Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by floweringtoilet, Feb 14, 2018.
Yes that is where I got the Dark Side record. Will go there probably at the end of the month.
Round Five, "Cemetery Gates" is up. This is from a US Sire pressing, last track of side one, so should be a good test of tracking ability and ability to handle sibilance. Should get another one done this evening.
What I realize from this video... is that I need some more Smiths records.
Okay, here's another one, "Life Is Strange" by T.Rex from a US Reprise pressing of 'Tanx.' I think you guys will find this one interesting.
Thanks for this, this is a perfect torture test track. If you’re seeking a better copy at any point, I would really seek out the Rhino. Way more clarity, openness and better dynamics as well. Your copy seems to have some audible wear so neither cart is rendering a very musical outcome, but I think this is good, as it really helps us drill into how each handles worst case records.
There’s a certain grainess to the vocals in the Nag that stands out to me in this sample. This is exactly what I’m talking about in regards to it’s tracking. The cart is darker and more constrained than the Denon so for some passages it can seem preferable, as it’s keeping the lid on the native sound of the pressing. But when the Nag breaks up it just shoots out over all the other frequencies, which is what really bugs me. I prefer how the Denon is more open and smoother with sibilants, in regards to breakup, not frequency response.
Both carts seem pretty prone to IGD here however. The switch to the Denon around 2:11 was far less dramatic than before. I can appreciate how some may view this as a draw but I really find this to be a win for the Denon. Beyond tracking, I found it to render the track more enjoyable. The Smiths should sound open and light vs closed and dark IMO.
Interesting indeed. A similar phenomenon here. The Nag is great at toning down the brightness of the mastering, but slips up on tracking again. I find the Denon’s presentation to be more truthful if grating, and the Nag’s to be more pleasureable it inaccurate. Both are enjoyable, I still prefer the Denon, but that’s me choosing my poison of listening to Bolan at full brightness vs a softer read with some mistracking
If it is of interest I can upload "Cementary Gates" with a Shure V15Vx/SAS for comparison. I do not know the pressing yet, but I could check.
I bought 'The Queen Is Dead' the day it came out, but on cassette. This copy still has a $3.99 sticker on it from Princeton Record Exchange from when I bought it used back in the early 90s. I should probably just break down and pick up the Rhino version.
I'll sum up my impressions. In short, these are both excellent carts at their respective price points. A lot of other carts I've heard in this price range (Ortofon, Audio Technica, Grado, Shure) IMO don't get the tonal balance right in the way these two carts do.
The Denon DL-110 is overall my favorite cart I've ever had in my system. I think you can hear many of it's benefits in these samples: Clean, extended treble that is not harsh, excellent tracking and rejection of surface noise. It used to go for a lot less money, but even at it's current street price of around $230, it is still an excellent value. Output is lower than a typical MM cart, but not so low that it won't work well with virtually any MM pre-amp. I actually like the DL-110 better than the DL-160 I used to own, which sounded a little more tipped up in the treble and gave more of an impression of brightness.
The Nagaoka MP-110 gives you a great deal of what you get from the Denon at a reduced price (I paid $133 for mine). Replacement styli can be found for $60 - $70, and that has to factor into the value equation as well. It gives up a bit to the Denon in treble extension. I believe this is a matter of the Nag rolling things off rather than the Denon being tipped up in the treble. On one of the comparison tracks I put together I could see the Denon's frequency response extended well above 20 KHz, where the Nag started to roll of before 20kHz and the upper (inaudible) frequencies were missing altogether. That said, the roll of can occasionally be pleasant on bright pressings like 'The Queen Is Dead' US Sire pressing, or many, many, 80s rock pressings. As others have noted, it doesn't track as well as the Denon either. I don't necessarily hear this as a deal breaker, but some might. Just as a point of comparison on my Hi-Fi News Test Record, the Nagaoka MP-110 jumps out of the groove entirely when it gets to the final "torture" track on the tracking test. By contrast the Denon can track it, albeit with significant distortion. The Denon also edges out the MP-110 in terms of surface noise rejection in most cases (although this will vary depending on the record).
