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Thread: Budget cartridge/headshell/phono-stage advice needed

  1. #1
    Join Date: Mar 2009

    Location: Sheffield, UK

    Posts: 1,310
    I'm Dave.

    Default Budget cartridge/headshell/phono-stage advice needed

    Hi,

    I've recently purchased a Pioneer PL-71 direct drive TT.
    Providing it doesn't get smashed to bit's in the post, this will be my first TT.
    As I've never owed a TT before I don't have a phono stage and I know very little about TT's in general.

    So I need some advice on what I need to get the PL-71 up and running.
    I know it's probably going to need some switches and pots replacing but I think I'll be ok sorting that out. I'm planning on leaving the TT as standard as possible for now and just getting it working. From what I understand this is often the best approach with this model anyway which is one of the things that attracted me to it. I like simplicity.

    I think the one I've bought is completely standard, so I think I just need a cartridge, headshell and phono stage.

    On the subject of phono stages, I hear the Cambridge Audio 640P is great value for money at around 50-60 on ebay. So I was thinking of getting one of these to get me started. Can anyone think of anything more suitable/better for under 100.

    When it comes to cartridges and headshells I don't know where to start. So what would be a good combination for around 100 for the pair? I would consider stretching to 200 if it meant the results would be considerably better.

    If it helps, I listen to a wide variety of music so I need to make the PL-71 a bit of a jack of all trades I guess. My favourite genre is rock though.

    Many thanks.
    Source: Apple TV 4K - DAC: Beresford Bushmaster Mk II - Preamp: CI AudioPLC-1 Mk II - Power Amps: Musical Fidelity 550K mono blocks - Speakers: Wharfedale Opus 3 - Cables: Mark Grant etc - Misc: Belkin PF30 mains filters.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Dartmouth in beautiful Devon UK

    Posts: 1,244

    Smile

    I am a dealer, but most trust me. Just my opinion for a ~ 100'ish budget start, AT120e and NAD PP2, both at 10% off web price and free postage to AOS members. But listen to everyone else, it's a great adventure you are embarking on!

    Regards

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Cawley; 21-08-2009 at 17:26.

  3. #3
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: A Strangely Isolated Place in Suffolk with far away trains passing by...

    Posts: 14,557
    I'm David.

    Default

    You won't go wrong with Dave's recommendation.

    I'd also suggest a Sumiko headshell, which works well with these arms (even if the 120e and 440MLa don't strictly need the extra mass).

    Without going to the extremes of an Ortofon SPU (or M3D/N21), the arm should also take Denon DL110's and 160's with no bother and these, along with the AT's, should be dropping slightly in price (with any luck) now the pound has recovered just a little.

    I used to sell the NAD PP1. It's ok, if a tad soft toned for my tastes. I ought to mention the Cambridge 640P too, which now costs a bit more, but so many like it for the money I feel I should mention it. The only other fair priced one I can think of is the Rega "Fono," which worked well with non-Rega moving magnet carts.. It's been around a while though and I don't know how it compares today.
    Last edited by DSJR; 21-08-2009 at 17:38.
    Tear down these walls; Cut the ties that held me
    Crying out at the top of my voice; Tell me now if you can hear me

  4. #4
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Cheshire UK

    Posts: 198
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    If you are familiar with soldering and can assemble a PCB into a suitable box, there is one interesting option available - internal Creek Audio MM phono board for a very reasonable amount. You will need an external 24 V DC power supply, a box (10 Hammond from Farnell will do nicely), input and output sockets and an evening or two. The result will be substantially better than NAD, Cambridge etc.

    Alex

  5. #5
    Join Date: Mar 2009

    Location: Sheffield, UK

    Posts: 1,310
    I'm Dave.

    Default

    Thanks for the recommendations Daves.
    Dave C, I've had a look at your website and you've got some lovely gear! On the subject of phono stages, I like the sound of the Clear Audio Nano which I see you rate highly. It seems to have some useful extra features for the extra cash over the NAD, so I'd certainly consider paying the extra for that. Do you have any idea how the Nano compares to the Cambridge 640P?

