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View Full Version : Deep breath- carts for around 300



muffinman
26-02-2009, 14:50
Well it looks like I'm now in the Market for a new cart. What's out there and where can I get it? I've just been looking at ortofon mc25fl and a BPS. Do I need another paper round or is there a cracker In my ballpark?

Peter Stockwell
26-02-2009, 15:30
AT33PTG ?

muffinman
27-02-2009, 07:06
That's an interesting choice. I'm suprised Marco hasn't bigged up the sa yet. It appears my budget may stretch now to 400. If that's the case, where are the best retailers?
I know this sounds like I want spoon fed. I don't, I just want some good reccomendations. Is Ian Harrison any good?

Tony G
27-02-2009, 07:15
Is there any need to guess what I think :)

Dave Cawley
27-02-2009, 07:39
DL-103SA, AT-OC9ML/II ?

Dave

Marco
27-02-2009, 08:16
That's an interesting choice. I'm suprised Marco hasn't bigged up the sa yet. It appears my budget may stretch now to 400. If that's the case, where are the best retailers?
I know this sounds like I want spoon fed. I don't, I just want some good reccomendations. Is Ian Harrison any good?

Hi Gareth,

The reason I haven't ‘bigged-up’ the 103SA yet is because I missed this thread! :)

Yes, of course I would recommend it - providing you can get enough mass on the headshell of the Terminator, and you use the right SUT (A23 or something else equally suitable).

I wouldn't get an SA though unless you're willing to do everything necessary to optimise its performance as only when it 'sings' does its spellbinding way of music making become evident. Get it right, though, and it's quite simply the best cartridge I've heard up to 2k. Yes, when thus optimised it's a veritable giant-killer!

Oh, and Ian Harrison is superb to deal with, providing you can handle the quirks of him not taking credit cards or Paypal. You have to send him a personal cheque and wait for that to clear before he'll send the goods or you can do a bank transfer of funds to get immediate despatch of goods when in stock. Incidentally, he doesn't carry stocks of SAs - he has to order them direct from Denon UK, which usually takes about a week for them to come in and for you to receive one delivered.

However, he's a nice guy to deal with, very efficient, and he's the cheapest around (unless our Dave can match his prices;)). He sells the SA for 385. If you're using Ian mention that you know me.

Marco.

muffinman
27-02-2009, 08:28
Do you think the trannys in the ps3 would not be upto the job?

Marco
27-02-2009, 08:49
Perhaps, Gareth; what are their specifications in terms of loading impedance and step-up ratio?

Marco.

lazyscott
27-02-2009, 09:02
You could also try an Expert Stylus Company modded Denon 103 - 280 they really are very good.

Leo

p.s

Marco do you think th SA needs the extra weight/mass at the headshell what with it being a heavier body than the 103? (just interested in your views/experience)

cheers

Leo

Marco
27-02-2009, 09:34
Marco do you think th SA needs the extra weight/mass at the headshell what with it being a heavier body than the 103? (just interested in your views/experience)


Hi Leo,

Yes, undoubtedly the SA still needs the extra mass at the headshell. When I first bought it I tried it on the stock headshell of the Jelco arm (SA-750D), which weighs about 12g, and it sounded quite 'shouty', shrill at the top end, and somewhat bass-light compared to what I know is achievable - all classic signs of when the 103 is mounted on a headshell and/or arm with insuficient mass.

It was only when I put it on the Audio Technica LH-18 headshell (18g mass) that it started to sing, and then everything truly clicked into place once I fitted it to the FR S/5 (20g mass). I also tried 22g by adding a plate to the headshell but that went too much the other way and the sound become somewhat bloated and shut-in, so 20g seems optimal.

