Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

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chiz
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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by chiz » 16 Feb 2018 11:42

DeepEnd,
Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing.
That last bit had crossed my mind too.
DeepEnd wrote:It's also interesting to note that if you look at Namiki tip specs an 0.3 x 0.7 mil (7.5 x 18) elliptical could actually be from 0.2 x 0.8 (almost a hyper elliptical) to 0.4 x 0.6 almost a conical!! I accept that you will have tolerance in manufacturing but wonder if this range of sharp to blunt radii explains why different people get different experiences with the supposedly the same cartridge?

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by billshurv » 16 Feb 2018 13:40

There is a lot of confusion over high end stylus design, esp over what actually matters, given that vinyl is mastered with the expectation of a conical stylus being used for replay. At the end of the day diamond quality and polish matters most and I'm pretty sure we'll never get consensus on what is the best shape. The new popularity of the Shibata I think shows that well.

DeepEnd
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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by DeepEnd » 20 Feb 2018 16:11

OK so my extra MP-11 Boron Body has shown up and as I had 90 minutes to spare I took out the P77 and put in the MP11B body in my Rega "3".

I started with the screws about half way down the slots in the headshell but thought "Wow this is big it's front is already hanging out of the front of the arm a bit". Popped in the JN-P110 stylus, balanced the arm and set the tracking force to 2.0g as per the figure on the back of the package (cartridge spec says 1.5g - 2.0g no idea why only one figure on stylus) and set it on the arc protractor and checked it out. Well after setting up decks for over 40 years for the FIRST TIME EVER right on the money no moves, no twisting, nailed it first time :shock: :shock: :shock:

Start with 2 on the Rega slider and try the tracking tests on my test disk - passes all of them with no changes even the +14db!! Ten minutes from start to finish and I'm done.

Okay... grabs the first LP to hand (Luther Vandross) just to see if it makes a noise and thinking "not going to judge it until at least 25-30 hours on the stylus, not going to judge it until at least 25-30 hours on the stylus" etc. - how wrong I was.......

I was sat there stunned with my mouth open......

Considering I only paid £22.89 for the body and £38.15 for the stylus there is no way that a cartridge at £61.04 (including P&P etc.) has any sensible right to sound anything like as good as it does. Yes it doesn't have quite the instrument separation and vocals are a bit further back in the mix and it's slightly less "3D" imaging than my P77Mg (~£143) but flippin' heck the difference isn't massive and it has a lower register than AT cartridges struggle to produce.

Roll on the JN-P200 stylus and MP11B/Paratrace - looks like it's going to be fun :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by Tonybro » 22 Feb 2018 00:21

Fantastic Result! :D

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by mjwraw » 22 Feb 2018 22:47

Fascinating thread, I've recently taken delivery of a Garratt P77i, (TT is a Project 6 Perspex, arm is a 9cc Evolution), which I think is very similar to the A&R P77 carts you have mentioned. I don't think mine is broken in yet (I hope it has scope for improvement anyway....), but needless to say I paid full whack for it from a dealer on Oz, so whilst reading the results you seem to be getting for about 1/3 of the price is possibly a little disheartening, it's still very interesting.

DeepEnd
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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by DeepEnd » 23 Feb 2018 08:05

Yes I also believe that the Garrott uses the same OEM body that the A&R used and would have loved to have tried out a P77i as part of the tests but at £300 plus import costs it’s expensive for a “nice to have”.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think it is overpriced compared to other new cartridges with sophisticated styli (not seen much info on the micro scanner 2) given the Exact is £255, Goldring 1022/1042 ~£300, 2M Bronze/Black £265/£475, AT VM750SH £389, MP-500 £600+ and my FG2 retip was a similar amount. The original version was very well regarded too but not seen lots of reviews of the current version (seen one when the cantilever was replaced by a gemstone one).

Looking at pictures of the P77i it looks like it has a slightly finer aluminium cantilever than the A&R version and is reputed to have slightly less damping too.

I gather from your comments that you are not entirely happy with its performance (hoping for improvements?).
I would be interested in your thoughts on the P77i both good and bad compared to your previous cartridge(s).

With the difficulty of getting cartridge demo’s I think we all rely on fellow enthusiasts who put up files for comparisons etc. but differences in systems make it an inexact process.

The cartridge selection is probably the most difficult one as not only has to match the turntable but also needs to work with the speakers - a sort of double juggling act.

For example I found Audio Technica cartridges didn’t suit the metal dome tweeters in my Rogers LS2a giving a hard fatiguing sound and Grado cartridges don’t suit the soft domes in my current Rega RS3’s giving a stodgy lumpy sound. Swap them round and it’s a different story allowing the overall systems to shine. One of the things I love about my P77/78’s is that they work with both types and initial impressions are that the Nagaoka may be the same and a tiny fraction more neutral then my “warmish” P77 but still a little warmth.

