Audio-Technica launches new entry-level VM95 cartridge series

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by daytona600, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Yes, but not the reverse.
     
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  2. Danilo

    Danilo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milano Italy
    I see, thanks
     
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  3. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    I've had the VM-95ML installed as my daily driver for a month now, so I have a good idea of how this cart performs. I've taken the time to make some very sloppy needle-drops to illustrate my subjective observations. I don't think needle drops are really the best way to evaluate a cart, but I figure these may be interesting to many folks. Source chain is ATVM-95ML > Technics SL-1700 > MoFi Studiophono @40db, 47k > SX-750 Tape-out > aging MacBook Pro 2012 > Audacity. Recordings have been converted to 16bit AIFF for ease of file handling on the older Mac that is recording.

    Tone:
    One of the biggest struggles I have with phono cart reviews is the obsession with tone. IMO a good cart does not impart too strong of a tonal balance onto the records being played back. One of the common criticisms levied at AT carts is that they're "thin" and "bright". Check out the two recording below:

    "Blue Sky" - The Allman Brothers - Eat a Peach - 1972
    "Embody" - Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing - 2016

    Despite both being rock songs, these two tracks were recorded and mastered in radically different eras and styles, and the AT renders them both pretty faithfully. While "Blue Sky" remains fat, warm, and cozy, "Embody" sounds like the clean straightforward digital recording it is. This tonal neutrality has been my consistent experience with this cart, a warm recording / mastering will give you a warm sound.

    Bass:
    Since bass extension seems to be a pretty big concern as well, I've pulled a sample of "Limit to Your Love" by James Blake. Unfortunately the US pressing of this album is a horrible sea of non-fill from United. Still this is probably the best bass test in my collection, and hearing how the AT handles non-fill is informative as well. IMO this cart digs down quite low.

    "Limit to Your Love" - James Blake - James Blake, 2011

    More Rock:
    Thanks to the microline stylus, the cart keeps up well with hot 80s vocals / mastering, and extracts a good deal of detail from modern high-quality AAA pressings.

    "Boys Don't Cry" - The Cure - Boys Don't Cry, 1980
    "Case of You" - Joni Mitchell - Blue, 1971

    Hip-Hop:
    A bit neglected on this forum, but hip-hop is a hard genre to pull off. Stylistically the genre requires good tight bass performance, and an accurate high-end tracking. Many hip hop vocals go into the red on purpose, as these two songs do. The ML stylus helps tame the sharpness. These tracks are (obviously?) explicit.

    "Rosa Parks" - OutKast - Aquemini, 1998
    "Humble" - Kendrick Lamar - DAMN. , 2017

    I think the AT does well here as well. I was particularly impressed with how it keeps up with the frenetic nature of "Humble" without smearing detail or losing focus.
     
  4. RockolaComet1438

    RockolaComet1438 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    Just had a AT-VM95EN (nude elliptical) stylus/cart installed on my AT LP-120 this week, and I’m really happy with it. Replaced the stock AT95E cart installed since 2015 (it’s my secondary TT, not heavily used, but still due to replace). Microlinear and Shibata styli were out of stock, but maybe next time I can replace with one of those and use the same cartridge. I appreciate all of the interchangeable options and price points.
     
  5. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    This is why I don't post needledrops. Even if I had a high end soundcard to record them with and the patience to clean them up with Click Repair, adjusting levels, etc. people will also take them the wrong way just like with needledrops on YouTube.

    I'll take a listen to these out of sheer curiosity. Some of the tracks I'm not familiar with.
     
  6. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Agreed. FWIW they do sound audibly different when played back through my system as files. These are more of a curiosity for those who may be interested, but I would take the measurements and testimonials with more weight.

    I’d reiterate to anyone listening, these are all very sloppy. No level matching, repair or concern for fidelity. I recorded most to analyze against digital masters for my own exploration and threw them up here for anyone who may be curious as well.
     
  7. c-eling

    c-eling Love has no date of expiration...

    For Youtube, I'm glad that member's like Ascot have channels. For me it's a great way to try before I buy, especially for mixes etc or to see if any other's have issues with certain manufactures/mastering's.
    But for cart/styli comparisons it's almost too difficult for me to make an informed decision.
     
