Audio-Technica and Signet

the thin end of the wedge
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dagfinn
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Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by dagfinn » 16 Oct 2019 14:40

Hi all! Since I can't help hijacking other threads about vintage Audio-Technica and Signet VM cartridges and styli, so here's a thread to discuss them freely. I know Audio Technica also made Precept, but very little more.

I don't have so many yet, but a few samples of the different series are on their way to me. Some on loan, and some I've purchased used. I have more questions than answers, so any input is appreciated.
Audio-Technica_AT-VM540ML.jpg
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Latest series AT, AT-VM540ML, and what got me started.
AT-VM555LC_1.jpg
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AT-VM540 with ATN155LC
Signet_HSBK10.jpg
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Signet AM20s with ATN152LP
Signet_AM20s40ML_HS10BK_2.jpg
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Signet with VM540ML

I find the different styli options, specially the ML and LCs, together with the all the variations a lot of fun. Signet has three compatible series I am aware of; TkEa, MR 5.0 and AM. Unfortunately, the styli are becoming very scarce, to say the least. Signets MR and SAM series, with ML on gold-plated beryllium as top of the line are history and unobtainable.

For me it is interesting to see the development (or not) over time, and to hear the differences between different ages of production. And most important to me, all incarnations I've heard seems to sound good in each their own way. In my ears and system ;).

Regards,
dagfinn

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by pivot » 16 Oct 2019 15:52

I worked at a shop that sold Signet brand in he early '80s. I truly believe that Signet was a marketing decision by AT. Audio Technica was sold in "Mid Fi" and discount (Crazy Eddie) shops while Signet was the brand marketed in more "Hi End" stores.

The Signet specs match contemporary AT units and some will interchange styli. Signet bodies were designed to look different but the "guts" were the same as the Audio Technica brand.

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by BMRR » 16 Oct 2019 16:42

AT was following the path of the Japanese auto makers, e.g. Toyota (Lexus), Honda (Acura), Nissan (Infiniti). :)

I suspect the main reason for mothballing the Signet brand was the huge downturn in both record and turntable sales that coincided with CDs dominating the music media market.

I recently acquired a Signet AM10S, body only. This was my first foray into Signet cartridges. It seemed like a good place to start because it will work with all of my 100/440-series styli.

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by billshurv » 16 Oct 2019 16:43

what we don't know is the level of selection (or binning) that was done with the signet generators. Certainly at the time AT did some models where the higher priced models had tighter specs. Grado does the same as do/did others. So there is a possibility that the signets got the best generators off the production line. Whether this makes any difference is open to debate.

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by PaulKehayas » 16 Oct 2019 18:09

I asked this in the other thread, but I have a Signet TK5EA. I am wondering what it might sound like with the new VMN40ML on it.
billshurv indicated that it would fit.
I am wondering if anyone has tried it and what were the results?

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by 2002afan » 16 Oct 2019 20:12

billshurv wrote:
16 Oct 2019 16:43
what we don't know is the level of selection (or binning) that was done with the signet generators. Certainly at the time AT did some models where the higher priced models had tighter specs. Grado does the same as do/did others. So there is a possibility that the signets got the best generators off the production line. Whether this makes any difference is open to debate.
Bill, hand made vs. the production line. I think that was the biggest difference.
Next time I'm in Akron, I'll make a quick trip out to Signet's old building in Stow so I can check if they left any boxes in the basement. =P~ :lol: Finally a well deserved Signet thread. :)
Cheers,
WillO

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by dagfinn » 16 Oct 2019 20:37

PaulKehayas, I can't answer for the TK5Ea, but I can tell you the VMN40ML can track really well, have lots of detail, no sibilance or IGD.

Bill, forgive my ignorance, I thought some specs were depending on stylus fitted, but are they actually independent generator specs?
specs.JPG
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AM20s_AT155LC.jpg
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My third version of AM20s, with AT155LC, but basically the same as the 152LP. Slight compliance difference. This will be a very central stylus for me in the years to come. Beryllium certainly has qualities, as does LC :D .
Signet_HSBK.jpg
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Designwise I think it resembles the AT22/24/TK9 quite a lot, but are ten years apart. Much neater looking with black P-mount fitting than the previous MRN5.0s big, bulky, gray plastics... The grays are more substantially built though, perhaps more usable for refitting?

