Why is my budget $80 cartridge better than the more expensive ones?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Seancito, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    I just switched my Ortofon 2m Bronze to a Shure m97xe w/ stock stylus. Why am I enjoying this cartridge more than the Ortofon that costs 6 times as much as the Shure?

    The Bronze was having problems tracking inner grooves sometimes. In the middle of some records, it just sounded thin. I have meticulously set up the cart too, checking VTA, using a mint protractor, etc. I haven't even broken in the Shure and it tracks nicely with most records - even some thin RCA pressings of Lou Reed.

    True, there are areas where the Bronze surpasses the Shure. Sometimes the Bronze sounds more evenly balanced and shines in other areas that the Shure does not. However, it's allowing me to just enjoy the music more. It's a warm cart to me, but tracks inner tracks really well.

    Also, someone suggested that my Ortofon was defected possibly. Could this be true and does Ortofon provide replacements? I plan on keeping the Bronze for the future or to possibly add on a Black stylus. It's not a terrible cart, but I think it gets a lot of hype, and it didn't do it for me.
     
    snorker likes this.
  2. myles

    myles Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Near Marlow, UK
    That doesn't sound right; not that the Shure sounds good but that the Bronze is not knocking it out of the park. I'd see if you can get a second set of eyes/ears on it and do an alignment and VTF from scratch.
     
    MaxxMaxx4 likes this.
  3. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    I agree. I've tinkered with it for a while. I've also had other slightly less expensive cartridges in comparison to the Bronze on my VPI Scout and they work well. I'm not saying the Bronze is terrible and unbearable, however, it just doesn't impress me that much given the praise that it receives online. I think the Shure is not as advanced as the Ortofon in some areas, but I think it gives me a warmer sound, instead of such a clinical sound that the Bronze tended to give. At least those are my impressions...

    To be hones, I am not complaining. If the $90 cart is better to me, my wallet will thank me.
     
    Vinyl Addict likes this.
  4. Chupacabra

    Chupacabra Active Member

    Location:
    Philadelphia
    The Bronze tends towards bright and detailed. It's definitely not one that I'd ever recommend unreservedly.
     
    willboy and HiFi Guy like this.
  5. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Yeah, it didn't impress me. I guess I prefer warm carts that track inner grooves well. I cant stand IGD. Hopefully, one day I can save for that more expensive cart that's warm and tracks inner grooves well. For some reason, I like the thrill of seeking out budget carts that go a long way.
     
  6. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    I have only heard inner groove distortion and gross mistracking when the set up is not proper, when the cartridge is damaged or when the cartridge and arm are grossly incompatible. Most cartridges can easily track the vast majority of records (only a few "extreme" records might be problematic). Any of these problems could also mean less than optimal sound even when there is no tracking issue.

    As for sonic preference, yes, it might easily be the case that a much cheaper cartridge will better fit one's particular taste and/or be more compatible with a particular system. I am not familiar with the sound of the 2m Bronze. I am surprised how varied the sound of Ortofon cartridges can be from model to model.
     
    VinylRob likes this.
  7. JBryan

    JBryan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baltimore
    Shure makes some are fine cartridges and they certainly do the trick in many systems. As well, folks have different requirements, wants, desires and specific carts provide a sound that appeals to some but none appeal to everyone. That said, IME, the Ortofon can be a little forward-sounding and aggressive compared to the Shure but overall, should sound better in most systems. Its also a little trickier to set up and while I don't doubt your abilities, its possible that something just isn't adjusted optimally. Finally, no 2 carts sound exactly alike - even ones assembled next to each other. Perhaps someone muffed a step or sneezed on your coils in the production line.... its possible :oops:
     
    Seancito likes this.
  8. nwdavis1

    nwdavis1 Active Member

    Location:
    Detroit
    The Bronze is an excellent tracker. It sounds like something was wrong with yours.
     
    MaxxMaxx4, VinylRob and myles like this.
  9. Mrtn77

    Mrtn77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Paris, France
    I'm no expert, but could it be possible you're having capacitance issues with the Bronze that the Shure isn't subject to ?
     
  10. myles

    myles Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Near Marlow, UK
    I've heard of IGD with the 2M Red but the better stylus profile on the Bronze should track like a monster.
     
    Vinyl Addict likes this.
  11. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Well, it is what it is. Buying the Shure didn't hurt my wallet and I have been enjoying it. That to me is all that matters. I simply have been enjoying my records and music and not worrying about everything else. Perhaps my alignment skills aren't the best, but I am confident that I do a decent job. I emailed Ortofon to see if I can get a replacement out of their warranty.
     
    Kristofa likes this.
  12. myles

    myles Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Near Marlow, UK
    I know the Black is meant to be a bit of a bugger to set up and align - perhaps that extends to the Bronze as well?
     
