High-output or low-output?

the thin end of the wedge
AdlerW
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High-output or low-output?

Post by AdlerW » 11 Oct 2019 18:35

When a cartridge hast two options: High-output or low-output, how do you decide between them?

I'm really interested in getting one of the wood-body Grado cartridges, likely the Sonata2. But it's available in high-output or low-output and there's no difference in price.

I have a preamp that can handle both output levels. So what kind of factors should go into my decision?

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by patient_ot » 11 Oct 2019 18:48

What TT are you planning to put the Grado on? I have the same TT as listed in your profile and can tell you the Grados are too high compliance for the JVC arm. The arm needs a medium compliance cartridge, ideally around 15cu. You may be able to "make it work" but performance will be compromised due to compliance mismatch. I would not recommend it.

RE: the MOFI Studio Phono (which I used to own), like most switchable gain phono preamps, as you jack up gain, S/N ratio will drop. On the other hand, the lower output cartridge probably has lower moving mass due to less wire and smaller/weaker magnets. It's a tradeoff.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by AdlerW » 11 Oct 2019 21:00

Oh, the JVC is set with the VM95ML for now. This would be for a Pioneer PL-7 or PL-5 (have both), which have a low-mass arm. I know from using Grado Prestige on the PL-7 (which was an excellent-sounding setup) that there's no "Grado hum" on either of these models.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by patient_ot » 11 Oct 2019 21:16

AdlerW wrote:
11 Oct 2019 21:00
Oh, the JVC is set with the VM95ML for now. This would be for a Pioneer PL-7 or PL-5 (have both), which have a low-mass arm. I know from using Grado Prestige on the PL-7 (which was an excellent-sounding setup) that there's no "Grado hum" on either of these models.
Gotcha, lower mass arm with the Grado makes sense. Just make sure you have enough clearance for a wood bodied cartridge on those decks. Those small proprietary low mass headshells on those types of TTs won't work with some fat, blocky cartridges. Not enough clearance to properly align. Also pay attention to the weight and make sure it won't leave your counterweight hanging off the end of the arm. Those 80s low mass arms don't usually like heavy carts either because of the light counterweights.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by denvertrakker » 11 Oct 2019 21:55

The conventional wisdom is that the "magic" of low output MCs is not present in the high output versions. When it comes to Grado, though, that may not hold true.

Sumiko made a big deal of that difference in their Talisman/Alchemist series in the '80s. Their claim was that, unlike other high output MCs, the Alchemist (high output version of the Talisman) did not suffer from that problem. I forget why.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by BMRR » 12 Oct 2019 03:07

I would probably choose the high output version. One reason for this is that the low output version has an output of 1 mV, which may be low by MM/MI standards but it might actually be too high for an MC input, as most low output MCs are 0.5 mV or less.

Another reason is that Grado carts already have low moving mass and I wouldn't expect the low output version to be noticeably better in that regard. The high output version, however, will give you a much better signal-to-noise ratio, and I would expect that to be noticeable.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by AdlerW » 12 Oct 2019 04:18

Thanks. Well if I go with the Grado I will most likely get the high-output version.

What about something like the Hana SH/SL (also considering)? More traditional MC output levels but again, same price and all that.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by raphaelmabo » 12 Oct 2019 09:23

BMRR wrote:
12 Oct 2019 03:07
I would probably choose the high output version. One reason for this is that the low output version has an output of 1 mV, which may be low by MM/MI standards but it might actually be too high for an MC input, as most low output MCs are 0.5 mV or less.
With an output of 1 mV, one needs a phono pre-amp with adjustable gain. It's too much for a MC-input with fixed gain. But there are phono pre-amp:s with adjustable gain, to serve difference in output. And those phono pre-amps may work just fine with 1 mV output.

An example of this is the Mofi StudioPhono/UltraPhono. It can be set between 40, 46, 60 and 66 dB gain. So for a 1 mV cartridge, the 46 dB or 60 dB setting should be used.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by gofar99 » 12 Oct 2019 17:04

Hi, I have the high output Grado and it really is nice. Not really like the lower priced range ones. Has the best characteristics of them and then some. IMO better extension in both directions. Cleaner bass. Lovely mids. But do take note of the comment about size and weight. It is physically large and has a longish front over hang and is heavy. It works fine in my Origin Live arm on an Empire 598. Also the stylus is about mid point of the body and depending on how easy it is for you to set it down on an LP may be hard to see. My turntable is at eye level so this is no issue.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by kalaur » 13 Oct 2019 19:57

IMO, if you have a *good* phono stage that either itself or with a *good* SUT can handle a low output cartridge, go with the low output. While I don't think the high output option is bad per se, just that the low output has additional advantages.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by BMRR » 13 Oct 2019 20:04

kalaur wrote:
13 Oct 2019 19:57
... just that the low output has additional advantages.
When you say low output cartridges have additional advantages, are you referring to the Grado cartridges mentioned by the OP, or are you referring to moving coil cartridges in general?

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by kalaur » 13 Oct 2019 20:44

I believe even with moving iron style cartridges that the lower output versions can get you lower moving mass.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by AdlerW » 13 Oct 2019 21:38

I guess my concern about the Grado now is how massive it is--10g is the highest spec I've ever seen on a cartridge I've been interested in. I did have an 8g Goldring 2300 on my PL-7 and it worked just fine. But 2g goes along way with tonearms. So we'll see. Still definitely considering it.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by patient_ot » 14 Oct 2019 18:53

AdlerW wrote:
13 Oct 2019 21:38
I guess my concern about the Grado now is how massive it is--10g is the highest spec I've ever seen on a cartridge I've been interested in. I did have an 8g Goldring 2300 on my PL-7 and it worked just fine. But 2g goes along way with tonearms. So we'll see. Still definitely considering it.
Take your Goldring, mount it up, and see if you can temporarily add ~2g to the headshell and still balance the tonearm. If you can, the weight shouldn't be a problem in terms of setting the VTF. Still might cause other issues due to the blocky nature of the body on your tiny headshell, resonance issues, etc. You wouldn't really know any of that until trying it, and since carts generally aren't returnable, it's a risk.

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Re: High-output or low-output?

Post by BMRR » 14 Oct 2019 19:39

Needle Doctor has a pretty generous return policy. If the cartridge isn't a good match for the customer's turntable or if the customer simply doesn't like how it sounds, they'll take it back within 30 days of purchase, and they don't charge any outrageous stocking fees unlike certain other companies (*cough* El Pee Gear *cough*).

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