Of course at the end of the day West Yorkshire is not too far for a few styli to travel (both my parents and older sister are white roses) so at some point you could try them in your system.

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by billshurv » 23 Feb 2018 09:56

As people have found, the excel MM body as used all over the place, and still in production can be a fine performer. I kind of feel bad abandoning the P77 when I went MC in 1987 but I still have the bodies. I must try and get the shots of my dissected one. There is modding potential there. With the cross compatibility with some shure models and the huge number of bodies out there it's a very tunable platform.

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by mjwraw » 23 Feb 2018 22:17

DeepEnd wrote: I gather from your comments that you are not entirely happy with its performance (hoping for improvements?).
I would be interested in your thoughts on the P77i both good and bad compared to your previous cartridge(s).
I think part of the problem is that even after 15 years of being very aware of, and continually learning and refining, I'm still not 100% confident that I know how to properly set up a cartridge. I understand the principles behind the various major considerations (using both two point and arc protractors, VTA, SRA, VTF, anti-skate, azimuth), but I'm not confident I understand the interplay between them all, so I'm never confident I'm getting the best out of any cart I use. And I have very little understanding of cart/arm matching, compliance, resonance etc. For example, whilst to the best I can judge the P77i should be a reasonable match for the 9cc Evolution arm, (using the evaluation tool on this site), but is it really ? And then there's the cables, and the amplifier, and the speakers.......

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by DeepEnd » 27 Feb 2018 11:08

Sorry for the delay in responding but I've been away from the PC and didn't fancy typing a lot on my phone!!

I don't think any of us are 100% confident about getting the perfect cartridge set-up and without spending quite a lot of money I not sure it's even possible in a normal home set up. I've been trying for 40 years and still not 100% confident.

Protractors:
Even though I have used both I now stick to Arc protractors as I find I get there quicker and perhaps more consistently than with 2 point types.

VTA/SRA:
I have lumped these together as if you change one then the other changes and the ratio of SRA to VTA is fixed by the manufacturers. I try and get the SRA as close to 92 as I can but this is not always practical. I was informed that manufacturers use a +/- 2 degrees as an acceptable tolerance for the accuracy of mounting the tip to cantilever. To correct a 2 degree error of my Rega I arm I would have to lift if 2-3mm for a taller than Rega Cartridge and then ~8mm for the error. My adjuster does not go that far!! Changing the tracking force can have a bigger impact on SRA than moving the arm!!

VTF:
Never quite sure if changes in sound from changes in tracking force are due to the tracking force OR perhaps the change in SRA that results from the change!!
I have always found that most of my cartridges struggle with test records at the "suggested" tracking force and most are far more stable/capable at about 3/4 up the range given (e.g. for a range of 1.5g - 2.0g work best around say 1.85-1.88 and I am finding no difference with the Nagaoka's).

Antiskate:
I look at the two advised methods on A/S and blank disks give me a low figure and highly modulated test records a high figure. The maths I have seen states that the amount of A/S required is dependant upon (amongst others) groove friction which is also affected by modulation levels and the vinyl material which sort of explains the two different results for the two methods. I set the A/S somewhere between the two test figures on the assumption that most records will be somewhere between blank and full modulation levels. Not exactly an super accurate method but then I also check for significant cantilever movement as the stylus hits a track - most of the time it's fine and any worn stylus I've had checked had even wear so it appears to work for me.

Azimouth:
Hard for me to "play" with this one and yes perhaps I might get a few db more separation if I had expensive test gear and spent time packing the cartridge to 0.25 degree levels but I don't think I've had a problem with poor imaging/separation for a long time so not really going to worry too much about this.

Arm/cartridge matching:
Due to the different way cartridge manufactures test/state the figures the tools can only really spot significant problems. I am finding the Nagaoka cartridges appear to be far more compliant than the figures suggest giving significantly lower resonance figures than the tools suggest to such an extent I may buy another test record to try and re-check my results. As far as I know the the 9cc Evo is slightly lower effective mass than my Rega RB300 and the Garrott's compliance of 18 is close to the 20 of my P77 so should be even closer to an "ideal" match than my combination which works extremely well.

As you can see I do my best but don't sweat about the absolute nth degree of setup. Once I find myself stopping listening to the "system" and listening to the music without realising it I'm done!!

Amps/Speaker:
Yet another, as you suggest, whole potential minefield and the cartridge to speaker "synergy" to be a real problem. For example AT 100/120 etc. cartridges did not work well with the metal domed tweeters of my Rogers LS2a giving a bright tiring sound and like wise Grado Black etc. did not work well with the soft domed tweeters in my Rega RS3's given a lack of sparkle and lumpy base but AT with Rega and Grado with Rogers worked well. I suspect the Gp77i like my A&R P77/P78 and Nagaoka MP110/200 would probably work well with both.