Currently other available options are the two shibatas, the AT150SA, and the new VMN50SH - any experiences with those? They are also well high priced... :roll: . The VMN60SLC is securely priced outside my comfort zone, what is going on with that? Why so costly? Anyone find it worth the money?

Listening to Stevie Wonders Journey Through the Secret life of plants, which still smells of flowers after 40 years :). Keeping it in plastic cover probably preserves the scent. So everything now smells of flowers, even the spinning vinyl emits floral scents! The pressing is not good, overpressing/cutout, but the LC finds much better sound then I can remember hearing from this album earlier.

Hey WillO, take a picture of the building when you're there, will you? For historys sake [-o< :lol:

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by billshurv » 16 Oct 2019 21:36

Will: I find it hard to believe that the coils were hand wound for these (other than the Tk9/10 which couldn't be machine wound). Hand assembled yes. Hand selected yes. Hand tuned again yes. But we will possibly never know unless you find an old dear rocking on her front porch who used to work on the line :).

@Dagfinn. The VMN50SH is the same Shibata (or possibly even lesser small version) that is on your 152/155 inserts but with an Al cantilever. Until we can get one to Ray for imaging we won't know. It's even possible that the 50 is the small shibata and the 60 is the large one. I don't want to say rip off as I haven't converted 1980 prices for the 155 but they do seem to be selling a downgrade as an expensive upgrade! IMO not worth it when the ML is available at a good price.

Now a VMN95ML stylus is available for £120 if you shop around. One day I might see if Dmitry can take that diamond off and graft it onto a Boron or Be cantilever. it wouldn't be cheap, but a lot less than buying NOS.

Darn ebay, just noticed a 150Mlx in uk currently bidding low. I will watch that.

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by 2002afan » 16 Oct 2019 22:00

dagfinn wrote:
16 Oct 2019 20:37
PaulKehayas, I can't answer for the TK5Ea, but I can tell you the VMN40ML can track really well, have lots of detail, no sibilance or IGD.

Bill, forgive my ignorance, I thought some specs were depending on stylus fitted, but are they actually independent generator specs?
specs.JPG

AM20s_AT155LC.jpg
My third version of AM20s, with AT155LC, but basically the same as the 152LP. Slight compliance difference. This will be a very central stylus for me in the years to come. Beryllium certainly has qualities, as does LC :D .
Signet_HSBK.jpg
Designwise I think it resembles the AT22/24/TK9 quite a lot, but are ten years apart. Much neater looking with black P-mount fitting than the previous MRN5.0s big, bulky, gray plastics... The grays are more substantially built though, perhaps more usable for refitting?

Currently other available options are the two shibatas, the AT150SA, and the new VMN50SH - any experiences with those? They are also well high priced... :roll: . The VMN60SLC is securely priced outside my comfort zone, what is going on with that? Why so costly? Anyone find it worth the money?

Listening to Stevie Wonders Journey Through the Secret life of plants, which still smells of flowers after 40 years :). Keeping it in plastic cover probably preserves the scent. So everything now smells of flowers, even the spinning vinyl emits floral scents! The pressing is not good, overpressing/cutout, but the LC finds much better sound then I can remember hearing from this album earlier.

Hey WillO, take a picture of the building when you're there, will you? For historys sake [-o< :lol:
dagfinn, I think the specs are a combination of both. But what do I know, I'm just a dumb ole retired Civil Engineer. :lol:
Yes, I see on (here we go again) hifishark some 180.00 AT150sa stylus on eBay USA right now. A lot more reasonable than the MLX but with no beryllium. :) and :( . I'm thinking of buying up some NOS cheap vintage carts just for their beryllium cantilevers. :idea: I may have to send Dimitry some work. =P~
The Secret life of plants, what a great album. =D>
I was planning on making the trip this week to celebrate my birthday with my sisters but my wife hasn't been feeling too well. :(
I don't travel there during the winter months, so hopefully I will get some pictures next spring. One of my sisters lives in Fairlawn where Audio Technica had their office. I'll check on both locations.
Now on deck, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers' FREE FORALL. :mrgreen:
Cheers,
WillO

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by 2002afan » 16 Oct 2019 22:16

billshurv wrote:
16 Oct 2019 21:36
Will: I find it hard to believe that the coils were hand wound for these (other than the Tk9/10 which couldn't be machine wound). Hand assembled yes. Hand selected yes. Hand tuned again yes. But we will possibly never know unless you find an old dear rocking on her front porch who used to work on the line :).

