Mono table and cart?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Jonnyglass, May 18, 2017.

  1. Jonnyglass

    Jonnyglass Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Philadelphia, pa
    Hi all, I've recent started to collect and enjoy 50's jazz recordings which are available on mono LP's. Been considering whether its worthwhile to add a dedicated mono table for these. Currently my only TT is an LP12/Ittok LVII with a Dynavector 17D3 cart. If I end up going this way, it would need to be under a pretty strict budget, so the question is whether a less expensive mono cartridge on a lesser turntable would outperform my main table for these pressings. If so, what are some suggestions for the cart/table. Thanks!
     
  2. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    It took me many years to commit fully to a proper mono set up, but I think it is absolutely worth it and even on a strict budget I think you can get yourself something which will allow you to enjoy those '50's Jazz LPs to a much greater extent. You don't mention a budget and I don't know US pricing anyway, but I'd say as good a mono cart as you can afford on a Rega or modded 1200/10 shouldn't break the bank and will give you a taste of how great those mono LPs can sound.

    When it comes to mono carts their are very few genuine mono ones and those are expensive, most, even quite expensive ones are just internally strapped to be mono, similar to using a mono button, but even with those you will get the advantage of a stylus designed for the mono groove profile something that stereo carts are not.
     
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  3. wgb113

    wgb113 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chester County, PA
    I was in a similar boat and it's one of the reasons I ordered an SL-1200GR. I have a lot of mono pressings and the ability to simply swap in a mono version of my cart was one of the many things that made this table appealing. I'll be using an Ortofon 2M Mono (along with a 2M Bronze).
     
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  4. sturgus

    sturgus New Member

    Location:
    St. Louis Mo
    This has been on my to-do list for sometime. I just need to know if I can get a nice cartridge for under $250.
     
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  5. harby

    harby Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Audio-Technica AT-MONO3/LP - $125 and it also has 4 pins so you can use normal tonearm wiring, as opposed to the Denon DL-102, which has mono wiring also, if you are really a mono purist.
     
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  6. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I'm going to vote no based only on common sense. I don't buy the logic that a 5 to 7k stereo rig isn't going to sound better than a sub 1k dedicated mono setup. That is really asking a lot of a stylus.
     
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  7. Jonnyglass

    Jonnyglass Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Philadelphia, pa
    Yeah I guess that was the crux of my question. I can't afford another 1k+ MC cart and another outboard phono preamplifier, but I could probably swing a few hundred MM cartridge and a U-turn, lower-end Pro-ject or similar which would hook to the phono input on the preamplifier. Have you done an A/B comparison to see if the advantages of a dedicated mono cartridge are so profound as to overcome the differences in the quality of the table/arm/cart?
     
  8. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    If the OPs mono records are sounding very noisy with his stereo cart then he may well benefit from a lower end dedicated mono set up, although it might not pick up the same level of information it should remove much of the noise, unless the records are actually pretty worn and less noise will mean more enjoyment, plus it saves adding hours on the expensive stereo cart.
     
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  9. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    Nope, I have only an uninformed opinion. I do have an Debut carbon and a VPI classic, I know well the differences between those tables and there is no way a record is going to sound better on the debut.
     
  10. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I don't disagree with this, the loss of detail and presence in the cart and the additional noise from a cheaper table is significant. It would have to be a HUGE reduction in SN to make that a fair trade. Saving time on the expensive cart is a positive.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  11. dolsey01

    dolsey01 Active Member

    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I was really surprised how good this cartridge was at that price point. Shocked it more like it.
     
  12. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    and...there should be a distinction between "bad" records and mono records. I'm not looking to spin a bunch of chewed up 45's on a $2,000 cart. But a nice clean mono record should sound better on good stereo equipment than it does on cheap mono equipment.
     
  13. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I agree that reducing noise due to only having the one required type of compliance is a big benefit from Mono cartridges, and with my particular mono cartridge, about the only one. All things being equal, I prefer the sound of a heavy tracking spherical stylus.

    But that's just my experience with my AT33/Mono, which has a more HiFi/bright/detailed/etc sound signature then I generally go for. I think the moral of this story is as Dennis says, good cartridges > not-as-good cartridges, other then the noise I'm not prepared to say a mono cartridge will always sound better on a mono record.
     