  13. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    I favor the Ortofon Bronze to the Black (contrary to reviewed wisdom my personal taste), with the caveat that it absolutely must be set up correctly (including and most importantly SRA). The Bronze should not, and I have never had issue with problems tracking. Now whether one "likes" one thing better than another, or even possibly likes one thing set up correctly better than another not quite set up correctly, is ones own choice. But it is my experience (arm/system dependent of course), that one isn't necessarily better, just preferred, and often based on a huge amount of poorly controlled, or dissimilar variables. Cartridge set up is a technology, a science, but it is also part art, perhaps alchemy...

    I realize this sounds like a disclaimer, or the small print, as Tom Waits says "that taketh away" yet never the less, I feel it needs to be rationally considered.
     
  14. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Thanks! Like I said, I am confident with my alignment and set up skills. I am not doubting that. It just didn't do it for me. A change is what I needed, because I wasn't enjoying it...and that's what matters to me. I will maybe go back to the Bronze, but I may upgrade to the Black stylus or see if I can get a replacement under the warranty and try again. For now, I am going to enjoy my purchase with the Shure and maybe get the Jico stylus soon.
     
  15. Vinyl Addict

    Vinyl Addict Forum Resident

    Location:
    MA
    The M97xe is the best value under $200 or so, it's tough to beat!
    Not sure how it can sound better than the Bronze though.
     
    MaxxMaxx4 likes this.
  16. I'm not sure if "better" is the right word. Maybe it's a case of it being more compatible with the condition of your records.
     
  17. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Well, it could be better. Just because something has a $400 price tag, doesn't make it a better item. Maybe better is the wrong term - I don't know. As far as it being better than the Bronze - maybe those are hard words for some to hear. I guess I was looking to see if anyone shares my feelings towards other cartridges out there.

    Also, my records are in good shape VG+ or NM. I used a VPI record cleaning machine too.
     
  18. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Forum Resident

    Location:
    St. Louis, MO USA
    Most of the folks at Vinyl Engine heartily recommend the Bronze on the Scout. There must be something seriously FUBAR with yours. Not knocking the Shure, but I'm really shocked.
     
  19. empirelvr

    empirelvr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    I see you have a VPI, presumably with the VPI unipivot tomearm.

    I find unipivots very fiddly, especially in regards to matching to the right cart. (I use a uni at work, and I do NOT like it.) I suspect that is the issue here. Haven't heard the Bronze at any length, but I wonder if the cart is putting a lot of energy into the arm and it's reflecting back into the cart. Is there a lot of what used to be called "needle talk" when using the Ortofon?

    The Shure has the Dynamic Stabilizer, which I find tames the negatives I have with the uni at work to an incredible degree when I use the V15VxMR in it. The dynamic stabilizer is very underrated as to it's effect on tonearm compatibility and the resulting gains in tracking, imaging, and lower distortion. Especially since it puts the damping where theory says it does the most good: at the stylus end. It's also a good match to the arm mass/compliance wise. That's probably why you prefer it to the Ortofon. Good synergy.
     
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  20. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Thank you! Good info to know!
     
  21. Seancito

    Seancito Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Richmond, Virginia
    Yeah and it could just be my ears. Some probably could listen to my set up with the Ortofon and think it sounds fine.
     
  22. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    I had a Bronze for a while, and I found it very sensitive to VTA. It could be that @Seancito just prefers the sound of the Shure. And I'm in agreement with @Chupacabra that it's not a cartridge I could recommend without reservation.

    In fact, even if the money were equal, I'd pick the Shure too. Then I'd put a JICO SAS stylus on it and call it a day.
     
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  23. myles

    myles Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Near Marlow, UK
    I had an M95 ED with Jico SAS prior to the stylus price increase and it was a world beater.
     
    HiFi Guy likes this.
  24. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    I really liked my Shure 97 when I substituted it for my Dynavector 20x when it was being rebuilt by Soundsmith on my Scoutmaster. The Shure and Dynavector are voiced similar but to be honest I can't hear a lot of the details that 'expert' audiophiles say they can hear. I don't listen to music that way - I use other criteria when I listen to music.
     
    Seancito likes this.
  25. I found the 2M Bronze on a Clearaudio Concept Wood/Satisfy tonearm also lacking. I have all the setup tools including a USB miscroscope and I could never get it to sound right (and I had the dealer double-check my setup). I heard nearly the exact same thing as you did, with it sounding particularly harsh on the inner grooves. Perhaps mine was defective as well. A move to a Concept MC cartridge was a major step-up for me, but of course that cartridge is a moving coil and costs more than double the 2M Bronze.
     

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