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RecruitingGuy

New cartridge advice - for Rock n Roll

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Looking for advice for the fine folks of the forum.

I am looking to upgrade the Sumiko Pearl on my Pro-Ject Carbon turntable.  It's always been fine for me, but that's probably because I've never really compared it to anything else.

My office vinyl listening setup is fairly modest.  As follows:
- Musical Fidelity V90-LPS Phono Stage (MM/MC)
- Musical Fidelity V90-HPA Headphone Amp / DAC
- Micca PB42x Powered Bookshelf Speakers
- Philips Fidelio X2/27 Open-Ear headphones

Predominantly, I listen to rock music (60's thru 2018) with some jazz, hip hop, techno, acoustic, classical, etc mixed in.  Rock well over half the time though.  

With that particular turntable and other items in the setup, I'm curious what people might suggest for a cartridge upgrade.  I've seen a few usual suspects continue to pop up specific to listening to rock music (Ortofon Blue / Bronze, Denon DL-110 among others) but wondering if there's a cartridge that can take advantage of that modest-budget setup above the best (keeping in mind that the budget for the catridge itself would probably also need to stay modest... ideally $400 or under would be the sweet spot so that probably rules out a few suggestions).

Thanks!

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I like Denon carts a lot but the DL-110 isn't the best bang for the buck of the Denon line.  For that, I'd suggest the DL-103 or the DL-301 MKII.  The problem with Denon carts is your loading isn't going to be right with most inexpensive phono preamps.  

 

The Orton Bronze or the Blue are better choices for your set up.  The Bronze is significantly better than the Blue, but I think the Blue makes more sense with your turntable.  I'd all throw the Nagaoka MP-200 in as a contender, too.

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Superb phono stage and by far the best thing in your system by a country mile. Also a contender for your downgrade @xxmartinxx possibly although it doesn't give you cartridge loading options

 

If you like the Sumiko sound then another option would be a Sumiko Blue Point Special if you can find one or one of the lower end Benz Micro's or possibly a Shure M97. That said the Shure might be a little bit too much with an MF phono stage and I'm not convinced about an Ortofon cart into an MF phono stage either but as @xxmartinxx says the better Denon's should work well.

 

Another left field choice might be to pick up an old Grado cart that needs a stylus and then buy an 8MZ or better stylus to go in it. I've got a system with exactly the same phono stage in it although the rest is a bit higher up the food chain but I have an old Grado GT with an 8MZ stylus in that and it does work very well indeed. The only down side with Grado carts and could well be a problem for you is that they can be a bit of a pain to align which is why they get blamed for high IGD when its bad alignment and I'm not convinced the arm geometry of the Project Carbon arm is that accurate.

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Thanks for the feedback everyone!

@allenh - you're the first I've connected with that has this phono stage.  What has been your experience with it as far as its sound profile?  For a guy that predominantly listens to rock and roll, is there something that I should be doing cartridge-wise to get the best sound for that genre of music (apart from what you've already suggested, that is?)

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That's quite difficult to answer @RecruitingGuy because there's not really anything you can do to tweak it without changing items of kit. You can look at speaker and turntable positioning and isolation as that can make huge differences if its wrong but one thing to consider is It's not only the the phono stage and cartridge that have a bearing on the sound in the front end. One thing that people don't seem to take into account now is to make sure the cartridge/stylus are a good fit with the arm and by that I mean things like mass and compliance, the manufacturer of both will quote those figures and their use ranges so it's worth a check before you blame something else and start changing other things for the sake of it.

 

That particular phono stage can pull every bit of information that your arm and cartridge can give and that the rest of the system can output so can do the job but my instinct is that your system will be quite bright sounding so possibly not the best thing for anything that needs a deep clear low down bass or more importantly the lower mid ranges. The MF should work very well with that MM cartridge but If I'm right the easiest thing you can do would be as previously suggested to look at what MC cartridges are suitable for your table as they will be more tonally balanced from the get go. Ideally bigger speakers to move more air and ideally passive ones with a decent integrated amplifier would be the answer but if it's an office system space etc might not allow that.

 

It is doable in a small footprint though my office system currently uses a lot of British cottage Industry kit (mostly because I had it available) but for a small system is more than a little impressive. It is a Royce Elega turntable with Jelco 750 arm and Grado 8MZ cartridge/stylus, Musical Fidelity V90-LPS Phono Stage, Kinshaw Perception pre amp, Kinshaw Overture DAC, Inca Tech IT200 Mono Blocks into Harbeth LS 3/5a speakers.

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The Shelter 201 is a really good cart for rock music, and can be found for a decent price from Japanese eBay sellers. The cartridge body also accepts Shure replacement styli, so if you want to upgrade it down the road there are options. I really liked my Nagaoka MP200 when I had it, but the Shelter is as good and costs half as much.

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19 minutes ago, kannibal said:

C’mon

you have a pretty impressive system, so perhaps you have more insight on this matter. But from my experience I haven't been impressed with the performance of MC for this type of music, they have impressive mid range but I feel the low end is lacking. I'm sure this is improved with higher end cartridges but I think MM would be the way to go for an under $500 cartridge for the rock listener. 

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On 05/04/2018 at 2:18 PM, NapalmBrain said:

you have a pretty impressive system, so perhaps you have more insight on this matter. But from my experience I haven't been impressed with the performance of MC for this type of music, they have impressive mid range but I feel the low end is lacking. I'm sure this is improved with higher end cartridges but I think MM would be the way to go for an under $500 cartridge for the rock listener. 

 

On 05/04/2018 at 1:55 PM, kannibal said:

C’mon

Pretty much my reaction.

 

MC carts are generally more tonally balanced than MM carts which some people mistake for an MM cart being more detailed, this is generally an immediate impact due to the general tonal balance of an MM cart being toward the higher end of the spectrum but live with any half decent MC for a while and it's overall more balanced sound should win out with any musical type.

 

Don't get me wrong, there are good and bad in both and to get the best out of any cartridge the rest of the system needs to be able to resolve what it gives out which is never more true of an MC cart than the tone arm it's mounted in but there is a reason the very best cartridges are all MC's and why those that are at the very top of the tree don't even bother with MM.

 

One notable exception to not follow this is Grado but then the better Grado's are not really in either camp and I can't help thinking old Joe just wanted to plough his own furrow.

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