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by Byron4 » 27 Feb 2018 14:25

Wow!! All this discussion of the Nagaoka cartridges makes me tempted to purchase one. I have a Thorens TD-147 turntable with a low mass (7.5grams) tonearm using a inexpensive backup cartridge right now. I would like to try a Nagaoka cartridge on it however like my Hana EH it seems to be a fairly low compliance cartridge which may not be compatible with this tonearm. I may try it anyways because the benefits seem to outweigh the mismatch.

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by mjwraw » 27 Feb 2018 15:54

DeepEnd wrote:Sorry for the delay in responding but I've been away from the PC and didn't fancy typing a lot on my phone!!

I don't think any of us are 100% confident about getting the perfect cartridge set-up and without spending quite a lot of money I not sure it's even possible in a normal home set up. I've been trying for 40 years and still not 100% confident.
..........
Thank you for that detailed and comprehensive reply, really very much appreciated ! It gives me a level of comfort to know that it seems we all share similar thoughts on set up, and also it gives me some confidence in that what you say about the various facets of TT set-up are not far from my own experiences. And finally, yes, 100% agree, in the end the most important things to remember are that the goal is to enjoy the music, and forget about set-up - or to put it another way, stop listening out for 'problems' and start listening to the music :)

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by billshurv » 27 Feb 2018 16:12

Deepend: There is a lot that can go wrong with MM and leave the wrong impression. The RB300 is a great arm, but lacks the adjustments that some others have. In return you get the mechanical integrity of a cast arm, and more mass than (IMO) MMs want to have. Swings and roundabouts. No one has ever really got to the bottom of which approach is better (rigid or fully adjustable). Mainly because it's not easy to control the variables. Azimuth in particular as you have coil azimuth and stylus azimuth. One of these is more important than the other, but harder to set right :)

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by watchnerd » 28 Aug 2018 06:45

billshurv wrote:There is a lot of confusion over high end stylus design, esp over what actually matters, given that vinyl is mastered with the expectation of a conical stylus being used for replay. At the end of the day diamond quality and polish matters most and I'm pretty sure we'll never get consensus on what is the best shape. The new popularity of the Shibata I think shows that well.
I know records used to be mastered with conical stylii in mind, especially for the inner grooves, but is that still true?

If it is, I don't seem to notice. In fact, my Stevenson alignment usually makes th 2nd half of the disk sound better than the 1st.

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by Sterling1 » 29 Aug 2018 00:24

mjwraw wrote:
DeepEnd wrote: I gather from your comments that you are not entirely happy with its performance (hoping for improvements?).
I would be interested in your thoughts on the P77i both good and bad compared to your previous cartridge(s).
I think part of the problem is that even after 15 years of being very aware of, and continually learning and refining, I'm still not 100% confident that I know how to properly set up a cartridge. I understand the principles behind the various major considerations (using both two point and arc protractors, VTA, SRA, VTF, anti-skate, azimuth), but I'm not confident I understand the interplay between them all, so I'm never confident I'm getting the best out of any cart I use. And I have very little understanding of cart/arm matching, compliance, resonance etc. For example, whilst to the best I can judge the P77i should be a reasonable match for the 9cc Evolution arm, (using the evaluation tool on this site), but is it really ? And then there's the cables, and the amplifier, and the speakers.......
I did not have confidence, like you; but, after CDs were introduced I just purchased a few LPs and CDs of same music. Then I could easily discern if cartridge alignment was proper, that's to say, if the LPs sounded indistingishable from the CDs I could conclude that the cartridge was aligned to produce the best sound I could expect from the LPs. 36 years later I'm still using that technique and interestingly enough, since I have turntables with s-shaped tonearms, I just align the cartridge simply be setting distance of stylus to headshell tail at turntable manufacturer's recommendation then adjust cartridge to be parallel with headshell axis. This method always works unless the cartridge is defective.

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Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Post by watchnerd » 29 Aug 2018 06:22

Byron4 wrote:Wow!! All this discussion of the Nagaoka cartridges makes me tempted to purchase one. I have a Thorens TD-147 turntable with a low mass (7.5grams) tonearm using a inexpensive backup cartridge right now. I would like to try a Nagaoka cartridge on it however like my Hana EH it seems to be a fairly low compliance cartridge which may not be compatible with this tonearm. I may try it anyways because the benefits seem to outweigh the mismatch.
Thie Miller Audio test results for the Nagoka MP-500 are pretty damn impressive for a cart at any price.

Stereo separation >30 dB though most of the audio band, even exceeding >35 dB in a few places, 0.35 channel matching, nearly ruler flat frequency response from about 30-10000 hz with a gentle roll off at each end of the spectrum, and geat tracking results.

The measurements for the Benz Micro ACE SL (~$900 USD if it was still sold new here) and the Ortofon Cadenza Red ($1280) were similarly good, but more costly. Many other carts weren't nearly as good, at any price, as the Nagaoka MP-500.

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