Any GREAT tracking moving coil cartridges for a Technics SL-1200G?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by snorker, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. snorker

    snorker Big Daddy Thread Starter

    I love playing records, and I am thoroughly enjoying my current setup with a Technics SL-1200G (with KAB fluid damper). One thing I love about the Technics turntables is the ease with which one can swap different cartridges to get a different sound. I have four Technics headshells now with various cartridges mounted, along with a Concorde Pro S 40, and I've done a lot of swapping cartridges to hear the differences.

    As my journey in this hobby continues I've learned that one of my biggest pet-peeves with vinyl playback is mis-tracking. Some time ago I realized that the more advanced stylus shapes -- like micro ridge, micro line, Fritz Gyger, etc. -- are better at tracing the inner grooves and minimizing inner groove distortion, as well as retrieving more detail. However, what is generally overlooked is that the stylus suspension plays a crucial role in being able to track highly-modulated passages in the center of the stereo image, like loud vocals.

    I've had two moving coil cartridges, a Benz Micro Wood SL and a Clearaudio Concept MC (both have a micro ridge or micro line), and neither could track nearly as well as my KAB Ortofon Pro S 40 or an 80s Stanton 981, which have styli with a larger side radius. The Stanton's Stereohedron stylus has a side radius of 8µm, which is more than double a micro ridge, yet it tracks literally anything with aplomb, including tracing tight inner grooves.

    Tracking specs no longer seem to be a priority for reviewers or manufacturers, but Ortofon and Benz both list their figures. The spec sheet that came with my Benz shows a micro ridge stylus at 3 x 60µm and lists tracking ability at 315 Hz of 80µm at 2 grams (even though "optimum tracking force" is listed at 1.7-1.8 grams). The Ortofon 40 stylus (an FG70 at 5 x 7 µm) shows either 90µm at 1.5 grams, or 95 µm, depending on where you look on their website [Note that Ortofon took a step backward with the 2M Black which only tracks to 80µm at 1.5 grams]. The Stanton 981 (Stereohedron stylus at 8 x 71µm) can track to 100µm at only 1 gram! Unfortunately, Stanton cartridges and their styli are long out-of-production, and NOS styli are costly and scarce, with generic replacements generally falling short of the stock specs. I've never owned one, but I understand the no-longer-avaiable Shure V15 was a similar great tracker at a low weight.

    With the recent thread by @Bill Hart on stylus life I started to question whether my Benz was mis-tracking due to wear. I haven't kept track, and because I've swapped cartridges a bit it's hard to get an average, but it can't have more than 500-600 hours since I bought it in October 2017, which is far below the 1,000 hours one can supposedly get from a micro ridge. Also, the distortion doesn't happen a lot, and not only at inner grooves...it can happen on the first track of a side if there's a highly modulated centered vocal or similar. So, I'm not so sure it's down to wear, but it could be. (Soundsmith's very informational page on stylus shapes does seem to corroborate that the micro ridge stylus will exceed its specified level of distortion at 500 hours). I am going to take it into my dealer for an inspection, and apparently there's a discount of at least 25% off a new cartridge with the trade-in.

    However, I'm not sure I want to go down that road for the cost, because even from new neither of the moving coil cartridges I've used tracked nearly as well as the moving magnet cartridges I have. So, the question is: are there any moving coils that track like a moving magnet? @vinyldoneright seems to have owned every Audio Technica cartridge on the market, and also seems to be a stickler for tracking...maybe he can weigh in? I love the sound of the Benz, and it's nice not to futz with capacitance as one would with a moving magnet, but if no moving coil can track like these "inferior" moving magnet designs, then I'll just stick with them and keep enjoying undistorted playback. And when they wear, I'll just change the user-replaceable stylus for a reasonable price.:righton:
     
  2. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    When I used the stock arm, the Kiseki Blue NS worked very well with a Yamamoto HS-1 Ebony headshell. I now use a Jelco TK-850S tonearm with a Koetsu Urushi Sky Blue, and that also works phenomenally.
     
  3. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    At least with AT, the MM cartridges track better than the MCs, regardless of what anyone says. Korf Audio did some measurements and found that MC carts dump a lot more energy into the arm, even if the compliance is about the same as an MM model from the same brand. Seems to be the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss, either because people are convinced MC is automatically superior no matter what, they are listening only to tamely cut records, or have been conditioned to tune out tracking problems over many years of vinyl listening.

    I can tell you that the Lyra Etna SL I've heard tracks very well, but it's very expensive. It tracked well even on non-audiophile records and music, e.g. extreme metal albums from the 80s.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  4. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Denon DL-110 - nice match for that arm.
     
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  5. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Katy, TX
    What are you using to align the cartridges? MicroLine stylus is going to very tempermental with an imprecise alignment. There are some very expensive protractors out there, but the price of these aren't even close to the cost of Benz-Micro wood body cartridge. If you aren't using something comparable to a Mint Best Tractor, I doubt your alignment is where it needs to be. I think you can get away with something less precise with an elliptical, but, I've found you the Benz-Micro Glider on my deck required an extremely precise alignment compared to the Benz-Micro Gold that it replaced. Once I got it aligned perfectly, it's performed like a champ tracing the groove perfectly without a hitch. And I only use the manufacturer's recommended settings of any cartridge I've even owned as a starting point. It's never the final setting.

    Something else that occurred to me. Are you adjusting the anti-skate when you swap carts? I'm guessing you do, as the VTF setting should be reset with any cartridge swap.
     
