Page 4 of 7

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 27 Nov 2018 19:21
by hedgehog35
How good are Nagaoka cartridges? The simple answer is very good.
Until very recently I swapped between 3 MM cartridges: Goldring 1042, Ortofon 2M black and Nagaoka MP 150/20.

I have used all 3 on a SME M2 -9/ Gyrodec SE and on a Technics 1200GR.
My conclusions: All three cartridges are good, but sound quite different from each other. I will try to summarise the differences (to my old ears).

1. Tracking: I tend to track at upper range of suggested tracking weights so, 1.9g for Goldring, 1.7g for Ortofon and 1.9 - 2.0g for Nagaoka. All can cleanly track the three +15dB bands on side 2 of Hi Fi News test record.

2. Anti - skating: No distortion with bias set at approx. 1.5 - 1.7 on SME and Technics arms. I always try to set bias at the lowest level possible without distortion using test record. As an aside, I have been surprised at just how good the bearings and tracking ability of Technics arm is - easily as good as the SME.

3. Output: First big differences between the cartridges. The Ortofon has clearly the highest output of the group with my volume control set at least 3dB less than Goldring and Nagaoka - Nagaoka may have slightly higher output than Goldring.

4. Surface noise: the Ortofon takes no prisoners here. If you have a worn or badly pressed lp, the Ortofon will let you know. On the other hand, it clearly extracts a great deal of information from the record. The Goldring and Nagaoka are similar, both being quite kind with surface noise.

5. Sound quality: this is a bit of a can of worms, but let me say right at the off, that all three are very good cartridges and will give much pleasure when set up correctly and in a suitable system. The Ortofon is easily the most immediately impressive of the three with a wide, 'airy' sound stage, packed full of detail and little musical clues. I think if you were to listening in a shop demo this would be the one you might choose. The sound is very 'hi fi' if you know what I mean, and projects right into the listening area. You are certainly going to hear the full range of frequencies from low to high. I am not however, totally convinced that its frequency response is flat (in fact, I know its not, because I have a response graph of my cartridge - but that is another story).
The Goldring might not immediately impress, but it is a wonderfully musical cartridge, particularly the mid range which lets you hear a very natural sound from stringed and acoustic instruments. This is a great cartridge for acoustic jazz and classical music. Maybe not so good if you like heavy metal?
I first purchased a Nagaoka MP150 and then quickly upgraded with a 200 stylus. Not because I was in any way disappointed with the 150, I just really wanted to hear what the 200 sounded like! The answer is it just sounds right. Every frequency from the lowest to highest is reproduced with a very life - like tone and feel. The dynamics are excellent. I began mostly listening to light rock and I thought this would be its best material. Huge surprise when I began putting on jazz and classical vinyl - this cartridge likes them all!
So in summary, all are excellent in their own way, but if I could only keep one it would be the Nagaoka as it is strong in so many different areas. I have not heard the two most expensive models (300 and 500), and unfortunately they have a slightly different body to the others. I think Nagaoka cartridges are often overlooked by hi fi enthusiasts - partly because their plastic bodies don't look expensive and they are not as widely distributed in the UK or Europe (not sure about US). I think that under the skin however, they are in fact sophisticated and also extremely well made devices.

It is also interesting to note that in a recent group test of MM cartridges in the UK magazine 'Hi Fi Choice', which included the Ortofon 2m black , the Nagaoka MP200 (the cheapest by far), came top. The Ortofon was however still recommended.

All my cartridges are set up using a Ken Willis 'Accutrak' arc protractor specific for each arm (the best I have found), and I use the overhang and offset data recommended by each arm manufacturer.
Sorry for the long ramble, but I hope this helps.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 27 Nov 2018 19:26
by AdlerW
I think Nagaokas are some of the best cartridges out there. They just have the perfect balance of everything for my classical music listening taste. They track really well, but in terms of sound they are not quite as veiled as the Grado Prestige, but not as bright as the Audio Technicas...it's a good middle, the best of both worlds. The MP-200 sings on my newly-acquired Technics SL-D205. It makes me not want to use any other cartridge.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 28 Nov 2018 03:36
by dahoo
hedgehog35 wrote:
27 Nov 2018 19:21
How good are Nagaoka cartridges? The simple answer is very good.
Until very recently I swapped between 3 MM cartridges: Goldring 1042, Ortofon 2M black and Nagaoka MP 150/20.
Thanks hedgehog35, that's very informative. i was also interested in goldring 1042 and i have mp150 now, just bought jnp200 this black friday. although, jnp200 hasn't arrived yet, i think i will stick to my mp150/200 for my rock taste.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 28 Nov 2018 12:09
by cafe latte
AdlerW wrote:
27 Nov 2018 19:26
I think Nagaokas are some of the best cartridges out there. They just have the perfect balance of everything for my classical music listening taste. They track really well, but in terms of sound they are not quite as veiled as the Grado Prestige, but not as bright as the Audio Technicas...it's a good middle, the best of both worlds. The MP-200 sings on my newly-acquired Technics SL-D205. It makes me not want to use any other cartridge.
The new Grado 2 are not veiled.
Chris

