The Alternate Pariah

I feel like a leper in the world of High-End Audio.

I prefer the sound of MM cartridges to that of LOMCs……but the MM cartridge is definitely viewed these days by the modern ‘true’ audiophile, as somewhat ‘Mid-Fi’?

35 years ago I started off with MM cartridges like the Nagaoka MP11 and Stanton 681EEE before meeting the famous Garrottt Bros and mounting their eponymous Garrott P77.

At the time….I had an Electrocompaniet preamp with only a MM phono input and when I changed to a valve Kebschull preamp with both MM and MC input in the late 80s, I couldn’t wait to try out the LOMCs which were getting all the press in the Hi-Fi magazines from England and USA.

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There followed a succession of cartridges like the Symphonic Line (aka VdH Grasshopper), Koetsu Urushi, Clearaudio Concerto and Insider Gold, Lyra Helikon and Titan i before I settled on the ZYX UNIverse as the best I had heard (I am on my third one of these).

I have since added the Dynavector XV1s and a vintage Fidelity Research FR-7f with new conical stylus and now an FR-7f with a new Line Contact stylus.

It was 5 years ago that I returned to MMs for the first time in 20 years….and was astonished at the sound compared to that which I had now become accustomed?

With guidance and much reading…I quickly found cheap vintage MM cartridges from the 70s and early 80s…..the ‘Golden Age’ of analogue.

Models from Empire like the 1000ZE/X and 4000DIII/Gold.

Fidelity Research MMs like the FR-5E and FR-6SE.

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The Garrott P77 with a modern Jico SAS stylus implant becomes even greater than the original.

The Audio Technica AT-155Lc and Signet MR-5.0Lc are both quite delectable.

The Shure ML140HE is worthy as are some modern MMs like the Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood (Black) and Audio Technica AT-150ANV although I have found.….that none of the ‘modern’ MM cartridges can really compete with the great classic vintage samples, and perhaps the greatest range of these IMHO is the Signet line of TK-3E and 3Ea, TK-5E and 5Ea and the greatest….the TK-7E and 7Ea.

Now the Signet TK-7E with the No.3 Signet stylus becomes the TK-7SU (Shibata) whilst the TK-7LCa (Line Contact) is perhaps the finest sounding cartridge in my possession?

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Now many of these great Signet cartridges do not possess their original styli in good condition so a transplant of the AT-155Lc stylus into the Ea versions (don’t forget that Signet is manufactured by Audio Technica) actually improves the already fine performance capabilities.

In fact…..because the TK-7LCa is virtually unobtainable in original condition…… a TK-7Ea with a 155Lc stylus gives 95% of the performance of the original.

I actually have 7 samples of the 155Lc stylus which has a nude Line Contact with a beryllium cantilever and is close to my favourite stylus configuration.

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This post was written by our friend HF from Sydney, Australia

6 thoughts on “The Alternate Pariah

  1. I am wondering why everyone is silent on this post? I agree. There are so many wonderful MM cartridges and yet they are not even considered today as ‘real’ high end equipment. My favorites are those from the mid to late 70’s and early 80’s. One is absolutely shocked to hear a good turntable set up with a Pickering XSV3000, or a Stanton 881s. So many excellent Audio Technica/Signet models that it is difficult to choose. Nagaoka…. I like them all! It is also important to make sure to dial in the correct load. This is often neglected and dismissed when using MM cartridges.

    One can still have a good collection of LOMC’s along with a few select MM’s. Just when I thought I was down to my favorite two or three, I started collecting again.. =)

    Norman

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am wondering why everyone is silent on this post? I agree. There are so many wonderful MM cartridges and yet they are not even considered today as ‘real’ high end equipment. My favorites are those from the mid to late 70’s and early 80’s. One is absolutely shocked to hear a good turntable set up with a Pickering XSV3000, or a Stanton 881s. So many excellent Audio Technica/Signet models that it is difficult to choose. Nagaoka…. I like them all! It is also important to make sure to dial in the correct load. This is often neglected and dismissed when using MM cartridges.

    One can still have a good collection of LOMC’s along with a few select MM’s. Just when I thought I was down to my favorite two or three, I started collecting again.. =)

    Norman

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  3. Norman, you are so right on this. I just built up a second separate line just for using my MMs and MIs. Will report about my experiences here very soon.
    E.

    see also the post “MM carts”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad to see your supporting posts Norman and Conchan.
    There are so many wonderful vintage MM cartridges that to my ears, are more like the sound of live music than that of most MC cartridges.
    Examples like the Victor X1 and Z1, the Acutex LPM420/STR and the Grace F9E.
    Then there’s the venerable Shure V15/III which is just too common for serious audiophiles to even listen to….
    But slip in a Jico SAS stylus to this classic cartridge and you have a seriously emotional projector of analogue beauty.
    As Norman states….loading is important with MM cartridges but who are we kidding…..the ‘High-End’ congnoscenti will never find the time or energy to actually listen to these jewels.
    For make no mistake…..the many modern production samples of MM technology are not a patch on those of the golden age of vintage MMs from the 70s and 89s.

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  5. H, Yes, absolutely. I have a Shure Ultra 500 and a Shure VI5/III, so musical indeed! I find the midrange of MM’s and MI’s (yes, moving iron is a slightly different principal that moving magnet), to be more natural that any of my LOMC’s. Some of the MM’s are so good my audiophile friends just can’t believe it. Really makes we wonder what they would sound like on a couple of Eckart’s tables, like the EMT or Continuum? Much better than my humble modified Dual 1229 or Garrard 301.

    And this is the point. There is so much more that can be had from these fine cartridges. Proper set up cannot be ignored, adjusting the SRA, load and correct VTA. It is a thrilling experience when everything is ‘dialed’ in correctly. Looking forward to your experience on this E.

    Norman

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  6. I agree with you! I use a Shure V15 with a Fritz Gyger stylus on an EMT948 TT and it’s pure heaven. I have been down the MC road and it’s not for me
    Chris

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