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Thread: Suggestion for Valve phonostage to play MONO records only

  1. #21
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Sheffield - UK

    Posts: 5,825
    I'm Mark.

    Default Suggestion for Valve phonostage to play MONO records only

    My experience of the Tron stuff is that itís really very good. These days Iím heavily involved in the custom/bespoke end of hi-fi design and I would say the Tron stuff is remarcably competitive with Ďbuild it yourself A class designsí requiring many years of component building experience - all Tron stuff is beautifully built and finished too - both inside and out.

    However, Iím absolutely sure Jez (Arkless), Alan (Firebottle) or even Glenn Croft would be prepared to build you one if you showed them the money.....
    Last edited by YNWaN; 08-12-2017 at 21:02.

    100% Analogue

  2. #22
    Join Date: Sep 2010

    Location: West Midlands, UK

    Posts: 499
    I'm Lee.

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    When I was researching mono carts recently a suggestion was to use the Y cable method, where the signal is split, would this be a viable option to try out?

    There has been several discussions on the internet regarding this method and might be an option??

    http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/thread...ordings.45635/
    NAS Spacedeck / Jelco 750D / EAR 834P modified / Denon DL 103 / Audio Note Empress Silver / Hattor Passive Pre / Mac Mini / Lampizator Atlantic Plus tube rectified Dac / Horns.pl Mummy's/ Cables are Audio Note and Albedo / Gigawatt Power Conditioner

  3. #23
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 2,268
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Henley View Post
    When I was researching mono carts recently a suggestion was to use the Y cable method, where the signal is split, would this be a viable option to try out?

    There has been several discussions on the internet regarding this method and might be an option??

    http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/thread...ordings.45635/

    A simple Y connector will work after a fashion but may not sound quite right ... when I was experimenting with a single mono phono stage/amps/speaker, Nick Gorham built me a little box which had a Y resistive network which ensured that when two stereo inputs were connected, the signal had the proper characteristics for use with the phono stage. This is what you'd get if you pressed a mono button done properly inside the preamp.

    Though a proper mono cartridge will work better and then you can use only one phono lead if you have a one am/one speaker arrangement. The difference between hitting the mono button using my Miyajima Madake (quite a decent stereo cartridge) and using the dedicated mono Miyajima Zero is quite dramatic, indeed after hearing it Petrat of this parish went out and bought himself not one but a pair of Zeros (one each with 0.7 and 1.0 tips)
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ortofon 309 Limited tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N + Shure M3D Jico stylus; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0 retipped by Ana Mighty Sound bamboo cantilever, Spirit '78' 3.0 conical from Ana, also vintage GE VRII, Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Duncan 'Tuberhunter' 200w class D; preamp - Pass DCB1; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage SPU-GE; SUTs - Ortofon 2-15k & Bob's Devices; Phono Stage: Schiit Mani; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  4. #24
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: London, Canada

    Posts: 148
    I'm Blake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by montesquieu View Post
    A simple Y connector will work after a fashion but may not sound quite right ... when I was experimenting with a single mono phono stage/amps/speaker, Nick Gorham built me a little box which had a Y resistive network which ensured that when two stereo inputs were connected, the signal had the proper characteristics for use with the phono stage. This is what you'd get if you pressed a mono button done properly inside the preamp.

    Though a proper mono cartridge will work better and then you can use only one phono lead if you have a one am/one speaker arrangement. The difference between hitting the mono button using my Miyajima Madake (quite a decent stereo cartridge) and using the dedicated mono Miyajima Zero is quite dramatic, indeed after hearing it Petrat of this parish went out and bought himself not one but a pair of Zeros (one each with 0.7 and 1.0 tips)

    I would agree with this based on a similar recent experience.

    As I had an extra tonearm and cartridge kicking around and about 125 pretty decent mono records (both vintage late 50's to mid 60's and modern reissues), I figured that I would take a crack at a mono setup in the past year.

    I had two retipped Ortofon MC 20 Supers here, one with a boron cantilever and microridge stylus and the other with a sapphire/microridge combo, which was in use for stereo mounted on a Jelco 750D. So I strapped the boron MC 20 Super for mono and stuck it on an older Sumiko FT3 and started running both arms on my Gyrodec. In the end I also ended up buying two identical tonearm leads for the arms as well, so that was also consistent.