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  8. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Totally useless even in comparison to other level matched drops. In some ways I regret posting those needledrops, as I’m usually the one going on about how they’re not the best way to evaluate!
     
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  9. Andrea_Bellucci

    Andrea_Bellucci Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Italy
    Hi Guys!

    Today my new AT-VM95ML arrived and I installed it on my Rega RB 300. :)

    The first problem I noticed was that the sticker from the tonearm cables were to thin to put them completly on the AT pins. So I ended up on only attaching about 1/4 of the sticks to the pins and I hope they will stay there.
    I'm a bit afraid of widening them with a toothpick because they are nearly 20 years old and I don't wanna break them... :sigh:

    I used the Rega alignment tool that came with the RB 300. I was able to put the needle exactly on the point.

    Soundwise - first impression after 5 hours - I have to tell you, it's amazing! I have only played some records so far but the improvement is huge:

    - much wider soundstage
    - very detailed and punchy bass
    - smooth and clear voices
    - much less IGD
    - less surface noise compared to the Nagaoka MP 110

    So far I would like to thank you, for convincing my to buy the AT-VM95ML instead of the AT-VM95EN.

    Bye Andrea :wave:
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
  10. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    You do want to be careful with those tonearm wires. Just make sure they are secure on the pins. Even with brand new wires some folks will only put them on 1/2 of the way. Main thing is you don't want them to not be secure and come off. One of the downsides with a tonearm that has a one piece tube with integrated headshell and wiring that runs all the way through is that if you break the wires you have to solder to fix or sometimes replace the entire tonearm wiring. If you ever do upgrade or replace the tonearm wiring because you want to, you can ask the dealer to look at your cartridge and suggest wiring with the type of clips that would fit the cart best. Not all cart pins are standardized - some are wider diameter than others.

    In any case, glad you are enjoying the cartridge. :)
     
  11. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    Location:
    UK
    Great that you are enjoying the 95ML, heard one on a friend's turntable and was very impressed.

    Certainly on the countless RB300's I fitted cartridges to, the pins are very small and fragile. I'm ashamed that early on I broke one; Rega sent a bag of spares and they were easy to solder. Several turned up where the owner had broken one, and on one occasion three!

    I haven't fitted a VM cartridge body, but from memory, the AT95 pins were larger than the Rega tags, so I'm not surprised that they only go on a quarter of the way: up to you and how brave you are feeling if you want to slightly open them up.
     
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  12. Andrea_Bellucci

    Andrea_Bellucci Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Italy
    Yes, I was thinking of opening them a bit, but I was to afraid to break them. :sigh: Then I would have to take my 25kg turntable to someone who can solder the new ones for me, because I can't.

    So I hope they will stay on the pins.

    Would it be a problem if - let's say - one spare would come off the pin during playback? Could there be a short circuit?

    Bye Andrea :wave:
     
  13. Big Blue

    Big Blue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    When I got the ship notification for my SL-1210GR, I pulled the trigger an a ML stylus for the VM95. Both arrived last night, and I finished setting up this afternoon.

    I think the ML probably needs at least a few sides for the suspension to loosen up, but I’ve already noticed some subtle differences vs. the EN stylus in detail retrieval and punch. Mind you, since I also made a major upgrade at turntable, there should be some lowered noise floor at play in hearing details, too. So it may be hard to say for sure how much is the ML and how much is the GR, but so far I can’t say it’s a bad combo. Looking forward to hearing whether/how much things open up.
     
  14. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I'd give at least 15-20 hours of listening time before the suspension is fully broken in. Hope you are enjoying your new system.

    I was playing a Return to Forever LP earlier and was struck by how much detail was coming out in the recording. Of course, it could be the album was just recorded very well but to hear that level of detail in some very "busy" sounding music is quite a thing. And just to clarify for the anti-AT folks out there, by detail I don't mean brightness...we've already established that the FR curve of this cartridge is fairly flat when loaded properly...
     
  15. Big Blue

    Big Blue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    I wouldn’t call it bright at all. If anything, I think I am going to need to turn the gain on my subwoofer down.
     