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 28 Nov 2018 16:15
by AdlerW
Subjective :) To me they are better than the Prestige1, but still sound more veiled than the Nag. I’m not saying “it’s a veiled cartridge” (same way I’m not claiming that the AT is inherently “bright”). But this is how they sound compared to the MP-200.

I should add that I've tried so many of the currently-available cartridges under $500 and my two favorites are the MP-200 and the Grado Silver2.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 28 Nov 2018 18:00
by patient_ot
hedgehog35 wrote:
27 Nov 2018 19:21

The Goldring might not immediately impress, but it is a wonderfully musical cartridge, particularly the mid range which lets you hear a very natural sound from stringed and acoustic instruments. This is a great cartridge for acoustic jazz and classical music. Maybe not so good if you like heavy metal?
I threw just about everything at my Goldring 1042 in terms of music genres, and that includes heavy metal. I wouldn't say it fared poorly there. It's a neutral cartridge, IMHO/IME. It's also very fiddly IME and can be a pain to dial in. I never got it to track inner grooves 100% to my liking on hotly cut rock and pop records from the late 70s and early to mid 80s. And yes it was aligned properly and I even adjusted the azimuth slightly. Besides the fiddly nature of it, it's a very hot cart IME. If your phono preamp doesn't have adjustable gain where you can dial things down to below 40db (optimal is probably something like 35db) or a very generous overload margin, you could have trouble with on certain records. I am honestly surprised your sample of the 1042 is hotter than the 2M Black. Goldring says there is a 1.5 MV +/- variance. Perhaps you got one on the low end and I got one on the high end of output. I'm guessing the same thing would apply to the 2M Black. Nominally it's spec'd lower than the Goldring.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 28 Nov 2018 21:53
by cafe latte
AdlerW wrote:
28 Nov 2018 16:15
Subjective :) To me they are better than the Prestige1, but still sound more veiled than the Nag. I’m not saying “it’s a veiled cartridge” (same way I’m not claiming that the AT is inherently “bright”). But this is how they sound compared to the MP-200.

I should add that I've tried so many of the currently-available cartridges under $500 and my two favorites are the MP-200 and the Grado Silver2.
I have both the mp500 and the new Gold 2 highs and detail are the same but Grado is wider IMO. The mp-500 just feels a little closed in, cant remember who but a while ago someone posted the frequency curve for the mp-500 and there was a dip in the upper mids this IMO is what I am hearing. This dip will be in the mp200 and others too as body are similar. I do run the Grado tail up as due to the angle of the tip it needs this setting to be correct and in this position it is really detailed but most important it does not have this suckout.
Chris

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 28 Nov 2018 23:03
by hedgehog35
It's very strange how different listeners have experiences which are so different! (or maybe not - see later).
I looked at the Goldring website and they do quote an output of 6.5mV for both their 1042 and Goldring 2400 cartridges. I only mention this as I used to have the 2400 and found that it did have a very high output - much greater than my 1042!
So I must have a 1042 at the lower end of the output scale.

I was wondering however, if distortion is mainly heard on the inner grooves and with the most heavily modulated tracks, then this might suggest mistracking rather than overloading the preamp with too high an output. As you know, the inner grooves (yes, I know there is only one really), and heavily modulated, high frequency signals, are the greatest tracking challenge for any cartridge. I completely agree that the Goldring is a total pain to set up, and I too would tend to keep tweaking it to make it sound better. I would definitely say that it needs a good arm to give its best, and it certainly sounded much better in the SME arm than it did in the Rega RB300 - perhaps because it is much easier to precisely adjust the SME for all the parameters mentioned.
Since I contributed to the discussion, I have swapped the stylus on the Goldring for a new one I had in a drawer. Sounds much more dynamic now, so maybe I will have to revise my opinion about it being not so good on rock.
All of this shows is that you have treat any advice offered on the forum with caution. In 50 years of owning hi fi, I have discovered that absolutely everything will affect the sound of your system - even the temperature of the room! All we can say is that a particular bit of gear sounds good/not so good IN OUR SYSTEM. It may sound totally different in another system and in another room. The data published by manufacturers or produced by reviewers can be quite interesting, but in my experience, may tell you very little about how a cartridge or whatever, will actually sound when put into your own system.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 29 Nov 2018 04:07
by patient_ot
hedgehog35 wrote:
28 Nov 2018 23:03
It's very strange how different listeners have experiences which are so different! (or maybe not - see later).
I looked at the Goldring website and they do quote an output of 6.5mV for both their 1042 and Goldring 2400 cartridges. I only mention this as I used to have the 2400 and found that it did have a very high output - much greater than my 1042!
So I must have a 1042 at the lower end of the output scale.

