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What phono cartridge for $200
Old 26th July 2007
  #1
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zemlin's Avatar
 

What phono cartridge for $200

I have about $200 to spend on a phono cartridge - to be used for transferring vinyl to CD - primarily for other folks - not me. Turntable is a REGA Planar II.

My phono preamp (NAD 3140 integrated amp) will handle MC or MM.

I'm thinking about getting the BENZ MICRO MC-20E II - probably the low output version.

Opinions?
Old 26th July 2007
  #2
Gear Maniac
Dynavector 10x5: $400 I guess.
Over your budget, but seriously good for the money. Incredibly well tracking cartridge, and balanced sounding. It's high output MC, so you don't need a high gain preamp.
Old 26th July 2007
  #3
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buschfsu's Avatar
i love goldring cartriges, get the best you can afford....eroica is what i use
Old 26th July 2007
  #4
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Damn, you guys are getting good. Very hard to beat both the 10x5 and the Eroica.

FWIW the Eroica is a lot harder to destroy accidentally by dropping it or whatever.

I've put many hours on both cartridges on a Planar 3.

But they're both more than $200.

For $200 and under I'd go with MM. There are known issues with Grados on Rega Planars where the cart picks up motor noise as it moves towards the center, so watch that.

Goldring Elektra is a darn nice sounding MM and user-replaceable stylus for about $50.

If your Rega belt is old; replace it. They get old and cranky after a couple of years. They're pretty cheap. Also, I think it's good to make sure the bearing cup isn't full of dirt and dust. There's a loose ball bearing in there, so don't lose it. You can get Rega oil, but it's just hypoid gear oil.

just fwiw.
Old 26th July 2007
  #5
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by max cooper View Post
Damn, you guys are getting good. Very hard to beat both the 10x5 and the Eroica.

FWIW the Eroica is a lot harder to destroy accidentally by dropping it or whatever.
Yeah I destoyed my dyna 10x5 two weeks after I got it
Now considering going something else for that matter...
Old 26th July 2007
  #6
Gear Nut
 

I'd go with an AT440MLa. I use one on my Rega P2....Great cartridge to reduce surface noise and inner groove distortion.....I took it from the advice at audio asylum...

Vinyl Asylum

Theron
Old 27th July 2007
  #7
Gear Nut
 

Ortofon Super20 MM $150 or so.
Old 27th July 2007
  #8
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zemlin's Avatar
 

Thanks folks - good info here!.
Poking around the www, there are a lot of folks saying good things about the AT440MLa - I like what I read and the price is certainly easy to take! 27dB separation is a nice number too.

The REGA belt has been replaced. I used an industrial-grade urethane belt that I got from McMaster Carr for just a couple bucks. I also bought one on eBay for $10, but it was a square cross-section, ran too deep in the grooves, and the turntable was slow.

I'm using an old GRADO cartridge now - glad to hear about their habit of picking up motor noise. I've certainly seen that with this one and am more hopeful now that I'll lose that noise with a new cartridge.

Any second opinions here about the AT?

[edit] - to be clear, I have not ruled out the 10x5 or Goldring options, if I can justify the cost.
Old 27th July 2007
  #9
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theron d View Post
Great cartridge to reduce surface noise and inner groove distortion
FWIW inner groove distortion is due to the relative size of the stylus tip to the size of the undulations in the groove; towards the center the angular momentum of the stylus thru the groove is slower and thus a frequency is represented by smaller ups and downs which means the cartridge may have a harder time resolving them.

Lots of people think it's due to tracking angle error, but the error at the far outside and far inside should be zero. Tracking angle error is at it's greatest halfway thru the record.

So a smaller stylus tip may reduce the distortion that may be heard towards the center of the LP.
Old 27th July 2007
  #10
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The Eroica is available with HIGH level and LOW level output. I have an MC input on my amp - would the low output version be a better choice? I'm looking at ordering an Eroica from the UK - they beat the pants off any pricing I can find here in the US.
Old 27th July 2007
  #11
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max cooper's Avatar
 

If you have MC input, get the low output. I generally think high-level MC carts don't sound as good.
Old 27th July 2007
  #12
Gear Guru
 
Sounds Great's Avatar
 

I've been using the Denon high-output moving coil for many years. Sounds really great and they last a long time, I am amazed out what they go through and keep working. And you can track at 1.5 grams, good weight for low wear on your records. AND, under 200 bucks.

