Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

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Red Dragon
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Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by Red Dragon » 06 Jan 2020 16:23

Hello, I'm new here. I want to upgrade my old Linn K5 cartridge for my eighties Thorens TD160 super with TP16 Mk2 arm. My system (Ayon Orion2 tube amplifier + Horns FP10 LS + Creek OBH18 preamp) is rather analytical, so I want a sweeter cartridge that tracks good. I thought about a Nagaoka MP110, but someone on the net suggested Osawa OS 301B would be an even better choice, without really explaining why. Which would be the better solution for the TP16 Mk2, which is I believe rather low mass?! The Nagaoka weighs 6,5 g, the Osawa 7,4 g, is that of any importance? Both are MI and have an elliptical needle. Personally I would blindly take a mainstream cartridge over something totally unknown, but if the Osawa is as good as it looks old-fashioned... I'm at a loss. My disc collection includes old seventies prog-rock and I'd love to get a more analogue sound to alternate with my Ayon cd-spinner, which is also more about detail (that's why I exclude e.g. an Ortofon cartridge). My contact said I could also upgrade my Linn K5 with any Audio Technica AT-VM95 needle, but does that make much sense? Of course my old needle is worn, but the Linn doesn't seem to track that good, I get distortion on piano and s's, although I aligned it with the Baerwald protractor. Anyhow, it's nice meeting you all and if someone has some helpful thoughts without making it even more difficult for me, I'm very grateful. Of course I hope people find the topic interesting enough to set their teeth into it!

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by tlscapital » 06 Jan 2020 17:37

Hello-hello, the TP16 MKII is of light effective mass indeed. I don't see why it couldn't cope with either of those cartridge off which both are of medium mass. Both these cartridges seem to be from the high compliance kind that tells they're in the right ball park for the cartridge to tonearm resonance match.

Less analytical and more musical for old records I vouch for conical stylus. Larger cut (0.7) for MONO 45's especially. Low compliant MONO MC cartridge for smoother analog feel. But this is leaning toward other cartridge ends. And some still undeniably favor their elliptical thin stylus for a more 'detailed' STEREO playback.

The piano distortions you are explaining could be due either to the stylus suspension wear, the turntable support that isn't sturdy enough, vibrations pick-up from the cartridge, not enough VTF, cartridge misalignment or VTA or SRA setting. A worn stylus will more likely give you a "muffled" down sound. A damage stylus highs distortions.

Red Dragon
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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by Red Dragon » 07 Jan 2020 10:29

Hello again, thanks for responding so quickly. About your remarks concerning the piano distortion: as a matter of fact, I noticed that before I realigned the cartridge, which was situated a millimetre too far backwards. It's much better now, although I was referring to a rather dubious 1965 Hungarian pressing on a label called Qualiton, of pre-Hungaroton fame. I took it for free on an old sales market some years ago, because it looked still brand new. I'm talking about SLPX 1087g, with Haydns Concert for piano in D major on it and although there is a lot of surface noise, the recording is incredibly warm and roomy, even with my old Linn K5.

With correct Braewald alignment the piano sounds much better now, but a forte in the strings remains imperfect - I'm afraid that's due to the pressing. Or is it not? I set my tracking force to 1,75 grs, because the Linn is designed for 1,7 grs. But even with 2 grs I hear no difference. By the way, the TP16 is tricky to fine-tune the tracking weight - as you may know, it's in steps of 0,25 grs. Finally, I once more checked if the arm is parallel to the record - on sight it seems OK. Checking SRA however is out of my depth...

My turntable support is self-made from steel bars and thick oak, but of course my trusty TD160 super is what it is. I'm not really into an expensive rebuild, I only want to give it a new lease of life with a better cartridge - see what more I can get out of the grooves from time to time. That may very well be detail - I really do not consider to go conical - but what I'm looking for is a warmer, rounder cartridge that is a bit more into mids than e.g. Ortofon or Audio Technica. In fact the Linn (which is an AT-clone) sounds quite okay, apart from its shortcomings and worn (or damaged?) status.

So, here I go again: is a new stylus like ATN95E (or AT-VMN95E, if it fits?!) the first step to take or is a Nagaoka MP110 definitely a better upgrade? This one should have a rounder balance, if I'm not mistaken. On the other hand, is the Osawa OS 301B even superior, although it may not look the part? I'd love to hear from someone with more experience with this cart. I read three short reviews on vinylengine that were quite positive, but you know how it is, we audio lovers like to do our research... Thanks!