  6. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Nope. Worse tracking than AT's ML MM carts.
     
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  7. snorker

    snorker Big Daddy Thread Starter

    Yes. My anecdotal experience seems to bear this out.
    While I'm sure that cartridge sounds good, the price is pretty astronomical at $9,000! I gotta say that at $360, an Ortofon 40 sounds great. The Benz Wood sounds more refined in most respects (except tracking of course), but it's 4-5 times the price. I was thinking of some of those $500 or so ATs like the AT-OC9ml-ii or the AT33PTG/ii.
     
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  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Those AT's will simply give you a little more detail (maybe) and increased stereo separation. That goes for the ART 9 also. They won't track better than the AT ML MM carts, period. If you want to kick this around privately, PM me.
     
  9. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    I haven't heard that problem with my Benz Micro Wood SL on my Clearaudio arm, but I tend to listen mostly to new records by relatively new artists (such as those in my signature), so to be honest, many aren't all that demanding of the cartridge. Still, it would be interesting for you to list some of these trouble records and spots. I also regularly use a Audio Technica AT33PTG/II on my Micro Seiki table.

    That said, I'm very curious about the new Audio Technica OC9X series, especially the special line contact version, AT-OC9XSL, and how it compares to the AT-OC9/III successor. I got a preorder price from the UK for around $680, so be interesting to see if it drops any more after release, that could be a very nice cartridge for the price. On the other hand, the older AT-OC9/III is being sold for very good prices now at below $500, so kind of a bargain, especially if the only real difference is the embedded screw threads on the new version.
     
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  10. snorker

    snorker Big Daddy Thread Starter

    Thanks, but I'm nearly certain it's not alignment or adjustment, nor is it really the inner grooves or "tracing" distortion that is my problem. With the SL-1200 VTA, VTF and anti-skate are easy to adjust. I've found the Technics 52mm alignment is actually excellent using their supplied gauge, though I also have a really nice Clearaudio protractor. Moreover, if that actually was the issue, then the Ortofon 40 with its FG70 and the Stanton's Stereohedron would also give me problems (the Stereohedron is similar to a Shibata).
     
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  11. snorker

    snorker Big Daddy Thread Starter

    Thanks. Again, the Benz may just be past its peak at 500-600 hours. My most recent trouble record with it was the Tone Poet Glamoured by Cassandra Wilson. I was getting mis-tracking on her vocal on some of the inner tracks...break-up heard mainly in the right channel. No normal amount of anti-skate or VTF increase really helped.
     
  12. ART9, PTG, OC9, DL-110 - curious - how many of these cartridges do you own or have you owned???
     
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  13. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Tracks as well as my AT-440 did. ..
     
  14. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Got me wonderin' that too. :confused:
     
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  15. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Doubt it. @zombiemodernist will back me up on this. @zombiemodernist , what do you think about the DL-110's tracking performance vs. your current AT ML? Especially on the inner grooves, tough/highly modulated/sibilant passages, etc.
     
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  16. From personal experience? So you own the DL-110 and compared to all AT cartidges? Or did you read it somewhere? Besides your profile says you own only one AT cartridge?
    Oh, I just saw this - I see, never mind....... you don't have personal experience --- your description sounds pretty detailed given its someone else's experience. And why believe one person and not the other? That is where ones own experience helps --- it sounds like you have based your opinion on ONE other persons experience as gospel.
     
  17. plastico

    plastico Forum Resident

    Location:
    ontario canada
    My AT ART 9 tracks like a race car, and the sound that this makes is fantastic!
    Cheers, Doug
     
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  18. snorker

    snorker Big Daddy Thread Starter

    Will do. Interestingly, I've found the Ortofon OM40 to get over 30dB separation when I use a Fozgometer, even though it's only rated at 27dB. The Benz could get over 35dB though.
     
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  19. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    I have been using Denon and AT carts for many years. The AT's probably track extreme grooves better. But (from my experiences) both carts track well. I would not bother to recommend otherwise.
     
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  20. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Yeah, IMO after using it for a little over a year my conclusion is the Denon is a nice cart sonically, and a decent tracker. It's a significant step up from the majority of basic ~$100 elliptical styli, and significantly reduced IGD and sibilant mistracking compared to my Nagaoka 110 and Shure m97xe. The stylus itself is visibly fine to the naked eye, and clearly in a better class than those carts with their bulky bonded styli.

    All that aside, the MicroLine stylus is the better tracker hands-down. Sure some mild cuts may be pretty comparable between the two carts, but challenging albums I previously thought were "too hot" or "had IGD baked-in" have been a non-issue for the MicroLine. You could debate the subjective sonic benefits of the two carts all day long, but if tracking is important to you the MicroLine wins. Plenty of great MC carts with this type of stylus too.
     
  21. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Many cartridges will have greater separation than factory spec when measured. A few will be worse. Separation is often cited as a key spec in what makes a great cartridge but there are real limits on the amount of separation that human hearing can perceive, not to mention what a cutter head on a lathe is capable of putting into the grooves.
     
  22. The "X" series introduction has sure resulted in deals to be had on both the OC9MLii and MLiii!!
     
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  23. snorker

    snorker Big Daddy Thread Starter

  24. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    One problem is that not only would opinions differ on identical cartridges, but even if you buy two of the same MC cartridge, they are hand made and probably never very close to identical, and sometimes are clearly different.
     
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  25. JMCIII

    JMCIII Music lover first, audiophile second.

     
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