View Full Version : I try a Stanton 520 V3 on my Techy..

27-08-2011, 10:55
A while back on AOS one of the yanks recommended this cartridge as an inexpensive but fun match to the stock SL1200 and arm so for thirty-nine notes delivered...


...I thought I would take a punt.

I nipped down to the local pro shop and bought a headshell (5!) and after a little bit of fiddling and some foul language got the blighter fitted straight and true. It's an odd looking thing with its bulbous clear plastic headshell and plain metal body, and the cantilever is as thick as a baby's arm.:eek:

Having balanced everything out I referred to the spec sheet for the VTF - 'recommended 2-5 grammes' - well that's nice and precise, thanks a lot.:rolleyes:

So, and figuring the higher tracking weight would only apply to those wishing to use the cartridge for something called 'scratching', I dialled in 2 grammes as a starting point and off we went.

First impressions were of some interesting strengths and some equally interesting but disapointing weaknesses.

Strengths first - Bass was deep and solid, indeed the whole sound now had a sense of 'body' and physicallity to it that I have not heard from vinyl repro before. Tracking was incredibly good, as sure footed as the proverbial mountain goat, there was absolutely no trace of struggle even in difficult and demanding dynamic sections of the recordings I tried, the Stanton sailing along quite merrily through everything. Involuntary head nodding and foot tapping was also noticed.

But now to weaknesses - through everything I played there was a lack of tone and colour (not colouration) - bass guitar was deep and timed well but sounded grey and mechanical, six string guitar was bland, drums and cymbals perfunctory. On top of that was an overall hollowness to the sound that was more apparant on some recordings than others but was present nonetheless, giving an overall 'cheap wedding disco' presentation. On top of that there was excesive sibilance to close miked vocal.

After spinning eight or nine albums I switched off, a little disapointed even though I had not really been expecting much to begin with. I had a bit of a ponder. I wondered if the hollowness to the sound was due to the cart's mid-range 'droop'. I then recalled that I had swapped out my Audioquest cable twixt pre and power for a Belkin AV 'truly amazed' jobbie some weeks earlier and had noticed how it had stripped some of the mid-range bloom from the Croft Micro-Basic pre, making it sound more like a transistor pre.

Now I wondered if the combination of the dry and forensic Belkin and the Stantons mid-droop were acting together to totally bleach out the sound. Only one way to find out! The next evening before switch on I reinstated the Audioquest cable and then powered up and span a record...

Well folks, I'm sorry but I am going to have to use that old cliche, because it was indeed


What the previous evening had sounded bleached and mechanical now sounded so utterly rich and sumptous, with deep, tight, three-dimensional bass! Liquid midband! Total, magical, musicality! And no trace of 'bad wedding disco' to be heard.

I have never heard in my life a simple cable swap make so much difference. I spent from 1730 to 2330 that evening just playing record after record, thankfully my neighbours are very understanding.

It is not all smiles and sunshine though as some issues still remain. There is still a little excessive vocal sibiliance and the top end is just a little crude compared to more'hi-fi' carts I have owned. Male vocals area bit congested: for example Ian Anderson on Tull's Heavy Horses sounding like he had a bit of a head cold. Well, maybe he did but if so I have never noticed it before in twenty-five years of listening to that record.:scratch:

Nevertheless, if this what a forty quid Stanton can do I am left wondering exactly how good are the more expensive offerings like the 681EE or the 680 V3?

Only one way to find out...:)

My Regards to All

27-08-2011, 17:51
Great write up Martin! Look forward to the next instalment!

27-08-2011, 19:19
The cart on my dad's second Techy changer was a Stanton 5## something (which replaced a Grado); but, I rarely bothered with it. You're review has me thinking that maybe I should get one and upgrade the stylus... ...then dance a jig. :) I grew up listening to his main Techy with an 881 and never felt like I was missing anything. As an, ahem, adult I started trying other MM carts. Many were different; but, none of them shamed the 881. With Stantons, the butt-shaking factor, is so there that it tends to divert attention away from the midrange, which I consider to be articulate if not bloomy. Might swap cables as well, just to hear the difference.

Blessing and a curse, init.

Like the Techies themselves (up until recently :( ), Stanton's survival, I would imagine, has depended upon the DJ/turntablist/scratchin' community and catered to them. With the exception of the current 681, most of their carts seem to come with those tree trunk cantilevers. Nevertheless, I've had to eat my shorts on a few things.