    This thread is indicative of the often contentious debate on the whole issue of mono cartridges and the concept of "true mono". I did as much reading as I could before I embarked on the adventure and figured that I would start with a stereo cartridge wired/strapped for mono as many of the most vocal types online insist that a summed stereo cartridge, or a mono switch, or Y connector for that matter, will do electronically exactly what a true mono cartridge does physically.

    I was actually very pleased with the results of the strapped MC 20 Super. Even mounted on an inferior tonearm it offered up a significantly superior presentation (simply much more fleshed out and alive) while also reducing surface/groove noise as predicted.

    The bug hit me, though, to go "true mono" to see if there was something that I was still missing using the strapped stereo cartridge as the true mono advocates with experience seemed to be equally vociferous about that being the way to go.

    Figured I would do it on the cheap at first which would give me the option of going back to the strapped MC 20 Super if it was superior and didn't work out, so I opted for an AT 3/Mono LP for $120 U.S. off Ebay. I had some concerns about it matching up with my phono stage, which is a bit unusual (an Aqvox, which is a current mode phono stage that essentially presents a short circuit to moving coil cartridges with a very low impedance-about 2-3 ohms-at its balanced input), but I looked back on a review of the stage in which another higher output/higher internal impedance MC was used pretty successfully with it so I figured I'd give it a shot and didn't have much to lose.

    The AT 3 Mono is an odd cartridge in terms of its output (1.2 mV) and its higher internal impedance of 40 ohms. Frankly, it is a cartridge that will present a lot of problems with a lot of phono stages but, in the end, it does work pretty well here. I probably have a slight excess of gain, maybe 2-4 dB, and the AT 3's bigger brother the AT 33 Mono would probably be a better match to my stage.

    If you look at the data sheet for the AT 3 Mono, it has two horizontal voice coils wired in series (according to AT) and can be used connected two pin as a straight mono cartridge in a single speaker setup or with all 4 pins connected and run into a stereo preamp (as I'm doing) and two speaker system. The AT 33 mono, on the other hand, has two independent horizontal coils and can only be used into a stereo preamp and two speaker setup.

    As you pointed out up-thread Tom, Jonathan Carr at Lyra is on record as suggesting that for mono playback the orientation of the coils is the critical factor as opposed to the purist view that one must have a single coil. From an Audiogon thread, I will quote him here:

    ""The key issue for mono playback is not the number of signal coils - but their angular orientation, which determines whether they are sensitive to vertical groove modulations or not. A coil design that does not pick up any vertical modulation in the first place gives better sound than picking up the vertical modulation, then attempting to cancel it out later.

    IME, what works best in a normal stereo system, is a cartridge with two mono coils. This eliminates any sensitivity to vertical groove modulations, yet avoids the hum issues that a single-coil cartridge may be prone to."

    Going to a true mono single coil with absolutely no vertical compliance was not of interest to me as I wanted to play modern reissues with it as well. Both the AT's, although generating signal only with horizontal movement, have an adapated vertical compliance so modern monos cut on a stereo cutter head can be played safely. Are they true mono? I think they are, although a purist might suggest they are not. I think at that stage we're getting into semantics more than anything else.

    And, based on my experience, J Carr is correct.

    I've been running the AT 3/Mono for about a week or two now and it is fully broken in at this stage I think. I'm pretty surprised at just how much better it is than the strapped Ortofon (which is a much more expensive and sophisticated cartridge and sounds very good in stereo) which was in turn better at playing mono than its non-strapped (almost exact) counterpart.

    Even with a relatively crude bonded conical and basic aluminum pipe cantilever (the AT 33 Mono improves on both these for marginally more money) the AT 3 sounds noticeably fuller/more fleshed out and lifelike while at the same time reducing surface noise even more. A bunch of late 50's, early 60's monos that I had seriously considered trading because of playback noise now play virtually near mint. And sound stunning. If the AT 3 has a weakness, it might be in its high frequency playback and midband detail retreival; frankly I expected it to be weak in those areas compared to the strapped Ortofon and am surprised at just how good it really is. I'm kind of clutching at straws looking for weaknesses when, in reality, it really makes the strapped Ortofon sound quite poor for the most part.

    So in the end, I think J Carr has hit the nail on the head with respect to mono playback, and what I'm describing applies to both vintage as well as modern reissues (there's a school of thought online that modern monos cut on a stereo head should be played back with a stereo cartridge but you cannot convince me of this now).