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by raphaelmabo » 07 Jan 2020 11:45

Osawa is a japanese trading company. They don't manufacturer their own cartridges, they uses the talents of others. Now, many of Osawa cartridges (the Osawa MP) was designed in co-operation with and made by Nagaoka, and used the same stylus as Nagaokas own. However, the OS series are different and the 301 has an external design of an Excel cartridge. Excel Sound Corp. is a large Japanese OEM-maker that makes cartridges under brand names such as Excel, Hana, Sumiko, LP Gear, and others. But the 301 is a MI cartridge, and Nagaoka specializes in them (Nagaoka MP is an MI design), Excel makes MM and MC cartridges. Hmm...

There's a cartridge designer named Yasuvo Osawa, he's also the founder of the Shelter audio company. His base model is a tweaked version of the Sumiko Pearl, but his other cartridges are his own design. I don't know if he is related to the Osawa cartridges.

It seems like most of Osawas cartridges are no longer in production, it seems like they only have two left - the 201 and the 301. What strikes me about the 301 is that it has a nude and smaller elliptical instead of the bonded one in Nagaoka, so the stylus is better. It should be a good alternative to the MP-110.

Maybe no Osawa cartridge is in production, and Thakker simply sells old stock... 301 is available until stock last? I don't know.
Last edited by raphaelmabo on 07 Jan 2020 12:37, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by raphaelmabo » 07 Jan 2020 12:32

There's a review of it here:
https://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge_r ... del=OS+301

Out of curiosity I did a search of the stylus options, the non-original replacement stylus (from Thakker, LP Gear, Jico and others) has a bonded spherical/conical, not the nude elliptical. But Thakker has the original nude elliptical replacement stylus also (N-301), at twice the price compared to the bonded spherical. So if wanting the same performance, don't get the cheapest replacement stylus when the stylus is worned out.

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by Red Dragon » 08 Jan 2020 11:17

I noticed that the Osawa has an output of 2,8 mV, contrary to the 4,5 of the Linn and 5 of the Nagaoka. Is that of any significance?

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by tlscapital » 09 Jan 2020 06:41

Red Dragon wrote:
08 Jan 2020 11:17
I noticed that the Osawa has an output of 2,8 mV, contrary to the 4,5 of the Linn and 5 of the Nagaoka. Is that of any significance?
It should evidently. But will it affect your home playback "output" with your volume "knob" higher ? Likely not to a loss actually. Mind you these cartridge output mV are nominal figures and will even change with the 'generic' stylus variants swaps...

This also depends on what regime both your amp and speakers (how dynamic; efficient/sensitive) are used to run and how much they start to distort before or above your generally preferred given louder playback volume when the cat is out of the house.

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by Red Dragon » 13 Jan 2020 18:32

Back from the weekend, I read some disturbing things about "compliance". Although tiscapital in the beginning of this thread writes that either Osawa os301B and Nagaoka MP110 fit a Thorens TP16 MkIII (I believe the TD160 super has the TP16 MkIII rather than the MkII, if I'm not mistaken?!), I still wonder if their compliance is high enough. I mean, I'm a total novice in this kind of technical matters, especially when reading the compliance of the Osawa is 5.1 x 10-6 cm/dyne. help, what is the meaning of all this? I understand compliance is an important parameter for the tracking ability of a cartridge, am I wrong? Maybe I needlessly worry, but I'd still appreciate somebody's expert opinion.

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by raphaelmabo » 13 Jan 2020 20:12

Red Dragon wrote:
13 Jan 2020 18:32
Back from the weekend, I read some disturbing things about "compliance". Although tiscapital in the beginning of this thread writes that either Osawa os301B and Nagaoka MP110 fit a Thorens TP16 MkIII (I believe the TD160 super has the TP16 MkIII rather than the MkII, if I'm not mistaken?!), I still wonder if their compliance is high enough. I mean, I'm a total novice in this kind of technical matters, especially when reading the compliance of the Osawa is 5.1 x 10-6 cm/dyne. help, what is the meaning of all this? I understand compliance is an important parameter for the tracking ability of a cartridge, am I wrong? Maybe I needlessly worry, but I'd still appreciate somebody's expert opinion.
You can read about compliance and tonearm here:
https://www.ortofon.com/support/support ... frequency/

The dynamic compliance figures for Osawa and Nagaoka are given according to the Japanese standard @ 100 Hz. They are quite useless, because we need the compliance @ 10 Hz to calculate resonance frequency. There is no exact way of converting numbers @ 100 Hz to @ 10 Hz, but a common "rule of thumb" is to multiply by 2. But this doesn't seems to be right for Nagaoka, and quite possibly the Osawa too (the Osawa seems to be made by Nagaoka). There are many reports in this forum from owners using Nagaoka and measuring them and that has gotten higher compliance numbers than the factory specifications suggests.

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Re: Nagaoka or Osawa for Thorens TD160 super?

Post by Red Dragon » 14 Jan 2020 10:54

Thanks everybody, I finally ordered the Osawa. It should be a great cartridge for small money (half a 2MBlue), so I'm curious. I'll post a review if everything goes according to plan.

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