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MM Cartridge advice please

Discussion in 'audio' started by MJS, Feb 21, 2019.

  1. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

    I've been really getting back into vinyl courtesy of Ariston RD11e deck from a fellow PFM member I've been refurbishing over the past few months.

    Previously I had a Rega Planar3/RB300 with an Ortofon 520 cartridge. Although revealing it didn't quite gel with the Rega - I found it bass light and dull, and so in a fit of curiosity I stuck an AT95e on it and started enjoying things again even though the stylus profile created much more distortion. Fast-forward to the RD11 turning up, I screwed the RB300/AT95 on it and it had an energy I fell in love with. So far so good, I tried the 95ex stylus and got better inner groove playback and have been happy for weeks. All was well until I somehow bent the cantilever on the stylus at the weekend (this machine is often on and off the bench while I sort its problems out). Out of curiosity again I put the 520 back on. I was surprised by how much better the cartridge worked on the same arm but on a different deck. Gone was the dullness, replaced by a much tighter and faster sounding bass and lively treble, so I'm thinking of keeping it on.

    Given that the cartridge is now 25 years old, is it worth putting a new 520 mk2 stylus on it? Or are there better or more interesting new carts I could put on for the same money, given that the stylus alone is about £130.
  2. misterc6

    misterc6 Wasted and wounded, it ain’t what the moon did

    My recommendation would be from the new AT-VM95 range, I'm using the VM95EN which can be had for around £99 on my Rega P3-24 and have been very impressed by its overall performance. The body is able to take any of the stylii in the range includiing the ML (microline) and Shibata (SH). There's a VM95ML cartridge for sale here for £100 (I've no connection to the seller):


    Alternatively eBay have a 10% discount offer on 'tech' until the 24th of the month - just enter TECH10 at the checkout.
  3. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    When I tried the M2 Black I thought it was quite a decent cartridge. However you may well prefer one of the AT designs.
  4. James Evans

    James Evans Bedroom Bodger

    :) Genius advice there :)
  5. mikebirtill

    mikebirtill pfm Member

  6. daytona600

    daytona600 Registered User

    520 or better 530 & 540 stylus options or hyper elliptical or shibata stylus for your AT95e
  7. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

    I was pleasantly surprised by the AT95ex and the VM95EN looks interesting.
  8. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    You'll be needing a decent phono stage next then...?:D
    narabdela and docstocker like this.
  9. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

    I have Neil James’ 322 cards in my somewhat turbocharged NAC42 with our own super quiet power supply, sorry I’m keeping this for a while. I am going to experiment with adding a second parallel set of phono sockets so I can modify the loading easily though.

    Listening to the 520 more this evening, I thought it really good, but was fatigued an hour later. Most of my vinyl fun has come courtesy of Audio Technica so I’m convinced I’m going back there next.
    Arkless Electronics likes this.
  10. lazycat

    lazycat pfm Member

    IIRC the 500 series like a bit more capacitance than usual, about 400 pF. Rather like the VMS.
  11. coredump

    coredump Press <ALT-F4> to continue.

    Electronics is your home turf, so please don‘t take this the wrong way; I had to change the input capacity of my NJ322 boards in order to make them gel with softer-sounding carts. Mine had 400pF which made a Goldring 1042 and a Linn K18II/Jico Shibata sound quite dull.
    Changed the caps for selected 100pF polystyrenes - much better.
    Also, the Planar‘s plinth has a few nasty resonances which can be countered with a few patches of Alubutyl. Add some damping of the sub-platter and decent feet, and it sounds quite decent to my ears.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  12. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

    I’ve already halved the input capacitance, so I’m aware of the need for better loading than the Naim stock values that I had been using.
  13. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

    I now have a NAC42 with parallel phono inputs and loading caps on plugs.

    You're right Lazycat about the 520 needing the higher end of load capacitance. It's much nicer with the added capacitance. The mids are less in your face and it has tamed right down, but isn't dull. The AT favoured less. I'm probably going to end up getting a VM95 variant.
  14. MJS

    MJS Trade: Consultant at WH Audio

    I've been living with the VM95ML for a few weeks now so thought this thread worth an update.

    I love it.

    Tight controlled bass, crystal clear vocals and high-end and very little inner-groove distortion. Not at all dull. It's a pleasure to spin old records, even the abused ones from my youth - it just cuts through any damage and lets you forget any noise. Time to raid the charity shops for more source vinyl I think.
    FireMoon likes this.
  15. Rockmeister

    Rockmeister pfm Member

    rearrange the following well know phrase or saying
    at wedge you thin are of a end the :)
    Darren likes this.
  16. DimitryZ

    DimitryZ pfm Member

    I would recommend investigating vintage MM cartridges. Stanton 681 or the dearer 881 are excellent and will give most modern carts a run for their money. Later Grace cartridges are also excellent.
  17. miles_b

    miles_b pfm Member

    In that price range, I've found that some of the cheaper Grados and Shures have a more involving sound than AT and Ortofon. But it's also the price range where every penny you can save towards a better cartridge will pay off massively.
  18. lazycat

    lazycat pfm Member

    Best to have a RCM if you're going to raid the charity shops. Voice of experience etc.

    Start another thread. lol

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