitted with new dampers, Gyger FG11's and the rest of the 'works'. On one, I had to also rewind those tiny spooled coils and figure out a way how to do this. An ordinary pin with its head ground flat did the trick. The most difficult part was to re-mill the black plastic 'cradle' for the coils. Never ever again... The finished result was superb, though.

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Postby desktop » 14 May 2007 01:09

What I want to know is if there are ways to make things better about cartridges that sound really awful in "stock" form why doesn't a manufacturer with as much money as Pioneer just offer the Model 3MC or the 4MC (with red and white body/stylus assembly) in a Model 3xMC and/or 4xMC with the proper way of doing things to allow for better sound quality and for a higher price? That way people who want the "look" but don't have the ear to hear the difference (or play only 45s) can have the cheaper model that looks "nice" and the people who can hear the difference and are willing to pay for it, can get the more expensive model that performs properly and Pioneer ends up making one sale or the other.

When I worked as the Loudspeaker Marketing Director for Marantz/Superscope they were sprucing up the company to sell off chunks of it because some of the original/founding Tushinsky brothers had died. At one time Marantz/Superscope was the largest consumer hi-fi company in the world, doing over US$200,000,000 in sales at the retailer's or distributor's cost (probably US$500,000,000 at the retail end). I was hired to maximize the value of the speaker division of Marantz. The obvious solution was to have this singular attitude: "Marantz is a company capable of designing/engineering, making and distributing any audio product we choose, at any levels in the marketplace, even if we have to copy a product made by any other company making similar products. Our goal was to make sure that every consumer in the world could find a Marantz product (if we made it, Marantz did not make phono cartridges for example) or a Superscope product at whatever price or quality level they were looking for.

Superscope electronics were low end, flashy and made to last perhaps 5 years. Marantz electronic stuff was made to last a long time and perform very well. In the speaker division I had the advantage of working with a designer named Dick May. There was no reason why we couldn't make 7 distinct lines of speakers, some of which were exact copies of proven products in other companies' lines, and some of which were new Marantz designs.

The audiophile end of the loudspeaker market was only 3% of the total market sales so it was the last to get designed and as it's "models" we used the IMF Studio Reference Monitors and the large Polk Audio speakers. Since this was done at the last minute the distribution of that one product line (The Marantz Signature Loudspeaker Line) didn't make big sales (Marantz audiophile speaker sales went from Zero dollars to $175,000 for the year, a mere pittance), but the other 6 lines of broader appeal loudspeaker lines sold more than $30,000,000 of speaker products (at the distributor's and retailer's cost) during the next year which was up $17,000,000 from the previous year in an otherwise flat audio market for loudspeakers (1980).

Philips bought Marantz within 2 years and their philosophy did not match the "We can make anything as well as Anyone" philosophy, but Philips did covet the Marantz S.A speaker facility in Spain and paid a good price for it. Marantz Japan went it's own way then too. But experiencing what a major electronics company can do made me realize that if there was money in it, the big boys Could do almost anything. Pioneer needed to sell their linear arm turntables, so making cartridges for themselves would Help Them Sell These Turntables. What could be simpler. Instead the 3/4/5 MC Pioneer cartridges sounded bad. Go figure!

Blue Angel if you do re-tipping with Gyger styli then I would have preferred to send some of the 3/4MC cartridges to you for the damper and Gyger styli and then treated the bodies to make them pretty much non-resonant when they came back to me. As 78 rpm MC cartridges they are pretty top notch with 3 mil diamond styli and I use 3 mil diamond styli that come mounted on a firm ABS shafts that can be drilled through it's core to slide fit with Super Glue right over the aluminum cantilever on the original Pioneer stylus assembly. I have 5 78 rpm styli now so likely I have enough. But I get brand new Pioneer 3 MC and 4 MC cartridges all the time that only need better styli and dampers.
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Pioneer 3-MC...

Postby Blue Angel » 14 May 2007 11:51

Hi desktop

I did the mods as a present to a friend and the work was part of my learning curve and selfimposed apprenticeship (and also a bit of 'two fingers' to no one in particular, hehe).

A very good question, why powerful firms with adequate resources often do a cheapie, get things half right and don't follow through with a job done properly at a higher price.

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