Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

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Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by rocket launcher » 12 Nov 2018 01:37

Good evening all,

I finally got a Dual 721 in really good shape to add to my HI-FI set up. I will be plugging it into a Sansui AU-717 (re-capped) and piping rock, blues, funk and jazz into 4 Infinity Crescendos (3007/3008).

My 2nd turntable is a Technics SL-1600 with a stock Shure M97xE.

I am looking for a new cartridge/stylus I can get from a solid vendor like LP Gear and get this 721 a spinnin'. I have had mixed luck with vintage ones and really want something that I know is operating at its peak.

After looking a various 721 threads, I have come up with a short list of cartridges under my budget of $300 max:
$199 - Shure M95HE (NOS at LP Gear)
$249 - Audio-Technica VM540ML
$236 - Audio-Technica AT440MLb
$119 - Audio-Technica AT-VM95EN
$299 - Denon DL-110
$250 - Shure M97xE with upgraded stylus
$195 - Ortofon Super OM 20

Any of these (or others that slipped by me) that you think would pair up well with my 721 and amp/speakers? I would appreciate your insight!

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by mrow2 » 12 Nov 2018 02:18

All seem to be nice choices; it's a good short list. Nice way to launch some cash into orbit. Everyone will have a different opinion. Rule out the AT-VM95, not quite in the same class as the others. The NOS Shure looks interesting, it's too bad they don't state what the stylus dimensions are. I'd narrow it down to the VM540 vs the AT440 vs the DL-110. But it might be that the M95HE wins in terms of value vs performance, don't know -- it's still only a 0.3 x 0.7 stylus. The Denon is a square shank nude stylus, very fine. I'd vote for that one!

rocket launcher
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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by rocket launcher » 12 Nov 2018 03:12

Thank you very much for your comments, I sold some equipment I had sitting around to raise the funds so it will be easy to write the check!

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by scorpio333 » 12 Nov 2018 18:52

Just my two cents...the Shures and the AT's are wildly different. Some people say that AT carts are bright and lack low end. I mostly agree, however, I love my AT OC9III on my 721. The 721's VTA and moving coil carts go well together. Shures, to my ear, are more neutral and laid back, the 95 and 97 are real close in sound. On my other Duals and SL1400MKII, I run a Shure M95 with Jico SAS for good clean records and a HE stylus for the others.

I did have a Denon DL160. I had a horrible time with it. Being a high output moving coil it just didn't match up with preamps I had. I either got too much gain into a MC pre or not enough gain into MM pre. If you decide to go with the DL110, consider which pre you'll be using. Im not familiar with the Sansui you have, just be aware the Denon may lead you down a rabbit hole when it comes to pre's.

I haven't had any experience with the Ortofon.

It's a good list with a wide variety, if you like your current M97 I'd be hesitant to go with any of the AT carts.

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by rocket launcher » 12 Nov 2018 22:27

Thank you for your comments!

My Sansui AU-717 is not set up for a MC cartridge, so I will pass on the Denon for sure.

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by DSJR » 12 Nov 2018 23:11

Most of those cartridges are discontinued now and/or not really up to the 721's full capabilities in my book.. The AT520 is the STARTING model and you can go up from here - AT-F7, Hana, Rega Ania (the carrier may need slight modification) and so on via Sumiko and Dynavector at least. The AT540 and 750 should be a superb value and quality match to this arm, as the AT20SLa was to the 701 back in the mid 70's. One poster here has gone bananas with his 721 cartridge choice, so I think I'm perhaps being conservative in recommending these two AT's ;)

I never liked the Shure 95 models even then, but the HE may open the relentless bright tones out a bit as it did for the V15 III. If the Super OM 20 could become a Super OM30 or 40, we'd be talking, but the 20, fine as it is in refining 505 and even 1019 decks, isn't really good enough for a 721 and it's a bit 'raw' perhaps and lacking in the fine subtlety of the others (I use a related 520mk2 in my 1019).

The DL110 to me is as safe as houses and a bit bland with it. Vinyl can give so much more I think.

The 701 and 721 (and immediate family) are very good decks indeed, in playback quality as well as tech specs of the motors. If possible with this deck, please don't skimp on the cartridge choice. I'd say that, depending on budget, an AT520 is long-term a better bet than a VM95-EN for example, as the 500 body is better internally and will take a 540 stylus later... The German Lowbeats site has full reviews and soundbites of many of the AT models and I think they loved the 540 model, which lacks the high frequency bite of the older 440ML models and fleshes out the bass end a tad, rather than leaving it as an afterthought which could happen in the AT440 and 120E models (my 701 dislikes the AT120E sonically in my opinion).

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by Legrace » 13 Nov 2018 01:35

Rega Ania (the carrier may need slight modification)
I can confirm this is indeed the case, need to have a dremmel tool on hand. Adding a headshell weight with this one is also a good idea. Dynavector is an excellent recommendation but even their entry level is priced outside the ones in OP's short list. OM20 technically is best match, although agree a 30 or better yet 40 would be even more ideal.

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by rocket launcher » 13 Nov 2018 04:45

Thanks all for your valuable insight!

If I am reading your suggestions correctly, the AT VM540ML ($249 at Lp Gear) and an Ortofon Super OM30 ($290 at LP Gear) would be solid choices for the 721? Boy are definitely in my budget.

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by DSJR » 15 Nov 2018 21:03

The Super OM30 has, I think, been largely superseded by the 2M Bronze, which I like very much. The AT540, which is well tamed over the toppy AT440 family which preceded it, should be an excellent modern day 'version' of the forty year old AT20SLa which charmed the 701 so nicely at the time I remember (the AT750 may be a closer match with its metal body, but I'm not picky here ;)). If you have a translator, look in the German Lowbeats site for reviews and sound-bytes, all well level matched I believe and using the same deck for each cartridge (a Rega 9 i think).

