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Thread: Cartridge upgrades

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2009

    Posts: 347

    Default Cartridge upgrades

    Dear Forum,

    For some this question raised for a personal purpose entirely might appear 'Rhetorical' but I must ask.

    I noted that David Price is using Lyra Titan and a local dealer-salesman promises me that he has gone through the Ortofon range and found that the top one costing around 2500 is far better than all those costing less.

    This gentleman uses Garard with his own Plinth and a Rega arm.

    Now the question- the mileage in going to that expense of the most expensive cartridge when using not the arm in the same league and so on. Upgrades and their worthiness is the question here- I am sure all such changes are 'better' but by how much?
    Varun

  2. #2
    Join Date: Apr 2009

    Location: Near Saffron Walden, Essex

    Posts: 6,810
    I'm Dave.

    Default

    As with all such things, the law of diminishing returns kicks in really early and the differences between a 1K and 3K cartridge is actually very small. If you play the Titan to the man in the street and then the Dorian, he is unlikely to hear a significant difference and when you tell him the price he will tell you that you're mad. In fact, the casual listener will think you're a head case for spending 50 on a 'needle'.

    It's up to the individual enthusiast to determine which is best and how much to spend and then you have the occasional 'giant killers' which make you wonder why things are priced the way they are. When you consider hand made cartridges, is there really hundreds or thousands of Pounds difference in the component price from the bottom to the top of the range ? I know there isn't, so how are they priced.

    It's easy for a reviewer ( who is not actually buying an expensive cartridge ) to say that the top model is light years or millions of miles better but when it comes to getting the money out of your wallet, things change.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Dartmouth in beautiful Devon UK

    Posts: 1,244

    Smile

    David Price also uses a Koetsu Rosewood Signature, I set it up in a SL-1210 for him. I used a Transfiguration Phoenix for a while. They are all great cartridges if you can afford them easily.

    But both David and I often use a 350 AT-OC9ML/II , the difference is quite small. as they say, horses for courses!

    Regards

    Dave

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 110,089
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default Economies of scale

    It's actually quite easy to determine why, in terms of sonic performance, the likes of an OC-9, 33PTG (or a 103SA) can get within a gnat's whisker of the top Lyras, Koetsus and Transfigurations of this world (and in some areas better them!), and it boils mainly down to three words...

    economies of scale

    ...particularly in the case of the Denon. For example, do you think a DL-103SA would cost 450 (or thereabouts) if it were made, for example, by a much smaller company like Lyra, with vastly less resources? No chance. Try trebling it! It would be the same with an OC-9, if they made it. 'Prestige value' is also an issue, and I will explain this below.

    There are undoubtedly some genuinely fantastic 'high-end' cartridges around, but the simple fact is that there is a significant price premium attached to their respective 'badges', reflecting the associated 'prestige value'. You cannot get away from that, and people will buy into this. It's human nauture to enjoy and take pride in owning things that are 'expensive'.

    If you want the highest SPPV, however, it's a matter of having the knowledge and experience to discover the 'giant-killers' out there, and how to optimise their performance accordingly, saving a fortune in the process. Unfortunately, acquiring that knowledge and experience is not easy. It involves having an open mind, a willingness to do some research, and the ability to think outside of the box instead of simply opening your wallet.

    Helping people do precisely that is what this forum is all about.

    Marco.
    Main System

    Turntable: Heavily-modified Technics SL-1210MK5G [Mike New bearing/ETP platter/Paul Hynes SR7 PSU & reg mods]. Funk Firm APM Achromat/Nagaoka GL-601 Crystal Record Weight/Isonoe feet & boots/Ortofon RS-212D/Denon DL-103GL in Denon PCL-300 headshell with Funk Firm Houdini/Kondo SL-115 pure-silver cartridge leads.

    Paul Hynes MC head amp/SR5 PSU. Also modded Lentek head amp/Denon AU-310 SUT.

    Other Cartridges: Nippon Columbia (NOS 1987) Denon DL-103. USA-made Shure SC35C with NOS stylus. Goldring G820 with NOS stylus. Shure M55E with NOS stylus.

