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Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

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Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby GUTB » 28 Nov 2017 02:38

What "makes" a cartridge? Does it have to be a nude Micro-Line or some variation in Boron? If the absolutely cheapest that I know of is a $700 Audio-Technica. Checking out Soundsmith, they don't believe in Micro-Lines, and some of their models use Sapphire -- just that mean that they are literally just worse than the ATs at several times the price?

Then I see this Air Tight PC-1 for $8,500 which uses a "semi-line" shape in Boron (and weighs 12g). So, is this also literally worse than the AT at 12x the price? Or the magnets and exotic material inside make some significant difference?

Is it really just: nude -> y/n -> maximum groove contact -> y/n -> Boron -> y/n?
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby sturgus » 28 Nov 2017 03:03

The only way to know is to listen.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby KentT » 28 Nov 2017 04:26

Your ears and your system, and especially your turntable and tonearm will have a lot to do with your choice, and the records you play and their requirements. There are more than one option. Keep open ears and an open mind, they're helpful.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby katana1100 » 28 Nov 2017 05:55

I got a couple of carts that use micro tip diamonds bonded to hair thin boron cantalevers.
Yet, as I tapped this reply, I am listening to steely dan on my pio pl50 which has a 45 year old cart with a 5mm conical diamond on a thick aluminum cantalever. Hey, sounds great to me.
My two cents- once you get above the junk cartridges, you are not necessarily getting a “ higher truth”, you are just getting a different sound. Whether you prefer it or not is up to you. Every cart adds its distortion/ coloration to the sound.
Yes, I like the way my audio technics 0c9II mc - boron- micro tip sounds on my
Kenwood 5070, but I still love my 50 year old pio pl41 with its 50 year old plc9 cart.
Beauty is in the ear of the beholder .
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby H. callahan » 28 Nov 2017 06:12

A cartridge is like a car. If the car is bad it doesn´t Help much to put the best tires on it. And exotic materials, like golden wheel rims, won´t make it go faster, too.

The overall construction/design has to be reasonable, the execution has to be reasonable and exotic materials only do Help if they really offer a benefit on that specific matter.

So in the end you´d need to be an expert on cartridge-construction to really know what´s what, but as you probably arn´t you might take a look at the specifications. Like frequency range, channel separation etc. . This again is like cars: Just because car a) has double the horsepower of car b), it doesn´t mean that car a) will go twice as fast but it probably will be going faster than car b).

An advanced stylus shape like nude-line, micro-ridge etc. is better than an elliptical for example, but it´s just the "tires" of the "car". You also want a good car to put these tires on. And a good car doesn´t necessarily need exotic materials or to be insanely expensive to go fast.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby Alec124c41 » 28 Nov 2017 06:45

To my ears, some cartridges sound like the music is coming from inside a closet.
Some sound like you are standing outside the concert hall, with the door closed.
Next is going in the open door.
After that, there are different seats in the concert hall: first balcony, middle of orchestra seating, front of the orchestra seating.
You can get a very good cartridge for less than $500. My Denon DL-301 puts me in about the 12th row of the orchestra seating. But my Dynavector 17d3 puts me front row center.
Matching you cartridge to your tonearm, and setting it up properly make a big difference.
There are other factors that you might not think of. The mat, for instance, can have a quite noticeable effect on the sound. The phono preamp also is important.
Listen to different cartridges. No-one can tell you what a carrot tastes like, if you have never eaten one.

Cheers,
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby 1200y3 » 28 Nov 2017 07:58

I'm dying for a Karat, but I'm sure I'd be right at home with an Ortofon SPU too. Build quality is what costs, and Denon and Ortofon sell handfuls of aluminum cantilevers and conicals and ellipticals.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby billshurv » 28 Nov 2017 11:59

The most important part of a cartridge is the polish on the diamond. A thin wall alu cantilever is as good as modern cantilevers get, esp if tapered. No one makes thin wall boron any more and Be is not allowed.

The rub is that the best polish is normally on the most extreme profiles. The outlier on this is the DL-102 and 103
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby raphaelmabo » 28 Nov 2017 13:11

I can honestly say that I've never bought a cartridge based on the stylus profile. :)
If it sounds good, it is good. More expensive cartridges can be more revealing, but this doesn't mean that they automatically are more musically engaging. A friend of mine went from the Linn Addikt to the cheap AT95, because the AT95 was more musically rewarding - the more expensive Addikt was found to be too dry and sterile in comparison (his thoughts). Now he can buy 8 AT95 for the same price as one Addikt.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby JRob1125 » 28 Nov 2017 19:18

Just put a high end stylus on an AT95P or M97xe (or any other "bang for buck" cart) and you'll get about 90% of the way there for less than half the price of a high end catridge.

IMO, super high end carts defeat the purpose of listening to vinyl. If I want sound that clean I'll listen to a CD or a hi-res file
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby 1200y3 » 30 Nov 2017 16:46

Actually there are many types of cartridges, from simple standard with no extra "features", high performance standard with a few improvements, MC's which are simply more painstaking to produce than may be worth, esoteric cartridges made for the "select few", and exotic cartridges.

It is not so difficult to select a MM vs MC, because it is not until you fiddle with MC's that you can actually see how crappy one can be built. It is not cheap to do an MC build quality shoot out. In other words, the "High End" one are very risky. And yet it is only fair that they are high priced.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby smee4 » 01 Dec 2017 03:49

JRob1125 wrote:Just put a high end stylus on an AT95P



Try the AT95VL. One of the best sounds around at the price https://www.lpgear.com/product/LPGAT95VL.html
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby katana1100 » 01 Dec 2017 07:05

Like Alec said, don’t rule out importance of tone arm/ tt match. I have no doubt that part of the reason
why my pio carts sound so good is that they were oem for the pio tables and they are perfectly matched. This is especially so with the pl 50 which has fixed vta and comes with a thin mat.
Also worth considering is the system as a whole. I think the $800 I spent on a set of acoustat 2+2 electrostatic
speakers and a hafler xl 280 made a bigger difference than buying a $800 cart and running it through my home theater setup which uses 11 radio shack lx5 speakers.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby 1200y3 » 01 Dec 2017 17:49

The tonearm is actually the biggest part of the vinyl sound. Mechanically it can rattle and vibrate, while acoustically it interferes with the cartridge's sound simply by touching it. And then of course it has to respond to warps or platter flaws fast as well, so when you add to it the warp and characteristics of a lower quality turntable we have an exponential decrease in performance. And as a Shure cartridge aficionado like myself, cartridge/styli costs are less than the arm.

Even the 60's the Shure SME 3009 sits in with today's high end arms.
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Re: Cheap vs Expensive: High-End the Only Option?

Postby raphaelmabo » 01 Dec 2017 18:36

It is true that tonearm and the turntable are important factors. Better to use expensive turntable with cheap cartridge than expensive cartridge on cheap turntable.
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