The thing is with the 721, VTA is adjustable, so fancy tip profiles can be easily 'dialed in' to your specific cartridge and it's my view that the Dual alignment gauge is all you'd need to properly set the overhang for this particular tonearm (equivalent inner null point at 58 - 60mm from disc centre which then automatically sets the outer point without need of fancy gauges *in this instance*), which posh stylus profile tips will need over more forgiving elliptical types in my experience.

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by lini » 17 Nov 2018 11:33

r_l: Yet another option from LPGear would be the AT-7V for not quite 190 bucks. That would buy you a good body, which is compatible to AT120 as well as VM5xx/7xx family needles, with a pretty high quality elliptical needle version (similar to the old ATN130E/132EP).

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by islandkraut » 18 Nov 2018 10:13

I think I might as well post in this thread... I recently acquired a new Shure M97xE from Guitar Center, and just installed it. Low and behold my 721 is now possessed, or perhaps the M20 I used to have on it cursed it in a fit of jealousy.
First symptom is massive sibilance in highs, which go away when I return to the M20 or other carts.
Second symptom was an uncooperative tonearm where the tracking did not work after I adjusted the VTA to flat.
The needle was skipping not because the record had a scratch, but because the arm did not track (at all).
Initially, cranked the arm back up higher, and went back to the M20 settings, and as I swapped back and forth headshells.
I got the M97 somewhat working using the M20 settings, but at no VTF, since the headshell was heavier to begin with.
This was probably equivalent to 1.8g force with 1.4 AS.
It started sounding okayish, and towards the end of the day I decided to do it right and redo all the settings:
Alignment using the shure protractor (equivalent to L A) essentially at forward stops of the TK24, matching both points on protractor. VTF 1.25, AS 1.15el, VTA flat measuring 9mm up from the record at both ends of the aluminum tube.
I set cueing height at 3mm above record. All those steps in that order as prescribed by the manual.

And it appears the hiss is back. Not as bad as before, but noticeable.

Any ideas? And OBTW - What do you guys do about the multiple carts? They all weigh differently, so do you rebalance the tonearm each time you swap carts or do you set balance for the heaviest and then crank up the VTF on the lighter carts to make up for the weight?

Aloha!

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by Tinkaroo » 18 Nov 2018 10:22

I rebalance the tone arm each time. It's not hard or time consuming if you've had practice.

With the Shure stabilizing brush down you have to add tracking force. I've also heard members talk about the M97Xe sounding better with "cartridge loading". I have the earlier M97HE Era IV which is a slightly different animal. :wink:

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by islandkraut » 18 Nov 2018 10:34

True - doesn't take much time, but is annoying if one is well... impatient :(

I will try the brush and higher load tomorrow. Thanks for the hint.

BTW - speaking of carts - What is the difference between V15 III-DU and V15 III-LM?
And of course, will the -DU work on the low mass tonearm of the 721?

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by Tinkaroo » 18 Nov 2018 10:45

I have the V15 III L-M which is fixed in alignment on the Dual headshell and it works well on the 721.

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Re: Dual 721 - New Cartridge/Stylus - My short list

Post by DSJR » 18 Nov 2018 17:47

ANY decks of this potential quality will need the cartridge very carefully aligning and setting for playing weight and anti-skate adjustment. You simply can't just chuck a cartridge in, haphazardly set the tracking weight and expect great results, this ain't a BSR or cheapo Garrard auto-changer you know :D

Sorry to be flippant above. The M97XE with good stylus (not all are I gather) should be set in this arm for 1.7g tracking (if brush is used) or around 1.2g if brush isn't (depends on your records for nasty warps, but the 721 counterweight, if properly 'springing' shoud make the Shure damper brush irrelevant I think (one huge advantage with this deck).

The arm should obviously be free to move in and out when balanced and also up and down like the precision balance it is! If a given cartridge is set up correctly and the tonearm is working properly and not tampered with or fouling underneath anywhere, tracking or sibilance issues would be in the stylus, either 'cos it's covered in gunk (some of this sticks to the diamond and needs the AT607 fluid and brush - it's cheap to buy too), or because it's chipped or worn out. The M20E can sound natural, fairly lively and delightful, tracking at a gramme or so, but the Shure will sound fuller and maybe with less 'top' if working right and depending on the phono stage load




P.S. Loads of threads on setting overhang on Dual arms. Dual designed ALL their models properly, so all you need to get the front-rear adjustment correct in the carrier is the gauge it originally came with. If this gauge isn't around any more, then I worked out that using a card or plastic type of 'protractor' that sits on the platter, if you set the inner point to 58 - 60mm (60mm is an international standard), then the rest of it falls into place. Some people go mad on tiny details like this, but Dual did their homework when this deck was designed and the effective length of the arm and the offset angle of the shell is pre-designed and fixed, leaving just the overhang to adjust.

P.P.S. Sorry to go off on one. if you've never had a deck of this potential quality before, there's a fair bit to catch up on. These Duals may be sniffed at by audiophools into oil-rig deck confections costing many thousands (tens of thousands) of pounds/dollars etc., but as poster Legrace here and I have found amongst others, the sonic performance of the deck (the way it reproduces musical melodic nuances as well as the HiFi Detail aspects) is actually to a seriously decent standard, making a well serviced sample able to take all manner of cartridges at all sorts of prices.

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