  14. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    Having done a mono setup recently, I can offer you a bit of advice from my perspective FWIW.

    I did a lot of reading/research on the subject before tackling it and was fortunate in that my table was already set up to accommodate two arms and I already had a suitable arm/armboard in storage. I ended up utilizing those and strapping a pretty decent cartridge (an Ortofon MC 20 Super that had been rebuilt by Andy Kim complete with a new coil, boron cantilever and microridge stylus, which I had used for a couple of years in stereo mode).

    I ended up having Andy rebuild another MC 20 Super with a sapphire cantilever/microridge to use for stereo-when I started to use this one I found out that the first, which did require a new coil (the 2nd did not), did have a substantially lower output as a result of that coil replacement, but apart from that the cartridges obviously are pretty similar.

    You will read a ton of info online about "true mono" cartridges, with people extolling their virtues and insisting on their necessity but you will also find (much) less, but also pretty believable info about the same or similar benefits being achieved electrically by summing/strapping. There's a lot of info here on the Y-cable thing, for example and many report very good results with it. In all the reading I've done from the purists insisting on a true mono cartridge I have never once read that opinion from anyone that actually did a true comparison of the exact same cartridge, one of which was a true mono design and the other a stereo version. As they have always been an apples to oranges comparison, I am skeptical. And I have heard some pretty decent mono playback in a system other than my own.

    What I can tell you is that, apart from the noise issue which is always discussed, summing done properly will result in further benefits in sound quality with good mono records. On a good system the presentation will be more fleshed out, less strident and much more natural sounding. The differences can be quite dramatic. So, especially with a system of your calibre, I would say that trying to optimize mono playback as much as you can would be a worthwhile pursuit.

    So the issue for you, as you point out, is whether or not a lesser entire mono setup (table, arm & cartridge), will outperform your better stereo gear. There is no question in my mind that a similar cartridge (strapped for mono) on an inferior arm provides much better mono playback in my system, but the table is the same. And, as you know, the table can make a very big difference.

    As I stated earlier, you have some pretty nice equipment. My gut feeling for you is this: a true budget mono setup (new/used table, arm and mono cartridge) is going to be a compromise and better performance might be obtained by putting the money to work elsewhere in the system, namely into a new/used preamp that simply has a mono switch, which I don't believe your current preamp offers (I was in the same boat, but having the extra arm/armboard and a table that would easily set up with the 2nd arm made it a simple decision in terms of the direction I would take). This could, quite possibly give you improved performance in stereo as well if the new preamp is an upgrade and provides better performance overall, beyond providing the mono switch, so it could be a serious bang for the buck.

    This way you retain the overall quality of your front end for mono playback, while at the same time keeping the system simple and not needing the extra space for another table. If you can audition a preamp that has a mono switch, I would certainly try to do that and go from there. I think you might be quite pleasantly surprised.
     
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  15. Jonnyglass

    Jonnyglass Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Philadelphia, pa
    Thanks for the great advice, I can certainly borrow a higher quality mono-capable preamp from a friend and see if that gives me some magic that I'm currently missing. I'm actually in the process of getting a hot-rodded PAS-3 built and now would be the time to have the mono capability retained.
     
  16. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I suspect that's because it's not possible, true mono carts will have an entirely different stylus profile and no vertical compliance, so even if there is a mono and stereo version of the same cart they will be very different beasts with only the name, body and some components in common.
     
  17. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    At the end of the day mono records were cut to be played back with mono carts, it doesn't matter how good your stereo cart is you are not using the ideal tool for the job and playback will never be optimised, that doesn't mean you can't get very good results, I lived with a mono switch and stereo cart for years, I can relate to the OP's dilemma and what other posters have written, but if you have a lot of nice mono albums then you really should consider doing mono properly and get a cart that was designed for mono rather than compromise with your modern stereo cart.
     
  18. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    They may, or may not have a different stylus profile. The idea of requiring a conical stylus profile, for example, for mono replay doesn't hold much weight with me unless you are playing a ton of monos cut before 1956 or 1957; the best mono replay I've heard has been with line contact or microridge styli, even with late 50's vintage monos. My point was, primarily, that any of the arguments for a true mono cartridge I've read online have never done an apples to apples comparison; it is always that the "true mono" cartridge is better than stereo cartridge "A", which is an altogether entirely different beast!