@Dagfinn. The VMN50SH is the same Shibata (or possibly even lesser small version) that is on your 152/155 inserts but with an Al cantilever. Until we can get one to Ray for imaging we won't know. It's even possible that the 50 is the small shibata and the 60 is the large one. I don't want to say rip off as I haven't converted 1980 prices for the 155 but they do seem to be selling a downgrade as an expensive upgrade! IMO not worth it when the ML is available at a good price.

Now a VMN95ML stylus is available for £120 if you shop around. One day I might see if Dmitry can take that diamond off and graft it onto a Boron or Be cantilever. it wouldn't be cheap, but a lot less than buying NOS.

Darn ebay, just noticed a 150Mlx in uk currently bidding low. I will watch that.

Bill, You are probably 100% correct. Akron use to be known as "the tire capitol" of the world. Not "the capitol of high technology". :lol:
I remember a lot of my high school classmates walking around high too. [-X
Make sure Dimitry wears a mask working with that beryllium. #-o
Cheers,
WillO

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by billshurv » 16 Oct 2019 22:53

dagfinn wrote:
16 Oct 2019 20:37

Bill, forgive my ignorance, I thought some specs were depending on stylus fitted, but are they actually independent generator specs?
It depends. Channel balance is the match between sides on the generator. cross talk is partially based on the accuracy of alignment of the generator and partly on the stylus assembly. So the 'best' generators were assembled into the better models and the best of those got labelled as the top model. If you ended up with more of the lower spec one it didn't matter so much as that was the bigger seller!

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by danmanch » 16 Oct 2019 22:53

So am I understanding this correctly that a newer Audio Technica stylus can fit my old signet Tk1E? I found a generic at LP Gear that fits(not well I'll add) but works and sounds pretty good. It's nothing fancy probably 3-4ml elliptical. But then again it was only 35$. Having a genuine AT that fits better with a better tip would be a great option for me. Any suggestions? If this is even possible..??

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by billshurv » 16 Oct 2019 23:02

2002afan wrote:
16 Oct 2019 22:00
I'm thinking of buying up some NOS cheap vintage carts just for their beryllium cantilevers. :idea: I may have to send Dimitry some work. =P~
Which is what I (and Balky) have done. I have an ortofon Rondo/LC155 cross as one of my MCs.

The one AT I have resisted up until now is the AT15. I did buy an AT15SS stylus but to sacrifice to make a TK9LCA. For now I can't see why these cartridges still fetch such good money compared to some of the other old models.

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by dagfinn » 17 Oct 2019 00:02

WillO: For some obscure reason, I associated Akron, Ohio with Stephen King, and asking internet, it turns out there is a connection in Needful things... :shock: . Don't even remember the story, but I get the creeps a little bit... :lol: Have to read it again... I don't have too much jazz in the Art Blakey category, but some, and I like it more and more. Specially for all the acoustic instruments and the liveness of the recordings - musical sessions, not constructions. My finest is Milt Jacksons Sunflower, I ration it to make it last.

@Bill: Thanks a lot for the Namiki link, didn't know they made the cantilevers as well! Lots of unknown and useful specs https://www.ad-na.com/en/product/jewel/ ... lever.html. It explains why the 150Mlx tip is bonded.
Very interesting to see how the LC FR is different from MR!

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Re: Audio-Technica and Signet

Post by chiz » 17 Oct 2019 00:05

dagfinn wrote:
16 Oct 2019 20:37
download/file.php?id=67681&mode=view
My third version of AM20s, with AT155LC, but basically the same as the 152LP. Slight compliance difference. This will be a very central stylus for me in the years to come. Beryllium certainly has qualities, as does LC :D .
Signet_HSBK.jpg
Designwise I think it resembles the AT22/24/TK9 quite a lot, but are ten years apart. Much neater looking with black P-mount fitting than the previous MRN5.0s big, bulky, gray plastics... The grays are more substantially built though, perhaps more usable for refitting?
Reminds me of a combination I tried a while back:
gallery/image/36588/source

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