    CD Player: Audiocom-modified Sony X-777ES/DAS-R1 DAC.

    Tape Deck: Tandberg TCD 310, fully restored and recalibrated as new, by RDE, plus upgraded with heads from the TCD-420a. Also with matching TM4 Norway microphones.

    Preamps: Heavily-modified Croft Charisma-X. LDR Stereo Coffee. Power Amps: Tube Distinctions Copper Amp fitted with Tungsol KT-150s. Quad 306.

    Cables & Sundries: Mark Grant HDX1 interconnects and digital coaxial cable, plus Mark Grant 6mm UP-LCOFC Van Damme speaker cable. MCRU 'Ultimate' mains leads. Lehmann clone headphone amp with vintage Koss PRO-4AAA headphones.

    Tube Distinctions digital noise filter. VPI HW16.5 record cleaning machine.

    Speakers: Tannoy 15MGs in Lockwood cabinets with modified crossovers. 1967 Celestion Ditton 15.


    Protect your HUMAN RIGHTS and REFUSE ANY *MANDATORY* VACCINE FOR COVID-19!

    Also **SAY NO** to unjust 'vaccine passports' or certificates, which are totally incompatible with a FREE society!!!


  5. #5
    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're all correct fella's, but Marco, PLEASE bear in mind that these small scale models, which DON'T take weeks to make (!!!!!!!!) are priced at the maximum foo money that audiophools will pay..

    I remember one distributor telling me that all his cartridges were the same model. They selected a few for better spec and doubled the price, then selected a few more and doubled the price again and so on (can't remember the models, but they looked like "T" shape with the pins on the front of the "T" - c'mon HiFi Dave, help an old codger out...?

    I also remember being told on several occasions that certain Ortofon cartridges were actually cheaper to make than the packaging and when a very expensive top model cartridge failed, the distributor just gave out a new one free gratis on this occasion.. There was also a staff deal where I bought an MC30 Super with MCA 76 step-up for around 70 (retail was 500 at least back then)...

    The cantilever/diamond assemblies are available in little pots of 100 (or thereabouts) assemblies and many of the magnet assemblies look similar. I do appreciate that fancy little milled bodies made in small quantities won't be that cheap, but they CAN'T surely cost more than a huge fancy amplifier body.

    Finally, Roy Gandy - an expert in costing products for fair price and profit - told us once that NO cartridge should cost more than 250 (500 in todays money) unless they have a rare gemstone body. Rega seem to have gone against this now with the Apheta, which looks as though it costs tuppence to make in all honesty.

    Sorry, superior cartridges like the OC9, DL103 etc are perfectly profitable for the manufacturer, distributer AND dealer selling it (look at all that "profit/slurp" ) and they're STILL far cheaper than some of these fancy devices that cost over a grand.

    Economies of scale be damned. Apologies for the outburst, but there are too many uber-riche Hong Kong audiophools with too much money to burn - 12,500 for a phono stage indeed - their gullibility beggars belief
    Last edited by DSJR; 13-09-2009 at 10:13.
    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

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 110,089
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Thumbs up

    Great post, Dave. I completely agree with everything you've written.

    You're all correct fella's, but Marco, PLEASE bear in mind that these small scale models, which DON'T take weeks to make (!!!!!!!!) are priced at the maximum foo money that audiophools will pay..
    This is exactly what I mean when I refer to 'prestige value' and 'badge snobbery'.

    Quite simply, the more people there are who succumb to the attraction of the above, the more 'foo' prices will exist attached to products which in reality should sell for a fraction of the price.

    I agree; the Japanese 'high-end' audiophiles are largely to blame for this, but the 'disease' is still endemic at the core of the UK market, too. I'm afraid that as long as people are willing to pay lunatic prices for the likes of a Keel, that will remain the case.

    People, badge snobs aside, just need some 'educating' to wake up and smell the coffee.

    I'd love to set-up a room at a hi-fi show, and take along a handful of popular 'high-end' MC cartridges (supplied by their users) and, say, an AT33PTG, stock DL-103 and a 103SA, using my modified Techie, preamp, SUT and an alternative MC phono stage to demonstrate the differences, playing the same piece of music in the same system. People would be in for a shock at both how stunning the latter can sound when sympathetically matched and optimally set-up, and how little difference there is between them and their counterparts at many times the price.