    I really think that if one has the resources/capability (ie. second table, 2nd arm, removeable headshell on one arm) and the desire to play mono records that it makes sense to go the extra mile with a mono cartridge as opposed to the mono switch, Y cord or strapped stereo cartridge based on my experience.

    An expenditure on something like the Miyajima is not in my future as I really want an all rounder to play modern reissues as well; my initial thought on the AT 3 Mono was to wear it out and if it showed promise to send it off for a retip with a better cantilever and stylus but I am rethinking that based on how good it sounds. I might just step up to the AT 33 Mono in 500-600 hours when it wears out and then retip that one way into the future.

  5. #25
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 2,268
    I'm Tom.

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    Great comments Blake, I hadn't appreciated that the horizontally-oriented coils would be wired in series, this of course explains the funny specs that most of them have.

    I have great respect for Jonathan Carr, I had the Lyra Dorian mono and it was my favourite Lyra cartridge by some margin (I've also owned the Argo i, Dorian, Helicon and the older Clavis).

    I had two AT33 monos for a while, I had one of them re-tipped with a 1.0 spherical at Expert Stylus for a better sound with early microgroove mono - totally agree they are a big improvement over almost any stereo cartridge, however exhaulted, when playing mono, fantastic value. I replaced the 1.0-tipped AT33 with an Ortofon Mono GM MkII, and the standard AT33 mono 0.7 with a Miyajima Premium BE 0.7 and later a Miyajima Zero 0.7

    The Miyajima 0.7 works superbly with reissues and all later mono (I would say that's what it was intended for - just make sure you don't use it by accident on a stereo record), I now also have a Miyajima Premium 1.0 for the early stuff. (And I also have a Miyajima Spirit 78 on the way - for 78s).
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ortofon 309 Limited tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N + Shure M3D Jico stylus; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0 retipped by Ana Mighty Sound bamboo cantilever, Spirit '78' 3.0 conical from Ana, also vintage GE VRII, Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Duncan 'Tuberhunter' 200w class D; preamp - Pass DCB1; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage SPU-GE; SUTs - Ortofon 2-15k & Bob's Devices; Phono Stage: Schiit Mani; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  6. #26
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: London, Canada

    Posts: 148
    I'm Blake.

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    That is good to know on the Miyajima .7 Tom. I am a bit envious of your stable of mono cartridges

    It seems that, even more so than with stereo cartridges, it pays to have a variety of different mono cartridges for the different mono eras (excluding 78's of course which require an entirely different non-compatible animal). For the guy (like me) who's looking to do all mono with one cartridge it's a little bit daunting and probably fraught with compromise.

    In that vein, I'm curious to know, having owned the Dorian mono, what your thoughts are with respect to the line contact stylus it had on it? I know it's an apples vs oranges comparison with the Dorian and the Miyajimas but am wondering if you feel you are giving anything up in the way of detail retrieval or high frequency tracking/performance with either vintage monos or reissues with the conical styli on the Miyajimas vs. the LC on the Dorian.

    Based on fairly extensive experience over the years running heavily modified Denon 103Rs (with improved bodies, cantilevers and line contact styli), along with the fact that both Ortofon and Lyra (and Koetsu I believe) seem to be pretty content with putting line contact styli on some of their pretty upmarket mono cartridges, I was actually leaning toward a retip of either the AT 3 I currently have or possibly an AT 33 in the future with something like a boron or sapphire cantilever and LC or Microridge stylus.

    With the 103R and stereo playback, I could never have gone back to the stock conical as it was just missing too much information and a bit crude in the high frequencies when compared to better stylus profiles but I have to admit that I'm a bit uncertain that would be or is the case with mono playback and am rethinking the issue after using the AT 3 with an obviously modest bonded conical with such good results on both older and newer monos.

  7. #27
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Cheshire, UK

    Posts: 2,568
    I'm Clive.

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    I've been trying to work out what coil arrangement my Ortofon 2M SE possesses. Here's what I've seen quoted:

    "Though the 2M mono series uses stereo coils, designer Leif Johannsen told me "In the MM we cannot turn the armature or anything else. So the mechanical geometry is the same as in the stereo 2M’s. But we can couple the two coils in a clever way (NOT simply parallel between L and R)) and thereby making it work as one coil. The point is to have a design not sensitive to vertical movements and that has been achieved."