I was wondering however, if distortion is mainly heard on the inner grooves and with the most heavily modulated tracks, then this might suggest mistracking rather than overloading the preamp with too high an output. As you know, the inner grooves (yes, I know there is only one really), and heavily modulated, high frequency signals, are the greatest tracking challenge for any cartridge. I completely agree that the Goldring is a total pain to set up, and I too would tend to keep tweaking it to make it sound better. I would definitely say that it needs a good arm to give its best, and it certainly sounded much better in the SME arm than it did in the Rega RB300 - perhaps because it is much easier to precisely adjust the SME for all the parameters mentioned.
Since I contributed to the discussion, I have swapped the stylus on the Goldring for a new one I had in a drawer. Sounds much more dynamic now, so maybe I will have to revise my opinion about it being not so good on rock.
All of this shows is that you have treat any advice offered on the forum with caution. In 50 years of owning hi fi, I have discovered that absolutely everything will affect the sound of your system - even the temperature of the room! All we can say is that a particular bit of gear sounds good/not so good IN OUR SYSTEM. It may sound totally different in another system and in another room. The data published by manufacturers or produced by reviewers can be quite interesting, but in my experience, may tell you very little about how a cartridge or whatever, will actually sound when put into your own system.
That is very interesting about your 1042 and 2400.

Re: mistracking and overloading, I think it is a bit of both.

Re: the arm, I'll take your word for it, although an SME arm is not in the near future for me. I had hoped to buy a new 1200GR this year but I had to put it off until 2019.

I may be testing out a different phono stage soon that can handle a higher output cartridge. I'll have some info on that pretty soon.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 10 Dec 2018 22:55
by hedgehog35
patient_ot wrote:
29 Nov 2018 04:07
hedgehog35 wrote:
28 Nov 2018 23:03

Re: the arm, I'll take your word for it, although an SME arm is not in the near future for me. I had hoped to buy a new 1200GR this year but I had to put it off until 2019.
I have been very impressed with the Technics 1200GR - it gives about 85% of the performance of the Michell at 50% of the cost. I only changed as I needed a more domestically acceptable turntable (!), and one that would be easier to move to different rooms if needed.
The Technics is much more user friendly i.e. anyone else in my family can use it!
The arm is better than I expected and I would say the bearings are as good as the SME, which alone costs more than the Technics. Arm height is very easy to adjust although range is a bit limited. Bias also very easy to set and tracking weight scale is amazingly accurate - to within 0.2g of my accurate digital scales. The only disappointment is that I cannot adjust azimuth and will need to buy expensive headshell to do so.
I'm sure you won't be disappointed if you get one.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 10 Dec 2018 23:29
by cafe latte
hedgehog35 wrote:
28 Nov 2018 23:03
It's very strange how different listeners have experiences which are so different! (or maybe not - see later).
I looked at the Goldring website and they do quote an output of 6.5mV for both their 1042 and Goldring 2400 cartridges. I only mention this as I used to have the 2400 and found that it did have a very high output - much greater than my 1042!
So I must have a 1042 at the lower end of the output scale.