  16. nick urfe

    nick urfe Active Member

    Location:
    Cambridge, England
    Fitted a new VM95 Shibata stylus to an old Linn K9 that I had used for a short while back in the early 1990s. Since the, the K9 was boxed, stored, and almost forgotten; with the new stylus it doesn't look like a K9 anymore. Using it on a Rega P6, and the new stylus has done around 25 hours now. Initial SQ was a bit bass heavy, and I was preparing to move the speakers an inch or so further from the wall, but it's settled in OK now.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
  17. On_the_dunes

    On_the_dunes Active Member

    Location:
    italy
    Someone with the new vm95ml can do a comparison with ortofon blue?
    I would be so curious..
    I've a ortofon red and a vm95e and I have to choose which of two to upgrade..
    (Rega rb301 and croft micro as a pre)

    Thank you
     
  18. On_the_dunes

    On_the_dunes Active Member

    Location:
    italy
    Sloppy?:yikes:
    Wonderful sound.. thank you!
     
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  19. c-eling

    c-eling Love has no date of expiration...

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  20. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Ha, signal path was cheapo cables into a MacBook, so I do think sound quality has taken a ding. I think you can gleam the idea that this is a decent tracker without being artificially bright. Best to take with a grain of salt, as I do think it sounds much better hooked directly to my system.

    I think you would better served by the tracking on the AT due to the nude mounted ML stylus, if that's what you're looking to upgrade, for a good savings beyond the 2M blue. I've been happy with my VM95ML for many months, it's tracked almost everything I've thrown at it, and I never feel like I'm listening to the cart itself over the music, which is important to me.

    The only downside is the increased noise on records with less than perfect surfaces (non-fill, regrind, general unevenness) but I find the stylus actually does quite well with surface scuffs and minor scratches. The increased detail and tracking across all titles is totally worth it IMO.
     
  21. On_the_dunes

    On_the_dunes Active Member

    Location:
    italy
    Gosh...
    thank you so much.
    I believe that the different tmbrical setting of the cartridges is not changed too much by prephono
    The vm95 looks more refined in the details at the top (for example the guitar strings are clearly more defined in the vm95)
    The blue, always excellent, but it seems that it has high frequencies emphasized but with a little less detail
    Price of the stily here in Europe is 150 for vm95ml and 110 for the blue..
     
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  22. musicfreak

    musicfreak Member

    Location:
    Amersfoort
    I'd like to listen to these samples but the Dropbox links don't work anymore...
     
  23. c-eling

    c-eling Love has no date of expiration...

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  24. c-eling

    c-eling Love has no date of expiration...

    Take in consideration, two different phono pre's are being used. The Lounge is 'adding' a touch of color to it I believe 'warmth'
     
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  25. rasputin1

    rasputin1 Active Member

    Location:
    New York
    I have not heard the 2M Red but I have compared the 95EN and ML to my 2M Blue along with a bunch of other cartridges I currently own and this is how I would rank them:

    1) ATOC9/3 - Best cartridge I own (so far); does everything well
    2) ATOC9ML/II - Leaner than the III; slightly less bass and dynamics
    3) Ortofon 2M Bronze - Extremely detailed and balanced. Loses out to LOMCs in dynamics and soundstage
    4) Nagaoka 200 - Neutral, clean, transparent, dynamic. Not as dimensional as top 3
    5) Nagaoka 150 - Relaxed, sweet, crisp, spacious. Not as clean and taut as 200
    6) Grace F9E - Smooth, dynamic, dimensional. Legendary tonal balance.
    7) AT7V - Smooth, crisp, sublime (very close to Grace)
    8) Ortofon 2M Blue - Neutral, open, dynamic. A bit rougher than 2M Bronze.
    9) AT440MLA - Similar to AT7V but leaner tonal balance
    10) Grado 8MZ (original nude tip) - Lithe, organic, airy, detailed. Nice soundstage.
    11) VM95ML - Good balance, pace, high end detail, no IGD. Somewhat flat staging. Weak low bass.
    12) VM95EN - Similar to ML but not as good on IGD.
    13) Nagaoka 110 - Musical balance; good pace. Average detail.
    14) Sumiko Pearl - Gutsy midrange and bass. A Grado that doesn’t dance or hum.
    15) Shure M97Xe - Nice midrange and bass. If only highs did not roll off.
    16) AT95E - A bit dull and blunted. Otherwise great tonal balance.

    Obviously this is all subjective and highly biased and not everyone will agree. But it’s what makes our hobby interesting, isn’t it?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019

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