    It's not possible to tell what they've done but it sounds promising if it's not sensitive to vertical movement.
    TT 1 Trans-Fi Salvation with magnetic bearing + Trans-Fi Terminator T3Pro + London Reference / Transfiguration Spirit III
    TT 2 Garrard 301 with NWA main bearing + OL Encounter mkIII + Ortofon 2M Mono SE
    Digital Fanless i5 Skylake ASUS H110T transport with HDPLEX LPS / Fidelizer / Foobar & Bug Head + Metrum Musette with Regen
    Preamp John Chapman's Slagleformer-based AVC-1
    Power Amp Ladyday 300B SE with gorgeous WE 300Bs alternating with EL84 SE, Quad 306 (Dada upgrade) and Temple Audio Bantam One (integrated)
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    Speakers 2 MarkaudioSota Viotti One

  8. #28
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 2,268
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blake View Post
    That is good to know on the Miyajima .7 Tom. I am a bit envious of your stable of mono cartridges

    It seems that, even more so than with stereo cartridges, it pays to have a variety of different mono cartridges for the different mono eras (excluding 78's of course which require an entirely different non-compatible animal). For the guy (like me) who's looking to do all mono with one cartridge it's a little bit daunting and probably fraught with compromise.

    In that vein, I'm curious to know, having owned the Dorian mono, what your thoughts are with respect to the line contact stylus it had on it? I know it's an apples vs oranges comparison with the Dorian and the Miyajimas but am wondering if you feel you are giving anything up in the way of detail retrieval or high frequency tracking/performance with either vintage monos or reissues with the conical styli on the Miyajimas vs. the LC on the Dorian.

    Based on fairly extensive experience over the years running heavily modified Denon 103Rs (with improved bodies, cantilevers and line contact styli), along with the fact that both Ortofon and Lyra (and Koetsu I believe) seem to be pretty content with putting line contact styli on some of their pretty upmarket mono cartridges, I was actually leaning toward a retip of either the AT 3 I currently have or possibly an AT 33 in the future with something like a boron or sapphire cantilever and LC or Microridge stylus.

    With the 103R and stereo playback, I could never have gone back to the stock conical as it was just missing too much information and a bit crude in the high frequencies when compared to better stylus profiles but I have to admit that I'm a bit uncertain that would be or is the case with mono playback and am rethinking the issue after using the AT 3 with an obviously modest bonded conical with such good results on both older and newer monos.
    The Dorian mono was a great cartridge, for all it used a fancy modern stylus. Of course most of the mono out there was recorded and pressed (reissues excepted) in the era of conical styli. Jonathan Carr's position is - if the detail is on there, why not go for it? And this is true up to a point, and arguably beneficial for later mono/reissues that were in any case cut with a stereo cutting head/v-shaped groove, rather than the u-shaped one of earlier mono. But you are also changing the sound you are getting.

    All my current monos are conicals but I have been tempted to find an old broken Miyajima mono and have it retipped with a fancy tip, to see what comes out. I did discuss this with Ana Mighty Sound when they re-did a Premium 78 that I had with a 1.0 stylus for early microgroove - they recommend conical, certainly for early microgroove (a lot of the early stuff has quite limited frequency response, a consequence of the technology at the time). So I would only do it with a 0.7 for later mono. I would happily own another Lyra mono but none are a great match for the very high mass tonearms I have on my idler decks.

    As for the detail .. well mono mastering only has depth front to back. What you are looking to capture is ambience (I think in most concerts the stage is essentially mono, what is stereo is ambience), plus a front to back depth that adds to the ambience. I think conicals can perform that trick really well. But I certainly enjoyed my time with the Dorian mono.

    I agree with you on the AT3's BTW they are fantastic value, as I say I had one retipped with a 1.0 for early microgroove and was well pleased with it. If it's something you are only using a small percentage of the time I wouldn't sweat it. Maybe a quarter of my fairly large mostly classical LP collection is mono so it's well worth it for me, I have whole nights where that's what I listen to. If you are looking at a retip I would unhesitatingly recommend the guys at Ana Mighty Sound they are by far the best I've come across.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ortofon 309 Limited tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N + Shure M3D Jico stylus; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0 retipped by Ana Mighty Sound bamboo cantilever, Spirit '78' 3.0 conical from Ana, also vintage GE VRII, Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Duncan 'Tuberhunter' 200w class D; preamp - Pass DCB1; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage SPU-GE; SUTs - Ortofon 2-15k & Bob's Devices; Phono Stage: Schiit Mani; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

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