I was wondering however, if distortion is mainly heard on the inner grooves and with the most heavily modulated tracks, then this might suggest mistracking rather than overloading the preamp with too high an output. As you know, the inner grooves (yes, I know there is only one really), and heavily modulated, high frequency signals, are the greatest tracking challenge for any cartridge. I completely agree that the Goldring is a total pain to set up, and I too would tend to keep tweaking it to make it sound better. I would definitely say that it needs a good arm to give its best, and it certainly sounded much better in the SME arm than it did in the Rega RB300 - perhaps because it is much easier to precisely adjust the SME for all the parameters mentioned.
Since I contributed to the discussion, I have swapped the stylus on the Goldring for a new one I had in a drawer. Sounds much more dynamic now, so maybe I will have to revise my opinion about it being not so good on rock.
All of this shows is that you have treat any advice offered on the forum with caution. In 50 years of owning hi fi, I have discovered that absolutely everything will affect the sound of your system - even the temperature of the room! All we can say is that a particular bit of gear sounds good/not so good IN OUR SYSTEM. It may sound totally different in another system and in another room. The data published by manufacturers or produced by reviewers can be quite interesting, but in my experience, may tell you very little about how a cartridge or whatever, will actually sound when put into your own system.
I really dont think the room temp will make a difference as the hifi will come up to operating temp whatever, unless it is really cod and you wear ear muffs this I think will have some effect :D
Yes rooms will have an effect as will the rest of the gear most hifi discussed online is set up less than optimally to fit round the rest of the family and in these less than optimal conditions people give opinions on the gear which are often flawed of course. A few years back I finally got my dream of a listening room come true, 9mx8m with everything based just around the hifi, even window positions away from speakers and one positioned just so my record shelf could be where I wanted it. Moving my hifi in was a shock it was like I had just bought new components totally completely different. I have a lot of carts and a number of amps and preamps and 5 turntables, the gear does not really change the cart sound that much without room limitations IMO, yes the valve amp sounds different to the Mosfet but the basics are still there. The 1042 has a great stylus and it really is quite a nice cart, wonder if stylus might need a wet clean with alcohol and a stylus brush?
I agree reviews are best ignored especially when you turn the page and there is a review from the same company being reviewed so review is hardly unbiased.
Chris

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 11 Dec 2018 00:11
by Sterling1
hedgehog35 wrote:
10 Dec 2018 22:55
patient_ot wrote:
29 Nov 2018 04:07
hedgehog35 wrote:
28 Nov 2018 23:03

Re: the arm, I'll take your word for it, although an SME arm is not in the near future for me. I had hoped to buy a new 1200GR this year but I had to put it off until 2019.
I have been very impressed with the Technics 1200GR - it gives about 85% of the performance of the Michell at 50% of the cost. I only changed as I needed a more domestically acceptable turntable (!), and one that would be easier to move to different rooms if needed.
The Technics is much more user friendly i.e. anyone else in my family can use it!
The arm is better than I expected and I would say the bearings are as good as the SME, which alone costs more than the Technics. Arm height is very easy to adjust although range is a bit limited. Bias also very easy to set and tracking weight scale is amazingly accurate - to within 0.2g of my accurate digital scales. The only disappointment is that I cannot adjust azimuth and will need to buy expensive headshell to do so.
I'm sure you won't be disappointed if you get one.
The SL-1200GR azimuth is adjustable. Turn the headshell upside down and loosen screw holding terminal in place. rotate headshell from terminal as needed and retighten.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 11 Dec 2018 21:48
by patient_ot
hedgehog35 wrote:
28 Nov 2018 23:03
It's very strange how different listeners have experiences which are so different! (or maybe not - see later).
A bit of an update on my Goldring 1042. I think the main problem was the phono preamp. I ended up getting a Graham Slee Reflex M with PSU 1 on temporary loan. This phono pre has slightly more gain than the lowest setting of my MOFI but the overload margin is much greater and it was stress tested with cartridges up to 10MV in output. I did remount the Goldring on a new headshell and double checked VTA and azimuth, but let's just say using the Goldring through this phono pre is a completely different experience. The "hot" distortion on dynamic peaks is pretty much gone now, even on very aggressively cut records. I still don't think the Gyger-S stylus is quite as amazing at tracking inner grooves as say an AT microline, but again, distortion on dynamic peaks, sibilant vocals, etc. is quite reduced. I did get a more detailed technical explanation for why this is the case but I'll not post it here unless there is interest.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 11 Dec 2018 21:53
by patient_ot
cafe latte wrote:
28 Nov 2018 21:53
I have both the mp500 and the new Gold 2 highs and detail are the same but Grado is wider IMO.
Channel separation specs:

MP500 >27dB

Gold2 35dB


I think that probably accounts for the wider sound. Hard to match 35dB until you get to some very expensive carts, though some older Stanton models can get there.

Re: Just how good are Nagaoka cartridges?

Posted: 11 Dec 2018 22:16
by cafe latte
patient_ot wrote:
11 Dec 2018 21:53
cafe latte wrote:
28 Nov 2018 21:53
I have both the mp500 and the new Gold 2 highs and detail are the same but Grado is wider IMO.
Channel separation specs:

MP500 >27dB

Gold2 35dB


I think that probably accounts for the wider sound. Hard to match 35dB until you get to some very expensive carts, though some older Stanton models can get there.
One I had forgotten about till recently was the DJ Trackmaster 2 which I fitted a nude D71 nude in that plastic mount was removed not actually a nude. I also tried my Stanton 881 Shibata with plastic mount which looked very odd indeed but it sounded great, good enough that I will be getting a vivid line for the Trackmaster as it is really stunning and very wide and channel separation is over 30db too.
Chris