I think these are both great carts, and I've owned more expensive ones that don't perform as well as either (up to $500 range, nothing beyond that). One other cart that I've had in my system that performed extremely well is the Shure M97xE with Jico SAS stylus. This combo tracks incredibly well, getting through the Hi Fi News torture track with only minimal distortion. In real world terms I am not sure this translates to better performance than the Denon however. It does not have the extended treble of the Denon, probably falling somewhere between the Nagaoka and the Denon in that regard. Unfortunately, the SAS styli went up significantly in price, and now availability is unreliable. Even at its increased price the Denon DL-110 cost less than an M97xE with SAS stylus at current prices. It is still worth considering for those who demand the ultimate in tracking ability, IMO. I no longer have this cart to post comparisons unfortunately.
I have to say I really agree with your findings. For me the Nagaoka is a great cart for the money (I payed $110). The slight roll off is helpful for bright 80s or poorly cut modern indie pressings, as I have a bright leaning sound, but I found more often than not these records would be more prone to mistracking. I find it far more comfortable to listen to the warts and all smooth presentation of the Denon vs a softer but sloppier Nag.
The Nagaoka is phenomenal for the price, and works great for a lot of 70s rock and jazz. It’s still my #1 recommendation for a budget cart, but I think it’s important reviewers don’t give it too much of a pass on tracking ability, as this is one of the few things that easily improved on. What’s most surprising to me is that Nagaoka themselves do little to address this issue. In fact the $600 MP-300 still sports a 0.4x0.7 elliptical stylus, albeit nude mounted onto boron with a screw to mimic the rigidity of an MC cart. I’d be curious what a mid-range Nagaoka with a finer elliptical like the Denon and a boron cartinliver would sounds like.
Either way, both carts are amazing values and budget classics. I also appreciate how both are made in Japan still, with a lot more QC and care than companies like Shure and Grado seem to use.
FYI, I just posted a new comparison: Shure M97xE vs Nagaoka MP-110, track is David Bowie's "Fashion" the last track on Side 1 of 'Scary Monsters (and super creeps)'.
The M97xE is newly purchased with about 20 hours on it. I've owned this cart before and I remember it sounding very dark with stock stylus, but I don't really hear that here (definitely some treble rolloff, but not dark or muffled sounding, IMO). Would love to hear your thoughts on the comparison with the Nagaoka (will not prejudice by giving my opinion until later).
The MP-110 brings out the drums better, thats always the first thing I listen for.
I dunno if it was also just because it was louder but on the MP-110 there seemed to be more reverb and echo audible from the recording at parts.
You could say it brings out more from the recording, but also its weaknesses.
Yeah I’m noticing more percussive elements with the Nag too, a bit more perceived dynamics as a result. I still hear some graininess in the Nagaoka vocally on Bowie’s sibilants, but it’s controlled within reason. The Shure is a smoother but listen, but at the price of a touch of dynamics.
The crazy thing is as @floweringtoilet said, it’s now how I remember this cart in my system. I actually own this Shure, as well as the Nagaoka and the Denon. I think even with the stock stylus the Shure is the better tracker vs the Nag, but in my last shootout found it to be dull and dead. I improved it a bit with an ne95ed (same radius, nude not bonded) but it was still uninvolving. So much so, that my girlfriend who could care less about most audio stuff found it to be the clear loser against the Nagaoka. I have heard that it’s an extremely sensitive cart in regards to loading and phono stage matching so I suspect that may be a factor.
Either way a decent little cart, shame it’s being discontinued. Since you’ve got it sounding pretty competitive against the Nag, I’d love to headband it against the Denon.
I tried really hard to match the samples in terms of loudness. As far as average RMS they are identical. But at times the Nagaoka sounds louder. I am not entirely sure how to account for that, other than that the carts might be emphasizing different parts of the frequency spectrum (although tonally they sound similar).
My opinion is that the Nagaoka seems to have better stereo separation which also might account for the difference you hear with the echo at times (I heard this too, it was the most notable difference between the two carts for me).
With my previous sample I could not wait to get the stock stylus off because I thought it sounded really dull. This was into a different phono preamp so, as you say, that could be the difference. But this sample seemed better built than the last one I had as well. On my old M97xE the cantilever was visibly not straight. This one is perfectly straight. Also, my memory is that the aluminum cantilever was thicker (more massive) on the previous sample. This one has a very fine aluminum cantilever. This could just be sample-to-sample variation, or me misremembering things. It seems unlikely Shure would have upped their QC just before discontinuing their phono cartridge line.