    Cartridges still baffle me a bit. There are tons to choose between and I don't really know what the differences are between most, other than MM or MC.
    I believe cartridges can roughly be split into heavy and light groups. I think the PL-71 arm is classed as being fairly light, so does that lend it's self to heavier or lighter cartridges. I'm not sure if this is a good way to look at the dilemma, I'm just trying to find a way to narrow down my choices.

    Also it sounds like the choice of headshell is dependent on the weight of cartridge and vice versa, so I think I'll choose the cartridge first and then the headshell as that seems logical.

    Am I heading in the right direction?
    Wow this is a steep learning curve.
    Source: Apple TV 4K - DAC: Beresford Bushmaster Mk II - Preamp: CI AudioPLC-1 Mk II - Power Amps: Musical Fidelity 550K mono blocks - Speakers: Wharfedale Opus 3 - Cables: Mark Grant etc - Misc: Belkin PF30 mains filters.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Mar 2009

    Location: Sheffield, UK

    Posts: 1,310
    I'm Dave.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Nikitin View Post
    If you are familiar with soldering and can assemble a PCB into a suitable box, there is one interesting option available - internal Creek Audio MM phono board for a very reasonable amount. You will need an external 24 V DC power supply, a box (10 Hammond from Farnell will do nicely), input and output sockets and an evening or two. The result will be substantially better than NAD, Cambridge etc.

    Alex
    Thanks Alex, I'm handy with a soldering iron so that wouldnt be beyond me.
    Do you have any idea how this would compare to the Clear Audio Nano? Obviously the Creek lacks the MC compatability but appart from that.

    EDIT: That reminds me; I've seen some MC cartridges listed as "high output". Would this mean they would have to be plugged into a MM stage or are they still compatible with an MC stage? Thanks.
    Last edited by HighFidelityGuy; 21-08-2009 at 20:19.
    Source: Apple TV 4K - DAC: Beresford Bushmaster Mk II - Preamp: CI AudioPLC-1 Mk II - Power Amps: Musical Fidelity 550K mono blocks - Speakers: Wharfedale Opus 3 - Cables: Mark Grant etc - Misc: Belkin PF30 mains filters.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Cheshire UK

    Posts: 198
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by HighFidelityGuy View Post
    Thanks Alex, I'm handy with a soldering iron so that wouldnt be beyond me.
    Do you have any idea how this would compare to the Clear Audio Nano? Obviously the Creek lacks the MC compatability but appart from that.
    I never heard the Nano, so I can not compare, sorry. However I did design that particular board and know what it is capable of . It is also possible to update that PCB with a couple of FETs (PCB allows for that, AFAIK) to improve it to a "Special Edition" level. SE version was once reviewed by Stereophile as a part of Creek Audio 5350SE amplifier.

    Cheers

    Alex

    P.S. - MC cartridges with high output work just fine with an MM phono stage.

    P.P.S - MMSE board also gets an honourable mention in another Stereophile review, where it performs on par with Graham Audio Era Gold Mk.V phono stage.
    Last edited by Alex Nikitin; 21-08-2009 at 20:32.

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: A Strangely Isolated Place in Suffolk with far away trains passing by...

    Posts: 14,557
    I'm David.

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    I'd suggest you get a decent headshell FIRST, followed by either an AT120e (which can be upgraded to 440MLa by changing the stylus I think) or a DL110. The Creek phono board looks to be a great option and I'm sure Alex N will help and advise no end on fitting it to a case and wiring it up correctly...
    Tear down these walls; Cut the ties that held me
    Crying out at the top of my voice; Tell me now if you can hear me

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Dartmouth in beautiful Devon UK

    Posts: 1,244

    Smile

    Read the review on my site of the NAD PP2? Only a couple of us here know it, and we like it. The Nano is good for the OC9.

    It all depends on budget, and 100 or even 200 isn't going to do Nano/OC9

    Regards

    Dave

  10. #10
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: A Strangely Isolated Place in Suffolk with far away trains passing by...

    Posts: 14,557
    I'm David.

    Default

    I've just twigged - Dave's talking about the NAD PP2, which I'm sure I'm not familiar with - at least I referred to the PP1 instead - I've been out of it for too long.... Put it down to a shortage of feline affection
    Tear down these walls; Cut the ties that held me
    Crying out at the top of my voice; Tell me now if you can hear me

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