Denon DL-160 Cartridge


b.t.w. I listen to records a lot.
Old 10th August 2007
  #13
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zemlin's Avatar
 

I REALLY APPRECIATE everyone's feedback on this. It led to a lot more research on cartridges, and while I did not end up with any of the models listed here it did impact my purchase.

I ended up ordering a Denon DL-103.
Reviews consistently say "Not the most detailed, but the music sounds great!" and I was able to pick one up for $150. I'll post a couple of samples from good vinyl. I don't have much to compare it to - two OLD MM cartridges - a GRADO and a REGA - but I will record with all three and post clips. I'll use the old cartridges on ugly vinyl.
Old 7th September 2007
  #14
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zemlin's Avatar
 

I ended up getting an AT440MLa as well as the DL-103.

For those who are interested, I recorded samples from a couple of albums for your comparison pleasure. These are 60 second WAV files at 24/94 - 34MB each. I did what I could to match levels. You might want to tweak.

Classical guitar, audiophile vinyl
DENON DL-103
AT440MLa

Rickie Lee Jones, normal vinyl
DENON DL-103
AT440MLa

I chose RLJ because her album was at the top of the stack.
Old 7th September 2007
  #15
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

wow, that denon is quite musical in comparison. gots me thinking about my next cartridge.

first, though, i gotta get a new deck, and i've no idea where to start.

thanks for posting these clips, it's great to hear vinyl on this forum, even if it IS digitized it still sounds better.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 7th September 2007
  #16
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zemlin's Avatar
 

FWIW

Old Rega P2 w/ R200 tonearm
Phono preamp: NAD 3140 integrated amp
Tape outs into an Echo Audiofire12

I'm real happy with the sound of the Denon.
Old 7th September 2007
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
Chris Nighman's Avatar
 

Thanks for posting these clips. I agree with UBK, it is nice to hear some vinyl on this forum. They both sound great. One of the AT440MLa's claims to fame is it's high end response; I think you can really hear that in these examples; especially those finger snaps on the RLJ. I've always said it's a great "bang for the buck" cartridge. thumbsup
Old 7th September 2007
  #18
Gear Maniac
The DL-103 is a good old (-fascioned) cartridge for the money. Stylus is spherical, which is more basic than elliptical, therefore might be more musical or forgiving with vinyls in bad shape (old jazz and 70s).

Be aware that (AFAIK) DL-103 does not compliment very well with light modern/highend arms, but is nice with heavier/older arms.
Old 7th September 2007
  #19
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zemlin's Avatar
 

My reasoning for getting the AT after hearing the Denon was the reported benefit of the "Microline" stylus - playing the better parts of a worn groove. Also, I thought some material might benefit from a slightly more "in your face" sound than the Denon provides.

I thought this might be especially true for old, tired records.

From my childhood - old, tired vinyl
DENON DL-103
AT440MLa

So far, I haven't heard anything where I prefer the sound of the AT to the Denon. I'll hang onto it for a while to make sure this plays out, but it may be headed for eBay.
Old 8th September 2007
  #20
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

man, the denon is less detailed, more distorted, hazier... all the things i love about vinyl. it's got that magic... even on the old tired vinyl i much prefer it to the at.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 25th December 2013
  #21
Here for the gear
 

I like the recorded sample Zemlin did

I never thought of auditioning cartridges this way. I think it actually works. It helps give you a flavor for the different cartridges playing various records. Best of all you get to hear them on your own sound system. Not quite as good as actual in home testing but much easier.
You can actually notice the tonal differences between the two cartridges. I prefer the sound of the Denon, at least on my system which is a little light on base but pretty flat across the spectrum. I am a bit torn on what turntable and cartridge to purchase right now. I have owned an Ortofon 2M Red which I played on an old Dual 506 and I thought it sounded great. It seemed to have good base, nice smooth midrange, maybe a bit forward on the high end but not unpleasantly so. I have been leaning towards the Rega RP3-24 with Ortofon 2M Bronze but I also think a decent mc cartridge would sound nice.

I am open for suggestions (will probably purchase in January). Thanks for the great post.
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