    And also in some cases, how the respective 'giant-killers' above can not only match them, but outperform them in key areas! I suspect though that some would find this a rather disconcerting experience

    Marco.
    Main System

    Turntable: Heavily-modified Technics SL-1210MK5G [Mike New bearing/ETP platter/Paul Hynes SR7 PSU & reg mods]. Funk Firm APM Achromat/Nagaoka GL-601 Crystal Record Weight/Isonoe feet & boots/Ortofon RS-212D/Denon DL-103GL in Denon PCL-300 headshell with Funk Firm Houdini/Kondo SL-115 pure-silver cartridge leads.

    Paul Hynes MC head amp/SR5 PSU. Also modded Lentek head amp/Denon AU-310 SUT.

    Other Cartridges: Nippon Columbia (NOS 1987) Denon DL-103. USA-made Shure SC35C with NOS stylus. Goldring G820 with NOS stylus. Shure M55E with NOS stylus.

    CD Player: Audiocom-modified Sony X-777ES/DAS-R1 DAC.

    Tape Deck: Tandberg TCD 310, fully restored and recalibrated as new, by RDE, plus upgraded with heads from the TCD-420a. Also with matching TM4 Norway microphones.

    Preamps: Heavily-modified Croft Charisma-X. LDR Stereo Coffee. Power Amps: Tube Distinctions Copper Amp fitted with Tungsol KT-150s. Quad 306.

    Cables & Sundries: Mark Grant HDX1 interconnects and digital coaxial cable, plus Mark Grant 6mm UP-LCOFC Van Damme speaker cable. MCRU 'Ultimate' mains leads. Lehmann clone headphone amp with vintage Koss PRO-4AAA headphones.

    Tube Distinctions digital noise filter. VPI HW16.5 record cleaning machine.

    Speakers: Tannoy 15MGs in Lockwood cabinets with modified crossovers. 1967 Celestion Ditton 15.


    Protect your HUMAN RIGHTS and REFUSE ANY *MANDATORY* VACCINE FOR COVID-19!

    Also **SAY NO** to unjust 'vaccine passports' or certificates, which are totally incompatible with a FREE society!!!


  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2008

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

    Posts: 14,557
    I'm David.

    Default

    The sad thing is Marco, that I doubt the high end "independant" market exists now in the UK, as the people able to afford this stuff are either allied to Absolute Sounds (Krell, ARC, Sonus Faber, ML, Koetsu, Wilson), Linn (the "Klub"), Naim (usually used as a full electronic system if not with their speakers), or even the best of B&O, which I understand is seriously good if done right.

    People such as yourself have custom made amps (don't know how much they cost - apologies Anthony), carefully selected and race-tuned vintage speakers and sources. I think you are a (good) throw-back to HiFi as it was in my youth. But today, it's all about joining and belonging to a club, with an Aspergic stance on the "belonging," hence the bitter vitriol (lack of social skills) if anyone dares to challenge their rigidly held beliefs.
    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

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2009

    Location: Somerset, UK

    Posts: 717
    I'm King.

    Default

    Hi Macro,
    It seems that you are slightly over confident; you may get your ass kicked if you really set up such demonstration.
    Last edited by kcc123; 13-09-2009 at 11:31.
    King

  9. #9
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 110,089
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default

    Hi King,

    Possibly, but I doubt it. Thing is, I'd have nothing to lose. I'd be the one championing the 'cheapo' cartridges, not the 'hi-end' ones, so if they ended up sounding worse then you could say that's exactly what would have been expected. However, if the reverse happened, it would definitely raise a few eyebrows! It'd be rather like Arsenal playing Swindon Town in the FA Cup - Arsenal would have everything to lose and little to gain by winning...