I cannot stress enough how essential it is to give ANY 103 a super high-mass headshell. There are people using them on Sumikos, which although quite good, are still not heavy enough for the job. I only realised what I was missing when I sold my Zu Supreme headshell (essentially the same as the Sumiko) and obtained the LH-18, and then things were even better when I got the FR - so it bloody well should be too as it cost me 190! :mental:

I don't do 'compromises', though :eyebrows:

Marco.

muffinman
27-02-2009, 10:59
Ta for the ideas. I'm posting on my breaks atm. Leo, the expert cartridge link gives me no clues. Do I ring them and ask for one?

Dave Cawley
27-02-2009, 11:15
I'll beat anyones prices, provided you mention AOS of course!

Dave

lazyscott
27-02-2009, 14:53
Leo, the expert cartridge link gives me no clues. Do I ring them and ask for one?

Hi,
yes, just give them a call 01372 276604 or email info@expertstylus.co.uk and have a chat with paul or if you're lucky wydnham. The mod is a sapphire cantilever with their own diamond - that costs 180 + cost of doner 103 (100)

if you can find a trashed one they will check it suitability for modding for 40 which they take off the cost of the work should you go ahead - (that's what i did)

Leo

lazyscott
27-02-2009, 14:58
Hi Marco
thanks for the reply, i had obtained some headshell weights from J7 @ Audioorigami, but have yet to try (need to find longer screws) i did try sticking the weight from my cartidge scales (5gms) onto the headshell - did beef up the sound though looked erm daft!

Leo

muffinman
27-02-2009, 20:54
Thanks for all the replies and sorry for not getting back sooner. I've been busy at work, reading your posts with interest and doing some ringing around.
Many thanks to Dave Cawley for his kind offer

i've sourced decent prices for most of the mentioned carts.
However i've got a really good offer on a dl304. i've had one before and was very happy with the sound (until the stylus went missing).
I'm a touche concerned about the low output but that would also be the problem with the SA
basically outputs are:
304 - .18
103 - .25
AT - .4

and my current cart outputs .3
I think the 304 will sound great on the terminator - any thoughts?

Tony G
27-02-2009, 22:20
The DL-301 II is probably cheaper than any of the above and provides 0.4mv output - which addresses your output concerns.
Check the review on the wam (http://www.hifiwigwam.com/view_topic.php?id=22962&forum_id=7&page=1) and make sure to follow to post # 22 for final conclusion after adjusting VTA, his initially lukewarm response changes to very positive.

My own observations on his review, he is using the same arm as I do, he is also (at the time of review anyway) using the relatively cheap Denon AU300LC SUT - which I also used initially.
Using those components he is preferring it over his previous Lyra.
I changed from the SUT to a GSP audio Exp and the improvement was not subtle.

From a purely selfish POV, I would be more interested if you try one of the lower compliance cartridges, just so I can read about how the Terminator handles it, but I can give very serious recommendation to the DL-301 II as a ridiculously good cartridge at a very competitive price.
Also worth noting is that the poster (think he has posted here also) is not apparently a fan of the DL-103 from some of his other remarks.
Given the improvement I heard in the plain vanilla DL-103 with the Exp v the AU300LC - I have to wonder how many have heard what that cart can really do given the opportunity.

Sgt.Pepper
27-02-2009, 23:47
Do you think the trannys in the ps3 would not be upto the job?

For me the DL103 sounds best with the PS3 SUT's at 10X loaded with 100R on the primary and 1M on the secondaries, do use good quality resistors for this as it does show poor ones up,I used AN tants 1w on the primary and some Takmans on the secondary.
Do a search on WD forum for more info about the loading.

If you go for the 304 just use the same loadings but with the SUT's wired for 20X,sorted ,fab cart.

muffinman
28-02-2009, 06:28
Cheers Paul.
I got my PS3 just around the time my stylus started to disintigrate so never really heard it through the amp. When I had it on my dino+/evo/gorb I was well happy with it

Couple to the fact that I'm getting it for 100 of your earth pounds less than the other carts mentioned - I think my mind is made up. Hell, if I don't get on with it, I should be able to sell it straight on without too much loss

jandl100
14-03-2009, 22:08
The DL-301 II is probably cheaper than any of the above and provides 0.4mv output - which addresses your output concerns.
Check the review on the wam (http://www.hifiwigwam.com/view_topic.php?id=22962&forum_id=7&page=1)

I've recently picked up (boom-boom! :smoking:) a Mk1 DL-301. And very nice it is too - I prefer it to my old 103.