    The question, from a technical standpoint, is whether summing a good stereo cartridge with decent channel balance will electronically (as opposed to physically) reduce the vertical groove noise to below that generated horizontally as well as offering superior playback and what I've read and experienced suggests that it does.

    I've seen it suggested that some mono records, cut on a stereo cutter head with the same info in both channels, where the engineer was not particularly careful about the channel balance, will actually play better on a stereo cartridge as opposed to a stereo cartridge summed to mono or, in fact, a true mono cartridge.

    But then we're getting into a situation (a bit fetishist or audiophile nervosa like) where you have to have a specific cartridge to play a specific record which is also the case put forward by many of the true mono purists who argue that you need the conical. I can see that with pre '55 pressings but my mono's run the gamut from late 50's/early 60's stuff through to modern mono reissues and I've been very happy with the results I've achieved with summing at the cartridge or dealing with the issue electronically as opposed to physically.

    For the OP, the question is whether summing right at the cartridge (before the phono stage or preamp), might give better results than doing it through a switch at the preamp. Just guessing, but I would expect that the gains in doing so would probably be offset or eliminated by the use of an inferior table/arm/cartridge (even if it is mono or true mono) as opposed to electronically summing with a high quality preamp. Hence my suggestion that he investigate that.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
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  19. Without a removable interchangeable headshell kinda restricts you from optimally playing mono records with a mono setup and swapping headshells with dedicated cartridges back and forth to play stereo and mono. I would suggest multiple turntables with one being a dedicated mono setup. A good dedicated mono cartridge for a reasonable price is a Grado MC+. With a frequency range of 10-50khz, you are going to get every sound present in the grooves. It also has a conical stylus which is what these early mono LP's were cut for. The dedicated mono cartridge would avoid phasing caused by a stereo cartridge bouncing around in the grooves. Using an elliptical stylus might cause some irritating extra surface noise. As a turntable suggestion, I would recommend getting a decent quality one with an "S" type of tone arm. In the radio station business, when we switched from straight tone arms with cartridge offset to the "S" type with removable and interchangeable headshells, it was like night and day. The "S" type tracked better and with reduced tracking pressure the records lasted longer.
     
  20. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I'm not sure where you're getting pre '55 from, stereo came in in '58 and even into the mid-sixties lots of records are cut for a 1 mil stylus rather than a 0.7 mil, (if only they'd thought to print which on the sleeves), now modern stereo carts with their assorted profiles may well be tracking a different part of the groove and perhaps in some cases that may be beneficial, but I'd rather have a 1 mil conical true mono tracking my generally excellent fifties mono LPs and although the case may be less clear cut I'd also choose it for late sixties monos, with modern pressings such as the Stones and Beatles mono sets the case for a stereo cart and mono button may well be stronger. I've made my choice, which is to go very deeply down the mono rabbit hole and that's an ongoing journey, for me it provides the best option, having lived with the stereo cart and mono switch option I can appreciate what you are saying, that's the nice thing about this hobby, there is no single right answer and many ways to achieve a good result.
     
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  21. If the mono jazz recordings from the 50's are recent re-issued pressings, like on the Blue Note or Prestige labels, they were cut .7 mil for an elliptical stylus. Even some of the 60's mono records were cut for .7mil. The original mono microgroove records of the 50's into the early 60's were cut 1mil and for a conical stylus.
     
  22. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    Yes, I was leaving out the modern Jazz reissues from Classic, AP and MM as I assume they are all 0.7, not sure what Disc Union cut their Blue Notes for though.
     
  23. If they are the AP re-issues pressed by QRP, you should have a turntable with a removable spindle so that they can be centered properly. I got tired of getting the off-center pressings so if I know it was pressed by QRP, I don't buy it.
     
  24. Dubmart

    Dubmart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I assume those are the Prestige titles, I haven't picked any of those up, yet, I do have a Roksan Xerxes 10 with removable spindle, but that's my stereo table, the mono cart is currently on the Michell Orbe/SME IV, although the ultimate plan for mono is Garrard 301/12" SME and identical 1 mil and 0.7 mil styli, mono is becoming a very expensive slippery slope.
     
  25. RONENRAY

    RONENRAY Member

    Location:
    antwerp belgium
    I have also this cartridge and like it ,not expensive for a try out.
     

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