There is something magical about music that we all love. The great thing is that we all get excited by different genres and styles because we are all different. It can shape our mood and make us feel a certain way. It’s like an extension of our soul. Certain music can have special memories attached to them that have a deeper meaning and this can be shared with others or totally personal. Either way it takes us to a place we can enjoy. You can’t get there without a vehicle and the turntable is a much loved “mode of transport”. Similar to a car, you can improve the performance to make the driving a much more enjoyable experience so why not do this to your turntable for a better listening experience?
The head shell, cartridge and stylus.
In between the groove
The combination of the cartridges design, build quality and materials used combined with the stylus’s ability to extract information from the grooves is what makes up the change in sound.
Looking at the photo of the different tips you can see that as it goes from left to right they are different shapes and they are touching more surface.
Moving Magnet vs Moving Coil.
Each brand that sells a range of cartridges usually have two types: Moving magnet and moving coil
They are differentiated by the way they operate and this creates a different “flavour” of sound. Most turntables use moving magnet unless specified. If you are fitting a moving coil cartridge you need to make sure you have a phono pre amp that has the ability to switch from MM to MC. Knowing which one to go for is a matter of taste and the ability of your gear to facilitate it. In the photo you can see the top row consists of 4 levels of moving magnet cartridges and the 4 equivalent moving coil cartridges. They all sound great just different.
The Ortofon Cartridge Lab
The wonderful people at Ortofon have come up with a nifty little system called the Cartridge Lab, which allows us the ability to quickly and easily swap out the cartridges to hear the difference. Normally this would take a long time to do as they all need to be weighted and adjusted but that problem has been solved by making them all the same weight with a removable head shell.
Choosing a cartridge
After learning that there are lots of brands, types and qualities and price points it may seem over whelming. Choosing a cartridge is a personal choice. It’s worth noting that the system you are attaching you turntable to will have an impact on how audible the improvement is. The more revealing the system the more noticeable the difference.
I wanted to share my own experience as I have a turntable that a lot of other people might have and I was impressed with the result. I have an Audio Technica LP120 at home, which I use with a Yamaha receiver and a pair of moderately priced floor-standing speakers. I would say this is an average system and definitely not “high end” by any means. I decided to test the range of Ortofon cartridges between $169 and $1000 and I did this with one of my colleagues. All of them gave me an audible difference so I decided to see if that difference was an improvement and also if it was worth the money. ,After listening to each of them multiple times I found that price aside my favourite one was the Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet, which is around $329. My colleague preferred a different cartridge, which goes to show there is no one product that is perfect for everyone.
The two points I would like to make are you don’t need to have the most expensive hifi system to appreciate an upgrade in sound quality or need to spend a lot of money. The other point is that everybody’s expectations, budget and tastes are different so only you can answer what is right for your listening experience.
Come into Sydney Hifi Mona Vale and put yourself in the drivers seat so you can experience what it’s like to enjoy music that much more than before.
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