Here she blows ...

http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii114/jandl100/DSCF4605.jpg

Tony G
15-03-2009, 00:07
Good to hear it is doing well.
Not hard to see the family resemblance to the DL-110/160 body and stylus guard arrangement.
IIRC I read, some time ago, reports of unused DL-304s occasionally being defunct after long storage and warnings regarding buying NOS on that account.
Just a BTW comment, yours is obviously fine and I do not recall the reports extending to the 301 anyway.
I very much like my mark II, particularly with classical.

twelvebears
15-03-2009, 11:12
This is all quite timely for me. I've recently returned to the joys of vinyl after years with digital only sources and it's great.

Currently have stock SL-1210 which I'm going to start tuning up.

One slight bonus I've just discovered is that my Musical Fidelity M3's phono stage is (according to Stereophile) a) pretty decent (without spending a sizable chunk of a separate stage) and b) already able to handle a MC input via a simple switch inside the case, though why they hid it here is anyone's guess.

So I'm in the market for a cart which will improve on my Goldring 1022GX (which is probably due a new stylus anyway) without going too mad.

The two options which immediately spring to mind are the DL-304 and AT-OC9ML/II

Any views on which would work best in a stock arm initially and then to stepped improvements like a AT headshell and re-wire?

Alex Nikitin
15-03-2009, 12:47
So I'm in the market for a cart which will improve on my Goldring 1022GX (which is probably due a new stylus anyway) without going too mad.

One easy option is to get a new 1042 stylus for your Goldring.

Alex

Marco
15-03-2009, 12:49
TB,

What's your first name, mate?

Both of those cartridges would work pretty well in the stock arm - but you must fit a decent headshell first, even before rewiring, (such as the AT or Sumiko), as the stock one is crap. It's the only way that you'll hear what the 304 or OC-9 are capable of doing.

Regarding which one to choose, they both sound quite similar, majoring on a sweet, detailed, but not too forward sound. I'd say that the OC-9 has a bit more 'balls', as well as bags of refinement, and tracks better than the 304, but the latter has a way with music in the midrange that's quite beguiling and almost 'valve-like'. I guess that much would depend on your taste in music. The OC-9 is probably the better all-rounder.

However both cartridges offer performance way in excess of their price tags, which is what you get when you buy an MC cartridge from a major Japanese manufacturer which has invested in all the tooling necessary to mass-produce high quality designs without the need to charge the manufacturing premium of smaller cartridge manufacturers. In short, both are veritable 'giant killers' and as such offer high sound-per-pound value.

Another option of course is the DL-103, but you'll have to spend much more to get that to work properly.

Marco.

twelvebears
15-03-2009, 18:18
Hi Marco.

The name's Steve btw, sorry, forgot I'd not signed my post!

Anyway, have already ordered a Sumiko headshell, I'd spotted that the original wasn't exactly precision made, which is a shame considering it's not that much less than the Sumiko.

I've got a opportunity to get a very lightly used DL304 from friend (who treats everything with great care) for just under 200.

Apart from the cart, and headshell, seems to me that replacing the standard arm leads, trailing leads and plugs.

Assuming the later is a worthwhile move, what's the best way to get it done?

Regards

Steve

Marco
15-03-2009, 18:34
Hi Steve,

Nice one on the 304 - I'm sure you'll enjoy it :)

If you'd asked me that question last year I'd have said KAB in the States; however that was before the new Jelco arms were released. My advice would be, if you can, to stick with the stock arm and Sumiko headshell and save up for either a Jelco SA-250ST or SA-750D, both available here from Dave at Sound Hi-fi. These tonearms sound tremendous on an SL-1200 or 1210.

