ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

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wolfie62
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ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by wolfie62 » 24 Dec 2018 13:32

I love the vintage ADC Cartridges, and own 7 of them. They range from the lowly QLM30 to the XLM Integras and XLM MKII, MKII Improved, and MKIII. When all things are running properly, these carts are some of the best out there, easily competing with MC carts and MM carts that cost over a $1,000, but you will spend less than $100. I have replaced using my Shure V15s with the ADCs. (V15V, V15VxMR) They sound better and I can get styli for them. But I ran into some challenges along the way. Some styli just didn't deliver the goods, not even NOS! And I'm NOT talking about any degradation of the elastomer pivot block here!

So I have purchased NOS styli that I keep for special playback, and I have purchased aftermarket styli from LP Gear, Turntable Needles, EVG Japan, EVG, EVG "eBay", Astatic, and Pfansteihl.

I have experienced problems with all of them! Good news is, I have studied this and found what the problems were!

So this is to relate what my findings are, so that perhaps it might help some of you who have discovered how truly great these cartridges can be, even compared to all the new offerings out there.

First we will look at the aftermarket knock-offs.

This is a "NOS" Astatic stylus for the XLM. The polyurethane foam protection disintegrated after 20+ years and left residue on the cantilever, but that isn't what's wrong with the stylus:
astatic fake.jpg
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Here you can see a common problem with the cheap knock-offs: no bar magnet used to induce the magnetism into the cantilever iron sheath at the end of the cantilever that inserts into the cart body. Instead, they use a magnet plug stuck to the end of the cantilever! This is cheap, and negates the very advantages of the ADC MI system that keeps the cantilever light and free moving! This cheap stylus has converted your MI cart to a heavier MM cart! This Astatic does, however, have a real pivot block mount like the original ADC units, just no bar magnet.

This is common with the cheap knock-offs! You will see it on the eBay-sold knock-offs labeled as EVG styli for ADC XLM cartridges!

With these styli, after listening to you ADC cart, you will wonder why anyone bothers buying the ADC carts, or why some think they sound so good!
astatic close up.jpg
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These are current aftermarket offerings from Pfansteihl and the eBay "EVG" sellers:


First the Pfansteihl:

Here I have labeled the problems with this styli. This stylus imparts a numbness to the cartridge. No shimmer, no life, muddy bass, no detail.

It has no pivot block. It only has a small rubber sheet glued into the plastic frame. Where the pivot block should be is just a plastic feature of the one-piece frame.

If you look closely, you will see no bar magnet at the nose, and you will see a small magnet plug at the end of the cantilever.
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And here is the eBay EVG stylus for the XLM. It has no bar magnet. But they do try to fake it by sticking a gold piece of foil on the nose to make it look like a bar magnet. Also, the canilever is WAY TOO LONG!. This stylus has sever problems with sibilance due to its unwieldy long cantilever and heavy magnet plug at the opposite end. Muddy bass, no detail.
eBay EVG offering.png
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Next, I will show the EVG Japan stylus, which is quite good, the LP Gear stylus which is quite good. Then, I will sum up by showing NOS ADC styli. Even with these I have had a problem, but it is very easy to fix.

In the end, you will see what works and why. With the proper stylus, these ADC carts will blow your mind, but not your budget!

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by gofar99 » 24 Dec 2018 14:40

Hi, Great info....any information on the ones from JICO for the XLM?

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by derspankster » 24 Dec 2018 15:04

Great post wolfie, terrific information. I have a vintage ADC in a drawer here somewhere. I don't recall the model number. I guess you'll be adding more later.

der

wolfie62
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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by wolfie62 » 24 Dec 2018 16:10

The EVG Japan Stylus is a Jico made elliptical stylus. I seriously doubt Jico will short change you on any of the critical design elements in their XLM stylus. Even the lowly EVG Japan Stylus is well made.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by BMRR » 24 Dec 2018 17:54

Wow! I've never seen or encountered any of those aftermarket ADC styli that lack bar magnets. I guess I've been lucky.

I've got two EVGs from Japan (presumably made by JICO), and a Pfanstiehl from Switzerland, and all three have bar magnets.

Aside from being loose (and one having a suspension so soft that I can't run it heavier than 1g), all three basically work fine.

My biggest problems have been with NOS ADC styli. To date I've tried NOS K8C, K8E, and QLM32 MkII styli, and all three have been so stiff that I couldn't run them at less than 5g. The K8s are supposed to work at 1.5g-3g and the QLM32 MkII is supposed to work at 1g-2g. No such luck for me. They're as stiff as, or stiffer than, my Shure SC35C (which is designed to track at 4.5g).

The only NOS ADC stylus I haven't had that problem with is an XLM MkII Improved, which works as advertised.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by donovan » 24 Dec 2018 18:31

Great post! I have been fortunate that both my OEM K8C and QLM30MKIII stylus sound wonderful. I have a Brand New EVG Swiss spare but haven't mounted yet.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by Snead » 25 Dec 2018 02:05

I too have never had an ADC stylus with the flaws Wolfie describes, but I'm grateful to know it's a concern.

Incidently BMRR, the QLM 32 is supposed to track at 2-4 grams, not 1-2. That's the TF for the QLM36, which is considerably more compliant. If you decide to try it again at it's proper weight, please let us know how went.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by BMRR » 25 Dec 2018 02:40

Thanks for spotting that error. But as I said in my post, I can't get it to track at less than 5g

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by mamakasou » 25 Dec 2018 11:48

BMRR, are you sure the cantilevers are that stiff?
It can surely happen, but it shouldn't be so common.

