Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

the thin end of the wedge

Pick 4 cartridges that I should test (read description below BEFORE you vote)

Poll ended at 07 Jan 2020 18:49

Audio-Technica AT3600L
31
19%
Audio-Technica VM95C
21
13%
Audio-Technica VM95E
32
20%
Excel QD700C
16
10%
Grado Prestige Black2
35
21%
Ortofon Omega
28
17%
 
Total votes: 163

BMRR
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Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by BMRR » 31 Dec 2019 18:49

It's been a while since the last two blind tests I ran, so I'm going to do another one. :)

This test will focus on entry level cartridges (cartridges priced at $75 or less) that are currently in production; no vintage or discontinued cartridges in this round.

I will test four cartridges. Please vote in the poll above to choose which cartridges I should test!

(Note: it may seem like I am biased in favor of Audio-Technica. This is not intentional. It just happens that Audio-Technica currently offers a larger number of entry level cartridges than the other brands.)

Japi Roelofs
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by Japi Roelofs » 31 Dec 2019 19:12

Is the Excel cartridge still in production? I thought it was a vintage cart from the seventies.

BMRR
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by BMRR » 31 Dec 2019 19:39

Amazingly it is still in production. They make an unlabeled version that they sell to distributors like EVG and Pfanstiehl, and it's also the basis of the Sumiko Oyster and LPGear DEFT.

lenjack
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by lenjack » 31 Dec 2019 19:44

I believe, blind, tests of cartridges are indeed worthwhile, while problematical, as you cannot have instantaneous switching.

Bob Dillon
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by Bob Dillon » 31 Dec 2019 19:55

I'd bounce the Excel out of there and make it a contest between the two conical AT's - since the AT's are so close in price, the newest iteration of the deathless Grado Black, and the Ortofon. This quartet is easily found on a place like Amazon too.

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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by Boltman92124 » 31 Dec 2019 21:43

BMRR wrote:
31 Dec 2019 18:49
It's been a while since the last two blind tests I ran, so I'm going to do another one. :)

This test will focus on entry level cartridges (cartridges priced at $75 or less) that are currently in production; no vintage or discontinued cartridges in this round.

I will test four cartridges. Please vote in the poll above to choose which cartridges I should test!

(Note: it may seem like I am biased in favor of Audio-Technica. This is not intentional. It just happens that Audio-Technica currently offers a larger number of entry level cartridges than the other brands.)
I'm interested to see how the VM95c compares to the VM95e. I voted for the Omega as well as I have one of those.

rewfew
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by rewfew » 31 Dec 2019 23:26

Try it, you might like it. Grado that is. They use the same styli all the way up to their gold, (standard?) If Grado were to do the same as Audio Technica's VM line with diamond choice. I think they'd be unbeatable.

Snead
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by Snead » 31 Dec 2019 23:34

Since two-way tests are simpler and more direct, I'd make it between the Grado and Excel.

Why those? The ATs are well-known and majorly boring. The Omega is just an Ort-Om-been-around for-years-who-cares kind of cart.

cafe latte
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by cafe latte » 31 Dec 2019 23:49

The VM range is good, but my opinion is the AT3600l is better than the C, the ML is amazing and not hugely more expensive than the VMe.
The Grado are lovely carts but I have not heard a black so I would compare the AT3600l, leave out the VM and listen to the rest against one of the cheapest carts out there the AT3600l
Chris

BMRR
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by BMRR » 01 Jan 2020 19:46

Interesting voting results so far! I'm happy to see such enthusiasm for the $12 AT3600L. You all are restoring my faith in the audiophile community. :lol:

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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by james73_2008 » 01 Jan 2020 20:49

I want to do something similar with my AT450E (with various stylii) vs my old AT3601 (now also with various stylii), but I can't think of a song to use. Ideally I'd use 3 maybe 4 stylii with each cartridge but I want to use the same song. Still cant think of what song to pick. What is your plan?



James H

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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by BMRR » 01 Jan 2020 21:13

Hi James!

I've been giving this some thought for the past couple of days. I considered several different songs, but ultimately decided to use Nicolette Larson's "Lotta Love" again for my test. This is the song I used in the first test. I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing it, but there are two reasons why I am going to use this song again:

1. It will allow people to compare the cartridges in this test with the cartridges in the first test.

2. This song is good at showcasing the strengths and weaknesses of a cartridge/stylus because it features a wide variety of acoustic and amplified instruments (string section, guitars, acoustic and electric piano, horns, woodwinds, percussion), along with female lead vocals and male/female backup vocals. The listener gets to hear how the cartridge/stylus presents all these different sounds, and it demonstrates how well the cartridge/stylus can "cope" with trying to present so many different things all at once. It's also a good test of bass, midrange, and treble response, sibilance handling, and stereo imaging.

I really wanted to use a different song so that no one would be annoyed by my using the same song again, but the ability to compare this test to the first test seemed worthwhile.

Apologies to anyone who hates this song. :lol:

Ripvanvinyl
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by Ripvanvinyl » 01 Jan 2020 22:14

When does the poll close? I am awaiting the test with bated breath. :D

BMRR
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by BMRR » 01 Jan 2020 23:12

The poll is set to close on January 7. I wanted to give enough time for people who are away on vacation and/or spending less time online during the winter holidays. ;) (clearly I am not one of those people lol)

Luicas
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Re: Another "Blind Taste Test" of phono cartridges

Post by Luicas » 02 Jan 2020 01:19

I hope I’m not misread on this. But unless the song to be chosen is a challenging one, and on the last track on its side, I guess this test would not be a very helpful proposition.

All those carts are “average” trackers and will do OK in many cases. Each with its own tonal balance (EQ) and higher frequency limitations. But then comes the end of each side, or a highly modulated passage, and a just-OK cart will not be enough. And that’s why many of us have invested in fancier stylus profiles with ever lighter tip masses.

Searching for the holy grail in the lower price bracket is not something I’d recommend investing time nor money.


Now, doing this test just for fun, that would be different story. The Omega or the VM95E would be my top contenders. I would throw in the OM10, I’m sure it’ll kill all the others.

Cheers!
Luis

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