The reason I say that is because I don't think that it's worth spending too much money on upgrading the stock arm when you'll probably end up changing it for something else later down the line, especially considering how keenly priced the Jelcos are.

If however in the meantime you would still like to tweak your existing arm then contact J7 at Audio Origami. Johnnie's arm rewiring charges represent great value and his work is immaculate.

Failing that, you could look at just upgrading the headshell leads to something like those from Clearaudio (available on-line form Analogue Seduction) - even the ones supplied with the Sumiko aren't that great, and also upgrading the stock counterweight balance to a custom-made solid brass one. I can supply details of the person to contact regarding this if you wish.

The decision though is yours :smoking:

Marco.

P.S Do me a favour and add "Steve" to your signature - ta!

muffinman
21-03-2009, 13:27
Just letting you all know that i ended up with the AT-OC9ML/II.
It's a bit more ballsy than the denon and all in all i feel it's the right choice.
now that the deck is finished i'll give a full review of the terminator/AT-OC9ML/II/1200 in the coming week - it's very good

Oh Marco, i got Hard Candy and as good as it is i don't think it's Madges best production by a long way. Is it this or Confessions that you rate highly?
Either way, American life 2lp is still my 'demo disc' - absolutely stunning production

Marco
22-03-2009, 20:26
Nice one, Gareth. The OC-9 is a nice cartridge. I look forward to the review :)

Yes I like 'Hard Candy', but only because of some of the music on it, not particularly because of its production values, although the album sounds pretty good on vinyl. I agree in this respect that 'American Life' is better. 'Ray of Light' is another good one in terms of production quality and music, too!

Sad as it is, I was listening to her first album last night on vinyl from 1983 with stuff like 'Lucky Star' and 'Holiday' on it (yes I know!) and couldn't believe how much her style has changed since then - she's wearing not too badly either ;)

Marco.

griffo104
25-03-2009, 12:32
The DL-301 II is probably cheaper than any of the above and provides 0.4mv output - which addresses your output concerns.
Check the review on the wam (http://www.hifiwigwam.com/view_topic.php?id=22962&forum_id=7&page=1) and make sure to follow to post # 22 for final conclusion after adjusting VTA, his initially lukewarm response changes to very positive.

My own observations on his review, he is using the same arm as I do, he is also (at the time of review anyway) using the relatively cheap Denon AU300LC SUT - which I also used initially.
Using those components he is preferring it over his previous Lyra.
I changed from the SUT to a GSP audio Exp and the improvement was not subtle.

From a purely selfish POV, I would be more interested if you try one of the lower compliance cartridges, just so I can read about how the Terminator handles it, but I can give very serious recommendation to the DL-301 II as a ridiculously good cartridge at a very competitive price.
Also worth noting is that the poster (think he has posted here also) is not apparently a fan of the DL-103 from some of his other remarks.
Given the improvement I heard in the plain vanilla DL-103 with the Exp v the AU300LC - I have to wonder how many have heard what that cart can really do given the opportunity.

Hi Tony,
that was the review wot I wrote :)

Things have actually moved on a lot since then. At the time of writing that #22 comment I was really getting in to the DL301ii but still overall prefered the Dorian BUT taking the price difference in to account I preferred the DL301ii.

It's about a year since I wrote that initial review and in that time I switched back to an older Goldring Elite for awhile and then switched back to the DL301ii. In switching these carts I came to the conclusion I didn't like the step up. the Elite was much better in the bass and was tighter with rhythms. So I ditched the step up, loaded the Aria right down, reinstalled the DL301ii and played with the antiskate, dropping it almost down to 0 in the Tecnoarm.

It should also be noted that I have the Michell decoupling mod in place in my set up.