The 890's (890SA, 890AL), despite having spherical styli, are not dull and inarticulate carts. They don't have the ultimate retrieval of shibatas, stereohedrons et al, but, they are really quite listenable and even excel at playing hotly cut pressings. Out of the box, they perform considerably better than the Trackmasters/Groovemasters, IMO. I don't own any 890FS, so I can't comment on those.

However, the pedigree of Stanton generators seems to be well intact. Substituting a more "audiophile" stylus works wonders. Getting a retip by SoundSmith (which I've done on a Trackmaster) or ExpertStylus makes an incredibly drastic difference. I think JICO has alternatives as well. This could very well be another one of those "stupid deals of the day". :)

27-08-2011, 20:21
I have a 500ALmk1, a 500V3 stylus in a 500 body and a Pickering V15TE (the family body with a TE stylus tracking at 1.25 to 1.5g). They're all funky, with a huge heart, but a bit raw. the TE has more sparkle and reminds me so much of the 500EE we used to sell a million years ago.

The 520 is higher output isn't it? I can't quite get my head round the different models..

Try 3g tracking weight with the conical tipped ones. may make it worse for you, but give it a try...

P.S. The Ortofon OM Pro (the silver one) and especially the 500 based GT model should also be tried I reckon. The GT especially sounds a bit more up to date sounding, tracks at no less than 4g as recommended and really rocks its socks off..

My main recommendation with ALL of these, including vintage Shure SC35C's as well, is to use a phono stage with high overload margins (where valve ones often help here :)), or stages which clip gently on surface ticks, which are massively higher than mean music levels and can apparently make iffy phono stages ring..

Glad you've joined the club :lol:

28-08-2011, 00:01
Thanks for your replies - I think that there may be a combination of factors here in terms of my set up but the sound is really only one or two steps from greatness, (my definition of greatness, that is) it just doesn't quite get there but it gets far enough to make it really enjoyable on a visceral level. Ultimately, though, some further refinement is needed.

I've always felt the Croft Micro presents the music rather than the recording of the music and the Stanton adds more of the same. If you want to hear into the recording in a forensic way the whole approach is not for you.

Dave - yes the 520 V3 is the high output version, it doesn't overwhelm the Croft's phono stage although it does obviously have more gain than my Ortofon but this seems to be mainly in the lower registers. I will try heavier VTF as you suggest but I think that may just thicken and dull the top a little too much. Nothing to be lost by a little experimentation though.

I am off to Ebay to see if I can get one from higher up the range...:eyebrows:

28-08-2011, 17:09
I've done as Dave DSJR suggested and increased VTF to 2.5 grammes - as usual he is right - The excess sibilance has vanished and the top end is now smoother and more intergrated and if anything there is a little more sparkle and shimmer. Ballsy rock with the volume up a little sounds, well, miraculously good. I am reminded of a JVC-JBL system I heard as a teenager and which remained my benchmark for how a good hi-fi should sound for many years.

Playing Hendrix in the West - there is some crowd noise whilst he is tuning up and my god it is like those people are there in the room, I can hear their individual remarks, noises and shouts - really astonishing.:eek: With volume up there is still no hint of distortion, strain, mistracking or indeed anything to detract from the enjoyment of the music.

Seriously this cart combined with the SL1200 makes the ATs, Nags Goldrings and Ortofons I have owned in the past sound like mewling little kittens by comparison.

I am going to nip out and stock up on beer for a serious session this evening. It may be that this set up is just great for my particular tastes in music, i.e amplified rock, rythmn & blues and funk played through big, bassy speakers at volume so I will be playing some more 'sophisticated' material later tonight to see if I can make it fall down anywhere.

Meanwhile I would urge anyone with an sl1200/1210 and stock arm to try this cart (they can be had for as low as 30) just to give a second opinion and re-assure me that I am not going mad.:lolsign:

28-08-2011, 23:46
Nice write up.
Looking for a cheap and cheerful mm for my pl71.

Nice when a plan works well.

28-08-2011, 23:50
Nice write up.
Looking for a cheap and cheerful mm for my pl71.

Nice when a plan works well.

Give it a try - it paints in broad strokes and is visceral rather than forensic but it is musical:)

28-08-2011, 23:56
Mmmmm may do.
Enjoying trying some of the older shures at the moment.
Have always wanted to try a pickering and have read they have been taken over by stanton or that stanton make the carts for them.