    Dave,

    People such as yourself have custom made amps (don't know how much they cost - apologies Anthony), carefully selected and race-tuned vintage speakers and sources. I think you are a (good) throw-back to HiFi as it was in my youth.
    Thanks - I'll take that as a compliment. Well, part of why I started AoS along with Steve and Rob was to try and create/appeal to more people with my type of 'hi-fi mentality', and to a degree I think this has been a success. One only has to look at how massively popular, for example, the Techie and DL-103 have become, amongst other things. I'd like to think that AoS has played a significant role in that.

    But today, it's all about joining and belonging to a club, with an Aspergic stance on the "belonging," hence the bitter vitriol (lack of social skills) if anyone dares to challenge their rigidly held beliefs.
    That's an interesting insight into this bizarre mentality, and you're probably right. I've met quite a few and 'crossed swords' with them on other forums! I just don't get it though; it's a way of thinking that is completely alien to me. I'm not interested in belonging to or forming any sort of hi-fi "club" based on the dogmatic following of a particular brand or the flat earth nonsense of the 70s and 80s, and indeed find the thought risible.

    Surely it's about enjoying music and getting the biggest bang for your buck with whatever equipment you choose?

    That's certainly what this forum exists for. The only "club" we're interested in belonging to is the club of satisfied music lovers!

    Marco.
    Main System

    Turntable: Heavily-modified Technics SL-1210MK5G [Mike New bearing/ETP platter/Paul Hynes SR7 PSU & reg mods]. Funk Firm APM Achromat/Nagaoka GL-601 Crystal Record Weight/Isonoe feet & boots/Ortofon RS-212D/Denon DL-103GL in Denon PCL-300 headshell with Funk Firm Houdini/Kondo SL-115 pure-silver cartridge leads.

    Paul Hynes MC head amp/SR5 PSU. Also modded Lentek head amp/Denon AU-310 SUT.

    Other Cartridges: Nippon Columbia (NOS 1987) Denon DL-103. USA-made Shure SC35C with NOS stylus. Goldring G820 with NOS stylus. Shure M55E with NOS stylus.

    CD Player: Audiocom-modified Sony X-777ES/DAS-R1 DAC.

    Tape Deck: Tandberg TCD 310, fully restored and recalibrated as new, by RDE, plus upgraded with heads from the TCD-420a. Also with matching TM4 Norway microphones.

    Preamps: Heavily-modified Croft Charisma-X. LDR Stereo Coffee. Power Amps: Tube Distinctions Copper Amp fitted with Tungsol KT-150s. Quad 306.

    Cables & Sundries: Mark Grant HDX1 interconnects and digital coaxial cable, plus Mark Grant 6mm UP-LCOFC Van Damme speaker cable. MCRU 'Ultimate' mains leads. Lehmann clone headphone amp with vintage Koss PRO-4AAA headphones.

    Tube Distinctions digital noise filter. VPI HW16.5 record cleaning machine.

    Speakers: Tannoy 15MGs in Lockwood cabinets with modified crossovers. 1967 Celestion Ditton 15.


    Protect your HUMAN RIGHTS and REFUSE ANY *MANDATORY* VACCINE FOR COVID-19!

    Also **SAY NO** to unjust 'vaccine passports' or certificates, which are totally incompatible with a FREE society!!!


  10. #10
    Join Date: Jun 2009

    Location: Guildford

    Posts: 228

    Default

    having used all sorts of 'high end' phonograph cartridges, I always return to proper needles: A decca or a DL103 variant. No need for anything over 500 notes. Fact
    BigMooG (Jonathan Stanley)
    He says: Decca is Better

    Vinyl System: Superficial Engineering hell/p12 turntable (British Leyland suspension upgrade), Jack-a-nori semi mono Cartridge (tooth pick cantilever), STI Klynik XXX tonearm (rewired with Klimacs Kable ), intelligence quotient 161 (mensa) preamplifier with 224 NOS Ssangyong ECC88s and NOS North Korean kim-jong-ill GZ34s, barelyaudible research V.P.L. dual quad mono amplifiers with modified circuit boards (MDF), Gilson W.A.L.L.O.P Ultimate Final V2 loudspeakers, uranium cable loom (mercury vapour upgrade), hysterical research and Dr Mike Amera room treatments-flock wallpaper, yergota bee-joking cryofrozen fuses throughout
    .

    Digital system: cd player

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