Let's just say that a year on the DL301ii is still there, the Dorian is still in it's box. Doing the installation again, something I think you should do after 50 and then 200 hours, loading the Aria down and playing with other adjustments and I find this cartridge an absolute steal.

The bass has improved so much since doing this and going back the active phono direct, the vocals are still superb but the treble seems to reach higher and with no hint of harshness at all and at last the problems I had with the rhythm and timing are sorted - it sings with all types of music and classical, the main bugbear in my original review, is now sublime.

I've owned a few MC carts in my time, Lyra, Ortofons, other Denons and the Goldring Elite, and for the money this is the best. It has much better bass and a more impactful presntation than the DL304 but still has that subtlety and detail that carts has, maybe not quite as airy but I can live without that.

I've never gotten on with the DL103 but have plans to give it a try again at some point.

I thik the DL301ii is probably the best component I've bought, it was an amazing bargain for the price I paid for it.

In mp opinion, of course, I don't think there's anything under 500 that comes close to it's balance for the way I enjoy listening to music. It does so much so well.

Tony G
26-03-2009, 14:19
Hi,
good to hear your update, I did not buy mine on the strength of your review which I did not come upon until I had already bought it.
I had previously purchased the SUT and the DL-103 and while I liked that a lot I felt it limited in treble resolution, particularly on busy orchestral pieces.
I saw the 301 at a really good price (around $US230 when the $AU was much stronger than currently) and decided it might be a "good thing" - certainly is.

Hope you did not mind me quoting your review, felt it would add some "local authority" to the opinion of a "blow in" (petit moi :violin:).
I was very interested that you were using the same SUT as I had initially and the same arm (I also have used a similar "constrained layer" type of mount as your Michell de-coupling)

I was quite amazed by the DL-103 when I upgraded to the Exp from the SUT in that things I had heard as limitations of the cartridge were shown to be limitations of the traffo. I do use a 4 gm lead spacer with the DL-103 - that is about as much as I can balance with the larger counterweight - I think the lead also provides an amount of resonance damping and de-coupling.
That's my half-ass theory anyway.

Good to read your thoughts on the 304 also, I had suspected it might lose some in the bass and kick dept where the 301 retains much of the abilities in that area of the DL-110 - IMO.

The 301 is not an easy act to follow, I am still thinking long and hard (and expensive) for another to try that will not be a retrograde move or a shift of emphasis.

griffo104
27-03-2009, 09:11
Hi Tony,

I have no problems with you quoting the review - it's good to see people reading it. I went looking for play with some SUTs and cheaper cart and found the Denon DL301ii on the audiocubes website - when I bought it the $ was 2 to 1 to the so it didn't cost me much at all (about 170 I think after customs).

I lived with the DL304 for about 4 years but found it lacking in the areas noted. I did a lot of research in tot he DL301ii as it's only really available in Japan but a few comments seemed to imply it was a good match with Rega based arms.

It's took a long time to get the setup right.

It's an interesting comparison with the Dorian. I still think the dorian is possibly my favourite cartridge. I know some don't like it but I love what it digs up out of the vinyl. The problem is, it's very hard to find fault with the Denon. It's just very enjoyable to listen to and if I'd never heard the Dorian then I would be more than happy to never need to spend more money.

Ironically while doing research for the cart, I found a few websites very much dedicated to vinyl, these guys don't even know cd was invented let alone have an argument over digital v analogue. The thing that surprised me was how many of these guys use cheap carts and are more than happy with them. The thinking was that they play records all day and it only costs 100 to 150 to get a new cart when the other wears out.

Made me wonder exactly what I was doing, tbh.

If you really like the Denon DL301ii, it may be worth trying to get a listen to a Shelter 901, it's much more expensive but you can see the DL301ii as a cheaper version of the 901, which is a very good carts but lacks what I enjoy in the Lyra carts.

I will revisit the DL103 though - I'm a bit more educated in vinyl since I last tried that cart.