Cart modifiers / budget hunters / Clearaudio / AT

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by H8SLKC, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    $ well spent...
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  2. 33na3rd

    33na3rd Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW Washington, USA
    Thank you!
     
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  3. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    Well, I'm sold. Over 20 hrs on the modified AT95ex(60+ total). Totally transformed the stock. $117 all in. Insert a glowing review with all the pretty language that makes your head spin. I've thrown everything at it. Last night was the ZZ Top Cinco box and originals for meat and potatoes which it delivered. Then 3 Diana Krall LPs for delicacy and detail which it handled quite well.

    All things being equal and cartridges $350 and under are your thing, give this one a shot.

    [​IMG]
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  4. 33na3rd

    33na3rd Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW Washington, USA
    Cool tunes inside, beautiful view outside!
     
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  5. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    The surgery went fine on the AT95ex. :righton: Plugged it into a Linn K9 body I've had for years. Then into the ebony body. Planning to enjoy this for a time and keep an eye out for the vivid line or shibata to go on sale.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  6. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    Broke down and got the $134 LPGear Vivid Line for the AT95e. Did the surgery and plugged it into the body above. Didn't even need to remove cartridge from arm.
    Have about 40 hours on the combo. It's tracking and sounding great. Solid, clear and quick.
    Nothing too cool or bright. Not at all forward. High frequencies stay where they are supposed to be in the mix.
    Nothing too warm or relaxed.
    To my ears an excellent $200 cartridge.
     
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  7. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    I was about to do the same thing when I got a 15% off coupon at DeepDiscount and dropped a hundred on music. I'm positive that I have a .4X.7mm stylus, so I'm thinking that the upgrade to the vivid line may be more dramatic. Do you feel it is a marginal or dramatic improvement over the AT95ex?
     
  8. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    Good question. In my little journey, I'd have to say the most dramatic improvement came from potting and putting the AT95ex in the wood body. That was like a, "OK, now we're onto something." moment.

    In the short time I've been listening to the vivid line the improvements seem more subtle. A little more detail, a little more depth of stage with the instruments having more definition/clarity though further back. A little more bass, a little more slam.
    Lyrics are much easier to understand. Interesting and possibly very telling, this one.

    I'll pop the ex back in at some point in the near future and see what I hear then.

    You could also try the shibata for a few more bucks more than the vivid line..??
     
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  9. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    I like the shibata more than the vivid line.
     
  10. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    I would love too but I have a history of being a little too accident prone with my styli. The vivid line is already at the top of my self-imposed spending limit.
     
  11. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    It is very good, and IMO, more inline with the voicing of the cartridge. I like that both styli bring the voltage output down. IDK how that works.
     
  12. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    I see that Lpgear also sells a carbon fiber version of the .3x.7mm that's currently discounted to $50. The reviews are very favorable. Maybe I'll pull the trigger on one of these before working up the ladder. I have never heard of carbon fiber being used for a cantilever before.
     
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  13. riverrat

    riverrat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oregon
    Interesting. Here's a LINK.

    I might just have to give this one a try. I'm itching to try a better stylus on the Virtuoso that came with my TT15 table, which sounds pretty good but I think could sound better. I'm getting great mids and bass; hoping for a bit more extension and clarity.
     
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  14. H8SLKC

    H8SLKC Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I've tried the CF95 stylus from LPGear. It sounds solid and smooth but a tad dark in my system. I've got it in foam along with several other AT95 "flavors" that I'll try from time to time. It's worth a try for those who find the AT house sound to be bright and/or brittle in their applications.
     
  15. riverrat

    riverrat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oregon
    Thanks for this intel. Sounds like it might not be the best choice for me.
     
  16. warp2600

    warp2600 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Budapest, Hungary
    I think what you need is the HE or VL stylus. I understand that LPGear replaced the HE with the VL so the HE is discontinued on LPGear. I have the HE in my Virtuoso and I am amazed by the clarity it provides. I daresay it is better than the original stylus on the Virtuoso.
     
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  17. rbmitch2

    rbmitch2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tucson
    +1 on the Vivid Line. I put one in my Virtuoso and think it is a significant upgrade. I also have a Tt15-s1.
     
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  18. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    Feel I should update. Put another 40-50 hours on it. 100 total. Would adjust vta every now and then, as I felt it should be delivering more. Mainly, I would go between level and lowering tonearm. Not much change. Finally, raised the vta above level by a mm or 2(at least by my rough estimate) and 'bingo'! Dramatic improvement over ex. Much more depth and much more bass and detail on very familiar records. Very happy now and feel it was money well spent.
     
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  19. ubiknik

    ubiknik Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    Killer thread. I read with interest as I also have the Marantz/CA/Virtuoso and will probably put the 95 vivid line stylus into it someday soon. I traded someone for a Grado Gold 1 cartridge years ago and sent it ti AvaHiFi in Minneapolis for a pro Longhorn job along with a new stylus seperate so they could treat the stylus and do some potting to the cart as well. The Grado stylus/body interface is different than most and removal of the stylus is the type of procedure that makes it really easy to damage the cantilever (installing can do it to), even though it basically just plugs in and out it has these four contact points and some type of compound packed in there as well to make it snug -the kind of snug that makes removal require force. So anyway they won't install the stylus for you but will do their magic to it then send it back for you to install, that whole operation was about 30$ and the turnaround was quick.
    It made sense to do this when they told me that along with the brass beam added they tweak it all as well (potting or whatever), mainly because the cost is cheap and the quality is far and above what I would have cobbled together at the time.
    I have read plenty of threads about also putting the 8mz stylus into the Gold and getting great results, the one I wanted to try was the MCZ (I think) stylus which is apparently a really nice tip, but putting it into a Gold body would then make the setup require resistance loading below 47k to more like around anywhere from 10 to 30k (depending on any particular setup). I guess that body and tip combo makes the HF scream (or something like that) so it works out and sounds really sweet once the loading is adjusted. That setup was supposed to really take a Gold cartridge way up the ranks in sound. I remember people talking about potting these cartridges with beeswax or heating up a lip balm to get it to flow in, these carts have some delicate aspects to the internals though. I dragged the Grado stuff in here in hopes of feretting out some one with some ideas on those to play with as I have the Gold (still sounds nice on an old Sony PSX-6).
    [​IMG]

    I also have an old AT140LC that is functional, I wonder if modding that is doable?...
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
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  20. H8SLKC

    H8SLKC Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I have potted and longhorned a Grado Blue. I also bought a retipped (.2X.7) Grado prestige stylus assembly from Needlestein for the cartridge. Some day I will do same to a Gold, perhaps with a fine line tip. If you decide to pot the internals, it's not difficult but can be risky. I used 30 minute epoxy drizzled slowly into the body cavity around the coils, filling to just below the coil contact points. No issues but it wouldn't be surprising for one of the very fine fly wires to be broken in there, so maybe I just got lucky.

    I thought the sound from the modded blue was excellent, although I struggled over time with sibilance and could never get the cartridge "dialed in" as perfectly as I would have liked. It sits in my console under the main turntable these days, a project that will be revisited at some point down the road, maybe with a 8MZ stylus or such. I dunno.

    Of late I've been listening to several Shure carts, driven by their departure from the phono market and wanting to get a handle on the Shure house sound while still able, and at reasonable prices. My modded AT95e is also out of the mix at the moment but I've acquired multiple styli for it and it sounds so good that it'll get back onto a table soon enough.

    I have become a lover of Grado, Shure and AT carts, especially on the low end where the hobbyist can modify and maximize value. Each brings their own technology and sound into the mix and I enjoy them all.
     
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  21. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Thanks for the update! As a matter of fact, I was just playing with the VTA too and found that going higher was necessary. The problem I've encountered is that I never really looked at the rake angle on the stock AT95e before I cut it open and potted it in the wood body. I've looked at pictures on line to approximate the original configuration but it is hard to tell. I got in there with some magnifiers and think I am close.

    Anyway, I am still running it stock but need to upgrade soon. I just potted an AT-96e with epoxy, which is a rebadged AT-12. I have a Jico-made .3x.7mm for it and am curious to hear how it compares to the 95e in a wood body. The process was very easy since the top is a thin piece of pliable metal that was already coming lose. I was able to pry it back to see the internals and fill it up. Like the AT95, the AT-96 has a similar range of styli from elliptical to hyperelliptical to shibata. As much as I like the wood body on the 95e, it is a heavy beast and very tall. When I swap carts on my SL-1200, it's a pain to have to unscrew the auxiliary weight and adjust the VTA so much. But with the vivid line stylus on there, I may never feel the need to change carts anyway.
     
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  22. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    I'll ask this hear. How much channel imbalance is too much on a cheap cart. I've had this AT95 body for a while, and I've tested it with a few styli. It has a notable imbalance. Is this too much? Or put another way, could I do better with another body?

    This is the Cardas test record pink noise track.

    [​IMG]

    Hi-Fi News test record pink noise track.

    [​IMG]
     
  23. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Well boys and girls, I'm stepping out of this game for a while. I started on the upgrade path today by purchasing an AT .3x.7mm elliptical for my CAT95 ( I thought I would start there before getting the vivid line), only to break the cantilever in the end (but not during the surgery part). I don't know what happened but as I was putting it in with a pair of tweezers, it got hung up or something and the cantilever shot straight up. After closer inspection, I would say over half of the cantilever cracked. It was only a $30 mistake but one that has scared me straight: there is no way I am trying this with a $150 stylus. I loved the whole project and was really looking forward to the upgrade, but I know myself and this is not the first cantilever I've messed up over the years through carelessness or whatever. Please be more careful than me!
     
  24. Ripblade

    Ripblade New Member

    Location:
    Toronto
    You could try going even higher. I looked at a bunch these needles and found that, among the collection I've gathered, the ATN needles all have a negative SRA at this price range, owing to a too great bend (~23°) in the cantilevers. Almost without exception, the aftermarket needles were spot on at 20° and performed better in the highs as a result.
     
  25. struttincool

    struttincool Senior Member

    Location:
    Anacortes, WA
    Well, that sucks! Quitting while only $30 behind sounds reasonable to me.
     

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