I remember you also said, that you couldn't find many NOS Stanton/Pickering to work at suggested VTF.
Correct me if I am wrong.

MAybe it's something else, because, I've never had any such issues with my ADC and Stanton/Pickering NOS styli. I have quite a few of the latter.

However, I've had a stock Technics arm once, that through the years it needed changing, exactly because it was creating issues that remind me of your case. It was working fine on the lateral axis but the bearings had stiffen on the vertical axis, creating problems in VTF adjustments.

First thing i tried was to loosen the little screws that are responsible for holding the arm on that bearings.
Problem was that after i tighten them back, i overdid it and they were damaged.
So I changed my arm assembly.

So maybe try to loosen them up with some WD40 or silicon oil and then readjust them.
But be careful not to over-tight them, as I did!
They only need a very gentle turn just enough to hold the arm in place without room for play.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by BMRR » 25 Dec 2018 16:18

mamakasou wrote:
25 Dec 2018 11:48
BMRR, are you sure the cantilevers are that stiff?
Yes, I'm very sure. There's no mistaking it. If I gently push on the cantilever with my finger, it barely moves at all. And it's not my turntable/tonearm; I have over 60 cartridges in my collection and most of them track perfectly at the manufacturer-specified VTFs, including some that are designed to track at 1.25g or less.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by wolfie62 » 25 Dec 2018 21:19

I have found huge differences in performance when comparing NOS ADC styli to aftermarket ones, even when the aftermarkets seem to be built correctly.

My next question was, “Why?”

I have purchased several ADC carts with NOS styli for cheap. When I got them, mounted them, the cartridge didn’t sound good, hence the reason the seller “gave away” the cartridge. Why did the cartridge not sound good? I found out why, and corrected the performance issues.

It is these issues I want to get into.

I have found very few people who took the time to really dive in and find answers.

Performance issues beyond appearances.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by Snead » 26 Dec 2018 01:52

With their minimalist style of 'open' construction and lack of a tie wire, ADCs are the easiest type of styli to tweak. There are only three main parts -- the plastic grip, the rubber doughnut and the cantilever/stylus. It's very quick n simple to withdraw the old cantilever and slide in a new one, for example. Likewise for the rubber doughnut. I've done this. The only seeming complication is the existence (or not) of Omnipivot 'locating flats' built in to the cantilever and doughnut

You'd think ADCs of this era would be favorites of those that like to roll their own and tailor the compliance to their wishes. Especially when heavy tracking NOS syli are still cheap and plentiful.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by wolfie62 » 26 Dec 2018 02:38

But, the geometry is critical to performance.

Yes, many aftermarket makers have made styli that produce sound. Very few have paid attention to the proper dimensioning of the assembly.

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by 33audio » 27 Dec 2018 14:06

Hi, I would like to give my view of aftermarket stylii. First, always test one on a record you
don't care about. A poorly shaped diamond is common. A large snowy white deposit on
the stylus after a few minutes is the clue.

Second, the manufacturer doesn't care what they made, at least not much.
They don't have access to design specs and couldn't
reproduce them if the wanted to. Jico, being an exception, an aftermarket stylus is simply
something cheap to get the phono playing again. Some are not cheap, and sometimes are
acceptable. The black paint on the cantilever does not mean Jico. EVG-Japan probably made
their own in the old Empire plant that they converted to their aftermarket products. The black
dot seems to mean elliptical.

I bought hundreds of EVG, Pfan, Astatic and others. Yes, sometimes the rubber suspension is
hardened. This is due to age and in conjunction with poor chemistry in manufacturing.

If they put the wrong stylus in the package, or sourced them through a junk dealer, they don't care.

The typical aftermarket has a shrill resonance in the midrange.

They are not intended to be a replacement for the original as far as sound goes. They are intended
for people who just don't understand what they are, and thought they were saving money.

Not intending to be insulting. I have a several of the "special" stylii from EVG and Pfansteihl. They are
better than the cheap ones, and cost as much as an original back when they were made,
but some of them chew vinyl. Jico possibly made them, not sure. Some were possibly made by Zafira
in Switzerland. The aftermarket companies were sometimes re-boxers. They would find someone to make it and
then sell it under their own name, if they didn't find it economical to make it themselves. Today, China
is involved. They can really make some sorry junk.

Again, not intending to be insulting, aftermarket stylus distribution is intended to sell no telling what to suckers.

Caveat Emptor. Regards, Mark

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Re: ADC Styli Problems: What to watch for!

Post by wolfie62 » 30 Dec 2018 06:52

What I have found in the aftermarket styli is lack of treble extension. They have an overall numb sound compared to OE styli. The closest performing styli I have found are those from LP Gear. But even theirs don’t quite deliver the full extension of treble that the ADC deliver. Why not?

What specifically makes them different from ADC originals?

I would argue that yes, these aftermarket producers do indeed have OE specs to compare to. They reverse engineer the frames, and could reverse engineer down to the most minute detail. They stop short where it cuts into their profit margin. Many of the differences are glaring! A small mod transforms a good LP Gear Stylus into a great one!

So, I got out my digital calipers, made measurements, formed some theories, then tested those theories.

I have never yet had aftermarket styli “chew” vinyl. They just sound lousy.

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