With my previous M97xE the Jico SAS stylus really woke the cart up tonally and resulted in better stereo separation and tracking. Jico's $100 elliptical stylus was also better tonally and in terms of tracking, if not maybe quite as much.
Ahh, the angled cantilever plagued my m97xe too. Even the NOS ne95ed was a bit canted, which really turned me off OEM Shure styli.
When the Shure’s sound good, they do have quite a pleasing if a tad sleepy tone. I don’t doubt that even a more muffled sample would be a good cart for an overly excitable system, anything with the popular west-coast sound of the 70s probably paired well with the Shure house sound. This sample reveals the cart to be pretty neutral, maybe slightly rolled off but certainly not muffled.
Great job with the level matching on these, would always be curious to hear more shootouts!
The Shure has a reduced top end, which is clearly audible. This may also be the reason why the attack on the drums is a bit louder with the Nag. In that goes also that the Shure sounds a bit smoother/calmer and less "lively".
BTW is there any special procedure/software that you use to make these youtube clips?
How can anyone tell what something really sounds like from Youtube? Relatively, maybe?
(I'm on my second DL-110, btw, and it is a great cart) The Nag looks clunky, I would never put something like that on my table. And the Shure looks even worse!
That certainly gave the same impression of that M97 (with standard stylus) that I recall from previously having one. Nicely done. The Jico SAS introduced some (necessary IME) high frequency energy and detail, but still without seeming too bright.
Liked the Nag's overall balance - seems good value.
Well I just did by listening and writing up a few sentences....
I record both tracks in Adobe Audition. Audition has a "match levels" function, so after matching I just copy and paste every other 30 seconds of each file into a new file (for this to work I have to be really careful to make sure the files begin at the exact same point in time). Then I normalize the completed file. That's about it.
I'll see if I can make anything similar later on (OM40 vs Shure V15Vx/SAS). With respect to matching levels, I think it can be difficult sometimes if the frequency response differs. Ideally one would match at 1 kHz.
Here's another comparison. This one comparing the M97xE with stock stylus vs the M97xE with a Jico elliptical stylus (not the SAS). Curious to hear your impressions.
Notes: The samples were recorded on the same turntable into the same phono preamp, but the cartridge bodies were different (same model, but different samples). The stock stylus had approximately 20 hrs on it, the Jico approximately 200. Song is Roxy Music's "Love Is The Drug" from a US Atco pressing of 'Siren'. This track has some pretty tough sibilants even though it is the first track on the LP. I bought the LP used many years ago. I've always played it under proper set up conditions, but I don't know how the LP was treated before I bought it. So if you hear some distortion, I really can't say if its the fault of the cartridge or it is baked into the LP.
Will get around to a M97xE vs Denon DL 110 comparison later.
The JICO is slightly brighter, distortion is about the same on both after a quick listen. There is also a difference in channel balance - are both stylii perfectly straight and/or do they have difference in deflection in one or the other direction during play?
Addition: Distortion in HF content that goes in to left channel. Either the record has been played previously with a worn stylus or wrong anti-skate. Do you get any difference when changing antiskate force?
On the channel balance difference, both styli are straight. I don't really hear much difference in balance, but keep in mind the styli were not used on the same cart. Stereo channel balance is spec'd at 2dB for the M97xE, so there is likely sample to sample variation.
On distortion, I set both carts up using the Hi Fi News test record. Both carts made it through the first three bias setting tracks with no distortion, and the final "torture" track with only minimal distortion evenly distributed in both channels.
I no longer have the Jico stylus in my possession, but changing the bias setting did not effect distortion to my ears with the stock stylus. I'd have preferred to just swap styli, but I sold my previous M97xE + Jico stylus when I sold my previous turntable.
Thanks for info. Yes, it could be the cartridge body that differs in this case. I however, find also differences between stylii in the same body.
If set up as you say, there should be any antiskate issues but rather the record itself. I also use a few music records to check antiskate and stylus tracking, one good song is "Poisson arrow"/ABC/lexicon of love-1982 It has a fiercy s-sound in the sentence "...can you keep the Secret....". My neoSAS/R could not track this clean but both the two boron ones are rather clean. Also it is very good to control antiskate since wrong antiskate is easily heard as distorsion in one or the other channel.
Dropbox - Poisson arrow.wav
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