29-08-2011, 00:01
Pickerings are made in the same factory (according to the internet) but although you can buy replacement styli no-one seems to be selling the carts.

29-08-2011, 00:04
Was looking at the ebay ones for 30 V15.

29-08-2011, 00:08
This one?


At that price I would give it a go, why not?

29-08-2011, 00:11
That's the one.

Peter Stockwell
29-08-2011, 07:43
It may be that this set up is just great for my particular tastes in music, i.e amplified rock, rythmn & blues and funk played through big, bassy speakers at volume so I will be playing some more 'sophisticated' material later tonight to see if I can make it fall down anywhere.

With greatest of respect, and I've moved to an MM (ortofon 2M blue) from MC plus I have a vintage Stanton 681 on the way, imperfect systems will favour some styles of music over others. Hey, I agree all systems are imperfect, but, imo, more neutral performers leave the way open to different styles of music.

When I had valves and 401 I used to listen to loads of opera, but going to naim pretty much stopped me listening to that.

I regret, now, putting a fixed headshell arm on my teccie, because cartridge swaps are inconvenient, but I can see that if the 520V3 can be so fun with rock and funk, etc. That one could keep a brace of cartridges for different styles of music, could be, really interesting.

The other thing that this, and other threads, like it show is how the hifi print media is doomed. Because, in a world of $$$$ or $$$$$ carts, people enthusing about $$ carts, is going against the grain.

29-08-2011, 08:21
The Pickering VE stylus is available from Vickers/PickeringUK for around 22 and will almost certainly fit any Stanton 500/Pickering V15 body. may give cleaner end-of-side.

The XV15/625DJ was tested in one of the old 'Choice compilations and came out quite well with comments of a "thumpy" bass. Now, this was probably in a Basik LVX arm, so something heavier and more rigid may be far better.

Unless I'm mistaken, the XV15's and Stanton 680 series share the same body, but there are similar LOOKING bodies with different internals - Stanton 881/890? as well as the top line very low output ones of which I'm not familiar which go into an MC input.

The Croft Micro will be fine - it was conceived for Decca's :)

29-08-2011, 09:11
The Croft Micro will be fine - it was conceived for Decca's :)

I think the results I am getting are down to somes sort of synthesis between the Stanton and the Croft Micro's phone stage, almost certainly. I could swap in my Linn LK1 in place of the Croft just to prove it but I somehow don't feel the need...:eyebrows:

07-09-2011, 15:52
The Pickering VE stylus is available from Vickers/PickeringUK for around 22 and will almost certainly fit any Stanton 500/Pickering V15 body. may give cleaner end-of-side.

I had confirmed by Pickering UK that the V stylus fits the Stanton 500 body just today. Quote :

"V15 = Stanton 500 & XV15 = 600"

08-09-2011, 09:41
l love my Stanton 520 v3, l bang to people about it all the time,for 18 pounds you cannot go wrong, a big sassy bass, wide open midrange. really plays music with its heart on its sleeve, downsides are, not the best frequency extremes plus it is ugly as hell, but so musical it is scary....are there any upgrades we could do for this cartridge l wonder..........Domonic any thoughts?:)

08-09-2011, 10:47
You'll be limited by the massy cantilever resonating at 19kHz, destroying hf separation in the process a la the Francinstein box from the 80's..


It may be interesting to see what EsCo and/or Dom? can do for the stock stylus, whether it's possible to graft a better "HiFi" grade cantilever and diamond on, which stays true to the original sonics, but refines it - hang on, Pickering do this in the XV15/625......... :)

08-09-2011, 12:23
I have the Pickering already, so is it worth trying the Stanton?

08-09-2011, 13:59
If you have the V15/VE, then you have it all to be honest. The 500V3 stylus is just an update on the conical 500A and old Pickering equivalent..

17-09-2011, 16:33
After much experimentation I can suggest that on the stock Technics the best set up is arm height zero, VTF 2.3 grammes, anti-skating at 2.0 Start from there and tweak to your best satisfaction :)

Still a little perfunctory on the mid/top but only a problem on the odd really dull recording. For the skint or for tight wads (like me) at 200 for the deck, 30 for the cart and 5 for a headshell it is a solid, consistent, enjoyable vinyl replay mega-budget bargain :cool: