Fifty year old phono cartridges

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by 62vauxhall, Oct 3, 2017.

  1. 62vauxhall

    62vauxhall Active Member Thread Starter

    It seems that lately, I have been listening mostly to two recently acquired cartridges both from the early 1960's. They are an Empire 880 P and a Shure M7 N21D.

    I can't determine if it's the novelty of their age or if I truly prefer them to something more modern. And by modern I mean those from the 1970's & 80's. I have a number but none newer than early 1980's.

    For several years I have mostly been wandering among a Stanton 681EE, 500, Shure V15 III, M91E, M93E, Empire 2000E III and some others - ADC, Pickering, additional Shures plus a few I cannot recall. Last week I obtained a Pioneer Pl-630 onto which I installed an old Somus Blue I received second hand (also in the early 1980's) but never heard until now.

    But I have been listening to the early Empire and Shure 90% of the time. Another turntable I own is a first run Dual 1009 for which there are two cartridge carriers permitting easy back and forth between the 880 P and M7N21D.

    I don't really like using words to describe sound because they may conjure a perception unlike mine. However, and although they differ, both that Shure and that Empire have a fatter, rounder, fuller, more satisfying character than the others I have at my disposal.

    Not implying that older is better, just wondering if anyone reading experienced a similar attraction or infatuation with old cartridges?
     
    bluemooze, The FRiNgE and JohnO like this.
  2. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    Both the Empire and the Shure M7 presumably have a spherical stylus profile. So treble detail will be less retrieved from the groove than a more tailored profile such as elliptical or line contact. As you say you hear a fat midrange, upper bass type sound with roll off in the treble. So the question is what type of music are you playing where you don't mind losing treble detail? Obviously the audio system may also be at fault in making normal upper midrange/treble information tiring or unpleasant.

    I myself have different systems with different tonal balance/resolution depending on the type of music or audio source.
     
    Higlander likes this.
  3. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I have a thread on here about the GE VR 1000. It is from the 60's. By no means does it have rolled off highs.
     
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  4. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    I was talking about what the OP was hearing - a fatter lower midrange less trebly balance. I specifically said treble detail talking for myself. Although compared with MCs and modern MI line contacts these carts probably have a bit less extension above 20k.
     
  5. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Yes. Newer carts sound "brittle" to me on the high end. My older carts are not lacking in highs, one was made for CD-4 and another handled CD-4 well but was not advertised for it. Those two are clearly clearer and firmer in the audible high end, and they all are, to me.
     
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  6. 62vauxhall

    62vauxhall Active Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the replys. I wish to point out that rolled off highs was not what I was implying by my interpretive description. I'll amend that to say bass and low mids have a more forward presentation.

    What I've read spec wise says Shure M7N21D's do up to 20K but the Empire 880 P might not go that high. One list of specs said yes, another - no.

    The vinyl I have mostly pre-dates CD's and primarily falls within the Rock genre.

    Maybe there's not enough HF info in the recordings I have to show up a cartridge's deficiency in that area.

    Another way I can describe what I'm hearing (or think I'm hearing) is that the old Empire and Shure seem to have more "oomph" to them.
     
  7. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    Higher output cartridges (like many of the old ones) seem to be more dynamic. Consumer Reports really liked the old M3D and the M7D or whatever it was.
     
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  8. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Yes, as @PhxJohn states, higher output cartridges seem to be more dynamic. I can only speculate on the reason, maybe the typical (non high end) phono preamp sounds better when driven, or that the efficiency of the cartridge improves? Some older cartridges have shorter cantilevers, which may have something to do with this. Keep in mind, louder tends to sound better, so whenever making any comparisons, always adjust to the same level.
     
  9. 62vauxhall

    62vauxhall Active Member Thread Starter

    Yes, that 880 P Empire is supposed to be 10mv. Can't recall the exact number but the Shure was more in the "typical" 5 to 6mv range.

    Living in a 2nd floor condo as I to, keeping an eye on the volume control is de rigueur. I suppose then it's possible that higher output cartridges can sound more dynamic when compared, more or less at the same volume level, to lower output cartridges.

    EDIT: I don't think any of my pre-amps count as high end. Best I've got (in my opinion) is APT Holman.
     
  10. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    I recently sold on a Dual turntable, an ADC 230-XE, sorry I did, seem to recall the output is 8mv. It sounded more dynamic vs other typical cartridges. More specifically, I hear tighter bass, more lively midrange. (0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical) The cantilever is very short. The top end is not lacking on the 230-XE.

    On a more happy note, I did make a CD copy of The Doors "Soft Parade" test pressing before selling it :cry: The Carpenters, and an Andreas Vollenweider import LP, all of which sound fantastic! Maybe sometime I'll start a discussion on cartridges with sound clips. Maybe this would be more telling of which cartridges are more dynamic, also by visual comparison of the waveform.
     
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  11. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I have a GE Golden Classic on the way. I already have a GE VR 1000. As posted in another thread, since the signal is generated at the stylus tip area rather than at the opposite end of the cantilever the sound is very dynamic along with other qualities. If I can find the 0.5 mil styli along with the more compliant cantilevers, these old GE's will be the best cartridges that I have ever heard.
     
  12. Benzion

    Benzion Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I own and use a Shure M97HE - absolutely love it. I also own, but have yet to use, a Pickering XV-15/625E, Pickering XV-15/1200, Pickering XSV3000/LPGear Vivid Line stylus (the stock was not available) - all bought precisely because of my fascination with cartridges of yesteryear. I also own and use a cart that's been a staple in Japan for decades: AT7V.
     
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  13. needlestein

    needlestein Active Member

    Location:
    New England
    Depending upon the stylus, that Empire could have a .2 x .7 nude light tracking elliptical or anything else on it. Empires generally track lighter and very well. They can compete with modern cartridges, in my opinion. They just fell out of fashion because they were too heavy for the super light arms and designs had moved on. But a lot of audiophilia is fashion and not necessarily all about sound. I have one of those Empires and I put an original .2 x .7 nude elliptical in it and I was stunned. The original conical is excellent, too.

    I'm not familiar with the Shure, but I don't agree that going with an old cartridge with a conical tip and a heavier tracking force automatically means no highs. Look at the DL-103.

    If you want fat, fat sound without necessarily rolled off highs, try the Shure M35X or even the SC35C. DJ cartridges pack a punch that a lot of people who are into superlight tracking or moving coils aren't necessarily prepared for on first listen. Super light tracking with precious metal cantilevers, complex diamonds and rare earth magnets have their place, but they are often a bit wimpy sounding once you try something with a bit of a heavier tracking force, a more substantial cantilever and a solid conical tip.

    Don't forget that the problem with conical tips isn't rolled off highs--it's higher distortion in the inner groove and phase mismatching as well as groove pinch (which I've only heard with my Denon DL-103). Empire published specs (believe them or not) with conical tips going well over 30kHz back in the day. If you're playing old records that were designed for conical tips, then even these issues will be minimalized. Also, conical tips are only surpassed by line contacts in groove surface area contact, so they get at a lot more of the groove than ellipticals do.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The hobby didn't move away from awesome sounding cartridges back in the day because they sucked. They moved away from them in the name of progress. You have to somehow get people to stop using an item they like already in order to buy something new.

    But people back in the day had the same ears we do. These old cartridges don't suddenly start sounding terrible just because there's a new cartridge. The primary advantage of a line contact stylus is increased contact area over a spherical, which relates to better tracking (for quad reproduction--totally unnecessary for stereo playback). However the benefit to stereo users is much increased longevity due to wear being spread out uniformly over a larger contact area while the tip shape deforms much less than a conical.

    So, while a good line contact may cost three to four times as much as a conical, it should last umpteen times longer. In that way, it's easier on records and itself and is a comparative bargain.

    In order to sell someone who loves their conical cartridge and their records a new cartridge with a line contact tip, if they can't hear any difference in their stereo system, all you have to whisper into their ear is "record wear," and "groove damage."
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  14. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I'm just into the old cartridges for the fun and the sound(of some). I have an Ortofon Quintet Blue for comparison. I don't want to ruin my records, but they don't need to last forever either. I have more years behind me than in front of me. My GE VR1000 sounds great and the Golden Classic and VR225 are on their way. Finding 0.5 mil styli for any of them is difficult. For the VR 1000, I think it is impossible. The researching and hunting is a lot of fun though.
     
  15. stereoguy

    stereoguy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    62: I fully understand what you mean. I recently "downgraded" from a Denon 103R to a lowly Shure M91ED.

    I play 95% 50s and 60s LPs and the Shure sounds "just right". Ballsy, full, fat and doesnt tip toe thru the music, if that makes any sense.
     
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  16. 62vauxhall

    62vauxhall Active Member Thread Starter

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    And FRiNgE:

    " Maybe sometime I'll start a discussion on cartridges with sound clips. Maybe this would be more telling of which cartridges are more dynamic, also by visual comparison of the waveform".

    That would be something I'd enjoy seeing. Would be intersting to see what you're hearing.
     
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  17. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    My GE Golden Classic just arrived today. Some NOS 0.7mil and 0.5mil styli are on their way. It will be interesting to hear how it sounds and how well it tracks. A GE VR225 is on its way too. According to Gary at Voice of Music, the styli are interchangeable which is great as there are 505-D5's out there but no 504-D5's. I am hoping someday to find a 508-D5 for my GE VR 1000. I can recommend the VR1000. I will post my findings later about the other two GE's.
     
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  18. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    When I want that old time 1960's MM sound, I go for the refined, slightly more modern version (and it and genuine styli are still available), it's called the Shure M 44-7. It is what you are looking for. It has the big sound we grew up with on many a AMI-Rowe jukebox, and on AM and FM radio, it tracks reasonably well in most any tonearm, even older changers, and it tracks well at 2 grams. I love it for my mono discs, my pre 1966 Stereo pre 20 degree tracking angle, and for 45 RPM singles. It boogies, and lights up the room.
     
  19. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    A Shure M44-7 is not what I am looking for. The GE VR1000 clobbers it for detail, dynamics, highs, 'realism', and channel separation...in my opinion. And I wanted to explore some vintage cartridges. I still feel that designers had more imagination back in the 50's and 60's. Shure had everything from the M3D to the V15 available in 1965.
     
  20. stereoguy

    stereoguy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn
    I found that I have a 1950s GE CR-22 Stereo cart. How would that rate in the GE vintage chain?
     
    PhxJohn likes this.
  21. Magnetic cartridges usually seem to last forever, aside from suffering some form of physical damage. A stylus does wear out but can also improve as it wears in. Early microgroove records were cut with a conical stylus in mind, especially the RCA Dynagroove LP's of the 60's. Magnetic cartridges of the 70's and later, with their elliptical and Shibata stylii brought out more of the sound in the grooves, including all the imperfections. Come to think of it, I also see pre-70's cartridges as having a better sound. I have some Pickerings dating back to the 50's.
     
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  22. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Next time I dig out the RCA SHF-9, a suitcase record player from 1956, I'll note which model GE cartridge it has. It originally had an Astatic ceramic, a worn out stylus at the time I refurbished it back in the 90's. I found a GE stereo ceramic at a stereo shop clearance sale for only $1.00. It is very compliant for a ceramic. I have it tracking at 3 grams, no problem with it at all. It sounds wonderful and dynamic, far better frequency range vs the Astatic. I did test for groove wear/damage on a brand new styrene 45, (spot play 1st 15 seconds repeatedly) maybe 25 plays, no damage, no change in sound quality, no change in appearance/ reflectivity. :)
     
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  23. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    A VR-22 ? My GE Golden Classic has arrived and the VR-22 is on its way. It will be a little while until I can get them mounted into headshells by my stereo dealer. But, I will give you what I know and have to share:

    From the Allied catalog: 1961 Allied Radio Catalog - Everything In Electronics #200 Low-res page 95 of 446

    From Consumer Reports(scroll down a bit): Consumer Reports 1960 Ratings, cartridges and tonearms (page 1) - Cartridges and styli - Lenco Heaven Turntable Forum

    For the stereo variable reluctance cartridges, the first was the Golden Classic. Next came the VR-22. Both were available with two different stylus assemblies. The 0.5 mil has a more compliant cantilever and tracks lighter and better than the 0.7 mil styli. For aftermarket styli, styli for the Golden Classics are limited to the Pfanstiehl 504-D7 and other brand equivalents. Aftermarket styli for the VR-22 are the Pfanstiehl 505-D5 and 505-D7. The good news is that the 504's and 505's are interchangeable. All styli are rare with the 0.5 mils being the most rare. I scored a few this week. I have and listen to(with amazement) a GE VR 1000 which followed the VR-22 and was the last magnetic cartridge produced by General Electric. Peter Pritchard was GE's designer who left GE due to their lack of R&D funding. Peter wanted to invent cartridges that tracked lighter and had better 'trackability' which is related to compliance among other things. He formed his own company. ADC. He has since passed on. Following Pfanstiehl's great and logical stylus notating, the styli for the GE VR 1000 are the 508-D5 and 508-D7. So:
    Golden Classic: 504-D7
    VR-22 505-D5 and 505-D7
    VR 1000 508-D5 and 508-D7
    If you want to buy styli for your VR-22, search on 505-D7 and 505-D5.
    I don't have the other brand equivalents memorized, but....this is the best stylus cross reference I have ever seen:

    www.kenselectronics.com Use the 'find' feature of your browser. . For example, I want to see what is equivalent to a Pfanstiehl 508:
    Phonograph Needles Stylus and Cartridges available from Ken's Electronics, (Wholesale & Retail Electronic Parts) Kalamazoo, Michigan


    The D5's are more desirable and more rare. Back in the late 50's and early 60's, the Golden Classics and VR-22's were quite state of the art. By 1965, the Shure V15 and M55E, along with offerings from Pickering and Empire were available with better trackability and lighter tracking than the GE VR 1000. The GE VR 1000 could track at 2 grams but probably not records with heavy bass. My VR 1000 with the 0.7 mil stylus tracks fine at 4 grams unless there is really heavy bass(which is rare).

    To get back to your question, I think the GE's are terribly underrated and overlooked. Because of the way that they work, which is what turned me on to them in the first place, to me, they sound better than anything else that I have ever heard. Now....I have not heard everything. And I have not heard the London Decca which is the closest to the GE's in operating design. Because the GE's generate the signal at the stylus tip, I think they are unsurpassed at speed, clarity, dynamics, and channel separation. Every other cartridge except for the London Decca's generate the signal at the opposite end of the cantilever from the diamond tip. Based on what I hear with my GE VR 1000(which is a lot more to hear than other cartridges that I have heard) I would expect the Golden Classic and VR-22 to be a great listening experience as well. If you need help with styli or anything else GE VR-22 related....just ask me. BTW....let me see if I can remember which cartridges I have heard....just brands, not models....LOL....and my everyday cartridge is an Ortofon Quintet Blue..... Goldring, Grado, Ortofon, Pickering, Shure, Stanton, Sumiko,
     
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  24. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    I'm using an old Shure M 55-E body which was made in Evanston, Illinois. And it has a new N 44-7 stylus in it. Said cartridge is likely over 45 years old if not 50 years of age.
     
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  25. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Interesting and valid points, I think, on the perks of The GE VR22 and similar models. The only engineering drawback I can think of, when you have all the moving parts at the tip, you have more mass at the tip. The compliance and trackability have to suffer, and you have the risk of groove damage to any record it mistracks.

    Please keep us posted...
    a sound clip would be super
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
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